10-second nature news digest

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

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Study suggests MPAs and fisheries closures can benefit highly migratory marine species [05/24/2019]
- Conventional wisdom holds that marine protected areas don’t offer much in the way of protections to highly migratory species of marine life, given that those species are unaware of the imaginary borders humans draw on maps to delineate such areas.
- New research finds that, to the contrary, large MPAs can confer benefits on migratory marine species — but only when they are carefully designed, strictly enforced, and integrated with sustainable fisheries management.
- The study, published last month in the journal Marine Policy, explores whether or not there are any benefits of “targeted spatial protection” measures, including large-scale fisheries closures and marine protected areas (MPAs), for highly migratory species like billfishes (such as swordfish and marlins), pelagic sharks (such as blue, great white, mako, silky, and thresher sharks), and tuna — and highlights ways that spatial protection for migratory pelagic species can be improved.

Malaysia’s last male rhino is fading fast, officials say [05/24/2019]
- Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, Tam, has experienced an abrupt decline in health due to old age, authorities say.
- Veterinarians and rhino keepers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah state are providing round-the-clock palliative care, but say Tam appears to have suffered multiple organ failure.
- If he dies, Malaysia would be left with one last Sumatran rhino, a female, Iman, whose own health has weakened due to a ruptured tumor in her uterus.
- Conservationists say stakeholders, including the government of Indonesia, home to most of the remaining Sumatran rhinos on Earth, have been far too slow to work together on efforts to save the species.

Ñembi Guasu: Huge new conservation area in Bolivia’s Gran Chaco [05/23/2019]
- The new protected area spans more than 12,000 square kilometers (4,650 square miles) of well-conserved forests and is home to a massive number of animal and plant species.
- Among the area’s 300 species of birds and 100 species of mammals are jaguars, pumas and night monkeys.
- The protected zone is also home to the Ayoreo indigenous community, which is in a state of voluntary isolation.

Documentary on world’s rarest ape generates film festival buzz [05/23/2019]
- The first documentary ever made about the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest and most threatened species of great apes, is racking up awards at film festivals around the world.
- U.K.-based filmmaker Matt Senior says his interest in the orangutan, which was only described as a new species in 2017, was piqued by a Mongabay article.
- Only 800 of the apes are believed to exist in the Batang Toru forest in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Their habitat is under threat from a massive Chinese-funded hydropower project being built in the area.
- Matt says he hopes the documentary will raise public awareness about this newest species of orangutan and the very real threats pushing it toward extinction.

For India’s imperiled apes, thinking locally matters [05/23/2019]
- Northeastern India is home to two ape species: eastern and western hoolock gibbons.
- Populations of hoolock gibbons in India are both protected and harmed by practices and beliefs specific to the human communities with whom they share their habitats.
- In several gibbon habitats, local indigenous people are leading conservation efforts that are deeply informed by local circumstances.
- The fortunes of different gibbon populations within India show that there is no one-size-fits-all conservation strategy for apes.

For migrating songbirds, ‘baby shark’ is more than just an annoying tune [05/22/2019]
- Researchers who opportunistically examined the stomach contents of tiger sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico over eight years found that the sharks had been eating land-dwelling songbirds.
- The months during which the researchers encountered tiger sharks with birds in their guts coincided with the peak timings for coastal bird sightings for 11 species of songbirds, suggesting that the shark-bird interactions could be linked to the annual migration of these terrestrial birds.
- Surprisingly, most of the recorded shark-bird interactions occurred during the fall, when the migrating songbirds are about to start crossing the Gulf of Mexico and are presumably well-rested.
- The researchers speculate that unpredictable storms could be forcing the migratory birds to the water, making them easy prey, especially for baby tiger sharks that are yet to learn how to forage.

The health of penguin chicks points scientists to changes in the ocean [05/22/2019]
- A recent closure of commercial fishing around South Africa’s Robben Island gave scientists the chance to understand how fluctuations in prey fish populations affect endangered African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) absent pressure from humans.
- The researchers found that the more fish were available, the better the condition of the penguin chicks that rely on their parents for food.
- This link between prey abundance in the sea and the condition of penguin chicks on land could serve as an indicator of changes in the ecosystem.

Wildlife trade summit may move to Geneva amid Colombo security concerns [05/22/2019]
- A month after the devastating Easter Sunday terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka that resulted in the postponement of the 18th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP18) of CITES, the Geneva-based secretariat appears likely to hold the meeting in its home city.
- The meeting, originally scheduled for May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, was postponed indefinitely amid security concerns following the April 21 series of bombings at churches and hotels that claimed more than 250 lives in the Indian Ocean island.
- A U.N. security assessment is currently underway in Sri Lanka, with the findings expected to be submitted to the CITES Secretariat by May 31.
- Conservationists say the delay will affect much-needed funding and activities to protect species from the international wildlife trade.

Bauxite mining and Chinese dam push Guinea’s chimpanzees to the brink [05/21/2019]
- Guinea is home to about half of the world’s critically endangered western chimpanzees.
- A bauxite mining boom is driving the chimpanzees from their habitats in Guinea’s Boké region. To compensate, two mining firms agreed in 2017 to fund the establishment of Moyen-Bafing National Park, home to an estimated 5,300 chimpanzees.
- The national park is itself threatened by a bauxite mine and a proposed hydroelectric dam — projects that could kill as many as 2,800 of the great apes.

Interest in protecting environment up since Pope’s 2015 encyclical [05/21/2019]
- New research into the usage of environmentally related search terms on Google suggests that interest in the environment has risen since Pope Francis released Laudato Si’ in 2015.
- Laudato Si’, a papal encyclical, argues that it is a moral imperative for humans to look after the environment.
- Researchers and scholars believe that the pope’s support for protecting the environment could ripple well beyond the 16 percent of the world’s population that is Catholic.

Canopy-dwelling rainforest mammals most sensitive to human disturbance [05/15/2019]
- New research using arboreal camera traps finds that canopy-dwelling mammals are particularly sensitive to the impacts of human disturbance in rainforests and that these effects are easily missed by more traditional survey methods.
- Large-bodied arboreal species like the endangered Peruvian woolly monkey and the endangered black-faced spider monkey were found to be most impacted by forest disturbance, according to the study, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions last week.
- These larger primates are important seed dispersers for hardwood trees, which contribute disproportionately to the biomass of tropical forests. The loss of these species could thus lead to cascading ecosystems effects that might pose a significant threat to the carbon storage potential of degraded tropical forests.

Public education could curb bushmeat demand in Laos, study finds [05/15/2019]
- A recent survey of markets in Laos found that the demand for bushmeat in urban areas was likely more than wildlife populations could bear.
- The enforcement of Laos’s laws controlling the wildlife trade appeared to do little to keep vendors from selling bushmeat, but fines did appear to potentially keep consumers from buying bushmeat.
- The researchers also found that consumers could be turned off of buying bushmeat when they learned of specific links between species and diseases.

Penguin and seal poop powers life in Antarctica, study finds [05/14/2019]
- In Antarctica, where colonies of penguins and elephant seals aggregate, their droppings, rich in nitrogen, enrich the soil and support thriving communities of mosses, lichens and invertebrates, a new study has found.
- Ammonia released from penguin and elephant seal feces can influence an area up to 240 times the size of the animal colony, the researchers found.
- These findings can be used to create maps of Antarctica’s biodiversity hotspots, the researchers say.

Climate change spurs deadly virus in frogs in the U.K. [05/13/2019]
- As temperatures climb, ranaviruses cause more frog deaths over a longer part of the year, according to a new study.
- The researchers combined data from outbreaks of disease caused by ranaviruses in common frogs (Rana temporaria) with laboratory investigations.
- They say that shaded areas and deeper ponds could provide refuges for afflicted animals that might slow the spread of the virus, but they also caution that this “short-term solution” is only a stopgap as the warming climate continues to make life difficult for amphibians.

Hunting for rare plants in inaccessible spots: Q&A with drone pilot Ben Nyberg [05/13/2019]
- For decades, botanists at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) in Hawaii have rappelled down dangerously steep cliff faces using ropes, hung out of helicopters and walked through some very remote valleys to look for, and conserve, rare, native plants. Several cliffs and valleys, however, have remained inaccessible.
- Drones are now helping the NTBG staff access and survey some of these difficult-to-reach parts of the Hawaiian islands.
- Mongabay recently spoke with Ben Nyberg, a GIS coordinator and drone specialist at NTBG, about the use of drones for plant conservation.

Reptile haven of Sri Lanka yields up new species of rough-sided snake [05/11/2019]
- A newly discovered “rough-sided” snake in Sri Lanka’s Knuckles Massif bears testimony to the island’s unique reptile life and also highlights how habitat loss is threatening species survival, a new paper says.
- A unique feature of Aspidura desilvai is its unusual color pattern, which reflects the soil color of its habitat and gives it the look of a well-preserved wine.
- The new species faces multiple threats, ranging from significant habitat loss through forest fragmentation, illegal cardamom plantations, uncontrolled gem mining, forest fires, and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

Social media enables the illegal wildlife pet trade in Malaysia [05/09/2019]
- Conservationists say that prosecuting wildlife traffickers in Malaysia for trading in protected species isn’t easy, as traders have several loopholes to aid their efforts.
- One wildlife trafficker known as Kejora Pets has been operating in Peninsular Malaysia for years, selling “cute” pets to individuals through social media.
- Malaysia’s wildlife act doesn’t address the posting of protected animals for sale on social media, and operators like Kejora Pets appear to avoid ever being in possession of protected animals, allowing them to skirt statutes aimed at catching illicit traders.
- Proposed changes to Malaysia’s wildlife act could offer some relief to besieged populations of protected species by making it easier to prosecute online trafficking of protected animals.

Meet the new species of venomous pit viper described from India [05/09/2019]
- Wildlife researcher Rohan Pandit and his teammate Wangchu Phiang first stumbled upon the new-to-science pit viper species in May 2016 while surveying biodiversity in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India.
- In a new paper, researchers have described this species and named it Trimeresurus arunachalensis, or Arunachal pit viper.
- While the researchers have described the Arunachal pit viper based on a single specimen, they say the species’ unique features distinguish it from all the other known species of pit vipers.

New map shows warming waters where coral reefs could be under threat [05/08/2019]
- A new interactive map can help you identify, in near-real-time, areas where the sea is warming up at alarming levels, increasing the risk of coral reef bleaching.
- The Coral Reefs at Risk of Bleaching Operations Dashboard, launched by Esri, a company that creates geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping software products, relies on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coral Reef Watch program.
- While the satellite data itself isn’t new, the way the data is displayed is more understandable for the general public, the tool’s developer says.
- The Esri map distills NOAA’s data and displays regions that are facing both high heat stress, increasing the risk of coral bleaching, such as those under Alert 1 and Alert 2 categories, as well as areas where the likelihood of coral bleaching is low or none at the moment, such as those under “Warning” and “Watch.”

‘To save a forest you have to destroy a nicer one’: U.S. Marines target forest in Guam [05/08/2019]
- The U.S. Marine Corps is building a base on Guam that will destroy 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of limestone forest, habitat for numerous endangered species.
- As mitigation, the military is funding forest “enhancement” to remove invasive species from fenced zones and restore seed dispersal by native birds.
- The fence’s success depends on maintenance into perpetuity, but biologists on Guam question how long funding will really last.

Climate change is causing marine species to disappear from their habitat twice as fast as land animals [05/07/2019]
- New research finds that marine animals have disappeared from their habitat due to global warming at twice the rate of wildlife on land.
- According to the study, published late last month in Nature, the loss of whole populations of ocean-dwelling species not only depletes the genetic diversity of those species, but can also trigger a cascade of impacts on predators and prey, thereby altering entire marine ecosystems.
- The heightened vulnerability of marine life to global warming could have significant implications for the food supply and economies of seafood-reliant human communities.

’Unprecedented’ loss of biodiversity threatens humanity, report finds [05/07/2019]
- The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a summary of far-reaching research on the threats to biodiversity on May 6.
- The findings are dire, indicating that around 1 million species of plants and animals face extinction.
- The full 1,500-page report, to be released later this year, raises concerns about the impacts of collapsing biodiversity on human well-being.

Radio drama encourages Belizean fishers to follow the rules [05/06/2019]
- The Belizean radio show “Punta Fuego” teaches local fishing communities about fishing regulations.
- Listeners can phone in to the show’s “Talking Fuego” segment and interact with hosts and conservation experts.
- The show aims to earn fishers’ support for the expansion of “replenishment zones.” In April, the government approved these new strictly protected areas to give marine species a break from fishing pressure.
- Critics say the show doesn’t address a wider problem: fishers won’t follow regulations that the government does not enforce, even if they understand the purpose.

‘Landscape of fearlessness’: bushbuck emboldened following top-predator decline in Mozambique [05/06/2019]
- Bushbuck in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park have become increasingly fearless in their foraging habits, changing from foraging exclusively in woodland areas to braving open floodplains.
- Following years of civil war, populations of large herbivores and carnivores in Gorongosa declined by over 90 percent, with some top predators completely extirpated.
- Researchers from Princeton University conducted experiments using state-of-the-art equipment to establish whether the bushbucks’ use of floodplains for foraging was due to the decline in predation threat.
- Following experimentally simulated predation events, bushbuck significantly increased their use of tree cover, indicating that the reintroduction of top predators would restore a ‘landscape of fear’.

Illegal logging poised to wipe Cambodian wildlife sanctuary off the map [05/02/2019]
- Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary has lost more than 60 percent of its forest cover since it was established in 1993, with most of the loss occurring since 2010.
- A big driver behind the deforestation in Beng Per and in many other Cambodian protected areas was Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), which are areas of land – often in protected areas – allocated by the government to corporations aiming to invest in agriculture for short-term financial gains. Large areas of Beng Per were carved out for ELCs in 2011.
- While the Cambodian government stopped officially allocating ELCs in 2012, deforestation is still hitting the park hard as small-scale illegal logging gobbles up remaining forest outside ELC areas. And once the land is denuded, it’s considered fair game for new plantation development.
- Experts working on the ground say corruption is fuelling the widespread destruction of Cambodia’s forests, and is deeply entrenched in many different sectors including the federal government and local forest protection agencies.

Hippos poop a lot of silica, and that’s critical for Africa’s rivers and lakes [05/02/2019]
- By chomping on large amounts of silica-rich grass at night, then defecating into the Mara River during the day, hippos help move silicon from land to the water — something that’s vital for the health of the river and lakes further downstream, a new study has found.
- Researchers analyzed samples of soil, water, grass and hippo feces from various points along the Mara River, and found that hippos alone were likely contributing more than 76 percent of the silicon being transported along the river.
- If the Mara River’s hippos decline in number, it could lead to a reduction in the amount of silicon that makes its way to the lakes. This in turn could result in algal blooms that can use up the oxygen in the lakes downstream and kill the fish.

It’s now or never for Madagascar’s biodiversity, experts say [05/02/2019]
- As Madagascar’s recently elected president completed his first 100 days in office, experts identify five priority areas for conservation.
- In a new comment piece in Nature Sustainability, the experts highlight the need for setting conservation goals that are aligned with the sustainable development of the country.
- Strengthening the rights of local people and the rule of law is key to successful conservation, the authors say.
- Urgent steps include tackling environmental crime, investing in protected areas, and mitigating environmental impacts from infrastructure development.

Huge rubber plantation in Cameroon halts deforestation following rebuke [05/01/2019]
- A massive rubber plantation operated by rubber supply group Halcyon Agri through its subsidiary Sudcam has come under fire in recent years for what many say are unsustainable environmental practices, lack of transparency, and negative impacts on local communities. Reports document the displacement of indigenous communities to make way for development, and felling has occurred right up against the intact rainforest of Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve.
- Initially silent about the rebuke of Sudcam, Halcyon unveiled a number of sustainability measures late last year and has actively sought to open a dialogue with NGOs. In response to criticisms, the company issued a “cease and desist” order on logging in Sudcam, developed a Sustainable Natural Rubber Supply Chain Policy, and created an independent Sustainability Council.
- Satellite imagery indicates no further clearing has happened since the deforestation ban was issued in Dec. 2018.
- Representatives of conservation NGOs that have been critical of the plantation in the past say they are pleased with Halcyon Agri’s response, and hope that the company will continue to improve conditions at its Sudcam plantation.

Recently discovered Brazilian river dolphin’s calls could help us understand evolution of marine mammal communication [05/01/2019]
- Until recently it was believed that the solitary nature of Araguaian dolphins meant that they wouldn’t have much use for communication. But scientists have now documented hundreds of sounds made by the dolphins — and they say that these vocalizations could help us better understand the evolution of underwater communication among marine mammals.
- Using underwater cameras and microphones to record interactions between the dolphins, researchers recorded 20 hours of vocalizations, which they classified into 13 different types of “tonal sounds” and 66 types of “pulsed calls.” In total, they identified 237 distinct types of calls.
- The most common sounds the dolphins made were “short two-component calls,” the researchers report in the study. About 35 percent of these calls were made by calves while reuniting with their mothers, which suggests that the calls are an important component of mother-calf communication.

Drone rediscovers Hawaiian flower thought to be extinct [05/01/2019]
- A drone surveying a cliff face in a remote part of Kalalau Valley in Hawaii’s Kaua‘i Island has confirmed the presence of Hibiscadelphus woodii, a relative of hibiscus that was last seen alive in 2009, and thought to be extinct.
- Biologists first spotted four H. woodii plants in March 1991, but three of the plants were crushed and killed by falling boulders between 1995 and 1998. The remaining known individual was last observed alive in 2009, and then seen dead in 2011.
- However, by flying into difficult-to-reach areas, drones are uncovering secrets of previously unexplored cliff habitats.

Mobile app encourages Indian fishers to free entangled whale sharks [05/01/2019]
- When whale sharks in waters off the Indian state of Gujarat get trapped in fishing nets, a new mobile app lets fishers easily document their release.
- Conservationists and fishers alike hope the app will speed up the compensation fishers receive for damaged nets.
- However, fishers say the compensation, a maximum of 25,000 rupees ($360), should be increased to reflect the true loss of their revenue during their downtime without nets.

Western chimp numbers revised up to 53,000, but development threats loom [05/01/2019]
- A new survey of data from the IUCN’s Apes Database indicates that there are nearly 53,000 western chimpanzees in West Africa.
- The number is significantly higher than previous estimates, which placed the population closer to 35,000, but the subspecies remains categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The authors of the study say their findings can help governments in the region ensure that proposed infrastructure projects do as little harm to the remaining chimpanzee populations as possible.

Audio: Saving forests and biodiversity by providing affordable healthcare [04/30/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Kinari Webb, founder of Health in Harmony, an organization using healthcare for humans to save rainforests and their wildlife inhabitants.
- In the decade since Heath in Harmony launched its healthcare-for-conservation program in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park, infant deaths in local communities have been reduced by more than two-thirds, the number of illegal logging households in the park has gone down by nearly 90 percent, the loss of forest has stabilized, 20,000 hectares of forest are being replanted, and habitat for 2,500 endangered Bornean Orangutans has been protected.
- Webb talks about radical listening, the tremendous impacts for rainforests and orangutans of providing affordable healthcare to local communities, and her plans to expand Health in Harmony’s efforts outside of Indonesia on this episode of the Newscast.

Building the world’s biggest MPA: Q&A with Goldman winner Jacqueline Evans [04/30/2019]
- In July 2017, the South Pacific nation of the Cook Islands made a bold bid to convert its entire territorial waters, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), into a mixed-use marine protected area.
- Called Marae Moana, or “sacred ocean,” the MPA spans almost 2 million square kilometers (772,200 square miles), making it the biggest in the world, although only parts of it are strictly protected from fishing and other extractive activities.
- Jacqueline Evans, a marine conservationist, was the driving force behind the MPA.
- This week, Evans was awarded a prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work on Marae Moana.

Javan rhino found dead in Indonesia, bringing global population down to 68 [04/30/2019]
- The body of a juvenile male Javan rhinoceros was discovered last month in a mud pit in Ujung Kulon National Park, the sole remaining habitat for the species.
- The death of the rhino, known as Manggala, brings the known global population of his species down to 68 individuals.
- The body was intact when found, and preliminary investigations indicated the rhino did not die due to an infectious disease. A detailed post-mortem is being conducted, with results expected May 7.
- The body bore multiple wounds, leading park officials to suspect Manggala may have been attacked by an adult rhinoceros.

Meet the winners of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize [04/29/2019]
- This year is the 30th anniversary of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
- Also called the Green Nobel Prize, the annual award honors grassroots environmental heroes from six continental regions: Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and islands and island nations.
- This year’s winners are Alfred Brownell from Liberia, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia, Ana Colovic Lesoska from North Macedonia, Jacqueline Evans from the Cook Islands, Alberto Curamil from Chile, and Linda Garcia from the United States.

Guns, Corals and Steel: Are Nuclear Shipwrecks a Biodiversity Hotspot? [04/28/2019]
- My team and I used deep technical diving techniques to explore the coral biodiversity of warships sunk in the 1946 nuclear bomb tests at Bikini Atoll.
- Our surveys revealed that eight nuked warships harbored 27 percent of the world’s coral genera on their hulls, superstructures and armaments.
- At depths down to 55 meters (180 feet), these ships lie well below the 21st-century ocean warming danger zone.
- As a result, Bikini’s massive warships have become unexpected arks of coral biodiversity.

Large emperor penguin colony suffers ‘catastrophic’ breeding failure [04/26/2019]
- Until recently, the emperor penguin colony at Halley Bay on the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic was one of the world’s largest, supporting between 14,000 to 25,000 breeding pairs, or around 5 to 9 percent of the bird’s global population.
- Since 2016, satellite images have shown that the colony has suffered a complete breeding failure, something that’s never been recorded before.
- This breeding failure started in 2016 when, following abnormal stormy weather, the sea ice broke up in October, long before the chicks had fledged and were ready to go out to sea. In 2017 and 2018, the sea ice broke up early too, leading to the likely death of all chicks.
- Around the same time, there was a massive increase in the numbers of emperor penguins at the Dawson-Lambton Glacier penguin colony 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Halley Bay, suggesting that many of the emperor penguins from Halley Bay had moved to Dawson-Lambton.

Creating a high-tech island to save one of the world’s rarest birds [04/25/2019]
- Scientists in New Zealand are combining tracking, genomics, and drone technologies to save the kākāpō, the giant flightless parrot nearly eradicated by invasive predators, such as dogs, rats, and cats brought by human settlers.
- Data loggers on a predator-free island read information emitted by transmitters worn by each of the birds and send the data to the research team; the information tells researchers where birds are nesting, when birds are sick, and when (and with whom) a given bird mated.
- The team supplements natural kākāpō breeding with artificial insemination, including flying a sperm-carrying drone that can swiftly move sperm from a male to an appropriate female across the island, which the researchers believe helps keep the sperm more viable when it reaches the female.
- For this, scientists “match” male and female kākāpō using genetic analysis to determine how closely related the two birds are and choose mates that are most distantly related. The research team is reviewing genomic data from all adult kākāpō for clues about fertility and disease.

Killer whale vs. great white? No contest — the shark always flees [04/25/2019]
- Both the great white shark and the killer whale or orca are fearsome top predators. But of the two massive animals, the killer whale may be the more formidable one, a new study has found.
- Researchers monitoring white sharks, lion seals and orcas around California’s Southeast Farallon Island have found that every time orcas pass through the area, the great white sharks vanish and don’t return to their hunting grounds until the next season.
- The researchers aren’t sure why the sharks move away as soon as orcas arrive. It could be because orcas may be targeting white sharks as prey, or the killer whales could be bullying their competition out of the way to gain access to the island’s elephant seals.

The world lost a Belgium-size area of old growth rainforest in 2018 [04/25/2019]
- Newly released data indicate the tropics lost around 120,000 square kilometers (around 46,300 square miles) of tree cover last year – or an area of forest the size of Nicaragua.
- The data indicate 36,400 square kilometers of this loss – an area the size of Belgium – occurred in primary forest. This number is an increase over the annual average, and the third-highest amount since data collection began.
- Indonesia primary forest loss dropped to the lowest level recorded since 2002. Brazil’s numbers are also down compared to the last two years, but still higher than the 18-year average.
- Meanwhile, primary rainforest deforestation appears to be on the rise elsewhere. Colombia recorded the highest level since measurement began at the beginning of the century. Madagascar had the highest proportion of its tropical forest lost in 2018; Ghana experienced the biggest proportional change over 2017.

Indonesia trains its citizens to deal with sea-mammal strandings [04/24/2019]
- The waters around Indonesia serve as both a habitat and an important migratory route for dozens of species of whales, dolphins and porpoises.
- These cetaceans, however, are often found dead on Indonesian beaches, or alive but unable to return to deeper waters themselves.
- To prevent the deaths of marine mammals that strand themselves on its shores, the government has sought to establish a network of first responders equipped with the knowledge and training to deal with problem.
- Experts say what’s more important than providing an adequate response is to reduce the threats that lead to the strandings, including by improving the management of marine habitats and tackling pollution in the sea.

Bird flu in Namibia’s penguins wanes, after killing nearly 500 [04/24/2019]
- More than 450 African penguins, an IUCN-listed endangered animal, have died in an outbreak of bird flu on three islands off the coast of Namibia.
- The virus, H5N8, is thought to have been introduced to the colonies, which hold 96 percent of Namibia’s penguins, by another bird traveling from South Africa, where a similar outbreak occurred in 2018.
- The disease appears to be abating, and researchers are hopeful that the country’s penguins will recover.
- However, they continue to face threats from food shortages caused by overfishing and climate change.

Virus may have caused mysterious foot disease in Chile’s rare huemul deer [04/24/2019]
- Researchers say they believe they have identified the potential cause of a foot disease that affected 24 huemul deer in Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins National Park between 2005 and 2010.
- Preliminary results from tests on tissue samples taken from an infected fawn suggest that a parapoxvirus, a group of viruses that commonly infect and cause lesions in livestock, could have been the main cause of the foot disease.
- If the pox virus is indeed the disease agent, then it’s an additional threat to the endangered species because these viruses are highly contagious, researchers say.
- The study’s authors say they suspect the parapoxvirus may have come from cattle that was illegally introduced in the national park in 1991.

Camera trap study finds a threatened high-elevation mammal community in Peru [04/23/2019]
- A new camera trap study, the results of which were published in the journal Oryx last week, seeks to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the Cerros del Sira’s mammalian inhabitants.
- An international team of scientists from Peru and the UK led by Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya, a biologist at Peru’s National University of Cusco, deployed 45 camera traps from 2015 to 2016 in the Sira Communal Reserve, part of the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha Biosphere Reserve.
- Aside from revealing the distribution of and threats to the Cerros del Sira’s mammal community, the results of the camera trap survey led to a number of other insights.

The extinction clock ticks for the little-known Philippine pangolin [04/22/2019]
- With the Palawan pangolin’s population decimated by poaching and its habitat lost to urban creep, scientists and conservationists are in a race against time to save and document everything about this forest dweller.
- From 2001 to 2017, the wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC recorded 38 seizure incidents in which the Philippines was the country of origin, transit point or end destination for pangolin shipments. A total of 667 pangolins were seized in these busts

On one island, a microcosm of Vietnam’s environmental challenges [04/22/2019]
- It is also a popular tourist destination, and like many parts of the country faces the challenge of balancing development with environmental protection.
- Tenuous conservation success stories can be found here, but current and future developments in surrounding areas pose acute threats.

Cities may save some species from extinction, but they don’t save species’ ecological functions [04/19/2019]
- Some species are not only able to adapt to life in urban areas but actually thrive and grow more abundant than they might have in their natural surroundings.
- Thus some cities have been declared urban conservation hotspots — but research published last year shows that while those cities might help preserve robust populations of otherwise threatened species, they do not help preserve the crucial ecological functions of those species.
- If species and the ecological functions they provide are allowed to disappear altogether from natural habitats and only continue to persist in urban areas, that could have “long-term, unexpected effects on ecosystems,” researchers say.

Singapore acquits trader in world’s biggest rosewood bust, worth $50m [04/19/2019]
- On April 8, Singapore’s highest court acquitted a businessman who brought Malagasy rosewood valued at $50 million into the city-state in 2014, one of the largest wildlife seizures in the history of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
- The move reversed the ruling of a lower court that had sentenced the businessman to jail time and imposed $1 million in fines for importing protected wildlife.
- The court ordered Singapore authorities to return the rosewood to the businessman and his firm “as soon as practicable.”
- Environmental groups have been looking on anxiously as the case wound its way through Singapore’s courts for nearly five years, only to be disappointed by the final verdict.

Rise in crocodile sightings linked to habitat degradation in Indonesia [04/18/2019]
- The capture of a saltwater crocodile by Indonesian villagers last February was the latest in a series of increasingly frequent — and occasionally deadly — sightings of the reptiles near human settlements.
- The animal was eventually released by the local conservation agency into an unsettled area.
- Conservation officials say the destruction of the crocodiles’ habitat by blast fishing and conversion of coastal areas into farms may be driving the animals out of the wild and closer to villages.
- Officials have called on villagers not to harm the animals if they catch them, given that they’re a protected species under Indonesian law.

Swelling amount of plastic in the ocean confirmed by new study [04/17/2019]
- A new study used log books from 60 years of plankton research to document the increase in the amount of plastic in the ocean.
- The study’s authors tabulated the entanglements of the continuous plankton recorder, a sampling device that’s towed behind ships, revealing a significant increase in plastic in the ocean since the 1990s.
- Scientists have long suspected such a trend but have been unable to demonstrate it with data until now.

Omura’s whale much more widespread across the globe than previously thought [04/17/2019]
- The global range of the world’s most recently discovered large whale species is starting to come into focus — as are the man-made threats to the species.
- Salvatore Cerchio of the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts led a team that published a paper in Frontiers in Marine Science in March that includes a map of all known sightings of the elusive Omura’s whale (Balaenoptera omurai), demonstrating that the whale has a much larger range than previously thought.
- Given the new information they had about the global range of Omura’s whale, the researchers determined the whales face threats from, “at minimum, ship strikes, fisheries bycatch and entanglement, local directed hunting, petroleum exploration (seismic surveys), and coastal industrial development.”

China seizes over 2,700 elephant tusks in massive bust [04/17/2019]
- In one of the biggest busts in recent years, Chinese officials have seized 2,748 elephant tusks weighing more than 7 tonnes, the General Administration of Customs announced earlier this week.
- The ivory was confiscated during a joint operation by customs authorities and police across six provinces on March 30.
- Customs authorities added that since the beginning of 2019, they had filed 182 cases of smuggling of endangered wild species, seized more than 500 tons of endangered wildlife and their products, and arrested 171 suspects, disrupting 27 criminal gangs.
- China instated a ban on the domestic trade in elephant ivory in 2018.

IUCN calls for moratorium on projects impacting rarest great ape species [04/17/2019]
- The IUCN has cited “ongoing and new threats” to the Tapanuli orangutan, found in a single forest ecosystem in northern Sumatra, to call for a suspension and reassessment of projects being undertaken within the ape’s habitat.
- With a population of no more than 800 individuals, the Tapanuli orangutan is the world’s rarest and most threatened great ape species.
- Roads through the Batang Toru ecosystem where it lives have fragmented the orangutan’s population.
- The most high-profile threat is a planned hydropower plant and dam in the ape’s habitat, which scientists and conservationists have increasingly called to be halted.

Audio: Tool-using, ground-nesting chimp culture discovered in DR Congo [04/16/2019]
- On today’s episode, we talk to primatologist Cleve Hicks, who recently led a research team that discovered a new tool-using chimp culture in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Hicks and team spent 12 years documenting the behaviors of a group of chimps in the Bili-Uéré region of northern DRC, and their findings include an entirely new chimpanzee tool kit featuring four different kinds of tools. The chimps also build ground nests, which is highly unusual for any group of chimps — but especially for chimps living around dangerous predators like lions and leopards.
- And the Eastern chimps’ novel use of tools and ground nesting aren’t even the most interesting behavioral quirks they displayed, Hicks says.

Last known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle dies in China [04/16/2019]
- On April 13, the world’s only known female Yangtze giant softshell turtle died in China’s Suzhou Shangfangshan Forest Zoo following an attempt to artificially inseminate her, leaving behind just three confirmed individuals of the species.
- The female turtle had been moved more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Changsha Zoo to Suzhou Zoo in 2008 in the hope that she would mate and produce offspring with the 100-year old male turtle that also lived in captivity at Suzhou.
- The old turtle couple, however, failed to produce any offspring naturally, and several attempts at artificial insemination did not yield viable eggs.
- After the fifth attempt at artificial insemination, the female died during recovery from anesthesia. The male recovered from the procedure.

Colorful display of newly described stick insects confounds scientists [04/16/2019]
- Most stick insect species blend into their surroundings to avoid predators.
- But the males of two newly described species from madagascar, Achrioptera manga and Achrioptera maroloko, are brightly colored.
- Some scientists believe this allows them to attract females, even at the risk of being spotted by predators.
- Their distinctive hues make them potential flagship species for the biodiversity-rich regions where they were discovered: the forests of Montagne des Français and Orangea.

Waters off Galápagos have way more alien species than previously known [04/16/2019]
- The waters off the Galápagos Islands have nearly 10 times more alien marine invertebrates than previously recorded, a new study has found.
- The study recorded a total of 53 non-native marine invertebrates (animals that lack a backbone, such as marine worms, sea squirts or moss animals) in the waters off two islands in the archipelago, up from five that were previously known.
- Researchers suspect there are many more non-native species present in the Galápagos waters that remain to be discovered.

Conservation may offer common ground in Afghan conflict [04/15/2019]
- War, drugs, corruption, and terrorism are terms Westerners are more likely to associate with Afghanistan than biodiversity conservation. But Alex Dehgan says conservation has the potential to offer a bridge toward a more peaceful Afghanistan.
- Dehgan lays out his case in a new book titled The Snow Leopard Project And Other Adventures In Warzone Conservation. The book follows Dehgan’s unorthodox career from a biologist and legal expert in Russia to his time with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) setting up Afghanistan’s first national park.
- Dehgan argues that there is “an implicit understanding” among Afghans “of the links between conservation of the natural environment and their survival”.
- Dehgan spoke about his adventures in conservation in Afghanistan in an April 2019 interview with Mongabay.

To rescue Sumatran rhinos, Indonesia starts by counting them first [04/15/2019]
- In February, authorities in Indonesia held an exercise for Sumatran rhino researchers to track and tally the remaining wild population of the species.
- The government aims to finalize an official count of the critically endangered rhino within three years, according to the environment ministry.
- Natural breeding for the rhinos has been particularly difficult as the remaining individuals live in fragmented lowland forests away from each other. On top of that, rhinos are slow breeders and the females have a short fertility period.
- Estimates of the current size of the wild Sumatran rhino population range from 30 to 100 individuals. Another nine live in captivity in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Human pressure on the Serengeti’s fringes threatens the wildlife within [04/12/2019]
- Spanning more than 40,000 square kilometers (15,400 square miles), the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in East Africa is one of the largest protected areas in the world.
- A new study shows that human activities at the edges of the ecosystem are affecting wildlife migrations and pushing the animals deeper into the core of the protected area.
- The displaced wildlife have less available land, triggering a cascade of events impacting soils and vegetation, putting the whole ecosystem at risk.
- The study authors are calling for broader conservation strategies that address not only protected areas, but also their surroundings and local communities.

Scientists urge overhaul of the world’s parks to protect biodiversity [04/11/2019]
- A team of scientists argues that we should evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas based on the outcomes for biodiversity, not simple the area of land or ocean they protect.
- In a paper published April 11 in the journal Science, they outline the weaknesses of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, which set goals of protecting 17 percent of the earth’s surface and 10 percent of its oceans by 2020.
- They propose monitoring the outcomes of protected areas that measure changes in biodiversity in comparison to agreed-upon “reference” levels and then using those figures to determine how well they are performing.

Virtual Reality 360-degree video: An “empathy-generating machine” for conservation outreach? [04/11/2019]
- New video technology that films in 360 degrees brings viewers into the middle of the action and is set to become a powerful outreach tool to build understanding and empathy for wildlife and wild places.
- Small off-the-shelf cameras rugged enough to film in the wild are relatively inexpensive, easy enough for field researchers and other filming novices to use, and sufficiently sophisticated to collect videos of resolutions higher than 5 megapixels.
- At a recent presentation at National Geographic, four VR-360 filmmakers strongly endorsed the technology as a tool to inspire and nurture empathy in viewers for a range of conservation issues.

No rhino census this year as Nepal runs short of funds for survey [04/11/2019]
- A planned census of Nepal’s greater one-horned rhinoceros will not take place this year due to a lack of funds.
- Revenue from ticket sales at national parks is divided between the government’s general budget and funds to support local communities, leaving wildlife officials dependent on donors to finance activities like the census.
- This year’s census was believed to be particularly critical because large numbers of Nepal’s rhinos are dying due to unexplained or natural causes, prompting questions about the carrying capacity of Chitwan National Park, the country’s rhino stronghold.
- Experts believe a census this year could reveal a decline in population, a politically unpalatable outcome in a country where rhino conservation is a matter of national prestige.

Peru: Get to know the diverse wildlife of the cloud forests of Pampa Hermosa | VIDEOS [04/11/2019]
- Biologist Sean McHugh, along with filmmaker and photographer Jasmina McKibben, recently traveled to the Colibri cloud forest in Peru’s Pampa Hermosa district in search of the spectacled bear.
- At least 25 different species of mammals were observed in a rarely-investigated area of the Junín region of Peru.
- Two spectacled bears and a new population of yellow-tailed woolly monkeys were captured on video.

Kenya on the brink of acquitting ivory trafficker number four (commentary) [04/10/2019]
- On April 11, Chief Magistrate Francis Kyambia is set to make judgement in a Mombasa, Kenya court on the ivory trafficking prosecution against Ephantus Mbare Gitonga. A not-guilty verdict, if rendered, will be the fourth consecutive acquittal in a major ivory case in the last fifteen months.
- There will be many who find this hard to believe: Surely the only acquittal was that against Feisal Mohamed Ali in August 2018? He had originally been convicted in July 2017 for being in possession of 2.2 metric tons of ivory and sentenced to 20 years in jail with a $200,000 fine to boot. The widely celebrated finding was overturned in August of last year when Lady Justice D.O. Chepkwony of the Kenya High Court reached the decision that the initial ruling was flawed on multiple grounds.
- There are, however, two other acquittals in major ivory cases that quietly came and went with nary a whisper of surprise, dismay, or disillusionment. And now clearing agent Ephantus Mbare Gitonga is on the verge of yet another acquittal.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

There is no conservation justification for bringing the tapir back to Borneo (commentary) [04/09/2019]
- The past few years there has been a dedicated lobbying/promotional campaign among local amateur naturalists, professional conservationists, and international researchers to bring back Malay tapirs, Tapirus indicus, to Borneo.
- A recent article in Mongabay is yet another push towards this intended goal. It is well-written and a welcome contribution to this important discussion. Unfortunately, it misses a few important points.
- The introduction of tapirs to Borneo is not needed at this point in time and — more importantly — it serves no real or perceived conservation needs at present or in the near future.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Hunting pumas to save deer could backfire, new research suggests [04/09/2019]
- A new study finds that the age of individual pumas near Jackson, Wyoming, had the greatest influence over the prey they chose to hunt.
- Older mountain lions went after elk, among the largest prey species in the study area, while the younger cats hunted small animals like raccoons as well as mule deer.
- The research calls into question the validity of recent wildlife management plans in the western United States to grow mule deer populations by culling mountain lions, the authors say.

Belize to nearly triple area under strict marine protected areas [04/08/2019]
- The government of Belize has approved a plan to expand its marine areas designated as no-take zones from 4.5 percent to 11.6 percent of its total waters.
- Much of the expansion will cover deep-sea areas at depths ranging from 200 to 3,000 meters (660 to 9,850 feet), currently underrepresented in Belize’s system of marine protected areas, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.
- The expansion will also include a no-take area in Belize’s exclusive economic zone, covering an extensive coral reef complex known as the Corona Reef.

Planning without action will see the Javan rhino go extinct (commentary) [04/08/2019]
- Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia’s Java island is the last remaining habitat on Earth for the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros.
- The rhino population is holding steady, but its survival is threatened by natural disasters and a genetic bottleneck due to its small population.
- Conservation efforts, particularly finding a second home for these creatures in a lower-risk area, have long been planned, and now is the time to implement all of them to protect the rhinos from extinction.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

On a wing and a prayer? Evidence for ways to conserve bats (commentary) [04/05/2019]
- Globally, around a quarter of bat species are threatened by factors including habitat loss, roost destruction, hunting, and climate change.
- To find the most effective ways of conserving these creatures, researchers at Conservation First, the University of Leeds, and the University of Cambridge (where I work) have updated a report that gathers together information on how well attempts to conserve bats actually worked.
- While the new bat synopsis gathers more information than ever before on ways to reduce the impact of developments from roads to lighting and from farming to forestry, it still highlights shocking gaps in the evidence.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Unusual lizard lays eggs, then births a live baby — in the same pregnancy [04/05/2019]
- In a lab at the University of Sydney, a female yellow-bellied three-toad skink first laid eggs, then gave birth to a live baby, all part of the same pregnancy.
- This is the first time biologists have observed both egg-laying and live-bearing in a single litter of a vertebrate animal, researchers say in a new study.
- While the three-toed skink is known to have a dual mode of reproduction — some populations lay eggs, while others give birth to live babies — what mode the skink follows seems to be influenced by genetics and not environmental conditions, previous research has found.
- But the latest study suggests that individuals may be able to “switch” between reproductive modes depending on the situation, researchers say.

Indonesia arrests 7 for allegedly selling Komodo dragons over Facebook [04/05/2019]
- Indonesian officials have arrested seven suspected members of a trafficking network that sold at least 40 Komodo dragons, along with other rare species, through Facebook and other social media platforms.
- Komodo dragons are found only in Indonesia and are a protected species, which means the suspects could face up to five years in prison and up to $7,000 each in fines for trading the animals.
- Six baby Komodo dragons were seized from the suspects, and are now being cared for by conservation officials ahead of a possible release back into the wild.
- The arrests have highlighted the dominant role of social media platforms in facilitating the illegal trade in Indonesia’s protected wildlife, with up to 98 percent of transactions believed to be carried out online.

New species of skink from Angola has waited over 70 years to be described [04/03/2019]
- In the 1950s and 60s, two Belgian herpetologists suspected the occurrence of a new-to-science species of skink based on specimens from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But neither of them got around to describing the species in their lifetimes.
- Now, a team of researchers surveying amphibians and reptiles in Cagandala National Park in Angola have formally described the long-tailed skink in a new study.
- Named Trachylepis raymondlaurenti or Laurent’s long tailed skink in honor of Raymond Laurent, the researchers suggest a conservation status of Least Concern for the skink for now.

Audio: Debunking myths about sloths is crucial to stopping the sloth crisis [04/02/2019]
- On today’s episode, we talk with zoologist Rebecca Cliffe about why the popular perception of sloths as lazy creatures is completely unwarranted — and why debunking myths like this about the animals is especially important right now.
- The increasing global popularity sloths have enjoyed in recent years has not translated into an increase in protection. That’s why Cliffe sought to debunk some persistent myths about sloths in her 2017 book — myths that she says still need debunking today.
- Cliffe tells us all about how moving slow is actually a survival strategy that has been so successful that sloths are some of the oldest mammals on our planet, the current “sloth crisis” driven by forest fragmentation and people taking “sloth selfies,” and what you can do to help protect sloths.

To stop extinctions, start with these 169 islands, new study finds [04/02/2019]
- New research shows that culling invasive, non-native animals on just 169 islands around the world over roughly the next decade could help save almost 10 percent of island-dwelling animals at risk of extinction.
- A team of scientists surveyed nearly 1,300 islands where 1,184 threatened native animals have collided with 184 invasive mammals.
- Their analyses gave them a list of 107 islands where conservationists could start eradication projects by 2020, potentially keeping 80 threatened species from sliding closer to extinction.

Crab season to be cut short in California to protect whales and turtles [04/01/2019]
- A settlement between the Center for Biological Diversity and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will close California’s Dungeness crab fishery three months early in 2019 to reduce the chances that whales and other sea life will become entangled in fishing gear.
- The crabbing season in 2020 and 2021 will also be shuttered early in places where high concentrations of whales come to feed in the spring, such as Monterey Bay.
- Conservationists applauded the changes, saying that they will save animals’ lives.
- The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations was also involved in hammering out the settlement, and its representative said that the new rules, while “challenging,” would help the industry move toward a “resilient, prosperous, and protective fishery.”

Deadly fungal disease has devastated more than 500 amphibian species [04/01/2019]
- In 2007, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, was implicated in the decline or extinction of up to 200 species of frogs.
- Now, by scanning through evidence, researchers have found that in all, chytrid fungus-linked deaths have contributed to the decline of at least 501 amphibian species — that’s 6.5 percent of all amphibian species described by science so far. 
- Of these, some 90 species are presumably extinct and another 124 are suffering severe declines, researchers say.

Video: Scientists surprised to discover tiny toadlets can glow [03/29/2019]
- Pumpkin toadlets (Brachycephalus ephippium) inhabit Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, where they crawl through the leaf litter in search of mates.
- However, researchers found that they can’t hear their own high-frequency mating calls.
- While investigating how they communicate to find mates, the researchers unexpectedly discovered that the frogs fluoresce when exposed to UV light.
- The researchers aren’t sure why they do this, but say it could be a way to avoid predation or attract mates.

Meet Mini mum, Mini ature, Mini scule: Tiny new frogs from Madagascar [03/28/2019]
- Researchers have named three previously undescribed, extremely small species of frogs from Madagascar Mini mum, Mini ature, and Mini scule. All of them belong to Mini, a genus that is entirely new to science.
- The new study describes two more species of tiny frogs, Rhombophryne proportionali, and Anodonthyla eximia, both smaller than thumbnails, just like the Minis.
- The newly described frogs from Madagascar are, however, known only from a handful of locations. While the researchers recommend placing three of the species in a threatened category of the IUCN Red List, two species are data deficient.

New report lays out low-carbon development path for Indonesia [03/28/2019]
- The Indonesian government published a report showing how the country could reap tremendous economic benefits by transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
- According to the report, a low-carbon development path could deliver an average of 6 percent GDP growth per year until 2045, with continued gains in employment, income growth and poverty reduction.
- This strategy would also cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions nearly 43 percent by 2030, exceeding Indonesia’s international climate target.
- The low-carbon model would require Indonesia to cut its reliance on coal, whereas the government’s current plan is to build more coal-fired power plants.

Better than sex? For hard-to-breed rhinos, technology strives for a solution [03/28/2019]
- Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are being developed to improve the outcomes of captive-breeding programs for rhinos.
- If successful, these efforts could help create a self-sustaining reserve population and help diversify the gene pool of wild populations.
- ARTs have been successfully used in both humans and livestock since the 1970s, but have not been as effective in wildlife species such as rhinos.
- Experts say they believe ART could play an important role in rhino conservation, but caution that these technologies are only one part of the solution.

New research teases apart complex effects of naval sonar on whales [03/28/2019]
- A pair of recent studies shows the unique responses of different whales to sonar, typically used by navies to detect submarines.
- Sonar sounds have been linked to hearing loss, deadly mass strandings and interference with whales’ communication with each other.
- One of the studies found that the distance the whales were from sonar sounds didn’t matter — they generally fled whether they were close to or far from it.
- Another study showed that sonar affected the feeding patterns of deep-diving blue whales, but not those that were feasting on krill at the surface.

Ocean acidification could impact Atlantic cod populations more severely than previously thought [03/27/2019]
- A 2016 study determined that, at the ocean acidification levels expected by the end of the century if we do nothing to draw down CO2 emissions, twice as many cod larvae will die within their first 25 days, causing the number of cod who reach maturity and reproduce to drop by 8 and 24 percent for the Western Baltic and Barents Sea populations, respectively.
- Scientists hoped that those cod who managed to reach maturity might be helping the species adapt to the conditions brought on by global climate change. But new research appears to have dashed those hopes.
- The new study, which was published in the journal Global Change Biology last month, found that surviving cod larvae suffer significant organ damage and developmental delays that could cause problems throughout their lifetimes.

Ascension, the Atlantic ‘Galápagos,’ to get massive marine reserve [03/27/2019]
- The British government has announced the creation of a fully protected “no-take” marine protected area (MPA) in the waters around Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean.
- The MPA will cover 443,000 square kilometers (171,000 square miles), making it one of the largest MPAs in the Atlantic.
- The British government has joined calls for the protection of 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

How digital technologies can transform nature conservation engagement (commentary) [03/26/2019]
- At this crucial time, a digital leap can provide an opportunity to drastically improve individuals’ engagement in nature conservation by addressing the gaps in the current customer experience preventing more people from getting involved.
- Our market research indicates that 82 percent of donors do not fully know where their money is going or whether is having an impact. Donors get frustrated by their inability to track the impact of their donation and select the specific location, project, or wildlife they would like to support. This limited user experience lags behind digital norms and makes it particularly challenging to compel more people to get involved.
- People should not have to sacrifice transparency and ease-of-use to reap the benefits of supporting nature conservation. With advanced consumer demands and technology trends, there is an opportunity for improved engagement models that address the current gaps.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Malaysian state chief: Highway construction must not destroy forest [03/26/2019]
- The chief minister of Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, said that the Pan Borneo Highway project should expand existing roads where possible to minimize environmental impact.
- A coalition of local NGOs and scientific organizations applauded the announcement, saying that it could usher in a new era of collaboration between the government and civil society to look out for Sabah’s people and forests.
- These groups have raised concerns about the impacts on wildlife and communities of the proposed path of the highway, which will cover some 5,300 kilometers (3,300 miles) in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Widespread tool-using chimp culture discovered in Democratic Republic of Congo [03/25/2019]
- Researchers spent 12 years documenting the behaviors exhibited by a population of Eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) whose range extends across more than 50,000 square kilometers (over 19,300 square miles) of northern Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The paper published this month in the journal Folia Primatologica detailing the team’s findings includes a description of an entirely new chimpanzee tool kit featuring four different kinds of tools: a long ant probe, a short probe, a thin wand, and a digging stick.
- These tools are used to harvest five different food types, including a variety of driver and ponerine ant species as well as honey from the nests of ground-dwelling and arboreal bees. And they’re not the only evidence of unique behaviors discovered among this chimp population.

Madeira River dams may spell doom for Amazon’s marathon catfish: Studies [03/25/2019]
- Independent monitoring of a giant Amazon catfish population in the Madeira River, a major tributary of the Amazon, confirms that two hydroelectric dams have virtually blocked the species’ homing migration upstream — the longest known freshwater fish migration in the world.
- Research completed in 2018 indicates a serious decline in catches of the gilded catfish (Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii) and other key commercial species on the Madeira, both upstream and downstream of the two dams.
- New monitoring techniques show that the disruption of the migration route raises the risk of extinction for this species, for which researchers have recommended the conservation status be elevated from vulnerable to critically endangered.
- If the gilded catfish and other migratory species are to survive, mechanisms to assist their migration past the dams must be improved, researchers say.

Study maps where tunas, sharks and fishing ships meet [03/25/2019]
- By analyzing the trails of 933 fishing vessels and more than 800 sharks and tunas in the northeast Pacific, researchers have identified regions where the two tend to overlap in a new study.
- While the ships could be traced back to 12 countries, most that operated within the high seas part of the study region belonged to just five countries: Taiwan, China, Japan, Mexico and the United States.
- The study found that 4 to 35 percent of all the species’ core habitats overlapped with commercial fishing ships. But where they overlapped differed: for species like the salmon shark, most of the overlap occurred within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or domestic waters of the U.S. and Canada, while 87 percent of blue shark overlap with fishing occurred in the high seas
- Such fish-fishing overlap maps would be particularly useful for guiding fisheries management in the high seas, researchers say.

Nepal reckons with the dark side of its rhino conservation success [03/25/2019]
- A recent film glorifying rangers in Chitwan National Park, and a Buzzfeed investigation highlighting human rights abuses by those same rangers, have prompted debate over Nepal’s conservation practices.
- The country has achieved remarkable success in protecting species like the greater one-horned rhino, and conservationists say efforts to engage with and support communities around Chitwan have greatly increased since the 1990s.
- Rights activists say local people suffer due to a prevailing attitude that disregards the rights of historically marginalized people and denies them a genuine role in policymaking.

World’s fastest shark, and many others, edge toward extinction [03/23/2019]
- Seventeen species of sharks and rays have joined the list of those threatened with extinction, according to the latest updates from the Shark Specialist Group (SSG) of the IUCN, which recently assessed the population trends of 58 shark and ray species.
- Among them is the shortfin mako, the world’s fastest known shark, whose threat status has been uplisted from vulnerable to endangered, as well as its cousin, the longfin mako.
- Three shark species — the Argentine angelshark, whitefin swellshark and smoothback angelshark — have been uplisted to critically endangered from lower threat categories.

Combining artificial intelligence and citizen science to improve wildlife surveys [03/22/2019]
- Migratory species play a key role in the health of the Serengeti ecosystem in East Africa, but monitoring their populations is a time- and labor-intensive task.
- Scientists studying these wildebeest populations compared expert observer counts of aerial imagery to corresponding counts by both volunteer citizen scientists and deep learning algorithms.
- Both novel methods were able to produce accurate wildebeest counts from the images with minor modifications, the algorithms doing so faster than humans.
- Use of automated object detection algorithms requires prior “training” with specific data sets, which in this case came from the volunteer counts, suggesting that the two methods are both useful and complementary.

Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [03/20/2019]
- A new study has found that lowland tapirs spend more time in degraded forests than in pristine Amazon rainforest.
- They also defecate and deposit three times more seeds in these degraded areas.
- The results indicate that tapirs may help human-affected forests recover and grow back.

Protecting small, old-growth forests fails to preserve bird diversity: Study [03/20/2019]
- Recent research suggests that designating small fragments of old-growth temperate forests as protected areas is not sufficient to halt loss of bird diversity, and that better monitoring and management of forests is required to achieve conservation goals.
- A research team led by Jeffrey Brown, a doctoral student at Rutgers University in the U.S., used data spanning a 40-year time period to study bird populations in Mettler’s Woods, a 64-acre old-growth forest within the Rutgers-owned William L. Hutcheson Memorial Forest in the state of New Jersey.
- Mettler’s Woods is one of the last uncut stands of oak-hickory forest to be found in the United States. It would, on its surface, appear to provide ideal habitat for many bird species. But nine birds known to historically inhabit the forest no longer nest there, and many other species have lower populations than expected.

Sea otters leave behind unique archaeological traces, study finds [03/20/2019]
- Sea otters are the only marine mammals known to use stone tools. Now, a new study has found that by striking shells on rocks, sea otters leave behind distinct archaeological signatures.
- These marks can be used to trace sea otters in locations where they are now extinct.
- The study also found clear damage patterns on mussel shells left around the stationary rocks. These shell break patterns provide a new way to distinguish the evidence of sea otter food consumption from that of humans, researchers say.

Audio: What underwater sounds can tell us about Indian Ocean humpback dolphins [03/19/2019]
- On today’s episode, we speak with marine biologist Isha Bopardikar, an independent researcher who is using bioacoustics to study humpback dolphins off the west coast of India.
- Last month, Mongabay’s India bureau published an article with the headline “What underwater sounds tell us about marine life.” As Mongabay contributor Sejal Mehta notes in the piece, the world beneath the ocean’s surface is a noisy place, with animals sounding off for a number of purposes. Now, of course, humanity is interjecting more and more frequently, intruding on the underwater soundscape.
- As Isha Bopardikar tells Mehta in the Mongabay India piece, in order to understand how marine animals use the underwater space and how human activities affect their behavior, we need hard data. That’s where her current work off the west coast of India comes in. In this Fields Notes segment, Bopardikar plays for us some of her dolphin recordings and explains how they are informing her research.

Bid to protect Borneo’s wild cattle hinges on whether it’s a new species [03/18/2019]
- The Bornean banteng is considered to be a subspecies of the banteng found on Java, but some scientists are arguing the animal should be recognized as its own species.
- Local indigenous communities are trying to protect the banteng, invoking customary law to fine their own members and outsiders who hunt it. Community planning has spaced rice fields farther apart so that the banteng have room to travel.
- In the headwaters region of the Belantikan River in central Borneo, only 20 or 30 Bornean banteng are known to remain.

Super variable California salamander is ‘an evolutionist’s dream’ [03/18/2019]
- The ensatina is a widespread salamander species that can be found in forests along the entire western coast of North America.
- It is one of only two species that broadly lives up to the “ring species” concept: the ensatina is considered to be a single species, but is characterized by a chain of interconnected populations around California’s Central Valley that can look strikingly different. While the intermediate populations can interbreed, the forms at the southern ends of the loop are so different that they can no longer mate successfully everywhere they meet.
- Ensatinas are among the key predators on the forest floors they occupy, and play a critical role in sequestering carbon.
- Researchers are now trying to figure out if ensatinas and other North American salamanders have any natural defenses against the deadly Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans fungus.

Invasive plants a fast-growing threat to India’s rhinos [03/18/2019]
- In 2018, biologists observed the invasive plant Parthenium, known locally as congress grass, establishing itself in grasslands of India’s Pobitora National Park.
- Invasive species threaten protected areas in Assam state, and herbivores like the greater one-horned rhinos that live within them, by crowding out the native plants animals rely on for food.
- Each of Assam state’s four rhino reserves currently faces threats from invasive plants including Parthenium, Mimosa, Mikania and water hyacinth.
- Experts are contemplating the use of several strategies to tackle invasive plants, including manual removal and the introduction of biological control agents such as the Mexican beetle that feeds on Parthenium.

Possible vaquita death accompanies announcement that only 10 are left [03/18/2019]
- The environmental organization Sea Shepherd said it found a dead vaquita in a gillnet on March 12.
- One day later, scientists from the group CIRVA announced that around 10 — as many as 22 or as few as six — vaquitas survive in the Gulf of California.
- Despite a ban on gillnets used catch totoaba, a fish prized for its swim bladders used in traditional Chinese medicine, vaquita numbers have continued to decline.

Latam Eco Review: Bolivia’s Batman and Peru’s birdy cave drawings [03/16/2019]
A biologist known as Bolivia’s Batman, ground zero for Amazon deforestation in Peru, and camera traps showing the bird species from ancient cave drawings were among the top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Bolivia’s Batman: “There are many more bat species here” “Colombia gets the gold medal” for having the highest number of […]

Study identifies climate-resilient trees to help orangutan conservation [03/15/2019]
- Once written off as lost cause for conservation, Indonesia’s Kutai National Park supports one of the last intact forest canopies on Borneo’s eastern coast, a habitat for the critically endangered East Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus morio).
- An IUCN study funded through the Indianapolis Zoological Society has identified tree species native to Kutai National Park that are resilient to climate change and support orangutan populations.
- Climate change has become an emerging threat that is likely to intensify drought conditions and wildfires. Currently, land settlement and human-caused fires pose the greatest existential threat to the park’s ecosystem functions and biodiversity.
- The study authors recommended that the fire-resistant native trees they identified in the study be planted in buffer zones around fire-prone areas. They hope the study will help spur research to enable forest restoration in other parts of the world.

AI and drone-based imagery improve power to survey cryptic animals [03/15/2019]
- Developing effective management strategies for threatened species like koalas requires knowing where and how many are in a target area, but surveying cryptic low-density animals can lead to variable estimates.
- A recent study has introduced a new automated method for wildlife detection using a pair of object detection machine learning algorithms to detect animals’ heat signatures in drone-derived thermal imaging.
- By understanding error rates of different survey methods and including appropriate technology, the researchers say, wildlife monitoring can become more efficient and effective.

New maps show where humans are pushing species closer to extinction [03/15/2019]
- A new study maps out how disruptive human changes to the environment affect the individual ranges of more than 5,400 mammal, bird and amphibian species around the world.
- Almost a quarter of the species are threatened by human impacts in more than 90 percent of their range, and at least one human impact occurred in an average of 38 percent of the range of a given species.
- The study also identified “cool” spots, where concentrations of species aren’t negatively impacted by humans.
- The researchers say these “refugia” are good targets for conservation efforts.

A plea to Botswana: Please rethink a “Not Enough Fences” approach (commentary) [03/14/2019]
- The Government of Botswana is considering significant changes to the country’s approach to wildlife management.
- The proposed policy reflects a worrying lack of recognition of the habitat and migration route requirements that the future of southern Africa’s wildlife fundamentally depends upon.
- Now is not the time to cut-off migratory corridors or build new fences. Instead, it is time to make land-use decisions that will be socially, ecologically and economically sustainable for generations to come.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

‘Like seeing a dinosaur’: Scientists locate mystery killer whales [03/14/2019]
- For years, there have been stories and photographs of “odd-looking” killer whales lurking in some of the roughest parts of the sub-Antarctic seas.
- Named Type D killer whales, these whales are quite different from regular killer whales: they’re smaller, their heads are more rounded, they have considerably smaller white eye patches, and their dorsal fins are narrower with sharp pointed tips.
- Now, researchers have finally located and filmed a group of these mysterious Type D killer whales off the tip of southern Chile.
- They have also collected tiny bits of tissues from the animals that they hope to use to analyze the whales’ DNA to see if they’re actually new to science.

In East Africa, spread of sickle bush drives conflict with wildlife [03/13/2019]
- The rapid spread of sickle bush is causing habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict in East Africa.
- Experts don’t yet know why this native plant is spreading, but animals from elephants to gazelles dislike it and seek food in farms like those neighboring Randilen Wildlife Management Area in Tanzania.
- Methods ranging from burning to chemicals have been suggested to deal with the issue.
- Until the bush’s spread is slowed, crude methods ranging from flashlights to fireworks will continue to be employed to keep wildlife clear of crops.

Wikipedia searches reveal how people’s interests in wildlife change [03/13/2019]
- By analyzing Wikipedia pages corresponding to nearly 32,000 species across 245 Wikipedia language editions, researchers have found that pageviews for more than a quarter of the species show seasonal patterns. This suggests people are paying attention to the animals and plants around them, researchers say.
- The study also found that views for species-related pages showed a lot more seasonality than random, non-species-related pages, suggesting that people tend to interact with wildlife in a more seasonal way than other aspects of their lives.
- The study, while identifying some interesting patterns, does not dig into the potential causes driving those patterns.
- What it does uncover are patterns of when, where and how people interact with nature, which, researchers say, can help guide conservation education and marketing campaigns.

Wildlife conservation strategies must take animals’ social lives into account: Researchers [03/13/2019]
- In a paper published in Science last month, an international team of researchers argues that the growing body of evidence on the importance of social learning and animal cultures must be taken more fully into account in order to improve wildlife conservation efforts.
- “Animal culture” consists of information and behaviors shared amongst members of a wildlife community, such as a flock of migratory birds, a herd of elephants, or a pod of whales. For whooping cranes to retain knowledge of migration routes across generations, for instance, this knowledge must be passed between members of the flock through what scientists call “social learning.”
- Despite the mounting evidence of the far-reaching implications of social learning for the preservation of wildlife, however, international policy forums that devise large-scale conservation strategies “have so far not engaged substantially with the challenges and opportunities presented by this new scientific perspective,” the researchers note.

Freshwater fishes and other threatened but overlooked biodiversity must be new flagships for conservation (commentary) [03/12/2019]
- Today there are believed to be at least 15,000 species of freshwater fishes. Only 54 percent of them have been assessed under the IUCN Red List, and one-third of these species are considered to be under threat of extinction. For the many species that remain unassessed, or for which there is too little information to make an assessment, the situation is likely to be as bad or worse.
- While there is so much to do, there are only a handful of dedicated freshwater fish conservation organizations, and few have full-time staff. Trout and salmon have received large amounts of attention and, as a consequence, there are many stories of conservation success. There are fewer stories of success for species outside North America and northern Europe. And this is what we will change with Shoal.
- The call by leading conservation agencies for a “new deal for nature” at the next Conference of the Parties of the Convention for Biological Diversity in 2020 needs to be firmly founded on neglected species, particularly freshwater biodiversity. Shoal will engage thousands of people and businesses across the globe who share a love of and stake in the future of freshwater species and healthy, productive wetlands but until now have had little opportunity to engage in the more mainstream conservation movement.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Elephant in the room: Botswana deals with pachyderm population pressure [03/12/2019]
- The government of Botswana is considering measures to rein in its elephant population to address the problem of human-elephant conflicts.
- These proposed measures include a resumption of big-game hunting and culling of elephants, which number about 130,000 in Botswana — the biggest population of the pachyderm in Africa.
- An existing solution is a transboundary conservation area that straddles the borders between Botswana and Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola.
- Given that many of the elephants inside Botswana come from these other countries, officials say having wildlife corridors in the border areas could ease the population pressure inside the country.

European Parliament to vote on timber legality agreement with Vietnam [03/11/2019]
- The European Parliament begins debate March 11 on a resolution to consent to the recently signed Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with Vietnam on the trade of timber and timber products from the Southeast Asian country.
- The VPA is the result of nearly eight years of negotiations aimed at stopping the flow of illegally harvested timber into the EU.
- Members of parliament are expected to vote in favor of the resolution on March 12, though officials in the EU and outside observers have voiced concerns about the legality of the wood imported into Vietnam from other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Encounters with the Javan rhino (commentary) [03/11/2019]
- Relatively little is known about the behavior of the Javan rhinoceros, a famously elusive species with a global population of less than 70 individuals.
- Understanding the rhinos’ behavior and how they interact with their environment is key to conservation efforts.
- In this commentary, researcher Haeruddin Sadjudin looks back on four decades of work with rhinos to compile anecdotes that shed light on some characteristics of the species.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Tiny subterranean Texas salamanders could be extinct in 100 years [03/08/2019]
- A recent study has revealed the existence of three previously undescribed species living underground within an aquifer system in Central Texas.
- The authors say one of these species is critically endangered due to human over-use of the aquifer. In all, they say that this unsustainable use could mean the extinction of all aquifer salamanders in the next century.
- The researchers urge the creation of policies that would regulate groundwater usage, as well as greater protection of particularly at-risk species through the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Iran’s endangered cheetahs and imperiled conservationists (commentary) [03/08/2019]
- Eight Iranian wildlife conservationists have been imprisoned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps since January 2018, facing charges of espionage. All those in detention — Niloufar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian, Houman Jowkar, Sepideh Kashani, Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, Sam Radjabi and Morad Tahbaz — are among the most knowledgeable, experienced, and capable conservationists working in Iran.
- All are accused of spying under the guise of conducting cheetah surveys by using camera traps to collect sensitive information. But camera-traps are an extremely poor tool for spying. They are indispensable for monitoring shy species like Asiatic cheetahs, but the cat must pass within the sensor’s very limited range — around 5-10 meters — to trigger the unit.
- We hope that their body of excellent work is presented during the trials. We also hope that the Iranian authorities consider their profound contribution to conserving Iran’s magnificent natural heritage, and that these authorities agree with us that the future of the cheetah and of conservation in Iran relies on these very people being able to continue their vital work.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Wildlife traffickers thrive on Guatemala’s murky border with Belize [03/08/2019]
- Guatemala’s environmental prosecutor has revealed the existence of “criminal structures” involving farmers, intermediaries from Guatemala and Belize, public officials, and financiers from Asia.
- According to experts and authorities, the long-running border conflict between the two countries has led to the unchecked extraction of natural resources.
- Scarlet macaws and parrots are smuggled across the border and sold on the local black market and in Mexico. Rosewood, a precious tree species that is often shipped to Asia, is also a target for illegal harvest and trade.

Seahorse trade continues despite export bans, study finds [03/08/2019]
- Many countries with export bans on seahorses are still trading in the tiny animals, a new study has found.
- Traders in Hong Kong, the world’s largest importer of dried seahorses, told researchers that their stocks of dried seahorses for 2016-17 had mostly come from Thailand, the Philippines, mainland China, Australia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam — most of these countries have export bans in place.
- Much of the seahorse trade seems to persist despite the bans largely because of indiscriminate fishing practices like trawling that catch millions of seahorses every year while targeting other fish species.
- This suggests that both outright bans on the seahorse trade as well as trade restrictions under CITES aren’t being enforced effectively.

New MPA established in Philippines includes community-led monitoring program [03/07/2019]
- A new marine protected area (MPA) has been founded in the Philippines within what are considered some of the most biologically diverse waters on Earth.
- The new MPA, which has been given the name Pirasan, encompasses more than 54 acres (about 22 hectares) of thriving coral reef habitat. The MPA was designed to protect this pristine reef system and, at the same time, boost an emerging local ecotourism industry.
- In addition to establishing the new protected area, the municipality of Tingloy has committed to a uniquely ambitious two-year program to monitor the reef’s health and empower local residents as stewards of the reef.

Proximity to towns stretches giraffe home ranges [03/06/2019]
- A recent study found that female giraffes that live close to towns have larger home ranges than those living further afield.
- The study’s authors believe that large human settlements reduce giraffes’ access to food and water.
- The team cites the importance of understanding the size of the area that giraffe populations need to survive to address the precipitous decline in the animal’s numbers across Africa in the past 30 years.

Philippines customs find more than 1,500 live turtles in suitcases [03/06/2019]
- Customs officials in the Philippines have seized 1,529 live turtles found wrapped in duct tape inside four suitcases abandoned at the international airport in Manila.
- The confiscated turtles include threatened species like the Indian star tortoise, red-footed tortoise, and the sulcata or African spurred tortoise, as well as red-eared sliders, one of the most commonly traded turtles in the world.
- The officials say the suitcases belonged to a Filipino passenger who had arrived on a flight from Hong Kong. If caught, the passenger could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $3,800 for violating the country’s wildlife and customs laws, customs authorities said.
- The seized turtles, estimated to be worth $86,000, have been turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Wildlife Traffic Monitoring Unit.

Salt fiends: Search for sodium puts Rwanda’s gorillas in harm’s way [03/06/2019]
- A recent study has identified a craving for sodium as the likely reason that mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park raid eucalyptus plantations outside the park.
- Eucalyptus bark contains 100 times more sodium than the gorillas’ normal diet and accounts for up to two thirds of their total sodium intake.
- A proposed buffer zone of nutritionally unattractive plants could help deter gorillas from crop raiding, which is the primary cause of human-gorilla conflict in the area.

You’re gonna need a smaller boat: Media obscures shrinking ‘newsworthy’ fish [03/05/2019]
- The sizes of certain species of fish that qualify as “newsworthy” have diminished over time, a new study has found.
- The authors scoured English-language newspapers going back to 1869, searching for terms like “massive” and “giant” in mentions of noteworthy fish landings, and compared the reported lengths with the largest specimens on record for that species.
- They found that for some “charismatic megafish,” such as whale sharks and manta rays, the size that qualified as large has declined over time.
- That shifting baseline could pose a problem for conservation efforts because it gives the impression that “there are still a lot of very large fish in the sea,” marine ecologist Isabelle Côté said.

Activists fighting to save orangutan habitat from dam unfazed by legal setback [03/05/2019]
- An Indonesian court has ruled that construction of a hydroelectric dam in North Sumatra can proceed despite concerns it will harm the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan.
- Conservationists plan to appeal, citing “irregularities” in the decision and saying important issues raised during the hearing were not taken into account.
- The loss of even one or two orangutans per year due to impacts from the hydroelectric project could lead to eventual extinction, experts say.

180 years of herps: Q&A with Luis Ceríaco on Angola’s atlas of life [03/05/2019]
- Angola’s new atlas of amphibians and reptiles is a compendium of nearly 400 species recorded from thousands of scattered sources published between 1840 and 2017.
- The atlas includes the history of research into Angola’s herpetofauna as well as detailed distribution and conservation concerns of 117 species of frogs and 278 species of reptiles currently recognized in the country.
- By placing all available data on Angola’s herpetofauna in a single document, the atlas could serve as a tool for those interested in biodiversity conservation in the country, researchers say.
- Mongabay spoke with Luis M.P. Ceríaco, one of the researchers involved in the project, to know more about the atlas.

Trouble in Botswana’s elephant paradise as poaching said to rise [03/05/2019]
- Botswana is home to 130,000 elephants, a third of Africa’s total elephant population, and has gained a reputation as a sanctuary for the threatened species.
- The country has a hunting ban and strict anti-poaching measures in place.
- But a report based on an aerial survey carried out last year appears to show an alarming increase in poaching, notably of male elephants for their typically larger tusks — a finding disputed by the government.
- The government is considering ending the hunting ban to allow the trophy shooting and culling of elephants to get their population under control.

In Nigeria, hunters turn into guardians of the rarest gorilla on Earth [03/04/2019]
- The Cross River gorilla was thought to be extinct by the 1980s, even though people living and hunting in remote areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border knew the apes were still present deep in the forest.
- After the ape was formally rediscovered in the late 1980s, conservation groups and the Nigerian government worked to protect its habitat.
- In one part of the Cross River gorilla landscape, the Mbe Mountains, traditional landowners organized themselves into a community conservation association, keeping the forest under their stewardship.
- The association faces ongoing challenges, but with the support of NGOs like the Wildlife Conservation Society, it works to protect gorillas while improving the livelihoods of local people.

As extinction looms, can Javan rhinos survive in Ujung Kulon? (Commentary) [03/04/2019]
- Indonesia’s Javan rhinos were widely hunted until they were protected by a Colonial-era law in 1910. Even then, enforcement was limited.
- Since 1921, the Ujung Kulon peninsula in western Java has been protected as a reserve for Javan rhinos. It is now the species’ sole remaining habitat.
- Ujung Kulon’s rhino population faces numerous challenges including invasive plants, competition from wild cattle and the risk of natural disasters and disease.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Marine protected areas are getting SMART (commentary) [03/03/2019]
- This year, World Wildlife Day will celebrate life in the world’s oceans. It’s a fitting tribute. Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the world’s surface, harbor hundreds of thousands of species, and provide important resources to coastal communities that house more than 35 percent of the global population.
- Oceans also face significant threats, including overexploitation. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are central to the efforts to protect Earth’s seas and the wildlife that call them home. In recent years, there has been a surge in their creation.
- In order for this strategy to succeed, though, new and existing MPAs must be managed effectively. The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) was developed by the SMART Partnership, a collaboration of nine global conservation organizations to improve the performance of protected areas, both on land and at sea, and better use limited resources.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Video: scientists capture giant spider eating an opossum [03/02/2019]
- For the first time, researchers have documented a giant spider eating an opossum in the Amazon rainforest.
- Writing in the February 28th issue of the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, a team of scientists describe several rarely observed cases of invertebrates eating various vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, snakes, and even a mammal — a mouse opossum.
- The mouse opossum incident occurred in 2016 in the Peruvian Amazon and was captured on film by biology students.
- The sighting was the first of a mygalomorph spider — a group of large spiders that includes tarantulas — preying on an opossum.

Taiwan: Extinct leopard subspecies allegedly seen by rangers [03/02/2019]
- Formosan clouded leopards were reportedly spotted by rangers in a remote part of Taiwan.
- Declared extinct in 2013 after a years-long project to capture one on camera failed, community rangers say they saw the creatures twice last year.
- Mongabay asked the IUCN about the reports, but their big cat experts could not comment officially due to the lack of verifiable info on the sightings.
- “I believe this animal still does exist,” National Taitung University’s Department of Life Science professor Liu Chiung-hsi said.

Why did Serengeti’s wild dogs disappear? Study challenges controversial hypothesis [03/01/2019]
- When African wild dogs disappeared from the famed Serengeti National Park in 1991, a controversial hypothesis that emerged was that handling by researchers to fit them with radio collars and take blood samples had compromised their immune systems and triggered a latent rabies virus.
- Decades later, a new study challenges that hypothesis, showing that wild dogs exposed to similar stresses and conditions to the east of the park didn’t face the same mortality rate.
- A proponent of the original hypothesis, though, says a more rigorous analysis of the wild dogs’ exposure to disease and levels of stress would have presented a more convincing argument.
- The study’s authors posit that African wild dogs went missing from the Serengeti plains because of increasing competition with lions and hyenas, whose numbers have increased in the park.

Latam Eco Review: Mining bust in Peru, mining boom in Chile [03/01/2019]
A state of emergency against illegal mining in Peru, open season for new mining ports in Chile, drones vs rats in the Galápagos, and jaguar corridors in Colombia are among the top recent stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Massive raid on illegal mining in Peru’s Madre de Dios Peruvian security forces descended en […]

In the Congo Basin, a road cuts through once-untouched ape wilderness [03/01/2019]
- The TRIDOM landscape, encompassing forests in Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, is home to more than 40,000 great apes as well as Central Africa’s largest elephant population.
- TRIDOM is in the path of a planned road link between Cameroon and Congo. Associated projects include a hydropower dam.
- While the project’s environmental impact assessment estimated only 750 hectares (1,850 acres) of woodland would be cleared for the road, on-the-ground observation of work in progress indicates the impact will be much greater.
- In addition to the direct impact of forest clearing, conservationists fear the road will increase habitat fragmentation, facilitate hunting and mining, and encourage human migration into the area — something that is already happening.

Indigenous hunters vital to robust food webs in Australia [03/01/2019]
- A new study has found that the removal of indigenous hunters from a food web in the Australian desert contributed to the local extinction of mammal species.
- The Martu people had subsisted in the deserts of western Australia for millennia before the government resettled them to make space for a missile test range in the 1950s.
- A team of researchers modeled the effects of this loss, revealing that the hunting fires used by the Martu helped maintain a diverse landscape that supported a variety of mammals and kept invasive species in check.

Kenya: Maasai herders work to keep themselves and wildlife roaming free [02/28/2019]
- Government-run parks cover too little of Kenya’s territory to sustain the country’s wide-ranging wildlife populations, nearly two-thirds of which depend on open rangeland that indigenous herders also use.
- Today, herders and wildlife must navigate pastures that are increasingly crowded, fragmented, and fragile. Livestock numbers have increased dramatically, while wildlife populations have declined precipitously.
- The South Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO), a collective of Maasai-owned group ranches spanning 10,000 square kilometers (3,800 square miles), formed to protect the free movement of both people and wildlife on its terrain.
- While SORALO’s monitoring suggests its efforts are yielding results, South Rift communities face an extraordinarily complex future, and the goal of coexistence between herders and wildlife does not come easily.

Vaquita still doomed without further disruption of totoaba cartels (commentary) [02/28/2019]
- According to our sources on the ground in Baja California, recent arrests of totoaba traffickers in China and pressure on the Chinese traders in Mexico are beginning to have an effect on the illegal totoaba supply chain.
- This is the most important news for the vaquita, the world’s smallest and most threatened porpoise, in years, and a result of — and proof that — intelligence activities and law enforcement can disrupt these criminal enterprises and significantly slow their illegal operations. Intelligence operations produce results.
- Without these efforts aimed at direct disruption of the supply chain itself and the operations of the wildlife crime networks involved, there is absolutely no chance to win the war in the Sea of Cortez, save the vaquita, and save the rest of the region’s extraordinary marine life.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

For the famed chimps of Gombe, human encroachment takes a toll [02/28/2019]
- The chimpanzee population in Gombe National Park in Tanzania has declined significantly in recent years.
- Among other factors, loss of suitable habitats due to charcoal production and smallholder agriculture has contributed to this drop.
- The Jane Goodall Institute, domiciled in Gombe, is now working with the communities living near the park to address these issues.

Abandoned plantations in forested areas may not recover fully: Study [02/27/2019]
- In a eucalyptus plantation in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in southern India, abandoned for nearly 40 years and allowed to regenerate, researchers found that the number of tree species had increased since 2005, now making it similar that of the adjacent primary forest.
- But the kinds of trees growing in the plantation were very different from those in the primary forest, suggesting that the latter provide ecosystem benefits, like greater carbon storage, that the plantation forests do not.
- While plantation forests can provide benefits, such as serving as a corridor connecting primary forests, they are not a substitute for intact old-growth forests, the researchers conclude.

We know why zebras got their stripes, but how do they work? [02/27/2019]
- Scientists have long wondered why zebras wear striped coats and a 2014 study might have finally supplied the answer: biting flies like glossinids (tsetse flies) and tabanids (horseflies) appear to be the “evolutionary driver” of the zebra’s stripes.
- Finding the answer to how zebras got their stripes led to another question: How exactly do stripes help zebras avoid biting insects?
- Tim Caro, a professor of wildlife biology at the University of California, Davis in the US, and Martin How, a researcher at the University of Bristol in the UK, led a new study to examine how stripes might deter biting flies as they attempt to land on zebras.

Nepal, in a bid to create a new rhino population, pauses to take stock [02/27/2019]
- Efforts to establish a population of Indian rhinos in Nepal’s Bardia National Park have a checkered history.
- The park received 87 rhinos from Chitwan National Park between 1986 and 2003, a process that continued even as Bardia was buffeted by armed conflict. Only 22 of those rhinos survived.
- Two years ago, Bardia began receiving rhinos again, although so far just eight of a planned 25 have been relocated. Two of them have since died.

Blue whales remember best times and places to find prey [02/26/2019]
- A new study demonstrates that blue whales in the northern Pacific Ocean use their memories, instead of cues in the environment, to guide them to the best feeding spots.
- The researchers used 10 years of data to discern the movements of 60 blue whales.
- They compared the whales’ locations with spots with high concentrations of prey over the same period.
- The whales’ reliance on memory could make them vulnerable to changes in the ocean brought about by climate change.

It pays, but does it stay? Hunting in Namibia’s community conservation system [02/26/2019]
- Namibia has designated about 20 percent of its area as 82 communal conservancies run by local communities. Of these, about two-thirds have hunting rights. They retain a portion of their allocated quota to hunt for food for the local community, and sell a portion to professional hunters, who in turn bring in trophy hunters.
- In theory, it’s a win-win: income and development opportunities for impoverished local people that give them a reason to preserve their wildlife, while using hunting as a tool to keep the species in balance.
- A visit to the system’s first and most successful conservancy, Nyae Nyae in remote northeastern Namibia, raises questions about how well the system is currently working for either the local San community or their wildlife.

Is there another Javan Rhino habitat as ideal as Ujung Kulon? (Commentary) [02/26/2019]
- Ujung Kulon National Park is the last habitat of the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), a critically endangered species.
- A recent tsunami increased calls for a new habitat to be found in which to establish a second population.
- Finding an ideal habitats elsewhere is important, but not as easy as some experts and conservationists think.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

New map shows every forest matters in helping save the Javan leopard [02/26/2019]
- A new study outlines where Javan leopards live – and where suitable habitat remains on the densely inhabited island.
- National parks remain the most stable habitat for the critically endangered species, but the study finds that half its potential habitat is in unprotected areas.
- Partnering with companies and local people is necessary to keep Java’s last big cat from going extinct.

The odor side of otters: Tech reveals species’ adaptations to human activity [02/25/2019]
- Recent studies of an elusive otter species living in the highly modified mangroves and reclaimed lands on the coast of Goa, India offer new insights into otter behavior that could inform future conservation efforts.
- Researchers have studied these adaptable otters with camera traps, ground GPS surveys, and satellite images; they’re now testing drone photogrammetry to improve the accuracy of their habitat mapping.
- Using data gathered over a period of time, the researchers aim to pinpoint changes in the landscape and, in combination with the behavioral data gathered by the camera traps, understand how otters are reacting to these changes.

Allegation of forged signature casts shadow over China-backed dam in Sumatra [02/25/2019]
- A researcher has claimed that his signature was forged in a document used to obtain a permit for a Chinese-backed $1.6 billion hydropower project in Indonesia.
- If his claim is proven true, the project’s environmental permit would presumably be rendered invalid, raising questions about the project’s future.
- Environmentalists say the cancellation of the project is crucial for the future survival of the Tapanuli orangutan, a newly described great ape that is already at risk of extinction due to habitat fragmentation.

World’s largest bee filmed alive for the first time in Indonesia [02/25/2019]
- The world’s largest known bee, the Wallace’s giant bee, has been photographed and filmed in Indonesia’s North Maluku archipelago alive for the first time.
- Wallace’s giant bee is listed as data deficient on the IUCN Red List and researchers know very little about the species.
- But last year, researchers discovered listings of Wallace’s giant bee specimens up for auction on eBay. One specimen sold for $9,100, and another for $4,150.
- Given that collectors already know that the bee is out there, researchers hope that the publicity of the bee will renew both research efforts to understand the bee’s life history better, as well as government efforts to protect the species.

Latam Eco Review: Icon status for jaguars and fears over lithium mining [02/22/2019]
The environmental impact of the global demand for lithium and more jaguar protection in South America, plus profiles of five pioneering women in conservation science, and a newly discovered tree frog in Ecuador — these are among the recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Peru wants jaguar named Latin America’s flagship animal […]

What the Congo Basin can learn from Filipino community forestry laws (commentary) [02/21/2019]
- More than two-thirds of the Philippine’s forest cover has been lost to logging, agriculture, fuelwood extraction, mining and other human pressures. To tackle forest depletion, the Philippines has adopted a logging ban and promoted a system of community-run natural resource management. As of 2013, about 61 percent of the Philippines’ forests were managed under this scheme.
- Nonprofit environmental law organization ClientEarth says that despite some limitations, the legal frameworks establishing community management of forests help reduce deforestation by empowering local people to patrol their forests and carry out both conservation and revenue-generating activities. Another strength of the Filipino community forestry model is that it requires free, prior and informed consent of any indigenous group likely to be affected by the community forest plan.
- ClientEarth says lessons learned from the Philippines’ community forestry system can be applied to places that currently lack such legal frameworks, such as countries in the Congo Basin that are reviewing their forests laws.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

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