Survey of previously inaccessible region of Myanmar reveals many endangered species [03/28/2017]
- 17 of the 31 species are threatened, including tigers, Asian elephants, Phayre’s langurs, and dholes. - The camera traps also detected images of the indochinese leopard across all survey sites, suggesting that Karen State could be supporting one of the most significant leopard populations remaining in South-east Asia. - A major concern in the region is poaching of high value species like tiger and elephant for the international illegal wildlife trade, the researchers say.
Extinct mammoths and rhinos portend a grim future in a warming climate [03/28/2017]
- The new analysis shows that, while hunting caused problems for cold-dwelling rhinos and mammoths, and in some cases drove them from certain areas completely, the changing climate ultimately led to their extinction. - Hunting pressure also eradicated some species of horses, but others, such as wild horses (E. przewalskii) and donkeys (E. asinus), were able to survive. - Along with deer, these mammals probably survived because of their smaller sizes, increased mobility and higher reproductive rates than either mammoths or rhinos. - With just a 1-degree Celsius rise in Earth's temperature per century, we could see the same rise in temperatures over the next 500-1,000 years that took 10,000-15,000 years at the end of the last ice age.
World’s second breeding population of Indochinese tigers discovered in Thailand’s forests [03/28/2017]
- The world’s second known breeding population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti) confirmed in Eastern Thailand’s Dong-Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex - a UNESCO World Heritage site. - Remarkable discovery now makes Thailand home to two breeding populations of this tiger subspecies, a significant step toward ensuring their long-term survival in the wild. - Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and conservation groups Freeland and Panthera have conducted a scientific survey on the tiger population using the ‘photographic capture-recapture’ method, indicating a density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometers. - While conservationists welcome these exciting new findings, they warn of the continued decline of tigers elsewhere in Thailand and across their global range.
Two new clown tree frogs discovered in the Amazon [03/27/2017]
- Clown frogs are widespread throughout the Amazon region and get their name from their unique, bright coloration. - The two newly discovered clown frogs were previously considered to belong to other species, but researchers were able to show that they are their own distinct species after analyzing their DNA and the calls they make. - According to the international team of researchers who made the discovery, the conservation status of both clown frogs has yet to be determined — but it is likely that the species could already be considered threatened, especially given that both are reported to have particularly small distribution areas that are endangered by habitat destruction.
Sand mining ban lifted on beach in Suriname, causing public backlash [03/27/2017]
- Sand mining could decrease the ability of Braamspunt beach to protect Suriname’s capital city from rising sea levels and storms surges. - Conservationists also fear for sea turtles nesting on the beach, which may be disturbed by the bright lights and loud noises of the industrial activity. - Sand mining in coastal environments has become a global industry, threatening biodiversity and natural defenses against climate change.
Yellow fever is killing howler monkeys in Brazil [03/27/2017]
- Brown howler monkeys are extremely susceptible to yellow fever, and an outbreak can cause local extinctions. - Hundreds of brown howler monkeys are estimated to have died at the RPPN-FMA reserve due to yellow fever. - Fortunately, the critically endangerd muriquis (also found in the reserve) seem less susceptible to yellow fever than the howler monkeys.
Will Madagascar lose its most iconic primate? [03/24/2017]
- Ring-tailed lemurs have suffered a drastic population decline in the last 15 years due to habitat destruction, hunting and live capture for the pet trade. - The ring-tailed lemur is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for Madagascar’s other lemur species, providing an urgent need for increased conservation capacity on the island. - Ring-tailed lemurs could recover quickly if threats were removed, given their well-known adaptability.
A Czech zoo is dehorning its rhinos [03/24/2017]
- The dehorning is in response to an incident in Paris earlier this month, in which poachers broke into a zoo near the city, shot dead a 4-year-old male white rhino, and hacked off one of its horns. - The Dvůr Králove Zoo, home to 21 rhinos, sawed the horns off its first rhino on March 20. - The authorities said that the horns will be stored in a "safe place" outside the zoo.
New cave catfish threatened by deforestation, mining, pollution [03/23/2017]
- The new catfish, Aspidoras mephisto, is the first completely cave-dependent member of the Callichthyidae family found in South America. - The species has adaptations to living underground, including a lack of pigment and reduced eyes. Researchers think it may use tree roots for shelter and food. - Surveys indicate A. mephisto is restricted to two caves in an area devoid of official protection. Deforestation and mining activities threaten the vegetation around the caves, and sewage from a nearby town may be polluting their water sources.
Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach? [03/22/2017]
- Researchers interviewed 173 self-admitted rural poachers living in the margins of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania to understand why they harvest bushmeat. - While poverty was a major factor, not all poachers were destitute; a sizeable proportion say they poach to supplement their income. - How the villagers view their financial status compared to others reflected their poaching activities. - Conservation strategies should adopt a multidimensional approach to target those who are well-off in addition to the poor, according to the researchers.
Audio: Paul Simon on his new tour in support of E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth initiative [03/21/2017]
- The 12-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter recently announced on Mongabay.com that he is embarking on a 17-date US concert tour, with all proceeds benefitting Half-Earth, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - Mongabay contributor Justin Catanoso interviewed Paul Simon about his long-time friendship with E.O. Wilson and why Dr. Wilson’s Half-Earth idea inspired him to get involved in this environmental cause. - We also feature another Field Notes segment, this time with Zuzana Burivalova, a conservation scientist at Princeton University who has recorded the soundscapes of over 100 sites in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
New ‘stone’ frog discovered in Vietnam [03/21/2017]
- Researchers first collected specimens of the frog in 2013 while surveying forests covering limestone hills in Vietnam's Lai Chau and Tuyen Quang Provinces. - After analyzing and comparing this frog's appearance, call, as well as DNA with that of closely related frogs, the team confirmed that it was indeed a new species. - Unfortunately, the researchers suspect that the new species is already threatened with extinction and recommend listing it as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
“Endangered species to declare?” Europe’s understudied bushmeat trade [03/20/2017]
- Bushmeat can be purchased in Europe’s capital cities, with the meat of endangered species such as primates and pangolins available. But the scale of the problem is not fully understood as few studies have been undertaken at airports and other points of entry to determine its scope. - In a Paris airport study, 134 passengers arriving from Africa were searched over a period of 17 days; nine were found to be carrying a total of 188 kilograms (414 pounds) of bushmeat. A more recent study of bushmeat arriving from Africa at two Swiss airports found that one third of meat seized was from threatened CITES species including pangolins, small carnivores and primates. - Based on what evidence there is of the trade, some appears to be organized for profit, with traffickers transporting suitcases full of bushmeat to sell on the black market. Africans who reside in Europe also sometimes bring back bushmeat from Africa as a “taste of home,” potentially contributing to the risk of spreading diseases that may be found in the meat. - Researchers are urging that DNA analysis tools be used more widely to learn what species are being transported as bushmeat into Europe, and to bring about more prosecutions of bushmeat traffickers who are dealing in endangered species. But with customs officials already stretched, and bushmeat a low priority, the technology is rarely utilized at present.
Catching up to the Ruby Seadragon: new species raises new questions [03/20/2017]
- The ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) avoided scientific detection for so long due to its deepwater habitat and the fact that bodies changed color after they perished. - The discovery has raised new questions about the evolution of seadragons. - Researchers don’t know how threatened the ruby seadragon is, but have petitioned the government for proactive protections.
Saving orphaned baby rhinos in India [03/17/2017]
- The Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, near Kaziranga National Park in Assam State, is currently home to nine greater one-horned rhino calves, including eight orphaned in monsoon floods last year. - Carers at the center hand raise these young rhinos with the aim of reintroducing them to the wild when they are old enough to fend for themselves. - Since 2002, the center has raised and released 14 rhino calves, along with young from other species including elephants and wild buffalo. - Raising these vulnerable animals requires years of painstaking effort.
Climate change-induced bleaching decimating Great Barrier Reef [03/15/2017]
- In 2016, scientists reported the largest die-off ever on the Great Barrier Reef. - Some 70,000 people depend on the Great Barrier Reef for employment in the tourism industry, and it’s worth about $5 billion annually. - The study’s authors report that repeated exposure to higher-than-normal sea temperatures submarines the corals’ chances at recovery. Even corals that survive don’t appear to be more tolerant of extreme temperatures, and high water quality – important for coral regrowth – doesn’t seem to offer much protection against bleaching.
Among their many impacts, roads are driving rapid evolutionary adaptation in adjacent populations [03/15/2017]
- The global road network covers close to 40 million miles, and is projected to grow by 60 percent by 2050. - The field of road ecology, which has emerged over the past two decades, has looked at a variety of roads’ negative consequences, such as roadkill, contamination runoff, and forest and habitat fragmentation. - As scientists continue to add to our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics that lead to adaptation and maladaptation in road-adjacent populations, our ability to predict and in turn reduce negative road effects will also increase, the authors argue.
Keeping up with the Juncos: How birds thrive or die in the suburbs [03/15/2017]
- New study finds that some bird species, the adapters, thrive in the suburbs while others, the avoiders, don’t. - Avoider species require specific ecological components for survival, ones that are rarely found in developed areas. - The implications for tropical birds may be large. Researchers believe there are more ‘avoider’ species in the tropics.
Americans live increasingly far from forests — which is a problem for wildlife [03/14/2017]
- Giorgos Mountrakis and Sheng Yang of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry analyzed satellite-derived land cover data in order to look at geographic patterns of forest loss in the continental US during the 1990s. - The average distance from any point in the U.S. to the nearest forest increased some 14 percent just between the years 1990 and 2000 — a difference of about one-third of a mile. - They found that total forest cover loss across the country during that decade was close to 35,000 square miles (a little over 90,000 square kilometers), a decline of about 2.96 percent, or roughly an area the size of the state of Maine.
As America’s Endangered Species List turns 50, uncertainty abounds [03/14/2017]
- On March 11, 1967, 78 animals were added to the Endangered Species List following the passage of the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. - That legislation laid the groundwork for the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1969 and greatly strengthened in 1973. - But with the new administration promising a roll-back of environmental regulations, there are concerns that protections for endangered species could suffer. - J Mark Fowler, a wildlife advocate and filmmaker, says this development would be a tragedy for America and the world.
Breakthrough boosts hope for treating contagious cancer in Tasmanian devils [03/14/2017]
- The devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) has spread across most of the Tasmanian devil's range and has wiped out more than 80 percent of these animals in Tasmania. - In a new study, researchers could successfully trigger the devil’s immune system to recognise and destroy established DFTD tumours. - The findings show that a DFTD vaccine is feasible, researchers say.
“Predator Mobbing:” Watch gibbons, monkeys team up to fight off leopard [03/13/2017]
- A field team with the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) was in the Sabangau Forest of Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo studying wild Maroon Langur monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) as part of a long-term behavioral research project when they witnessed the rare phenomenon, known as “predator mobbing,” first-hand. - The monkeys responded after a group of Endangered Bornean White-bearded Gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis) started making alarm calls upon discovering a Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi) hiding in their midst. - The two primate species then proceeded to continuously issue warning calls for over two-and-a-half hours in the direction of tangled lianas in the forest canopy in which the leopard was hiding — a cooperative, multi-species interaction that is incredibly unusual for researchers to observe in the wild.
Iconic musician Paul Simon announces tour supporting biodiversity [03/13/2017]
- Twelve-time Grammy winner Paul Simon spoke to Mongabay during a recent conference in Durham, North Carolina. - Proceeds from the tour will support the Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - He spoke to Mongabay about optimism, life on Earth, and more during an hour-long conversation. - It was widely reported in 2016 that the performer was considering retirement from touring, but has now heeded Wilson's call for saving biodiversity.
Tracking the numerous tactics used to attack environmental protections around the globe [03/10/2017]
- The international team of researchers behind the study note that Earth’s wild fauna and flora would be far worse off if it wasn’t for the legal protections they are already afforded, such as biodiversity laws that control the exploitation of wildlife and designate certain areas as off-limits to human industry in order to protect vital habitat. - But these laws face constant tests as proponents of economic development seek to weaken their ability to regulate human activities that impact the natural world. - The researchers are maintaining a list of attempts to weaken biodiversity laws by country on a github repository and invite conservationists, scientists, and the general public to make contributions.
Controversial policy could spur tiger trade in China [03/10/2017]
- In China, around 6,000 captive tigers are raised on “farms,” often under inhumane conditions, and their pelts sold for hefty sums in a poorly regulated market upheld through legal loopholes by the Chinese government. Breeding tigers on these farms is legal, but sale of their parts is not — something that may be about to change. - The State Forestry Administration, tasked with protecting wildlife and overseeing China’s tiger farms, is now deciding whether to commercialize tigers by adding them to a list of legally farmed wildlife, paving the way for tiger parts to be sold to supply a growing Chinese luxury market. - Long used in Chinese medicine, tiger products are now a status purchase for China’s wealthiest and most powerful. Collectors stockpile tiger bone wine; tiger skins are regularly gifted to seal business deals. Some wealthy Chinese hold “visual feasts” where guests watch a tiger be killed and cooked — then eat it. - Breeding tigers for trade in their parts contravenes a 2007 decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty signed by 183 nations, including China. There is pressure in China and abroad to shut down tiger farms, even as Chinese business interests lobby to expand a lucrative industry.
Climate change driving widespread local extinctions; tropics most at risk [03/09/2017]
- Climate change forces three fates on species: adapt, flee or die. A new meta-analysis compiled data from 27 studies to see how species distributions have changed over timescales of 10-159 years, and included 976 species. Almost half (47 percent) had seen some local populations disappear along the warming edge of their ranges. - The tropics were especially vulnerable to climate change-driven local extinctions. The data showed that 55 percent of tropical and subtropical species experienced local extinctions, whereas the figure was only 39 percent for temperate species. Though the tropical data set was not large, this higher tropical risk concurs with past studies. - Tropical species are at greater risk due to climate change because they live in some of the world’s hottest environments, so are already at the upper limit of known temperature adaptation, are restricted to small areas, particular rare habitats, and narrow temperature ranges, or have poor dispersal ability and slow reproductive rates. - Scientists see multiple solutions to the problem: beyond the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, they recommend conserving large core areas of habitat, and preserving strong connectivity between those core areas, so plants and animals can move more freely between them as required as the world warms.
Reducing Asia’s hunger for rhino horn [03/09/2017]
- In 2015, the most recent full year for which data is available, more than 1,350 rhinos were killed for their horns in Africa and Asia. - The vast majority of rhino horn is bound for destinations outside of the source country, meaning that conservationists in places like South Africa or India can do little to fight demand. - Demand reduction efforts currently center on China and Vietnam, the primary destinations for poached rhino horn. - Effective demand reduction campaigns require research into consumer behavior and careful targeting of messages.
Notorious elephant poacher, ‘The Devil’, sentenced to 12 years in jail [03/09/2017]
- Mariango was arrested in October 2015 with his brothers Lucas Mathayo Malyango and Abdallah Ally Chaoga while attempting to smuggle 118 tusks worth over $863,000. - Aged 47, Mariango was one of the poachers featured in the Netflix documentary film, The Ivory Game, produced by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. - He also stands accused of supplying ivory to Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese national nicknamed “Queen of Ivory,” who is on trial in Tanzania for smuggling ivory worth $2.5 million.
Short film takes you into the Amazon with researcher who discovered a new frog species [03/08/2017]
- Back in January, biologist Jennifer Serrano and a team of researchers published a paper officially describing a new species of poison dart frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, which was given the name Ameerega shihuemoy, to science. - Finding Frogs, a short documentary by filmmaker Nick Werber, captures the sense of awe and discovery inherent in doing fieldwork like Jennifer Serrano’s. - In this Q&A, Mongabay speaks with Werber about his motivation for making the documentary in the first place, the difficulties of shooting a film in a humid environment like a rainforest, and why it’s so important for scientific discoveries to be more widely shared via media like film.
Poachers kill rhino at French zoo [03/08/2017]
- Poachers killed four-year-old rhino named Vince at the Thoiry Zoo and Wildlife Park near Paris. - Vince's keeper found him the next morning, with one of his horns hacked off, probably with a chainsaw, the zoo said in a statement. - Two other white rhinoceros living in the Thoiry zoo — Gracie aged 37 and Bruno aged 5 years — have "escaped the massacre" and are safe, the zoo said.
Audio: Meet the ‘Almost Famous Animals’ that deserve more conservation recognition [03/07/2017]
- The Almost Famous series was created in the hope that familiarity will help generate concern and action for under-appreciated species. Glenn tells us all about how species get selected for coverage and his favorite animals profiled in the series. - We also feature another installment of our Field Notes segment on this episode of the Newscast. - Luca Pozzi, an evolutionary primatologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio, recently helped establish a new genus of galagos, or bushbabies, found in southeastern Africa. We play some of the calls made by galagos in the wild, and Luca explains how those recordings aid in our scientific knowledge about wildlife.
The last elephants of Cambodia’s Virachey National Park [03/07/2017]
- Virachey is Cambodia’s largest national park, with 3,325 square kilometers of mountainous jungle, upland savannas, and deep river gorges spanning across Stung Treng and Ratanakiri provinces in the extreme northeast of the country. - Economic Land Concessions, some of which have now been revoked, chipped away at the area of the park that borders Vietnam, while selective illegal logging takes place throughout Virachey (and every “protected area” in Cambodia) and poaching is rife. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Rare beaked whale filmed underwater for the first time [03/07/2017]
- True's beaked whale is difficult to spot at sea, and remains a poorly studied species. - By analyzing stranding data and live sightings of the whale, researchers confirm that the Azores and Canary Islands may actually be a hotspot for studying the natural behavior of the species. - For the data-scarce whale species, live sightings and video recordings are highly valuable because they add to information that helps identify a species accurately. - This in turn can help scientists monitor the status of their populations and protect them.
Nearly half of Mount Oku frogs are in danger of croaking, study finds [03/07/2017]
- Survey work discovers at least 50 amphibian species living on Mount Oku, a dormant volcano in Cameroon. - Mount Oku’s puddle frogs are vanishing – and no one knows why. Some species may already be extinct. - Researchers say survey work is often overlooked for ‘sexier’ science, but this could hamper saving species.
A Christmas Miracle? Perhaps someday [03/06/2017]
- In the 1990s most of Christmas Island’s lizard species began plummeting. The cause remains a mystery. - Scientists began a captive breeding program in 2009 – saving two species – but one species had already gone extinct and another is extirpated from the island, but can still be found elsewhere. - Researchers will not be able to reintroduce the captive species until the cause of the decline is uncovered.
African Parks gets $65M for conservation in Rwanda and Malawi [03/05/2017]
- African Parks will receive $65 million from the Wyss Foundation to bolster conservation efforts in Rwanda, Malawi, and beyond. - The funds will go toward African Parks' management of Liwonde National Park, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi; Akagera National Park in Rwanda; and five still-to-be-identified protected areas in other countries. - African Parks privately manages protected areas, effectively taking over operations traditionally managed by governments.
Translating the barcode of wildlife into action [03/03/2017]
- The multi-country Barcode of Wildlife Project combines innovative technology with capacity-building to apply DNA barcoding to wildlife protection. - The Project has successfully been adapting standard scientific procedures to the sociopolitical dimensions of each partner country’s legal landscape. - Translating the codes of law and procedure between the scientific and law enforcement communities, in a single country and across the globe, remains a major challenge in applying technology to combat wildlife crime.
Trapped elephants face attacks by mob in India [03/03/2017]
- The herd of about 25 elephants is "trapped" within dense human habitation in an area called Athgarh in the state of Orissa in India. - The elephants take shelter in some of the small forest patches during the day, and go out to look for food in the evenings, which mostly constitutes of crops, getting harassed in the process. - Conservationists say that harassing elephants has now become a form of entertainment in the area.
Newly discovered Tanzanian frog already facing extinction [03/02/2017]
- The new frog was collected in 2001 from Ruvu South Forest Reserve in Tanzania, in habitat atypical for spiny reed frogs. - The scientists who collected it couldn't identify it in the field. Fourteen years later, they sequenced the frog's DNA, which revealed that it was a species previously unknown to science. - The new species is represented by just one museum specimen. Recent attempts to find more in Ruvu South Forest Reserve failed to turn up the sought-after frogs, leaving researchers worried the species is being wiped out by dramatic deforestation affecting the reserve and surrounding areas.
The two sides of Indonesia’s Baluran National Park [03/02/2017]
- A recent commentary piece by Dr. Erik Meijaard provides a comprehensive view of the current situation and conservation actions undertaken in Baluran National Park as compared to time he spent there in the 1990’s - However, as so often happens with this beautiful park, the focus remained on the well-known part that has earned it the nickname ‘Africa of Java,’ the area surrounding the Bekol savannah in the southeastern reaches of the park. - If one were to slice the park horizontally in two, right through mount Baluran, and compare the northern and southern parts, a sharp contrast would become visible, a contrast of mooing and ringing bells. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Need a Trump break? Meet Obama’s fish [03/02/2017]
- Researcher names new species of deep coral fish after the 44th President of the U.S. - Scientists don’t know if the new species is threatened, but it is found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. - Discovery hints at how many species still await names.
LemurFaceID: The facial recognition tech helping researchers track lemurs in the wild [03/02/2017]
- Thanks to threats like hunting and the destruction of their tropical forest habitat by illegal loggers, lemurs — small primates endemic to Madagascar — are generally considered some of the most endangered mammals on Earth. - Researchers say a new computer-assisted recognition system called LemurFaceID uses facial characteristics of lemurs from photographs taken in the wild to make positive identifications of individual animals. - Lines of research facilitated by LemurFaceID are manifold: individual lemurs can be tracked over time, records of how many individuals there are in any given population can be compiled, and the social systems of those populations can be more closely examined.
A golden jackal settles down just outside of Prague [03/01/2017]
- With complete disregard for political boundaries, the golden jackal (Canis aureus) settles down in shrub-land near Prague. - An individual golden jackal repeatedly modeled for the cameras as researchers documented its unprecedented move into the Czech Republic. - The jackal's arrival in the Czech Republic, however, raises questions about its legal status in the country and across the EU.
Climate change impacts on birds and mammals much more prevalent than reported [02/28/2017]
- Researchers examined 130 previous studies on the impacts of climate change on threatened birds and mammals and found evidence that nearly 700 species have already exhibited negative responses to recent changes in climate. - The researchers estimate that 47 percent of the 873 species of threatened terrestrial mammals and 23 percent of the 1,272 species of threatened birds included in the study have already been adversely impacted by climate change in at least some portion of their range or population. - That makes it all the more important to understand the impacts already observable in wildlife due to climatic changes, given that, as noted in the study, the rate of warming over the past 50 years has been around 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade, nearly twice the rate of warming recorded over the previous five decades.
Field Notes: Finding Jacobo; an Andean cat captivates conservationists [02/28/2017]
- The Andean cat ranges from remote areas of central Peru to the Patagonian steppe. Perfectly adapted to extreme environments, this small feline is threatened by habitat degradation and hunting, but most of all it suffers from anonymity: it’s hard to save an animal that no one ever sees. - So few of these endangered cats are scattered across such vast landscapes that even most of their advocates have never seen the species they’re trying to protect. But the conservation efforts that could save this cat could also preserve the wild places where Andean cats live. - When a male Andean cat was found wandering around a soccer field, Andean Cat Alliance members agreed to forego the extraordinary opportunity to study the animal in captivity, and try instead to return “Jacobo” to the wild. - Andean Cat Alliance coordinators Rocío Palacios and Lilian Villalba orchestrated the multinational volunteer release effort. Conservationists equipped Jacobo with a GPS collar and hope that tracking his travels will reveal new data about this secretive cat, considered a symbol of the Andes.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/28/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
7 new frogs discovered in India, some smaller than a thumbnail [02/27/2017]
- All the newly described species belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. - Apart from being tiny, these frogs live a secretive life under forest leaf litter or marsh vegetation and they sound like insects, making it difficult for researchers to locate them. - But these species seem to be common and abundant in the locations they were found, researchers say. - Despite being commonly encountered, all seven species might be threatened by habitat loss.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
The Spirit of the Steppes: Saving Central Asia’s saiga [02/27/2017]
- The Critically Endangered saiga (Saiga tatarica) once numbered in the millions. This large antelope was perhaps best known for making one of the last of the world’s remaining great mammal migrations — a trek sweeping twice per year across the steppes of Central Asia. - Saiga populations declined more than 95 percent by 2004, according to the IUCN. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan banned hunting in the 1990s, but the horns of male saiga are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, and illegal trafficking is a major threat; if not curtailed the trade could doom the species. - In the 21st century, international NGOs and regional organizations such as the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) and Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) formed partnerships with Central Asian nations to better conserve the species. And their work was paying off, until 2015. - That’s when disease killed over 200,000 adult saiga of the Betpak Dala population in Central Kazakhstan. At the end of 2016, the Mongolian herd was hit hard by a new viral infection, with 4,000 saiga carcasses buried so far. But the saiga is reproductively resilient, and could be saved, if the species receives sufficient attention, say conservationists.
Feral cats now dominate the Australian landscape [02/27/2017]
- Feral cats occupy 99.8 percent of the Australian continent. - Cats, brought by European explorers on ships, are blamed for the extinction and endangerment of numerous mammal species found nowhere else. - The government plans to cull two million feral cats, but researchers say a more pointed approach – focusing on breeding ground – could be more effective in the long-term.
Saving fairy possums could imperil other Australian wildlife [02/25/2017]
- Fairy possums are dependent on montane ash forests in Victoria's central highlands. But these forests are threatened by fire and logging. - A severe fire season in 2009 led to a more than 40 percent decline in fairy possums. - Protected area expansion is seen as one way to help fairy possums survive. But a recent study finds if reserves are expanded with solely the fairy possum in mind, other species could lose out because their habitats may not overlap. - The researchers say their analysis technique could be used generally to more effectively plan protected areas.
More than 25,000 elephants were killed in a Gabon national park in one decade [02/24/2017]
- A decline of somewhere between 78 and 81 percent in the park’s forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) population over the span of just one decade was largely driven by poachers who crossed the border into Gabon from its neighbor to the north, Cameroon, according to a new study led by researchers with Duke University and published in the journal Current Biology this week. - The fact that Cameroon’s national road is so close to the park makes it relatively easy for poachers to slip into the park, make their illegal kills, and then transport elephant tusks back to Cameroon’s largest city, Douala, which has become a major hub of the international ivory trade. - Nearly half of Central Africa's estimated 100,000 forest elephants are thought to live in Gabon, making the loss of 25,000 elephants from a key sanctuary a considerable setback for the preservation of the species, according to John Poulsen, assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and the lead author of the study.
SpongeBob SquarePants and the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines [02/23/2017]
- The 100-hectare resort, announced last month, is to be part of the Coral World Park, which bills itself as the 'largest Marine Reserve and Coral Reef Conservation program in Asia.' - Local environment activists say they have never heard of Coral World Park, or of conservation programs funded by its parent organization, the Dr. AB Moñozca Foundation. - Palawan, a globally significant biodiversity hotspot, is already grappling with the social and environmental impacts of a rapidly growing tourism industry.
Renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson calls for preserving half of Earth to save biodiversity [02/22/2017]
- In Half-Earth, Wilson argues that the situation facing humanity and biodiversity is so desperate that it requires a dramatic response: dedicating fully half of the planet’s surface area to nature and natural forces, an arrangement a New York Times interviewer calls “an improbable prescription for the environment.” - Wilson’s proposal calls not for removing people living in and depending on the natural resources of wildlands around the world, but for managing these areas in a manner that would preserve their living legacies of biodiversity, something akin to how World Heritage Sites are managed. - Through his nearly 90 years of exploration, inquiry and controversy, the visionary Wilson has taken positions and pointed toward destinations that ultimately have prevailed – that which was considered outside of accepted thinking or conventional wisdom has become mainstream. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
How acoustic monitoring gave us a last chance to save the vaquita [02/22/2017]
- Monitoring the vaquita’s vocalizations has allowed scientists to closely and accurately monitor the species’ unfortunate decline. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the biggest threat to the vaquita. They are killed as bycatch, drowning in nets meant for the fish. - Conservationists say the next step is to capture vaquitas for captivity, a highly controversial plan with major risks.
Scrapping Nigerian superhighway buffer isn’t enough, say conservation groups [02/22/2017]
- The superhighway project, intended to stimulate the Cross River state economy, will no longer include a 20-kilometer-wide buffer zone along its 260-kilometer length. - The NGO Wildlife Conservation Society said minimizing the destruction necessary for the buffer zone was an important step, but that it will still disrupt communities and wildlife. - Representatives of the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, told the media that they intended to move forward with the superhighway despite the criticism.
Audio: Naomi Oreskes on what stories we can’t let get lost in the noise of 2017 and why scientists should speak up [02/21/2017]
- Because there is so much uncertainty around the new Trump Administration, especially around its energy, environment, and climate policies, we decided to dedicate this episode to trying to answer some of those questions. - We continue to take a look at what this year will bring for energy and the environment under President Trump with Bobby Magill, a senior science writer for Climate Central and the president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. - We also welcome Jeff Ruch, executive director of the non-profit service organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, to share with us what he’s been hearing so far from employees of the Environmental Protection Agency about their concerns with the Trump Administration’s environmental policies.
Proposed Trump policy threatens Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla [02/21/2017]
- The largest great ape, Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has nearly disappeared in the past two decades. Numbers have plummeted by 77 percent; perhaps 3,800 remain. This animal, dubbed “the forgotten gorilla” because it was so little studied and was absent from most zoos, is in serious danger of extinction. - Their slaughter was precipitated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s bloody civil war and by mining for coltan and tin ore, “conflict minerals” used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Gorillas are heavily poached by armed militias, miners, and less often, by refugees: the animals are being eaten nearly to extinction. - The gorillas could suffer greater harm from warlords and miners if President Trump signs a proposed presidential memorandum leaked to Reuters. It would allow US companies to buy conflict minerals freely without public disclosure, likely increasing mining in the Congo basin — and poaching. - Trump’s plan would nullify the current US Conflict Mineral Rule, passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and enacted as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Dodd Frank Act. Meanwhile, conservationists are hopeful that the Grauer’s gorilla can be saved — but only with a DRC and planet-wide response.
Scimitar-horned oryx return to the Sahara nearly two decades after going extinct in the wild [02/20/2017]
- This is the second group to be returned to the wild since the species was listed as Extinct in the Wild on the IUCN Red List in 2000. - Eight female and six male scimitar-horned oryx were released on January 21 in the hopes that they would join the herd of 21 oryx that were reintroduced to Chad’s Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Reserve on August 14, 2016. - The initial group of oryx — 13 females and 8 males — have reportedly thrived in their new habitat. In fact, on September 21, 2016, the herd welcomed what is believed to be the first scimitar-horned oryx born in the wild in more than 20 years.
African bush babies gain a new genus [02/20/2017]
- Genetic data has pointed toward a unique group of dwarf galagos living in Africa for a long time, but the physical similarity between the primates in the Galago family has confounded scientists. - Using these genetic clues as a guide, a team of researchers examined the skulls and teeth of galagos and analyzed their calls. - They concluded that five species previously placed in other genera should be placed in a sixth genus of the family Galagidae. They chose the name ‘Paragalago’ for the new genus.
Singapore’s wild bird trade threatens exotic species [02/20/2017]
- About 48 of the 108 species observed in Singapore's bird markets were listed in either CITES Appendix I or II, which means that their international trade is restricted. - Unfortunately, most birds being sold in the markets are not listed in CITES, meaning that these birds are not subject to international regulations. - Information about the harvesting, breeding, and trading of animals in Singapore is very hard to obtain, making it difficult to ascertain the impact of the trade on the birds' wild populations.
It’s World Pangolin Day! [02/18/2017]
- Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked animal. - Populations of all eight species of pangolins are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, mainly due to the demand for their meat and scales. - Hopefully, increased protection and attention will give these animals a chance to bounce back from near-extinction.
Protected areas found to be ‘significant’ sources of carbon emissions [02/17/2017]
- The researchers found 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 percent of all tropical forest carbon. This is because protected areas tend to have denser, older forest – thus, higher carbon stocks. - Their study uncovered that, on average, nearly 0.2 percent of protected area forest cover was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. - Less than nine percent of the reserves that the researchers sampled contributed 80 percent of the total carbon emissions between 2000 and 2012, putting this small subset of reserves on par with the UK’s entire transportation sector. - The researchers say their findings could help prioritize conservation attention.
Newly discovered gecko loses scales in ‘really bizarre’ behavior [02/16/2017]
- The new gecko was discovered in a reserve in northern Madagascar, a region threatened by deforestation. - It is a new member of the "fish-scaled" gecko genus. All other species have large, shed-able scales, but G. megalepis has the largest of all. - The geckos so easily shed their scales (along with other tissues) that researchers had to devise a novel way to capture them. - The researchers think another five Geckolepis species may be awaiting discovery in Madagascar.
Saving Jamaica Bay’s diamondback terrapins [02/16/2017]
- The Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is a turtle species native to coastal tidal marshes in the eastern and southern United States. - Its population in New York City's Jamaica Bay has declined by more than half in the last decade – to an estimated 10,000 turtles today. - The underlying causes for this decline are a mystery, but researchers are now engaged in a multi-year study to identify them. As the terrapin plays a crucial role in the ecosystem’s health and resiliency, their findings have important implications for Jamaica Bay.
Camera traps proving to be powerful tool for studying endangered species in remote locations [02/15/2017]
- The only known population of the Sira curassow, a large bird in the Cracidae family listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, resides within the Sira Communal Reserve, a chain of isolated and high-elevation outcrops of the Peruvian Andes. - Any monitoring technique that can potentially allow closer study of the Sira curassow (Pauxi koepckeae) is of critical importance in order to inform management strategies for the preservation of the species. - The authors of a study published earlier this month in the journal Endangered Species Research say that the discovery that camera traps are such an effective tool for detecting the Sira curassow makes it possible to perform a robust assessment of the bird’s distribution and population size for the first time.
Seven ‘most wanted’ elephant poachers arrested in Malaysia [02/15/2017]
- The poachers were caught in a joint operation between the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and Malaysia's Armed Forces on February 10. - During the raid, the authorities seized animal parts worth about $112,300, as well as hunting gear and firearms, including shotguns, machetes, knives, bullets, explosives and firecrackers. - During subsequent raids on February 11 and 12, Perhilitan officers seized two elephant tusks, elephant meat, and more weapons and equipment.
Endangered species and habitats threatened by US-Mexico border wall [02/14/2017]
- In late January, the Trump administration announced that it will be moving forward with plans to build ‘the wall’ along the southern border with Mexico. - According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an impregnable wall running across the entire 2,000-mile border between the two countries would “potentially impact” more than 111 endangered species, 108 migratory bird species, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Scanning the barcode of wildlife [02/14/2017]
- DNA barcoding—the collection, extraction, sequencing, and translation of a species’ DNA into a digital barcode—is being used to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade. - Investigators compare wildlife barcodes of evidence at crime scenes or confiscated animal products to the known barcode sequences of the suspected species. - The Barcode of Wildlife Project fosters collaboration among partner countries to build a global reference library that connects the work of researchers across the globe on a single platform and allows for a species’ barcode to be a public resource for biodiversity conservation, invasive species monitoring, and wildlife crime mitigation.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
Revisiting Java’s little Africa: Indonesia’s safari potential [02/14/2017]
- Baluran National Park is a reserve in eastern Java, Indonesia. - Baluran may be the closest one can get to the equivalent of India’s or eastern and southern Africa’s experience of open savannas teeming with wildlife in Indonesia. - This post is a commentary -- the views expressed are those of the author.
Trees need a little help to reclaim deforested land, study finds [02/14/2017]
- Scientists with the Swiss university ETH Zurich used forensic genetics to determine that seed dispersal and seedling establishment rarely occured more than a few hundred meters from the seed tree in their 216-square-kilometer (about 83-square-mile) study area in an agro-forest landscape in India’s Western Ghats. - The scientists say theirs is the first large-scale, direct estimate of realized seed dispersal of a high-value timber tree — in this case, Dysoxylum malabaricum, or White Cedar, which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. - That means that many tropical tree species that are important to humanity and for preserving biodiversity, like Dysoxylum malabaricum, are less likely to recover from logging and habitat degradation than we previously thought, according to Dr. Christopher Kettle of ETH Zürich, a co-author of the study.
India’s Manas National Park illustrates the human dimension of rhino conservation [02/13/2017]
- Manas National Park, one of India's rhino conservation areas, is at the heart of a proposed homeland for the Bodos, an indigenous ethnic group. - From the 1980s until 2003, the park was engulfed by armed conflict, and its rhino population was wiped out. During this period, the Bodos were frequently portrayed as hostile to conservation efforts. - A 2003 peace accord paved the way for the establishment of autonomous local governance, and the restoration of rhinos to the park. Former guerrillas now serve as anti-poaching patrols. - With the Bodos in power, a new group has been cast as ecological villains: Bengali Muslims living in the fringes of the park.
Field Notes: Predicting how the pet trade spreads infectious disease [02/13/2017]
- The exotic animal trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the US is the world’s leading importer. While the US government is on the alert for well known animal-transmitted diseases, there is no mandatory health surveillance for most animals coming though US ports for commercial distribution. - Live animal imports could bring new diseases into the US and infect endemic wildlife, with devastating consequences as, for example, was seen with the worldwide exposure of amphibians to Chytrid fungus which resulted in the decline of more than 200 species. - Elizabeth Daut is drawing on her training as a veterinarian and her extensive experience with wildlife to create a computer model that evaluates the risk of importing infectious diseases to the US via the exotic animal trade. - Predictions produced by her model could help prioritize which species and exporting countries might warrant extra attention at ports of entry. With a better understanding of disease risks, government agencies could improve surveillance and develop better infectious disease prevention plans.
Trophy hunters overstate contribution of big game hunting to African economies: Report [02/10/2017]
- Humane Society International (HSI) timed the release of the report to coincide with the start of Safari Club International’s (SCI) annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 1. - US-based SCI, one of the world’s largest trophy hunting advocacy organizations, released a report in 2015 that claimed trophy hunting-related tourism contributes $426 million annually to the economies of eight African countries and creates more than 53,400 full- and part-time jobs. - But the HSI report, prepared by Melbourne, Australia-based consultancy Economists At Large, found that SCI had “grossly overstated the contribution of big game hunting to eight African economies and that overall tourism in Africa dwarfs trophy hunting as a source of revenue,” according to a statement.
Newly discovered beetle catches a ride on the backs of army ants to get around [02/10/2017]
- “From above it is difficult to detect the parasite, because the beetle closely resembles the ant's abdomen,” von Beeren said in a statement. “When viewed from the side, however, it looks as if the ants had a second abdomen. To our surprise the odd looking 'ant abdomens' turned out to be beetles." - In a BMC Zoology article, von Beeren and his co-author, Alexey Tishechkin of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory, write that what they’d observed was an “exceptional mechanism of phoresy,” which is when two organisms form a symbiotic relationship in which one (in this case, the beetle) travels on the body of another. - The new beetle, named Nymphister kronaueri after Daniel Kronauer, an army-ant researcher at The Rockefeller University in New York who first discovered the species, uses its strong mandibles to anchor itself to ants’ bodies during the nomadic army ants’ regular emigrations to new nesting sites.
Camera traps reveal undiscovered leopard population in Javan forest [02/10/2017]
- Government camera traps spotted three individuals in the Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve, along the southern coast of Indonesia's main central island of Java. - The environment ministry says 11 leopards are thought to exist in the sanctuary. - The Javan leopard is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
Ecological trap ensnares endangered African penguins [02/10/2017]
- Juveniles of the Western Cape population of African penguins, an IUCN-listed endangered species, still frequent a subpar hunting ground, even though other options are within reach. - This population of penguins has declined by 80 percent in recent decades. - The current research projects that Western Cape penguin numbers are half of what they would be without this ecological trap.
World’s largest tropical peatlands discovered in swamp forests of Congo Basin [02/09/2017]
- The peatlands, which weren’t even known to exist as recently as five years ago, were revealed to cover 145,500 square kilometres (or more than 17,500 square miles), an area larger than England, and to sequester some 30 billion metric tons of carbon. - That makes them one of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth, according to the researchers who made the discovery and subsequently mapped the peatlands. - Professor Simon Lewis and Dr. Greta Dargie, who are both affiliated with the University of Leeds and University College London, first discovered the peatlands’ existence while doing fieldwork in the region in 2012.
Anger rises over human-elephant conflict in Tanzania [02/09/2017]
- On January 29, 2017, approximately 200 farmers from the village of Malinzanga in Tanzania stormed the office of the village chairman demanding something be done to protect their crops from elephants. - Malinzanga is one of 23 agrarian villages that flank the eastern border of a large network of protected areas in Southern Tanzania, most notably Ruaha National Park. - Ruaha and the surrounding territory currently support the largest population of elephants in East Africa, with just over 20,000 individuals. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
The clouded leopard: conserving Asia’s elusive arboreal acrobat [02/09/2017]
- The clouded leopard is not closely related to the leopard, but has its own genus (Neofelis), separate from the big cats (Panthera). In 2006, the single species of clouded leopard was split in two: Neofelis nebulosa is found on the Asian mainland, while Neofelis diardi, the Sunda clouded leopard, occurs only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. - Another subspecies native to Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) is believed to be extinct, after none were found in a camera trapping survey conducted between 1997 and 2012. - Originally, researchers found it difficult to breed the animals in captivity, since mates tended to kill each other. A variety of breeding techniques have however allowed zoos around the world to begin mating the animals successfully, to create and maintain a genetically viable captive population. - Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive, and only with the advent of new technology, including camera traps and radio collars, have scientists been able to begin defining clouded leopard ranges, distribution, populations and threats. Public outreach is also helping build awareness around the plight of these Vulnerable wild cats.
Fighting rhino poaching in India, CSI-style [02/09/2017]
- RhODIS, the Rhino DNA Index System, relies on a database of rhino DNA collected from across rhino range states in Africa. - The system, developed in South Africa, allows investigators to link captured poachers and confiscated horns to specific poaching incidents. - Researchers are currently working to expand the database to include Asian rhino species. - This year, India is expected to be the first Asian country to roll out the program as part of its anti-poaching strategy.
Public criticism forces U.S. congressman to back off public land disposal bill [02/09/2017]
- The law would have allowed the sale of 3.3 million acres (1.34 million hectares) of public lands 'deemed to serve no purpose for taxpayers.' - Supporters, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who introduced the bill to the House of Representatives, said that getting rid of the excess lands would provide the federal government with cash and rural communities with development opportunities. - Chaffetz pulled the bill after an outcry from conservation groups and the public concerned about the loss of federal lands.
Audio: An in-depth look at Mongabay’s collaboration with The Intercept Brasil [02/07/2017]
- Branford is a regular contributor to Mongabay who has been reporting from Brazil since 1979 when she was with the Financial Times and then the BBC. - One of the articles in the series resulted in an official investigation by the Brazilian government before it was even published — and the investigators have already recommended possible reparations for an indigenous Amazonian tribe. - We also round up the top news of the past two weeks.
Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence [02/07/2017]
- In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species. - The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of degraded habitat threatened by development. - Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.
Q&A with director of short film on The Black Mambas anti-poaching unit in South Africa [02/03/2017]
- In 2016, filmmaker Dan Sadgrove went to South Africa to visit the world's first all-female anti-poaching unit, The Black Mambas, who operate in the Balule Nature Reserve. - Last month, Sadgrove released the short documentary film he made about The Black Mambas, called "The Rhino Guardians." - South Africa, home to as much as 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, is considered ground zero for rhino poaching in Africa.
Bright lights, big city, tiny frog: Romer’s tree frog survives Hong Kong [02/03/2017]
- Discovered in the 1950s, Romer’s tree frog has so far been declared extinct, rediscovered, immediately declared Critically Endangered, been seriously threatened by an international airport, and become the focus of one of the first ever successful, wholesale population relocation projects conducted for an amphibian. - At just 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters (0.6 to 1 inch) in length, this little brown frog lives at just a few locations within the sprawl of Hong Kong Island, as well as on a few outlying islands. It lives in moist forest leaf litter on the forest floor, and depends on temporary fish-free pools of water for breeding. - When Hong Kong planned a major new international airport within the shrinking habitat of the Romer’s tree frog, scientists responded quickly, studying the animal’s lifestyle, eating and breeding habits; they then instituted a captive breeding program at the Melbourne Zoo, and launched a restoration program. It worked. - While some restoration site populations have since failed, others continue to thrive. And with new protections now in place, scientists hold out some hope that Romer’s tree frog may be a Hong Kong resident for many years to come.
There are now just 30 vaquita left in the wild [02/02/2017]
- According to a recent report by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), there are now 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. - About 49 percent of the remaining vaquita population was lost between 2015 and 2016, CIRVA found. - The primary cause of death for the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is becoming entangled in gillnets used to catch totoaba, a giant Mexican fish whose swim bladders are much in demand, especially in China.
Scientists launch expedition to find missing monkeys [02/02/2017]
- Vanzolini's bald-faced saki hasn't been seen since scientists first discovered it in western Brazil in the 1930s. - Navigating along the Rio Juruá and its tributaries, the expedition will be the first comprehensive biological survey of the region. - Its international team of researchers hopes to uncover the saki, as well as other yet-undocumented species, while calling conservation attention to the river and surrounding rainforest.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
The Philippines declares more than 100,000 acres as critical habitat [02/02/2017]
- Critical habitats — portions of land outside protected areas that have known habitats of threatened or endemic species — are usually small, focusing on one or a few species. - The newly declared Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat is the Philippines’ largest, and aims to protect several threatened species. - The declaration of CNCH involved over three years of negotiations with various stakeholders including Indigenous Peoples communities, government agencies, universities, non-government and private-sector organizations.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts.
NGO takes action to save great apes in Cameroon’s Lebialem Highlands [01/31/2017]
- The Lebialem Highlands, in Cameroon’s southwest, is a rugged mountainous and plateaued region still inhabited by the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla, the Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and the Vulnerable African forest elephant. - While the Cameroon government has taken action by protecting swathes of forest in the region, they admit to being unable to fully protect this habitat from incursions by surrounding communities, who go to the protected lands to farm, harvest bushmeat, hunt, log and mine. - The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), an NGO, has stepped in to help protect Highlands conserved areas — including the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the still to be created Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary. - Supported by the Rainforest Trust-USA, ERuDeF is also working to improve local village economies and livelihoods in order to take pressure off of wildlife.
Thap Lan: Thailand’s unsung forest gem under threat, but still abrim with life [01/31/2017]
- Thailand's Thap Lan National Park is part of the Dong Phayayen - Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance to global biodiversity. - The DPKY-FC supports 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds, and 200 species of reptiles and amphibians. - Thap Lan receives few visitors and faces major threats, including poaching, illegal logging and the expansion of a highway leading from Bangkok to the country's northeast. - The park, along with the rest of the DPKY-FC, could be downgraded by UNESCO to inscription on the “List of World Heritage in Danger.”
Meet one of the filmmakers behind Planet Earth 2 [01/31/2017]
- Planet Earth II, produced by the BBC, involved 40 different countries and more than 2,000 days of shooting. - The six-part series showcased some of the rarest footage of wildlife from remote islands and deserts to high mountain ranges, forests, grasslands and bustling cities. - Mongabay interviewed one of the filmmakers involved, Sandesh Kadur, to understand what it takes to film captivating sequences of animals in the wild and within cities.
A possible undiscovered orangutan population in Borneo? [01/31/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is the final part.
First-ever underwater photos of newly discovered Amazon Reef have surfaced [01/30/2017]
- Extending from French Guiana to Maranhão State in northern Brazil, the Amazon Reef is a 9500-square-kilometer (or nearly 3,700-square-mile) system of corals, sponges, and rhodoliths (a colorful marine algae that resembles coral) located where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean — a region currently threatened by oil exploration activities. - When the reef was discovered in April 2016, Fabiano Thompson of Brazil’s Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, who was part of the team of scientists who made the discovery, told Mongabay that “The oceanographic conditions (biogeochemistry and microbiology) of this system are unique, not found in other places of the planet.” - The mouth of the Amazon River basin also provides valuable habitat for a range of species, including the American manatee, the yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle, dolphins, and giant river otters, which are listed as Endangered on the IUCN’s Red List.
27 critically endangered Javan slow lorises rescued from online traders in Indonesia [01/27/2017]
- The Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and is considered one of the most endangered primate species in the world due mainly to habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. - Mortality rates of confiscated lorises is typically quite high, according to Christine Rattel, a program advisor at International Animal Rescue Indonesia, because traders load them into small, cramped crates, which can cause wounds, stress, and more serious medical problems that can result in death. - Perpetrators of wildlife crime can be prosecuted under Indonesia’s Natural Protection Law and face up to five years in prison as well as fines of 100 million Indonesian Rupiah (about $7,400).
‘Revolutionary’ new biodiversity maps reveal big gaps in conservation [01/27/2017]
- The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. - Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. - Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
Police clash with protesters marching against power plant in Bangladesh [01/26/2017]
- The protesters were showing their disapproval of a new coal-fired power plant currently under construction. - Injuries were reported, with estimates varying from five to 50. - Critics of the project say it poses threats to the nearby Sundarbans mangrove – the largest mangrove forest in the world – as well as to the health of thousands of local residents. - The Bangladeshi government is supporting the project and insists it poses no danger.
Increased use of snares in Southeast Asia driving extinction crisis, scientists warn [01/25/2017]
- The authors of an article published in Science last week say that unsustainable hunting methods both inside and outside of protected areas, mainly the use of homemade wire snares that kill or maim any animal entrapped by them, is pushing numerous large mammals to the brink of extinction. - Because the snares are indiscriminate in what they catch, they frequently result in the capture of nontarget species, as well as females and young animals. - Hundreds of thousands of snares are removed from protected forests in Southeast Asia every year, the authors of the Science article write, but law enforcement and snare removal teams can’t keep up with the pace that they’re being set by poachers.
Audio: E.O. Wilson talks about Half-Earth, Trump, and more [01/24/2017]
- We also welcome back to the Newscast Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler, who will be answering a reader question about the sounds you can hear in the background at the start of every episode. - Want to write about Central America for Mongabay? Inquire within! - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Newscast.
Primates face impending extinction – what’s next? [01/24/2017]
- Nonhuman primates are on the decline almost everywhere. - The third most diverse Order of mammals, primates are under the highest level of threat of any larger group of mammals, and among the highest of any group of vertebrates - 63% of primates are threatened, meaning that they fall into one of the three IUCN categories of threat—Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable. - This post is a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
Bridge through Borneo wildlife sanctuary moving forward [01/22/2017]
- For more than a year, scientists and conservationists have argued that the 350-meter (1,148-foot) Sukau bridge crossing the Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian state of Sabah would hurt wildlife populations and a blossoming ecotourism market more than it would boost local economies. - The paved road that would accompany the bridge would cut through the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, home to Borneo elephants and 11 species of primates including orangutans. - A government official responded to recent reports about the bridge’s construction, saying that it would not begin until the environmental impact assessment has been completed.
Then and now: 100 years of wildlife loss and deforestation in Borneo [01/22/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part III.
Scientists ‘impressed and delighted’ by animals found in remnant forests [01/21/2017]
- A new study finds promising conservation value in forest corridors along rivers in Sumatra's plantation-dominated landscape. - But government regulations require areas of forest that border rivers -- called "riparian" forests – be left standing to safeguard water quality for downstream communities. - In the first study of its kind conducted in the tropics, researchers set camera traps in riparian forests through tree plantations near Tesso Nilo National Park. They found a significant mammal presence, including tapirs, tigers, bears, pangolins, and elephants. - The researchers say their findings indicate Sumatra's forest remnants could help keep wildlife populations afloat in areas with lots of habitat loss. However, they caution that these corridors are threatened by lax regulation enforcement, and can only work in tandem with larger forested areas.
This newly discovered moth has a hairdo just like Trump’s [01/20/2017]
- Neopalpa donaldtrumpi was formally described in the journal ZooKeys this week, just days before Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States. - A very small moth with a wingspan of just nine millimeters (0.4 inches), N. donaldtrumpi is the second species of twirler moth found throughout Southern California in the United States and Baja California, Mexico. - The researcher who made the discovery said he hopes that naming the new moth N. donaldtrumpi on the eve of Trump's inauguration will raise public awareness about the critical need for conservation of areas like the threatened habitat of the new species.
Indigenous traditional knowledge revival helps conserve great apes [01/20/2017]
- Deforestation and hunting continue to put Africa’s great apes at risk. National parks and other top down strategies have met with limited success. Many conservationists are trying alternative strategies, especially harnessing the power of indigenous taboos and other traditional knowledge to motivate local communities to protect great apes. - In remote parts of Africa, taboos against hunting have long helped conserve gorilla populations. However, those ancient traditions are being weakened by globalization, modernization and Christianity, with anti-hunting taboos and other traditional beliefs being abandoned at a time when they are most needed to conserve great apes. - Primatologist Denis Ndeloh Etiendem suggests a unique approach to reviving indigenous taboos and traditional beliefs — the creation of videos and films in which these beliefs are presented as a prime reason for conserving wildlife. He also urges that African environmental and general educational curricula focus not on endangered dolphins or whales, but on wildlife found in interior Africa. - Development specialist Dominique Bikaba emphasizes the importance of moving away from top down federal management, and to local management of community forests by indigenous communities, whose leaders mesh traditional beliefs with modern conservation strategies. Prime examples are successes seen at Burhinyi Community Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Saving the Sumatran rhino requires changing the status quo [01/20/2017]
- With a small, fragmented population, the Sumatran rhino is currently on the path to extinction. - Despite dedicated efforts by conservationists, existing policies -- population surveys, anti-poaching efforts and a small breeding program -- have been unable to reverse this trend. - Attorney and nonprofit consultant W. Aaron Vandiver argues that we now face a binary choice between maintaining the status quo until the species goes extinct, or embracing the expense and "risk" required to carry out an ambitious plan to capture and manage the surviving population. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Running out of time’: 60 percent of primates sliding toward extinction [01/19/2017]
- The assessment of 504 primate species found that 60 percent are on track toward extinction, and the numbers of 75 percent are going down. - Agricultural expansion led to the clearing of primate habitat three times the size of France between 1990 and 2010, impinging on the range of 76 percent of apes and monkeys. - By region, Madagascar and Southeast Asia have the most species in trouble. Nearly 90 percent of Madagascar’s more than 100 primates are moving toward extinction. - Primates also face serious threats from hunting, logging and ranching.
Trade in skulls, body parts severely threatens Cameroon’s great apes [01/19/2017]
- Primatologists in Cameroon have been heartened in recent years by the discoveries of new great ape populations scattered around the country. Unfortunately for these gorillas and chimpanzees, their numbers are being rapidly diminished by deforestation and human exploitation. - Cameroon’s gorillas and chimps have long fallen victim to the bushmeat trade, but they are now being hunted vigorously to feed a national and international illegal trade in skulls and other body parts which are being exported to Nigeria, other West African coastal states, and especially to the US and China, either as trophies or for use in traditional medicine. - Great ape trafficking operations in Cameroon are starting to resemble the ivory trade: International trafficking networks are financing hunters, providing them with motorbikes and sophisticated weapons. A spreading network of logging and agribusiness roads and a porous border between Cameroon and Nigeria are further facilitating the trade. - The seriousness of this poaching hits home when one considers that during a four-month period in 2015, anti-poaching and anti-trafficking squads in Cameroon arrested 22 dealers and seized 16 great ape limbs, 24 gorilla heads and 34 chimpanzee skulls in separate operations around the country. Law enforcement is likely only detecting 10 percent of the trade.
Conservation’s best kept secret (database) [01/18/2017]
- The ZIMS database manages millions of medical and genetic records on 21,000 species cared for in captivity. - Long-used by zoos and aquariums, ZIMS could be useful for managing small populations of endangered species in the wild. - Data from ZIMS is now being used to improve wildlife recovery efforts and to better understand wildlife trade patterns.
New species of poison frog discovered in Amazonian slopes of Andes in southeastern Peru [01/17/2017]
- The species was found in just nine locales in the buffer zones of Manu National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, at the transition between montane forests and the lowlands, from 340 to 850 meters (1,115 to 2,788 feet) above sea level. - The region that the Amarakaeri poison frog calls home is considered one of the most biodiverse on the planet for herpetofauna, but it is also threatened by human activities, including agriculture, gold mining, logging, and an illegally constructed road meant for the transport of fuel for illegal miners and loggers in the area. - Based on IUCN Red List criteria, the research team that made the discovery propose that A. shihuemoy likely qualifies as Near Threatened.
E.O. Wilson on Half-Earth, Donald Trump, and hope [01/17/2017]
- Celebrated biologist's new book outlines an audacious plan to save the biodiversity of Earth - He is also the author of numerous biological concepts, including island biogeography and biophilia - In a wide-ranging interview, he also discusses the Trump phenomenon and decries de-extinction and so-called 'Anthropocenists'
Pileated gibbons poached as bushmeat to feed illegal rosewood loggers [01/17/2017]
- There were 14,000 Pileated gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) in southeast Thailand in 2005, the last time a census survey was done. No one knows what those numbers look like today. The animals are falling victim to illegal hunting, which is the most serious threat to wildlife across Southeast Asia according to a recent study. - The gibbons are especially being poached as bushmeat in Thap Lan National Park by poachers who feed on them when they venture deep into the forest to cut Endangered rosewood trees. 'Hongmu' (red wood) timber imports from the Mekong region to China between 2000 and 2014 were valued at nearly US $2.4 billion. - Underfunded and under-equipped Thai park rangers regularly engage in firefights with the armed loggers, but it is believed that gibbon numbers continue to fall, as the animals are easily spotted when they sing, and are shot out of the trees. - “In the past we used to hear [the gibbons singing] a lot, but now we don’t hear them so much. I think it’s people going into the forest to log that is affecting them,” said Surat Monyupanao, head ranger at Thap Lan National Park.
A trip on Borneo’s Mahakam River in search of forgotten wildlife [01/16/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part II.
How one conservationist is sparking a ‘young revolution’ in Indonesia [01/13/2017]
- Pungky Nanda Pratama and his team at the NGO Animals Indonesia teach environmental education to five elementary schools in the surrounding villages. - The aim is to counter some of the destructive practices that threaten the health of Kerinci Seblat National Park — the largest park on the island of Sumatra, with the highest population of tigers. - To the children, ‘older brother Pungky’ is the fun teacher who shows them the pointy-nosed turtles on the riverbank and the flying dragons in the trees. To Pungky, these children hold the future of the forest in their hands. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Last frontiers of wilderness’: Intact forest plummets globally [01/13/2017]
- More than 7 percent of intact forest landscapes, defined as forest ecosystems greater than 500 square kilometers in area and showing no signs of human impact, disappeared between 2000 and 2013. - In the tropics, the rate of loss appears to be accelerating: Three times more IFLs were lost between 2011 and 2013 as between 2001 and 2003. - The authors of the study, published January 13 in the journal Science Advances, point to timber harvesting and agricultural expansion as the leading causes of IFL loss.
NASA releases images of dramatic deforestation in Cambodia [01/13/2017]
- Cambodia lost around 1.59 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2014, and just 3 percent remains covered in primary forest. - This deforestation has led to the decline of wildlife habitat and the disappearance of tigers from the country – as well as the release of millions of tons of CO2. - The NASA imagery shows the rapid development of rubber plantations over the past decade. - Research attributes the jump in Cambodian deforestation rates primarily to changes in the global rubber price and an increase in concession deals between the government and plantation and timber companies.
New study analyzes biggest threats to Southeast Asian biodiversity [01/12/2017]
- Deforestation rates in Southeast Asia are some of the highest anywhere on Earth, and the rate of mining is the highest in the tropics. - The region also has a number of hydropower dams under construction, and consumption of species for traditional medicines is particularly pronounced. - A new study published in the journal Ecosphere analyzing all of the threats to Southeast Asia’s biodiversity concludes that the region “may be under some of the greatest levels of biotic threat.”
Great apes and greater challenges: Trafficking in Cameroon [01/12/2017]
- Cameroon is home to four great ape species and sub-species: the Western Lowland gorilla, Cross River gorilla, Central chimpanzee and Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee. Scientists still don’t fully understand these species and the secrets they may hold, especially for medical science, but those secrets will be lost if the animals are not conserved. - A thriving trade in ape skulls, bushmeat, and live animal trafficking is threatening to wipe out ape populations already stressed by habitat loss and fragmentation. The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) is an NGO that is tackling the traffickers behind the African trade, but they are up against widespread government corruption that is hindering their efforts. - While confiscations of trafficked great apes is important, estimates put the total of traded animals being detected by law enforcement along trafficking routes at a mere 10 percent. That’s why many conservationists argue that trafficking needs to be stopped not at national borders and airports, but nipped in the bud at the source, in the wild.
Poaching gang of wealthy software engineers, coffee planters arrested in India [01/12/2017]
- The poaching incident came into light around New Year’s Eve. - A local conservation activist group WildCat-C and the Forest Department together nabbed 14 men involved in the killing of two Sambar deer, a large deer categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. - Conservationist says that such poaching incidents involve “trigger-happy” people who hunt opportunistically, mainly for wild meat.
Thousands hold ‘Global Protest Day’ to support world’s largest mangrove forest [01/12/2017]
- At more than 10,000 square kilometers, the Sundarbans is the world's biggest mangrove area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. - It is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, provides important ecosystem services to human communities, and sequesters millions of tons of carbon. - A 1,320-megawatt, coal-fired power plant is being built just upriver from the Sundarbans, and critics say it threatens the mangrove as well as human health. UNESCO has urged its cancellation and relocation. - On Saturday, January 7, an estimated 4,000 people held rallies in cities around the world protesting the power plant and urging increased protection of the Sundarbans.
Trouble in India’s rhino paradise [01/10/2017]
- Two one-horned rhinos were shot in Kaziranga National Park in December, bringing the park's total number of poaching-related rhino deaths to 18 for the year. - Anti-poaching efforts face huge challenges: burgeoning demand for rhino horn in nearby China and Vietnam, easy terrain for poachers, poverty in the fringes of the park, and the presence of armed insurgent groups in the region. - Officials have responded by boosting anti-poaching patrols and punishing rangers found to be neglecting their duties, adopting new technologies and clearing encroachments on parkland. - Despite the ongoing threat of poaching, Kaziranga's rhino population is growing.
Newscast #9: Joel Berger on overlooked ‘edge species’ that deserve conservation [01/10/2017]
- We’re also joined by Andrew Whitworth, a conservation and biodiversity scientist with the University of Glasgow, who shares with us some of the recordings he’s made in the field of a critically endangered bird called the Sira Curassow. - Plus: China to close its domestic ivory markets, Cheetah population numbers crash, and more in the top news. - Happy New Year to all of our faithful listeners!
Fragmentation boosts carbon storage along temperate forest edges [01/09/2017]
- A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science reports that trees on the edges of temperate forests in eastern Massachusetts grow nearly 90 percent faster than those on the interior, in contrast with the declines documented in tropical and boreal forest edges. - The increased growth rates and biomass production could translate into a 13-percent boost in carbon uptake and a 10-percent bump in carbon storage over current estimates in the region. - However, these edges are more sensitive to higher temperatures, and as the climate warms, their growth rates will likely drop off more quickly than those further into the forest.
‘Too rare to wear’: new campaign targets tourists to end Hawksbill turtle trade [01/09/2017]
- The Hawksbill turtle’s striking shell is carved into jewelry, combs and other trinkets, which is then sold in markets across Latin America and the Caribbean. - The campaign, Too Rare to Wear, will help people learn about turtleshell souvenirs and how to avoid buying them while traveling in those regions. - The campaign includes a coalition of conservation organizations, tour operators, and media partners.
Following in Raven’s Footsteps: 100 years of wildlife loss on Borneo [01/06/2017]
- With funding from the National Geographic Society we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part 1.
New maps show how our consumption impacts wildlife thousands of miles away [01/06/2017]
- The study identified 6,803 threatened species, pinpointed the commodities that contribute to threats affecting those species, then traced the implicated commodities to final consumers in 187 countries. - The maps revealed some unexpected linkages. - These maps can help connect conservationists, consumers, companies and governments to better target conservation actions, researchers say.
‘Racing against time’ to save the taguá and its vanishing Chaco home [01/05/2017]
- Taguá are one of three peccary species living in the Americas and are the only ones found nowhere else but the Gran Chaco. - Scientists say that the Chaco is disappearing at an alarming rate – with nearly a million hectares of tree cover loss as recently as 2008 – due in large part to soy cultivation and cattle ranching. - The destruction of the taguá’s habitat, along with hunting, have caused its numbers to drop, say scientists, far below the estimated 5,000 alive during the 1990s.
Local NGOs: Ecosystem services, not orangutans, key to saving Leuser [01/04/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares, encompasses two mountain ranges, three lakes, nine river systems and three national parks. It boasts 10,000 species of plant and 200 species of mammal — dozens found nowhere else on earth. Of the 6,000 orangutans left in Sumatra, 90 percent live in Leuser. - But the region has been under siege by the government of Aceh, which has repeatedly tried to sell off concessions to oil palm companies that encroach on the borders of conserved lands. - While international environmental NGOs have focused on saving Leuser’s orangutans, local NGOs have had far more success focusing on the US $23 billion in ecosystem services provided by the preserve — including flood prevention, water supply, agro-ecology, tourism, fire prevention, carbon sequestration, and more. - Many rural Sumatrans see orangutans not as important endangered species to be protected, but rather as garden and farm pests. Local organizers like Rudi Putra and T.M. Zulfikar are building a homegrown Sumatran conservation movement that relies heavily on litigation over the potential loss of Leuser’s ecosystem services.
Exotic populations hold hope for internationally traded endangered species [01/04/2017]
- Researchers identified 49 globally threatened species that have established wild populations outside their native distributions on all continents except Antarctica. - Sometimes, the exotic populations do better than their native counterparts. - Such introduced populations can offer a unique opportunity to save endangered species, researchers say.
Tropical birds may not fare so well in a warming world [01/04/2017]
- The study took place in Panama’s Soberania National Park, an approximately 100-square-mile area of protected rainforest that is home to more than 500 bird species. - Over the course of the study, researchers caught more than 250 different species in mist nets, but only had enough data to model 20 of the most common. - For 19 of the 20 species sampled, a longer dry season had a negative effect on population size. For six of those species, the effect was especially strong.
Elephants in Borneo slaughtered for ivory (WARNING: graphic photos) [01/03/2017]
- The carcass of the first elephant was discovered on December 27, and that of the second elephant — a sabre-tusked bull named Sabre — was found on New Year’s Eve. - Both elephants had their tusks removed. - According to Sabre’s satellite collar, the elephant was likely killed on 21 November 2016.
Sudden sale may doom carbon-rich rainforest in Borneo [01/02/2017]
- Forest Management Unit 5 encompasses more than 101,000 hectares in central Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The area’s steep slopes and rich forests provide habitat for the Bornean orangutan and other endangered species and protect watersheds critical to downstream communities. - Conservation groups had been working with the government and the concession holder to set up a concept conservation economy on FMU5, but in October, the rights were acquired by Priceworth, a wood product manufacturing company.
China to ban its elephant ivory trade within a year [12/30/2016]
- The Chinese government today announced it will close its domestic commercial ivory market by the end of 2017. - Conservationists are applauding the move, calling it a "game-changer" for elephants, which are being rapidly driven toward extinction due to ivory poaching. - Momentum has been building for such action. Earlier this year the United States enacted a law to close its ivory market and both the IUCN and member states at CITES COP17 passed resolutions to close domestic elephant ivory markets.
Top climate stories to watch in 2017 [12/29/2016]
- Renewable energy use has never been higher — but on the other hand, 2016 brought with it news of record fossil fuel consumption, as well. - Meanwhile, the Paris Climate Agreement went into force on November 4, far sooner than anyone ever expected, signaling a new era of international climate action — but just a few days later, the U.S., the second-largest emitter in the world, elected a new president who has called global warming a hoax and pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as possible. - Here, in no particular order, are some of the top stories to keep an eye on in the new year.
China seizes over 3,000 kg of pangolin scales in biggest-ever smuggling case [12/29/2016]
- On Wednesday, Chinese customs officials announced the seizure of more than three metric tons (3,000 kilograms or 6,600 pounds) of pangolin scales in Shanghai. - Some 5,000 to 7,500 wild pangolins are estimated to have been killed for these scales. - Between January 2008 and March 2016, more than 21,000 kilograms (~46,000 pounds) of scales and 23,109 individual pangolins were recorded in a total of 206 seizure reports.
Whistleblowing for wildlife [12/28/2016]
- The National Whistleblower Center (NWC)’s new Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program is launching a secure website and attorney referral service to help people provide tips on wildlife crime and obtain rewards from whistleblower provisions in relevant laws. - The program combats wildlife extinction by incentivizing potential whistleblowers to come forward and submit tips confidentially and anonymously. - To increase the platform’s impact, the NWC is ramping up outreach and hoping to develop an app in 2017 to facilitate mobile reports.
2016’s top 10 developments for the world’s oceans [12/28/2016]
- Marine scientists from University of California, Santa Barbara share their top 10 list of game changing developments for the ocean in 2016. - Massive new ocean protected areas and transformative policies to fight illegal fishing brought hope. - The world’s worst coral bleaching event, record sea ice lows, and coastal flooding revealed the ever-growing influence of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2016 [12/28/2016]
- Some animal species showed signs of recovery after years of decline. - In 2016, the world became serious about protecting our oceans by establishing some of the largest marine protected areas ever. - Countries moved towards ending domestic ivory trade, and researchers discovered the world’s tallest tree.
Newscast #8: Top new species discoveries of 2016, and how fig trees can save rainforests [12/27/2016]
- The new species we discover every year prove that we still aren’t even aware of every creature with whom we share planet Earth, so there’s literally more to protect than we can possibly know. - We also speak with author Mike Shanahan, whose new book 'Gods, Wasps, and Stranglers: The secret history and redemptive future of fig trees' looks at the tropical species’ biology and key ecological role, as well as its deep cultural (and spiritual) place in human history. - Thanks to everyone who made the launch of the Mongabay Newscast in 2016 such a success!
‘Casper’ the octopod threatened by deep-sea mining [12/27/2016]
- Casper the octopod lays its eggs on stalks of dead sponges attached to nodules rich in manganese on the ocean floor. - The stalked sponges require the presence of manganese nodules as a substrate for their survival, and the removal of nodules can cause a collapse of the sponge populations. - This would suggest that, like the sponges, the octopods would also be vulnerable to the removal of nodules by commercial exploitation, the researchers say.
Cheetah populations crash as fastest-animal disappears from 91% of its range [12/26/2016]
- The world's wild cheetah population is down to just 7,100 individuals, a decline of more than 90 percent since the turn of the 20th century - Cheetah have disappeared across 91 percent of their historic range. - The findings have led the authors to call for the cheetah to be up-listed from from ‘Vulnerable' to ‘Endangered' on the IUCN Red List.
Photos: Top 20 new species of 2016 [12/26/2016]
- This year, scientists discovered and described several thousand new species of animals and plants. - Many of these new species are already on the brink of extinction, threatened by poaching, illegal wildlife trade, habitat destruction and diseases. - Mongabay presents the top new species discovered in 2016.
Study looks at positive and negative impacts of biodiversity offsets on local communities [12/23/2016]
- Biodiversity offsets enjoy a wide range of support. In 2010, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to promote biodiversity offsets as a means for businesses to effectively manage biodiversity issues associated with their development projects, and the IUCN approved a biodiversity offset policy at its World Conservation Congress earlier this year. - The efficacy of biodiversity offsets in achieving “no net loss” or even “net positive increase” in wild fauna and flora populations has been the subject of much scrutiny, but the same cannot be said of the impacts of biodiversity offsets on local communities. - New research shows that local people might actually be suffering negative consequences from these offsets, however.
What do experts have to say about Latin American wildlife trafficking? [12/23/2016]
- In Peru, the 67,874 animals have been confiscated from traffickers over the last 15 years. A national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking exists on paper, but it has not yet been approved by the government. - In Bolivia, wildlife trafficking threatens jaguar populations (between 2014 and 2016, 337 fangs were seized). Awareness campaigns have been launched by the Ministry of Environment and Water, local governments, and NGOs; however, a comprehensive strategy does not exist. - In Colombia, 5,060 wildlife traffickers have been detained so far in 2016. To identify confiscated wildlife species, the Humboldt Institute has generated DNA barcodes, a valuable tool not only for environmental and judicial authorities but also for the academic community. - In Ecuador, about 8,000 animals were seized in 10 years. State and private institutions have joined forces to address this problem and apply a landscape-management approach to the conservation of threatened wildlife.