Signoff on rhino sperm transfer between Indonesia, Malaysia expected mid-May: Official [04/26/2018]
- Indonesia has sent a memorandum of understanding to the Malaysian government regarding the transfer of sperm for use in a captive-breeding attempt, an official confirmed to Mongabay on April 26. - Hoping the sperm can be used to fertilize Malaysia’s last remaining female rhino, conservationists have been awaiting permission for the transfer for years. - Herry Subagiadi, secretary to the conservation director at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, says he expects Malaysia to sign the agreement in mid-May. - Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, with just nine living in captivity in Indonesia and Malaysia, and as few as 30 surviving in the wild.
Two newborn Javan rhinos spotted on camera in Indonesian park [04/26/2018]
- Officials from Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park announced Thursday that two new Javan rhino calves were born this year. - An adult male, estimated to be around 30 years old, was found dead in the park this week. Officials have found no indication the death was due to poaching, poison or acute infection. - Ujung Kulon is the sole remaining habitat of the species. With two births and one death, the official population estimate now stands at 68.
Better than bottled: How a Dutch company uses bison to maintain pure drinking water [04/26/2018]
- Water companies in the Netherlands have introduced bison and other large grazers to the dunelands from which they draw water to serve more than 4 million customers. - The grazers keep tree and shrub growth in check and allow the dune ecosystem, home to 50 percent of the country’s biodiversity, to reach optimal ecological health. - The reintroduction of the bison, which has been extinct in the Netherlands for thousands of years, also gives conservationists new insights into the management of the iconic species outside of forests.
‘Monumental’ bust in Madagascar triggers effort to save thousands of endangered tortoises [04/25/2018]
- Authorities discovered 9,888 starving and dehydrated radiated tortoises in a vacant house in southwestern Madagascar on April 10. - Since then, a team of organizations led by the Turtle Survival Alliance has been working to provide care for the critically endangered tortoises, 574 of which died during the first week. - The tortoises, endemic to Madagascar, have lost around 40 percent of their habitat to deforestation, and poachers commonly capture them for the pet trade in Asia and the United States.
In the Canary Islands, a good seed disperser is hard to find [04/25/2018]
- Researchers have found that the bigger lizards of the Canary Islands are better seed dispersers than smaller ones. - But habitat loss and invasive species have threatened the islands’ lizards, with large specimens increasingly hard to come by. - Successive generations of lizards are getting smaller in size, making scientists fear for native plants’ survival.
New species of superb bird-of-paradise has special dance moves [04/25/2018]
- Until recently, researchers thought that the island of New Guinea was home to a single species of the superb bird-of-paradise, the bird with the now-famous “smiley face” dance routine. - Now, researchers have confirmed yet another species of the superb bird-of-paradise in the Indonesian Bird’s Head or Vogelkop region of the island, called the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise. - The males of the two species have different dance moves and calls, and the females look different too, researchers have found.
Restoring flagging oil palm plantations to forest may benefit clouded leopards, study finds [04/24/2018]
- A team of biologists fitted four clouded leopards in the Kinabatangan region of Malaysian Borneo with satellite collars, and they gathered several months of data on the animals’ movements. - They found that the cats stuck to areas with canopy cover, and they avoided land cleared for oil palm. - Converting underperforming oil palm plantations back to forest could help the clouded leopard population with minimal impact on the state’s production of palm oil, the authors predict.
China’s Belt and Road poised to transform the Earth, but at what cost? [04/24/2018]
- With its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its embrace of international trade tariffs, the Trump administration has pulled back from the U.S. commitment to, and once powerful position in, the Asian sphere of influence. - China is aggressively working to fill that void. One of its key strategies for leveraging its economic and geopolitical power is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a nearly trillion dollar transportation and energy infrastructure construction juggernaut – a vast program launched in 2013 and not due for completion until 2049. - The BRI is the largest infrastructure initiative in human history, and includes the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land transportation route running from China to Southern Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting the port of Shanghai to Venice, Italy, via India and Africa. - The potential environmental impacts of the mega-construction program could be severe, warn analysts. China has committed to BRI environmental and sustainability standards, at least on paper, but the sheer size of the initiative, along with China’s past environmental record and its autocratic institutions, are cause for deep concern.
Sumatran tiger blamed for killing two people is captured alive after marathon hunt [04/24/2018]
- Authorities in Indonesia have captured alive a critically endangered Sumatran tiger blamed for the deaths of two people in an oil palm plantation. - The tiger has been moved to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will undergo medical tests ahead of being released back into the wild. - The capture averts a repeat of a near-identical case in March, in which villagers killed and mutilated a tiger blamed for attacking two members of a hunting party. - The whole incident, which an official described as the longest ever search-and-rescue operation for a Sumatran tiger, has highlighted the importance of protecting wildlife habitats, which often are lost to plantations or human settlements, driving the animals into conflict with people.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Camera trap videos capture biodiversity of conservation area in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula [04/23/2018]
- Many ejidos, such as Ejido Caoba in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula, run sustainable forestry enterprises on their land, harvesting and selling wood for the benefit of the entire community and replanting the trees they cut down in order to ensure the health of the ecosystem as a whole. - One way to measure how well an ecosystem has been maintained is through the levels of biodiversity the land is capable of sustaining — and by that measure, Ejido Caoba’s efforts to preserve the ecosystem appear to be quite successful, as the camera trap videos below suggest. - After this year’s harvest of timber and non-timber forest products comes to an end, the ejido will once again install the camera traps in harvest areas in order to continue monitoring wildlife populations on their land. But for now, you can enjoy these videos captured in November and December 2017.
New short film captures rare spider monkey feeding behavior (commentary) [04/23/2018]
- A new short film captures rarely seen footage of endangered spider monkeys feeding at a mammal clay lick in the remote Peruvian Amazon. - A Rainforest Reborn, a short documentary by filmmaker Eilidh Munro, was captured in the Crees Reserve, a regenerating rainforest within the Manu Biosphere Reserve, giving us hope that endangered species can return to previously disturbed forests. - In this commentary, the filmmaker, Eilidh Munro, talks about the difficulties of filming spider monkeys in a rainforest and the importance of this story for conservation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study [04/23/2018]
- In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality. - As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals. - The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.
Bornean bantengs feeling the heat in logged forests, study finds [04/20/2018]
- A recent study shows that Bornean bantengs in recently logged forests in Malaysia’s Sabah state have become less active during the daytime in response to the hotter temperatures brought on by there being fewer trees providing shade. - Banteng herds living in forests with more regrowth continue to be active throughout the day as they have more shade and refuge. - The paper’s researchers suggest that steps must be taken to reduce the stress upon bantengs, such as limiting disturbance during key times of activity and maintaining blocks of mature forest.
Latam Eco review: Colombian reserves fail large vertebrates [04/20/2018]
Below are summaries of the most read stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 9 – 15. The top two articles reported on high expectations for Peru’s new environmental minister, and the two sides of Colombian conservation, from a history of great success to threats to its most iconic […]
New species of ‘exploding ant’ discovered in Borneo [04/19/2018]
- Researchers have revealed a new species of exploding ant, which they discovered living in the rainforest canopy of Brunei on the island of Borneo. - Named Colobopsis explodens, the new ant ruptures its abdomen when threatened, killing itself in the process. This rupturing releases a sticky, yellow, toxic goo that has a spicy smell. - The researchers expect more exploding ant species will be described in the near future.
Half a ton of pangolin scales seized on the way to Asia from Benin [04/19/2018]
- More than 500 kilograms of pangolin scales were confiscated at the Cotonou airport in Benin on March 19. - Three people suspected of trying to smuggle 23 bags of scales, used in traditional medicine in Asia, were arrested on their way to Vietnam. - Research indicates that a hunter captures a pangolin in the wild once every five minutes, adding up to more than a million taken over the past 10 years.
Scientists stumble upon hundreds of octopus moms in the deep sea [04/19/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a large nursery of octopus mothers some 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) deep in the Pacific Ocean. - The octopuses are an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus, a group of deep-sea octopuses generally known to lead solitary lives. - The octopuses and their eggs will likely not survive, researchers say, because the animals are exposed to warmer temperatures than they are used to. - But the presence of this large, “suicidal” population of octopuses suggests that there must be many more octopuses living in cooler, more livable crevices on the seafloor, researchers add.
Conservationist known as a caretaker for Kenya’s orphaned elephants dies at 83 [04/18/2018]
- Conservationist Daphne Sheldrick died of breast cancer on April 12, according to the conservation organization she founded. - Born in Kenya, she spent her life working to care for orphaned elephants in Kenya and fighting to save the species through her advocacy. - She started the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, named for her husband, in 1977. - The organization runs an orphan elephant project, as well as de-snaring and veterinary care teams.
‘Boom and bust’ cycle of deep-sea trawling unsustainable, study finds [04/18/2018]
- Researchers have built a global picture of deep-sea fish catches from bottom trawling from 1950 to 2015. - Deep-sea trawling can be extremely destructive for fish populations, while providing minimal economic benefits, the study found. - Researchers also found that large quantities of fish caught in the deep sea go unreported.
Suspected poisoning takes down 11 lions in Uganda park [04/17/2018]
- Eight cubs and three female lions have been found dead, apparently from eating poisoned meat in Queen Elizabeth National Park. - Lions, along with other predators, have been in decline across Uganda since the 1970s. - Recent studies indicate that the country’s growing human population has driven lions out of their former habitats and that the big cats are killed to defend the livestock of local communities.
Dogs in India are a problem for wildlife, study finds [04/16/2018]
- India is home to an estimated 60 million dogs, the fourth highest in the world. - In a pan-India online survey, people reported domestic dogs attacking 80 species of Indian wildlife, of which 31 are listed under a threatened category on the IUCN Red List. - Some experts have called for rethinking both dog population management and dog ownership policies in India, and addressing the threat of dogs as a conservation problem for wildlife.
Population of world’s rarest giant turtle rises to 4 with new discovery [04/13/2018]
- Some experts have now confirmed the presence of a Yangtze giant softshell turtle in Vietnam, increasing the total known population of the turtle to four individuals. - Researchers matched environmental DNA collected from water samples from Xuan Khanh Lake in Vietnam to known samples from the species, and confirmed that the giant turtle living in the lake was most likely the Yangtze giant softshell turtle. - Threats remain for the recently identified Yangtze giant softshell turtle. Xuan Khanh Lake is not protected, and commercial fishing is allowed there.
Global warming may poison monarch butterflies, study finds [04/12/2018]
- Monarch numbers have plummeted in recent decades and scientists think it’s due in large part to the reduction of milkweed in the U.S. and Canada from increased herbicide use, as well as deforestation of monarch overwintering grounds in Mexico. - A recently published study finds a new threat: warming temperatures may be making milkweed, the only plant monarch caterpillars can eat, too toxic for the butterflies. - The researchers estimate that at current warming rates in the southern U.S., tropical milkweed will be too toxic for monarchs within 40 years. - Monarchs prefer tropical milkweed to native species and the plant is now widespread throughout the southern U.S.
India’s new forest policy draft draws criticism for emphasis on industrial timber [04/12/2018]
- The Draft National Forest Policy 2018 is now open for public comments, and will replace the older 1988 policy once it comes into force. - Critics are apprehensive about how the draft policy deals with community participation and industrial forestry. - The current draft is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions, some experts say.
List of 100 most unique and endangered reptiles released [04/11/2018]
- Zoological Society of London has released a list of the 100 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered Reptiles. - Using a formula published in a PLOS ONE Study, each species receives a score that takes into account how evolutionarily unusual it is as well as its risk for extinction. - ZSL hopes these rankings will provide a scientifically rigorous and standardized method to assign conservation priority to vanishing species.
Wildlife trade detective Samuel Wasser receives prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal [04/11/2018]
- Samuel K. Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington, U.S., has pioneered ways of using DNA from animal feces to track wildlife poachers. - In recognition of his achievements, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has honored Wasser with the Albert Schweitzer Medal, an award that “recognizes outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.” - In a brief Q&A, Wasser told Mongabay that it was “heartening” to win the Albert Schweitzer Medal, and that he is proud to see his work make a difference in the world.
46% of Albertine Rift species may be threatened by 2080, study finds [04/10/2018]
- East Africa’s Albertine Rift region hosts many animal and plant species that evolved in isolation and are endemic – meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world. - But a recent study estimates nearly half of the Albertine Rift’s endemic species may become threatened with extinction by 2080 as climate change shrinks their habitat. - The study also finds certain species have already lost as much as 90 percent of their habitat to agriculture. - The researchers say that their findings could be used to predict how the ranges of wildlife populations will shift in response to a changing climate so that conservation workers can focus their efforts on the areas most likely to retain important habitat.
Animal trainers are teaching wildlife to conserve themselves [04/10/2018]
- Positive training helps pets and their owners bond. But animal trainers working to conserve wildlife often have the opposite goal: teaching animals in the wild to avoid human beings — people often being the most dangerous creatures in the jungle. - Wildlife kept in zoos have been trained with rewards to accept unnatural processes, procedures that previously might have required restraint or even anesthesia: allowing tooth brushing, hoof trimming, injections and blood draws — turning once alien actions into positive experiences for the captive animals. - Animal trainers decades ago learned to train dolphins without having physical contact with the animals. More recently, a chimpanzee troop in Sierra Leone was taught to scream alarm in unison when poachers approached, alerting nearby rangers to come to the rescue — achieving an 80 percent decrease in poaching. - Trainers have taught captive bred condors how to be more like wild condors, seeking food within their natural habitat and not congregating in towns. They’ve also taught polar bears to avoid anything associated with humans, preventing the bears from raiding trash cans and significantly decreasing wildlife conflicts.
Six staff killed in deadliest attack at Congo’s Virunga National Park [04/10/2018]
- Suspected members of an armed militia ambushed and killed five park rangers and a driver in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on April 9, park authorities said - The attack, the deadliest in the park’s history, brings to 175 the toll of Virunga rangers who have been killed while guarding the park to date. - Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to rare mountain gorillas, but continues to be plagued by the long-running armed conflict wracking the eastern DRC.
How to help penguins (photos) [04/09/2018]
- This photo essay comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog. - Once a month we’ll publish a contribution from Wild View that highlights an animal species or group. - This month, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s David Oehler, Megan Maher, and Julie Larsen Maher write about penguins. - All photos by Julie Larsen Maher, head photographer for WCS.
Rubber plantation in Cameroon edges closer to UNESCO World Heritage Site [04/06/2018]
- Satellite data indicate the rubber plantation, operated by China-owned Sud Cameroun Hévéa (Sudcam), is currently less than one kilometer away from intact primary forest habitat. Development is ongoing amidst concerns about threats to endangered species within and outside the park, as well as alleged violations of community land rights and political affiliations with the Cameroonian government. - The expansion of this rubber plantation is “by far the most devastating new clearing of forest for industrial agriculture in the Congo Basin,” according to Greenpeace. - Rubber expansion also stands to affect the 9,500 people who live in villages on the reserve’s periphery. According to Greenpeace Africa, Sudcam did not obtain Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from these communities before acquiring the land and residents have claimed that subsistence farmland has been taken away with little or no compensation. - Members of the conservation community say that in order for rubber development to happen sustainably in Cameroon, companies need to collaborate with conservation NGOs to create robust buffers around wetlands and streams, develop wildlife corridors, establish areas to filter the runoff of toxins and sediment, and create bushmeat alternatives. They also recommend regulatory actions be taken in the U.S. and EU, which are major buyers of rubber.
Indonesian conservation bill is weak on wildlife crime, critics say [04/06/2018]
- Lawmakers in Indonesia have submitted for review to President Joko Widodo’s administration a bill that would overhaul the country’s 28-year-old conservation law. - While environmental advocates have long pushed for updates to the law, the new draft has alarmed many with its various provisions that critics say represent a regression from the existing legislation. - Problem articles include a “self-defense” clause that would waive criminal charges for killing protected wildlife; a more nebulous definition of wildlife crime that some fear could make it harder to crack down on traffickers; and the opening up of conservation areas to geothermal exploration and other “strategic development” projects. - The ball is now in the court of the government, which is required to review the bill before sending it back to parliament for final passage. However, a minister says the government will “hold off” on its review, and suggests the existing conservation law is sufficient.
Audio: Bowhead whales in the Arctic sing hundreds of complex songs [04/06/2018]
- Scientists have recorded 184 elaborate, very different bowhead whale songs in a bowhead subpopulation living east of Greenland. This makes it the largest set of bowhead whale song recordings ever. - The bowhead’s vocal repertoire is rivaled only by a few species of songbirds, researchers say. - But why these whales have so many different song types and why they change their songs each year is still a mystery.
Vine-like lianas alter the edges of fragmented forests: New study [04/06/2018]
- A new study has found that a group of climbing plants called lianas spring up in higher numbers along the edges of fragmented forests than they do in less-disturbed patches. - Previous research has shown that lianas can cause trees to die or to stockpile less carbon, and they can also affect the mix of tree species present in the forest. - To ensure a healthy, functioning ecosystem, managers can set aside a buffer zone around the edges of these patches or increase the size of the protected area as a whole.
Kaziranga’s rhino census finds the population is growing, but more slowly than expected [04/05/2018]
- Kaziranga National Park in India’s Assam state is home to the majority of the world’s greater one-horned rhinos. - A census completed in March counted 2,413 rhinos, an increase of 12 individuals since 2015. - Officials believe rhinos were undercounted, likely due to poor visibility. Other observers suggest changes should be made to survey methodology. - If the numbers are accurate, it could suggest the park has reached its carrying capacity. However, a large number of young rhinos were counted, indicating that the population remains healthy and breeding.
South Korean company under fire for alleged deforestation in Papua oil palm concession [04/05/2018]
- A report by WRI shows ongoing deforestation in an oil palm concession in Papua, Indonesia, operated by a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO Daewoo. - The company has responded by saying its operations in Papua are legal and fully permitted. - Concerns over deforestation by POSCO Daewoo have prompted other companies to say they will not allow its palm oil into their supply chains. These include big-name brands such as Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, IKEA, L’Oreal, Mars and Unilever. - POSCO Daewoo has issued a temporary moratorium on land clearing in its Papua concession and hired a consultant to advise it on how to proceed with its operations there.
For Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution, elephants pose a new threat [04/05/2018]
- Twelve people have been killed by elephants in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. - Fleeing military operations in Myanmar, the refugees have settled in elephant corridors. - Training is underway to help the refugees negotiate their encounters with the endangered animals safely.
Yellow fever may threaten biophilia in São Paulo city (commentary) [04/04/2018]
- Reconciling biodiversity conservation and urban development is one of the biggest challenges for humanity, considering that by 2030, 60 percent of people globally are expected to live in cities. - There are currently numerous forest fragments rooted in an urban matrix. On the one hand, these remnant forests confer many benefits on human society. One the other hand, forests may cause biophobias related to human fear and avoidance of some animals, misconceptions about animals’ risks, and the association of forest with dangerous and unsafe areas. - A recent increase of yellow fever cases in highly urbanized cities in Brazil’s Atlantic forest – a tropical hotspot of biodiversity – can threaten the balance between biophilia and biophobia. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Lost’ fairy lantern spotted in Malaysian Borneo after 151 years [04/04/2018]
- In January last year, a team of botanists spotted Thismia neptunis again, 151 years after it was first recorded in the rainforests of western Sarawak, in Malaysian Borneo. - Thismia neptunis is tiny, standing at just 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) when flowering, and spends its life underground, parasitizing fungi for its food supply. - Given that the species is likely restricted to a small area within a primary lowland rainforest of Sarawak, and might have fewer than 50 individuals, the researchers believe that the species qualifies as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Audio: Maroon 5’s James Valentine on why he’s working to stop illegal logging [04/03/2018]
- On today’s episode, we speak with multiple-Grammy-winning musician James Valentine about his work to stop illegal logging and make concert tours more environmentally friendly. - As lead guitarist of Maroon 5, Valentine has traversed the globe numerous times on tour, taking the band’s music around the world. But late last year, Valentine went to Peru with a much different mission: he was part of a group of musicians who spoke in Lima in support of the “No More Blood Wood” campaign. He also visited a sustainable logging operation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in 2016. - Valentine is here to tell us about his experiences in Peru and Guatemala and to tell us all about the work he and Reverb are doing to keep illegal wood out of musical instruments, lower the environmental impact of touring, and engage music fans in environmental action.
U.K. ban relegates legal ivory trade to ‘a thing of the past’ [04/03/2018]
- The United Kingdom says it will ban, with a few exceptions, the sale of all ivory in the country. - Conservation groups have welcomed the move and pointed out that poaching to fuel the global ivory trade leads to the deaths of 55 elephants a day, or around 20,000 per year. - The closure of domestic markets in the U.K., along with similar moves in China, Hong Kong and the U.S., will close the loopholes that allow illegal traders to launder their illicitly acquired ivory, proponents of the measure say.
NOAA publishes global list of fisheries and their risks to marine mammals [04/02/2018]
- The list, published in draft form in late 2017 as part of requirements laid out by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, includes nearly 4,000 fisheries across some 135 countries. - NOAA says the list represents ‘a strong step forward’ in developing sustainable fisheries. - These fisheries have until 2022 to demonstrate that the methods they use to catch fish and other marine animals either pose little risk to marine mammals or employ comparable methods to similar operations in the United States.
New study discovers 81 lost human settlements in the Amazon rainforest [04/02/2018]
- By looking at satellite images of a previously unexplored part of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team of archaeologists has identified 81 pre-Columbian human settlements. - The team also found that the settlements weren’t near major rivers, but closer to smaller streams and creeks, challenging a commonly held belief that pre-Columbian people tended to live close to fertile floodplains of large rivers, leaving the rest of the forest relatively untouched. - The researchers’ computer model predicted that the southern rim of the Amazon likely supported up to 1 million people in pre-Columbian times, a population that’s much larger than previous estimates.
Brazil creates four massive marine protected areas [03/30/2018]
- The four newly designated marine protected areas (MPAs) will cover an area of more than 920,000 square kilometers (355,200 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean. - Two of the MPAs will cover waters around the archipelago of Trindade, Martin Vaz and Mount Columbia, located more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the Brazilian mainland. - The remaining two MPAs will be located around the São Pedro and São Paulo archipelagos, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off the northeast coast. - However, some marine biologists worry that these large, remote MPAs may do little to safeguard biodiversity.
Frogs may be ‘fighting back’ against deadly pandemic [03/30/2018]
- Chytridiomycosis is caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a type of chytrid fungus. - Scientists believe Bd originated in Africa, and has spread around the world where it has contributed to the declines and extinctions of at least 200 amphibian species globally. - But a new study finds populations of several Panamanian frog species exposed to Bd appear to have gained resistance to the pathogen. Previous research indicates U.S. frogs may also have developed resistance after exposure. - The authors of the study say their findings offer hope for the survival of amphibians around the world. But they caution that detecting the remnant populations that survive infection and helping them persist and proliferate will require extensive monitoring efforts.
‘Ropeless’ consortium aims to end entanglements of declining North Atlantic right whales [03/29/2018]
- ‘Fishermen, engineers, manufacturers, scientists and managers’ have come together to develop ropeless fishing gear to keep North Atlantic right whales from getting entangled. - Only 451 right whales are left, and it’s likely that fewer than 100 are breeding females. - Research teams have recorded no new calves this breeding season, which ended this month. - Scientists warn that the North Atlantic right whale could go extinct if the trend in their numbers doesn’t change.
Australia opens vast swaths of famed marine parks to fishing [03/29/2018]
- Australia is known for protecting its sea life in a 3.3 million square kilometer (1.3 million square mile) system of marine parks that cover 36 percent of the country’s oceans. - The protection of those parks is now at stake, as the government last week approved five long-awaited management plans covering 44 parks. The new plans open an area almost the size of Japan to commercial and recreational fishing compared to the original plans formed by the previous government when the parks were proclaimed in 2012. - A coalition of opposition parties attempted to block the new plans in parliament on Tuesday but failed. - Conservation groups and hundreds of marine scientists have voiced vehement opposition to the government’s new plans.
Small section of controversial refinery wall in Indian ‘elephant corridor’ demolished [03/28/2018]
- On March 13, officials tore down a 289-meter (948-foot) stretch of a 2.2-kilometer (1.4-mile) concrete wall built by an Indian oil refinery, allegedly blocking an elephant corridor. - In August 2016, India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) — tasked with ensuring the speedy disposal of environmental cases — ordered NRL to demolish the entire length of the wall within a month. - But only a 289-meter-stretch was demolished, reportedly because that stretch encircled an area of land that fell within a proposed reserved forest. The case is ongoing.
PHOTOS: The great Sandhill crane migration makes its annual stopover on the Platte River [03/27/2018]
- The annual migration undertaken by sandhill cranes in North America is considered one of the world’s great natural spectacles, on par with Africa’s wildebeest migration and the “march of the penguins” in Antarctica. - Nowhere is the sandhill crane migration more visible in all its majesty than on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska — you truly have to see it to believe it. - You can hear many of the sounds of the sandhill crane migration on a recent episode of the Mongabay Newscast. It’s one thing to hear the migration, however, and quite another to see it.
‘Annihilation trawling’: Q&A with marine biologist Amanda Vincent [03/27/2018]
- For years marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling, a fishing technique that unintentionally scoops up non-targeted creatures as bycatch and disrupts marine habitat. - While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem: in Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all but going after any and all sea life for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products. - In an interview with Mongabay, Vincent describes her observations in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Borneo’s elephants prefer degraded forests, a new study finds [03/27/2018]
- New research has found that Bornean elephants most often use degraded forests with canopy heights topping out at around 13 meters (43 feet). - Less than 25 percent of the state’s protected intact forests, which include primary forests, are suitable for elephants, the authors concluded. - The team suggests that maintaining suitable elephant habitat in Malaysian Borneo will require the protection of relatively small patches of degraded forests that elephants favor.
Range countries to lead new estimate of global snow leopard population as downgraded threat status remains controversial [03/26/2018]
- The newly announced Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards initiative, called PAWS for short, will be overseen by the Steering Committee of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), which is comprised of the Environment Ministers of all twelve snow leopard range states. - The snow leopard had been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1986 until late last year, when its threat status was downgraded to Vulnerable — ostensibly welcome news that ultimately proved quite controversial. - In a recent commentary for the journal Science, snow leopard researchers questioned the scientific merit of the data the IUCN relied on in downgrading the threat status of snow leopards. GSLEP says it categorically rejects any change in snow leopards’ threat status until PAWS is complete and a scientifically reliable population estimate is available.
Trump’s elephant, lion trophy hunting policy hit with double lawsuits [03/26/2018]
- In policymaking, the Interior Dept. announced it was allowing U.S. citizens to import elephant and lion body parts to the United States last November. President Trump immediately put that decision on hold. Then in 2018, the USFWS said trophy hunting decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. - Now, Born Free USA, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other litigants have filed a lawsuit against the plan, saying USFWS policymaking failed to offer a public comment period, lacked transparency, and didn’t outline a process as to how decisions will be made. - In a second lawsuit, Born Free USA, an NGO, accused the Trump administration of stacking its newly formed International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC) with pro-trophy hunting members, some with ties to the gun industry, an allegation largely confirmed by an Associated Press study. - The IWCC held its first meeting this month. A critic who attended said she was shocked that a council meant to advise the government on conservation seemed to know very little about the poaching crisis in Africa. A renowned trophy hunter was appointed to head the group’s conservation subcommittee.
‘IUCN Green List of species’: A new way to measure conservation success [03/26/2018]
- Scientists have proposed a framework for a new “Green List of species” that outlines a standard way of measuring species recovery and conservation success. - The framework starts by defining what a “fully recovered species” looks like, then lays down four metrics that quantify the importance of conservation efforts for a species’ recovery. - The Green List will eventually become a part of the IUCN Red List, the scientists say, with the final species assessment including both the extinction risk categories as well as the four conservation metrics to help judge whether conservation actions are helping a species recover.
Local conservancies create new hope for wildlife in Kenya’s Maasai Mara (commentary) [03/26/2018]
- Naboisho and roughly a dozen neighboring conservancies in Kenya’s Maasai Mara are made up of hundreds of individual plots owned by local Maasai residents of the Mara, who converted their traditional communal lands in this part of Kenya to individual holdings. - Tour operators with existing camps around the Mara have worked to pool together individual Maasai landowners who had subdivided their lands into larger groups that could then lease a large area of land to the tour operators. - Each landowner is paid a monthly lease fee of around $235, amounting to over $900,000 of landowner income annually. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
In Jakarta, wildlife monitors find a hotspot for the illegal tortoise trade [03/26/2018]
- Indonesia’s capital has seen an increase in the sale of non-native species of tortoises and freshwater turtles that are prohibited for international commercial trade, according to a report by the wildlife-monitoring group TRAFFIC. - Growing demand for these species, coupled with Indonesia’s lax enforcement of customs regulation at international ports of entry and an outdated conservation act, have allowed the illicit international animal trade to grow, TRAFFIC said. - The group has called on the Indonesian government to improve the country’s conservation laws and regulations, and urged more stringent monitoring of the markets, pet stores and expos in Jakarta and across the country to document and assess the extent of any illegal trade.
Study reveals the Pacific Garbage Patch is much heftier than thought — and it’s growing [03/26/2018]
- A recent survey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that the aggregated plastic there weighs in at 79,000 metric tons (87,100 short tons). - The plastic is floating across an area larger than Mongolia at 1.6 million square kilometers (618,000 square miles). - Around 75 percent of the pieces that are larger than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in length, and old fishing nets make up a minimum of 46 percent of the total mass. - The scientists calculated that 94 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch are microplastics.
“Save the Krill” urges Greenpeace report [03/23/2018]
- A recent report by Greenpeace International describes the role of krill in Antarctica’s marine food chain and calls for nations to restrict their krill fishing in areas under consideration for protected status designation. - Automatic identification system signals from commercial krill-fishing vessels allowed Greenpeace to map the precise routes these ships take around the Antarctic Peninsula and to identify transfers of catch and fuel between ships. - The report warns that krill fishing competes for food with other marine wildlife, and that anchoring and pollution from the ships could damage the larger ecosystem. - Video footage and samples collected from submarine dives by a recent Greenpeace expedition will be analyzed and presented at meetings this summer to support the creation of marine protected areas in the Weddell Sea and other regions around Antarctica.
Colombia scraps Amazon highway plans due to deforestation concerns [03/23/2018]
- The Marginal de la Selva highway is part of $1 billion infrastructure project that would have opened a trade route for heavy land cargo to pass from Venezuela to Ecuador through Colombia without having to enter the treacherous Andes mountains. - Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos declared earlier the controversial project will not be completed, citing rampant deforestation and potentially irreversible environmental impacts to a sensitive ecological corridor near three national parks if the highway were developed as planned. - Conservationists are lauding the President’s announcement, calling it “extraordinary news for deforestation mitigation and restoration efforts” to restore the region’s ecological integrity.
Microplastic pollution in world’s oceans poses major threat to filter-feeding megafauna [03/23/2018]
- A study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution last month looks at how filter-feeding marine animals like baleen whales, manta rays, and whale sharks are impacted by microplastic pollution in the world’s oceans. - Filter-feeding megafauna must swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of water every day in order to catch enough plankton to keep themselves nourished. That means that these species are probably ingesting microplastics both directly from polluted water and indirectly through the consumption of contaminated plankton prey. - Microplastic particles can block nutrient absorption and damage the digestive tracts of the filter-feeding marine life that ingest them, while toxins and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) found in plastic can accumulate in the bodies of marine wildlife over time, changing biological processes such as growth and reproduction and even leading to decreased fertility.
New report highlights top 50 tortoises and turtles on brink of extinction [03/22/2018]
- More than 50 percent of the world’s tortoises and turtles are threatened with extinction, according to a new report. - The 2018 report presents an updated list of 50 species that are at immediate risk of extinction, selected on the basis of their “survival prospects and extinction risks.” - Some 58 percent of the top 50 species are native to Asia, the report said, with most species coming from China, followed by Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Madagascar.
More than 40 percent of Madagascar’s freshwater life sliding toward extinction, IUCN finds [03/22/2018]
- In an assessment of 653 freshwater plant and animal species living on Madagascar and nearby islands, biologists found that 43 percent are threatened with extinction or there isn’t enough information to assess how well they’re doing. - Nearly 80 percent of endemic plants examined in the study face extinction. - The team lists unsustainable farming practices, deforestation, dam construction, mining and the overuse of natural resources, such as overfishing, as causes for the widespread declines.
Leopards could reduce rabies by controlling stray dog numbers in India, study finds [03/21/2018]
- Stray dogs make up about 40 percent of the diet of the roughly 40 leopards currently living in Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park, according to a recent study. - Dog bites lead to perhaps 20,000 deaths from rabies each year in India, according to the World Health Organization. - A team of scientists figures that leopards kill 1,500 stray dogs each year, reducing the number of bites by about 1,000 per year and the number of rabies cases by 90.
Audio: Exploring humanity’s deep connection to water, plus the sounds of the Sandhill crane migration [03/20/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss humanity’s deep connection to water and hear sounds of one of the most ancient animal migrations on Earth, that of the Sandhill crane. - Our first guest today is marine biologist and conservationist Wallace J. Nichols, the author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, & Better at What You Do. - Our second guests are Ben Gottesman and Emma Brinley Buckley, researchers who are using bioacoustics to document Sandhill cranes on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska as the birds make a stopover during their annual migration. We’ll hear recordings of the cranes and other important species in this Field Notes segment.
The world’s last male northern white rhino has died [03/20/2018]
- Sudan, a 45-year-old rhino believed to be the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino, died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19. - Sudan had been battling ill health over the past few months, and after his condition worsened considerably in the last 24 hours, veterinarians decided to euthanize him. - Sudan lived at Ol Pejeta with the only other northern white rhinos left on Earth — his daughter, Najin, and her daughter, Fatu — under 24-hour armed surveillance. - The survival of the species now hinges on costly and never-before-attempted in vitro fertilization using eggs from the remaining females, stored sperm samples, and southern white rhino females as surrogates.
Belize creates one of Central America’s largest biological corridors [03/19/2018]
- On Feb. 13, the government of Belize approved the 110-square-kilometer Belize northeastern biological corridor. - The corridor aims to provide safe passage for wild animals like jaguars, pumas and Baird’s tapir to move freely between the Shipstern Nature Reserve and Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve in northern Belize. - Private landowners have agreed to place their corridor-designated lands into a trust in perpetuity, with the lands to be managed as part of the protected area system for conservation purposes.
Indonesia launches bid to restore national park that’s home to tigers, elephants [03/19/2018]
- Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra is home to critically endangered tigers and elephants, but has been heavily deforested by illegal oil palm plantations and human settlements. - The government has introduced a program to gradually relocate the people living within the park’s borders, by encouraging them to shift away from oil palm farming to alternative and sustainable forms of livelihood. - If successful, the program could serve as a model for restoring other national parks across Indonesia, which face similar problems of human encroachment.
Oil palm plantations’ dearth of biodiversity rubs off on nearby forests, study shows [03/19/2018]
- Oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo host a lower number of frog species than forests in same area. - However, the plantations exhibit an edge effect that extends as far as 4 kilometers, resulting in a decline in the diversity of frog species in adjacent forests. - The researchers suggest that for small forest patches or narrow corridors to be of long-term conservation value in oil palm landscapes, their sizes and widths need to adequately account for these edge effects.
Madagascar: Conservation official arrested for killing 11 endangered lemurs [03/16/2018]
- Two weeks ago, the bodies of 11 critically endangered lemurs were discovered in the Zahamena Ankeniheny Corridor protected area in eastern Madagascar. - The lemurs were allegedly killed by one of the local officials charged with protecting them, to the dismay of conservation leaders. - The alleged poacher was arrested on Feb. 27, and this week the police set out to arrest his suspected accomplices. - The Madagascar government reacted to the poaching incident at the highest level, including pledges by the prime minister and minister of the environment to crack down on poaching.
Sharp-eyed Mongabay readers spot a jaguarundi (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Last Monday, in an article about Brazil’s Cerrado, this Mongabay editor mistakenly identified an animal in a photo as a puma (Puma concolor). - Within hours multiple readers corrected that mistake, properly identifying the animal as a jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi). - Curiosity aroused, this editor went to work learning more about jaguarundis. - Most interesting find: these small cats of North, Central and South America, were until recently on track to be reintroduced to Texas, but a new president and his plan for a U.S. / Mexico border wall has put those plans in limbo.
Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds [03/16/2018]
- Results of a new study reveal that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species. - It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent. - However, there are caveats. The researchers write that most of these countries are among the “20 worst-ranked” in terms of environmental impacts and have governance and political issues that would impede effective land-use planning at a national level. And they say global land-use optimization aimed at protecting the natural resources of the world’s most biodiverse countries may come “at the expense of their own production opportunities and economic development.” - The researchers write that in order for the world’s most biodiverse countries to reach their full conservation potential while providing for their human communities, global land-use policy and research need to better integrate the governance, political and economic challenges present in these countries.
Save the Sumatran rhino ‘because we can’ (commentary) [03/16/2018]
- Mongabay sent contributing editor Jeremy Hance to Indonesia in 2017 to visit the last remaining Sumatran rhinos in the forests and protected sanctuaries where captive breeding is having some limited success. - Hance argues today in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald that we should save the Sumatran rhino, not only because losing biodiversity is bad for the health of humanity’s environment, but also “because we can.” - To keep these ‘lovably weird’ rhinos from extinction, the Indonesian government must act, he argues, because even if there’s 100 left, that size population is unlikely to be viable in the long term.
Conservationists rush to save Bolivian turtles threatened by egg trafficking [03/15/2018]
- The large-scale harvesting of the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis) for human consumption has contributed to the species’ decline, according to scientists. It is currently classified as vulnerable by the IUCN. - A series of raids in mid-2017 saw authorities seize more than 50,000 river turtle eggs from poachers in the Beni department of Bolivia. - A conservation project is trying to help river turtle populations recover, and has released 70,000 baby turtles into the Maniqui River since 1992.
Indonesia races to catch tiger alive as villagers threaten to ‘kill the beast’ [03/15/2018]
- A conservation agency in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has deployed two teams to capture alive a wild tiger that has reportedly killed two people at an oil palm plantation. - The incidents prompted villagers living near the plantation to threaten to kill the tiger themselves if it was not caught. - Authorities are keen to take the animal alive, following the killing of a tiger earlier this month under similar circumstances.
Bushmeat hunting threatens hornbills and raptors in Cameroon’s forests, study finds [03/15/2018]
- A new study has found that hornbills, vultures and eagles are being hunted for bushmeat in Cameroon in much greater numbers than previously thought. - Researchers estimate that people living around the proposed Ebo National Park in Cameroon’s Littoral region consumed an average of 29 hornbills and eight raptors per month. - But they remain unsure how the current levels of hunting are affecting the bird populations, given that so little is known about the latter.
Activists eye bigger roles for local officials, businesses in Indonesia’s orangutan protection plan [03/15/2018]
- The Indonesian government is drafting another 10-year guideline for orangutan conservation that aims to staunch the decline in the population of the critically endangered great ape. - This time around, orangutan experts want the federal government to lay out clearer guidelines for conservation roles to be played by local authorities and companies working in orangutan habitats. - Local authorities and companies are seen as key to protecting the animals’ increasingly fragmented habitat, but tend to favor short-term development and business plans that don’t serve long-term conservation goals.
Will Madagascar’s industrial shrimp trawlers make way for local fishers? [03/14/2018]
- Shrimp is one of Madagascar’s most lucrative exports. - But local fishers and environmental groups say shrimp trawlers are harming the country’s marine environment and leaving too few fish in the sea for the fishing communities that depend on them. - Until now, relatively little has been done to address the issue. - But there are small signs that may be starting to change, with fishing communities raising their voices to press for exclusive access to Madagascar’s coastal waters.
Mysterious new butterfly named after YouTuber Emily Graslie [03/14/2018]
- Scientists have named a new species of butterfly for Emily Graslie, the writer, producer and host of the YouTube channel The Brain Scoop, and the chief curiosity correspondent of Chicago’s Field Museum. - The postage stamp-sized butterfly Wahydra graslieae is dark rust-colored with jagged bands of silver scales on the underside of its hind wings. - The scientists identified the butterfly from a single museum specimen collected by American biologist Harold Greeney from the Ecuadorian Andes in 2004. The specimen remained inside a Tupperware box until 2016.
Camera traps nab crop-raiding animals near farms in the Amazon [03/14/2018]
- A team of scientists from the U.K. and Brazil used an array of 132 camera traps to snap more than 60,000 photographs around 47 farming communities in the Amazon. - They also conducted 157 interviews with local farmers about the animals that they found most frequently in their fields. - The researchers found that the animals that were most destructive to crops were also among the ones nabbed most frequently by their cameras.
Hope for the rarest hornbill in the world (commentary) [03/13/2018]
- There are three Critically Endangered hornbill species in the world. The rarest, the Sulu hornbill in the Philippines, is little studied, does not occur in any protected areas, and is in imminent danger of extinction. - In January 2018, a team of conservationists from the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore visited the only known habitat of this bird to assess its status and make recommendations regarding its survival. - Five individuals were located, as well as a potential nesting site. Work will continue this year to train local rangers in hornbill study techniques; the patches of forest where the Sulu hornbill clings on should be granted legal protection from logging, hunting, and human encroachment. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Video: Rare newborn western lowland gorilla filmed in the wild [03/13/2018]
- The baby gorilla was born on Feb. 17 in the rainforests of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo, according to WCS. - The infant is the offspring of a female gorilla named Mekome and a male silverback named Kingo, who has been studied by the WCS Congo researchers of the Mondika Gorilla Project for about two decades. - Mekome’s newest baby is her fifth offspring, and represents hope for the species, researchers say.
Sarawak makes 80% forest preservation commitment, but some have doubts [03/12/2018]
- The Malaysian state of Sarawak is committing to the preservation of 80 percent of its land area as primary and secondary forest, according to an announcement by Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg. - According to data, concession boundaries for oil palm and other kinds of tree plantations covered 32.7 percent of Sarawak’s land area as of 2010/11, suggesting that if Sarawak is to fulfill its commitment to preserve 80 percent of its land as primary and secondary forest, then it may need to cancel some of these concessions. - The director of environmental and human rights watchdog organization Earthsight expressed doubts that Sarawak will follow through on the commitment, and recommends the state increase transparency and crack down on illegal logging.
Cerrado: appreciation grows for Brazil’s savannah, even as it vanishes [03/12/2018]
- The Brazilian Cerrado – a vast savannah – once covered two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), an area bigger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined, stretching to the east and south of the Amazon. - Long undervalued by scientists and environmental activists, researchers are today realizing that the Cerrado is incredibly biodiverse. The biome supports more than 10,000 plant species, over 900 bird and 300 mammal species. - The Cerrado’s deep-rooted plants and its soils also sequester huge amounts of carbon, making the region’s preservation key to curbing climate change, and to reducing Brazil’s deforestation and CO2 emissions to help meet its Paris carbon reduction pledge. - Agribusiness – hampered by Brazilian laws in the Amazon – has moved into the Cerrado in a big way. More than half of the biome’s native vegetation has already disappeared, as soy and cattle production rapidly replace habitat. This series explores the dynamics of change convulsing the region.
Oil palm, rubber could trigger ‘storm’ of deforestation in the Congo Basin [03/12/2018]
- Earthsight documented approximately 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of deforestation to clear the way for new rubber and oil palm plantations in Central Africa’s rainforest countries in the past five years. - The team also found that companies in five Central African countries hold licenses for industrial agriculture on another 8,400 square kilometers (3,243 square miles) of land. - The investigators warn that thousands of hectares of forest could fall to industrial agriculture in the COngo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest, if governance of the forest doesn’t improve.
Cambodia creates its first marine national park where pirate fishers prowl [03/12/2018]
- In February, Cambodia announced the establishment of its very first marine national park, covering 524 square kilometers (202 square miles) in the Gulf of Thailand. - Koh Rong Marine National Park takes in the seven islands of the Koh Rong archipelago and the web of coral, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems around them. - Wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia’s tiny territorial waters have long been plundered by illegal fishing gangs feeding an ever-rising demand for seafood. - But the declaration of the new park does nothing to protect the environment, at least in the short term, with no new patrols of the heavily fished waters until next year and a $2 billion island development plan allowed to continue unhindered.
Only 12 vaquita porpoises remain, watchdog group reports [03/08/2018]
- The International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita reported in 2017 that there were just 30 vaquita left in the Upper Gulf of California, the body of water that separates Baja California from mainland Mexico and the species’ only known range. - Mongabay contacted Andrea Crosta, director of the international wildlife trade watchdog group Elephant Action League, just before his return to Mexico in early March 2018. - After his previous trip in February 2018, Crosta said his sources reported that no more than a dozen vaquitas remain. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to illegally catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are in high demand, especially in China.
Trump to allow elephant and lion trophies on case-by-case basis [03/08/2018]
- President Obama banned U.S. citizens from bringing home elephant and lion trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe. In November, 2017, Trump’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed that ban until Trump himself overruled the USFWS, pausing the new rule until the president could make a final decision. - This week, the USFWS said in a memorandum that it will permit U.S. citizens to bring lion and elephant hunting trophies home from Africa – potentially including Zimbabwe and Zambia – on a case-by-case basis. - Conservationists largely responded negatively to the decision, critiquing it for offering little or no transparency, inviting corruption, and identifying no stated system or criteria for determining how permit selections will be made. - A variety of lawsuits are ongoing which could still influence the shape of the new rule.
Beyond polar bears: Arctic animals share in vulnerable climate future [03/07/2018]
- The media has long focused on the impacts of climate change on polar bears. But with Arctic temperatures rising fast (this winter saw the warmest October to February temperatures ever recorded), a wide range of Arctic fauna appears to be at risk, though more studies are needed to determine precise causes, current effects on population, and future projections. - Diminishing Arctic snow, especially in the spring, may leave wolverines without ideal places to den. Caribou and reindeer populations have been in serious decline due to natural population fluctuation, but scientists don’t know if their numbers will recover under changed climate conditions. - Lemmings are also being impacted by diminishing snow, often leaving the rodents without cover in spring and autumn. Their decline could impact the predators that prey on them, including Arctic foxes, red foxes, weasels, wolverines, and snowy and short-eared owls. - Snowy owls have raised concerns because the seabirds they hunt in winter, which congregate around small holes in the Arctic ice, could become more widely dispersed in broader stretches of open water and therefore be harder to prey on. Scientists say more study of Arctic wildlife is urgently needed, but funding and media attention remains sparse.
Jaguar numbers rising at field sites, WCS says [03/07/2018]
- WCS reports that jaguar numbers have risen by almost 8 percent a year between 2002 and 2016 at study sites in Central and South America. - The sites cover around 400,000 square kilometers (154,440 square miles) of jaguar habitat. - Despite the promising findings, WCS scientists caution that habitat destruction, hunting in response to livestock killings, and poaching for their body parts remain critical threats to jaguars.
How Tibetan Buddhism and conservation efforts helped Eurasian otters thrive in a city of 200,000 people (commentary) [03/07/2018]
- The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is now locally extinct in most of its former range in China due to hunting for its pelt, water pollution, and habitat destruction. - Recently, researchers recorded a healthy population of otters in Yushu, Qinghai, a city of 200,000 people. - What allowed this population to survive? Besides conservation efforts, Tibetan Buddhism traditions also played a vital role in reducing hunting and maintaining freshwater ecosystem health. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Europe’s beetle species plummet as trees disappear [03/06/2018]
- A new report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) finds nearly 18 percent of saproxylic beetles are threatened with extinction in Europe. That number goes up to almost 22 percent for the EU as a whole. - Of Europe’s threatened species, the 2018 report finds five are critically endangered, up from two in 2010. Of these, four are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. In the EU overall, the IUCN lists seven species as critically endangered, up from three in 2010. - Saproxylic beetles live in and eat dead and decaying wood, and play important ecological roles such as nutrient recycling, pollination and as an important food source for birds and other wildlife. - The IUCN says that to stave of greater declines and help saproxylic beetles bounce back, land management should make sure each square kilometer of land contains a mix of trees of different ages, including standing and fallen dead trees.
Audio: How effective is environmental restoration? [03/06/2018]
- How effective is environmental restoration? On today’s episode, we seek answers to that question through the lens of a much needed new project at the University of Cambridge collecting restoration evidence, and we also speak with the editor of Mongabay’s ongoing series that examines how well a range of other conservation efforts work, too. - Our first guest today is Claire Wordley, a communications and engagement officer with the Conservation Evidence group at the University of Cambridge in the UK who recently wrote a commentary for Mongabay to alert the world to a new website called Restoration Evidence that collects research into how effective various restoration activities actually are. - Our second guest is Mongabay’s own Becky Kessler. We’re about to bring the current reporting phase of a series called Conservation Effectiveness to a close, and because Becky has served as the head editor for the series, we wanted to have her on the Newscast to discuss some of the main findings of the series.
Bornean bearded pigs seen adapting to oil palm habitats, study finds [03/06/2018]
- Bornean bearded pigs appear to thrive in oil palm plantations, but remain heavily dependent on nearby forests as their primary habitat, a recent study indicates. - The findings are crucial because of the species’ key role as an “ecosystem engineer,” controlling the spread of tree species and turning over the soil with their rooting behavior. - The researchers have called on the Malaysian government to better protect these forests in a bid to ensure a sustainable population of bearded pigs in mixed forest-oil palm areas.
Villagers cite self-defense in tiger killing, but missing body parts point to the illegal wildlife trade [03/06/2018]
- Villagers in Indonesia have killed a critically endangered Sumatran tiger, after labeling it a menace to the village. - Conservation authorities, though, have found strong indications that the animal may have been killed for its body parts, which are highly prized in the illegal wildlife trade. - Habitat loss and poaching have already driven two other species of tiger in Indonesia to extinction, and conservationists warn the Sumatran tiger is being pushed along the same same path. - Warning: The article contains some disturbing images.
Ecotourism payments for more wildlife sightings linked to conservation benefits in Laos [03/05/2018]
- A four-year research project in a national protected area in Laos established a connection between higher payments for more wildlife sightings and improved protections for wildlife. - Over the course of the study, sightings of common wildlife rose by more than 60 percent. - Payments were funded by the entry fees paid by tourists. - They were placed in village development funds, which would then finance projects like school construction and healthcare.
Epic battle between tiger and sloth bear caught on film [03/03/2018]
- Footage of a fight between a male tiger and a mother sloth bear in an India wildlife reserve has gone viral on Facebook. - The video, shot this week in Tadoba National Park, was captured by Akshay Kumar, the chief naturalist at Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge in Maharashtra. - The video starts with the tiger chasing off a sloth bear that was headed with her cub toward a water body. - The bear then charges the tiger and the fight ensues.
Penguin mega-colony discovered using satellites and drones, raising scientists’ hopes [03/03/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a mega-colony of Adélie penguins in Antarctica’s remote Danger Islands. - The researchers utilized quadcopter drones to survey the nesting grounds in an automated manner and then used software to process the imagery for individual nests. - The approach enabled a fast and highly accurate count relative to ground observations. - The study validates the approach of combining satellite imagery with ground and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveys.
Last of its kind: sole surviving male northern white rhino is gravely ill [03/03/2018]
- The planet’s last male northern white rhino is gravely ill. - Sudan, as the rhino is named, has developed a serious infection. - Only three northern white rhinos remain, including two females who are Sudan’s offspring. - The northern white rhinos are protected from poachers by armed guards.
New thumbnail-sized pygmy squid discovered in Australia [03/02/2018]
- The new species of pygmy squid belongs to the genus Idiosepius, a group of tiny, squid-like marine animals that are believed to be the world’s smallest cephalopods. - Researchers have named the new species Idiosepius hallami, or Hallam’s pygmy squid after Australian malacologist Amanda Reid’s son, Hallam, who helped her collect live animals for further comparisons. - Pygmy squids are generally found in shallow waters among seagrass and mangroves, some of the most threatened marine habitats.
Judge OKs waiving environmental laws to build U.S.-Mexico border wall [03/01/2018]
- On Tuesday, a federal judge in California ruled that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not abuse its authority in waiving dozens of environmental laws to build sections of wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. - The ruling frees the department to waive laws for future border wall construction projects. - President Trump has pushed to erect walls along the entire 2,000-mile border, saying it is necessary to prevent the flow of drugs and undocumented immigrants over the border. - The proposal is intensely controversial, with opponents raising practical, humanitarian, and environmental concerns. Conservationists say that existing border infrastructure has disrupted connectivity for wildlife and that coast-to-coast fencing would be devastating.
‘S.O.S.’ carved out of former plantation shines a light on palm oil-driven deforestation [03/01/2018]
- A dramatic S.O.S. sign has been carved out of a stand of oil palms on a former plantation in Sumatra, serving to highlight the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests. - The work is part of a campaign by a Lithuanian artist, a conservation group and a cosmetics firm to raise awareness about palm oil-driven deforestation in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity. - Extensive deforestation has for decades threatened the lives of the island’s native wildlife and the people who depend on the forests for a living.
Javan rhino population holds steady amid ever-present peril [03/01/2018]
- The latest survey from the Indonesian government shows the population of the Javan rhino, one of the world’s most endangered large mammals, holding steady in its last remaining habitat. - While the findings indicate a healthy and breeding rhino population, wildlife experts warn of the dangers looming over the animal’s existence, including human encroachment into its habitat and the ever-present threat of a volcanic eruption and tsunami. - The Javan rhino is one of the last three Asian rhino species — alongside the Sumatran and Indian rhinos — all of which have been pushed to the brink of extinction.
Five-year sentences for elephant poachers in Republic of Congo [02/28/2018]
- A court in the Republic of Congo has convicted three men of killing elephants for their tusks. They were handed five-year prison sentences and fined $10,000 each. - The three men were part of a six-member poaching gang that managed to escape an ambush set up by park authorities, but not before leaving behind some 70 kilograms of ivory as well as an AK-47 rifle, according to the WCS. - The gang is believed to have links to some of northern Congo’s most notorious elephant poachers and ivory traffickers, including two who were jailed in the last two years.
New study: Radar reveals bats are a bellwether of climate change [02/28/2018]
- New research indicates that bats could signal seasonal shifts due to climate change. - The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, is the first to use radar to track an animal migration. - The scientists found that bats that migrate between Mexico and a cave in Texas are now arriving about two weeks earlier than they did in 1995.
Vanishing species deserve our few cents (commentary) [02/27/2018]
- By simply paying their taxes, Americans are helping protect some of Earth’s most threatened and charismatic animals. But these vital funds are in jeopardy due to President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which includes deep cuts to species conservation programs. - Elephants, tigers, rhinos, great apes, and marine turtles are all protected by Acts of Congress, from which came grant programs administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). - Trump’s proposed budget would slash the funding for these programs by nearly half, from $12 million to $7 million. For African elephants, this would mean $1.5 million in 2019, down from this year’s $2.5 million, which was already spread thin. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
African Parks to manage gorges, rock art and crocodiles of Chad’s Ennedi [02/27/2018]
- African Parks will manage the 40,000-square-kilometer (15,444-square-mile) Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve in Chad. - The reserve is home to unique rock formations, ancient human art, and wildlife, including a small population of crocodiles. - Two semi-nomadic groups currently depend on the oases found in the Ennedi Reserve.
Cambodia’s banteng-eating leopards edge closer to extinction, new study finds [02/27/2018]
- In just five years, the population density of Indochinese leopards within a protected area in eastern Cambodia has fallen from about 3 leopards per 100 square kilometers in 2009 to 1 leopard per 100 square kilometers in 2014, a new study has found. - This is one of the lowest densities of leopards reported in Asia, researchers say. - This statistic is worrying because the eastern Cambodian population is the last remaining breeding leopard population within a huge region spanning southeastern China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. - Eastern Cambodia’s leopards are also part of the only leopard population in the world to prey predominantly on an animal weighing more than 500 kilograms — the banteng.
Why intact forests are important [02/26/2018]
- Overall, the world lost more than 7 percent of its intact forest landscapes in just over a decade, a trend that appears to be accelerating. - A new study discusses how intact forests are critically important for mitigating climate change, maintaining water supplies, safeguarding biodiversity and even protecting human health. - However, it warns that global policies aimed at reducing deforestation are not putting enough emphasis on the preservation of the world’s dwindling intact forests, instead relying on a one-size-fits-all approach that may end up doing more harm than good. - The researchers urge more inclusion and prioritization of intact forests in global commitments and policies aimed at curbing deforestation.
Scientists aim to give engineers the tools for ecologically sensitive development [02/26/2018]
- EIAs, or environmental impact assessments, are notoriously flawed and don’t always provide an accurate assessment of the risks of development projects. - A recent article by a team of scientists is part of a larger effort to give planners and engineers the data for more environmentally sensitive development. - The article appears in the February issue of Jurutera: The Journal of Malaysian Engineers.
New maps reveal industrial fishing in over half of world’s oceans [02/24/2018]
- Researchers poring through billions of ship-tracking data points have found that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone. - While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas. - Mapping the fishing fleets also showed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and periods of fishing closures.
Conservationist, imprisoned for ‘spying’ with wildlife camera traps, dies in Iranian prison [02/23/2018]
- Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor of sociology and a director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison earlier this month. - Iranian authorities say Seyed Emami committed suicide, an assertion his family doubts. - Seyed Emami’s arrest and suspicious death appear to be part of a wider crack down on environmentalists in Iran. Authorities arrested at least six other conservationists around the same time.
Tropical forest fragmentation nearing ‘critical point,’ study finds [02/23/2018]
- In addition to having severe repercussions for animals like jaguars and tigers that require vast tracts of connected habitat, forest fragmentation has a big carbon footprint. - A new physics-based study finds fragmentation of tropical forests may be reaching a threshold past which fragmentation will shoot up sharply. At this threshold, even a relatively small amount of deforestation could lead to dramatic fragmentation – and significant habitat loss and greenhouse gas emissions. - The team calculated that at current deforestation rates, the number of fragments will increase 33-fold in Central and South America by 2050, and their average size will drop from 17 hectares to 0.25 hectares.
Volunteering on the front lines of rhino conservation (commentary) [02/23/2018]
- Zimbabwe is home to the world’s fourth largest black rhino population after South Africa, Namibia and Kenya. - Author Ed Warner travels there frequently to volunteer with the International Rhino Foundation’s Zimbabwe Lowveld Rhino Program, which conducts monitoring and anti-poaching efforts aimed at treating, rehabilitating, and translocating rhinos as needed. - Here we publish Warner’s diary of six days in the bush supporting the team’s data collection and anti-poaching efforts. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Seychelles announces two new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain [02/22/2018]
- The government of Seychelles has announced the creation of two new marine protected areas covering 210,000 square kilometers, the size of the island of Great Britain. - The first marine protected area includes 74,400 square kilometers of waters surrounding the extremely isolated Aldabra archipelago that is home to the world’s largest population of rare giant tortoises. - The second marine protected area covers 136,000 square kilometers of a commercially important stretch of ocean between the Amirantes group of islands and Fortune Bank. - The creation of the marine protected areas is part of a debt-for-nature deal that will allow the Seychelles to restructure its national debt in exchange for protecting 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone.
DJ and ornithologists create wildlife music game [02/21/2018]
- Wildlife DJ Ben Mirin has teamed up with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Hip Hop Collection on a new online game that uses wildlife recordings. - Players take sound recordings of wild creatures and transform them into loops, creating a wide variety of song clips. Players also learn about the animals and the habitats they live in. - Mirin was also a guest on Mongabay’s podcast in 2017.
Audio: Exploring the minds and inner lives of animals [02/20/2018]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with an author of a new book about the minds and lives of animals – about their amazing memories and minds, how they dream, and more – and we’ll also learn what Mongabay’s newest bureau just launched in India is reporting about. - Our first guest is Sy Montgomery, the author of two dozen books for adults and kids about animals. She recently teamed up with her friend and fellow animal writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas to write Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, and is here to share a few of the fascinating stories from the book with us. - Our second guest today is Sandhya Sekar, program manager for Mongabay India, who’s here to tell us about the environmental challenges India is facing and what kinds of coverage you’ll find at india.mongabay.com.
Study delves into overlooked community perceptions of conservation impact [02/20/2018]
- A new study measures the impacts of conservation projects on people’s lives by letting the people define what matters to them. - The study has adapted the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI), an index that has previously been used in the health sector to see what people consider important for their quality of life, and lets the people rate the performance of those domains. - The study found that overall, the local people were most commonly concerned with agriculture, health, livestock, education, jobs, and family-related activities, but more than 50 percent of the people who were interviewed said that the conservation projects had had no significant impacts on these aspects of their well-being.
Four Indonesian farmers charged in killing of orangutan that was shot 130 times [02/18/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested four farmers for allegedly shooting a Bornean orangutan whose body was found riddled with 130 air gun pellets. - The suspects claimed to have killed the animal because it had encroached onto their pineapple farm and ruined the crop. - The killing was the second such case reported this year in Indonesia, where orangutans are ostensibly protected under the conservation act. But lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes.
Watch: A minke whale’s view of the Antarctic [02/16/2018]
- Scientists in Antarctica have attached a “whale cam” to the back of a southern minke whale for the very first time. - The video footage is giving scientists a sneak peek into a day in the life of a minke, one of the most poorly understood baleen whales. - At one point, the camera slid down the side of the animal and this side view ended up capturing remarkable footage of the whale feeding.
Borneo, ravaged by deforestation, loses nearly 150,000 orangutans in 16 years, study finds [02/15/2018]
- A new study calculates that the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 orangutans in the period between 1999 and 2015, largely as a result of deforestation and killing. There were an estimated 104,700 of the critically endangered apes left as of 2012. - The study also warns that another 45,000 orangutans are doomed by 2050 under the business-as-usual scenario, where forests are cleared for logging, palm oil, mining and pulpwood leases. Orangutans are also disappearing from intact forests, most likely being killed, the researchers say. - The researchers have called for more effective partnerships between governments, industries and local communities to ensure the Bornean orangutan’s survival. Public education and awareness will also be key.
East Africa’s Albertine Rift needs protection now, scientists say [02/15/2018]
- The Albertine Rift in East Africa is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. - Created by the stretching apart of tectonic plates, the unique ecosystems of the Albertine Rift are also under threat from encroaching human population and climate change. - A new report details a plan to protect the landscapes that make up the Rift at a cost of around $21 million per year — a bargain rate, scientists argue, given the number of threatened species that could be saved.
Webs under water: The really bizarre lives of intertidal spiders [02/15/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a 15th species of intertidal spider, a family of unusual arachnids that live in coastal habitats that are submerged during high tides. - The newest species, named after singer Bob Marley, was discovered living on brain coral off the Australian coast. - Scientists know that some species create air pockets with their hairs, while others build waterproof webs, but little is known about most of these fascinating spiders. - Intertidal spiders face a number of threats, including rising sea levels due to climate change, and pollution.
New population of extremely rare ‘red handfish’ discovered off Tasmania [02/14/2018]
- Last month, divers discovered a new population of the critically endangered red handfish off Tasmania’s coast. - The new site, currently undisclosed, potentially harbors about 20 to 40 individuals, doubling the number of known red handfish on Earth. - The new population is helping scientists understand the rare fish better.
Illegal ‘white gold,’ South Africa’s abalone, pouring into Hong Kong: TRAFFIC [02/13/2018]
- South African abalone imports into Hong Kong have progressively increased from 3,000 tonnes in 2000 to 6,170 tonnes in 2015, according to a new report by TRAFFIC. - During this period, South Africa was the largest source of dried abalone to Hong Kong among other African countries. Much of these imports were illegal, the researchers found. - While most abalone traders in Hong Kong seem to be aware that South African abalone is frequently poached, fewer consumers know about the illegal trade.
Rewriting biological history: Trump border wall puts wildlife at risk [02/12/2018]
- Mexican conservationists are alarmed over Trump’s wall, with the loss of connectivity threatening already stressed bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bears and other animals. - About one-third of the border, roughly 700 miles, already has fencing; President Trump has been pushing a controversial plan to fence the remainder. - A wall running the entire nearly 2,000-mile frontier from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, conservationists warn, would be catastrophic for borderland ecosystems and many wildlife species, undoing years of environmental cooperation between the two countries to protect animals that must move freely or die. - The wall is currently a key bargaining chip, and a sticking point, in ongoing immigration legislation negotiations taking place this week in Congress. Also expected this week: a federal court ruling on whether the administration can legally waive environmental laws to expedite border wall construction.
Indonesian police bust Chinese nationals with 200 kg of turtle shells [02/12/2018]
- Police in eastern Indonesia have arrested two Chinese men for illegally being in possession of 200 kilos (440 pounds) of turtle shells, which they believe was headed to China. - All turtle species are protected under Indonesian law, and the possession or trade in their parts is punishable by up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines. The estimated value of the seized shells was $13,200. - The bust highlights the continued role of the city of Makassar as the main gateway for traffickers moving wildlife products out of the biodiversity haven of Papua, where the suspects say they obtained the turtle shells.
Tree-dwelling animals can ‘climb’ away from climate change, study finds [02/09/2018]
- A new study has found that the temperature within a tropical forest varies considerably, with tree canopies experiencing wider extremes of heating and cooling compared to the ground or soil. - The range of canopy temperatures in tropical forests at the bottom of mountains overlaps considerably with those at the top of the mountains, which suggests that canopy animals likely have the physiology that might allow them to move across a mountain gradient freely unhindered by the climate. - This implies that tree-dwelling tropical animals might be more resilient to climate change, according to the study.
Cattle invade Colombian national park [02/08/2018]
- An analysis of satellite data shows incursions into La Paya National Park in southern Colombia. - The data indicate La Paya lost around 9,500 hectares of rainforest between 2001 and 2016. - Researchers say satellite imagery show evidence that these clearings are being used for cattle pasture. - Conservationists worry deforestation will continue to rise with the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC rebel group, whose presence in the country’s forests kept logging and agriculture at bay for decades.
Whale of a tale: Protecting Panama’s humpbacks from ship collisions [02/08/2018]
- The key to alleviating whale strikes in the Panama Canal ended up being inspired by a solution used on land — and led to a years-long struggle for a Panama Canal pilot and a whale biologist to help reduce whale strikes in the Gulf of Panama, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. - Similar to how roads are now sometimes built to curve around the natural habitats of land creatures, Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) create shipping lanes that restrict marine traffic to certain areas. - But in order to get all shipping to abide by this system, countries need the approval of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body that regulates shipping safety and navigation around the world.
Ecuador announces a new national park in the Andes [02/07/2018]
- The new Río Negro-Sopladora National Park comprises more than 30,000 hectares of almost-intact alpine plateaus and forests in Ecuador’s Andes and will protect an estimated 546 species of plants and animals. - In July 2017, after just 12 days of exploring the area, investigators found three new species of amphibians. Scientists think more species await discovery in the forests and alpine plateaus of the new park.
A tale of two otters: settling in Singapore, suffering in China [02/07/2018]
- New research shows a massive decline in China’s otter populations, including the possible local extinction of the smooth-coated otter. - But otters have recolonized Singapore, even appearing near the city center due to the island-nation’s campaign to clean up its rivers. - If China can successfully tackle fur trading and rampant river pollution, could otters one day make a comeback there?
Orangutan shot 130 times in Indonesia, in second killing reported this year [02/07/2018]
- A second Bornean orangutan has been killed in Indonesia this year after being shot multiple times with an air gun. - An autopsy revealed 130 pellets in the animal’s body, most of them in its head. Authorities managed to recover 48 of them. - Wildlife conservation activists have called on the authorities to launch an investigation into the killing of the critically endangered ape.
Earthquake triggers spawning in world’s rarest fish a few thousand miles away [02/07/2018]
- An earthquake that struck Alaska, U.S., on Jan. 23 caused more than 1-foot high waves in Devils Hole, a small water-filled limestone cave in the Death Valley National Park in Nevada, more than 2,000 miles away. - Devils Hole is the only known natural habitat of the incredibly rare Devils Hole pupfish. - Immediately after the waves hit the pool, the pupfish started spawning, indicated by the females turning a drab olive brown, which made the brilliant blue males stand out.
Audio: The cutting-edge technologies allowing us to monitor ecosystems like never before [02/06/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss the cutting-edge remote sensing technologies used to monitor ecosystems like rainforests and coral reefs. We also listen to a few ecoacoustic recordings that are used to analyze species richness in tropical forests. - Our first guest today is Greg Asner, who leads the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) at Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution for Science. Asner invented a technique he calls “airborne laser-guided imaging spectroscopy” that utilizes imaging spectrometers mounted on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory airplane to produce highly detailed data on large and complex ecosystems like tropical forests. - Our second guest is Mitch Aide, the principal investigator at the University of Puerto Rico’s Tropical Community Ecology Lab. In this Field Notes segment, Aide will play us a few of the audio recordings he’s uploaded to Arbimon as part of his recent research and will explain how these recordings are used to examine species richness in tropical forests.
Fishing with insecticide-laced mosquito nets is a global phenomenon [02/06/2018]
- In regions of the world threatened by malaria, bed nets treated with insecticides are an increasingly common public health tool to fend off mosquitos. - But there is growing evidence that the nets, often provided for free or at a subsidized price by hospitals and aid organizations, are being put to other uses, including fishing. - A new study is the first to document just how common fishing with mosquito nets may be, finding that people in countries around the world are doing it. - The practice could have significant environmental and socioeconomic implications.
Robbery or retribution? Police investigate death of prominent conservationist in Kenya [02/06/2018]
- Esmond Bradley Martin, a 76-year-old American, was found stabbed to death in the home he shared with his wife in a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday. - Martin had been working in Africa and around the world since the 1970s to stop the slaughter of rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks. - Colleagues credit Martin with increasing the conservation community’s understanding of the trade of wildlife parts through his often-undercover investigations.
Mountain lions often lose to wolves and bears, study finds [02/06/2018]
- When the hunting grounds of pumas overlap with those of other top predators, such as wolves, bears and jaguars, pumas are often the losers, a new study has found. - The findings from the study, a review of existing scientific literature, are especially important given how pumas are still being intensively hunted over much of their range in a bid to reduce conflicts with people and livestock, researchers say. - In some puma habitats where wolves and brown bears are recolonizing and recovering, wildlife managers need to be cautious about hunting limits for pumas, the authors write.
Scientists find ‘surprising’ connections between tropical forests [02/05/2018]
- For a new study, researchers genetically analyzed the evolutionary relatedness of tree species that live in tropical and sub-tropical forests around the world. - Their results indicate the world’s tropical forests are divided into two main “floristic regions,” one that comprises most of Africa and the Americas and another in the Indo-Pacific region. - The analysis also indicates dry tropical forests around the world – from Madagascar and India to Africa and South America – are unexpectedly similar to one another. - The findings go against traditional assumptions about the relationships between tropical forests, and the researchers believe they could aid the development of more region-appropriate responses to climate change.
Trumping Colombia’s peace: U.S. drug war threatens fragile accord, forests [02/05/2018]
- President Donald Trump has brought new tension to U.S.-Colombian relations, threatening to cut crucial funding at a pivotal moment in Colombia’s peace process and to decertify that agreement for a perceived failure to tackle the drug trade. - According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Colombian coca production has risen to an all-time high, with around 90 percent of cocaine entering the U.S. coming from that Latin American country. - U.S. officials blame the cocaine resurgence on Colombia’s decision to halt aerial spraying of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide – a controversial tactic considered to have serious health and environmental impacts by some, but rejected by others. - Now, with Colombia’s fragile internal truce taking hold, the Trump administration’s stance – reminiscent of the War on Drugs strategy of the 80s and 90s – could be a great hindrance to peace, with knock-on negative effects for Colombia’s rural population and world-renowned biodiversity.
Maps tease apart complex relationship between agriculture and deforestation in DRC [02/02/2018]
- A team from the University of Maryland’s GLAD laboratory has analyzed satellite images of the Democratic Republic of Congo to identify different elements of the “rural complex” — where many of the DRC’s subsistence farmers live. - Their new maps and visualizations allow scientists and land-use planners to pinpoint areas where the cycle of shifting cultivation is contained, and where it is causing new deforestation. - The team and many experts believe that enhanced understanding of the rural complex could help establish baselines that further inform multi-pronged approaches to forest conservation and development, such as REDD+.
Indonesian rubber farmers charged in gruesome killing of Bornean orangutan [02/02/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested two rubber farmers for allegedly shooting and beheading a Bornean orangutan whose body was discovered last month in a river. - The suspects claimed they killed the animal in self-defense, saying it attacked them after encroaching on their farm. - Wildlife conservation activists have lauded the police’s determination to catch the perpetrators and have called on the courts to be just as strict in trying them. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Hong Kong votes to ban ivory trade by 2021 [02/01/2018]
- Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest ivory markets, has overwhelmingly voted to ban its domestic ivory trade. - This ban comes just a month after China shut down all of its ivory markets on the mainland. - The ban will be implemented in a three-step plan over the next three years.
$23.5 million funding pledge aims to protect critical West African national park [02/01/2018]
- The National Geographic Society, Wyss Foundation, African Parks and the government of Benin have announced a combined commitment of more than $23 million to secure and restore the Pendjari National Park in Benin, West Africa. - The park is one of the last remaining strongholds for elephants in West Africa, and is also home to the critically endangered West African lion and Saharan cheetah. - In 2017, African Parks assumed management of the national park.
Corals thrive on remotest islands in the Galápagos [01/31/2018]
- Our first reef community stop in the Reefscape project was the Galápagos Islands in December 2017. - We found that ocean events such as El Niño can wipe out huge areas of reef, yet coral survival and regrowth remain evident. - Our direct actions, be the destructive overfishing or constructive protection, have a huge impact on the future of coral reef ecosystems. - One size does not fit all when it comes to coral reefs — even an archipelago hammered by coral-killing warm waters can harbor refugia for biodiversity.
New study suggests Borneo’s had elephants for thousands of years [01/31/2018]
- The research, published in January in the journal Scientific Reports, used genetic information and changes to the topography of the region to surmise that Asian elephants arrived in Borneo between 11,000 and 18,000 years ago. - The authors hypothesize that elephants moved from nearby islands or the Malaysian peninsula to Borneo via land bridges. - It’s an indication that the elephants are ‘native’ to Borneo, the scientists argue, and points to the need to bolster conservation efforts.
Two new dog-faced bats discovered in Panama and Ecuador [01/31/2018]
- Researchers have described two new species of dog-faced bats: the Freeman’s dog-faced bat (Cynomops freemani) from Panama and the Waorani dog-faced bat (Cynomops tonkigui) from Ecuador. - The Freeman’s dog-faced bat was named after bat specialist Patricia Freeman. - The species name of the Waorani dog-faced bat, “tonkigui,” honors the Waorani tribe of Ecuador that lives near one of the locations where the bats were captured, the study says.