10-second nature news digest

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

Popular topics: ALL NEWS | Amazon | Animals | Brazil | Congo | Conservation | Deforestation | Featured | Indonesia | Logging | Malaysia | Oceans | Palm oil | Rainforests | Wildlife



Coffee in trouble: 60% of wild coffee species threatened with extinction [01/17/2019]
- Of the 124 species of wild coffee known to science, 75 species, or 60 percent, are threatened with extinction due to deforestation, climate change and the spread of diseases and pests, a new study has found.
- The wild relative of Arabica, the most widely traded coffee in the world, is in particular trouble.
- Around 72 percent of the wild coffee species occur within some protected area, but many of the parks also have lax enforcement, and coffee species are rarely included within park management plans. Coverage of the potential range of the species is also poor.
- Moreover, only half of all wild coffee species occur in germplasm collections — critical resources for producing more resilient varieties of coffee in the future.


Cellphones are still endangering gorillas, but recycling old ones can help [01/17/2019]
- The Congo Basin, key habitat for gorillas and chimpanzees, is rich in minerals such as coltan, gold and tin that are used in electronics.
- Mining is a major factor in the decline of species like the Grauer’s gorilla, which have lost habitat to the industry and are also hunted when forest is opened up for mining.
- Participating in cellphone recycling programs helps reduce the demand for mining in gorilla habitat.


Camera traps find rich community of carnivores on Apostle Islands [01/16/2019]
- Some 160 camera traps deployed across the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior in Wisconsin, U.S., have revealed a diverse community of carnivores, including the American marten, black bear, bobcat, coyote, and gray wolf.
- The camera trap survey provided the first photographic evidence of the American marten in the islands in over 50 years. The marten is listed as endangered in Wisconsin.
- The study also found that islands that were larger or closer to the mainland, or both, held a greater number of carnivore species than islands that were small or more distant — patterns consistent with the concept of island biogeography.
- The movement of the carnivores, either through swimming or via ice bridges formed when parts of the lake freeze, could be under threat from climate change, the researchers warn.


The case for forests’ prominent role in holding off climate change [01/16/2019]
- The authors of a new report argue that investment in forests as a climate change mitigation strategy is just as important as addressing emissions from the energy sector.
- Despite the recognized potential contributions of forests to slowing the warming of the earth, they aren’t typically seen as a permanent solution to climate change.
- The authors of the report contend that provisions in the Paris rulebook, approved at the UN climate conference in Poland, are designed to hold countries responsible for changes to their forests so that such ‘reversals’ won’t go unaccounted for.


‘Ecosystem guardians’ remain passionate despite dicey conditions [01/15/2019]
- A recent investigation conducted by several conservation groups has found that working conditions for wildlife rangers in Central America are difficult and in some cases dangerous.
- Most of the rangers surveyed reported facing life-threatening situations during the course of their duties.
- However, these ‘ecosystem guardians’ also remain passionate about their role in protecting Central America’s natural treasures.


China busts major ivory trafficking gang following EIA investigation [01/15/2019]
- In 2017, an undercover operation by the watchdog group Environmental Investigation Agency identified three men involved in smuggling elephant ivory from Africa to the little-known town of Shuidong in China, which, according to the trafficking syndicate, receives up to 80 percent of all illegal ivory from Africa.
- Following EIA’s report, Chinese enforcement authorities raided several places in Shuidong and surrounding areas and arrested one of the three men who received a jail term of 15 years. A second member of the gang voluntarily returned to face trial and was jailed for six years.
- The third identified member of the syndicate has also been repatriated to China from Nigeria under an INTERPOL Red Notice and will face trial in China.
- In addition to these three men, enforcement actions have also led to the conviction of 11 suspects by the local court, with jail terms ranging from six to 15 years.


For orangutans affected by El Niño, change unfolds over time [01/15/2019]
- A long-term study in Kutai National Park in Indonesian Borneo has shown how weather caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycle affects the behavior, habitat requirements, feeding ecology and birth intervals of the park’s orangutans.
- The study increases conservationists’ understanding of how orangutans survive in difficult and variable climatic conditions — important information given the likely impact of climate change.
- Understanding the influence of the ENSO cycle was only possible through a multi-year study, highlighting the value of long-term projects. But the current trend is for short-term studies, which are often more appealing to funders and researchers.


Antarctica now shedding ice six times faster than in 1979 [01/14/2019]
- Antarctica’s ice is melting about six times faster than it was in the late 1970s.
- Between 1979 and 2017, melting ice caused the global sea level to rise by around 14 millimeters (0.55 inches).
- The pace at which ice is melting is also increasing: Through 1990, the continent lost 40 billion metric tons (44 billion tons) per year; between 2009 and 2017, that figure jumped to 252 billion metric tons (278 tons) annually.


Bringing the tapir back to Borneo [01/14/2019]
- Malayan tapirs were found in Borneo until at least 1,500 years ago and maybe into the modern era.
- Some researchers have proposed bringing the tapir back to the island by rearing a new captive population on site.
- Not everyone is convinced: some scientist view the idea as without conservation value and prohibitively expensive.
- This post is part of “Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild”, a monthly column by Jeremy Hance, one of Mongabay’s first staff writers.


Latam Eco Review: Resistance, hope and camera traps [01/11/2019]
The recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service, include a call to cover climate change, the dangers of opposing Colombia’s largest hydropower plant, and the most inspiring conservation news of 2018. ‘We are not doing enough’: 25 media groups commit to cover climate change “Journalists across the continent have a profound obligation to […]

Karen indigenous communities in Myanmar have officially launched the Salween Peace Park [01/11/2019]
- Last month, indigenous Karen communities, the Salween Peace Park Committee, and the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) officially launched the Salween Peace Park in the Mutraw District of Myanmar’s Kayin State.
- A three-day event in mid-December 2018 that featured traditional Karen ceremonies and performances was held to mark the ratification of Salween Peace Park’s charter, which was developed by Karen communities to embody their “aspirations for genuine peace and self-determination, environmental integrity and cultural preservation,” according to a statement.
- The Salween Peace Park encompasses 5,485 square kilometers (nearly 1.4 million acres) of the Salween River Basin, including more than 340 villages, 139 demarcated Kaw, 27 community forests, four forest reserves, and three wildlife sanctuaries.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, January 11, 2019 [01/11/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Studying human behavior to protect orangutans: Q&A with Liana Chua [01/11/2019]
- Conservation efforts have traditionally focused too much on wildlife and not enough on human communities, says social anthropologist Liana Chua.
- When it comes to orangutans, Chua says indigenous communities in Borneo are unlikely to share the concerns and priorities of international conservation organizations. Killing of orangutans by humans is a major threat to the apes’ survival.
- Devoting real attention to the issues that are important to local people is key to developing better conservation policies, Chua says.
- Chua leads a project billed as “a novel anthropology-conservation collaboration” that aims to improve human-orangutan coexistence in Borneo.


In Malta, legal loopholes give poachers cover to hunt migratory birds [01/11/2019]
- Malta is a stopping-off point for some 170 species of birds migrating between Europe and Africa. But poachers kill or capture up to 200,000 wild birds every year — a problem widespread across the Mediterranean.
- In particular, illegal trapping of birds such as finches continues to persist in Malta, despite the European Court of Justice ruling against Malta for allowing the trapping of protected species.
- To legalize finch trapping within the framework of European law, Malta used a legal maneuver called a derogation by claiming that finch trapping was a traditional practice in the country.
- Such legal derogations are being used as a smokescreen to illegally trap finches and other protected species not just in Malta but in other countries as well.


Termites help to protect tropical forests during drought, study finds [01/10/2019]
- Researchers studying the effects of termites in an old-growth tropical forest in Malaysian Borneo found that both termite numbers and activity increased during the El Niño drought of 2015-2016, resulting in higher leaf litter decomposition and soil moisture compared to a test plot where the termite population had been artificially suppressed.
- These improvements in soil condition also resulted in an increase in seedling survival, suggesting that termites will have an important role to play in maintaining plant diversity in the future, given that the severity and frequency of droughts is predicted to increase with a changing climate.
- Why termite number and activity increase during drought is unclear at present, but researchers think that the conditions possibly made the termites’ tunnels drier and less water-logged, making moving through the environment easier.


Protecting India’s fishing villages: Q&A with ‘maptivist’ Saravanan [01/10/2019]
- Fishing communities across the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are fighting to protect their traditional lands as the sea rises on one side and residential and industrial development encroaches on the others.
- To support these communities, a 35-year-old local fisherman is helping them create maps that document how they use their land.
- By creating their own maps, the communities are taking control of a tool that has always belonged to the powerful.
- Their maps allow them to speak the language of the state so they can resolve disputes and mount legal challenges against industries and government projects encroaching on their land and fishing grounds.


Rapid population drop weakened the Grauer’s gorilla gene pool [01/10/2019]
- The loss of 80 percent of all Grauer’s, or eastern lowland, gorillas in the past two decades has led to a severe reduction in the subspecies’ genetic diversity, new research has found.
- That slide could make it more difficult for the fewer than 4,000 remaining Grauer’s gorillas to adapt to changes in their environment.
- Scientists look for signs of hope in the animal’s sister subspecies, the mountain gorilla, which, studies suggest, has adapted to its own low levels of genetic diversity.


Why are fewer monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico? [01/09/2019]
- Fewer and fewer monarch butterflies are reaching their overwintering grounds in Mexico every year, and new research might shed light on why.
- A 2016 study found that the monarch population in Mexican overwintering colonies has declined by approximately 80 percent over the past two decades. Pinpointing the causes of this decline has proven difficult, however.
- A study published in the journal Animal Migration last month suggests a possible cause: The monarchs are simply finding places other than Mexico to spend the winter months, and possibly even giving up their migratory ways altogether, in order to survive.


Community-based conservation offers hope for Amazon’s giant South American turtle [01/09/2019]
- Rural communities began protecting the threatened giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) along a 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) stretch of the remote Juruá River in Brazil’s Amazonas state back in 1977 – becoming the largest community-based conservation management initiative ever conducted in the Brazilian Amazon.
- A new study shows that these community stewards – who protect turtle nests and receive payment only in food baskets – have had incredible success not only in preserving endangered turtle species, but also in conserving riverine invertebrate and vertebrate species, including migratory birds, large catfish, caiman, river dolphins and manatees.
- Today, the Middle Juruá River community-protected beaches are “true islands of biodiversity, while other unprotected beaches are inhabited by few species. They are empty of life,” say study authors. On the protected beaches, turtle egg predation is a mere 2 percent. On unprotected beaches on the same river, predation rates are as high as 99 percent.
- The study also helps debunk a Brazilian and international policy that proposed the eviction of local traditional communities from newly instituted conservation units because they would be detrimental to conservation goals. Instead, researchers agree, traditional communities should be allowed to keep their homes and recruited as environmental stewards.


Start them young: Uganda targets children for conservation awareness [01/09/2019]
- Uganda is home to a wide variety of primates, including chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Deforestation, hunting and rapid population growth are among the threats facing the country’s wildlife.
- Aiming to inspire future generations to protect the country’s wildlife, Uganda has made conservation education part of its national curriculum.
- Conservation education centers, which give children first-hand introductions to chimpanzees and other wildlife, are a key part of the education effort.
- The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center in Entebbe is the country’s busiest, receiving more than 260,000 guests each year.


George, the last known Hawaiian snail of his kind, dies at 14 [01/09/2019]
- George, the last known member of the Hawaiian snail species Achatinella apexfulva, died on the first day of 2019.
- In 1997, researchers collected the last 10 known A. apexfulva specimens from the island of O‘ahu in a last-gasp bid to save the species through captive breeding. A few offspring did result from the program, but none survived, except George.
- George, who was 14 years old when he died, was emblematic of the plight of the Hawaiian land snails, which are threatened by habitat loss and the introduction of predatory species.


Audio: Rhett Butler on how sound can save forests and top rainforest storylines to watch in 2019 [01/08/2019]
- On today’s episode, we welcome Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler to discuss the biggest rainforest news stories of 2018 and what storylines to watch in 2019. He also discusses a new peer-reviewed paper he co-authored that looks at how bioacoustics can help us monitor forests and the wildlife that call forests home.
- This year marks the 20th anniversary since Rhett Butler founded Mongabay. Subscribers to our new Insider Content Program already know the story of how he founded Mongabay.com two decades ago in his pajamas. At first, Mongabay was a labor of love that Rhett pursued in his spare time, after coming home from his day job.
- Mongabay has come a long way since then, with more than 350 contributors covering 50 countries and bureaus now open in India, Indonesia, and Latin America. Overseeing this global environmental news empire provides Rhett with a wealth of insight into the science and trends that are shaping conservation.


Flashing lights ward off livestock-hunting pumas in northern Chile [01/07/2019]
- A new paper reports that Foxlights, a brand of portable, intermittently flashing lights, kept pumas away from herds of alpacas and llamas during a recent calving season in northern Chile.
- Herds without the lights nearby lost seven animals during the four-month study period.
- The research used a “crossover” design, in which the herds without the lights at the beginning of the experiment had them installed halfway through, removing the possibility that the herds were protected by their locations and not the lights themselves.


New species of tree frog from Ecuador has a mysterious claw [01/07/2019]
- A team of biologists surveying a remote and largely unexplored part of the Andes in Ecuador have described a new species of tree frog that’s dark brown in color, with bright orange flecks dotting its body.
- The researchers have named the tree frog Hyloscirtus hillisi, after David Hillis, a U.S. evolutionary biologist known for his work on the Hyloscirtus genus of tree frogs.
- While the researchers don’t have an estimate of the frog’s population, they think its numbers are likely low.
- The species’ small habitat also lies near a large-scale mining operation, putting the frog at immediate risk of extinction.


Journalists reporting on the environment faced increased dangers in 2018 [01/04/2019]
- Journalists describe some of the threats and dangers they faced in 2018.
- These range from intimidation to legal threats to outright violence.
- At least 10 journalists covering the environment were killed between 2010 and 2016, according to Reporters without Borders — all but two of them in Asia.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, January 4, 2019 [01/04/2019]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Eavesdrop on forest sounds to effectively monitor biodiversity, researchers say [01/03/2019]
- Recording and analyzing forest soundscapes can be an effective way of monitoring changes in animal communities in tropical forests and human presence, researchers say in a new commentary published in Science.
- Bioacoustics, which can be used to cover a vast range of animal groups over large landscapes, can also fill the gap between the bird’s-eye view of satellites and the finer focus of on-the-ground surveys, to give a clearer picture of animal population trends over large landscapes.
- Moreover, bioacoustics has the potential to be an important tool in assessing what’s working and what’s not working in conservation, such as to monitor forests maintained by companies under certification or zero-deforestation commitments.
- The researchers have called for improvements in processing and analysis of huge acoustic data sets, which at the moment are the major bottlenecks in soundscape research.


Cyclone harmed Fijian crab fishery in 2016, research finds [01/03/2019]
- Research published in the journal Climate and Development demonstrates that Tropical Cyclone Winston damaged mud-crab fisheries in Fiji in 2016.
- Surveys of the mostly women crab fishers in Bua province before and after Winston, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, revealed that mud crabs were smaller and less numerous following the cyclone.
- The research could help government agencies address the lingering impacts of natural disasters to community fisheries.


COP24: Green groups warn of pitfalls in ‘forests for climate’ deal [01/03/2019]
- A declaration to protect and use forests as a tool to combat climate change has been lambasted by environmentalists.
- The declaration, initiated by the Polish government during the COP24 climate summit, could promote the burning of wood pellets for bioenergy, the environmentalists warn.
- Wood-based biomass is a controversial and hotly debated topic in climate discussions, with scientists finding it emits up to 50 percent more CO2 than coal. But its proponents, including the U.S. EPA, champion it as a “carbon neutral” source of energy.


Rainforests: storylines to watch in 2019 [01/02/2019]
- 2018 wasn’t a great year for tropical rainforests, with major conservation setbacks in Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and the United States coming on top of back-to-back years of high forest cover loss.
- Here are ten storylines we’re watching in the world of rainforests as we begin 2019.
- Brazil’s Bolsanaro, Democratic Republic of Congo election outcome, global economic health, Indonesia’s election, biofuel mandates, California forest carbon decision, forest monitoring technology, U.S. politics, and political momentum for biodiversity.


Vietnam’s illegal ivory market continues to thrive, report finds [01/02/2019]
- Over two surveys conducted between November 2016 and June 2017, TRAFFIC’s researchers found more than 10,000 ivory items being offered on sale across 852 physical outlets and 17 online platforms, suggesting an ivory market that has continued to thrive over the past few decades.
- Physical retail stores in Ho Chi Minh City and Buon Ma Thuot had the highest number of ivory items for sale, the surveys found, but two villages, Ban Don and Lak, had a disproportionately high number of items on sale compared to the number of stores. Among the online platforms, social media sites had the highest number of posts offering ivory for sale.
- The ivory markets in Vietnam are, however, changing constantly. TRAFFIC’s researchers not only found ivory for sale in places where previous studies had found none, they also observed shifts in markets within their two surveys, over just an eight-month period.
- The surveyors also found that the sellers were aware that selling ivory was illegal, but “it does not deter them from offering it openly for sale in Vietnam,” they said.


Top camera trapping stories of 2018 [12/31/2018]
- Camera traps, remotely installed cameras triggered by motion or heat of a passing person or animal, have helped research projects document the occurrence of species, photograph cryptic and nocturnal animals, or describe a vertebrate community in a given area.
- Camera trapping studies are addressing new research and management questions, including document rare events, assess population dynamics, detect poachers, and involve rural landowners in monitoring.
- And with projects generating ever-larger image data sets, they are using volunteers and, more recently, artificial intelligence to analyse the information.


Top 10 happy environmental stories of 2018 [12/31/2018]
- Throughout 2018, efforts to protect habitats and conserve threatened species were driven by governments, scientists, NGOs and indigenous communities.
- The world pledged more conservation funding to protect the oceans, while protections for coastal ecosystems were also boosted.
- Conservation initiatives steered by indigenous communities continue to garner attention and praise, not least because they tend to be more sustainable and effective than top-down programs.
- These were among the upbeat, happy environmental and conservation stories we reported on in 2018.


The biggest rainforest news stories in 2018 [12/30/2018]
- This is our annual rainforests year in review post.
- Overall, 2018 was not a good year for the planet’s tropical rainforests.
- Rainforest conservation suffered many setbacks, especially in Brazil, the Congo Basin, and Madagascar.
- Colombia was one of the few bright spots for rainforests in 2018.


China seizes totoaba swim bladders worth $26 million, arrests 16 [12/29/2018]
- Chinese customs officials have confiscated 444 kilograms (980 pounds) of totoaba swim bladders, estimated to be worth about $26 million.
- The ongoing Chinese investigation also led to the arrest of 16 people known to be part of a major totoaba trafficking syndicate.
- The illegal totoaba fishery has spelled doom not just for the totoabas themselves, but also for the vaquita, the world’s smallest and rarest porpoise, also found only in the Gulf of California.


‘Conservation never ends’: 40 years in the kingdom of gorillas [12/28/2018]
- While studying Rwanda’s critically endangered mountain gorillas in the 1970s, newlywed graduate students Amy Vedder and Bill Weber learned that the government was considering converting gorilla habitat into a cattle ranch.
- At the time, conventional wisdom held that the mountain gorillas would inevitably go extinct. But Vedder and Weber believed the species could be saved, and proposed a then-revolutionary ecotourism scheme to the Rwandan government.
- Forty years later, that scheme has proved its worth. Mountain gorilla populations have rebounded, and tourism generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Vedder and Weber now work to inspire the next generation of conservationists both in Rwanda and abroad.
- In a series of interviews with Mongabay, Vedder and Weber reflect on a life in conservation.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 28, 2018 [12/28/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


Deadly tsunami leaves Javan rhinos untouched, but peril persists [12/28/2018]
- A tsunami that killed more than 400 people in Indonesia has left the last remaining population of Javan rhinos unscathed.
- The species’ last habitat, Ujung Kulon National Park, was hit by the Dec. 22 tsunami caused by an eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano, but the rhinos were not in harm’s way, officials have confirmed.
- The disaster has once again highlighted the constant peril that the species lives under, and strengthened calls to establish a new habitat elsewhere to ensure the survival of the rhino.


Environment and rights founder in the wake of Chinese funding in Bolivia [12/27/2018]
- Allegations of environmental damage and indigenous-rights abuses by a Chinese-backed oil company in the Bolivian Amazon have put a spotlight on the fallout from Chinese funding and involvement in major infrastructure projects in the country.
- The Nueva Esperanza project was carried out in territory belonging to the indigenous village of Tacana and encroached into the space of another, uncontacted, tribe, according to indigenous monitors.
- Critics say they have been silenced through criminal charges brought by the company against them for opposing the project.


In India, indigenous youths are filming their own forests and communities [12/27/2018]
- In India’s northeast, the Greenhub project is empowering indigenous youths to use video as a tool to forward forest conservation and social change.
- Tallo Anthony, from the project’s first batch, has been one of the most successful participants, winning several awards.
- The project strives to empower people living in remote areas of India’s northeast region, who don’t have access to technology and can’t afford to but are interested in and committed to using video as a tool for conservation.
- Greenhub also encourages women to participate, with two out of 20 seats in every batch reserved for women, and more female candidates welcome.


Māori community reconnects youth with their ancestral forests [12/26/2018]
- Māori have urbanized rapidly over the last century, undergoing a general disconnection from the environment.
- To buck that trend, members of the Tūhoe tribe in the community of Ruatāhuna, New Zealand, have been teaching their young people about their traditional culture and forest knowledge.
- They’re changing the format of their local schools to reflect a Tūhoe worldview, and have set up a “forest academy” for teenagers.
- This is the third part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Ruatāhuna community’s effort to restore their ancestral forest.


Gardens with too many nonnative plants threaten populations of insect-eating birds, study finds [12/26/2018]
- Researchers teamed up with community scientists to explore how nonnative plants in yards and gardens affect the breeding success of chickadees, a common insect-eating bird in the U.S.
- In gardens with less than 70% of native plants by biomass, chickadee populations crashed, because the insects they usually eat cannot live on nonnative trees and flowers.
- Landscaping with native plants helps resident animals thrive by sustaining balanced populations of their prey.


Is captive breeding the answer to Indonesia’s songbird crisis? [12/25/2018]
- In Indonesia, singing contests for songbirds have skyrocketed in popularity. Even the president is a fan.
- Demand for some species has made them extremely valuable. Poaching has risen accordingly, and some birds have been driven to the brink of extinction.
- The government is pushing captive breeding as a solution to the crisis. But some conservationists warn the policy may do more harm than good.
- A prime concern is that breeding licenses are easily exploited by “wildlife launderers” who pass of wild-caught animals as captive-bred. This only increases poaching.


The 10 most intriguing forest stories of 2018 [12/25/2018]
- Forest issues are probably Mongabay’s most regular kind of news coverage.
- Here’s what our forests editors chose as the most intriguing stories of the past year, from Bangladesh to Brazil.
- Leave your own top forests stories of the past year in the comments section.


Photos: Top 10 new species of 2018 [12/25/2018]
- Every year, researchers describe new species of animals and plants, from forests and oceans, after months, or even several years, of trials and tribulations.
- In 2018, Mongabay covered many of these new discoveries and descriptions, some a result of chance encounters.
- In no particular order, we present our 10 top picks.


2018’s top 10 ocean news stories (commentary) [12/24/2018]
- Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2018.
- Hopeful developments included international efforts to curb plastic pollution and negotiate an international treaty to protect the high seas.
- Meanwhile, research documenting unprecedented ocean warming, acidification, and oxygen decline spotlighted the real-time unfolding of climate change.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Two Indian tribes help reconstruct a forest’s history, in war and in peace [12/24/2018]
- A researcher-illustrator team has traced the emotional and personal links of two of India’s indigenous tribes to what is now a protected area via their memories.
- By interviewing more than 200 community members, most of them from the Bugun and Shertukpen tribes living near Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh state, the duo have created an 86-page book and a web repository called “The Eaglenest Memory Project” containing illustrations and notes based on the tribes’ recollections.
- The team pieced together the tribes’ memories into five main themes, including how they remember Eaglenest during and after the 1962 India-China war, the annual migration of the Shertukpen tribes through Eaglenest to Assam state, and how the Dalai Lama’s visit changed hunting practices among the Buguns.


What makes a forest healthy? Māori knowledge has some answers. [12/21/2018]
- Working with its elders and other traditional knowledge holders, the Māori community of Ruatāhuna, New Zealand, has articulated its own, culturally relevant system for monitoring the health of the ancient Te Urewera temperate rainforest it calls home.
- For instance, the community regards the size of flocks of kererū or wood pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) as a key indicator of forest health, and assesses it by the amount of awe an observer feels when witnessing a large flock at close range.
- The community feels a sense of urgency to document this kind of traditional knowledge before the elders who hold much of it pass on.
- This is the second part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Ruatāhuna community’s effort to restore its ancestral forest.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 21, 2018 [12/21/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.
- Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.


The female park rangers protecting turtles from traffickers in Nicaragua [12/21/2018]
- The female park rangers in Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur area patrol the beaches against the theft of eggs from endangered sea turtles that nest there.
- Species like the leatherback turtle have dwindled to less than 3 percent of their population in the eastern Pacific in the last three generations.
- In Nicaragua, an estimated more than 6,000 dozen turtle eggs are sold every month, with restaurants by the coast offering them in dishes as part of their menus.
- The NGO that hires the rangers say they manage to preserve 90 percent of turtle nests on the beaches they patrol, compared to 40 percent on government-patrolled beaches.


Peccary’s disappearance foreboding for other Mesoamerican wildlife [12/20/2018]
- A multinational team of scientists met to discuss the current status and future of the white-lipped peccary, a pig-like mammal that lives in Central and South America.
- White-lipped peccaries no longer live in 87 percent of their former range, driven out largely by hunting and habitat loss.
- The scientists say the disappearance of this species, which requires large tracts of unbroken forest, could portend the extinction of other wildlife.


Scarlet macaws stalked by wildlife traffickers in Guatemala [12/20/2018]
- This at-risk species is fighting for survival in the biological corridor shared by Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. It’s here where wildlife traffickers pluck the chicks from their nests.
- Experts estimate there are fewer than 1,000 scarlet macaws remaining in this corridor.


The long journey to saving the Sumatran rhino, via Borneo (commentary) [12/20/2018]
- The presence of near-extinct Sumatran rhinos in Indonesian Borneo was for a long time the stuff of legend, with no hard evidence to support it. Still, wildlife experts spared no effort to investigate every scrap of information.
- Those rumors eventually bore fruit with the capture of two individuals by conservationists in the past two years. The first rhino, however, died of injuries sustained before its capture.
- Today, a facility in eastern Borneo holds the other rhino, a female, with around-the-clock care from vets and experts, as part of a wider effort to kick-start a captive-breeding program.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


The true story of how 96 endangered sea turtle hatchlings survived a New York City beach [12/19/2018]
- It was a Thursday, so there probably wouldn’t have been too big of a crowd, but luckily there were at least a few beachgoers out at West Beach, near the western tip of the Rockaway Peninsula, when a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle — a member of a critically endangered species — crawled on shore and started building a nest. Even more luckily, a couple of those beachgoers had the presence of mind to report it to a 24-hour marine wildlife rescue hotline.
- Those calls likely saved the lives of 96 sea turtle hatchlings, all of whom successfully made the trek back out to the ocean a couple months later.
- While human activities are the primary reason Kemp’s Ridleys face an uncertain future — harvesting of adults and eggs, destruction of their coastal nesting habitats, and entanglement in fishing gear are the chief threats to the species — in this case, human intervention was crucial to the turtles’ survival.


PNG farmers use agroforestry to fight crop diseases and reduce labor [12/19/2018]
- Papua New Guinea’s predominantly agricultural society practices agroforestry — the cropping of useful fruit and nut trees with understory vines, shrubs and vegetables in a forest-mimicking system — widely.
- The practice produces a wide array of products for farmers, from areca nuts to coconuts and cacao, and is seen as a tool to address the country’s issues of rapid population growth and shrinking land resources.
- Farmers in the eastern province of Morobe are experimenting with different combinations of cash crops and trees to deal with disease challenges and to reduce labor.
- Agroforestry also sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provides homes and forage for wild creatures here, ranging from boars to bandicoots.


Deep-sea survey of Australian marine parks reveals striking species [12/19/2018]
- A monthlong survey of deep-sea seamounts in and around Australia’s Huon and Tasman Fracture marine parks has revealed a spectacular range of species, from feathery corals and tulip-shaped glass sponges to bioluminescent squids and ghost sharks.
- Researchers surveyed 45 seamounts and covered 200 kilometers (124 miles), collecting 60,000 stereo images and some 300 hours of video.
- Close to the surface, they recorded data on 42 seabird species and eight whale and dolphin species. The researchers also used a net to collect some animals from the seamounts for identification, many of which are potentially new to science.


U.S. whale entanglement figures steady in 2017 [12/19/2018]
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded 76 whale entanglements in U.S. waters in 2017.
- Floating fishing gear and other trash in the sea can impede a whale’s ability to feed and swim.
- Humpback were most often seen entangled; historically, the species usually accounts for about two-thirds of reports in a given year.
- Despite North Atlantic right whales only having been involved in two known entanglements in 2017, scientists say that any run-in with gear or trash threatens the recovery of the species, which now numbers around 450 animals.


The global community should address environmental issues as human rights issues (commentary) [12/18/2018]
- We do not need to search too far to find a roadmap for a global New Deal for Nature and People.
- By not viewing environmental issues as human rights issues, gross human rights abuses can occur while weakening humanity’s ability to combat climate change.
- If the global community is to make progress on linking the health of nature with the health of people and the collective future of humankind, then environmental issues like climate change must be framed within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Christmas ad conundrum: Is a palm oil boycott the way to save apes? [12/18/2018]
- British supermarket chain Iceland attempted to run a television advertisement highlighting the link between palm oil and the destruction of the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
- Deemed too political to air due to its links with campaigning group Greenpeace, the advertisement has been viewed online more than 70 million times, reigniting a debate on whether consumers should boycott products containing palm oil.
- Many wildlife NGOs argue that calling for a blanket ban on palm oil could do more harm than good. Instead, they urge concerned consumers to pressure the industry to clean up its practices.
- However, critics of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry’s leading standards council, say RSPO-certification has so far failed to stamp out deforestation and other harmful practices among member companies.


Relative of ‘penis snake’ amphibian named after Donald Trump [12/18/2018]
- EnviroBuild, a construction materials company based in the U.K., paid $25,000 for naming rights to the amphibian in a charity auction benefiting the Rainforest Trust, a conservation group.
- EnviroBuild chose the name as a cheeky way to spur awareness about President Trump’s climate policies.
- Little else was revealed about the new species, including where or when it was discovered.


Bird business: The man who taught his tribe to profit from conservation [12/18/2018]
- Indi Glow, a revered member of the Bugun indigenous group in Arunachal Pradesh, India, has been instrumental in making conservation community-friendly.
- When astronomer-turned-ecologist Ramana Athreya approached the Buguns in 2003 with an idea for a community bird ecotourism venture, Indi agreed to give it a go, taking on the management of the business over the next few years.
- Today, the bird tourism venture is profitable and has sparked other conservation initiatives on the Bugun community lands.


Wildlife, ecotourism industry at stake in Madagascar’s election, says scientist [12/18/2018]
- Madagascar’s election on Wednesday could have major implications for the future of the island’s environment and wildlife, says a prominent conservation scientist.
- In an op-ed published this week in Al Jazeera, William F. Laurance, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia, warns that if Madagascar chooses former president Andry Rajoelina, the country’s dwindling natural resources could face renewed assault.
- Under Rajoelina’s previous reign, which followed a 2009 coup, Madagascar’s forests, wildlife, and coastal waters were pillaged.
- Laurance contrasts Rajoelina with his opponent, Marc Ravalomanana, who was lauded by conservationists during his tenure for expanding protected areas, banning commercial logging, and taking steps to reduce deforestation.


A Māori community leans on tradition to restore its forest [12/17/2018]
- Deep in New Zealand’s vast Te Urewera forest, which is famously endowed with a legal personality, the Māori community in Ruatāhuna is working to restore and sustain its forests and way of life.
- Having regained control of their land after decades of logging by outside interests, members of the Tūhoe community are trying to bring back conifers in the Podocarpaceae family, which they refer to as the chiefs of the family of Tāne, the god of forests and birds.
- Other initiatives include controlling invasive species, developing a community-based forest monitoring system centered on traditional values and knowledge, establishing a “forest academy” for local youth, and setting up a profitable honey enterprise to provide jobs and eventually fund forest restoration.
- This is the first part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Ruatāhuna community’s effort to restore its ancestral forest.


Pumas engineer their environment, providing habitat for other species [12/17/2018]
- A new study finds that mountain lions in the western United States change their surroundings and as a result are “ecosystem engineers.”
- A team of scientists tracked 18 lion kills in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming and identified 215 species of beetles living in, on and off the carcasses — that is, the kills provided habitat as well as food for scavengers.
- The work demonstrates the critical role mountain lions play in providing resources to other species in the ecosystems in which they live.


Deforestation in Brazil’s cerrado falls [12/16/2018]
- Deforestation in Brazil’s cerrado, a wooded grassland that covers more than two million square kilometers and is the country’s second largest biome, fell 11 precent relative to a year ago.
- According to analysis by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE, deforestation in the cerrado amounted to 6,657 square kilometers for the twelve months ended July 31, 2018, which beat out 2016 as the lowest annual forest loss since at least 2001.
- Last year 7,474 square kilometers of cerrado was cleared.
- By contrast, deforestation in the Amazon has been trending upward since 2012, including a 14 percent rise this year.


Latam Eco Review: Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries [12/15/2018]
A 14-country jaguar conservation plan, efforts to protect the last 7 female southern right whales in Peru and Chile, and unexpected biodiversity discovered along Chile’s north coast were among the top stories last week by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries Fourteen countries launched a plan to secure […]

Madagascar auctioning a large swath of virgin waters for oil exploration [12/14/2018]
- In September, Madagascar announced the opening of a large area of marine territory to oil exploration: 44 concessions totaling 63,296 square kilometers (24,440 square miles) in the Mozambique Channel off the country’s west coast.
- Members of the hydrocarbon industry expressed excitement about the news, but civil society groups oppose the sale, arguing that the potential projects’ environmental and social impacts have not been evaluated.
- Some of the 44 blocks overlap with a marine protected area, territory marked for potential future marine protected areas, or areas managed by local fishing communities.


COP24: Will they stay or will they go? Brazil’s threat to leave Paris [12/14/2018]
- In October, Brazil elected far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency. During the campaign, he threatened to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, implement extreme environmental deregulation policies, and introduce mining into Amazon indigenous reserves, while also using incendiary language which may be inciting violence in remote rural areas.
- Just days before his election, Bolsonaro contradicted his past utterances, saying he won’t withdraw from the Paris accord. At COP24, the Brazilian delegation has fielded questions from concerned attendees, but it appears that no one there knows with certainty what the volatile leader will do once in office. He begins his presidency on the first of the year.
- Even if Bolsonaro doesn’t pull out of Paris, his plans to develop the Amazon, removing most regulatory impediments to mining and agribusiness, could have huge ramifications for the global climate. The Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, stores massive amounts of carbon. Deforestation rates are already going up there, and likely to grow under Bolsonaro.
- Some in Brazil hope that environmental and economic realities will prevent Bolsonaro from fully implementing his plans. Escalating deforestation is already reducing Amazon rainfall, putting aquifers and agribusiness at risk. Agricultural producers also fear global consumer perceptions of Brazil as being anti-environmental could lead to a backlash and boycotts.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 14, 2018 [12/14/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Argentina creates two new marine parks to protect penguins, sea lions [12/14/2018]
- Argentina has officially created two large marine protected areas: the Yaganes Marine National Park, lying off the country’s southern tip, and the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II Marine National Park in the South Atlantic.
- Together, the two parks cover a total area of about 98,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles).
- Industrial fishing is both an important source of revenue for Argentina and a threat to the country’s marine life. But the areas destined to become protected areas have had little fishing activity in recent years, which helped move negotiations in favor of the marine parks.


Satellite trackers help fight vultures’ extinction in southern Africa [12/13/2018]
- Vultures in southern Africa are being killed, mainly by eating carcasses poisoned by farmers, and in collisions with power lines and wind turbines.
- Concerned about population declines, the Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project began tracking vulture movements with small GPS transmitters, only to find them dying at a rapid rate.
- The three-dimensional tracking data showing the overlap between vulture breeding and roosting areas resulted in cancellation of a pair of proposed wind farms in Lesotho and a call for more ecologically informed siting of needed renewable energy infrastructure.


Dam drove ‘collapse’ of rainforest bird populations in Thailand [12/13/2018]
- A 165-square-kilometer (64-square-mile) reservoir in the lowland rainforest of Thailand has led to the “collapse” of the region’s bird populations, according to recent research.
- Built in 1986, the Ratchaprapha dam altered the habitat and led to deforestation, resulting in the decline of many species and the local extinction of perhaps five.
- The authors of the study say their findings highlight concerns about whether hydroelectric dams “are worth the environmental costs.”


Global agreement on ‘conserved areas’ marks new era of conservation (commentary) [12/13/2018]
- Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity have adopted the definition of a new conservation designation: ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (known informally as ‘conserved areas’).
- It represents a transformative moment in international biodiversity law and enables a greater diversity of actors — including government agencies, private entities, indigenous peoples, and local communities – to be recognized for their contributions to biodiversity outside protected areas.
- The ‘protected and conserved areas’ paradigm offers the global community an important means through which to respect human rights and appropriately recognize and support millions of square kilometers of lands and waters that are important for biodiversity, ecosystem processes, and connectivity — including in the Global Deal for Nature (2021-2030).
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


From a new bird to a new community reserve: India’s tribe sets example [12/13/2018]
- In 2006, the discovery of the Bugun liocichla, a new species of bird, near Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, India, brought the area’s small tribe of Buguns into the international spotlight. It prompted both a community bird ecotourism business, and a series of small conservation actions to protect the forest that harbors the rare bird.
- In 2013, the idea to protect the Bugun liocichla’s home took a more definitive shape, culminating in a community reserve. The reserve was formally created in 2017 after several rounds of discussions between the Buguns, researchers working in the area, and the local forest department.
- Today, the community reserve is more effectively patrolled by a Bugun team than the sanctuary it abuts.
- A few teething troubles remain to be worked out, but the researchers hope to streamline the running of the reserve in the coming years, so that the community takes center stage in the reserve’s management, while others step back.


A Zambian sanctuary finds caring for chimps is a lifetime commitment [12/13/2018]
- Home to more than 130 apes, Zambia’s Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is one of the world’s oldest and largest chimpanzee sanctuaries.
- Chimpanzees can live for 50 years or more, so each new animal the center takes in will require decades of care and financial support.
- With an ever-growing number of chimps in need of a home, simply financing daily operations is a challenge for this award-winning facility.


COP24: Tropical deforestation risks undermining 1.5-degree warming limit [12/13/2018]
- Maintaining forests is a key tactic in the fight against catastrophic climate change, one that could help significantly reduce global carbon dioxide emissions.
- But of the six countries that account for the greatest expanses of tropical rainforest, only Indonesia is on track to reduce its current rate of deforestation by 2030. The five others — Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Peru and Myanmar — look set to maintain or even increase their deforestation rates.
- The findings are based on an analysis of each country’s climate action pledges within their National Determined Commitments, or NDCs.
- Researchers say these countries can do more to both tamp down deforestation and boost their emissions reduction targets.


Ethiopia: Khat farming threatens food security, biodiversity, women, and agroforestry [12/12/2018]
- Southern Ethiopia has long been a stronghold of an ecologically sound version of agriculture, agroforestry, which yields food and medicine crops year round while benefiting a diversity of wild species.
- In recent decades farmers have moved toward growing only khat, a drug banned in most countries but still legal in Ethiopia and neighboring countries, on their small farms.
- The transition has led to greater farmer incomes but also declines in food security, biodiversity, soil health, and women’s empowerment.
- Researchers and activists are advocating for returning such farms at least to modified agroforestry systems of khat intercropped with food crops in the event of a massive crop failure or outright ban of the drug.


Birds on Broadway: A Q&A with the Audubon Mural Project’s Avi Gitler [12/12/2018]
- A public art project is bringing new bird life to uptown Manhattan in John James Audubon’s old neighborhood in New York City.
- The Audubon Mural Project is an ongoing collaboration between the National Audobon Society and Gitler &____ Gallery. So far, 80 murals of 101 bird species have been painted, spanning 133rd to 165th street on Broadway. The project will eventually end at 193rd street, at the end of Audubon Avenue.
- In this Q&A, Avi Gitler, co-producer of the Audubon Mural Project and founder of Gitler &____ Gallery, talks about the impetus for the public art project, which focuses on birds threatened by climate change, how he has enlisted the participating artists, and what he hopes public art about climate change-threatened birds can achieve.


Guatemala: An indigenous community rejects, then accepts, a protected area [12/12/2018]
- When the Guatemalan government designated the Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area in 2005, the local people said it never properly contacted or consulted the indigenous Q’eqchi’ living in the area.
- The Q’eqchi’ initially opposed the designation, and vociferously, for fear it would infringe on their rights to the land.
- Eventually, the government gave them a role managing the zone.
- Now, more than a decade after the Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area came into being, the relationship between the Guatemalan government and local communities is settling into a symbiotic groove, and conservation initiatives are having a noticeable effect on the forests and wildlife.


Feed a fishery, starve a seabird [12/12/2018]
- Industrial fisheries increased their share of fish taken by 10 percent, while seabirds’ take dropped by nearly 20 percent, between 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, new research has found.
- The study mapped out 40 years of data comparing the takes of seabirds and fisheries during that timeframe.
- Scientists say that seabirds, which also face threats from pollution, plastic garbage and possible entanglements, could also face starvation as a result of the competition with large-scale fisheries for the same resource.


‘We see its value’: Ugandan communities benefiting from agroforestry [12/11/2018]
- Farming communities in the western Ugandan highlands of Butanda have for generations practiced agroforestry, intercropping fruit, grains and vegetables with medicinal plants, trees and grasses on their land.
- The practice allows them to harvest food throughout the year, both for sustenance and to sell, provides them with timber and other resources, and prevents soil erosion while boosting water conservation.
- A local NGO is working to promote the practice to other communities in the region, including to cattle farmers, who have often overlooked the importance of trees in providing shade and protection for their herds.
- Experts say there’s much to learn from the indigenous communities that have long practiced some form of agroforestry, and have stressed the importance of heeding this valuable store of knowledge.


Audio: The true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtle hatchlings survived New York City [12/11/2018]
- On this episode, the true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtles survived a New York City beach — with a little help from some dedicated conservationists.
- This past summer, beachgoers in New York City spotted a nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle on West Beach, which is on National Park Service land.
- Luckily, two of those beachgoers had the presence of mind to call the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation’s 24-hour hotline to report the nesting turtle — which very likely saved the lives of 96 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchlings.


New species of giant salamander described after decades of mystery [12/11/2018]
- Scientists have described a new species of giant salamander that grows up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) long and is a type of siren, a group of eel-like salamanders that have only front limbs, and large, frilled gills behind their heads.
- The formal description of the species, named the reticulated siren, comes after decades of surveys and exploration.
- The researchers do not have a complete understanding of the reticulated siren yet, but given that much of its habitat lies in wetlands within the endangered longleaf pine ecosystem, the species is of conservation concern, they say.


Pesticides could be painting black howler monkeys yellow in Costa Rica [12/10/2018]
- Mantled howler monkeys in Costa Rica are starting to appear with patches of yellow fur on their usually black coats.
- A team of scientists believes that the dappled monkeys are consuming sulfur-containing pesticides along with the leaves they eat.
- Sulfur from the pesticide ends up in the monkeys’ pigmentation, resulting in splashes of yellow on their coats.


Secondary forests in Costa Rica are re-cleared within decades [12/07/2018]
- Secondary forests in Costa Rica, which are important for the country’s reforestation and climate change goals, don’t last long enough to recover previously lost biomass and biodiversity, a new study shows.
- Within 20 years, half of the secondary forest in a region of Coto Brus was cleared. After 54 years, 85 percent of these young forests were gone. The results contradict national reports of increasing forest coverage.
- Costa Rica should shift from its current commitment to restore 1 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 to longer-term commitments to ensure the persistence of young forests, researchers propose.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 7, 2018 [12/07/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Tropical forest conservation in the Bolsonaro era (commentary) [12/06/2018]
- Brazil’s President-elect represents a major threat to Brazil’s legacy of forest conservation and to the prospects of preventing extremely dangerous climate change. This legacy was achieved largely through command-and-control measures that were supported by consistently pro-environment presidents over the last three decades; these measures are now vulnerable to the abrupt decline in environmental political will.
- A strategy to avoid major forest conservation setbacks and achieve new wins is possible under Bolsonaro if Brazil’s farmers and the broader society are convinced that they will be worse off if this legacy is dismantled.
- Instead of escalating antagonism between conservation leaders and medium- to large-scale farmers and agribusinesses, dialogues and collaborations are urgently needed to deliver positive incentives to conservation-minded producers.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


As the mammal tree of life suffers hits, should we prioritize which species to save? [12/06/2018]
- More than 300 mammal species have gone extinct since shortly before the last ice age, a loss of more than 2.5 billion years of evolutionary history across all ancestral lines, a sweeping study reports.
- Even in the best-case scenario — we completely stop climate change and extinctions within 50 years — evolution would need at least three million years to redevelop that lost biodiversity.
- Choosing to save the most distinct at-risk species is one way to minimize ongoing damage to the mammal tree of life.


Culls push endangered fruit bat closer to extinction in Mauritius [12/05/2018]
- The government of Mauritius plans to cull 20 percent of the population of Mauritian flying foxes (Pteropus niger) in 2018 to protect farmers’ fruit trees.
- Culls in prior years led to the extermination of tens of thousands of the bats, and the IUCN now lists the species, which lives only in Mauritius and perhaps a few nearby islands, as endangered.
- A recent study found that, while bats (along with birds) do take a toll on farmers’ orchards, nets over the trees when the fruit ripens can dramatically diminish the damage they do.


For Ugandan villagers, tradition and tourism help keep the peace with gorillas [12/05/2018]
- Uganda is home to around half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas; thanks to conservation efforts the global population is now slightly above 1,000 and the species has recently been re-graded by the IUCN as “endangered’ rather than “critically endangered.”
- Many indigenous groups in Uganda have traditional beliefs that encourage ape conservation. However, rapid population growth in the 20th century increasingly brought humans and gorillas into conflict.
- Today, conservation groups are working to harness traditional knowledge to protect apes, and to develop new techniques that allow humans and gorillas to peacefully coexist.


Deadly parrot virus found in native birds from Asia and Africa [12/05/2018]
- Researchers have found beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) in wild parrots from eight new countries.
- BFDV spreads through captive parrots worldwide, but its prevalence in wild species is unknown. Infected escapees could threaten native parrots, especially small populations.
- Parrots in West Africa carried viruses that probably spread from other countries, showing that the human pet trade market has made the BFDV epidemic worse.
- New regulations of live parrot trades are essential to protect susceptible species, researchers say.


Agroforestry ‘home gardens’ build community resilience in southern Ethiopia [12/04/2018]
- The village of Bule is believed to be the birthplace of traditional “home garden” agroforestry in Ethiopia.
- Farmers here practice this ancient multi-storied agroforestry system — the growing of trees, shrubs and annual crops together in a forest-mimicking system — around their homesteads, hence the name home garden.
- Trees provide fruit, timber, fodder or soil-building properties and shade for mid-story crops like coffee and enset, with vegetable and medicinal herbs growing on the forest floor.
- Farm families are more food secure, because the system provides economic, ecological and environmental attributes and provide year-round and marketable harvests.


Top U.S. flooring retailer linked to Brazilian firm snagged in timber bust [12/04/2018]
- An investigation by Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency and the federal police led to allegations that Indusparquet, a prominent supplier of tropical wood flooring, was using fraudulent permits to hide illegally harvested wood.
- Government authorities fined the company, made the largest seizure of timber ever in the state of Sãa Paulo, and shut down Indusparquet’s primary warehouse for three weeks.
- Indusparquet has denied wrongdoing and appealed the sanctions, and U.S.-based flooring retailer Floor & Decor has continued to source tropical wood flooring from the company.
- Timberleaks, which first reported the link between Indusparquet and Floor & Decor, contends that the Lacey Act requires companies like Floor & Decor to go beyond the documentation provided by their suppliers — which in this case was alleged to be fraudulent — to ensure the source of those products is legal.


The nature of conservation evidence: Imperfect, but good enough (commentary) [12/04/2018]
- Today’s conservationists in the field often must decide quickly what actions to take based on whatever evidence is available at the time. There typically isn’t the luxury to engage in a more formal information-gathering process.
- Now, however, there is a push within the conservation community to move further toward a more extensive investigative process in order to prioritize what works and avoid funding failure. This is not a bad idea. But, if we are to be successful at this most urgent time for wildlife, we can’t lose sight of the fact that evidence is lots of things, and when it comes to conservation, it should not be solely interpreted as randomized control trials and rigorous statistical analyses.
- Conservation field staff would urge us all to understand the environments in which they work and the need for quick decision-making. Constraining them from doing what they do best, discounting decades of experience and the local knowledge they’ve accrued, would be a real crime.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


In the belly of the beast: journalist delves into wildlife trafficking [12/04/2018]
- Rachel Nuwer, who has written for Mongabay, Smithsonian, the New York Times and other publications, published a new book in September, “Poached,” which delves deeply into the global wildlife trafficking epidemic.
- Her book looks into the origins of the wildlife trade, its mechanisms, markets, and solutions. It covers charismatic mammals (elephants, rhinos and tigers), as well as the non-charismatic (pangolins and snakes).
- In this exclusive Mongabay Q&A, the author shares some of her most harrowing moments on the trail of global wildlife traffickers. The scariest thing of all: how accepting people can often be to the slaughter of millions of wild animals, and to the extermination of species, so as to be served a rare meat or a bogus cure.
- Still, Nuwer finds hope in the courageous individuals who fight the trade.


Bits of DNA in ocean water can reveal white sharks swimming nearby [12/04/2018]
- Environmental DNA in small samples of seawater can show whether white sharks are in an area.
- In a pilot study, researchers found genetic material from white sharks along two southern California beaches where drones and tagging data indicated white sharks were present.
- Refining this technique could minimize dangerous human-shark interactions and improve shark conservation efforts.


For elusive Javan rhinos, camera traps are a benevolent Big Brother [12/03/2018]
- Camera traps in an Indonesian park have recorded the first ever video of Javan rhinos mating in the wild.
- The critically endangered species, with an estimated population of just 68 individuals, is notoriously elusive, evading even the conservationists and rangers responsible for studying and protecting it.
- The network of 120 camera traps, introduced in 2010, has given researchers and park officials valuable insights into the rhinos’ biology and behavior, and helped inform conservation strategies for the species.


‘Drifters of opportunity’: Seabirds track energy in tidal currents [12/03/2018]
- A recent study used location data from GPS-tagged seabirds called razorbills to track currents in the Irish Sea.
- When a team of biologists compared the movements of resting birds on the surface of the water with a mathematical model that lays out the currents, they found that the birds provided solid information on the speed and direction of the flow of water.
- The researchers suggest that similar research using data from resting seabirds could help identify areas for the harvest of renewable tidal energy.


Global biodiversity treaty still searches for its moment in the spotlight [12/03/2018]
- Government delegates and conservationists from across the globe gathered last month in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, for the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 14).
- Experts say the biodiversity convention is just as important as that on climate change, whose latest conference is now underway in Poland, but receives a fraction of the attention.
- The Sharm el Sheikh COP largely focused on preparations for 2020, the deadline for achieving current biodiversity targets, and the date of the next biodiversity COP.
- Outcomes of the 2018 COP include progress on a framework for developing a new global biodiversity plan, as well as agreements about the links between health, gender and biodiversity.


Singapore proposes total ivory ban, calls for public feedback [12/03/2018]
- Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has proposed a total ban on the sale and purchase of all forms of elephant ivory products in Singapore.
- Display of elephant ivory in public would also be banned, except when used for educational purposes, such as in museums or zoos.
- AVA has opened its proposal to public comments until Dec. 27 this year.


Group helps illegal bird traders transition into different lines of business [12/03/2018]
- Instead of focusing on putting bird poachers and illegal traders behind bars, an NGO in Indonesian Borneo is creating incentives for them to stop.
- It’s a unique approach in the Southeast Asian country, where conservation efforts have tended to focus on calls for tighter law enforcement and more rigorous punishment.
- The group, Planet Indonesia, has identified more than 100 small bird shops in and around Pontianak, the biggest city in western Borneo, and says many of them are pondering changing professions. It’s know-how and capital that’s holding them back.


Latam Eco Review: Microbial memories of Venezuela’s lost glaciers [11/30/2018]
Microbiomes of Venezuela’s lost glaciers, mile-high Andean lizards, and starving baby seals are among the recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service. The abandoned microbes of Venezuela’s last glaciers Venezuela will be the first country where glaciers disappear. In 30 years, from 1978 to 2008, its glaciers lost 9 vertical meters a year […]

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 30, 2018 [11/30/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


For Kenya’s Yiaku, medicinal herbs are their forest’s blessing and curse [11/30/2018]
- The Yiaku, hunter-gatherers turned herders who live deep inside Mukogodo Forest in central Kenya, have relied on herbal remedies for ages, with knowledge passed orally from one generation to the next.
- However, high demand for the herbs from neighboring communities is exposing the forest to new threats — a trend mirrored across the country.
- Recognizing that traditional knowledge is crucial to forest conservation, the government has taken steps to protect it, at least on paper. However, the Yiaku have received little support, even as their most knowledgeable elders pass on and their community becomes increasingly assimilated to their pastoral neighbors.
- This is the third story in Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Yiaku’s management of their ancestral forest.


Information-based solutions for forest conservation projects [11/29/2018]
- Many conservationists and foresters continue to struggle with aspects of forest management, whether it’s translating data into actionable information or communicating the results of their work.
- In 2011 Alexander Watson, Stefan Haas, and Patrick Ribeiro founded OpenForests, which provides forest managers with a set of tools to improve data collection, processing, and analysis.
- OpenForests CEO Watson spoke with Mongabay.com ahead of his appearance at the Global Landscape Forum in Bonn, Germany where he is presenting Sunday, 2 December 2018 from 09:00-10:30.


It’s time to strengthen the macroecology–conservation practice interface (commentary) [11/29/2018]
- Imagine being able to know how many individual organisms occur at any given time across areas as large as whole continents or even the entire globe. Though satellites may one day enable us to obtain this information directly, a sub-discipline of ecology — macroecology — currently represents the main tool to generate those estimates.
- With biodiversity under increasing pressure from human activities, macroecology can contribute greatly to the scientific evidence base for national and international decisions aimed at conserving biodiversity and ensuring a safe future for our planet.
- Yet, examples of macroecological research directly supporting conservation decisions remain rare. Why does a sizeable macroecology-conservation practice gap persist?
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


First wild Sumatran rhino in Borneo captured for breeding campaign [11/29/2018]
- A female Sumatran rhinoceros has been captured in Indonesian Borneo and moved to a local sanctuary as part of an initiative to conserve the near-extinct species through captive breeding.
- A team of veterinarians and rhino experts is now caring for the rhino around the clock, and will seek to establish whether she is viable for breeding.
- Conservationists and government officials have welcomed news of the capture and rescue, a key step toward replenishing a species whose total population may be as low as 30 individuals.
- The capture comes two years after another female rhino was trapped in the same district, only to die less than a month later.


The Bangladeshi tribe that’s guarding turtles, co-authoring research papers [11/29/2018]
- A team of indigenous parabiologists in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, documenting their forest’s wildlife, have uncovered a surprisingly wide range of species.
- The parabiologists belong to the Mro ethnic group and work with the Creative Conservation Alliance co-founded by Shahriar Caesar Rahman and colleagues. They set up camera traps, monitor hunting and consumption of turtles and other wild animals in villages; act as protectors of hornbill nests; and serve as community leaders.
- The Mro parabiologists have become so crucial to the researchers’ work that they are regularly listed as formal co-authors of scientific papers.
- The Mro-CCA partnership has earned Rahman several laurels, including, most recently, the 2018 Whitley Award, dubbed the “green Oscars.”


Kenya: Bees help indigenous Yiaku defend and monitor their ancestral forest [11/28/2018]
- The Yiaku, former hunter-gatherers who live in Mukogodo Forest in central Kenya, have kept bees since ancient times.
- They consider honey a valuable commodity and use it not only as food but in traditional rituals and medicine. Beekeeping is also part of the community’s customary system of forest management, helping the Yiaku defend the forest against intruders and monitor its health.
- The Yiaku’s use of beekeeping and other traditional practices to conserve their forest has earned them recognition and autonomy from the Kenyan government, which in 2008 granted the community full responsibility for managing the forest.
- This is the second part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Yiaku’s management of their ancestral forest.


New research quantifies ecosystem services provided by Amazon rainforest [11/28/2018]
- New research published in the journal Nature Sustainability this month attempts to establish the monetary value of the ecosystem services provided by the world’s largest tropical forest, the Amazon.
- Researchers estimated that, in total, the Amazon contributes as much as $8.2 billion to Brazil’s economy on an annual basis. Some $3.3 billion of that total is generated from privately owned forest areas, they found, while areas under protection, sustainable use areas, and indigenous lands together contribute $3 billion.
- In the study, the researchers write that their findings can help inform tropical forest conservation measures, such as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes, that allow for sustainable use of forests — and that their findings show the importance of conserving the rainforest not only to protect its rich biodiversity but also to ensure the sustainability of agricultural production in Brazil.


Forestry reforms could fall short without PM’s backing in Ukraine [11/28/2018]
- Ukraine’s prime minister called for “a massive crackdown” on his country’s timber sector after allegations of widespread corruption and illegality.
- The London-based NGO Earthsight first revealed the potential illegalities in a July 2018 report, and since then, independent investigations from WWF Ukraine and the EU’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange have corroborated Earthsight’s findings.
- A reform package that would allow for independent enforcement of Ukraine’s forestry laws and increased transparency has been approved by the country’s cabinet of ministers, but it still lacks the signature and public backing of Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.


Whale stress levels influenced by human activity, earwax study suggests [11/28/2018]
- Using earwax collected from baleen (filter-feeding) whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, scientists have been able to map the animals’ stress levels in relation to human activities over 146 years.
- Between 1870 and 2016, the whales’ stress levels closely corresponded to activities such as industrial whaling, naval operations during World War II, and rising sea-surface temperature, the study found.
- The effects on the whales of climate change, increased fishing and krill harvests, and sea ice decline need to be studied further, the researchers say.


The secret deal to destroy paradise [11/28/2018]
- “The secret deal to destroy paradise” is the third installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the opaque deals underpinning Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis.
- The series is the product of 22 months of investigative reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
- “The secret deal to destroy paradise” is based on a cross-border collaboration between Tempo, Malaysiakini, Mongabay and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project.


Audio: Bill McKibben on the climate movements that give him hope [11/27/2018]
- On this episode, Bill McKibben discusses the climate movements that could spur the world to action and help us avert the worst impacts of global warming.
- You might think that the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would be closely followed by Bill McKibben. But McKibben is not looking to the upcoming COP, taking place in Poland next week, to make much progress in the world’s attempts to combat climate change.
- McKibben joins the Mongabay Newscast to discuss why he thinks these international climate efforts have run out of steam, the climate movements that give him hope, and what’s at stake if we don’t find a way to check global warming.


A living planet begins with thriving forests (commentary) [11/27/2018]
- In my lifetime, global wildlife populations have seen an overall decline of more than half. That’s a statement of such enormity that it’s hard to process.
- The evidence comes from WWF’s recent Living Planet Report 2018, which shows that, on average, populations of mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles declined by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. And the trends are still going in the wrong direction. My children could be reading about many of these species — such as orangutans and Amur leopards — in history books if conservation actions are not ramped up.
- We need a fundamental shift in the way we treat our one and only planet, a New Deal for Nature and People by 2020, to galvanize serious international action to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, including efforts to stop the degradation and destruction of our forests.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Five wildlife conservationists held by Iran could face the death penalty [11/27/2018]
- Four conservationists arrested for suspected espionage in Iran in January face charges of “sowing corruption on Earth.”
- The charges stem from the team’s use of camera traps to track the Asiatic cheetah, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guard contends that the accused were collecting information on the country’s missile program.
- If convicted, the conservationists could be sentenced to death.


This blue-throated hummingbird is new to science — but already endangered [11/27/2018]
- From Ecuador’s southwestern highlands, ornithologists have described a new species of hummingbird, named blue-throated hillstar after its glittering ultramarine-blue chin and throat feathers.
- The blue-throated hillstar prefers grasslands on the Ecuadoran Andes, which is being rapidly lost to human activity, and researchers think the bird is likely already critically endangered.
- The researchers are now working with the local communities to protect the bird and its habitat.


A forest of their own: The Yiaku as Kenya’s model forest stewards [11/26/2018]
- The Yiaku people have inhabited and watched over Mukogodo Forest for centuries, as hunter-gatherers who have lately embraced herding. But it is only in the past decade that the Kenyan government has officially given them rights to the forest, as well as full responsibility for managing it.
- The forest has thrived under the Yiaku’s care, according to officials, a stark contrast to other forests in the country, which are being lost to illegal logging and agricultural encroachment.
- The Kenyan government, which has a decidedly mixed record when it comes to protecting both forests and the rights of forest-dwelling indigenous groups, is hailing the Yiaku’s approach as a model for other communities around the country. However, the Yiaku face a suite of challenges, including intensifying drought, threats of encroachment by neighboring groups, and their own dwindling connection to their traditional culture.
- This is the first part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Yiaku’s management of their ancestral forest.


Chile fishers brace for fallout after massive mining port is approved [11/26/2018]
- The iron ore export terminal was approved for an area rich in marine resources that artisanal fishing communities rely on, and is just 29 kilometers (18 miles) from the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and the Choros and Damas Islands Marine Reserve.
- The project’s approval went practically unnoticed at a time when attention was focused on a debate over the planned construction of another mining port, Dominga, just 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the south.
- Once completed, the Cruz Grande port will serve 75 ships a year carrying away 13.5 million tons of iron ore — less than 300 meters (1,000 feet) from fishing sites that hundreds of families rely on for their incomes.
- This section of the coast is an important whale migration corridor and is also home to 122 species of birds, among them the Humboldt penguin. Chile’s only colony of bottlenose dolphins also lives there, as do 68 species of fish and 180 species of microalgae and invertebrates.


Agroforestry supports food security and conservation in Papua New Guinea [11/26/2018]
- Papua New Guinea’s predominantly agricultural society practices agroforestry (the cropping of useful fruit and nut trees with understory vines, shrubs, and vegetables in a forest-mimicking system) widely.
- The practice produces a wide array of products for farmers, from betel nut to coconut and cacao, and is seen as a tool to address the country’s issues of rapid population growth and shrinking land resources.
- The diverse and predictable harvest provided by agroforestry also allows the community of Gildipasi the additional luxury of putting aside nearby areas of forest for conservation: 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of forested areas and a marine zone have been protected in the last 18 years.
- Agroforestry also sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provides homes and forage for wild creatures here, ranging from cockatoos to bandicoots.


Amazon deforestation at highest level in 10 years, says Brazil [11/24/2018]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hit 7,900 square kilometers for the year ending July 31, 2018, reports Brazil’s national space research institute, INPE.
- The figure represents a 14% increase over last year and a 41% miss of the official deforestation target. Final figures will be released next spring.
- The increase had been widely expected due to economic and political conditions in Brazil, as well as the American trade war that has increased the profitability of Brazilian agricultural products.
- Scientists warn that ongoing destruction of the Amazon could have dire economic impacts across South America.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 23, 2018 [11/23/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Latam Eco Review: Jail time for jaguar traffickers [11/23/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, looked at jail sentences for wildlife traffickers in Bolivia; conserving river dolphins in Venezuela and culling lionfish in Colombia; and shark bycatch in Chile. Jaguar-tooth traffickers get up to four years’ prison in Bolivia A Bolivian court has set a legal precedent by sentencing traffickers in […]

Map pinpoints ‘last chance’ locations of endangered species [11/23/2018]
- A new assessment updates the last known ranges for nearly 1,500 species of animals and plants at 853 locations around the world.
- The three-year effort is aimed at helping scientists, governments and conservationists identify the threats that could lead to the extinction of these species and find ways to address them.
- Governments are already using this information to identify target areas for conservation to protect the last remaining habitats of threatened species.
- Nearly half of the sites identified lack formal protection, despite many of them having been flagged as important more than a decade ago.


Turtles exposed to record levels of microplastics on Mediterranean beaches [11/23/2018]
- Beaches in northern Cyprus have the second highest recorded amount of microplastics among beaches studied across the world, a new study has found.
- The Cyprus beaches are crucial nesting sites for green and loggerhead sea turtles, and high levels of microplastics in their nesting sites could pose a significant threat to turtle hatching success, researchers say.
- The current magnitude of microplastic contamination is likely underestimated, the researchers warn.


Stop importing illegal timber, PNG activists tell China at APEC Summit [11/22/2018]
- Environmental and community groups from Papua New Guinea issued a letter for Chinese President Xi Jinping during the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the capital, Port Moresby.
- In the letter, the authors asked that China, the destination for the bulk of PNG’s timber exports, regulate imports to discourage the illegality that plagues PNG’s forestry sector.
- They highlight the negative effects that rampant logging has had on the country’s ecosystems and forest-dependent communities.


Two iconic birds make a striking comeback, but much work remains [11/22/2018]
- BirdLife International has revised the information for the conservation status of more than 2,300 bird species this year.
- Overall, 31 species of birds were moved to lower threat categories, while 58 species were uplisted to higher threat categories.
- The pink pigeon, which has been downlisted to vulnerable from endangered, and the northern bald ibis, which has been downlisted to endangered from critically endangered, have shown some of the most dramatic improvements.


‘Punished’: Bolivian communities opposed to highway cry foul over neglect [11/22/2018]
- Indigenous leaders from 14 villages settled within the TIPNIS nature reserve say that government programs and public works have not reached their areas because they are opposed to a planned highway running through the park.
- The inhabitants of Trinidadcito complain that the health post is not used because there’s no resident doctor and that their school doesn’t have walls.
- In the community of Nueva Galilea, an indigenous leader says a public pool and a school that the government claims to have built are among the “phantom” public works projects that were paid for but never built.


New picture of coral reef health opens avenues for saving them [11/21/2018]
- New research has identified five potential phases, or “regimes,” of coral reef health, helping scientists and ecosystem managers better assess the condition of reefs.
- The study also revealed that certain transitions from one phase to another were more likely to result from human-induced changes to the ocean.
- The authors of the study say the research could help identify new opportunities to save and improve the health of reefs.


Progress on jaguar conservation in Suriname [11/20/2018]
- Dr. Mark J. Plotkin is the Co‑Founder & President of the Amazon Conservation Team, which partners with indigenous peoples to conserve forests and wildlife in Suriname, Colombia, and Brazil.
- In this post, Plotkin writes about a recent meeting in Suriname to discuss an emerging threat to jaguars across Latin America: poaching for traditional Chinese medicine.
- He notes that representatives who attended the meeting are now deeply engaged in designing an action plan for jaguar conservation in Suriname.


New dam set to spoil Sumatran wonderland (commentary) [11/20/2018]
- Amid the tropical rainforest in the Hadabuan Hills Ecosystem, where Siamang and Agile gibbons cry out and where Rhinoceros hornbills and Black hornbills growl and cackle above the forest canopy, survey work by a Korean hydroelectric company has just wrapped up, and construction is slated to begin in 2020 on a dam called Siborpa Hydroelectric Power Plant.
- The Hadabuan Hills isn’t a national park or a wildlife sanctuary; about half of it is considered a hutan desa, or village forest. It is essentially a cluster of steep mountains that were too difficult to cultivate quickly and easily, and were thus spared wholesale conversion to oil palm plantations due to the challenging topography.
- So far we have confirmed the presence of tigers, clouded leopards, marbled cats, golden cats, Malayan tapirs, sun bears, leaf monkeys, the fast-disappearing Sumatran Laughingthrush, and a plethora of other wildlife. If this place isn’t a national treasure, we don’t know what is. To see it badly scarred by a hydroelectric dam of questionable use and value would be deeply disturbing.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Human activities are impeding population growth of North Atlantic right whales [11/19/2018]
- New research finds that deaths caused by human activities are not just impacting individual North Atlantic right whales and their immediate family units, but actually impeding population growth and recovery of the species, which has been declining since 2010.
- Peter Corkeron, head of a whale research initiative at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, led an international team that studied the western North Atlantic population and three populations of southern right whales, in order to determine whether or not the slow growth rate of North Atlantic right whales is attributable to humans.
- More than 80 percent of North Atlantic right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once in their lives, and 59 percent have been entangled two or more times, the researchers found. The increased energy demands imposed on entangled whales can reduce the likelihood that a female will successfully give birth.


Jaw-dropping footage: conservationists catch Javan rhino in mud wallow [11/19/2018]
- With just 68 individuals surviving in a single site, the Javan rhino is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered animals.
- The species is so elusive that conservationists have studied it for years without meeting one in the flesh. Even images are rare.
- Now, newly released video and photos from a recent expedition by Global Wildlife Conservation and WWF show a Javan rhino wallowing in a mud bath.


Deforested, degraded land restoration a top priority for African leaders [11/19/2018]
- African leaders met at a summit to discuss land restoration across the continent on Nov. 13, ahead of the U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt.
- Representatives from several African countries shared their countries’ pledges to restore hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of degraded and deforested land in the coming decades.
- The summit’s leaders said they hoped the deliberations during the day-long summit would help African countries in both their contributions to international targets and to the improvement of their natural ecosystems for the benefit of their citizens.


Panama, Namibia plan to reveal fishing fleet data via online map [11/19/2018]
- Panama and Namibia have planned to publicly share information on their fishing fleet in their waters via the open-access mapping tool by Global Fishing Watch (GFW).
- Both nations say such a move would be crucial in improving transparency in fisheries management and protecting their oceans.
- GFW’s mapping platform provides both general data for the public and more detailed information seen only by authorities.
- The tool helps identify if a boat is fishing during the closed season of a particular species; if it enters an unauthorized area; or if it sails into a protected area.


Peru shares its fisheries surveillance data with the world [11/16/2018]
- Late last month, the Peruvian government made public its satellite surveillance data on 1,300 commercial fishing vessels plying Peru’s waters via the open-access platform Global Fishing Watch.
- Only the Peruvian government and companies in the fishing sector had access to the data previously.
- With this move, Peru became the second country in the world, following Indonesia, to make public data from fishing vessels’ Vessel Monitoring Systems, a method of satellite surveillance.
- The country aims to use GFW as a tool to fight illegal fishing and overfishing.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 16, 2018 [11/16/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Latam Eco Review: Rampant roadkill and shrinking seaweed stocks [11/16/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, investigated Colombia’s roadkill rates; Chile’s marine forests; and Chinese energy projects in Ecuador. Mammals pay highest toll on Colombia’s highways Plans to double Colombia’s highway network by 2035 represent a major threat to wildlife conservation. A roadkill app and research have documented some 11,000 roadkill incidents, […]

Plan to ship gorillas from DRC to Zimbabwe raises alarm [11/16/2018]
- The head of Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority says the agency plans to receive a donation of gorillas and okapis from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), part of a wildlife exchange program that recently saw 10 white rhinos sent to the DRC from Zimbabwe.
- The plan, officials say, is still being worked out. But the prospect has raised alarm over the welfare of the animals, the impact on the local ecosystem, and the possibility that animals from the DRC could be infected with Ebola.
- Zimbabwe has previously sold wild animals for display in China, leading some activists to fear the gorillas and okapis could ultimately end up in that country — an allegation Zimbabwean authorities strongly deny.


Google searches reveal public interest in conservation is rising [11/15/2018]
- The number of Google searches for conservation-related topics has been increasing since 2004, a new study has found.
- In fact, interest in both conservation and climate change-related topics seem to be tightly linked and rising similarly.
- While the rise in Google searches for conservation-related terms doesn’t necessarily translate to increased support for conservation, what it does suggest is that conservationists must continue to communicate their results to reach all the people interested in conservation and environmental issues, researchers say.
- The study’s co-author, Rhett A. Butler, is Mongabay’s founder and CEO, while lead author Zuzana Burivalova was also the lead researcher on Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series published in 2017-18.


More than one-third of critically endangered plants cannot be conserved in seed banks [11/15/2018]
- New research finds that seed banking alone is not sufficient to conserve the world’s threatened plant and tree species.
- According to a paper published in the journal Nature Plants this month, researchers at the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew found that 36 percent of critically endangered species produce “recalcitrant seeds,” which means that they cannot tolerate being dried out and thus can’t be frozen at -20°C, the process required for them to be preserved in a seed bank.
- On the other hand, very few wild relatives of crop species and medicinal plants were found to be unsuitable for conventional seed banking.


For the two Congos, lessons in a peatland partnership with Indonesia [11/15/2018]
- Officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo visited Indonesia recently to see firsthand the country’s experience with managing tropical peatlands.
- The three countries have committed to joint efforts to study and conserve peat forests, particularly in the Congo Basin.
- Protecting peat is seen as a crucial move in the fight against climate change, given the huge amounts of greenhouse gases locked in peat soils.


High sea levels thousands of years ago aided island formation [11/15/2018]
- A recent study has found that high sea levels were critical to the formation of coral reef islands in the Indian Ocean thousands of years ago.
- The findings suggest that rising sea levels driven by climate change might not destroy all coral reef islands.
- However, the authors caution that the same higher-energy waves that help build these islands could also destroy the infrastructure on them that humans depend on.
- They also say that, for coral reef island formation to occur, the reef must be healthy to begin with — something that risks being negated by rising water acidity and temperature, both the result of climate change.


‘Not all hope is lost’ as outlook for mountain gorillas brightens [11/14/2018]
- The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of mountain gorillas from Critically Endangered to Endangered today.
- The new assessment cites the subspecies’ growing numbers, now at around 1,000 individuals, and the conservation efforts on its behalf.
- Scientists say that, while this is an important milestone, mountain gorillas’ survival depends on continued conservation.


Republic of Congo names new national park, home to gorillas, elephants [11/14/2018]
- The new Ogooué-Leketi National Park is the Republic of Congo’s fifth national park.
- It borders Batéké Plateau National Park in neighboring Gabon, and together the two parks form a transboundary protected area covering more than 5,500 square kilometers (2,120 square miles).
- The official designation of Ogooué-Leketi National Park comes after three logging concessions that overlapped with the proposed park area were finally closed down.
- All of the rights-holding communities that live close to the Ogooué-Leketi National Park were involved in the process of creating the protected area, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Congo program.


‘No one is helping us’: Venezuelan conservation crippled by crisis [11/14/2018]
- Many conservationists have fled Venezuela since an economic crisis began in 2014.
- Those who have chosen to remain behind complain of a lack of funding and resources, and say they feel abandoned by the international community.
- Despite incredible difficulties, some conservationists are still able to take action, including rediscovering a long-lost bird.


Audio: A Half-Earth progress report from E.O. Wilson [11/13/2018]
- On this episode, a progress report on the Half-Earth Project direct from legendary conservation biologist E.O. Wilson.
- When Mongabay contributor Jeremy Hance spoke with Dr. Wilson back in January of 2017, Wilson said he’d found the goal of Half-Earth was energizing for people — and he tells us on this episode of the podcast that this continues to be true, as the conservation community has responded eagerly to the Half-Earth goal.
- Wilson also discusses why he sees Half-Earth as a “moonshot” and how close we currently are to protecting half of Earth’s lands and waters.


PNG to create 7,500 square kilometers of new marine protected areas in Bismarck Sea [11/13/2018]
- Papua New Guinea has announced its commitment to creating 7,500 square kilometers of marine protected areas in the Bismarck Sea by 2021.
- The new MPA network will encompass 2,500 square kilometers of coastal areas around Tikana and Lavongai islands including key coral reef systems in the Bismarck Sea, as well as 5,000 square kilometers of offshore areas identified as high priorities for marine conservation in New Ireland Province.
- The PNG government has pledged to triple the coverage of its current MPA network, and this new 7,500-square-kilometer (nearly 2,900-square-mile) commitment will achieve that goal. According to WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper, the new MPAs will also help the country meet its Aichi Target goal of protecting 10 percent of its territorial waters and coastline by the year 2025.


Chile: Mining waste continues to be expelled into the sea [11/13/2018]
- A major mining company is dumping its waste into the sea off the Chilean city of Huasco without authorization from environmental authorities.
- The waste suffocates marine life, destroys habitat and contaminates the water column with toxic heavy metals.
- Despite sanctions against the company for violating regulations, it continues to dump mining waste into the sea as it has for 40 years.


China restores ban on rhino and tiger parts, for now [11/13/2018]
- In an announcement on Oct. 29, the Chinese government said it would permit the controlled use of rhino horn and tiger bone, obtained from farmed rhinos and tigers, for medical purposes.
- China has since walked back the decision, postponing the implementation of the new regulations temporarily.
- Even with the ban restored for now, activists are concerned that the message about the acceptability of animal parts in traditional Chinese medicine lacks clarity, and say they hope the ban will be reinstated permanently.




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