Amber deposits yield oldest evidence of frogs in wet, tropical forests [06/20/2018]
- Scientists have found the oldest frog fossils known to have been preserved in amber, from deposits in northern Myanmar. - These fossils, together with other fossils of mosses and bamboo-like plants recovered from the same amber deposits, provide the first definitive evidence that the amber-trapped frogs lived in wet, tropical forests alongside dinosaurs some 99 million years ago, researchers say. - One of the four frogs, which was trapped in sap alongside an unidentified beetle, has a nearly intact skeleton, and has been described as a new, extinct species, Electrorana limoae.
Puan, the world’s oldest Sumatran orangutan, dies at 62 [06/20/2018]
- Puan, the world’s oldest living Sumatran orangutan, was euthanized on June 18 at Perth Zoo in Australia due to age-related complications. - Her death left an incredible legacy of 11 children and a total of 54 descendants across the world, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the global Sumatran orangutan zoo population. - Due to her genetic legacy, Puan played a vital role in ensuring the survival of the species, which has been categorized as critically endangered.
Animals are becoming night owls to avoid humans [06/19/2018]
- By analyzing 76 studies and activity patterns of 62 mammal species, including bears, deer, coyotes and tigers, researchers have found that large mammals are 1.36 times more active at night in areas with high human presence compared to areas with low human presence. - These results seemed to be consistent across species and continents. - Animals seem to be becoming more nocturnal not only to avoid direct threats like hunting, but to avoid even recreational human activities like hiking and mountain biking.
One tortoise at a time: Q&A with zoo veterinarian Justin Rosenberg [06/19/2018]
- In April, authorities discovered around 10,000 radiated tortoises, believed to be destined for the Asian pet trade, in an abandoned house in southwestern Madagascar. - The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) took the animals to its rescue center in Ifaty, and soon, veterinarians and keepers from around the world began traveling to Madagascar to help the animals. - Currently, between 9,000 and 10,000 tortoises are alive, with around 100 still in need of critical care. - Mongabay spoke with a veterinarian who spent several weeks at TSA’s facility about the ongoing efforts.
Oil palm plantations in Amazonia inhospitable to tropical forest biodiversity: Study [06/18/2018]
- According to a study published in the journal PloS One late last year, the Brazilian Amazon has about 2.3 million square kilometers (nearly 900,000 square miles) of land suitable for oil palm cultivation, making it one of the largest areas in the world for potential expansion of the palm oil industry. - Researchers investigated the responses of tropical forest mammals to living in a landscape made up of a mosaic of 39,000 hectares (more than 96,000 acres) of mature oil palm plantations and 64,000 hectares (a little over 158,000 acres) of primary Eastern Amazon forest patches in the Brazilian state of Pará. - They write in the study that their results in the Amazon “clearly” reinforce “the notion that oil palm plantations can be extremely hostile to native tropical forest biodiversity, as has been shown in more traditional oil palm countries in South-East Asia, such as Malaysia and Indonesia.”
Latam Eco Review: Paddington Bear Captured on Camera in Peru [06/15/2018]
Among the top articles from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of June 4 – 10 was one about a golden spectacled bear named after Paddington Bear that was caught by a camera trap for the first time in Peru. In other news, the debate on hydroelectric plants intensifies in Colombia, and […]
Footage of elusive Negros bleeding-heart dove captured in the wild [06/15/2018]
- New footage of one of one of the most elusive birds in the world — the critically endangered Negros bleeding heart dove — has been released. - A team with the Bristol Zoological Society, a UK-based conservation and education NGO, spent five days searching for the bird in the forests of the Philippines’ Panay Island in order to capture a video of the rarely seen species in the wild. - The Negros bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba keayi) is a medium-sized, ground-dwelling species of pigeon endemic to the Philippine islands of Negros and Panay. There are perhaps as few as 70 and no more than 400 individuals of the species left on the two islands it calls home, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Species recognition shifts into auto with neural networks [06/15/2018]
- Scientists have shown that a cutting-edge type of artificial intelligence can automatically count, identify, and describe the behaviors of 48 animal species in camera trap images taken in the Serengeti ecosystem. - The team used a dataset of 3.2 million wildlife images to train and test deep convolutional neural networks to recognize not only individual animals but also what the animals are doing in each image. - The models performed as well as human volunteers in identifying, counting, and describing the behavior of animals in nearly all the Serengeti camera trap images and also identified those images that required human review. - The widespread use of motion-sensor camera traps for wildlife research and conservation, coupled with the inefficiency of manual image processing, means successful automation of some or all of the image analysis process is likely to save researchers time and money, as well as catalyze new uses of remote camera photos.
Primate-rich countries are becoming less hospitable places for monkeys, apes and lemurs [06/15/2018]
- New research shows that many of the 65 percent of the world’s primate species found in four countries — Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo — face the threat of extinction. - The scientists involved in the study used maps of primate ranges and information on the threats they face to predict what might happen to the animals through the end of the 21st century. - They found that increases in the amount of land turned over for human food production could cause the primate habitats to shrink substantially in these countries. - However, the team also found that intensive conservation measures could dramatically reduce the loss of primate habitat by 2100 and potentially avert the mass extinction of these species.
Facebook video shows orangutan defending forest against bulldozer [06/15/2018]
- Dramatic footage released last week by an animal welfare group shows a wild orangutan trying in vain to fight off destruction of its rainforest home in Borneo. - The video, filmed in 2013 but posted on Facebook on June 5th for World Environment Day by International Animal Rescue (IAR), was shot in Sungai Putri, a tract of forest in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province. - Sungai Putri is one of the most important refuges for orangutans left in Indonesian Borneo. According to orangutan expert Erik Meijaard, Sungai Putri may be home to over 1,000 orangutans.
The diversity of biodiversity: Connecting shrews, ants and slime molds with carbon storage [06/14/2018]
- Research has shown that, in some cases, high-carbon forests support high levels of biodiversity. - But a recent study, which looked at a wide variety of species groups, demonstrates that regrowth forests can support a greater number of representatives of some species groups. - The findings support the conclusion that recovering forests should be included in conservation planning alongside old-growth forests.
Renowned wildlife conservationist Russell Mittermeier awarded 2018 Indianapolis Prize [06/13/2018]
- Mittermeier, a primatologist, herpetologist, and highly accomplished conservationist, is the seventh recipient of the prestigious prize, which has been awarded by the Indianapolis Zoological Society along with $250,000 in prize money every two years since 2006 to “the most successful animal conservationist in the world.” - He spent 11 years at WWF–U.S. before becoming president of Conservation International (CI) in 1989. It was while he was at CI that Mittermeier first heard of the concept of “biodiversity hotspots” — a concept he would go on to popularize and utilize to achieve a number of conservation successes. - “Russ Mittermeier is a consummate scientist, a visionary leader, a deft policy advocate and an inspiring mentor to many,” Michael Crowther, chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, said in a statement. “Perhaps most important, he is a consistent winner in the battles for species and ecosystem survival.”
Shark fisheries hunting dolphins, other marine mammals as bait: Study [06/13/2018]
- Global shark fisheries have for decades engaged in the deliberate catch of dolphins, seals and other marine mammals to use as bait for sharks, a new study has found. - The researchers found the practice picked up when prices for shark fin, a prized delicacy in Chinese cuisine, went up from the late 1990s onward. - The researchers have warned that the targeting of these species could hit unsustainable levels, and have called for more studies into the species in question as well as better enforcement of existing law protecting marine mammals.
Hunting, fishing causing dramatic decline in Amazon river dolphins [06/13/2018]
- Both species of Amazon river dolphin appear to be in deep decline, according to a recent study. Boto (Inia geoffrensis) populations fell by 94 percent and Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) numbers fell by 97 percent in the Mamirauá Reserve in Amazonas state, Brazil between 1994 and 2017, according to researchers. - Difficult to detect in the Amazon’s murky waters, both species are listed as “Data Deficient” by the IUCN. But researchers maintain that if region-wide surveys were conducted both species would end up being listed as Critically Endangered. - The team noticed scars from harpoon and machete injuries on the dolphins they caught. Interviews with fishermen confirmed the team’s suspicions: dolphins were being hunted for use as bait. The mammals also get entangled in nets and other fishing gear, are hunted as food, eliminated as pests, and suffer mercury poisoning. - Researchers believe the passage and enforcement of new conservation laws could save Amazon river dolphins, and halt their plunge toward extinction. But a lack of political will, drastic draconian cuts to the Brazilian environmental ministry budget, and continued illegal dolphin hunting and fishing make action unlikely for now.
Online pet trade in Southeast Asia poses a major new threat to otters [06/08/2018]
- Poaching of otters, especially juveniles, for the online pet trade is so widespread in Southeast Asia that it has emerged as a major new threat to the survival of Asia’s otter species. - A report from the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC and the IUCN Otter Specialist Group released today details the results of a two-year investigation that uncovered hundreds of otters for sale on Facebook and other online platforms. Sales of juvenile otters were especially prominent: over 70 percent of the animals found for sale online were under one year old, according to the report. - The report identified a lack of strong national legislation to protect these species in many of their range countries as a major reason the illegal exploitation of otters has been able to flourish online.
‘I’m only going to eat animals I kill myself’: Q&A with Louise Gray, author of ‘The Ethical Carnivore’ [06/08/2018]
- Mongabay recently talked with Gray about her unusual year, the paradox of being a hunter who cares about animal welfare, and her new adventures in service to the humble vegetable. - Can we be sure that as we wipe the plate after seared scallops we are not wiping the ocean floor of its plants and corals? What sleight of hand really distinguishes humane from cruel? And how much deforested land does it take to make a steak? - These are some of the questions that Louise Gray set out to answer in her 2016 book “The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat.”
Study reveals China’s new forests aren’t really forests [06/07/2018]
- In the late 1990s, China instituted ambitious reforestation policies to mitigate flooding disasters. - By 2013, these policies had convinced famers to plant more than 69.2 million acres of trees on what once was cropland and scrubland. By 2015, China’s tree cover had increased by 32 percent. - But a recently published study reveals most reforestation efforts simply planted one tree species, making a plot of reforested land ecologically akin to a monoculture plantation.
New technology leads to the arrest of eight people suspected of trafficking wildlife parts [06/07/2018]
- Eight men, including three government officials, all from African countries, have been arrested for allegedly trafficking wildlife body parts to Southeast Asia. - Officers from the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, based in Nairobi, Kenya, used data analytics software to track down the alleged smugglers, who were arrested in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo in May. - The investigation linked the accused to shipments of pangolin scales and elephant tusks seized in Southeast Asia.
Illegal logging persists in Borneo orangutan habitat despite government ban [06/07/2018]
- Illegal logging continues inside an orangutan habitat in Borneo that the Indonesian government had decreed off-limits last year, an investigation by Greenpeace has found. - The group reported at least six logging camps in the concession held by a timber company, but noted that it was unclear whether the company itself, PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK), was engaged in the illegal logging. - This is the second time Greenpeace has found indications of commercial exploitation in the area since the government ordered PT MPK to halt its operations last year.
East Africa’s mountain gorilla population now numbers more than 1,000 [06/05/2018]
- According to the results of a census released last week, the mountain gorilla population in East Africa’s Virunga Mountains numbered 604 as of June 2016, up from from 480 in 2010. The population hit an all-time low of 242 individuals in 1981. - The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is a subspecies of the eastern gorilla with two distinct sub-populations: one in the Virunga Mountains and another in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A census conducted in 2011 found approximately 400 gorillas living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, meaning that the total number of mountain gorillas is now believed to be more than 1,000 individuals. - Conservationists were quick to celebrate the increasing mountain gorilla population as a much-needed instance of good news, even if they remain wary of the many persistent and looming threats the subspecies must still contend with.
Owner of South African hunting company indicted by US prosecutors over illegal elephant hunt [06/04/2018]
- The owner of a trophy hunting business in South Africa has been indicted by prosecutors with the United States Department of Justice for violating the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. - Prosecutors in the US state of Colorado have alleged that Hanno van Rensburg, a South African national and owner of Authentic African Adventures, led an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park in 2015 and bribed Zimbabwean government officials with somewhere between $5,000 and $8,000 to look the other way. Van Rensburg is also accused of conspiring with a member of the hunting party from Colorado to illegally export elephant ivory to the US by falsifying documents to claim that the hunter was a South African resident and did not shoot the elephant inside the national park. - While prosecutors did not name the Colorado hunter with whom van Rensburg conspired to illegally export the elephant trophies, he has been identified as Paul Ross Jackson of Evergreen, Colorado. Jackson, a former vice president of the Dallas Safari Club, pleaded guilty in April to violating the U.S. Endangered Species Act in connection to the same hunt.
This tiny camera aims to catch poachers — before they kill [06/01/2018]
- A Tanzanian game reserve has successfully tested the TrailGuard cryptic camera and 24/7 electronic surveillance system to detect and capture wildlife poachers and their snares. - The system uses image recognition algorithms and real-time image transmission to help the often limited patrolling staff of many protected areas identify and respond to potential poachers along trails before they kill their target animals. - Despite some difficulties with installation and the algorithms, the TrailGuard units in Tanzania have photographed 40 reserve intruders, including poachers or trespassers, resulting in the arrests of 13 suspects. - The designers are currently developing a new, lower-cost version of the system to be built later this year that they expect will address the difficulties and be more widely available.
Latam Eco Review: Deforestation encircles Colombia’s Caquetá titi monkey [06/01/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of May 21-27. Among the top articles: deforestation is clearing the tiny habitat of Colombia’s Caquetá titi monkey. In other news, a court gives Peru’s health ministry 30 days for an emergency health plan for communities affected […]
Death by hippo poop: Scientists solve a fish massacre in the Mara River [05/30/2018]
- In the Mara River in Kenya, an overload of hippo feces can deplete the oxygen in the river water, resulting in mass fish die-offs downstream, a new study has found. - Hippo pools are not just oxygen-poor, but also full of ammonium, hydrogen sulfide, methane and carbon dioxide — byproducts of microbial metabolism, some of which are potentially toxic to fish, the researchers say. - When it rains heavily, the feces-laden, oxygen-poor water from the hippo pools gets flushed downstream, causing fish deaths. - These frequent fish-kill events provide a great resource for the scavenger community in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, and have likely shaped The Mara River’s ecosystem, scientists say.
Audio: Mexico’s ejidos find sustainability by including women and youth [05/30/2018]
- On today’s episode, a special report on the community-based conservation and agroforestry operations known as ejidos in Mexico. - Mongabay Newscast host Mike Gaworecki traveled to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in February to visit several ejidos in the states of Quintana Roo and Campeche. Ejidos are lands that are communally owned and operated as agroforestry operations, and they’ve proven to be effective at conserving forests while creating economic opportunities for the local rural communities who live and work on the land. - But ejidos have also faced a threat to their own survival over the past decade, as younger generations, seeing no place for themselves in the fairly rigid structure of ejido governance, have moved out of the communities in large numbers. At the same time, the lack of inclusion of women in the official decision-making bodies, known as ejidatario assemblies, has also posed a challenge.
Bolivia’s Madidi National Park home to world’s largest array of land life, survey finds [05/30/2018]
- A two-and-a-half-year biological survey of Madidi National Park in Bolivia added 1,382 species and subspecies of plants and animals to the list of those living in the park. - The team believes that 124 species and subspecies may be new to science. - WCS, the organization that led the study, said the 18,958-square-kilometer (7,320-square-mile) park is the world’s most biodiverse protected area.
There may be hope for the extremely rare ‘sneezing monkey,’ report finds [05/29/2018]
- In a new report, researchers have confirmed the presence of five subpopulations of the extremely rare Myanmar snub-nosed monkey: three in Myanmar and two in China. - Logging, proposed hydropower projects, road construction and hunting continue to threaten the species. - However, the creation of two new protected areas to safeguard the monkeys’ habitat, one each in Myanmar and China, as well as improved cross-border collaboration between the two countries is helping reduce the risk of extinction for the species, researchers say.
Geneticists: It’s time to mix the Sumatran rhino subspecies [05/29/2018]
- The Sumatran rhino populations living in Borneo and Sumatra have been genetically separated for hundreds of thousands of years. - The species as a whole has no more than 100 living individuals in the wild, and perhaps as few as 30. Another nine are in captivity. - In a recent study of Sumatran rhinos’ mitochondrial DNA, geneticists argue it’s time to combine the subspecies, despite the potential risks and drawbacks. - The question is given extra urgency with plans afoot to capture a female rhino in Indonesian Borneo.
Mining, erosion threaten Indian rhino haven [05/28/2018]
- India’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest population of the greater one-horned rhinoceros, is under great risk of losing its connectivity with the larger Karbi Anglong landscape due to mining, quarrying and river erosion, a new report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has warned. - The NTCA report and directive comes in response to a complaint filed by activist Rohit Choudhury alleging significant environmental degradation and habitat destruction in the foothills of Karbi Anglong, a prime elephant habitat during the flood season. - Illegal mining and stone crushing aside, the NTCA report highlighted river erosion as a “natural threat” to Kaziranga. But experts caution that erosion is a natural part of Kaziranga’s flood-plain ecology, and isn’t necessarily bad.
Biomass study finds people are wiping out wild mammals [05/28/2018]
- A team of scientists mined previous studies for estimates of the total mass of carbon found in each group of organisms on Earth as a way to measure relative biomass. - Plants house some 450 gigatons of the 550 gigatons — or about 80 percent — of the carbon found in all of Earth’s life-forms, the team found, and bacteria account for another 15 percent. - Humans represent just a hundredth of a percent of the Earth’s biomass, but we’ve driven down the biomass of land animals by 85 percent and marine mammals by about 80 percent since the beginning of the last major extinction about 50,000 years ago.
Palm oil certification? No silver bullet, but essential for sustainability (commentary) [05/25/2018]
- We need a global standard on what constitutes sustainable palm oil and a common system to implement it. Arriving at this consensus requires a convening body to connect every link in the palm oil supply chain, across different countries and jurisdictions. - A recent report from Changing Markets Foundation, released with additional comments by NGOs such as FERN, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Mighty Earth, and Friends of the Earth Netherlands, criticizes the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and proposes that certification standards are — as stated by the same NGOs — ‘holding back the progressive reform of the sector’ and may even be causing ‘active damage.’ - This report disregards some of the important realities in the industry and on the ground, and fails to offer practical solutions. Simply bashing certification because of its imperfections puts the advances made at risk, instead of helping develop standards and synergies that facilitate compliance across the global palm oil supply chain. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Latam Eco Review: Peru’s first environmental court [05/25/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of May 14 -20. Among the top articles: an environmental court seeks to stop environmental crimes in the most deforested region of Peru. In other news, with elections around the corner in Colombia, experts take a closer […]
Agroforestry gives Kenyan indigenous community a lifeline [05/24/2018]
- The Cherangani people of Kenya were for generations reliant on the forest for hunting, gathering and agroforestry — a way of life that was curtailed by the colonial government. - Today, Cherangani communities living on the edge of the forest have returned to their traditions, intercropping avocado, bean and coffee plants among trees that help reduce water runoff and soil erosion, and improve nutrient cycling. - The return to agroforestry has had wide-ranging benefits, from helping the communities improve their livelihoods, to minimizing human-animal conflicts by providing a buffer of fruit trees between the farms and forest. - The project has received $5 million in funding, which is expected to provide training to more than 2,000 households on forest conservation and agroforestry techniques.
Guardians of India’s rhinos find it takes a village to fight poachers [05/24/2018]
- Adjacent to an international border and with roads, a rail line and tea plantations within its boundaries, India’s Jaldapara National Park — home to more than 200 rhinos — is particularly vulnerable to poaching. - The forest department works closely with local residents to protect rhinos, and 40 percent of tourist revenues are earmarked to support community projects. - Forest department strategies range from rehabilitation of confessed poachers to joint exercises with the police and border patrol.
Chinese giant salamander is at least five species — all nearly extinct [05/24/2018]
- Scientists who spent four years surveying the Chinese giant salamander’s preferred river habitats across 97 counties in China spotted only 24 individuals at four sites. - None of the 24 individuals were “pure natural forms,” the researchers found, and were likely farm releases or escapees. - The Chinese giant salamander also represents not one but at least five different species-level lineages. However, the large extent of hybridization in these animals through farming could mean that these distinct lineages are already functionally extinct.
Making the most of conservation science (commentary) [05/23/2018]
- Increasing numbers of scientific papers on conservation are published every year, but for many people these remain inaccessible behind paywalls, difficult to locate in a vast ocean of research, or time-consuming to read. - There are increasing attempts to bring the evidence for particular questions together in digestible formats, such as systematic reviews or Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series. One such enterprise is the Conservation Evidence project, which assesses the evidence for the effectiveness of conservation interventions. - A new edition of the book ‘What Works in Conservation,’ produced by Conservation Evidence, is available and free to download. This book helps us to see which conservation interventions have been shown to work, which have been shown not to work, and where we need more evidence. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Hunters are wiping out hornbills in Ghana’s forests [05/23/2018]
- According to a new study, Ghana is losing hornbill species to “uncontrolled” hunting, mostly for meat, from its forested parks and reserves. - The researchers found that the five largest species of hornbills in the Bia Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have disappeared in recent decades. - The authors of the paper suggest that increased enforcement will help protect threatened hornbills, as well as other wildlife species, in areas under intense pressure from humans.
Trio of studies challenges Indian government claim of increasing forest cover [05/23/2018]
- Three studies published over the past seven months show that forest cover in India is declining, contrary to findings from the latest Forest Survey of India report. - One study found 16 to 30 percent forest loss in the eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, while another study found that the Eastern Ghats lost nearly 16 percent of their forest area between 1920 and 2015. - The third study, which analyzed patterns of forest cover across India from 2001 to 2014, found “significant negative changes” in the seasonal green cover, with the highest decline recorded in tropical moist deciduous forests.
Roads might pose even bigger threat to Southeast Asian forests, biodiversity than previously understood [05/22/2018]
- According to Alice Hughes, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Centre for Integrative Conservation, global analyses often underestimate levels of deforestation driven by road-building in the Indo-Malaysia region. This is because many of those analyses rely on a widely used global map of roads compiled by Open Street Maps (OSM) that misses as much as 99 percent of roads in parts of the region. - According to Hughes, this level of inaccuracy can have serious consequences: “Not only does it mean that any analysis based on global roads datasets will underestimate the level of fragmentation and overestimate the forest coverage of a region, but most forms of exploitation also occur within close proximity to a road.” - Increasing deforestation is not the only threat posed by opening new areas to roads. “These growing road networks provide accessibility for other forms of resource exploitation,” Hughes notes in the study. “Most notably this includes selective logging, and hunting, which in the Indo-Malay region also targets a vast suite of species as pets, medicine and meat.”
Fishing gear poses the greatest danger to young great whites off the West Coast of the U.S. [05/22/2018]
- Fishing lines and nets pose the most significant threat to the survival of young white sharks in the waters off Mexico and southern California, according to a new study. - A team of scientists used a relatively “untapped” but ubiquitous storehouse of data to develop a statistical model for the survival rates of juvenile white sharks. - The researchers calculated that 63 percent of young white sharks living in this part of the Pacific survive annually, but that nearly half probably come in contact with gillnets set by commercial fishers. - The findings point to best practices, such as barring gillnets from inshore “nurseries” and asking fishers to check their nets for trapped sharks more regularly, that could help protect great whites.
In unsuspecting Indian villages, the international rhino horn trade takes a toll [05/22/2018]
- The vast majority of villagers around India’s Jaldapara National Park live in harmony with the area’s wildlife, but a small minority get involved in rhino poaching. - Experts and former poachers say villagers are recruited by organized poaching syndicates. Locals serve as guides and lookouts, while syndicates arrange for the transport and sale of rhino horns. - From West Bengal, rhino horns are taken to India’s northeastern states and then across the border to Myanmar and eventually to China.
African vultures under the gun as lead ammunition takes a toll [05/22/2018]
- Fragments of lead ammunition in abandoned animal carcasses may be poisoning Africa’s vultures, a new study has found. - Researchers found elevated blood lead levels among vultures in hunting areas and during hunting season in Botswana. - This study adds to the growing evidence from around the world that identifies lead ammunition as a problem for a number of bird species. - South African hunters are sympathetic to vultures but oppose a total ban on lead ammunition, citing the cost and availability of lead-free alternatives.
Lessons for developing countries in expansion of Madagascar’s protected area network [05/21/2018]
- Between 2003 and 2016, protected area coverage in Madagascar was quadrupled, from 1.7 to 7.1 million hectares. Whereas most protected areas (PAs) established in Madagascar prior to 2003 were managed solely by the Malagasy government, post-2003 PAs adopted a variety of new management and governance systems. - The aggressive growth of Madagascar’s PA system and the diversity of approaches employed make for a particularly poignant case study, according to the authors of a recent paper published in the journal Biological Conservation that looks at what other developed countries can take away from Madagascar’s experience. - The researchers hope that the successes achieved and the challenges identified via their examination of Madagascar’s efforts to expand its PA system might help inform how global protected area coverage continues to expand.
Venezuela’s hungry hunt wildlife, zoo animals, as economic crisis grows [05/21/2018]
- Venezuela is suffering a disastrous economic crisis. With inflation expected to hit 13,000 percent in 2018, there has been a collapse of agricultural productivity, commercial transportation and other services, which has resulted in severe food shortages. As people starve, they are increasingly hunting wildlife, and sometimes zoo animals. - Reports from the nation’s zoos say that animals are emaciated, with keepers sometimes forced to feed one form of wildlife to another, just to keep some animals alive. There have also been reports of mammals and birds being stolen from zoo collections. Zoos have reached out to Venezuelans, seeking donations to help feed their wild animals. - The economic crisis makes scientific data gathering difficult, but a significant uptick in the harvesting of Guiana dolphin, known locally as tonina, has been observed. The dolphin is protected from commercial trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). - The grisly remains of hunted pink flamingos have been found repeatedly on Lake Maracaibo. Also within the estuary, there has also been a rise in the harvesting of sea turtle species, including the vulnerable leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and the critically endangered hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).
Online network seeks to boost international collaboration against wildlife trafficking in Central Africa [05/21/2018]
- The Africa-TWIX (Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange) platform facilitates collaboration to help Central African enforcement agencies implement wildlife trade laws and treaties. - The platform’s secure mailing list and database allow enforcement officials from five countries to share materials and data that enhance cross-border collaboration. - The sharing of experiences, data and best practices among police, inspectors, prosecutors, judges, and customs officials is expected to help enhance their respective abilities to better fight wildlife crime.
Tiny marsupials that practice ‘suicidal’ mating declared endangered [05/21/2018]
- On May 11, the Australian government officially declared two species of recently described antechinuses, a mouse-like marsupial, as endangered. - The species are famed for their marathon mating sessions that leave the males so exhausted that they die. - Both species occur only in high-altitude forests, and are threatened by climate change, habitat loss and threats from feral cats, cattle and horses.
TV host Ellen DeGeneres to visit Rwanda in mountain gorilla conservation effort [05/18/2018]
- Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year established a fund that will finance the building of a campus in Rwanda to support conservation and protection efforts for the critically endangered mountain gorilla. - The campus is being built in collaboration with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and DeGeneres is scheduled to visit the site in the Virunga Mountains next week. - The initiative has been welcomed by conservationists and Rwandan government officials, and has received financial support and endorsements from prominent figures in Hollywood.
Kenyan reserve’s tourism monitoring app builds revenue and transparency [05/18/2018]
- Wardens at Kenya’s Mara Conservancy solved a revenue loss problem by teaming up with their revenue management company to create a smartphone app that lets them check tourists’ ticket and payment status by entering the vehicle license plate numbers. - Obtaining up-to-date information about the tourists and the validity of their ticket from their patrol car saves the rangers time and avoids their having to interrupt a group’s safari. - The rangers address any discrepancies first with the tour guide and involve tourists only as a last resort, which has nearly eliminated cheating and enabled the Reserve to boost the revenue it retains.
How an island of mice is changing what we know about evolution [05/17/2018]
- Researchers have identified the smallest-known island where multiple species of mammals evolved from a single founding species. The Philippine island of Mindoro is the size of Yellowstone National Park and host to four species of earthworm mice. - Genetic analysis indicates all members from these four species descended from just a few individuals that rafted to Mindoro from a neighboring island millions of years ago. - Three of the species are endemic to Mindoro, and the researchers believe they evolved on different mountains. The study’s findings highlight the pivotal role mountains can play in speciation, and provide evidence that evolution can occur even in small areas. - The researchers say this underlines the importance of protected areas not just for species preservation, but for species emergence as well. The apparent success of such a small founding population may also give hope for species currently hovering on the precipice of extinction.
Humans are leaving their mark on the world’s protected areas, study finds [05/17/2018]
- About one-third of the world’s total protected area — around 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) — bears the scars of substantial degradation at the hands of humans, according to research published in the journal Science. - The researchers found that large parks and reserves held to the toughest standards are doing significantly better than those with laxer controls. - The authors argue that assessments of the effectiveness of protected areas should be considered, especially as governments try to meet one of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets calling for protecting 17 percent of the Earth’s land area by 2020.
Will China’s new ban on the ivory trade help or hurt? (Commentary) [05/16/2018]
- At the end of 2017, China announced that it had closed down the domestic legal trade in ivory, to global acclaim. - The new ban represents all the makings of excellent global public relations, but conservationist Karl Amman asks whether it will do more harm than good for elephants without effective enforcement. - The post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Rainbow’ chameleon among three new species described from Madagascar [05/16/2018]
- Researchers discovered the brilliantly colored rainbow chameleon, now named Calumma uetzi, during an expedition to the remote Sorata massif in northern Madagascar in 2012. - Over surveys between 2015 and 2016, the researchers found another new species of chameleon, now dubbed Calumma juliae, in a 15-square-kilometer patch of forest. The researchers were unable to find any males of this species. - They also found only a single male specimen of the third new chameleon species, Calumma lefona, spotted in Andrevorevo in northern Madagascar.
Sifaka lemurs listed as “critically endangered” amid mysterious die-off [05/15/2018]
- In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in Berenty Reserve near Madagascar’s southern tip. - It’s one of the largest lemur die-offs scientists can remember. - Experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown. - At a large IUCN meeting held last week in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, primate specialists decided to uplist all nine sifaka species from endangered to critically endangered.
Typo derails landmark ruling against Indonesian palm oil firm guilty of burning peatland [05/15/2018]
- A district court in Indonesia has shielded an oil palm company from a Supreme Court ruling ordering it to pay $26.5 million in fines for burning peatlands in a high-biodiversity area, citing a typo in the original prosecution. - The verdict has stunned activists, who had hoped that the original guilty verdict would set a strong precedent for the judicial fight against environmental crimes. - The government is appealing the latest ruling, which, ironically, is fraught with typos that — under the same legal logic — would render it just as invalid as the original guilty verdict.
Audio: Sylvia Earle on why we must act now to save the oceans [05/15/2018]
- On today’s episode, renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle joins us for an in-depth conversation about marine conservation. - Legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, sometimes known as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A documentary film about her work called Mission Blue won a 2015 News & Documentary Emmy. - She joins us today to discuss how effective marine protected areas are at conserving the oceans and their inhabitants, her Hope Spots program that is identifying some of the most valuable marine environments on the planet, and the latest advances in marine conservation that she is most hopeful about.
Scientists highlight 9 potentially new reef fish species off West Papua [05/14/2018]
- Scientists in Indonesia may have discovered nine new reef fish species in the waters off West Papua province. - The discovery highlights the importance of protecting the region’s marine ecosystem for its vast and rich biodiversity. - However, the researchers also found indications of blast fishing in the protected areas, and have called for sustainable management of the ecosystem.
Longest recorded whale shark migration eclipses 20,000 kilometers [05/14/2018]
- Scientists followed the movements of a whale shark for nearly two and a half years as she swam more than 20,000 kilometers (over 12,000 miles) from the coast of Central America to the Marianas Trench near Asia. - Whale sharks, whose numbers have dropped by more than half in the past 75 years according to the IUCN, are taken by fishing boats for their fins, cartilage, meat and teeth, and studies have shown that boats bringing tourists to swim with the largest fish in the ocean change the species’ behavior. - Given these threats, scientists hope studies such as this one will help guide conservation policy aimed at protecting these animals throughout their migrations.
Report unmasks indiscriminate killer of elephants: poaching not for ivory, but for skin [05/14/2018]
- Myanmar has seen an increase in the number of elephants killed over the past several years, with some of the carcasses found skinned. - A report by the U.K.-based conservation group Elephant Family has identified growing demand for elephant skin products from Myanmar’s giant neighbor, China, which it blames for driving elephant poaching in the Southeast Asian country. - Conservationists are calling on the Myanmar government to boost law enforcement, beef up forest patrols, and increase conservation outreach and awareness on elephants in the country. - Warning: Some images may be disturbing or graphic.
Scientists find ‘ground zero’ of deadly frog pandemic [05/11/2018]
- First observed by scientists in the 1970s, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) had spread around the world by the early 2000s. The fungus kills frogs by colonizing their skin and impairing their ability to absorb water and electrolytes. - By 2007, Bd infection had led to the decline or extinction of around 200 species of frogs, and today is considered one of the biggest single threats to amphibians worldwide. - For a new study, researchers genetically analyzed hundreds of Bd samples; their results suggest that the fungus is from the Korean peninsula and began spreading between 50-120 years ago with the expansion of international trade. - The researchers say the pet trade needs much stronger regulations if the spread of Bd – as well as the emerging salamander-killing fungus B. salamandrivorans – is to be stopped before it causes more devastation.
A boon for birds: Once overlooked, China’s mudflats gain protections [05/11/2018]
- The shoreline of the Yellow Sea has been transformed dramatically over the last half-century as mudflats have been filled in with rock and soil, replacing dynamic, natural tidal zones with solid ground for ports, chemical plants and farmland. - Losing the intertidal flats has proved devastating for the millions of shorebirds that funnel through the Yellow Sea during migration. - In January, the Chinese government announced a sweeping package of reforms aimed at ending much of the land reclamation taking place on the mudflats. - “Stunned joy” is how one bird conservationist described her reaction to news of the reforms, which she said could avert one of the biggest extinction crises facing migratory birds — if they work.
Latam Eco Review: Colombia’s last nomadic tribe faces extinction [05/11/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 30 – May 6. Among the top articles: more than 20 families of the last nomadic indigenous peoples of Colombia face a serious food crisis. In other news, a new app allows fisherfolk and others […]
Tanzania’s Maasai losing ground to tourism in the name of conservation, investigation finds [05/11/2018]
- An investigation by the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, has turned up allegations that the government of Tanzania is sidelining the country’s Maasai population in favor of tourism. - The government and some foreign investors worry that the Maasai, semi-nomadic herders who have lived in the Rift Valley for centuries, are degrading parts of the Serengeti ecosystem. - The authors of the Oakland Institute’s report argue that approaches aimed at conservation should focus on the participation and engagement of Maasai communities rather than their removal from lands to be set aside for high-end tourism.
New species of shrew discovered on a single mountaintop in the Philippines [05/11/2018]
- The newly described Palawanosorex muscorum, or the Palawan moss shrew, is known to live only near the peak of Mount Mantalingajan on Palawan Island in the southern Philippines. - The shrew has a stout body and broad forefeet with long claws, which it uses to dig through humus on the forest floor to look for earthworms. - The moss shrew has no close known relatives in Asia, and how it came to live on Mount Mantalingajan is a mystery, researchers say.
Sumatran habitat for tigers, orangutans gets a partial reprieve from development [05/10/2018]
- The Aceh provincial government has vowed to protect Gunung Leuser National Park, the core part of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, by canceling infrastructure projects in the park. - However, questions linger over the future of the remaining part of the wider ecosystem, where planned infrastructure projects remain unaffected by the latest pledge. - Activists have called on the provincial government to recognize the wider Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh’s spatial plans so that the region is excluded from any infrastructure development that could threaten the habitat of the many endangered species living there.
Can India’s ‘People’s Forest’ also serve as a haven for rhinos? [05/10/2018]
- Jadav Payeng, India’s “Forest Man,” transformed a barren island in Assam state into a 550-hectare (1,360-acre) forest that hosts rare species including rhinos, tigers and elephants. - Some conservationists fear that the animals living on the island are vulnerable to poaching, since the forest lacks formal protected status and therefore is not allotted official forest guards. - Payeng, however, resists seeking formal protected status for the forest, fearing it would limit local peoples’ access to the forest’s resources.
Wildlife decimated by the surge in conflicts in the Sahara and the Sahel [05/09/2018]
- An escalation in the number of conflicts across the Sahara and the Sahel in Africa is driving down numbers of the region’s wildlife, a new study finds. - The authors found that the number of conflicts in the region has risen by 565 percent since 2011. - At the same time, 12 species of vertebrate have either gone extinct or are much closer to extinction as a result of conflicts in the region.
Indonesian activists protest China-funded dam in orangutan habitat [05/09/2018]
- The Chinese government plans to fund a massive hydroelectric power dam in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra, Indonesia, where the newly described Tapanuli orangutan lives. - Activists staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta on May 8, coinciding with a state visit by Premier Li Keqiang, to condemn Beijing’s involvement in the project. - In a letter submitted by the demonstrators to the embassy, they demanded China withdraw its support for the project due to the massive environmental threats posed by the endeavor.
South Georgia declared ‘rat-free’ in largest-ever rodent eradication program [05/09/2018]
- Ships of sealers and whalers arriving on South Georgia brought with them rats and mice that spread over much of the island, eating eggs and chicks of the native birds. - To counter the problem of invasive rats, the South Georgia Heritage Trust launched a $13.5 million rodent eradication operation in 2011, using helicopters to drop poisoned bait in every part of the island that could be infested with rodents. - In the final phase of monitoring that concluded in April this year — a six-month survey that included three trained sniffer dogs — the SGHT team found no signs of rats or mice.
Pleistocene climates help scientists pick out targets for conservation in Brazil’s forests [05/08/2018]
- A team of scientists looked for places in the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest that have had stable weather patterns for a long time — going back to the Pleistocene Epoch — but that don’t fall within the boundaries of existing parks or reserves. - They measured the efficiency of the current network of protected areas in these areas, and they also came up with a prioritization scale for conservation efforts that incorporated the locations of intact forest landscapes. - The team reports that protected areas in the Amazon are four times as efficient at safeguarding these “climatically stable areas” as protected areas in the Atlantic Forest.
Humpback whales near Antarctica making a comeback, study finds [05/08/2018]
- Humpback whales living around the Western Antarctic Peninsula seem to be recovering rapidly, indicated by females showing high pregnancy rates, a new study has found. - Researchers also found a high proportion of females that are both lactating and pregnant, which is a sign that the humpback whale population there is growing. - So far, changing climate in the Western Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for the humpbacks because of more ice-free days and more access to food. But long-term trends of climate change may be more problematic, the researchers write.
Pangolins on the brink as Africa-China trafficking persists unabated [05/08/2018]
- Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, with more than a million snatched from the wild in the past decade, according to IUCN estimates. The four Asian species have been hunted nearly to extinction, while the four African species are being poached in record numbers. - The illegal trade largely goes to China and other East Asian nations, where pangolin meat is an expensive delicacy served to flaunt wealth and influence. Pangolin is also a preferred ingredient in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa. Traditional healers in Sierra Leone use pangolin to treat 59 medical conditions, though there is no evidence of efficacy. - In 2016, pangolins were given the highest level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty signed by 183 nations. But laws and enforcement in African nations, along illegal trade routes, and in Asia continue to be weak, with conservationists working hard to strengthen them. - Pangolins don’t thrive in captivity, but the Tikki Hywood Foundation in Zimbabwe and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife have succeeded in rescuing confiscated pangolins and restoring them to the wild. Six U.S. zoos are trying to raise pangolins as part of the controversial Pangolin Consortium project — only 29 of 45 imported individuals remain alive.
Crisis in Venezuela: Caparo Experimental Station invaded by 200 farmers [05/07/2018]
- The Caparo Forest Reserve in Barinas state, Venezuela, created in 1961, covers almost 175,000 hectares (432,000 acres). The Caparo Experimental Station, located within the reserve, encompasses 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) and has been under the administration of the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) since 1982 for scientific research and education. - The reserve has been heavily degraded in past decades, as farmers intruded and burned forest to make way for crops. But the Experimental Station’s forest has remained mostly intact. In January, 200 members of the 777 Christ Ambassadors Cooperative (Cooperativa Embajadores de Cristo 777) invaded the Experimental Station. Mongabay reports from the scene. - The intruders claim to have a legitimate permit for the tract. But the courts have nullified that permit and ordered an eviction. The National Guard failed to remove the invaders, so in April on a visit to the site, the Ecosocialism minister promised the settlers new land elsewhere. At the start of May, the squatters remained in place in an apparent standoff. - The ULA is concerned about the threat the invasion poses to one of the last major surviving tracts of Colombian-Venezuelan lowland forest. The ULA continues seeking the community’s eviction, with a series of protests by academics and NGOs scheduled for May in Caracas. The groups are asking that the Caparo Reserve and Experimental Station are given national park status.
Black rhinos return to Zakouma National Park in Chad [05/07/2018]
- The NGO African Parks and its partners in South Africa and Chad reintroduced six black rhinos to Zakouma National Park on May 4. - Chad’s oldest national park had not had rhinos since the early 1970s, when they were wiped out by hunting. - After a brief acclimation period in transitional bomas, or enclosures, the rhinos will be released into a protected sanctuary in the park. - Around 5,000 black rhinos remain on the African continent, and poaching for their horns, used in traditional Asian medicine, continues to be a threat to their survival as a species.
Latam Eco review: An Andean condor chooses her own protected area in Ecuador [05/04/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of April 16 – 22. Among the top articles: Colombian activist Francia Márquez receives the Goldman Prize and Peruvian biologist Kerstin Forsberg wins the Whitley Award. And in Ecuador, a condor’s flight demarcates a protected area. The […]
India’s foxes and monkeys are dumpster diving and eating food scraps [05/04/2018]
- In Spiti Valley in northern India, red foxes can be seen rummaging through kitchen waste. Such dumpster diving could potentially bring wild animals in close proximity to humans and increase conflict, researchers say. - Increasing reliance of wild animals on food waste could affect other ecological processes. - In the state of West Bengal, for example, some troops of rhesus macaques spend most of their time “begging or chasing” tourists for food. These troops, unlike the forest-dwelling ones, contribute very little to the dispersal of seeds, researchers have found.
Indonesia cites twisted bowel in death of Javan rhino [05/04/2018]
- Last month, rangers in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park found an adult male rhino dead on a beach. - A necropsy determined the rhino’s death was due to complications from a twisted bowel, putting to rest fears of poaching or contagion. - Despite the death, the Javan rhino population has shown stable growth with the birth of two calves earlier this year, putting the tally at minimum 68 individuals.
There is still a chance to save the Sumatran rhino (commentary) [05/03/2018]
- In 2017, rhino experts from around the world and government officials reached a consensus that saving the Sumatran rhino requires the capture and consolidation of remaining wild populations in intensively managed captive breeding facilities. - A female rhino has been identified for immediate capture in Indonesian Borneo. - In this commentary, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader Margaret Kinnaird and IUCN Species Survival Commission Chair Jon Paul Rodriguez say that local and international conservation groups are ready to support the Indonesian government’s efforts to save the Sumatran rhino through captive breeding and release into safe sites. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Rarest’ ape’s path to survival blocked by roads, dams and agriculture [05/03/2018]
- According to a new study, the Tapanuli orangutan, one of only seven species of non-human great ape alive today, faces serious threats to its survival as infrastructure development and agriculture threaten more than one-quarter of its habitat. - In November, a team of scientists reported that a new species of orangutan living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra was distinct from Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. - They believe that fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans survive. - Conservationists and scientists warn that a proposed 510-megawatt hydroelectric dam could push the new species closer to extinction.
Australia to invest $379 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef [05/03/2018]
- Australia is set to invest more than 500 million Australian dollars ($379 million) in funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef. - The investment will help restore water quality, tackle crown-of-thorns starfish attacks on coral, and fund research on coral resilience and adaptation. - Some critics are, however, concerned that the funding aims to target strategies that have already being tried in the past, and have seen limited success.
Sending a message about rhino conservation in Nepal [05/02/2018]
- Since 2011, Nepal has recorded five 365-day periods without any rhinos poached, despite its proximity to the key rhino-horn markets of Vietnam and China. - Experts say strategic communications have been an important tool in this conservation success. - The communications strategies used involve not just getting out the word about conservation successes through new and old media, but also seeking ideas and feedback from local communities.
More than 800 totoaba swim bladders confiscated by Mexican authorities in smuggling busts [05/01/2018]
- In two separate arrests of Chinese nationals, Mexican police confiscated more than 800 swim bladders from a large fish called the totoaba. - Totoaba swim bladders are used in traditional medicine and can fetch thousands of dollars per kilogram in Chinese markets. - Fishing for totoaba has also pushed a small porpoise called the vaquita close to extinction. One recent estimate puts the number of animals left in the wild at 12.
Audio: Seabird secrets revealed by bioacoustics in New Zealand [05/01/2018]
- Megan Friesen is a behavioral ecologist who is currently working with the Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust to examine the breeding behaviors of a Pacific seabird species called Buller’s shearwater. - In this Field Notes segment, Friesen explains why bioacoustics are so important to the research she and the Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust are doing, and plays recordings of the birds from both of the islands where it breeds. - Plus the top news and inspiration from nature’s frontline!
First record of ultrasound communication in the mysterious Sunda colugo [05/01/2018]
- Until recently, the Sunda colugo was known to only produce calls in the audible range. But scientists have now published the first-ever record of these animals producing ultrasound calls in the Penang Hill forests of Malaysia. - Overall, the researchers recorded colugo ultrasound calls 16 times and spotted seven individuals likely associated with those calls. - The team has yet to determine the purpose of the ultrasound calls.
New species of Malaysian water beetle named after Leonardo DiCaprio [04/30/2018]
- A new species of water beetle has been named after actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. - The species was discovered in Borneo during a survey organized by Taxon Expeditions, which sets up trips for citizen scientists to discover undescribed species. - The discoverers chose to honor DiCaprio for his support of environmental causes.
‘We are going to self-destruct’: Development plans threaten Malaysian island [04/30/2018]
- The Langkawi archipelago off Malaysia’s northwest coast is made up of more than 100 islands, including the main island – the country’s third largest. For years a well-kept secret of pristine beaches, unspoilt rainforest and unique limestone outcrops, tourism began to take off in the 1990s after the island was declared duty free and luxury resorts began to open. - Some 3.5 million people visited Langkawi last year. Now the authorities want even more – 5.5 million by 2020 – and have ambitious plans to transform the island with high-rise hotels and apartments, coastal roads on reclaimed land, and other trappings of a 21st century tourist destination. - But critics say little has been done to upgrade the island’s basic infrastructure – sewage systems, water supply, and waste management – adding to the strain on an already fragile environment.
First increase in Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins in 20 years [04/30/2018]
- Numbers of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin in the Mekong River have risen from 80 in 2015 to 92 in 2017, according to WWF-Cambodia. - The WWF team has found other signs of improvements in the Mekong dolphin population, including more dolphins surviving into adulthood, increase in the number of dolphin calves, and a drop in dolphin deaths. - These improvements are largely due to more effective patrolling by river guards, and increasing awareness about the dolphins among local communities, WWF said.
Pesticides banned by EU for their potential harm to bees [04/30/2018]
- The EU will ban three commonly used pesticides by the end of 2018 in a bid to protect bee populations. - A committee passed the measure with a majority vote after research emerged earlier this year demonstrating that each compound posed a threat to wild bees and honeybees (Apis mellifera), whose pollination services are critical for crop production. - Environmental and consumer groups applauded the decision. - But several groups representing farmers voiced concerns about how effectively the measure would improve bee health, as well as the difficulty its passage posed to farmers who depend on using these pesticides.
More gorillas and chimpanzees living in Central Africa’s forests than thought [04/27/2018]
- A study led by WCS researchers pulled together wildlife survey data collected between 2003 and 2013 at 59 sites in five countries across western Central Africa. - They then developed mathematical models to understand where the highest densities of gorillas and chimpanzees are and why, as well as broader trends in the populations. - They found that more than 361,000 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and almost 129,000 central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) inhabit these forests — about 30 percent more gorillas and 10 percent more chimpanzees than previously estimated. - The team’s analyses also demonstrate that western lowland gorilla numbers are slipping by 2.7 percent a year.
Photos: Meet the 2018 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [04/27/2018]
- The six winners of 2018 Whitley Award are Munir Virani of Kenya; Shahriar Caesar Rahman of Bangladesh; Kerstin Forsberg of Peru; Dominique Bikaba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Anjali Chandraraj Watson of Sri Lanka; and Olivier Nsengimana of Rwanda. - Each recipient was awarded £40,000 ($56,000) in project funding over one year at an awards ceremony held at the Royal Geographic Society in London, U.K., on April 25. - A seventh conservationist, Pablo “Popi” Garcia Borboroglu from Argentina, who won the Whitley Award in 2010, received the Whitley Gold Award for his commitment to safeguarding the world’s penguin species.
‘Shocking and worrying’: Selective logging has big, lasting impact on fish [04/26/2018]
- A new study finds nearly as few fish species in selectively logged forests as they did in forests clear-cut for plantations. Both selectively logged and clear-cut areas had around half the number fish species present in protected, intact forests. - These findings run counter to conventional wisdom that holds selective logging is not as ecologically destructive as complete deforestation. - The study also found a similar number of fish species in streams in oil palm plantations with and without remnant forest buffers, which are often mandated in the hopes of safeguarding biodiversity. - The study’s authors say their findings underline the importance of protecting remaining primary forest.
Signoff on rhino sperm transfer between Indonesia, Malaysia expected mid-May: Official [04/26/2018]
- Indonesia has sent a memorandum of understanding to the Malaysian government regarding the transfer of sperm for use in a captive-breeding attempt, an official confirmed to Mongabay on April 26. - Hoping the sperm can be used to fertilize Malaysia’s last remaining female Sumatran rhino, conservationists have been awaiting permission for the transfer for years. - Herry Subagiadi, secretary to the conservation director at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, says he expects Malaysia to sign the agreement in mid-May. - Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, with just nine living in captivity in Indonesia and Malaysia, and as few as 30 surviving in the wild.
Two newborn Javan rhinos spotted on camera in Indonesian park [04/26/2018]
- Officials from Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park announced Thursday that two new Javan rhino calves were born this year. - An adult male, estimated to be around 30 years old, was found dead in the park this week. Officials have found no indication the death was due to poaching, poison or acute infection. - Ujung Kulon is the sole remaining habitat of the species. With two births and one death, the official population estimate now stands at 68.
Better than bottled: How a Dutch company uses bison to maintain pure drinking water [04/26/2018]
- Water companies in the Netherlands have introduced bison and other large grazers to the dunelands from which they draw water to serve more than 4 million customers. - The grazers keep tree and shrub growth in check and allow the dune ecosystem, home to 50 percent of the country’s biodiversity, to reach optimal ecological health. - The reintroduction of the bison, which has been extinct in the Netherlands for thousands of years, also gives conservationists new insights into the management of the iconic species outside of forests.
‘Monumental’ bust in Madagascar triggers effort to save thousands of endangered tortoises [04/25/2018]
- Authorities discovered 9,888 starving and dehydrated radiated tortoises in a vacant house in southwestern Madagascar on April 10. - Since then, a team of organizations led by the Turtle Survival Alliance has been working to provide care for the critically endangered tortoises, 574 of which died during the first week. - The tortoises, endemic to Madagascar, have lost around 40 percent of their habitat to deforestation, and poachers commonly capture them for the pet trade in Asia and the United States.
In the Canary Islands, a good seed disperser is hard to find [04/25/2018]
- Researchers have found that the bigger lizards of the Canary Islands are better seed dispersers than smaller ones. - But habitat loss and invasive species have threatened the islands’ lizards, with large specimens increasingly hard to come by. - Successive generations of lizards are getting smaller in size, making scientists fear for native plants’ survival.
New species of superb bird-of-paradise has special dance moves [04/25/2018]
- Until recently, researchers thought that the island of New Guinea was home to a single species of the superb bird-of-paradise, the bird with the now-famous “smiley face” dance routine. - Now, researchers have confirmed yet another species of the superb bird-of-paradise in the Indonesian Bird’s Head or Vogelkop region of the island, called the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise. - The males of the two species have different dance moves and calls, and the females look different too, researchers have found.
Restoring flagging oil palm plantations to forest may benefit clouded leopards, study finds [04/24/2018]
- A team of biologists fitted four clouded leopards in the Kinabatangan region of Malaysian Borneo with satellite collars, and they gathered several months of data on the animals’ movements. - They found that the cats stuck to areas with canopy cover, and they avoided land cleared for oil palm. - Converting underperforming oil palm plantations back to forest could help the clouded leopard population with minimal impact on the state’s production of palm oil, the authors predict.
China’s Belt and Road poised to transform the Earth, but at what cost? [04/24/2018]
- With its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its embrace of international trade tariffs, the Trump administration has pulled back from the U.S. commitment to, and once powerful position in, the Asian sphere of influence. - China is aggressively working to fill that void. One of its key strategies for leveraging its economic and geopolitical power is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a nearly trillion dollar transportation and energy infrastructure construction juggernaut – a vast program launched in 2013 and not due for completion until 2049. - The BRI is the largest infrastructure initiative in human history, and includes the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land transportation route running from China to Southern Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting the port of Shanghai to Venice, Italy, via India and Africa. - The potential environmental impacts of the mega-construction program could be severe, warn analysts. China has committed to BRI environmental and sustainability standards, at least on paper, but the sheer size of the initiative, along with China’s past environmental record and its autocratic institutions, are cause for deep concern.
Sumatran tiger blamed for killing two people is captured alive after marathon hunt [04/24/2018]
- Authorities in Indonesia have captured alive a critically endangered Sumatran tiger blamed for the deaths of two people in an oil palm plantation. - The tiger has been moved to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will undergo medical tests ahead of being released back into the wild. - The capture averts a repeat of a near-identical case in March, in which villagers killed and mutilated a tiger blamed for attacking two members of a hunting party. - The whole incident, which an official described as the longest ever search-and-rescue operation for a Sumatran tiger, has highlighted the importance of protecting wildlife habitats, which often are lost to plantations or human settlements, driving the animals into conflict with people.
Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy. - We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ. - Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback. - We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.
Camera trap videos capture biodiversity of conservation area in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula [04/23/2018]
- Many ejidos, such as Ejido Caoba in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula, run sustainable forestry enterprises on their land, harvesting and selling wood for the benefit of the entire community and replanting the trees they cut down in order to ensure the health of the ecosystem as a whole. - One way to measure how well an ecosystem has been maintained is through the levels of biodiversity the land is capable of sustaining — and by that measure, Ejido Caoba’s efforts to preserve the ecosystem appear to be quite successful, as the camera trap videos below suggest. - After this year’s harvest of timber and non-timber forest products comes to an end, the ejido will once again install the camera traps in harvest areas in order to continue monitoring wildlife populations on their land. But for now, you can enjoy these videos captured in November and December 2017.
New short film captures rare spider monkey feeding behavior (commentary) [04/23/2018]
- A new short film captures rarely seen footage of endangered spider monkeys feeding at a mammal clay lick in the remote Peruvian Amazon. - A Rainforest Reborn, a short documentary by filmmaker Eilidh Munro, was captured in the Crees Reserve, a regenerating rainforest within the Manu Biosphere Reserve, giving us hope that endangered species can return to previously disturbed forests. - In this commentary, the filmmaker, Eilidh Munro, talks about the difficulties of filming spider monkeys in a rainforest and the importance of this story for conservation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study [04/23/2018]
- In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality. - As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals. - The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.
Bornean bantengs feeling the heat in logged forests, study finds [04/20/2018]
- A recent study shows that Bornean bantengs in recently logged forests in Malaysia’s Sabah state have become less active during the daytime in response to the hotter temperatures brought on by there being fewer trees providing shade. - Banteng herds living in forests with more regrowth continue to be active throughout the day as they have more shade and refuge. - The paper’s researchers suggest that steps must be taken to reduce the stress upon bantengs, such as limiting disturbance during key times of activity and maintaining blocks of mature forest.
Latam Eco review: Colombian reserves fail large vertebrates [04/20/2018]
Below are summaries of the most read stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 9 – 15. The top two articles reported on high expectations for Peru’s new environmental minister, and the two sides of Colombian conservation, from a history of great success to threats to its most iconic […]
New species of ‘exploding ant’ discovered in Borneo [04/19/2018]
- Researchers have revealed a new species of exploding ant, which they discovered living in the rainforest canopy of Brunei on the island of Borneo. - Named Colobopsis explodens, the new ant ruptures its abdomen when threatened, killing itself in the process. This rupturing releases a sticky, yellow, toxic goo that has a spicy smell. - The researchers expect more exploding ant species will be described in the near future.
Half a ton of pangolin scales seized on the way to Asia from Benin [04/19/2018]
- More than 500 kilograms of pangolin scales were confiscated at the Cotonou airport in Benin on March 19. - Three people suspected of trying to smuggle 23 bags of scales, used in traditional medicine in Asia, were arrested on their way to Vietnam. - Research indicates that a hunter captures a pangolin in the wild once every five minutes, adding up to more than a million taken over the past 10 years.
Scientists stumble upon hundreds of octopus moms in the deep sea [04/19/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a large nursery of octopus mothers some 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) deep in the Pacific Ocean. - The octopuses are an unknown species of the genus Muusoctopus, a group of deep-sea octopuses generally known to lead solitary lives. - The octopuses and their eggs will likely not survive, researchers say, because the animals are exposed to warmer temperatures than they are used to. - But the presence of this large, “suicidal” population of octopuses suggests that there must be many more octopuses living in cooler, more livable crevices on the seafloor, researchers add.
Conservationist known as a caretaker for Kenya’s orphaned elephants dies at 83 [04/18/2018]
- Conservationist Daphne Sheldrick died of breast cancer on April 12, according to the conservation organization she founded. - Born in Kenya, she spent her life working to care for orphaned elephants in Kenya and fighting to save the species through her advocacy. - She started the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, named for her husband, in 1977. - The organization runs an orphan elephant project, as well as de-snaring and veterinary care teams.
‘Boom and bust’ cycle of deep-sea trawling unsustainable, study finds [04/18/2018]
- Researchers have built a global picture of deep-sea fish catches from bottom trawling from 1950 to 2015. - Deep-sea trawling can be extremely destructive for fish populations, while providing minimal economic benefits, the study found. - Researchers also found that large quantities of fish caught in the deep sea go unreported.
Suspected poisoning takes down 11 lions in Uganda park [04/17/2018]
- Eight cubs and three female lions have been found dead, apparently from eating poisoned meat in Queen Elizabeth National Park. - Lions, along with other predators, have been in decline across Uganda since the 1970s. - Recent studies indicate that the country’s growing human population has driven lions out of their former habitats and that the big cats are killed to defend the livestock of local communities.
Dogs in India are a problem for wildlife, study finds [04/16/2018]
- India is home to an estimated 60 million dogs, the fourth highest in the world. - In a pan-India online survey, people reported domestic dogs attacking 80 species of Indian wildlife, of which 31 are listed under a threatened category on the IUCN Red List. - Some experts have called for rethinking both dog population management and dog ownership policies in India, and addressing the threat of dogs as a conservation problem for wildlife.
Population of world’s rarest giant turtle rises to 4 with new discovery [04/13/2018]
- Some experts have now confirmed the presence of a Yangtze giant softshell turtle in Vietnam, increasing the total known population of the turtle to four individuals. - Researchers matched environmental DNA collected from water samples from Xuan Khanh Lake in Vietnam to known samples from the species, and confirmed that the giant turtle living in the lake was most likely the Yangtze giant softshell turtle. - Threats remain for the recently identified Yangtze giant softshell turtle. Xuan Khanh Lake is not protected, and commercial fishing is allowed there.
Global warming may poison monarch butterflies, study finds [04/12/2018]
- Monarch numbers have plummeted in recent decades and scientists think it’s due in large part to the reduction of milkweed in the U.S. and Canada from increased herbicide use, as well as deforestation of monarch overwintering grounds in Mexico. - A recently published study finds a new threat: warming temperatures may be making milkweed, the only plant monarch caterpillars can eat, too toxic for the butterflies. - The researchers estimate that at current warming rates in the southern U.S., tropical milkweed will be too toxic for monarchs within 40 years. - Monarchs prefer tropical milkweed to native species and the plant is now widespread throughout the southern U.S.
India’s new forest policy draft draws criticism for emphasis on industrial timber [04/12/2018]
- The Draft National Forest Policy 2018 is now open for public comments, and will replace the older 1988 policy once it comes into force. - Critics are apprehensive about how the draft policy deals with community participation and industrial forestry. - The current draft is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions, some experts say.
List of 100 most unique and endangered reptiles released [04/11/2018]
- Zoological Society of London has released a list of the 100 Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered Reptiles. - Using a formula published in a PLOS ONE Study, each species receives a score that takes into account how evolutionarily unusual it is as well as its risk for extinction. - ZSL hopes these rankings will provide a scientifically rigorous and standardized method to assign conservation priority to vanishing species.
Wildlife trade detective Samuel Wasser receives prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal [04/11/2018]
- Samuel K. Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington, U.S., has pioneered ways of using DNA from animal feces to track wildlife poachers. - In recognition of his achievements, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has honored Wasser with the Albert Schweitzer Medal, an award that “recognizes outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.” - In a brief Q&A, Wasser told Mongabay that it was “heartening” to win the Albert Schweitzer Medal, and that he is proud to see his work make a difference in the world.
46% of Albertine Rift species may be threatened by 2080, study finds [04/10/2018]
- East Africa’s Albertine Rift region hosts many animal and plant species that evolved in isolation and are endemic – meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world. - But a recent study estimates nearly half of the Albertine Rift’s endemic species may become threatened with extinction by 2080 as climate change shrinks their habitat. - The study also finds certain species have already lost as much as 90 percent of their habitat to agriculture. - The researchers say that their findings could be used to predict how the ranges of wildlife populations will shift in response to a changing climate so that conservation workers can focus their efforts on the areas most likely to retain important habitat.
Animal trainers are teaching wildlife to conserve themselves [04/10/2018]
- Positive training helps pets and their owners bond. But animal trainers working to conserve wildlife often have the opposite goal: teaching animals in the wild to avoid human beings — people often being the most dangerous creatures in the jungle. - Wildlife kept in zoos have been trained with rewards to accept unnatural processes, procedures that previously might have required restraint or even anesthesia: allowing tooth brushing, hoof trimming, injections and blood draws — turning once alien actions into positive experiences for the captive animals. - Animal trainers decades ago learned to train dolphins without having physical contact with the animals. More recently, a chimpanzee troop in Sierra Leone was taught to scream alarm in unison when poachers approached, alerting nearby rangers to come to the rescue — achieving an 80 percent decrease in poaching. - Trainers have taught captive bred condors how to be more like wild condors, seeking food within their natural habitat and not congregating in towns. They’ve also taught polar bears to avoid anything associated with humans, preventing the bears from raiding trash cans and significantly decreasing wildlife conflicts.
Six staff killed in deadliest attack at Congo’s Virunga National Park [04/10/2018]
- Suspected members of an armed militia ambushed and killed five park rangers and a driver in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on April 9, park authorities said - The attack, the deadliest in the park’s history, brings to 175 the toll of Virunga rangers who have been killed while guarding the park to date. - Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to rare mountain gorillas, but continues to be plagued by the long-running armed conflict wracking the eastern DRC.
How to help penguins (photos) [04/09/2018]
- This photo essay comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog. - Once a month we’ll publish a contribution from Wild View that highlights an animal species or group. - This month, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s David Oehler, Megan Maher, and Julie Larsen Maher write about penguins. - All photos by Julie Larsen Maher, head photographer for WCS.
Rubber plantation in Cameroon edges closer to UNESCO World Heritage Site [04/06/2018]
- Satellite data indicate the rubber plantation, operated by China-owned Sud Cameroun Hévéa (Sudcam), is currently less than one kilometer away from intact primary forest habitat. Development is ongoing amidst concerns about threats to endangered species within and outside the park, as well as alleged violations of community land rights and political affiliations with the Cameroonian government. - The expansion of this rubber plantation is “by far the most devastating new clearing of forest for industrial agriculture in the Congo Basin,” according to Greenpeace. - Rubber expansion also stands to affect the 9,500 people who live in villages on the reserve’s periphery. According to Greenpeace Africa, Sudcam did not obtain Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from these communities before acquiring the land and residents have claimed that subsistence farmland has been taken away with little or no compensation. - Members of the conservation community say that in order for rubber development to happen sustainably in Cameroon, companies need to collaborate with conservation NGOs to create robust buffers around wetlands and streams, develop wildlife corridors, establish areas to filter the runoff of toxins and sediment, and create bushmeat alternatives. They also recommend regulatory actions be taken in the U.S. and EU, which are major buyers of rubber.
Indonesian conservation bill is weak on wildlife crime, critics say [04/06/2018]
- Lawmakers in Indonesia have submitted for review to President Joko Widodo’s administration a bill that would overhaul the country’s 28-year-old conservation law. - While environmental advocates have long pushed for updates to the law, the new draft has alarmed many with its various provisions that critics say represent a regression from the existing legislation. - Problem articles include a “self-defense” clause that would waive criminal charges for killing protected wildlife; a more nebulous definition of wildlife crime that some fear could make it harder to crack down on traffickers; and the opening up of conservation areas to geothermal exploration and other “strategic development” projects. - The ball is now in the court of the government, which is required to review the bill before sending it back to parliament for final passage. However, a minister says the government will “hold off” on its review, and suggests the existing conservation law is sufficient.
Audio: Bowhead whales in the Arctic sing hundreds of complex songs [04/06/2018]
- Scientists have recorded 184 elaborate, very different bowhead whale songs in a bowhead subpopulation living east of Greenland. This makes it the largest set of bowhead whale song recordings ever. - The bowhead’s vocal repertoire is rivaled only by a few species of songbirds, researchers say. - But why these whales have so many different song types and why they change their songs each year is still a mystery.
Vine-like lianas alter the edges of fragmented forests: New study [04/06/2018]
- A new study has found that a group of climbing plants called lianas spring up in higher numbers along the edges of fragmented forests than they do in less-disturbed patches. - Previous research has shown that lianas can cause trees to die or to stockpile less carbon, and they can also affect the mix of tree species present in the forest. - To ensure a healthy, functioning ecosystem, managers can set aside a buffer zone around the edges of these patches or increase the size of the protected area as a whole.
Kaziranga’s rhino census finds the population is growing, but more slowly than expected [04/05/2018]
- Kaziranga National Park in India’s Assam state is home to the majority of the world’s greater one-horned rhinos. - A census completed in March counted 2,413 rhinos, an increase of 12 individuals since 2015. - Officials believe rhinos were undercounted, likely due to poor visibility. Other observers suggest changes should be made to survey methodology. - If the numbers are accurate, it could suggest the park has reached its carrying capacity. However, a large number of young rhinos were counted, indicating that the population remains healthy and breeding.
South Korean company under fire for alleged deforestation in Papua oil palm concession [04/05/2018]
- A report by WRI shows ongoing deforestation in an oil palm concession in Papua, Indonesia, operated by a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO Daewoo. - The company has responded by saying its operations in Papua are legal and fully permitted. - Concerns over deforestation by POSCO Daewoo have prompted other companies to say they will not allow its palm oil into their supply chains. These include big-name brands such as Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, IKEA, L’Oreal, Mars and Unilever. - POSCO Daewoo has issued a temporary moratorium on land clearing in its Papua concession and hired a consultant to advise it on how to proceed with its operations there.
For Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution, elephants pose a new threat [04/05/2018]
- Twelve people have been killed by elephants in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. - Fleeing military operations in Myanmar, the refugees have settled in elephant corridors. - Training is underway to help the refugees negotiate their encounters with the endangered animals safely.
Yellow fever may threaten biophilia in São Paulo city (commentary) [04/04/2018]
- Reconciling biodiversity conservation and urban development is one of the biggest challenges for humanity, considering that by 2030, 60 percent of people globally are expected to live in cities. - There are currently numerous forest fragments rooted in an urban matrix. On the one hand, these remnant forests confer many benefits on human society. One the other hand, forests may cause biophobias related to human fear and avoidance of some animals, misconceptions about animals’ risks, and the association of forest with dangerous and unsafe areas. - A recent increase of yellow fever cases in highly urbanized cities in Brazil’s Atlantic forest – a tropical hotspot of biodiversity – can threaten the balance between biophilia and biophobia. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Lost’ fairy lantern spotted in Malaysian Borneo after 151 years [04/04/2018]
- In January last year, a team of botanists spotted Thismia neptunis again, 151 years after it was first recorded in the rainforests of western Sarawak, in Malaysian Borneo. - Thismia neptunis is tiny, standing at just 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) when flowering, and spends its life underground, parasitizing fungi for its food supply. - Given that the species is likely restricted to a small area within a primary lowland rainforest of Sarawak, and might have fewer than 50 individuals, the researchers believe that the species qualifies as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Audio: Maroon 5’s James Valentine on why he’s working to stop illegal logging [04/03/2018]
- On today’s episode, we speak with multiple-Grammy-winning musician James Valentine about his work to stop illegal logging and make concert tours more environmentally friendly. - As lead guitarist of Maroon 5, Valentine has traversed the globe numerous times on tour, taking the band’s music around the world. But late last year, Valentine went to Peru with a much different mission: he was part of a group of musicians who spoke in Lima in support of the “No More Blood Wood” campaign. He also visited a sustainable logging operation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in 2016. - Valentine is here to tell us about his experiences in Peru and Guatemala and to tell us all about the work he and Reverb are doing to keep illegal wood out of musical instruments, lower the environmental impact of touring, and engage music fans in environmental action.
U.K. ban relegates legal ivory trade to ‘a thing of the past’ [04/03/2018]
- The United Kingdom says it will ban, with a few exceptions, the sale of all ivory in the country. - Conservation groups have welcomed the move and pointed out that poaching to fuel the global ivory trade leads to the deaths of 55 elephants a day, or around 20,000 per year. - The closure of domestic markets in the U.K., along with similar moves in China, Hong Kong and the U.S., will close the loopholes that allow illegal traders to launder their illicitly acquired ivory, proponents of the measure say.
NOAA publishes global list of fisheries and their risks to marine mammals [04/02/2018]
- The list, published in draft form in late 2017 as part of requirements laid out by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, includes nearly 4,000 fisheries across some 135 countries. - NOAA says the list represents ‘a strong step forward’ in developing sustainable fisheries. - These fisheries have until 2022 to demonstrate that the methods they use to catch fish and other marine animals either pose little risk to marine mammals or employ comparable methods to similar operations in the United States.
New study discovers 81 lost human settlements in the Amazon rainforest [04/02/2018]
- By looking at satellite images of a previously unexplored part of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team of archaeologists has identified 81 pre-Columbian human settlements. - The team also found that the settlements weren’t near major rivers, but closer to smaller streams and creeks, challenging a commonly held belief that pre-Columbian people tended to live close to fertile floodplains of large rivers, leaving the rest of the forest relatively untouched. - The researchers’ computer model predicted that the southern rim of the Amazon likely supported up to 1 million people in pre-Columbian times, a population that’s much larger than previous estimates.
Brazil creates four massive marine protected areas [03/30/2018]
- The four newly designated marine protected areas (MPAs) will cover an area of more than 920,000 square kilometers (355,200 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean. - Two of the MPAs will cover waters around the archipelago of Trindade, Martin Vaz and Mount Columbia, located more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the Brazilian mainland. - The remaining two MPAs will be located around the São Pedro and São Paulo archipelagos, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off the northeast coast. - However, some marine biologists worry that these large, remote MPAs may do little to safeguard biodiversity.
Frogs may be ‘fighting back’ against deadly pandemic [03/30/2018]
- Chytridiomycosis is caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a type of chytrid fungus. - Scientists believe Bd originated in Africa, and has spread around the world where it has contributed to the declines and extinctions of at least 200 amphibian species globally. - But a new study finds populations of several Panamanian frog species exposed to Bd appear to have gained resistance to the pathogen. Previous research indicates U.S. frogs may also have developed resistance after exposure. - The authors of the study say their findings offer hope for the survival of amphibians around the world. But they caution that detecting the remnant populations that survive infection and helping them persist and proliferate will require extensive monitoring efforts.
‘Ropeless’ consortium aims to end entanglements of declining North Atlantic right whales [03/29/2018]
- ‘Fishermen, engineers, manufacturers, scientists and managers’ have come together to develop ropeless fishing gear to keep North Atlantic right whales from getting entangled. - Only 451 right whales are left, and it’s likely that fewer than 100 are breeding females. - Research teams have recorded no new calves this breeding season, which ended this month. - Scientists warn that the North Atlantic right whale could go extinct if the trend in their numbers doesn’t change.
Australia opens vast swaths of famed marine parks to fishing [03/29/2018]
- Australia is known for protecting its sea life in a 3.3 million square kilometer (1.3 million square mile) system of marine parks that cover 36 percent of the country’s oceans. - The protection of those parks is now at stake, as the government last week approved five long-awaited management plans covering 44 parks. The new plans open an area almost the size of Japan to commercial and recreational fishing compared to the original plans formed by the previous government when the parks were proclaimed in 2012. - A coalition of opposition parties attempted to block the new plans in parliament on Tuesday but failed. - Conservation groups and hundreds of marine scientists have voiced vehement opposition to the government’s new plans.
Small section of controversial refinery wall in Indian ‘elephant corridor’ demolished [03/28/2018]
- On March 13, officials tore down a 289-meter (948-foot) stretch of a 2.2-kilometer (1.4-mile) concrete wall built by an Indian oil refinery, allegedly blocking an elephant corridor. - In August 2016, India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) — tasked with ensuring the speedy disposal of environmental cases — ordered NRL to demolish the entire length of the wall within a month. - But only a 289-meter-stretch was demolished, reportedly because that stretch encircled an area of land that fell within a proposed reserved forest. The case is ongoing.
PHOTOS: The great Sandhill crane migration makes its annual stopover on the Platte River [03/27/2018]
- The annual migration undertaken by sandhill cranes in North America is considered one of the world’s great natural spectacles, on par with Africa’s wildebeest migration and the “march of the penguins” in Antarctica. - Nowhere is the sandhill crane migration more visible in all its majesty than on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska — you truly have to see it to believe it. - You can hear many of the sounds of the sandhill crane migration on a recent episode of the Mongabay Newscast. It’s one thing to hear the migration, however, and quite another to see it.
‘Annihilation trawling’: Q&A with marine biologist Amanda Vincent [03/27/2018]
- For years marine biologists have been raising concerns about bottom trawling, a fishing technique that unintentionally scoops up non-targeted creatures as bycatch and disrupts marine habitat. - While the technique is widely acknowledged to be destructive, seahorse expert Amanda Vincent is calling attention to a new problem: in Asia and elsewhere, bottom trawlers are no longer targeting particular species at all but going after any and all sea life for processing into chicken feed, fishmeal and other low-value products. - In an interview with Mongabay, Vincent describes her observations in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Borneo’s elephants prefer degraded forests, a new study finds [03/27/2018]
- New research has found that Bornean elephants most often use degraded forests with canopy heights topping out at around 13 meters (43 feet). - Less than 25 percent of the state’s protected intact forests, which include primary forests, are suitable for elephants, the authors concluded. - The team suggests that maintaining suitable elephant habitat in Malaysian Borneo will require the protection of relatively small patches of degraded forests that elephants favor.
Range countries to lead new estimate of global snow leopard population as downgraded threat status remains controversial [03/26/2018]
- The newly announced Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards initiative, called PAWS for short, will be overseen by the Steering Committee of the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), which is comprised of the Environment Ministers of all twelve snow leopard range states. - The snow leopard had been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1986 until late last year, when its threat status was downgraded to Vulnerable — ostensibly welcome news that ultimately proved quite controversial. - In a recent commentary for the journal Science, snow leopard researchers questioned the scientific merit of the data the IUCN relied on in downgrading the threat status of snow leopards. GSLEP says it categorically rejects any change in snow leopards’ threat status until PAWS is complete and a scientifically reliable population estimate is available.
Trump’s elephant, lion trophy hunting policy hit with double lawsuits [03/26/2018]
- In policymaking, the Interior Dept. announced it was allowing U.S. citizens to import elephant and lion body parts to the United States last November. President Trump immediately put that decision on hold. Then in 2018, the USFWS said trophy hunting decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis. - Now, Born Free USA, the Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, and other litigants have filed a lawsuit against the plan, saying USFWS policymaking failed to offer a public comment period, lacked transparency, and didn’t outline a process as to how decisions will be made. - In a second lawsuit, Born Free USA, an NGO, accused the Trump administration of stacking its newly formed International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC) with pro-trophy hunting members, some with ties to the gun industry, an allegation largely confirmed by an Associated Press study. - The IWCC held its first meeting this month. A critic who attended said she was shocked that a council meant to advise the government on conservation seemed to know very little about the poaching crisis in Africa. A renowned trophy hunter was appointed to head the group’s conservation subcommittee.
‘IUCN Green List of species’: A new way to measure conservation success [03/26/2018]
- Scientists have proposed a framework for a new “Green List of species” that outlines a standard way of measuring species recovery and conservation success. - The framework starts by defining what a “fully recovered species” looks like, then lays down four metrics that quantify the importance of conservation efforts for a species’ recovery. - The Green List will eventually become a part of the IUCN Red List, the scientists say, with the final species assessment including both the extinction risk categories as well as the four conservation metrics to help judge whether conservation actions are helping a species recover.
Local conservancies create new hope for wildlife in Kenya’s Maasai Mara (commentary) [03/26/2018]
- Naboisho and roughly a dozen neighboring conservancies in Kenya’s Maasai Mara are made up of hundreds of individual plots owned by local Maasai residents of the Mara, who converted their traditional communal lands in this part of Kenya to individual holdings. - Tour operators with existing camps around the Mara have worked to pool together individual Maasai landowners who had subdivided their lands into larger groups that could then lease a large area of land to the tour operators. - Each landowner is paid a monthly lease fee of around $235, amounting to over $900,000 of landowner income annually. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
In Jakarta, wildlife monitors find a hotspot for the illegal tortoise trade [03/26/2018]
- Indonesia’s capital has seen an increase in the sale of non-native species of tortoises and freshwater turtles that are prohibited for international commercial trade, according to a report by the wildlife-monitoring group TRAFFIC. - Growing demand for these species, coupled with Indonesia’s lax enforcement of customs regulation at international ports of entry and an outdated conservation act, have allowed the illicit international animal trade to grow, TRAFFIC said. - The group has called on the Indonesian government to improve the country’s conservation laws and regulations, and urged more stringent monitoring of the markets, pet stores and expos in Jakarta and across the country to document and assess the extent of any illegal trade.
Study reveals the Pacific Garbage Patch is much heftier than thought — and it’s growing [03/26/2018]
- A recent survey of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that the aggregated plastic there weighs in at 79,000 metric tons (87,100 short tons). - The plastic is floating across an area larger than Mongolia at 1.6 million square kilometers (618,000 square miles). - Around 75 percent of the pieces that are larger than 5 centimeters (2 inches) in length, and old fishing nets make up a minimum of 46 percent of the total mass. - The scientists calculated that 94 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch are microplastics.
“Save the Krill” urges Greenpeace report [03/23/2018]
- A recent report by Greenpeace International describes the role of krill in Antarctica’s marine food chain and calls for nations to restrict their krill fishing in areas under consideration for protected status designation. - Automatic identification system signals from commercial krill-fishing vessels allowed Greenpeace to map the precise routes these ships take around the Antarctic Peninsula and to identify transfers of catch and fuel between ships. - The report warns that krill fishing competes for food with other marine wildlife, and that anchoring and pollution from the ships could damage the larger ecosystem. - Video footage and samples collected from submarine dives by a recent Greenpeace expedition will be analyzed and presented at meetings this summer to support the creation of marine protected areas in the Weddell Sea and other regions around Antarctica.