Thylacine survey: Are we going to rediscover the ‘moonlight tiger’? [05/26/2017]
- The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was declared extinct in 1936. But anecdotal reports of sightings of the marsupial inspired a recent media frenzy, leading to speculation that some might still be living in the forests of northern Queensland's Cape York Peninsula. - A biological survey conducted via camera traps had been planned for the region before news of the reported sightings spread. The aim of the survey is to find out why so many of Australia’s native marsupials – and those of Cape York in particular – are disappearing. They also hope to figure out if there are any as-yet undocumented mammals living there, such as a small, endangered rat-kangaroo called the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica). - A bettong expert says cattle ranching, invasive animals, and changing fire management regimes may be hurting native mammals in Australia. - The researchers caution that the possibility of finding evidence of thylacines living in Cape York is vanishingly small. But, if the near-impossible happens and they do manage to document some, they say news of the rediscovery likely won't be released until protections are enacted.
Not out of the woods: Concerns remain with Nigerian superhighway [05/26/2017]
- The six-lane highway was shifted in April to the west so that it no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, a ‘biological jewel’ that is home to 18 primate species. - In a new study, scientists report that multiple alternative routes exist that would still provide the intended economic connections and avoid harming the environment in the area. - However, Nigerian conservation and community rights group worry that the state government won’t follow through on its promises.
Slight bumps in protected areas could be a boon for biodiversity [05/26/2017]
- Increasing protected areas by 5 percent in strategic locations could boost biodiversity protection by a factor of three. - The study examined global protected areas and evaluated how well they safeguard species, functional and evolutionary biodiversity. - More than a quarter of species live mostly outside protected areas. - The new strategy from the research leverages the functional and evolutionary biodiversity found in certain spots and could help conservation planners pinpoint areas for protection that maximize all three types of biodiversity.
On the road to ‘smart development’ [05/25/2017]
- Ecologist Bill Laurance and his team are looking at development projects across Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. - The scientists are traveling throughout the regions to better understand the needs of planners, and to impart lessons about ‘smart development’ based on decades of research in the tropics. - In Malaysia, they are focusing on finding solutions that preserve the repository of forests and biodiversity there in a way that also looks out for the country’s human residents.
Bowling for Rhinos: a grassroots project with global reach [05/25/2017]
- Since the original event in 1987, Bowling for Rhinos — a project run completely by volunteers — has raised more than $6 million to support rhino conservation efforts around the world. - Funds have supported ranger units that protect the Asian rhino species, as well as conservation programs for black and white rhinos. - Fundraisers, which happen across the United States, go beyond just bowling — some groups opt to host events like Painting for Rhinos or Winos for Rhinos. - Some participants and supporters point to Bowling for Rhinos as an antidote to feelings of hopelessness in the face of national and global environmental problems.
When it comes to the IUCN Red List, accuracy is the order of the day (commentary) [05/25/2017]
- It is clear that the IUCN tries to ensure that its criteria for determining threat status can be uniformly applied across all species. It is also clear that IUCN has applied this valuable service for a long time, for which we should all be grateful. - The approach we have used takes advantage of the enormous amounts of freely available geo-referenced data to build much more accurate range maps based on expert filtered citizen science sightings, a plethora of high resolution ecological and geophysical data from the Western Ghats, and well-tested statistical tools. - Since these data can now be found for many places in the world and for many taxonomic groups, we call on IUCN to embrace this approach. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Nepal burns more than 4,000 confiscated wildlife parts [05/24/2017]
- These illegally trafficked items were burned in Chitwan National Park in front of nearly 300 people. - The wildlife parts, which were part of the burn, have been collected over the last 20 years. - Officials hope that this burning will act as a deterrent to wildlife traffickers.
Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose. - The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities. - Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.
Skewed sex ratio spells danger for rhinos in India’s Gorumara National Park [05/22/2017]
- Gorumara National Park, in India's West Bengal State, is home to a small but steadily growing population of greater one-horned rhinoceroses, currently numbering 51 individuals. - Despite its overall growth, the sex ratio of the park's rhino population is severely imbalanced, with more reproductive-aged males than females. - Ideally, there should be more females than males. A male-heavy population threatens the long-term reproductive and genetic viability of the population, as well as leading to increased conflict over mates. - Until this spring, Gorumara had been relatively free of poaching since the 1990s. However, two dead rhinos were found in April, and another suspected poaching incident was reported May 18.
Location, location, location goes high-tech: Facts and FAQs about satellite-based wildlife tracking [05/20/2017]
- Satellite-based tracking tags, including ARGOS and GPS systems, collect and communicate animal locations and in some cases, acceleration and physiological data—straight to your computer, 24/7. - ARGOS satellites use their relative position and the Doppler shift to estimate a tag’s location, which they relay back to Earth. GPS tags receive position information from multiple satellites and either store it or resend it via another communications network. - Satellite-based tags weigh more, cost more, and demand more power than VHF radio tags. Nevertheless, they provide automated collection of thousands of point locations of an animal, which helps researchers to more precisely define home ranges, migration routes, and the relationships of these patterns to landscape features.
China’s first national park, an experiment in living with snow leopards [05/19/2017]
- Sanjiangyuan National Park is expected to open in 2020 as China’s first park in its new national park system. - As many as 1,500 endangered snow leopards (Panthera uncia) live in the area. The cats are subject to poaching and persecution in retaliation for their predation on livestock, which are edging out their natural prey. - The new park seeks to capitalize on the reverence many local Tibetan Buddhists have for wildlife, employing a conservation model that engages the public and attempts to ease tensions between people and predators. - The new national park system is intended to create a more effective kind of protected area than currently exists in China.
Meet the 2017 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [05/19/2017]
- The winners include Purnima Barman from India, Sanjay Gubbi from India, Alexander Blanco from Venezuela, Indira Lacerna-Widmann from Philippines, Ian Little from South Africa and Ximena Velez-Liendo from Bolivia. - At an awards ceremony held last evening at the Royal Geographic Society in London, each of the six winners received £35,000 (~$46,000) in project funding to help scale up their work. - Zafer Kizilkaya, a 2013 Whitley Award winner from Turkey, received this year's Gold Award (£50,000) for his conservation project "Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline".
A Whitley Award winner’s 20-year battle to save the world’s largest eagle in Venezuela [05/18/2017]
- The Whitley, which has been nicknamed “the Green Oscars,” is one of the biggest and most important awards in the conservation world. - Alexander says he is honored to have received such recognition for his work: “I have devoted my entire life as a student and, after that, in the professional field, to the conservation of the biological diversity and to the dissemination of its importance and role as an essential element of the planet.” - Alexander studied veterinary medicine and was determined to specialize in working with wild animals. It was while rehabilitating harpy eagles at a Venezuelan zoo that he had his first contact with these magnificent birds of prey.
Goddesses of the wind: How researchers saved Venezuela’s harpy eagles [05/17/2017]
- Venezuelan scientist Eduardo Álvarez Cordero is not only a man who knows harpy eagles: having started one of the biggest and oldest studies about the species, and taken part in the training of many of the world’s harpy specialists, he is a man to whom we owe a lot of what humankind knows about this fascinating animal. - Currently a professor at the City College of Gainesville, Florida, Eduardo has monitored harpy eagles in Venezuela and Panama since the late 80s with a sense of urgency. - Eduardo's PhD work, begun in 1988, eventually led to the creation of the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. It was also the beginning of another story of unthinkable bravery, in which an ecotourism program built a more prosperous scenario for harpies, locals, and the forests upon which they both rely.
With poaching curtailed, a new menace to Nepal’s wildlife [05/17/2017]
- Since 2011, with poaching largely under control in the country, conservationists in Nepal have been paying increasing attention to the risks of diseases spreading to wildlife from domesticated animals. - Domesticated animals near Chitwan National Park form a reservoir of pathogens that could cross to wildlife. Veterinarians have already identified tuberculosis in a dead rhino and a suspected case of canine distemper in a leopard. - The country currently lacks facilities to fully analyze and respond to the threat of diseases, but local and international groups are working to rapidly increase capacity.
Field Notes: Reinvigorating wild parrot populations with captive birds [05/17/2017]
- Bolivia is home to 12 species of macaws, and most are thriving. Not among these healthy parrot populations, however, is the Critically Endangered Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), with less than 15 breeding pairs known to be nesting in a remote, widely dispersed range in the north of the country. - Years of intensive effort using traditional conservation methods to protect wild Blue-throated macaws from predators, raise chick survival rates, and engage local human communities have not significantly boosted the wild population nor have new breeding pairs been discovered. - Rethinking a long-held view that captive-bred parrots released to the wild have little hope of surviving there, James Gilardi is working with local and international partners to select and prepare captive, pet trade and confiscated macaws to join their wild counterparts. - Although there haven’t been any releases of captive Blue-throated macaws as yet, Gilardi is confident that wild populations of the species can recover if the captive birds are carefully chosen, health screened, and fully prepared for the wild.
Microalgae genes help them adapt to harsh oceans, other species less lucky [05/17/2017]
- Researchers have long wondered how microalgae manage to survive in polar seas, where conditions are extreme and change rapidly. - New research looking at the DNA of a diatom finds that the species likely evolved with the ability to quickly change which genes are expressed making it ready for anything. - This research hints that diatoms may be able to adapt to climate change – but that doesn’t mean other vital species, such as krill, have the capacity to do the same.
More than 300 smuggled tortoises seized in Malaysia [05/17/2017]
- Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport raided the cargo area of the airport on May 14 following a tip-off, and found the tortoises packed into five boxes labeled as stones. - The boxes reportedly arrived on an Etihad Airways flight from Antananarivo airport in Madagascar, and were registered with a fake business address in Malaysia. - No arrests have been made yet, but the case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, officials say.
Kenya cracks down on illegal trade in rare and venomous vipers [05/16/2017]
- Early this year Kenyan authorities placed tight new restrictions on the trade and export of several snake species, including the Kenya horned viper (Bitis worthingtoni) and the Mt. Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi). - The two snake species are regularly trafficked abroad for the pet trade as well as for luxury food and medical reseach. - Authorities say criminal networks regularly bribe officials and are investigating whether politicians may be involved in the trade. - Nevertheless, the Kenyan government appears to be taking a hard line against viper traffic, cracking down on smugglers and ramping up international cooperation to fight viper traffic.
Manmade noise pollution even more prevalent in US protected areas than researchers expected [05/16/2017]
- About 14 percent of the land mass in the United States has been afforded some kind of legally protected status, and noise pollution is noticeable even in these more remote areas where manmade disturbances are supposed to be kept to a minimum. - According to a study published this month in the journal Science, the noise pollution from airplanes, highways, industry, and resource extraction is encroaching ever further into U.S. protected areas designed to preserve habitat for biodiversity. - Using baseline sound levels for each study area established by machine learning algorithms that took into account geospatial features of the area, the researchers determined that anthropogenic noise pollution exceeds three decibels (dB), essentially doubling background sound levels, in 63 percent of the nation’s protected areas.
Location, location, location: Facts and FAQs about radio telemetry [05/12/2017]
- In this second of the Mongabay-Wildtech series on “What is that technology?” we examine radio telemetry, in the form of electronic tags used to monitor animals as they move about their daily lives to better understand how far they travel, what environments they use, and how to keep them safe. - Radio-based tags and satellite-based tags, which include GPS tags, all communicate via radio signals but differ in how the signals communicate, the information they provide, and the energy needed to produce them. - UHF and VHF radio tags–described in this post–are cheap, small, light, and long-lasting, but require human presence to receive the signals and locate the animal. - Scientists can compile these point locations to map species’ local distributions, identify home ranges and migration patterns, and compare these with locations of water, food species, or human activity.
Crabbing gone commercial: Brazilian mangroves threatened by shift in local traditions [05/12/2017]
- A new method of crabbing is bringing indigenous people a larger catch, but requires cutting mangroves and killing crabs indiscriminately. - Crabbers’ dependence on intermediaries is complicating the crabbing business by shackling them to informal loans and pressuring them to achieve greater harvests. - A researcher recommends a return to more traditional crabbing techniques and organizing cooperatives to give more power to the crabbers.
50 new spiders discovered in Australia [05/12/2017]
- The two-week expedition in Australia's Cape York Peninsula involved 23 scientists, indigenous rangers and traditional owners. - This expedition will likely result in the greatest number of new species of spiders discovered on a Bush Blitz research trip, scientists say. - The researchers are now identifying and describing the spiders for formal scientific classification.
Hong Kong Ivory traders encouraging buyers to smuggle ivory: TRAFFIC [05/11/2017]
- Exporting ivory bought in Hong Kong to mainland China would involve crossing an international border, which is illegal and in violation of CITES regulations. - But 27 of the 74 traders that TRAFFIC surveyed encouraged buyers to take ivory out of Hong Kong without obtaining CITES permits. - While some shopkeepers suggested hiding small ivory trinkets in bags and luggage, others offered more detailed strategies to conceal purchased ivory.
Howler monkeys booming in Belize sanctuary 25 years after translocation [05/10/2017]
- Disease, hurricanes and hunting wiped out the native howler monkeys living in the Cockscomb Basin by the 1970s. - Between 1992 and 1994, 62 black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) were relocated from a nearby reserve. - After surveying the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in March and April, scientists figure there are at least 170 howler monkeys – and perhaps many more – living all over the 51,800-hectare (128,000-acre) preserve.
Extremely rare bay cat filmed in Borneo [05/09/2017]
- Researchers photographed the bay cat while conducting a wildlife survey in the Rungan Landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. - The forests in this landscape include peat swamps and heath, a habitat type in which bay cats have not previously been recorded, scientists say. - The team has not released the exact location of the potentially new population of bay cats because the forest where the cat was filmed is not legally protected.
DRC’s Garamba National Park: The last giraffes of the Congo [05/09/2017]
- Today there are only 46 giraffes left in Garamba National Park, in Northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a nearly 2,000 square-mile area. - Garamba is situated in a dangerous part of Africa crawling with heavily armed poachers and various guerilla groups. - Garamba is one of 10 national parks and protected areas in 7 countries managed by African Parks, a non-profit conservation organization.
Protected species in Gulf of Mexico could take decades to recover from Deepwater Horizon oil spill [05/08/2017]
- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed thousands of marine mammals and sea turtles in the Gulf, according to findings detailed in a special issue of the journal Endangered Species Research, published in January, comprised of 20 studies that collectively represent more than five years’-worth of data collection and analysis by scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and their partners. - The research was performed as part of a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), a process required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 in which NOAA investigates the types of injuries to wildlife caused by an oil spill, determines the number of animals that were harmed, and develops a restoration plan designed to address the primary threats to impacted species. - In a statement, NOAA offered this succinct summation of the results of the studies: “The research indicates that populations of several marine mammal and sea turtle species will take decades to rebound. Significant habitat restoration in the region will also be needed.”
Study finds hundreds of thousands of tropical species at risk of extinction due to deforestation [05/05/2017]
- Scientists have long believed that the rate at which we are destroying tropical forests, and the habitat those forests represent, could drive a global mass extinction event, but the extent of the potential losses has never been fully understood. - John Alroy, a professor of biological sciences at Australia’s Macquarie University, examined local-scale ecological data in order to forecast potential global extinction rates and found that hundreds of thousands of species are at risk if humans disturb all pristine forests remaining in the tropics. - Mass extinction will occur primarily in tropical forests because Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity is so heavily concentrated in those ecosystems, Alroy notes in the study.
Fighting a plant to save rhinos in Nepal [05/05/2017]
- Mikania micrantha, a plant native to the Americas, has been present in Chitwan National Park since the 1990s. As of 2010, it was present in 20 percent of the park, becoming a threat to wildlife and local people's livelihoods. - The plant is particularly prevalent in habitats like wetlands, grasslands and riverine forests, which are also favored habitats for the more than 600 one-horned rhinos living in the park. - Mikania chokes out native fodder species, pushing rhinos and other grazers out of the safety of the park and increasing human-wildlife conflict, researchers have found. - Mikania is extremely difficult to eradicate since plants produce up to 40,000 seeds per year and can re-root from even small stems. Efforts are underway to improve removal strategies and engage local communities in the work.
Indigenous lands ‘critical’ to forest protection in Peru, biodiversity maps show [05/05/2017]
- Indigenous lands account for 36 percent of protected forests in Peru. - In total, 42.6 percent of Peru's forest fall under some sort of protection, and the new biodiversity maps highlight forest types that are underrepresented in that figure. - The forests in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon appear to be the most in danger, as the forest types in this area are found at some of the lowest levels in Peru's parks, reserves and concessions. This area also faces some of the highest deforestation rates in the country.
Scientists rediscover ‘lost’ monitor lizard in Papua New Guinea [05/05/2017]
- The only specimen of the monitor lizard Lesson collected on New Ireland never reached its destination in France and was not studied in detail. - Since then, it has been believed that the monitor lizards on New Ireland are the common mangrove monitors (Varanus indicus). - But the new study confirms that the monitor lizards on New Ireland are a distinct species.
Scientists mull risks of freeing rare albino orangutan in Borneo [05/05/2017]
- Caregivers are nursing the animal back to health at a rescue center in Central Kalimantan. - Biologists worry that releasing it into the wild will introduce its genetic defect into the population at large. - No data exists on the prevalence of albinoism among orangutans.
Balinese rituals fuel spike in trafficking of endangered sea turtles [05/05/2017]
- Indonesia is home to six of the world’s seven sea turtle species. International rules prevent any of them from being traded internationally, and the domestic trade is heavily controlled. - After Bali's high priests issued a strict regulation in 2005 on the use of turtles in ceremonies, consumption of their meat dropped dramatically. - But a recent series of busts seem to indicate a significant surge in turtle smuggling to the island. - For now, Indonesian authorities' main strategy appears to be education.
Two new species of tarsier, rumored to be inspiration for Yoda, announced on Star Wars Day [05/04/2017]
- Nocturnal creatures that weigh in at a maximum of about 120 grams (or 4.3 ounces) when fully grown, tarsiers can nevertheless easily leap as far as three meters (about 10 feet) or more in a single bound thanks to their super-elongated legs — the longest legs relative to arm length of any primate species. - The two new tarsier species, described in an article published in the journal Primate Conservation today, were found on the northern peninsula of Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. - With these new members of the tarsier family, there are now 11 species known to reside on Sulawesi and nearby islands. It was believed there were just one or two tarsier species in the region as recently as the 1990s.
Over the bridge: The battle for the future of the Kinabatangan [05/03/2017]
- Proponents of the project contend that a bridge and associated paved road to Sukau would have helped the town grow and improve the standard of living for its residents. - Environmental groups argue that the region’s unrealized potential for high-end nature tourism could bring similar economic benefits without disturbing local populations of elephants, orangutans and other struggling wildlife. - The mid-April cancellation of the bridge was heralded as a success for rainforest conservation, but bigger questions loom about the future of local communities, the sanctuary and its wildlife.
Human-wildlife conflict is decimating leopard numbers in one of their last African strongholds [05/03/2017]
- A research team led by Dr. Samual Williams of the Department of Anthropology at Durham University in the UK conducted a long-term trap survey from 2012 to 2016 in order to study the leopard population in South Africa’s Soutpansberg Mountains, one of the leopard’s last strongholds in Africa. - They found that the cats’ population density decreased by 44 percent between 2012 and 2016. That means that, based on a previous estimate of their abundance, the leopard population in the Soutpansberg Mountains has decreased by two-thirds since 2008, Williams and his co-authors note in the study. - While the researchers argue that, based on their findings, a current ban on leopard hunting in South Africa should not be lifted in areas where the species is facing sharp declines in numbers, they add that efforts to reduce often-lethal conflicts between leopards and humans might have an even bigger impact.
Mexican ecologist José Sarukhán wins 2017 Tyler Prize [05/03/2017]
- Sarukhán co-founded Mexico's biodiversity agency, CONABIO, in 1992 - CONABIO is the largest national biodiversity database in the world, with over 11.2 million specimens - He accepts the award at a ceremony in Washington, DC, May 4, 2017
Audio: A deep dive into the study of marine wildlife through bioacoustics [05/03/2017]
- Here at the Mongabay Newscast, we’re very interested in acoustic ecology, perhaps for obvious reasons: Acoustic ecology, sometimes known as ecoacoustics or soundscape studies, is the study of the relationship between human beings and the natural environment as mediated through bioacoustics, or the sounds that are produced by and affect living organisms. - In order to highlight the findings of this exciting line of research, we’ve created our ongoing Field Notes segment. And in this particular Field Note, which takes up the entire episode, Leah Barclay plays for us several of the underwater recordings she’s made of humpback whales, the Great Barrier Reef, water insects, and more. - Find all that plus the top news in this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Rwanda welcomes 20 black rhinos to Akagera National Park [05/03/2017]
- The 20 black rhinos are of the eastern subspecies (Diceros bicornis michaeli). - African Parks, the NGO that manages Akagera National Park in cooperation with the government of Rwanda, says that it has rhino trackers, canine patrols and a helicopter to protect the rhinos from poaching. - Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos exist in Africa. Their numbers have been decimated by poaching for their horns, which fetch high prices for use in traditional Chinese medicine. - Officials hope that the new rhino population will boost Akagera National Park's visibility as a ecotourism destination.
Preserving orangutan culture an ingredient for successful conservation [05/02/2017]
- Scientists once thought that all animal behavior was instinctual, but now know that many animals — particularly social animals — are able to think and to learn, and to display culturally learned behaviors. - Orangutans are one animal in which occurrences of culture have been fairly well proven, with orangutan groups at different study sites displaying variant behaviors that have neither environmental nor genetic origins, meaning they can only be cultural in nature. - Among these cultural behaviors are basic tool making and use for food harvesting, purposeful vocalizations, and variations in nest building materials and methods. Scientists fear habitat loss and crashing populations could cause this cultural heritage to vanish. - The loss of varied cultural behaviors could potentially make orangutans less adaptable to changes in their environment at a time when, under extreme pressure from human development, these great apes need all the resources they can muster.
Saving the most endangered plants in the world [05/02/2017]
- Most of Nagalingum's recent research focuses on cycads, palm-like plants with stout trunks and a crown of stiff, hard leaves. - Cycads are believed to be as old (or even older) than dinosaurs. - Of the 300-odd recognized species of cycads today, about two-thirds are seriously threatened by extinction.
Conservation lessons from the bonobos [05/01/2017]
- Lola ya Bonobo, the world’s first bonobo sanctuary, was founded in 1994 by Claudine Andre, who came to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at a young age, and who, after a chance meeting with a bonobo at the Kinshasa zoo, dedicated her life to the species. Today, Lola has been recognized worldwide as a model for primate rehabilitation. - The sanctuary primarily credits “inclusive conservation” for its success, a process by which Lola not only cares for rescued DRC bonobos, but also for nearby human communities — supporting farms, schools and medical facilities. The communities in turn support Lola. - The bonobos at the sanctuary — often traumatized after being rescued from the great ape trade — spend years in rehabilitation, being served by human foster mothers and other caring Lola staff. When deemed ready, bonobo troupes are returned to the wild Congo.
Despite numerous challenges, rhinos are thriving in India’s Jaldapara National Park [05/01/2017]
- Jaldapara National Park in the northern fringe of West Bengal hosts more than 200 one-horned rhinos. - Growing demand for rhino horn means poaching is a rising threat, especially when anti-poaching measures in neighboring Assam State prompt poaching networks to seek new targets. - In addition to extensive anti-poaching patrols, the park's management is relying on cooperation with residents of nearby villages to protect the park's wildlife. - The park now shares 40 percent of ecotourism revenue with community-based Joint Forest Management Committees, trains former offenders as wildlife protectors and is developing other projects to integrate the welfare of communities and wildlife.
Saving Congo’s sea turtles: progress made but dangers ahead [05/01/2017]
- Among the myriad threats facing turtles globally, coastal development has deprived females of the isolated, dry, sandy beaches they need to build nests for their eggs. - Until recently, homecoming was a death-trap for turtles as poor local communities took advantage of an immobile source of food appearing annually on their beaches and in their coastal waters. - The Congo’s 23-mile stretch of beach is home to a turtle conservation project that aims to give turtles born into the wild a fighting chance.
Delicate Solomon Island ecosystem in danger of heavy logging [05/01/2017]
- Foreign and domestic companies are making a push – at times using allegedly unethical means – for the timber found on the island of Nende in the Santa Cruz chain of the Solomon Islands. - The island’s old-growth forests are home to animals like the Santa Cruz shrikebill, which is found nowhere else on Earth. - Concerns have been voiced that logging could wreak havoc on the ecosystem, from the watersheds in the mountains down to the coral reefs ringing the island, if large-scale logging is allowed to proceed.
Corruption drives dealings with logging companies in the Solomon Islands [05/01/2017]
- The old-growth forests on the island of Nende anchor a unique ecosystem that hold creatures found nowhere else and that have supported communities for centuries. - Logging companies are eager to harvest the island’s timber, which could be worth as much as SI$10 million ($1.26 million). - Scientists worry that logging would destroy everything from the mountain sources of the island’s fresh water to the reefs where sedimentation as a result of logging could kill coral. - Conservation groups and sources from within the provincial government have charged that the companies are using coercion and bribes to convince landowners and development organizations to back their plans to log Nende’s forests.
Cross River superhighway changes course in Nigeria [04/28/2017]
- The 260-kilometer (162-mile) highway is slated to have six lanes and would have run through the center of Cross River National Park as originally designed. - The region is a biodiversity hotspot and home to forest elephants, drills, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and Cross River gorillas. - The proposal shifts the route to the west, out of the center of the national park, which garnered praise from the Wildlife Conservation Society. - The route still appears to cut through forested areas and protected lands.
As forests disappear, human-elephant conflict escalates in Nepal [04/28/2017]
- Asian elephants are responsible for destroying crops, buildings, and even injuring or killing local people in Nepal. - A new study argues that Nepal’s government has not done enough to help villages in elephant areas. - Researchers measured the willingness-to-pay of villagers in offsetting elephant damage.
Overestimated range maps for endemic birds in India’s Western Ghats lead to underestimated threats, study finds [04/27/2017]
- In a paper published earlier this week in the journal Biological Conservation, researchers detail their findings that suggest the IUCN has “vastly” overestimated the geographic range sizes for 17 of 18 endemic birds studied in the Western Ghats. - In some cases, the researchers write in the study, the range maps supplied by BirdLife International (BLI) and used by the IUCN for its threat assessments of birds in the Western Ghats included “large areas of unsuitable habitat” and were so off that the threat status should be changed “for at least 10 of the 18 species based on area metrics used by the IUCN for threat assessment.” - The head of the IUCN Red List says that the study's authors made a "fundamental error" in applying threat assessment criteria to their datasets, however, adding that just two of the 10 birds identified in the study need to be examined more closely. - The key to the updated range maps created by the researchers behind the Biological Conservation study is citizen science. In particular, the researchers used data from eBird, an online checklist program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. And on the point of the usefulness of citizen science, the researchers and the IUCN are in full agreement.
Illegal trade threatens nearly half the world’s natural heritage sites: WWF [04/27/2017]
- Poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing of rare species protected under CITES occurs in 45 percent of the natural World Heritage sites, a new WWF report says. - Illegal harvesting degrades the unique values that gave the heritage sites the status in the first place, the report says. - Current approaches to preventing illegal harvesting of CITES listed species in World Heritage sites is not working, the report concludes.
Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure [04/26/2017]
- Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). - Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities. - The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.
2 wildlife rangers shot and killed by poachers in Congo park [04/24/2017]
- While out patrolling on April 11, Ari and Afokao heard gunshots. - The patrol unit followed signs and tracks until they discovered a group of six poachers who were cutting up a freshly slaughtered elephant carcass. - A shootout followed, in which both Ari and Afokao were fatally shot.
‘Lost & Found’: Telling the stories of rediscovered species [04/21/2017]
- The project is the brainchild of Diogo Veríssimo, a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Johns Hopkins University. Veríssimo studies the ways human behavior and biodiversity conservation intersect, focusing in particular on conservation marketing. - “Talking about nature has too often become about extinction, decline and loss,” Veríssimo says. “With Lost & Found we aim to make it about hope, determination and passion.” - Mongabay spoke with Diogo Veríssimo about what first sparked his interest in rediscovered species, why it’s important to highlight the field researchers who track down lost species, and just what he hopes to ultimately achieve by telling these stories.
Women could be a key to great ape conservation in the Congo [04/21/2017]
- The Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), and Coopera are all organizations working with women in and around the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help advance great ape conservation through education, empowerment, healthcare and food security access. - Some examples: BCI helps fund pilot micro-credit projects for women who want to launch business enterprises, including soap and garment making. GRACE employs women as surrogate mothers for newly orphaned gorillas during an initial 30-day quarantine period. - GRACE also provides women and their families with bushmeat alternatives by teaching them to care for and breed alternative protein sources. Coopera helps provide alternative food sources through ECOLO-FEMMES, an organization that trains women in livestock breeding and agriculture to reduce great ape hunting in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. - Coopera, working with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots, engages young rape victims in tree planting to provide food sources to wild chimpanzees. JGI’s women’s programs in Uganda and Tanzania keep girls in school through peer support, scholarship programs and sanitary supply access. Educated women have smaller families, reducing stress on the environment.
No safe forest left: 250 captive orphan chimps stuck in sanctuaries [04/20/2017]
- Cameroon currently has more than 250 rescued chimpanzees living in three chimp wildlife sanctuaries. Attempts to find forests into which to release them — safe from the bushmeat and pet trade, and not already occupied by other chimpanzee populations — have failed so far. - The intensification of logging, mining and agribusiness, plus new roads into remote areas, along with a growing rural human population, are putting intense pressure on un-conserved forests as well as protected lands. - Unless habitat loss, poaching and trafficking are controlled in Cameroon, reintroduction of captive chimpanzees may not be achievable. Some conservationists argue, however, that reintroduction of captive animals is needed to enhance genetic resilience in wild populations. - If current rates of decline are not curbed, primatologists estimate that chimpanzees could be gone from Cameroon’s forests within 15 to 20 years.
Indonesian tiger smugglers escape with light sentences in Sumatra [04/20/2017]
- The two men were each sentenced to eight months imprisonment in Jambi province. - Conservationists said the prosecutor should have demanded a harsher punishment. - The maximum sentence under the 1990 Conservation Law is five years behind bars, and activists are pushing for that to be revised upward, too. - Last year several tiger part smugglers were sentenced to three years imprisonment and fined 50 million rupiah.
Giraffes are endangered, groups argue, file petition with U.S. [04/19/2017]
- In December 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified giraffes as “Vulnerable” to extinction. - Giraffe numbers have plummeted since about 1985 from over 150,000 to about 97,000. Habitat fragmentation and destruction are the major causes of the decline. - The decline in giraffes is due in part to importation to the U.S. of giraffe parts, including trophies, skins, and bone carvings.
‘We can save life on Earth’: study reveals how to stop mass extinction [04/18/2017]
- Researchers analyzed 846 regional ecosystem types in 14 biomes in respect to the "Nature Needs Half" scientific concept that states proper functioning of an ecosystem requires at least half of it to be there. - They found 12 percent of ecoregions had half their land areas protected while 24 percent had protected areas and native vegetation that together covered less than 20 percent. - The study indicates the tropical dry forest biome is the most endangered. Closely behind it are two others: the tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, and the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome. All are highly biodiverse, providing habitat for many species. - The researchers say while many ecosystems have been highly degraded, achieving 50 percent protection is still possible – if current conservation goals are scaled up.
Audio: Crystal Davis, director of Global Forest Watch, on conservation and Big Data [04/18/2017]
- Mongabay has partnered with Global Forest Watch (GFW) over the years, and GFW has even funded some of our coverage of global forest issues. - Crystal Davis fills us in on how the GFW tool and dataset is being used to inform forest conservation initiatives right now, new features planned for the future, and her thoughts on the ways Big Data is changing how we approach conservation. - We also speak with Francesca Cunninghame, the Mangrove Finch Project Leader for the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, in our latest Field Notes segment.
Documenting the fight to save Borneo’s animals [04/18/2017]
- After graduating from school, Aaron 'Bertie' Gekoski was on a fairly conventional career path for a young businessman. - But the more successful his agency became, the more Gekoski felt like something was missing. - So he quit the business and embarked on a totally new adventure: wildlife filmmaking. - Gekoski spoke about his unusual career path, his passion, and filmmaking during an April 2017 interview with Mongabay.com.
Fantastic Beasts star Alison Sudol talks conservation and inspiration [04/17/2017]
- In an exclusive interview, the breakout star of the latest Harry Potter movie argues that it’s deeply important for people to connect with nature - “Art has a profound ability to connect people to their own hearts, and to each other,” she says, and uses her art to inspire others - She is herself inspired by how much more there is to know about nature, and were she not performing for large audiences, would perhaps like to study marine mammals
Rhino poachers in Borneo: Q&A with a conservationist who lived with them [04/17/2017]
- Fiffy Hanisdah Saikim — now a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah's Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation — spent two years living with Tidong communities on the outskirts of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Malaysian Borneo. - These communities included both poachers and people employed in ecotourism and conservation programs centered around the Sumatran rhino and other endangered species. - According to Saikim, attempts to engage communities in anti-poaching programs can succeed when they demonstrate that conservation has better long-term economic returns than poaching. - The Sumatran rhino is now extinct in the wild in Malaysia, but Saikim believes lessons from Tabin can be applied in places where rhinos still exist in the wild.
Hunting is driving declines in bird and mammal populations across the tropics [04/14/2017]
- The team of ecologists and environmental scientists behind the research examined 176 studies, including many local studies, in order to get a larger picture of the magnitude of hunting-induced declines in tropical mammal and bird populations. - In areas impacted by hunting, bird abundance declined by an average of 58 percent compared to areas with no hunting, while mammals declined by an average of 83 percent, according to their study. - “Thanks to this study, we estimate that only 17 percent of the original mammal abundance and 42 percent of the birds remain in hunted areas.”
Rainforest conservation may be aimed at the wrong places, study finds [04/13/2017]
- Climate-based conservation policies often focus on forests with large carbon stores – but what this means for biodiversity protection has been unclear. - Previous research found a link between tree diversity and carbon storage on the small-scale, with tropical forests that have more tree species possessing larger stores of carbon. But this correlation had not been tested for larger areas. - Researchers examined thousands of trees at hundreds of sites in the tropical forests of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Their results indicate that on the one-hectare scale, tree diversity is low and carbon storage is quite high in Africa, while the opposite is the case in South America. In Southeast Asia, both carbon stocks and tree diversity appear to be high. - The researchers say their results indicate carbon-focused conservation policies may be missing highly biodiverse ecosystems, and recommend a more fine-tuned approach for prioritizing areas for conservation.
Connectivity and coexistence key to orangutan survival on croplands [04/13/2017]
- Orangutans are in drastic decline, largely due to habitat loss. From 1973–2010, Borneo lost 39 percent of its forests; estimates say that another 37 percent of orangutan-suitable habitat will be converted to agricultural use there through 2025. Similarly, 60 percent of habitat suitable for Sumatran orangutans was lost between 1985 and 2007. - If orangutans are to survive in the wild through the 21st century, researchers will need to discover ways in which the animals can be helped to coexist with humans within agricultural landscapes. Researchers are also looking for creative ways to provide connectivity between remaining forest patches to promote and preserve genetic resilience. - Scientists Gail Campbell-Smith, Marc Ancrenaz and others have shown that orangutans can use croplands, including oil palm plantations, if humans work to prevent conflict. Noise deterrents, such as bamboo cannon guns, along with the education of farm laborers and agribusiness companies, are techniques helping to reduce animal-human conflicts. - Researcher Marc Ancrenaz and colleagues provided orangutans and other arboreal wildlife with rope bridges over small rivers in Malaysia — a successful approach to providing connectivity. It took four years for orangutans to begin using the bridges, but now young orangutan males use the structures to disperse more widely.
New genus created for arboreal toads in Indonesia [04/13/2017]
- The proposed genus was created to fit two new species of toad. - The name of the genus, Sigalegalephrynus, was inspired by the toads' resemblance to a wooden puppet from North Sumatra. - The toads appear to have mating calls that are unlike those of other amphibians in the Sunda Shelf.
Researchers say advanced statistical models can make traditional wildlife surveys more reliable [04/12/2017]
- Calculating a moving average is a common way researchers "smooth" out the irregularities in year-to-year counts produced by the way the counts are actually performed. - Yet this method has never been subjected to much scrutiny, according to Brian Gerber of Colorado State University and William Kendall of the U.S. Geological Survey, the authors of a study published late last month in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. - Gerber and Kendall used the results of 31 annual surveys of sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) in North America’s Rocky Mountains to examine how accurate moving averages really are, then compared those results to the estimates produced by a more advanced statistical approach known as a hierarchical Bayesian time series (HBTS) model.
Guatemala issues red alert as national parks burn [04/12/2017]
- Northern Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve comprises several national parks and other protected areas. - Fire activity is concentrated in one park in particular – Laguna del Tigre National Park – where satellite data from NASA recorded more than 400 fires occurring over the past week. - Land use is restricted in Guatemalan national parks, but officials say the fires are largely human-caused by illegal cattle ranching, logging, and drug trafficking. Budget challenges have limited the capacity of local institutions to effectively control the forest fires.
Great apes in Asian circus-style shows on rise — so is trafficking [04/12/2017]
- Asian zoos, circuses and safari parks are mounting large-scale productions with costumed, dancing, roller-skating great apes. Investigations show that nearly all of these trained primates were not bred in captivity, but illegally traded out of Africa and Indonesia, with destinations in China, Thailand and other Asian countries. - The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that the illegal trade may have removed as many as 22,218 great apes from the wild between 2005-2011. An estimated 64 percent were chimpanzees, whereas 56 percent of great apes seized by authorities were thought to be orangutans. - Wild young apes are traumatized by their capture, and many die along the supply chain, or with their final “owners” by whom they are frequently poorly treated. Young great apes trained in captivity become increasingly unmanageable as they age, and many are “retired” to tiny, solitary cages, or simply disappear. - Trafficking arrests are rare. UNEP recorded just 27 arrests in Africa and Asia between 2005-2011, over which time more than 1,800 cases of illegally trafficked great apes were documented, with many more undetected. Solutions are in the works, but time is running out for the world’s great apes if they are to be conserved.
Graffiti campaign brings rhino conservation message to urban Vietnam [04/12/2017]
- The campaign is aimed at educating locals and engaging neighborhood residents about the cost of sought-after rhino horn. - A prominent French graffiti artist, Suby One, is one of the artists whose work is featured in the campaign. - After difficulty obtaining government approval, the campaign put up 17 pieces of art throughout the month of March.
Rare barking deer photographed in Vietnam [04/11/2017]
- This is only the third site in Vietnam where the giant (or large-antlered) muntjak has been photographed in the last decade, conservationists say. - The giant muntjac is the largest species of muntjac, or barking deer. - It lives a cryptic life in the remote rainforests of the Annamite Mountain range in Southeast Asia. - Overhunting and habitat loss has wiped out the muntjac from across most of its previous range.
One-horned rhino killed by poachers in Nepal [04/11/2017]
- The body of a male one-horned rhinoceros was found with its horn gouged out on Saturday in Nepal's Chitwan Park. - Chitwan Park was gearing up to celebrate three consecutive years without any rhino poaching. - Nepal has one of the world's most effective anti-poaching programs, and the country's rhino population is on the rise.
Latest death highlights plight of spectacled bear in Colombia [04/07/2017]
- The bear was killed in Colombia during the same week a farmer was convicted for a previous killing. - One expert estimates that as many as 10 bears are killed per year by humans in Colombia. - Despite a special investigator and a big bounty for information, the main drivers of bear losses persist.
New leaf-nosed bat uncovered amidst burning habitat in Venezuela [04/06/2017]
- Using genetic and morphologic comparisons, scientists uncovered a new leaf-nosed bat species they named Sturnia adrianae. The species inhabits montane forest in northern Venezuela and Colombia. - The species is comprised of two subspecies, one of which is restricted to an isolated mountain range in northeastern Venezuela where human-caused fires are common. - The study's lead author recommends increasing conservation and scientific attention for the area to preserve bat habitat, safeguard water supplies, and help prevent landslides like those that recently killed at least 250 people in Mocoa, Colombia.
South Africa makes it legal to sell rhino horns [04/06/2017]
- Commercial rhino breeders have welcomed the decision, arguing that an open, legal trade in rhino horns will end the poaching of rhinos and will help pay for their protection. - However, several conservationists argue that there is no domestic market for rhino horns within South Africa and that a legal domestic trade would only worsen rhino poaching in the country. - The Environment Affairs Minister said that all domestic trade in rhino horn would be subject to obtaining the relevant permits and to applicable provincial legislation being obtained.
Illegal bushmeat trade threatens human health and great apes [04/06/2017]
- Hunting for bushmeat impacts over 500 wild species in Africa, but is particularly harmful to great apes — gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos — whose small, endangered populations struggle to rebound from over-hunting. Along with other major stressors including habitat loss, trafficking and climate change. - Bushmeat brings humans into close contact with wildlife, creating a prime path for the transmission of diseases like Ebola, as well as new emerging infectious diseases. Disease spread is especially worrisome between humans and closely related African great ape species. - Bushmeat consumption today is driven by an upscale urban African market, by illegal logging that offers easy access to remote great ape habitat, plus impoverished rural hunters in need of cash livelihoods. - If the bushmeat problem is to be solved, ineffective enforcement of hunting quotas and inadequate endangered species protections must be addressed. Cultural preferences for bushmeat must also change. Educational programs focused on bushmeat disease risk may be the best way to alter public perceptions.
Audio: WildTech covers the high- and low-tech solutions making conservation more effective [04/04/2017]
- Sue shares with us some of the most interesting technologies and trends that she sees as having the biggest potential to transform the way we go about conserving Earth’s natural resources and wildlife. - Also on the program, we feature a live-taped conversation with Jonathan Thompson and Clarisse Hart, two scientists with the Harvard Forest, a long-term ecological research project of Harvard University. - Guest co-host and Mongabay editor Becky Kessler helps lead a conversation about Thompson and Hart’s work, including a study they released looking at multiple scenarios for the future of Massachusetts’ forests that they say changed the way they approach research altogether.
Kaziranga: the frontline of India’s rhino wars [04/04/2017]
- Kaziranga National Park in India's Assam State is home to around 2,400 one-horned rhinos, as well as elephants, tigers and hundreds of other mammal and bird species. - India's rhinos were hunted nearly to extinction by the early 20th century, but have rebounded since the park was established. However, rhino horn is highly sought in the black market and poaching remains a constant threat. - Rangers in Kaziranga rely on antiquated weaponry to face off against poachers, whose links with international crime syndicates mean they are often better armed and better financed than forest guards. - The park's approach to conservation has drawn criticism from indigenous rights group Survival International, a critique that gained prominence in a recent BBC documentary.
Ebo forest great apes threatened by stalled Cameroon national park [04/03/2017]
- Cameroon’s Ebo forest is home to key populations of tool-wielding Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, along with an unspecified subspecies of gorilla, drills, Preuss’s Red Colobus, forest elephants, and a great deal more biodiversity. - The forest is vulnerable, unprotected due to a drawn-out fight to secure its status as a national park. Logging and hunting threaten Ebo’s biodiversity. The Cameroonian palm oil company Azur recently began planting a 123,000 hectare plantation on its boundary. - The Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) has been working successfully to change the habits of local people who have long subsisted on the forest’s natural resources — turning hunters into great ape guardians. But without the establishment of the national park and full legal protection and enforcement, everyone’s efforts may be in vain.
Reptiles being sold openly and illegally in Moroccan markets [04/03/2017]
- Several species of lizards, snakes, tortoise and crocodiles are being traded openly in Moroccan markets for use in traditional medicine. - Much of the trade is illegal, researchers say. - Since this trade is largely unregulated, scientists are yet to understand the effects of the trade on the species' populations.
Officials, Greenpeace nab four boats for illegally fishing near Guinea-Bissau [04/03/2017]
- Between March 21-24, Greenpeace and officials from Guinea-Bissau’s Fisheries Surveillance Department sent four boats into the port of Bissau, where the companies that own the boats face sanctions for unpaid fines for past violations, improperly indicating the names of vessels, and what’s known as ‘illegal transshipment.’ - Two of the boats were owned by a Spanish company, and the other two were owned by companies based in China, which has by far the most ‘distant-water fishing’ boats at sea of any country. - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization found that, in 2009, the fisheries off West Africa had the highest rates of overexploitation in the world.
From CEO to Conservation Legend: An Interview with Kristine Tompkins [03/31/2017]
- In addition to protecting habitat, Tompkins and her team are reintroducing megafauna – from giant anteaters to jaguars – back into Iberá National Park. - Tompkins calls climate change a ‘disaster’ and ‘horrifying,’ says the signs are obvious in South America. - She continues to preserve land in Chile and Argentina after losing her husband and conservation partner, Doug Tompkins, in 2015.
Al Gore and Bangladesh PM spar over coal plants in the Sundarbans [03/30/2017]
- Bangladesh is building two large power plants just upstream from the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and UNESCO World Heritage Site. - According to government officials, the power plants are intended to bolster Bangladesh's meager energy reserves. - The project has attracted criticism from concerned citizens in Bangladesh and around the world, as well as scientists and UNESCO, who say the plants will jeopardize human and ecological health. - At the January 2017 session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Al Gore and Sheikh Hasina disagreed about the project's potential environmental consequences.
New species of wild ginger discovered in DR Congo [03/30/2017]
- Scientists have named the new ginger plant Aframomum ngamikkense after the proposed Ngamikka National Park in the Misotshi-Kabogo Massif. - The species is currently known only from forests at higher elevations of 1,500-2000 meters, where the plant occurs in large patches. - This discovery adds to the growing list of 50-odd known species of ginger found throughout Africa including Madagascar.
Watch a leatherback sea turtle return to the ocean after nesting on a Costa Rica beach [03/29/2017]
- While leatherback sea turtles typically do their nesting at night, a prospective mother turtle is sometimes up so late laying her eggs that she is still on the beach at sunrise. - It’s a rare sight, but those who are lucky enough to witness it get to watch the endangered turtle slowly make her way back to the ocean before gliding off into the open water. - Jenell Black, field manager for US- and Costa Rica-based NGO The Leatherback Trust, was conducting a morning survey on Playa Grande, the largest beach in Las Baulas National Park on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, when she was fortunate enough to observe just such a sight. And fortunately for the rest of us, she had a drone with her at the time.
The military family that kept a pet orangutan in Indonesia [03/29/2017]
- Wildlife traffickers are chipping away at the dwindling populations of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans. Deforestation lends poachers an assist, rendering the primates homeless and easier to catch. - Keeping an orangutan pet is illegal in Indonesia, but not once has a citizen been prosecuted for it. The owners tend to be influential figures -- police officers, soldiers, politicians. - Krismon was separated from his mother as an infant in the late 1990s. Only last year was he finally recovered from the military family he was living with. - The ape will spend the rest of his life behind metal bars — unless a plan to construct an orangutan haven comes to fruition in North Sumatra.
Paying for healthcare with trees: win-win for orangutans and communities [03/28/2017]
- In 2016, the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) was declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Orangutan habitat is fast disappearing due to deforestation caused by industrial agriculture, forest fires, slash and burn agriculture, and logging. - One of the most important remaining P. pygmaeus populations, with roughly 2,000 individuals, is in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park. Alam Sehat Lestari (Healthy Nature Everlasting, or ASRI) is partnering with U.S. NGO Health in Harmony and effectively reducing illegal logging in the park via a unique healthcare offering. - When communities were asked what was needed to stop them from logging conserved forest, the people answered: affordable healthcare and organic farming. Expensive medical costs were forcing people to log to pay medical bills, while unsustainable agricultural practices depleted the soil, necessitating the use of costly fertilizers. - The two NGOs opened an affordable health clinic, and later a hospital, offering discounted medical service to communities that stop logging. Forest guardians, recruited in every village, encourage people to curb deforestation. They also monitor illegal activity and reforestation, while offering training in organic farming methods. And the program works!
Survey of previously inaccessible region of Myanmar reveals many endangered species [03/28/2017]
- 17 of the 31 species are threatened, including tigers, Asian elephants, Phayre’s langurs, and dholes. - The camera traps also detected images of the indochinese leopard across all survey sites, suggesting that Karen State could be supporting one of the most significant leopard populations remaining in South-east Asia. - A major concern in the region is poaching of high value species like tiger and elephant for the international illegal wildlife trade, the researchers say.
Extinct mammoths and rhinos portend a grim future in a warming climate [03/28/2017]
- The new analysis shows that, while hunting caused problems for cold-dwelling rhinos and mammoths, and in some cases drove them from certain areas completely, the changing climate ultimately led to their extinction. - Hunting pressure also eradicated some species of horses, but others, such as wild horses (E. przewalskii) and donkeys (E. asinus), were able to survive. - Along with deer, these mammals probably survived because of their smaller sizes, increased mobility and higher reproductive rates than either mammoths or rhinos. - With just a 1-degree Celsius rise in Earth's temperature per century, we could see the same rise in temperatures over the next 500-1,000 years that took 10,000-15,000 years at the end of the last ice age.
World’s second breeding population of Indochinese tigers discovered in Thailand’s forests [03/28/2017]
- The world’s second known breeding population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti) confirmed in Eastern Thailand’s Dong-Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex - a UNESCO World Heritage site. - Remarkable discovery now makes Thailand home to two breeding populations of this tiger subspecies, a significant step toward ensuring their long-term survival in the wild. - Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and conservation groups Freeland and Panthera have conducted a scientific survey on the tiger population using the ‘photographic capture-recapture’ method, indicating a density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometers. - While conservationists welcome these exciting new findings, they warn of the continued decline of tigers elsewhere in Thailand and across their global range.
Two new clown tree frogs discovered in the Amazon [03/27/2017]
- Clown frogs are widespread throughout the Amazon region and get their name from their unique, bright coloration. - The two newly discovered clown frogs were previously considered to belong to other species, but researchers were able to show that they are their own distinct species after analyzing their DNA and the calls they make. - According to the international team of researchers who made the discovery, the conservation status of both clown frogs has yet to be determined — but it is likely that the species could already be considered threatened, especially given that both are reported to have particularly small distribution areas that are endangered by habitat destruction.
Sand mining ban lifted on beach in Suriname, causing public backlash [03/27/2017]
- Sand mining could decrease the ability of Braamspunt beach to protect Suriname’s capital city from rising sea levels and storms surges. - Conservationists also fear for sea turtles nesting on the beach, which may be disturbed by the bright lights and loud noises of the industrial activity. - Sand mining in coastal environments has become a global industry, threatening biodiversity and natural defenses against climate change.
Yellow fever is killing howler monkeys in Brazil [03/27/2017]
- Brown howler monkeys are extremely susceptible to yellow fever, and an outbreak can cause local extinctions. - Hundreds of brown howler monkeys are estimated to have died at the RPPN-FMA reserve due to yellow fever. - Fortunately, the critically endangerd muriquis (also found in the reserve) seem less susceptible to yellow fever than the howler monkeys.
Will Madagascar lose its most iconic primate? [03/24/2017]
- Ring-tailed lemurs have suffered a drastic population decline in the last 15 years due to habitat destruction, hunting and live capture for the pet trade. - The ring-tailed lemur is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for Madagascar’s other lemur species, providing an urgent need for increased conservation capacity on the island. - Ring-tailed lemurs could recover quickly if threats were removed, given their well-known adaptability.
A Czech zoo is dehorning its rhinos [03/24/2017]
- The dehorning is in response to an incident in Paris earlier this month, in which poachers broke into a zoo near the city, shot dead a 4-year-old male white rhino, and hacked off one of its horns. - The Dvůr Králove Zoo, home to 21 rhinos, sawed the horns off its first rhino on March 20. - The authorities said that the horns will be stored in a "safe place" outside the zoo.
New cave catfish threatened by deforestation, mining, pollution [03/23/2017]
- The new catfish, Aspidoras mephisto, is the first completely cave-dependent member of the Callichthyidae family found in South America. - The species has adaptations to living underground, including a lack of pigment and reduced eyes. Researchers think it may use tree roots for shelter and food. - Surveys indicate A. mephisto is restricted to two caves in an area devoid of official protection. Deforestation and mining activities threaten the vegetation around the caves, and sewage from a nearby town may be polluting their water sources.
Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach? [03/22/2017]
- Researchers interviewed 173 self-admitted rural poachers living in the margins of Ruaha National Park in Tanzania to understand why they harvest bushmeat. - While poverty was a major factor, not all poachers were destitute; a sizeable proportion say they poach to supplement their income. - How the villagers view their financial status compared to others reflected their poaching activities. - Conservation strategies should adopt a multidimensional approach to target those who are well-off in addition to the poor, according to the researchers.
Audio: Paul Simon on his new tour in support of E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth initiative [03/21/2017]
- The 12-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter recently announced on Mongabay.com that he is embarking on a 17-date US concert tour, with all proceeds benefitting Half-Earth, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - Mongabay contributor Justin Catanoso interviewed Paul Simon about his long-time friendship with E.O. Wilson and why Dr. Wilson’s Half-Earth idea inspired him to get involved in this environmental cause. - We also feature another Field Notes segment, this time with Zuzana Burivalova, a conservation scientist at Princeton University who has recorded the soundscapes of over 100 sites in the Indonesian part of Borneo.
New ‘stone’ frog discovered in Vietnam [03/21/2017]
- Researchers first collected specimens of the frog in 2013 while surveying forests covering limestone hills in Vietnam's Lai Chau and Tuyen Quang Provinces. - After analyzing and comparing this frog's appearance, call, as well as DNA with that of closely related frogs, the team confirmed that it was indeed a new species. - Unfortunately, the researchers suspect that the new species is already threatened with extinction and recommend listing it as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
“Endangered species to declare?” Europe’s understudied bushmeat trade [03/20/2017]
- Bushmeat can be purchased in Europe’s capital cities, with the meat of endangered species such as primates and pangolins available. But the scale of the problem is not fully understood as few studies have been undertaken at airports and other points of entry to determine its scope. - In a Paris airport study, 134 passengers arriving from Africa were searched over a period of 17 days; nine were found to be carrying a total of 188 kilograms (414 pounds) of bushmeat. A more recent study of bushmeat arriving from Africa at two Swiss airports found that one third of meat seized was from threatened CITES species including pangolins, small carnivores and primates. - Based on what evidence there is of the trade, some appears to be organized for profit, with traffickers transporting suitcases full of bushmeat to sell on the black market. Africans who reside in Europe also sometimes bring back bushmeat from Africa as a “taste of home,” potentially contributing to the risk of spreading diseases that may be found in the meat. - Researchers are urging that DNA analysis tools be used more widely to learn what species are being transported as bushmeat into Europe, and to bring about more prosecutions of bushmeat traffickers who are dealing in endangered species. But with customs officials already stretched, and bushmeat a low priority, the technology is rarely utilized at present.
Catching up to the Ruby Seadragon: new species raises new questions [03/20/2017]
- The ruby seadragon (Phyllopteryx dewysea) avoided scientific detection for so long due to its deepwater habitat and the fact that bodies changed color after they perished. - The discovery has raised new questions about the evolution of seadragons. - Researchers don’t know how threatened the ruby seadragon is, but have petitioned the government for proactive protections.
Saving orphaned baby rhinos in India [03/17/2017]
- The Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, near Kaziranga National Park in Assam State, is currently home to nine greater one-horned rhino calves, including eight orphaned in monsoon floods last year. - Carers at the center hand raise these young rhinos with the aim of reintroducing them to the wild when they are old enough to fend for themselves. - Since 2002, the center has raised and released 14 rhino calves, along with young from other species including elephants and wild buffalo. - Raising these vulnerable animals requires years of painstaking effort.
Climate change-induced bleaching decimating Great Barrier Reef [03/15/2017]
- In 2016, scientists reported the largest die-off ever on the Great Barrier Reef. - Some 70,000 people depend on the Great Barrier Reef for employment in the tourism industry, and it’s worth about $5 billion annually. - The study’s authors report that repeated exposure to higher-than-normal sea temperatures submarines the corals’ chances at recovery. Even corals that survive don’t appear to be more tolerant of extreme temperatures, and high water quality – important for coral regrowth – doesn’t seem to offer much protection against bleaching.
Among their many impacts, roads are driving rapid evolutionary adaptation in adjacent populations [03/15/2017]
- The global road network covers close to 40 million miles, and is projected to grow by 60 percent by 2050. - The field of road ecology, which has emerged over the past two decades, has looked at a variety of roads’ negative consequences, such as roadkill, contamination runoff, and forest and habitat fragmentation. - As scientists continue to add to our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics that lead to adaptation and maladaptation in road-adjacent populations, our ability to predict and in turn reduce negative road effects will also increase, the authors argue.
Keeping up with the Juncos: How birds thrive or die in the suburbs [03/15/2017]
- New study finds that some bird species, the adapters, thrive in the suburbs while others, the avoiders, don’t. - Avoider species require specific ecological components for survival, ones that are rarely found in developed areas. - The implications for tropical birds may be large. Researchers believe there are more ‘avoider’ species in the tropics.
Americans live increasingly far from forests — which is a problem for wildlife [03/14/2017]
- Giorgos Mountrakis and Sheng Yang of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry analyzed satellite-derived land cover data in order to look at geographic patterns of forest loss in the continental US during the 1990s. - The average distance from any point in the U.S. to the nearest forest increased some 14 percent just between the years 1990 and 2000 — a difference of about one-third of a mile. - They found that total forest cover loss across the country during that decade was close to 35,000 square miles (a little over 90,000 square kilometers), a decline of about 2.96 percent, or roughly an area the size of the state of Maine.
As America’s Endangered Species List turns 50, uncertainty abounds [03/14/2017]
- On March 11, 1967, 78 animals were added to the Endangered Species List following the passage of the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. - That legislation laid the groundwork for the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1969 and greatly strengthened in 1973. - But with the new administration promising a roll-back of environmental regulations, there are concerns that protections for endangered species could suffer. - J Mark Fowler, a wildlife advocate and filmmaker, says this development would be a tragedy for America and the world.
Breakthrough boosts hope for treating contagious cancer in Tasmanian devils [03/14/2017]
- The devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) has spread across most of the Tasmanian devil's range and has wiped out more than 80 percent of these animals in Tasmania. - In a new study, researchers could successfully trigger the devil’s immune system to recognise and destroy established DFTD tumours. - The findings show that a DFTD vaccine is feasible, researchers say.
“Predator Mobbing:” Watch gibbons, monkeys team up to fight off leopard [03/13/2017]
- A field team with the Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) was in the Sabangau Forest of Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo studying wild Maroon Langur monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) as part of a long-term behavioral research project when they witnessed the rare phenomenon, known as “predator mobbing,” first-hand. - The monkeys responded after a group of Endangered Bornean White-bearded Gibbons (Hylobates albibarbis) started making alarm calls upon discovering a Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi) hiding in their midst. - The two primate species then proceeded to continuously issue warning calls for over two-and-a-half hours in the direction of tangled lianas in the forest canopy in which the leopard was hiding — a cooperative, multi-species interaction that is incredibly unusual for researchers to observe in the wild.
Iconic musician Paul Simon announces tour supporting biodiversity [03/13/2017]
- Twelve-time Grammy winner Paul Simon spoke to Mongabay during a recent conference in Durham, North Carolina. - Proceeds from the tour will support the Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - He spoke to Mongabay about optimism, life on Earth, and more during an hour-long conversation. - It was widely reported in 2016 that the performer was considering retirement from touring, but has now heeded Wilson's call for saving biodiversity.
Tracking the numerous tactics used to attack environmental protections around the globe [03/10/2017]
- The international team of researchers behind the study note that Earth’s wild fauna and flora would be far worse off if it wasn’t for the legal protections they are already afforded, such as biodiversity laws that control the exploitation of wildlife and designate certain areas as off-limits to human industry in order to protect vital habitat. - But these laws face constant tests as proponents of economic development seek to weaken their ability to regulate human activities that impact the natural world. - The researchers are maintaining a list of attempts to weaken biodiversity laws by country on a github repository and invite conservationists, scientists, and the general public to make contributions.
Controversial policy could spur tiger trade in China [03/10/2017]
- In China, around 6,000 captive tigers are raised on “farms,” often under inhumane conditions, and their pelts sold for hefty sums in a poorly regulated market upheld through legal loopholes by the Chinese government. Breeding tigers on these farms is legal, but sale of their parts is not — something that may be about to change. - The State Forestry Administration, tasked with protecting wildlife and overseeing China’s tiger farms, is now deciding whether to commercialize tigers by adding them to a list of legally farmed wildlife, paving the way for tiger parts to be sold to supply a growing Chinese luxury market. - Long used in Chinese medicine, tiger products are now a status purchase for China’s wealthiest and most powerful. Collectors stockpile tiger bone wine; tiger skins are regularly gifted to seal business deals. Some wealthy Chinese hold “visual feasts” where guests watch a tiger be killed and cooked — then eat it. - Breeding tigers for trade in their parts contravenes a 2007 decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty signed by 183 nations, including China. There is pressure in China and abroad to shut down tiger farms, even as Chinese business interests lobby to expand a lucrative industry.
Climate change driving widespread local extinctions; tropics most at risk [03/09/2017]
- Climate change forces three fates on species: adapt, flee or die. A new meta-analysis compiled data from 27 studies to see how species distributions have changed over timescales of 10-159 years, and included 976 species. Almost half (47 percent) had seen some local populations disappear along the warming edge of their ranges. - The tropics were especially vulnerable to climate change-driven local extinctions. The data showed that 55 percent of tropical and subtropical species experienced local extinctions, whereas the figure was only 39 percent for temperate species. Though the tropical data set was not large, this higher tropical risk concurs with past studies. - Tropical species are at greater risk due to climate change because they live in some of the world’s hottest environments, so are already at the upper limit of known temperature adaptation, are restricted to small areas, particular rare habitats, and narrow temperature ranges, or have poor dispersal ability and slow reproductive rates. - Scientists see multiple solutions to the problem: beyond the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, they recommend conserving large core areas of habitat, and preserving strong connectivity between those core areas, so plants and animals can move more freely between them as required as the world warms.
Reducing Asia’s hunger for rhino horn [03/09/2017]
- In 2015, the most recent full year for which data is available, more than 1,350 rhinos were killed for their horns in Africa and Asia. - The vast majority of rhino horn is bound for destinations outside of the source country, meaning that conservationists in places like South Africa or India can do little to fight demand. - Demand reduction efforts currently center on China and Vietnam, the primary destinations for poached rhino horn. - Effective demand reduction campaigns require research into consumer behavior and careful targeting of messages.
Notorious elephant poacher, ‘The Devil’, sentenced to 12 years in jail [03/09/2017]
- Mariango was arrested in October 2015 with his brothers Lucas Mathayo Malyango and Abdallah Ally Chaoga while attempting to smuggle 118 tusks worth over $863,000. - Aged 47, Mariango was one of the poachers featured in the Netflix documentary film, The Ivory Game, produced by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. - He also stands accused of supplying ivory to Yang Feng Glan, a Chinese national nicknamed “Queen of Ivory,” who is on trial in Tanzania for smuggling ivory worth $2.5 million.
Short film takes you into the Amazon with researcher who discovered a new frog species [03/08/2017]
- Back in January, biologist Jennifer Serrano and a team of researchers published a paper officially describing a new species of poison dart frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, which was given the name Ameerega shihuemoy, to science. - Finding Frogs, a short documentary by filmmaker Nick Werber, captures the sense of awe and discovery inherent in doing fieldwork like Jennifer Serrano’s. - In this Q&A, Mongabay speaks with Werber about his motivation for making the documentary in the first place, the difficulties of shooting a film in a humid environment like a rainforest, and why it’s so important for scientific discoveries to be more widely shared via media like film.
Poachers kill rhino at French zoo [03/08/2017]
- Poachers killed four-year-old rhino named Vince at the Thoiry Zoo and Wildlife Park near Paris. - Vince's keeper found him the next morning, with one of his horns hacked off, probably with a chainsaw, the zoo said in a statement. - Two other white rhinoceros living in the Thoiry zoo — Gracie aged 37 and Bruno aged 5 years — have "escaped the massacre" and are safe, the zoo said.
Audio: Meet the ‘Almost Famous Animals’ that deserve more conservation recognition [03/07/2017]
- The Almost Famous series was created in the hope that familiarity will help generate concern and action for under-appreciated species. Glenn tells us all about how species get selected for coverage and his favorite animals profiled in the series. - We also feature another installment of our Field Notes segment on this episode of the Newscast. - Luca Pozzi, an evolutionary primatologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio, recently helped establish a new genus of galagos, or bushbabies, found in southeastern Africa. We play some of the calls made by galagos in the wild, and Luca explains how those recordings aid in our scientific knowledge about wildlife.
The last elephants of Cambodia’s Virachey National Park [03/07/2017]
- Virachey is Cambodia’s largest national park, with 3,325 square kilometers of mountainous jungle, upland savannas, and deep river gorges spanning across Stung Treng and Ratanakiri provinces in the extreme northeast of the country. - Economic Land Concessions, some of which have now been revoked, chipped away at the area of the park that borders Vietnam, while selective illegal logging takes place throughout Virachey (and every “protected area” in Cambodia) and poaching is rife. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Rare beaked whale filmed underwater for the first time [03/07/2017]
- True's beaked whale is difficult to spot at sea, and remains a poorly studied species. - By analyzing stranding data and live sightings of the whale, researchers confirm that the Azores and Canary Islands may actually be a hotspot for studying the natural behavior of the species. - For the data-scarce whale species, live sightings and video recordings are highly valuable because they add to information that helps identify a species accurately. - This in turn can help scientists monitor the status of their populations and protect them.
Nearly half of Mount Oku frogs are in danger of croaking, study finds [03/07/2017]
- Survey work discovers at least 50 amphibian species living on Mount Oku, a dormant volcano in Cameroon. - Mount Oku’s puddle frogs are vanishing – and no one knows why. Some species may already be extinct. - Researchers say survey work is often overlooked for ‘sexier’ science, but this could hamper saving species.
A Christmas Miracle? Perhaps someday [03/06/2017]
- In the 1990s most of Christmas Island’s lizard species began plummeting. The cause remains a mystery. - Scientists began a captive breeding program in 2009 – saving two species – but one species had already gone extinct and another is extirpated from the island, but can still be found elsewhere. - Researchers will not be able to reintroduce the captive species until the cause of the decline is uncovered.
African Parks gets $65M for conservation in Rwanda and Malawi [03/05/2017]
- African Parks will receive $65 million from the Wyss Foundation to bolster conservation efforts in Rwanda, Malawi, and beyond. - The funds will go toward African Parks' management of Liwonde National Park, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi; Akagera National Park in Rwanda; and five still-to-be-identified protected areas in other countries. - African Parks privately manages protected areas, effectively taking over operations traditionally managed by governments.
Translating the barcode of wildlife into action [03/03/2017]
- The multi-country Barcode of Wildlife Project combines innovative technology with capacity-building to apply DNA barcoding to wildlife protection. - The Project has successfully been adapting standard scientific procedures to the sociopolitical dimensions of each partner country’s legal landscape. - Translating the codes of law and procedure between the scientific and law enforcement communities, in a single country and across the globe, remains a major challenge in applying technology to combat wildlife crime.
Trapped elephants face attacks by mob in India [03/03/2017]
- The herd of about 25 elephants is "trapped" within dense human habitation in an area called Athgarh in the state of Orissa in India. - The elephants take shelter in some of the small forest patches during the day, and go out to look for food in the evenings, which mostly constitutes of crops, getting harassed in the process. - Conservationists say that harassing elephants has now become a form of entertainment in the area.
Newly discovered Tanzanian frog already facing extinction [03/02/2017]
- The new frog was collected in 2001 from Ruvu South Forest Reserve in Tanzania, in habitat atypical for spiny reed frogs. - The scientists who collected it couldn't identify it in the field. Fourteen years later, they sequenced the frog's DNA, which revealed that it was a species previously unknown to science. - The new species is represented by just one museum specimen. Recent attempts to find more in Ruvu South Forest Reserve failed to turn up the sought-after frogs, leaving researchers worried the species is being wiped out by dramatic deforestation affecting the reserve and surrounding areas.
The two sides of Indonesia’s Baluran National Park [03/02/2017]
- A recent commentary piece by Dr. Erik Meijaard provides a comprehensive view of the current situation and conservation actions undertaken in Baluran National Park as compared to time he spent there in the 1990’s - However, as so often happens with this beautiful park, the focus remained on the well-known part that has earned it the nickname ‘Africa of Java,’ the area surrounding the Bekol savannah in the southeastern reaches of the park. - If one were to slice the park horizontally in two, right through mount Baluran, and compare the northern and southern parts, a sharp contrast would become visible, a contrast of mooing and ringing bells. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Need a Trump break? Meet Obama’s fish [03/02/2017]
- Researcher names new species of deep coral fish after the 44th President of the U.S. - Scientists don’t know if the new species is threatened, but it is found in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. - Discovery hints at how many species still await names.
LemurFaceID: The facial recognition tech helping researchers track lemurs in the wild [03/02/2017]
- Thanks to threats like hunting and the destruction of their tropical forest habitat by illegal loggers, lemurs — small primates endemic to Madagascar — are generally considered some of the most endangered mammals on Earth. - Researchers say a new computer-assisted recognition system called LemurFaceID uses facial characteristics of lemurs from photographs taken in the wild to make positive identifications of individual animals. - Lines of research facilitated by LemurFaceID are manifold: individual lemurs can be tracked over time, records of how many individuals there are in any given population can be compiled, and the social systems of those populations can be more closely examined.
A golden jackal settles down just outside of Prague [03/01/2017]
- With complete disregard for political boundaries, the golden jackal (Canis aureus) settles down in shrub-land near Prague. - An individual golden jackal repeatedly modeled for the cameras as researchers documented its unprecedented move into the Czech Republic. - The jackal's arrival in the Czech Republic, however, raises questions about its legal status in the country and across the EU.
Climate change impacts on birds and mammals much more prevalent than reported [02/28/2017]
- Researchers examined 130 previous studies on the impacts of climate change on threatened birds and mammals and found evidence that nearly 700 species have already exhibited negative responses to recent changes in climate. - The researchers estimate that 47 percent of the 873 species of threatened terrestrial mammals and 23 percent of the 1,272 species of threatened birds included in the study have already been adversely impacted by climate change in at least some portion of their range or population. - That makes it all the more important to understand the impacts already observable in wildlife due to climatic changes, given that, as noted in the study, the rate of warming over the past 50 years has been around 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade, nearly twice the rate of warming recorded over the previous five decades.
Field Notes: Finding Jacobo; an Andean cat captivates conservationists [02/28/2017]
- The Andean cat ranges from remote areas of central Peru to the Patagonian steppe. Perfectly adapted to extreme environments, this small feline is threatened by habitat degradation and hunting, but most of all it suffers from anonymity: it’s hard to save an animal that no one ever sees. - So few of these endangered cats are scattered across such vast landscapes that even most of their advocates have never seen the species they’re trying to protect. But the conservation efforts that could save this cat could also preserve the wild places where Andean cats live. - When a male Andean cat was found wandering around a soccer field, Andean Cat Alliance members agreed to forego the extraordinary opportunity to study the animal in captivity, and try instead to return “Jacobo” to the wild. - Andean Cat Alliance coordinators Rocío Palacios and Lilian Villalba orchestrated the multinational volunteer release effort. Conservationists equipped Jacobo with a GPS collar and hope that tracking his travels will reveal new data about this secretive cat, considered a symbol of the Andes.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/28/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
7 new frogs discovered in India, some smaller than a thumbnail [02/27/2017]
- All the newly described species belong to the genus Nyctibatrachus, commonly known as night frogs. - Apart from being tiny, these frogs live a secretive life under forest leaf litter or marsh vegetation and they sound like insects, making it difficult for researchers to locate them. - But these species seem to be common and abundant in the locations they were found, researchers say. - Despite being commonly encountered, all seven species might be threatened by habitat loss.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
The Spirit of the Steppes: Saving Central Asia’s saiga [02/27/2017]
- The Critically Endangered saiga (Saiga tatarica) once numbered in the millions. This large antelope was perhaps best known for making one of the last of the world’s remaining great mammal migrations — a trek sweeping twice per year across the steppes of Central Asia. - Saiga populations declined more than 95 percent by 2004, according to the IUCN. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan banned hunting in the 1990s, but the horns of male saiga are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, and illegal trafficking is a major threat; if not curtailed the trade could doom the species. - In the 21st century, international NGOs and regional organizations such as the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) and Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) formed partnerships with Central Asian nations to better conserve the species. And their work was paying off, until 2015. - That’s when disease killed over 200,000 adult saiga of the Betpak Dala population in Central Kazakhstan. At the end of 2016, the Mongolian herd was hit hard by a new viral infection, with 4,000 saiga carcasses buried so far. But the saiga is reproductively resilient, and could be saved, if the species receives sufficient attention, say conservationists.
Feral cats now dominate the Australian landscape [02/27/2017]
- Feral cats occupy 99.8 percent of the Australian continent. - Cats, brought by European explorers on ships, are blamed for the extinction and endangerment of numerous mammal species found nowhere else. - The government plans to cull two million feral cats, but researchers say a more pointed approach – focusing on breeding ground – could be more effective in the long-term.
Saving fairy possums could imperil other Australian wildlife [02/25/2017]
- Fairy possums are dependent on montane ash forests in Victoria's central highlands. But these forests are threatened by fire and logging. - A severe fire season in 2009 led to a more than 40 percent decline in fairy possums. - Protected area expansion is seen as one way to help fairy possums survive. But a recent study finds if reserves are expanded with solely the fairy possum in mind, other species could lose out because their habitats may not overlap. - The researchers say their analysis technique could be used generally to more effectively plan protected areas.
More than 25,000 elephants were killed in a Gabon national park in one decade [02/24/2017]
- A decline of somewhere between 78 and 81 percent in the park’s forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) population over the span of just one decade was largely driven by poachers who crossed the border into Gabon from its neighbor to the north, Cameroon, according to a new study led by researchers with Duke University and published in the journal Current Biology this week. - The fact that Cameroon’s national road is so close to the park makes it relatively easy for poachers to slip into the park, make their illegal kills, and then transport elephant tusks back to Cameroon’s largest city, Douala, which has become a major hub of the international ivory trade. - Nearly half of Central Africa's estimated 100,000 forest elephants are thought to live in Gabon, making the loss of 25,000 elephants from a key sanctuary a considerable setback for the preservation of the species, according to John Poulsen, assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and the lead author of the study.
SpongeBob SquarePants and the ‘last frontier’ of the Philippines [02/23/2017]
- The 100-hectare resort, announced last month, is to be part of the Coral World Park, which bills itself as the 'largest Marine Reserve and Coral Reef Conservation program in Asia.' - Local environment activists say they have never heard of Coral World Park, or of conservation programs funded by its parent organization, the Dr. AB Moñozca Foundation. - Palawan, a globally significant biodiversity hotspot, is already grappling with the social and environmental impacts of a rapidly growing tourism industry.
Renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson calls for preserving half of Earth to save biodiversity [02/22/2017]
- In Half-Earth, Wilson argues that the situation facing humanity and biodiversity is so desperate that it requires a dramatic response: dedicating fully half of the planet’s surface area to nature and natural forces, an arrangement a New York Times interviewer calls “an improbable prescription for the environment.” - Wilson’s proposal calls not for removing people living in and depending on the natural resources of wildlands around the world, but for managing these areas in a manner that would preserve their living legacies of biodiversity, something akin to how World Heritage Sites are managed. - Through his nearly 90 years of exploration, inquiry and controversy, the visionary Wilson has taken positions and pointed toward destinations that ultimately have prevailed – that which was considered outside of accepted thinking or conventional wisdom has become mainstream. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
How acoustic monitoring gave us a last chance to save the vaquita [02/22/2017]
- Monitoring the vaquita’s vocalizations has allowed scientists to closely and accurately monitor the species’ unfortunate decline. - Illegal fishing for totoaba is the biggest threat to the vaquita. They are killed as bycatch, drowning in nets meant for the fish. - Conservationists say the next step is to capture vaquitas for captivity, a highly controversial plan with major risks.
Scrapping Nigerian superhighway buffer isn’t enough, say conservation groups [02/22/2017]
- The superhighway project, intended to stimulate the Cross River state economy, will no longer include a 20-kilometer-wide buffer zone along its 260-kilometer length. - The NGO Wildlife Conservation Society said minimizing the destruction necessary for the buffer zone was an important step, but that it will still disrupt communities and wildlife. - Representatives of the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, told the media that they intended to move forward with the superhighway despite the criticism.
Audio: Naomi Oreskes on what stories we can’t let get lost in the noise of 2017 and why scientists should speak up [02/21/2017]
- Because there is so much uncertainty around the new Trump Administration, especially around its energy, environment, and climate policies, we decided to dedicate this episode to trying to answer some of those questions. - We continue to take a look at what this year will bring for energy and the environment under President Trump with Bobby Magill, a senior science writer for Climate Central and the president of the Society of Environmental Journalists. - We also welcome Jeff Ruch, executive director of the non-profit service organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, to share with us what he’s been hearing so far from employees of the Environmental Protection Agency about their concerns with the Trump Administration’s environmental policies.
Proposed Trump policy threatens Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla [02/21/2017]
- The largest great ape, Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has nearly disappeared in the past two decades. Numbers have plummeted by 77 percent; perhaps 3,800 remain. This animal, dubbed “the forgotten gorilla” because it was so little studied and was absent from most zoos, is in serious danger of extinction. - Their slaughter was precipitated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s bloody civil war and by mining for coltan and tin ore, “conflict minerals” used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Gorillas are heavily poached by armed militias, miners, and less often, by refugees: the animals are being eaten nearly to extinction. - The gorillas could suffer greater harm from warlords and miners if President Trump signs a proposed presidential memorandum leaked to Reuters. It would allow US companies to buy conflict minerals freely without public disclosure, likely increasing mining in the Congo basin — and poaching. - Trump’s plan would nullify the current US Conflict Mineral Rule, passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and enacted as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Dodd Frank Act. Meanwhile, conservationists are hopeful that the Grauer’s gorilla can be saved — but only with a DRC and planet-wide response.
Scimitar-horned oryx return to the Sahara nearly two decades after going extinct in the wild [02/20/2017]
- This is the second group to be returned to the wild since the species was listed as Extinct in the Wild on the IUCN Red List in 2000. - Eight female and six male scimitar-horned oryx were released on January 21 in the hopes that they would join the herd of 21 oryx that were reintroduced to Chad’s Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Reserve on August 14, 2016. - The initial group of oryx — 13 females and 8 males — have reportedly thrived in their new habitat. In fact, on September 21, 2016, the herd welcomed what is believed to be the first scimitar-horned oryx born in the wild in more than 20 years.