New maps reveal industrial fishing in over half of world’s oceans [02/24/2018]
- Researchers poring through billions of ship-tracking data points have found that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone. - While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas. - Mapping the fishing fleets also showed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and periods of fishing closures.
Conservationist, imprisoned for ‘spying’ with wildlife camera traps, dies in Iranian prison [02/23/2018]
- Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor of sociology and a director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison earlier this month. - Iranian authorities say Seyed Emami committed suicide, an assertion his family doubts. - Seyed Emami’s arrest and suspicious death appear to be part of a wider crack down on environmentalists in Iran. Authorities arrested at least six other conservationists around the same time.
Tropical forest fragmentation nearing ‘critical point,’ study finds [02/23/2018]
- In addition to having severe repercussions for animals like jaguars and tigers that require vast tracts of connected habitat, forest fragmentation has a big carbon footprint. - A new physics-based study finds fragmentation of tropical forests may be reaching a threshold past which fragmentation will shoot up sharply. At this threshold, even a relatively small amount of deforestation could lead to dramatic fragmentation – and significant habitat loss and greenhouse gas emissions. - The team calculated that at current deforestation rates, the number of fragments will increase 33-fold in Central and South America by 2050, and their average size will drop from 17 hectares to 0.25 hectares.
Volunteering on the front lines of rhino conservation (commentary) [02/23/2018]
- Zimbabwe is home to the world’s fourth largest black rhino population after South Africa, Namibia and Kenya. - Author Ed Warner travels there frequently to volunteer with the International Rhino Foundation’s Zimbabwe Lowveld Rhino Program, which conducts monitoring and anti-poaching efforts aimed at treating, rehabilitating, and translocating rhinos as needed. - Here we publish Warner’s diary of six days in the bush supporting the team’s data collection and anti-poaching efforts. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Seychelles announces two new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain [02/22/2018]
- The government of Seychelles has announced the creation of two new marine protected areas covering 210,000 square kilometers, the size of the island of Great Britain. - The first marine protected area includes 74,400 square kilometers of waters surrounding the extremely isolated Aldabra archipelago that is home to the world’s largest population of rare giant tortoises. - The second marine protected area covers 136,000 square kilometers of a commercially important stretch of ocean between the Amirantes group of islands and Fortune Bank. - The creation of the marine protected areas is part of a debt-for-nature deal that will allow the Seychelles to restructure its national debt in exchange for protecting 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone.
DJ and ornithologists create wildlife music game [02/21/2018]
- Wildlife DJ Ben Mirin has teamed up with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Hip Hop Collection on a new online game that uses wildlife recordings. - Players take sound recordings of wild creatures and transform them into loops, creating a wide variety of song clips. Players also learn about the animals and the habitats they live in. - Mirin was also a guest on Mongabay’s podcast in 2017.
Audio: Exploring the minds and inner lives of animals [02/20/2018]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with an author of a new book about the minds and lives of animals – about their amazing memories and minds, how they dream, and more – and we’ll also learn what Mongabay’s newest bureau just launched in India is reporting about. - Our first guest is Sy Montgomery, the author of two dozen books for adults and kids about animals. She recently teamed up with her friend and fellow animal writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas to write Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, and is here to share a few of the fascinating stories from the book with us. - Our second guest today is Sandhya Sekar, program manager for Mongabay India, who’s here to tell us about the environmental challenges India is facing and what kinds of coverage you’ll find at india.mongabay.com.
Study delves into overlooked community perceptions of conservation impact [02/20/2018]
- A new study measures the impacts of conservation projects on people’s lives by letting the people define what matters to them. - The study has adapted the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI), an index that has previously been used in the health sector to see what people consider important for their quality of life, and lets the people rate the performance of those domains. - The study found that overall, the local people were most commonly concerned with agriculture, health, livestock, education, jobs, and family-related activities, but more than 50 percent of the people who were interviewed said that the conservation projects had had no significant impacts on these aspects of their well-being.
Four Indonesian farmers charged in killing of orangutan that was shot 130 times [02/18/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested four farmers for allegedly shooting a Bornean orangutan whose body was found riddled with 130 air gun pellets. - The suspects claimed to have killed the animal because it had encroached onto their pineapple farm and ruined the crop. - The killing was the second such case reported this year in Indonesia, where orangutans are ostensibly protected under the conservation act. But lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes.
Watch: A minke whale’s view of the Antarctic [02/16/2018]
- Scientists in Antarctica have attached a “whale cam” to the back of a southern minke whale for the very first time. - The video footage is giving scientists a sneak peek into a day in the life of a minke, one of the most poorly understood baleen whales. - At one point, the camera slid down the side of the animal and this side view ended up capturing remarkable footage of the whale feeding.
Borneo, ravaged by deforestation, loses nearly 150,000 orangutans in 16 years, study finds [02/15/2018]
- A new study calculates that the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 orangutans in the period between 1999 and 2015, largely as a result of deforestation and killing. There were an estimated 104,700 of the critically endangered apes left as of 2012. - The study also warns that another 45,000 orangutans are doomed by 2050 under the business-as-usual scenario, where forests are cleared for logging, palm oil, mining and pulpwood leases. Orangutans are also disappearing from intact forests, most likely being killed, the researchers say. - The researchers have called for more effective partnerships between governments, industries and local communities to ensure the Bornean orangutan’s survival. Public education and awareness will also be key.
East Africa’s Albertine Rift needs protection now, scientists say [02/15/2018]
- The Albertine Rift in East Africa is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. - Created by the stretching apart of tectonic plates, the unique ecosystems of the Albertine Rift are also under threat from encroaching human population and climate change. - A new report details a plan to protect the landscapes that make up the Rift at a cost of around $21 million per year — a bargain rate, scientists argue, given the number of threatened species that could be saved.
Webs under water: The really bizarre lives of intertidal spiders [02/15/2018]
- Scientists have discovered a 15th species of intertidal spider, a family of unusual arachnids that live in coastal habitats that are submerged during high tides. - The newest species, named after singer Bob Marley, was discovered living on brain coral off the Australian coast. - Scientists know that some species create air pockets with their hairs, while others build waterproof webs, but little is known about most of these fascinating spiders. - Intertidal spiders face a number of threats, including rising sea levels due to climate change, and pollution.
New population of extremely rare ‘red handfish’ discovered off Tasmania [02/14/2018]
- Last month, divers discovered a new population of the critically endangered red handfish off Tasmania’s coast. - The new site, currently undisclosed, potentially harbors about 20 to 40 individuals, doubling the number of known red handfish on Earth. - The new population is helping scientists understand the rare fish better.
Illegal ‘white gold,’ South Africa’s abalone, pouring into Hong Kong: TRAFFIC [02/13/2018]
- South African abalone imports into Hong Kong have progressively increased from 3,000 tonnes in 2000 to 6,170 tonnes in 2015, according to a new report by TRAFFIC. - During this period, South Africa was the largest source of dried abalone to Hong Kong among other African countries. Much of these imports were illegal, the researchers found. - While most abalone traders in Hong Kong seem to be aware that South African abalone is frequently poached, fewer consumers know about the illegal trade.
Rewriting biological history: Trump border wall puts wildlife at risk [02/12/2018]
- Mexican conservationists are alarmed over Trump’s wall, with the loss of connectivity threatening already stressed bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bears and other animals. - About one-third of the border, roughly 700 miles, already has fencing; President Trump has been pushing a controversial plan to fence the remainder. - A wall running the entire nearly 2,000-mile frontier from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, conservationists warn, would be catastrophic for borderland ecosystems and many wildlife species, undoing years of environmental cooperation between the two countries to protect animals that must move freely or die. - The wall is currently a key bargaining chip, and a sticking point, in ongoing immigration legislation negotiations taking place this week in Congress. Also expected this week: a federal court ruling on whether the administration can legally waive environmental laws to expedite border wall construction.
Indonesian police bust Chinese nationals with 200 kg of turtle shells [02/12/2018]
- Police in eastern Indonesia have arrested two Chinese men for illegally being in possession of 200 kilos (440 pounds) of turtle shells, which they believe was headed to China. - All turtle species are protected under Indonesian law, and the possession or trade in their parts is punishable by up to five years in prison and $7,000 in fines. The estimated value of the seized shells was $13,200. - The bust highlights the continued role of the city of Makassar as the main gateway for traffickers moving wildlife products out of the biodiversity haven of Papua, where the suspects say they obtained the turtle shells.
Tree-dwelling animals can ‘climb’ away from climate change, study finds [02/09/2018]
- A new study has found that the temperature within a tropical forest varies considerably, with tree canopies experiencing wider extremes of heating and cooling compared to the ground or soil. - The range of canopy temperatures in tropical forests at the bottom of mountains overlaps considerably with those at the top of the mountains, which suggests that canopy animals likely have the physiology that might allow them to move across a mountain gradient freely unhindered by the climate. - This implies that tree-dwelling tropical animals might be more resilient to climate change, according to the study.
Cattle invade Colombian national park [02/08/2018]
- An analysis of satellite data shows incursions into La Paya National Park in southern Colombia. - The data indicate La Paya lost around 9,500 hectares of rainforest between 2001 and 2016. - Researchers say satellite imagery show evidence that these clearings are being used for cattle pasture. - Conservationists worry deforestation will continue to rise with the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC rebel group, whose presence in the country’s forests kept logging and agriculture at bay for decades.
Whale of a tale: Protecting Panama’s humpbacks from ship collisions [02/08/2018]
- The key to alleviating whale strikes in the Panama Canal ended up being inspired by a solution used on land — and led to a years-long struggle for a Panama Canal pilot and a whale biologist to help reduce whale strikes in the Gulf of Panama, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. - Similar to how roads are now sometimes built to curve around the natural habitats of land creatures, Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) create shipping lanes that restrict marine traffic to certain areas. - But in order to get all shipping to abide by this system, countries need the approval of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a UN body that regulates shipping safety and navigation around the world.
Ecuador announces a new national park in the Andes [02/07/2018]
- The new Río Negro-Sopladora National Park comprises more than 30,000 hectares of almost-intact alpine plateaus and forests in Ecuador’s Andes and will protect an estimated 546 species of plants and animals. - In July 2017, after just 12 days of exploring the area, investigators found three new species of amphibians. Scientists think more species await discovery in the forests and alpine plateaus of the new park.
A tale of two otters: settling in Singapore, suffering in China [02/07/2018]
- New research shows a massive decline in China’s otter populations, including the possible local extinction of the smooth-coated otter. - But otters have recolonized Singapore, even appearing near the city center due to the island-nation’s campaign to clean up its rivers. - If China can successfully tackle fur trading and rampant river pollution, could otters one day make a comeback there?
Orangutan shot 130 times in Indonesia, in second killing reported this year [02/07/2018]
- A second Bornean orangutan has been killed in Indonesia this year after being shot multiple times with an air gun. - An autopsy revealed 130 pellets in the animal’s body, most of them in its head. Authorities managed to recover 48 of them. - Wildlife conservation activists have called on the authorities to launch an investigation into the killing of the critically endangered ape.
Earthquake triggers spawning in world’s rarest fish a few thousand miles away [02/07/2018]
- An earthquake that struck Alaska, U.S., on Jan. 23 caused more than 1-foot high waves in Devils Hole, a small water-filled limestone cave in the Death Valley National Park in Nevada, more than 2,000 miles away. - Devils Hole is the only known natural habitat of the incredibly rare Devils Hole pupfish. - Immediately after the waves hit the pool, the pupfish started spawning, indicated by the females turning a drab olive brown, which made the brilliant blue males stand out.
Audio: The cutting-edge technologies allowing us to monitor ecosystems like never before [02/06/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss the cutting-edge remote sensing technologies used to monitor ecosystems like rainforests and coral reefs. We also listen to a few ecoacoustic recordings that are used to analyze species richness in tropical forests. - Our first guest today is Greg Asner, who leads the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) at Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution for Science. Asner invented a technique he calls “airborne laser-guided imaging spectroscopy” that utilizes imaging spectrometers mounted on the Carnegie Airborne Observatory airplane to produce highly detailed data on large and complex ecosystems like tropical forests. - Our second guest is Mitch Aide, the principal investigator at the University of Puerto Rico’s Tropical Community Ecology Lab. In this Field Notes segment, Aide will play us a few of the audio recordings he’s uploaded to Arbimon as part of his recent research and will explain how these recordings are used to examine species richness in tropical forests.
Fishing with insecticide-laced mosquito nets is a global phenomenon [02/06/2018]
- In regions of the world threatened by malaria, bed nets treated with insecticides are an increasingly common public health tool to fend off mosquitos. - But there is growing evidence that the nets, often provided for free or at a subsidized price by hospitals and aid organizations, are being put to other uses, including fishing. - A new study is the first to document just how common fishing with mosquito nets may be, finding that people in countries around the world are doing it. - The practice could have significant environmental and socioeconomic implications.
Robbery or retribution? Police investigate death of prominent conservationist in Kenya [02/06/2018]
- Esmond Bradley Martin, a 76-year-old American, was found stabbed to death in the home he shared with his wife in a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday. - Martin had been working in Africa and around the world since the 1970s to stop the slaughter of rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks. - Colleagues credit Martin with increasing the conservation community’s understanding of the trade of wildlife parts through his often-undercover investigations.
Mountain lions often lose to wolves and bears, study finds [02/06/2018]
- When the hunting grounds of pumas overlap with those of other top predators, such as wolves, bears and jaguars, pumas are often the losers, a new study has found. - The findings from the study, a review of existing scientific literature, are especially important given how pumas are still being intensively hunted over much of their range in a bid to reduce conflicts with people and livestock, researchers say. - In some puma habitats where wolves and brown bears are recolonizing and recovering, wildlife managers need to be cautious about hunting limits for pumas, the authors write.
Scientists find ‘surprising’ connections between tropical forests [02/05/2018]
- For a new study, researchers genetically analyzed the evolutionary relatedness of tree species that live in tropical and sub-tropical forests around the world. - Their results indicate the world’s tropical forests are divided into two main “floristic regions,” one that comprises most of Africa and the Americas and another in the Indo-Pacific region. - The analysis also indicates dry tropical forests around the world – from Madagascar and India to Africa and South America – are unexpectedly similar to one another. - The findings go against traditional assumptions about the relationships between tropical forests, and the researchers believe they could aid the development of more region-appropriate responses to climate change.
Trumping Colombia’s peace: U.S. drug war threatens fragile accord, forests [02/05/2018]
- President Donald Trump has brought new tension to U.S.-Colombian relations, threatening to cut crucial funding at a pivotal moment in Colombia’s peace process and to decertify that agreement for a perceived failure to tackle the drug trade. - According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Colombian coca production has risen to an all-time high, with around 90 percent of cocaine entering the U.S. coming from that Latin American country. - U.S. officials blame the cocaine resurgence on Colombia’s decision to halt aerial spraying of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide – a controversial tactic considered to have serious health and environmental impacts by some, but rejected by others. - Now, with Colombia’s fragile internal truce taking hold, the Trump administration’s stance – reminiscent of the War on Drugs strategy of the 80s and 90s – could be a great hindrance to peace, with knock-on negative effects for Colombia’s rural population and world-renowned biodiversity.
Maps tease apart complex relationship between agriculture and deforestation in DRC [02/02/2018]
- A team from the University of Maryland’s GLAD laboratory has analyzed satellite images of the Democratic Republic of Congo to identify different elements of the “rural complex” — where many of the DRC’s subsistence farmers live. - Their new maps and visualizations allow scientists and land-use planners to pinpoint areas where the cycle of shifting cultivation is contained, and where it is causing new deforestation. - The team and many experts believe that enhanced understanding of the rural complex could help establish baselines that further inform multi-pronged approaches to forest conservation and development, such as REDD+.
Indonesian rubber farmers charged in gruesome killing of Bornean orangutan [02/02/2018]
- Police in Indonesia have arrested two rubber farmers for allegedly shooting and beheading a Bornean orangutan whose body was discovered last month in a river. - The suspects claimed they killed the animal in self-defense, saying it attacked them after encroaching on their farm. - Wildlife conservation activists have lauded the police’s determination to catch the perpetrators and have called on the courts to be just as strict in trying them. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Hong Kong votes to ban ivory trade by 2021 [02/01/2018]
- Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest ivory markets, has overwhelmingly voted to ban its domestic ivory trade. - This ban comes just a month after China shut down all of its ivory markets on the mainland. - The ban will be implemented in a three-step plan over the next three years.
$23.5 million funding pledge aims to protect critical West African national park [02/01/2018]
- The National Geographic Society, Wyss Foundation, African Parks and the government of Benin have announced a combined commitment of more than $23 million to secure and restore the Pendjari National Park in Benin, West Africa. - The park is one of the last remaining strongholds for elephants in West Africa, and is also home to the critically endangered West African lion and Saharan cheetah. - In 2017, African Parks assumed management of the national park.
Corals thrive on remotest islands in the Galápagos [01/31/2018]
- Our first reef community stop in the Reefscape project was the Galápagos Islands in December 2017. - We found that ocean events such as El Niño can wipe out huge areas of reef, yet coral survival and regrowth remain evident. - Our direct actions, be the destructive overfishing or constructive protection, have a huge impact on the future of coral reef ecosystems. - One size does not fit all when it comes to coral reefs — even an archipelago hammered by coral-killing warm waters can harbor refugia for biodiversity.
New study suggests Borneo’s had elephants for thousands of years [01/31/2018]
- The research, published in January in the journal Scientific Reports, used genetic information and changes to the topography of the region to surmise that Asian elephants arrived in Borneo between 11,000 and 18,000 years ago. - The authors hypothesize that elephants moved from nearby islands or the Malaysian peninsula to Borneo via land bridges. - It’s an indication that the elephants are ‘native’ to Borneo, the scientists argue, and points to the need to bolster conservation efforts.
Two new dog-faced bats discovered in Panama and Ecuador [01/31/2018]
- Researchers have described two new species of dog-faced bats: the Freeman’s dog-faced bat (Cynomops freemani) from Panama and the Waorani dog-faced bat (Cynomops tonkigui) from Ecuador. - The Freeman’s dog-faced bat was named after bat specialist Patricia Freeman. - The species name of the Waorani dog-faced bat, “tonkigui,” honors the Waorani tribe of Ecuador that lives near one of the locations where the bats were captured, the study says.
Sumatra’s ‘tiger descendants’ cling to their customs as coal mines encroach [01/30/2018]
- Sekalak village in southern Sumatra lies in one of the last remaining strongholds of the Sumatran tiger, a critically endangered species that the locals revere as both an ancestral spirit and the guardian of the forest. - This respect for the tiger has sustained a generations-long pledge to protect the local environment, including the wildlife and water resources. - However, the presence of a coal-mining operation in the area poses a threat to both the tigers and the villagers’ way of life: the mining road gives poachers greater access to once-secluded tiger habitat, and the mining waste is polluting the river on which the villagers depend.
For Australia’s fire-starting falcons, pyromania serves up the prey [01/30/2018]
- Australia’s indigenous peoples have long spoken of birds of prey intentionally starting bushfires to flush out prey. - In a new study, researchers have now compiled observations and anecdotes from scientific reports, firefighters and Aboriginal peoples to get a better understanding of how such bird-caused fires spread in Australia’s Northern Territory. - Overall, most instances of fire-spreading by birds seem to be intentional, the authors say, but it is hard to say how common such fires are.
10 million acres added to Chile’s national park system [01/30/2018]
- The announcement marked the culmination of a plan agreed to in March 2017 by President Bachelet and Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, President and CEO of Tompkins Conservation, to create a network of five new national parks in Chile, and the expansion of three others. - As a herd of guanacos grazed in the distance, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared, “With these beautiful lands, their forests, their rich ecosystems, [we] expand the network of parks to more than 10 million acres. Thus, national parklands in Chile will increase by 38.5% to account for 81.1% of Chile’s protected areas.” - Tompkins Conservation is a US-based foundation aimed at preventing biodiversity loss and added 1 million acres to the deal — it was founded by Kristine and Doug Tompkins, business leaders of clothing brands The North Face, Esprit, and Patagonia.
Camera trap captures spotted hyena in Gabon national park, the first in 20 years [01/29/2018]
- The spotted hyena was thought to be extinct in Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park for 20 years as a result of wildlife poaching. - But the camera trap image captured has given conservation groups hope that protection of the park is working and allowing wildlife to return. - Camera traps have also recently snagged images of a lion, a serval and chimpanzees.
Elephant tusks and pangolin scales seized, six suspects arrested in Ivory Coast [01/29/2018]
- Ivory Coast officials have announced the seizure of over half a ton each of elephant tusks and pangolin scales. - The ivory and pangolin scales were being shipped to Vietnam and other Asian countries, officials said. - Six people, including a Vietnamese national alleged to be the leader of the criminal syndicate, were also arrested.
Fang trafficking to China is putting Bolivia’s jaguars in jeopardy [01/26/2018]
- Residents in Bolivia’s Sena community say that they can sell a jaguar canine for about $215 on the Chinese market. - According to Bolivian authorities, the fangs are valued in the Asian market at prices as high as cocaine. - Between 2013 and 2016, 380 jaguar canines were seized by Bolivian authorities, which correlates to 95 jaguars killed. - Residents say an influx of Chinese companies to build roads and bridges in Bolivia is contributing to increased trafficking of jaguar parts. However, authorities deny these claims.
Baby photos of 10 of the world’s rarest turtles from the zoo trying to save them [01/26/2018]
- This photo essay comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog. - Once a month we’ll publish a contribution from Wild View that highlights an animal species or group. - This month, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Don Boyer, Avishai Shuter, and Julie Larsen Maher write about endangered turtles and tortoises WCS is trying to save. - All photos by Julie Larsen Maher, head photographer for WCS.
Do catch and release-induced abortions harm shark and ray populations? [01/26/2018]
- Female sharks and rays are more susceptible to aborting their young after being captured than previously realized, according to a recent review of scientific literature. - The review found that 88 species that bear live young were susceptible. Among a subset of those species for which adequate data was available, researchers estimated that an average of 24 percent of pregnant females abort their offspring when captured. - The authors argue that the phenomenon may be responsible for lost generations of threatened species. - However, outside researchers consulted for this story say that the killing of adult sharks poses a much bigger threat to species survival.
Rhino poaching in South Africa dipped slightly last year, but ‘crisis continues unabated,’ conservationists say [01/25/2018]
- South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa announced in a press briefing today that 1,028 rhinos were illegally killed in the country in 2017. - In Kruger National Park, which has typically been the epicenter of rhino poaching in South Africa, 504 illegal killings were recorded last year, Molewa reported. That’s a 24 percent reduction over 2016 — but these gains were offset by poaching in other regions, particularly KwaZulu Natal province. - While the rhino poaching rate in South Africa has slowly decreased every year since peaking in 2014 with 1,215 animals lost, conservationists were not encouraged by the slightly lower number of rhinos killed last year.
The ups and downs of marine protected areas: Examining the evidence [01/25/2018]
- To find out if marine protected areas achieve their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 42 scientific studies and talked to seven experts. - Overall, marine protected areas do appear to help marine animals recover within their boundaries. But a lot more rigorous research is needed. - The effects of marine protected areas on socioeconomic outcomes and fisheries are less clear. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Stranger than fiction? New spiders found in Brazil named after creatures from popular fantasy stories [01/24/2018]
- Seven recently discovered spiders all belong to the genus Ochyrocera and were found in the iron caves of Floresta Nacional de Carajás in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. - While all seven species can live and breed without sunlight, they’re not necessarily consigned to the deepest depths of the underworld. The same cannot be said for some of the new spiders’ namesakes, however. - Researchers with the Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Instituto Butantan have named the seven new spiders in honor of characters from fantasy works like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series.
No more elephants? Poaching crisis takes its toll in the Central African Republic [01/24/2018]
- An aerial survey last year found that elephants might be locally extinct in northern Central African Republic. - The survey also showed that the poaching crisis had taken a considerable toll on many other large mammals, including giraffe, African buffalo and the giant eland. - A park in eastern CAR shows that threats to wildlife can be tackled, but security is required first and foremost.
Indonesia hints rhino sperm transfer to Malaysia may finally happen this year [01/24/2018]
- Indonesia has signaled it may send a much-needed sample of Sumatran rhino sperm to Malaysia for use in a captive-breeding program seen as the last means of saving the critically endangered species. - If it goes to plan, the program would boost the genetic diversity of the species, of which only 30 to 100 individuals are believed to remain in the wild. - The Sumatran rhino population has been decimated by poaching and habitat loss, but the biggest threat facing the species today is the small and fragmented nature of their populations, with an increased risk of inbreeding.
Muskox and other Arctic mammals are feeling the heat of climate change [01/23/2018]
- Past studies have looked at Arctic climate change impacts on wildlife primarily among marine animals and with polar bears, but there is little data on most terrestrial mammals. - Now, As part of a broader attempt to develop an ecological baseline for Arctic wildlife, researchers have focused on muskoxen, the least studied mammal in North America. - According to a new study, increasingly common extreme weather events – such as rain-on-snow and extremely dry winter conditions occurring in Russia and Alaska during muskox gestation – result in smaller head size among muskox young. Smaller animals generally have poor survivorship rates. - Scientists say that, with the Arctic warming twice as fast as the world average, new studies are urgently needed on cold climate mammals including muskoxen, reindeer and caribou, to determine how rapidly escalating climate change up North is impacting wildlife, habitats and ecosystems.
After exporting baby elephants, Zimbabwe pledges to turn over new leaf on conservation [01/23/2018]
- On December 23, Zimbabwe officials quietly loaded thirty-five elephants between the ages of three and five onto planes that would fly them thousands of miles to safari parks in China. The elephants had been taken from the wild and their families in Hwange National Park. - Zimbabwe airlifted the elephants to their new homes just a month after a stunning bloodless coup in the country led to the ouster of Robert Mugabe, who oppressively ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, and the installation of Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former First Vice President and ally of Mugabe’s. - For years, Zimbabwe conservation policies have largely depended on exploitation, often via trophy hunting and selling animals abroad. But change may be in the air.
Audio: David Suzuki on why indigenous knowledge is critical for human survival [01/23/2018]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we feature a conversation with iconic Canadian scientist, author, television presenter, and activist David Suzuki. - Mongabay interviewed Suzuki last year about the Blue Dot Movement, which aims to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in the Canadian Constitution, and we thought now, at the start of 2018, would be a great time to check in with him about what progress has been made. - Suzuki also discusses the environmental issues he thinks are most pressing as we forge ahead into the new year and his plans to convene a gathering of First Nations keepers of traditional ecological knowledge with Western scientists.
Friend, not foe: Review highlights benefits of predators and scavengers [01/23/2018]
- Predators are typically better known for harassing pets and livestock or being the source of disease than they are for the valuable — and often less visible — services they provide. - A review published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution catalogs benefits provided by predators to humans documented in the scientific literature. - Authors of the review highlighted instances that ranged from the potential for mountain lions to cut down deer-vehicle collisions, bats that save corn farmers at least $1 billion annually, and vultures that clear away tons of organic waste.
New app hopes to reduce wildlife deaths on India’s roads, railway lines [01/23/2018]
- Roadkills, a newly launched Android app, lets users in India record information on deaths of animals — both domestic and wild — on roads or railway lines, and upload geotagged photos. - Such roadkill data can be useful for both researchers and people planning infrastructure projects across the country, conservationists say. - The app data can help identify what sections of roads and railway lines animals use the most, for instance, which could in turn help guide measures that would reduce or prevent wildlife deaths. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Crowdsourcing the fight against poaching, with the help of remote cameras [01/22/2018]
- A U.S. non-profit and a cadre of volunteers have teamed up with reserves in South Africa and Indonesia to combat wildlife poaching through a series of connected camera traps. - The group’s monitoring system, wpsWatch, can transmit visual, infrared, and thermal camera images as well as data from radar, motion detectors, and other field devices. - The volunteers monitor image feeds while rangers sleep and have become an effective part of the team, which has detected roughly 180 intrusions into the reserves, including rhino and bushmeat poachers.
Mesoamerican Reef gets improving bill of health [01/22/2018]
- The Healthy Reefs Initiative released its report card on the state of the Mesoamerican Reef. In the last decade, the grade has risen from poor to fair. - The Mesoamerican Reef runs along about 1,000 kilometers of the coastlines of Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. - Fish populations have grown, as have the coral that make up the reef. - But scientists were concerned to see an increase in macroalgae on the reef, which results from runoff and improperly treated sewage effluent.
Thai police bust leading wildlife trafficker [01/22/2018]
- Thai police have arrested Boonchai Bach, the alleged kingpin behind one of the world’s biggest and most notorious wildlife trafficking syndicates. - Bach and his family operation have been the target of authorities and anti-trafficking groups for more than a decade for moving vast quantities of rhino horns and elephant tusks to markets in China, Vietnam and Laos, via their hub in Thailand. - One of the family’s main customers remains at large, however. Vixay Keosavang, said to be the most prominent wildlife dealer in Southeast Asia, is beyond the reach of Thai authorities, in Laos.
To Counter Wildlife Trafficking, Local Enforcement, Not En-Route Interdiction, Is Key (commentary) [01/19/2018]
The global poaching crisis has induced large segments of the conservation community to call for far tougher law enforcement. Many look to policing lessons from decades of counter-narcotics efforts for solutions. Boosting enforcement of wildlife regulations is overdue, as they have long been accorded the least priority by many enforcement authorities and corruption has further […]
Decapitated orangutan found near palm plantations shot 17 times, autopsy finds [01/19/2018]
- Indonesian authorities have found 17 air gun pellets in the headless body of an orangutan found floating in a river in Borneo’s Central Kalimantan province earlier this week. - The body was found in an area close to five plantations, whose operators the government plans to question about the killing of the protected species. - Orangutans are often killed in human-animal conflicts, and wildlife activists have slammed the authorities for not doing enough to prosecute such cases. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Pope set to visit site of deforestation, indigenous struggle in Peru [01/19/2018]
- Pope Francis plans to visit Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian region of Madre de Dios Friday morning on his trip to South America. - He will speak with indigenous communities in a coliseum. - Madre de Dios had the second-highest rate of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, with 208 square kilometers (80 square miles) of forest cover loss as a result of farming, logging and mining.
Facebook being used for illegal reptile trade in the Philippines [01/19/2018]
- Researchers from TRAFFIC, who monitored 90 Facebook groups over a three-month period in 2016, recorded 2,245 live reptile advertisements representing more than 5,000 individual animals from 115 taxa. - Most advertisements were for the ball python and the Burmese python, and also included critically endangered species such as the Philippine crocodile and the Philippine forest turtle. - At least 80 percent of the documented online traders on Facebook were selling reptiles illegally, the report concluded.
Camera traps confirm existence of ‘world’s ugliest pig’ in the wild, warts and all [01/18/2018]
- Researchers have used camera traps on the island of Java, Indonesia to capture what they say is the first-ever footage of the Javan warty pig in the wild. - Sometimes referred to as “the world’s ugliest pig” because of the eponymous warts that grow on its face, the Javan warty pig (Sus verrucosus) has seen its numbers decline precipitously over the past few decades, leading to fears that it might be locally extinct in a number of locations and perhaps even on the brink of extinction as a species. - The Javan warty pig is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to a drastic population decline, “estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations (approximately 18 years).”
A saiga time bomb? Bad news for Central Asia’s beleaguered antelope [01/17/2018]
- In May 2015, more than 200,000 saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) suddenly died in Kazakhstan, reducing the global population of the critically endangered species by two-thirds. - Research indicates the saigas were likely killed by hemorrhagic septicemia caused by a type of bacteria called Pasteurella multocida. But P. multocida generally exists harmlessly in healthy saigas and other animals, so the question remained: Why did so many saigas become infected so suddenly and severely by a normally benign type of bacteria? - A new analysis may have solved part of this mystery, linking the spread of P. multocida to unusually high humidity levels and temperatures. - The results indicate that saigas may be particularly sensitive to climate change, which stands to increase both temperature and humidity in Kazakhstan.
Company to probe for minerals close to Mekong River dolphin habitat [01/17/2018]
- The Phnom Penh Post reported today that Medusa Mining, an Australian company, plans to invest $3 million over four years in explorations for gold, copper, oil, gas and precious stones in tributaries of the Mekong River in Cambodia. - Irrawaddy river dolphins, an endangered species of cetacean, live in the Mekong adjacent to the areas slated for exploration. - Only about 80 dolphins remain in the Mekong River, and, although their numbers are on the rise, they face threats from gillnets, dams, boat traffic and water pollution, which could be exacerbated by mining activity.
Orangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probe [01/16/2018]
- The discovery of a headless orangutan body bearing signs of extensive physical abuse has prompted an investigation by authorities in Central Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo. - Authorities, however, have drawn criticism for hastily burying the body before carrying out a necropsy, which could have helped determine the cause of death and aided in the investigation. - Orangutans face a range of threats in the wild, including loss of habitat as their forests are razed for plantations and mines, and hunting for the illegal pet trade. - Warning: Some photos may be disturbing or graphic.
Belize imposes offshore oil moratorium to protect reefs [01/15/2018]
- Belize stopped the exploration for oil in its waters as of Dec. 29, 2017. - Environmentalists and local businesses opposed a 2016 plan to begin wider oil exploration around Belize, halting those plans within weeks. - Tourism directly contributed about 14 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2016, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, and 50 percent of Belize’s 360,000 people depend on tourism or fishing for their livelihoods. - Conversely, WWF estimated that an oil spill would cost $280 million in cleanup costs.
Peru declares a huge new national park in the Amazon [01/12/2018]
- Yaguas National Park is located in the Loreto Region of northern Peru and covers more than 868,000 hectares of Amazonian rainforest – around the size of Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. - Peru’s newest national park is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, 500 species of birds and 160 species of mammals. - Yaguas National Park holds around 550 fish species, representing two-thirds of Peru’s freshwater fish diversity – more than any other place in the country, and one of the richest freshwater fish assemblages in the world.
A Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $323,000. Can the species be saved? [01/12/2018]
- A single Pacific bluefin tuna sold for 36.45 million yen, or $323,111, during the famed New Year auction at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market last Friday, Jan. 5. - The sale took place amid ongoing concerns over the dire status of stocks of the species, Thunnus orientalis, which are now at 2.6 percent of pre-fishing levels. - An international agreement reached in September aims to rebuild Pacific bluefin populations to 20 percent of pre-fishing levels by 2034. - Observers are urging countries to fulfill their commitments under the agreement in order to preserve the species.
Moth rediscovered in Malaysia mimics appearance and behavior of bees to escape predators [01/12/2018]
- The Oriental blue clearwing (Heterosphecia tawonoides) was rediscovered in Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park by Marta Skowron Volponi, a Ph.D. student at Poland’s University of Gdansk and lead author of a paper about the moth recently published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. - The moths have legs like bees, bright blue bands on their abdomens (bees in Southeast Asia can be a variety of colors, including blue), and furry bodies that resemble those of bees — though the moths’ “fur” is actually elongated scales. - While the conservation status of the moths is unknown, Skowron Volponi found that the Oriental blue clearwing’s preferred habitat seems to be the banks of clean watercourses flowing through the primary rainforests of Malaysia — a country with one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.
Natural World Heritage Sites in trouble, especially in the Tropics [01/11/2018]
- From the Great Barrier Reef to the Galapagos Islands and the forests of central Africa, over a third of Natural World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO are under threat from myriad problems. - Of the seventeen locations with a critical conservation outlook, sixteen are in the Tropics, and the majority of those are in Africa. Less than half of African World Heritage sites received a “good” outlook. Lack of funding in developing nations is a major problem. - Sites harboring rich biodiversity, such as Virunga and Garamba national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, are especially at risk. - The most common threats to Natural World Heritage Sites are invasive non-native species, unsustainable tourism, poaching, hydroelectric dams, and logging, with climate change the fastest growing threat.
There’s a new member of the lemur family [01/11/2018]
- Grove’s Dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus grovesi) was discovered in two of Madagascar’s national parks, Ranomafana and Andringitra, both of which are part of the Rainforests of Atsinanana UNESCO World Heritage Site. - The new lemur is a nocturnal primate that is smaller than a squirrel. The fur on its back, limbs, and head are a reddish-brown in color, and there are brownish-black rings around its large eyes. - The species was named for British-Australian biological anthropologist and primate taxonomist Colin Groves, who passed away last year.
Critically endangered monkeys found in Ghana forest slated for mining [01/11/2018]
- Researchers were surprised to discover white-naped mangabeys (Cercocebus lunulatus) while reviewing camera trap footage captured in Ghana’s Atewa mountain range. - The white-naped mangabey has declined by more than 50 percent in less than three decades and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Habitat loss and hunting are its major threats. The camera trap footage is the first record of the species in eastern Ghana. - Deposits of bauxite, from which aluminum is produced, underlie Atewa’s forests. The Ghanaian government is reportedly gearing up to develop mining operations and associated infrastructure for bauxite extraction, refinement and export. - Conservation organizations and other stakeholders are urging the government to cease its plans for mining and more effectively protect Atewa by turning the region into a national park.
Wars kill wildlife in Africa’s protected areas, study finds [01/11/2018]
- Researchers have found that wars and armed conflict have led to severe declines in large mammal populations in Africa’s protected areas. - Even low-grade, infrequent conflicts were enough to reduce large mammal numbers, the study found. - Despite devastation, wild animal populations can recover if efforts are made to conserve them, the researchers conclude.
Lions deal blow to giraffe numbers by targeting young, study finds [01/11/2018]
- New research demonstrates that lions can diminish the number of young giraffes in a population by more than 80 percent. - The giraffe species was recently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, after its numbers dropped by nearly 40 percent in just three decades. - A 2015 estimate puts numbers at 97,500, down from 157,000 in 1985. - The findings could prompt the rethinking of conservation strategies aimed at protecting giraffes.
Efforts to save island wildlife from extinction get a boost from new database [01/10/2018]
- Though the approximately 465,000 islands on planet Earth represent just over five percent of total global land area, they are disproportionately rich in threatened biodiversity — and researchers have now identified which are the most important to protect from invasive species, a major driver of species extinction on islands. - Researchers found that there are 1,189 “highly threatened” vertebrate species — 319 amphibians, 296 birds, 292 mammals, and 282 reptiles listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species — that breed on 1,288 of the world’s islands. - Conservation interventions like prevention, control, and eradication of invasive vertebrates could benefit 41 percent of the world’s highly threatened terrestrial vertebrates that are largely confined to islands, the researchers determined.
Indonesian ex-soldier among three jailed for illegal trade in Sumatran rhino, tiger parts [01/10/2018]
- A court in Indonesia has jailed three men for the illegal trade in endangered Sumatran rhino and tiger parts. - An ex-Army captain and a middleman were sentenced to two years for trying to trade in a rhino horn, while a similar sentence was handed down to a man convicted of trapping and killing a tiger and trying to sell it - While both the Sumatran rhino and Sumatran tiger are deemed critically endangered, or just a step away from being extinct in the wild, conservationists say enforcement of local laws meant to protect them remains lax.
Audio: Lessons from indigenous peoples about coping with climate change, plus the call of the night parrot [01/09/2018]
- Happy new year to all our listeners out there! On our first episode of 2018, we speak with the author of a book about the resilience of indigenous peoples in the face of climate change, and we’ll hear some recordings of the elusive night parrot in Australia! - Our first guest today is Gleb Raygorodetsky, the author of The Archipelago of Hope: Wisdom and Resilience from the Edge of Climate Change, which details the author’s experiences with a number of Indigenous cultures and the ways their lives on their traditional territories are being reshaped by the impacts of global warming. - Our second guest is Nick Leseberg, a PhD student at the University of Queensland in Australia whose work focuses solely on the night parrot, a species endemic to Australia that scientists have only recently been able to study. Just four years ago, nobody knew what a night parrot sounded like — but now Leseberg is here to play us some of the calls he’s recorded in this Field Notes segment.
Reliance on natural healing cultivates respect for nature in Indonesian village [01/09/2018]
- A small village in the Indonesia island of Sulawesi is keeping alive a tradition of healing based on remedies derived from locally grown herbs and other plants. - The importance of traditional medicine to the community means the villagers have long been diligent about protecting the forest in which the plants grow. - This has translated into hefty fines for unregulated logging or poaching of local wildlife, including the maleo, a bird found only in Sulawesi.
‘AudioMoth’ device aims to deliver low-cost, power-efficient monitoring of remote landscapes [01/08/2018]
- UK-based researchers who have developed a low-power, open-source acoustic monitoring device say it shows promise for monitoring wildlife and illicit incursions by mankind into remote habitats. - The researchers say that the device, which is about the size of a matchbox, can be made for as little as $43 per unit — a price-point that could be key to ensuring coverage across large landscapes, where numerous monitoring devices are required. - The AudioMoth can be programmed to monitor wildlife populations by recording the calls of specific target species while at the same time serving as an alert system when the sounds of human exploitation, such as the blast of a shotgun or the roar of a chainsaw, are detected.
Rhino DNA database helps officials nab poachers and traffickers [01/08/2018]
- A DNA-based system is helping authorities prosecute and convict poachers and rhino horn traffickers in Africa. - RhODIS, as the system is called, is built on a foundational database with genetic information from nearly 4,000 individual rhinos. - By comparing the frequencies of alleles in confiscated horn and horn products with those in tissue from a poached animal, investigators can then come up with a probable match for where that horn came from. - So far, RhODIS has been instrumental in nine convictions in East and Southern Africa.
IUCN, UN, global NGOs, likely to see major budget cuts under Trump [01/08/2018]
- President Donald Trump has proposed cutting foreign aid funding to nations and inter-governmental organizations by 32 percent, about $19 billion – cuts the U.S. Congress has yet to vote on. Voting has been delayed since September, and is next scheduled for 19 January, though another delay may occur. - One inter-governmental organization on Trump’s cutting block is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) best known for its global Red List, the go-to resource for the status of endangered species planet-wide. Over the past four years the U.S. contributed between 5 and 9 percent of the IUCN’s total framework funding, and 4 to 7 percent of its programmatic funding. - Currently it remains unclear just how much, or even if, the IUCN budget will be slashed by Congress, leaving the organization in limbo. Another organization potentially looking at major cuts under Trump is TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network. - Also under Trump’s axe are the UN Population Fund ($79 million), the Green Climate Fund ($2 billion, which no nation has stepped up to replace), and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ($1.96 million annually, funding already replaced by other nations for 2018).
Florida’s iguanas falling from trees in cold snap [01/05/2018]
- Green iguanas are not native to southern Florida, but typically do well in the region’s mild temperatures. - During the recent cold snap, stunned iguanas have been losing their grip on their tree perches and falling to the ground, semi-frozen. - Some sea animals are also showing signs of stress from the cold, including sea turtles and manatees.
U.S. zoos learn how to keep captive pangolins alive, helping wild ones [01/05/2018]
- The Pangolin Consortium, a partnership between six U.S. zoos and Pangolin Conservation, an NGO, launched a project in 2014 which today houses fifty White-bellied tree pangolins (Phataginus tricuspis). - Common knowledge says that pangolins are almost impossible to keep alive in captivity, but the consortium has done basic research to boost survival rates, traveling to Africa and working with a company, EnviroFlight, to develop a natural nutritious insect-derived diet for pangolins in captivity. - While some conservationists are critical of the project, actions by the Pangolin Consortium have resulted in high captive survival rates, and even in the successful breeding of pangolins in captivity. - The Pangolin Consortium is able to conduct basic research under controlled conditions at zoos on pangolin behavior and health ¬– research that can’t be done in the wild. Zoos can also present pangolins to the public, educating about their endangered status, improving conservation funding.
Meet Indonesia’s new honeyeater species from Rote Island [01/05/2018]
- A new bird species from Indonesia has been described by a group of scientists after it was first observed in 1990, a paper said. - The bird, which belongs to the honeyeater family, has been named after Indonesia’s first lady, Iriana Joko Widodo, as a way to promote the protection of the species. - The researchers said the newly described species’ population was primarily threatened by deforestation to clear land for residential and agricultural use.
Scientists surprised by orchid bee biodiversity near oil palm plantations [01/04/2018]
- A recent study finds orchid bee diversity is supported by forest patches along rivers near oil palm plantations in Brazil. - The study lends evidence that remnant patches of forest support the movement and survival of plant and animal species in deforested landscapes. - Brazil’s new forest code revisions greatly reduce or eliminate the requirement for some agricultural producers to maintain river forest patches.
Reef bleaching five times more frequent now than in the 1980s, study finds [01/04/2018]
- Severe coral bleaching is now happening about every six years, whereas in the 1980s, it took place every 25 to 30 years. - Severe bleaching can kill the reef’s constituent corals. - It takes at least a decade for a reef to recover from bleaching. - Unless humans act to halt the rise of global temperatures, scientists predict that we’re headed for a time when bleaching might be an annual occurrence.
New ‘ghost’ scorpion among several species recorded for the first time in Malaysian rainforest [01/04/2018]
- For the first time ever, scientists have surveyed the rainforest of Penang Hill comprehensively. The 130-million-year old forest is believed to have never been cut before and has remained largely unexplored. - Among the exciting discoveries is a potentially new species of “ghost” scorpion, and numerous first records for Penang Hill. - With a more complete understanding of the forests of Penang Hill, the scientists hope to nominate Penang’s forest as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Rhino horn seizure taps into Southeast Asian trafficking ring [01/03/2018]
- Officials confiscated 12.5 kilograms (27.6 pounds) of South African rhino horn on Dec. 12. - The seizure led to the arrest of a member of the Bach family, which is suspected of running a wildlife trafficking syndicate from Thailand. - The NGO Elephant Action League provided Thai authorities with information that led to the arrest, as well as that of another wildlife trafficking ‘kingpin’ in December.
U.S. court ruling complicates Trump’s elephant and lion policy [01/02/2018]
- A federal appeals court has found that the Obama administration did not follow proper procedures in 2014 when it banned importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe. The USFWS failed to seek public comment at the time, among other infractions. - This new ruling puts the Trump administration decision, made in November, ending the ban and allowing elephant trophy hunting imports, into question. - Further complicating matters is Trump’s dubbing of the November USFWS decision as a “horror show,” and his putting of the policy on hold awaiting his response. To date, Trump has said nothing further. - The way things stand now, U.S. hunters can import elephant trophies from South Africa and Namibia. They can import lion body parts from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. But the legality of importing elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe remains in limbo.
Ivory trade in China is now banned [01/02/2018]
- China has shut its legal, domestic ivory markets and banned all commercial ivory trade. - Conservationists have welcomed this ban, calling it “one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation”. - But for China’s ivory ban to work, neighboring countries must follow suit, conservationists say.
‘New’ giant octopus discovered in the Pacific [12/29/2017]
- The world’s largest octopus — the giant Pacific octopus — is actually represented by more than one species. - New research indicates there are at least two species of octopus housed under what is traditionally called the giant Pacific octopus. - The new species is called the frilled giant Pacific octopus. - The giant Pacific octopus can weigh up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
Top 20 forest stories of 2017 [12/29/2017]
Mongabay published hundreds of stories on forests in 2017. Here are some of our favorites. 1. Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon With the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC militant group, the country is expanding agriculture and infrastructure in places in the country once too dangerous to develop. One of these areas is […]
How a hunger for teeth is driving a bat toward extinction [12/29/2017]
- Bat teeth are more valuable than paper money on the island of Makira, in the eastern Solomon Islands. - The use of bat teeth as a currency means that bats on the island are commonly hunted. One species, the Makira flying fox, is found only on the island and is being threatened with extinction due to human pressures. - In addition to direct hunting, human population growth and logging are also threatening the bats. - To save the species, researchers recommend developing quotas for sustainable harvesting, as well as an outreach campaign connecting the survival of this key piece of Makiran culture with the need to conserve the bats.
Waterbirds flock to well-run countries, new study shows [12/29/2017]
- A new study demonstrates that how a country is governed is the factor that has the most influence on waterbird populations. - Governance plays a bigger role than climate change or human population booms. - The authors suggest that waterbirds, which include ducks, flamingos and pelicans, could serve as indicators to demonstrate the impact that governance has on biodiversity in general.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new populations of rare wildlife, and rediscovered some species that were previously thought to be extinct. - Some countries created large marine protected areas, while a few others granted land rights to indigenous communities. - In 2017, we also saw the ever-increasing potential of technology to improve conservation monitoring and efforts.
Photos: Top 20 new species of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- There’s still so much we don’t know about life on planet Earth that scientists discover new species with whom we share this planet nearly every day. - For instance, this year scientists described a new species of orangutan in Sumatra — just the eighth great ape species known to exist on planet Earth. And that’s just one of many notable, bizarre, or downright fascinating discoveries made this year. - Here, in no particular order, we present the top 20 new species discovered in 2017.
2017’s top 10 ocean news stories [12/27/2017]
- Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2017. - Huge new ocean protected areas and steps toward an international treaty to protect the high seas brought hope. - Meanwhile, the U.S.’s decision to drop out of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and an intensely destructive Atlantic hurricane season spotlighted the unfolding threat of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Prince Harry becomes president of conservation group [12/27/2017]
- Prince Henry of Wales – better known as Prince Harry – is joining African Parks as President of the South Africa-based wildlife conservation organization. - Prince Harry has been working with African Parks since July 2016. - Prince Harry will work closely with the leadership of African Parks. - The news comes just a month after Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement.
The top 6 moments from the Mongabay Newscast in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Now that we’ve arrived at the end of 2017, we’ve decided to take a break from our regular production schedule and instead take a look back at some of the most compelling conversations we featured on the Mongabay Newscast this year. - From world-famous conservationists like Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson to renowned musicians like Paul Simon and best-selling authors like Margaret Atwood, we welcomed a lot of truly fascinating people onto our podcast in 2017. - Here are six of our favorite quotes from the Newscast this year, which will hopefully provide jumping off points for you to dig in more deeply.
Roads, dams and railways: Ten infrastructure stories from Southeast Asia in 2017 [12/27/2017]
- Southeast Asia is one of the epicenters of a global “tsunami” of infrastructure development. - As the countries in the region work to elevate their economic standing, concerns from scientists and NGOs highlight the potential pitfalls in the form of environmental degradation and destruction that roads, dams and other infrastructure can bring in tow. - Mongabay had reporters covering the region in 2017. Here are 10 of their stories.
Chainsaws imperil an old-growth mangrove stronghold in southern Myanmar [12/27/2017]
- Tanintharyi, Myanmar’s southern-most state, is home to the country’s last remaining old-growth mangrove forest. The trees support village life and a booming fishing industry up and down the coast. - But logging for charcoal and fuel wood, much of it illegal, is taking a toll. Studies show that roughly two-thirds of the region’s remaining mangrove forests have been degraded, with consequences for people and wildlife. - Conservationists are attempting to expand community forestry and set up mangrove reserves to combat the widespread degradation.
Glimmer of hope as Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino shows signs of recovery [12/27/2017]
- The worst appears to be over for Iman, Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, after she suffered massive bleeding from a ruptured tumor in her uterus earlier this month. - Veterinarians and rhino experts are hopeful but cautious about Iman’s recovery prospects, and continue to provide around-the-clock care. - The rhino is Malaysia’s last hope for saving the nearly extinct species, which is thought to number as few as 30 individuals in the world.
So long, UNESCO! What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the environment? [12/26/2017]
- Since 2011, the U.S. has refused to pay its agreed to share to UNESCO as a Member Nation who has participated in and benefited from the organization’s scientific, environmental and sustainability programs. Now, President Trump has announced U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, effective at the end of 2018. - Experts say the pullout won’t in fact do any major damage to the organization, with most of the harm done to UNESCO when the U.S. went into arrears starting in 2011, with unpaid dues now totaling roughly $550 million. However, America’s failure to participate could hurt millions of Americans. - UNESCO science initiatives are international and deal multilaterally with a variety of environmental issues ranging from basic earth science, climate change, freshwater, oceans, mining, and international interrelationships between indigenous, rural and urban communities. - Among the most famous of UNESCO science programs are the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, now including 669 sites in 120 countries, including the United States.
Video: Power lines killing the last remaining Great Indian Bustards in India [12/26/2017]
- Of the 160-odd great Indian bustards remaining in the wild, about 140 occur in the Thar desert in Rajasthan, India. - The bird’s prime habitat in Thar, however, is being taken over by a growing, dense network of wind turbines and electric power lines that have become a death trap for the birds. - Even a few accidental deaths due to collisions could lead to extinction of the species, according to experts. - Conservationists and forest department officials have recommended mitigation measures, but nothing has been implemented on ground.
Videos unlock secrets of jellyfish as deep-sea killers [12/24/2017]
- Scientists have for the first time captured extensive visual documentation of deep-sea food webs using 27 years’ worth of video observations from remotely operated vehicles run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). - The research greatly enhances scientists’ understanding of deep-sea food webs by documenting the importance of soft-bodied predators like jellyfish. - Until now, our understanding of food webs in the deep ocean have been limited by what can be captured by net and whose bodies survive a journey to the survey.
Scientists determine there are seven species of silky anteater, not one [12/22/2017]
- A study published earlier this month in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society describes six distinct new species of silky anteater, meaning there are now officially seven species of the elusive mammal, not just one. - Silky anteaters are small, nocturnal animals that live in the canopies of trees in the tropical forests of South and Central America. They are known as very discreet and thus difficult to find, which helps explain why Cyclopes didactylus, the common anteater, was one of the least studied anteaters in the world and had been considered to be a single species up until now. - The common silky anteater is listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but that may not pertain to all of the newly discovered species.
Know your ESA: an online resource for Endangered Species Act docs and data [12/20/2017]
- The ever-increasing number of species needing protection, inadequate funding, and poor understanding of how and where the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been implemented have made it difficult to assess the law’s success. - A free, online platform offers access to and analyses of troves of ESA-related documents and data—including otherwise unavailable materials—on species, agency consultations, decisions, and effectiveness. - By making these data more accessible, the platform aims to help the conservation community better understand how the ESA is implemented and where it can improve.
The toughest snake on Earth lives in central Africa and eats baby rodents [12/19/2017]
- The skin of the Calabar burrowing python is 15 times thicker and orders of magnitude harder to pierce than the average snake. The skin’s puncture resistance is owed to its layered sheets of collagen fibers. - Scientists think the snake’s tough skin may have evolved to protect the snake from the bites of mother rodents defending their young, which make up the entirety of the Calabar’s diet. - The snake’s skin is flexible despite being thick and nearly impenetrable. This unique combination of qualities has already intrigued a pharmaceutical company hoping to mimic its structure to create puncture-resistant medical gloves that don’t restrict movement.
Zanzibar’s red colobus monkeys much more numerous than thought [12/18/2017]
- The team logged 4,725 hours over 2 years tracking down more than 4,000 individual Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus kirkii). - Protected areas house nearly 70 percent of the monkeys they found, where monkey groups tended to be larger and to have more females than those outside of parks and reserves. - The team also found that a relatively small number of young monkeys survive to adulthood, and they concluded that the overall population might be declining.
Do protected areas work in the tropics? [12/18/2017]
- To find out if terrestrial protected areas are effective in achieving their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 56 scientific studies. (See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, protected areas do appear to reduce forest cover loss. But other ecological outcomes of protected areas, like biodiversity or illegal hunting, remain extremely understudied. - The evidence on socioeconomic impacts is very thin. What limited rigorous research exists shows that protected areas do not exacerbate poverty generally, but anecdotal studies suggest that protected areas could be making other aspects of people’s well-being worse off. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino falls ill [12/17/2017]
- Malaysia’s last female Sumatran rhino, which was captured from the wild for a captive-breeding program to save the species, has fallen ill from a ruptured tumor in her uterus. - Veterinarians have been unable to provide the necessary medical treatment because of the rhino’s behavior and adverse conditions on the ground. - The captive-breeding program was dashed by the death of the only other female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia earlier this year and the refusal of the Indonesian government to share a frozen sperm sample for artificial insemination.
‘A vicious cycle towards extinction:’ Hunting and trade can push even abundant wildlife populations to the brink [12/15/2017]
- Researchers at the University of Queensland looked at something called the anthropogenic Allee effect (AAE), a theory that proposes a critical population level threshold below which the likelihood of a species going extinct increases substantially due to rising prices for rare animals incentivizing more hunting. - Using mathematical models to determine how quickly wildlife populations can decrease as prices for animal products rise in response to animal scarcity, the researchers found that the population thresholds proposed by AAE theory can drastically underestimate extinction risks. - While these findings would appear to call into question the biological sustainability of trophy hunting, the debate over trophy hunting is typically centered on social and economic outcomes.
DNA analysis shows Sumatran rhinos peaked during last Ice Age, never recovered [12/14/2017]
- Genome analysis shows that the Sumatran rhino has been on the path toward extinction for almost 12,000 years, as the end of the last Ice Age cut off much of its former territory, a new report says. - Habitat loss from deforestation and overhunting further devastated the species’ population, and it has never recovered. - Scientists continue to make the case for captive breeding as the best effort to boost the rhino population and stave off extinction.
Building a refuge where trawlers now ravage Cambodia’s marine life [12/14/2017]
- In Cambodia’s Kep Archipelago, fleets of trawlers dragging weighted, electrified nets have reduced the area’s once sprawling seagrass meadows to a sludgy underwater wasteland and sent fisheries into a tailspin. - Here and around the world, seagrass meadows are in decline. But these critical habitats serve as nurseries and feeding grounds for many marine organisms, as well as bulwarks against climate change and ocean acidification by capturing carbon dioxide. - In the Kep Archipelago a small NGO is working to establish a marine refuge that will keep the trawlers at bay so seagrass meadows can recover and depleted fish stocks can return to life.
Land reclamation threatens extremely rare spoon-billed sandpipers in China [12/14/2017]
- Every year, the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper makes a crucial three-month stopover at Tiaozini mudflats in Jiangsu province on China’s eastern coast. - The Jiangsu government, however, has already converted 67.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini’s coastal waters into land and plans to reclaim another 599.5 square kilometers of Tiaozini by 2020. - Conservationists say that virtually all spoon-billed sandpipers that currently use Tiaozini could disappear if the reclamation goes ahead as planned, pushing the species to extinction.
African Parks backs marine reserve brimming with wildlife in Mozambique [12/14/2017]
- The conservation NGO African Parks signed an agreement to manage Bazaruto Archipelago National Park in Mozambique. - Leaders established the park in 1971, but recent illegal fishing and unregulated tourism has threatened the ecosystem and its economic value, African Parks said. - The park is home to 2,000 species of fish and hundreds of species of birds, reptiles and mammals, including some of the last dugongs in the western Indian Ocean.
Light pollution lures nighttime pollinators away from plants [12/13/2017]
- Over the last two decades, nighttime light emissions in North America and Europe have increased by more than 70 percent. - This artificial light lures moths and other insect pollinators away from plants, a new study shows. - This effect may also make daytime pollinators less efficient, posing a further threat to plants and global food security.
Saving Sumatran orchids from deforestation, one plant at a time [12/12/2017]
- Conversion of forest for agriculture is an ever-present threat in Sumatra, even in protected areas like Kerinci Seblat National Park. Palm oil, acacia, rubber and other plantation crops pressure the park from the outside, while poaching endangers the fauna within. - Scientists estimate there are between 25,000 and 30,000 species of orchid in the world, with many yet to be discovered. Around 1,000 species are listed as threatened by the IUCN. Sumatra is one of the world’s orchid hot spots. - Conservationist Pungky Nanda Pratama is trying to save at-risk orchids by transplanting them from threatened areas in and around Kerinci Seblat to a nursery where he is aiming propagate them and re-plant them in nearby protected areas. - Pratama is also hoping to start an educational center where people can learn about Sumatra’s native plants.
Audio: Amazon tribe’s traditional medicine encyclopedia gets an update, and conservation effectiveness in Madagascar examined [12/12/2017]
- On today’s episode, we’ll get an update on an ambitious effort to document traditional indigenous healing and medicinal practices in the Amazon and speak with the reporter behind Mongabay’s popular new series on conservation efforts in Madagascar. - Our first guest on today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Christopher Herndon, who, as co-founder and president of the group Acaté Amazon Conservation, has supported the Matsés people in planting healing gardens, which are basically living pharmacies as well as classrooms, and to document their traditional healing and plant knowledge in an encyclopedia. - Our second guest is Mongabay contributor Rowan Moore Gerety, the writer behind our recent series on the effectiveness of conservation interventions in Madagascar.
CITES rejects Madagascar’s bid to sell rosewood and ebony stockpiles [12/12/2017]
- The standing committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had its annual meeting in Geneva November 27 through December 1. - The committee rejected Madagascar’s petition to sell its stockpiles of seized rosewood and ebony that had been illegally cut from the country’s rainforests. - CITES delegates agreed that while a future sale of the stockpiles might be possible, Madagascar was not yet ready for such a risky undertaking, which could allow newly chopped logs to be laundered and traded overseas. - Other notable outcomes of the CITES meeting dealt with the sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), pangolins, and the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus).
Monkey business: Building a global database of primate conservation studies (commentary) [12/12/2017]
- While one primate — Homo sapiens — has flourished and spread across the planet, about 60 percent of non-human primate species are threatened with extinction. Conservation of these intelligent, complex creatures can be challenging on many levels. - Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, together with researchers at the University of Cambridge (where I work), have just published the results of a three-year project gathering the data on how well primate conservation initiatives have worked to conserve species from lemurs to chimpanzees. - The idea is simple: to present the current evidence for every intervention people might do to conserve primates, so that primate conservationists can learn from the best available data at the click of a mouse. This global database on primate conservation interventions is available to view for free. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
As 2017 hurricane season ends, scientists assess tropical forest harm [12/11/2017]
- This year’s Atlantic hurricane season – one for the record books – ended on 30 November, seeing six Category 3 to 5 storms wreaking massive destruction across the Caribbean, in the U.S. and Mexico. While damage to the built environment is fairly easy to assess, harm to conserved areas and species is more difficult to determine. - Satellite images show extensive damage to the 28,400-acre El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, the United States’ only national tropical rainforest. However, observers on the ground say the forest is showing signs of a quick recovery. - More serious is harm to already stressed, endangered species with small populations. El Yunque’s Critically Endangered Puerto Rican parrot was hard hit: out of 50 endemic wild parrots, 16 are known dead. Likewise, the Endangered imperial parrot endemic to Dominica, spotted just three times since Hurricane Maria. - Ecosystems and species need time to recover between storms. If the intensity of hurricanes continues to increase due to escalating global warming as predicted, tropical ecosystem and species resilience may be seriously tested.
Scientists call for cheetahs to be listed as Endangered [12/11/2017]
- Only about 3,577 adult cheetahs remain in southern Africa, a new study has found. - More than 50 percent of these animals live on unprotected lands, where they are sometimes persecuted due to conflict with local farmers. - Revising the status of the cheetah from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List could help conservationists create more awareness about the species and “open more avenues to fund conservation and population monitoring efforts,” researchers say.
New study: Gorillas fare better in logged forests than chimps [12/11/2017]
- A study in the northern Republic of Congo found that gorillas and chimpanzees both became scarcer at the onset of logging. - However, gorillas move backed into logged areas more readily, while chimpanzees were more likely to stay away. - The researchers believe that gorillas are better able to cope with logging because they’re not as territorial as chimps and they seem to be more flexible in their eating habits.
Tanzania used as case study for quickly and cheaply identifying wildlife corridors in need of conservation [12/08/2017]
- Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a methodology that they say can help identify the most important wildlife corridors to keep open in a cost-effective and timely manner. - In a study summarizing their results published in the journal PloS one, the authors note that wildlife populations that are isolated due to not having access to corridors that allow them to move between protected areas can suffer from compromised genetic variability and are less able to shift their range in response to global climate change. - The researchers used what they describe as “least-cost methods” to develop a methodology for assessing wildlife corridors at a national scale, which they then applied to Tanzania as a case study.
Abandoned by their sponsors, Madagascar’s orphaned parks struggle on [12/08/2017]
- A dozen protected areas that were created amid the rapid buildup of Madagascar’s conservation sector in the aughts were later abandoned by their NGO sponsors after the political crisis of 2009. - Among these so-called orphan protected areas is the 606-square-kilometer (234-square-mile) Bongolava Forest Corridor in the country’s northwest. The U.S.-based NGO Conservation International spent 15 years spearheading Bongolava’s creation, then abandoned the project in 2012. - A year ago, a scrappy group of locals returned to Bongolava to resuscitate the protected area. Working with a slim budget, they are confronting both intense pressure for farmland inside the protected area and widespread corruption. - This is the eighth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Forest Code falls short in protecting Amazonian fish [12/07/2017]
- A team of scientists reports that Brazil’s Forest Code doesn’t address significant impacts that agriculture can have on fish habitat in the rainforest’s streams and tributaries. - The study cataloged more than 130 species of fish, some of them new to science, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon. - The authors argue for protections that encompass entire basins and the complex drainage networks that together form the lifeblood of the Amazon rainforest.
Camera traps reveal surprises in Peru [12/06/2017]
- Scientists set 72 camera traps and audio recorders to compare biodiversity across certified forested areas and forests that are not certified for sustainable use. - The first few images reveal the presence of jaguars, pumas, jaguarundis, tapirs, red deer, tufted capuchins and even bush dogs, which are elusive and difficult to find.
Portable DNA analysis tool identifies species on site to help combat wildlife crime [12/06/2017]
- Distinguishing legally from illegally traded wildlife products using the size, shape and origin of the sample often fails when samples are of young individuals or wildlife parts, such as a teeth, bones, skins, seeds or powders. - Rangers, police and port-of-entry officials can now use a portable DNA analysis tool to rapidly identify the species of plant and animal samples found on suspected smugglers. - The developers hope the new LifeScanner Lab-In-A-Box system will help officials catch smugglers and better understand transit routes for trafficked wildlife and plant products.
Deforestation in Sumatra carves up tiger habitats into ever smaller patches [12/05/2017]
- Twelve years of deforestation in Sumatra have broken the habitats of its native big cat into smaller fragments, a new study says. - Only two of the remaining tiger forest landscapes in Sumatra are believed to have populations that are viable for the long term, both of which are under threat from planned road projects. - The researchers are calling for a complete halt to the destruction of tiger-occupied forests in Sumatra and the poaching of the nearly extinct predator.
Mammal diversity may increase carbon storage in rainforests [12/05/2017]
- Having a diverse mix of mammals may play a more pivotal role than expected in the carbon cycle of tropical forests, by feeding microbes that lock the carbon from food scraps in the soil. - Hundreds of indigenous research technicians collected data for this study across an area roughly the size of Costa Rica. - Conserving mammal species will become increasingly important in efforts to protect the health of rainforest ecosystems, researchers suggest.
Huge new ocean reserves announced in Mexico, Arctic [12/05/2017]
- The past couple weeks have brought major news about two important marine protected area projects. - On November 24, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a decree creating the Revillagigedo Archipelago National Park, protecting nearly 150,000 square kilometers (close to 58,000 square miles) from all fishing and extractive activities. It is said to be the largest ocean reserve ever created by Mexico. - Less than a week later, on the night of November 30, countries including Canada, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States, among others, announced that they had reached an agreement to protect 2.8 million square kilometers (more than 1 million square miles) of the central Arctic Ocean from commercial fishing.
Entanglements hamper reproduction as right whale population slides [12/05/2017]
- Just 451 North Atlantic right whales remain, down from 458 in 2016 and 483 in 2010. - Entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes remain the two most important threats to right whale survival. - A study published in November in the journal Ecology and Evolution finds that fewer females are surviving than males and the interval between calving is growing longer.
Orangutans process plants into medicine, study finds [12/04/2017]
- Scientists have observed Bornean orangutans chewing on the leaves of the Dracaena cantleyi plant, producing a soapy lather they then spread onto their skin. - A new study finds D. cantleyi has anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting the orangutans are using it to self-medicate. - Indigenous communities also use D. cantleyi as a pain reliever. - The researchers say their study provides the first scientific evidence of deliberate, external self-medication in great apes.
Extreme seasonal changes in Amazon river levels threaten forest conservation by indigenous people [12/04/2017]
- The Amazon has experienced intense floods and droughts for the past 10 years, a likely effect of climate change. - Surveys taken of animals between 2009 and 2015 showed terrestrial mammal populations dropped by 95 percent during intense floods, whereas aquatic animals suffered dramatic declines during an extreme drought. - Scientists fear these seasonal extremes will drive the Cocama people of Peru out of the forest, depriving it of its primary conservationists.
The curious case of the phantom hippo teeth [12/04/2017]
- Hippo ivory is an affordable alternative to elephant ivory, whose international trade is prohibited by many countries. - The reported export and import numbers of legal wildlife trade in the CITES database are dramatically mismatched for some species, including the numbers for hippo teeth. - An updated population estimate for hippos could indicate how much illegal poaching for their ivory is threatening them.
Catch-all fisheries are squeezing Asia’s seahorses [12/01/2017]
- Tens of millions of seahorses are traded each year as pets, trinkets and for use in traditional medicine. - But the greater threat comes from incidental bycatch by indiscriminate fishing gear, according to researchers. - Seahorse researchers argue that improving fishing practices would protect seahorses, as well as many other species and their habitats.
Forced out or killed: rare chimps go missing from Cameroon mountain forest [12/01/2017]
- The Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) is the least numerous subspecies of chimpanzee, with a total population almost certainly less than 9,000, and probably less than 6,000 individuals. - The estimated population is far smaller in Cameroon, where just four known populations number some 250 individuals, all located in the Northwest region. - One of those groups, known as “The Great Apes of Tubah” was until recently found in the unprotected Kejom-Keku Mountain Forest. - But the chimps haven’t been seen in three years, and conservationists fear they’ve been killed or forced to move on. A new road into the Kejom-Keku area has resulted in the loss of half its forest, as herders, farmers, loggers and poachers move in.
Harnessing the power of camera trap bycatch data to monitor threatened species (commentary) [12/01/2017]
- Historically, due to a lack of data, estimates of sun bear population trends have been little more than educated guesses made by experts. A major obstacle to monitoring population trends is that there are only a handful of sun bear-focused studies that collect data on population dynamics. - Satellite imagery of tree cover change through time is available globally, as are bycatch camera trap data. There are many camera trap studies going on within the sun bear’s range that collect huge volumes of bycatch data, which are data on species that are not the primary focus of the study. - With these tools at our disposal, it seemed that a more objective, data-driven measure of sun bear population trends was possible, and we believe that the innovate approach we ended up using has broad potential. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Petition for Indonesian government to save Sumatran rhino garners global support [12/01/2017]
- More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to do more to save the critically endangered Sumatran rhino from extinction. - The petition was launched several days after a Mongabay series looked into the current state of the species, which may number as few as 30 individuals in the wild. - The series also identified the Indonesian government as hampering much-needed efforts to stave off the disappearance of the Sumatran rhino from poaching and habitat loss.
New research might finally establish true identity of the mysterious Yeti [11/30/2017]
- Bits of hair and old bones purported to belong to a Yeti have been collected throughout the years, and an untold number of people have claimed to have seen one of the creatures, or at least its footprints, firsthand. Yet documented proof of the Yeti and its species identity has remained elusive. - New research might finally answer the question of what the Yeti really is, however. An international team of scientists led by Tianying Lan of the University at Buffalo in New York analyzed 24 samples of bone, feces, hair, and skin from the Tibetan Plateau-Himalaya region that either belonged to a bear or, allegedly, a Yeti. - Researchers determined that all of the Yeti samples they collected for their study came from the bear species that call the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding Himalayan mountains home, except for one specimen collected from a stuffed exhibit in a museum that they determined had come from a dog
‘Extreme concern’: Report gives glimpse into scale of Kalimantan bird trade [11/30/2017]
- More than 25,000 birds from nearly 150 species, including those on the brink of extinction, were found for sale at hundreds of shops across Indonesian Borneo, according to a recent report. - The report is said to be the first to provide data on the trade in Kalimantan, which is increasingly being targeted by trappers and traders who have decimated bird populations in Java and Sumatra. - The researchers are calling for more surveys on bird populations in the wild and stronger law enforcement to protect endangered species.
Malaysia seizes 337 kg of pangolin scales worth nearly $1 million [11/30/2017]
- The 337 kilograms of pangolin scales had been mailed from Sarawak and Sabah in 13 different boxes, and were being exported to Hong Kong. - With this latest seizure, Malaysian customs officials have confiscated a total of 15,000 kilograms of scales in just seven months, according to TRAFFIC. - The origin of the scales is still unknown, officials say.
Tropical deforestation is getting bigger, study finds [11/29/2017]
- An analysis of satellite data reveals the proportion of tropical deforestation comprised of medium, large and very large clearings increased between 2001 and 2012. - These larger clearing sizes are generally attributed to industrial agriculture like palm oil production. - South America and Southeast Asia had the biggest increases, with the exception of Brazil where large-scale clearing took a downturn during the study period. - The researchers say this downturn was the result of successful deforestation reduction policies, which may offer potential solutions to other countries with high rates of large-scale clearing.
Carbon dreams: Can REDD+ save a Yosemite-size forest in Madagascar? [11/29/2017]
- When Makira Natural Park launched in 2005, it seemed to present a solution to one of the most intractable problems in conservation: finding a source of funding that could be counted on year after year. - The sale of carbon offset credits would fund the park itself as well as development projects aimed at helping nearby communities improve their standard of living and curtail deforestation. - But more than a decade later, carbon buyers are scarce and much of the funding for community development has been held up. And although deforestation has slowed considerably in and around Makira, it is falling well short of deforestation targets set at the outset of the project. - This is the seventh story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
WATCH: Rare sighting of mother Sunda clouded leopard and cubs caught on film [11/29/2017]
- On the afternoon of November 6, while traveling through Deramakot Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, photographer Michael Gordon came across a sight he was not expecting: a Sunda clouded leopard mother with her cubs. - “When I first saw the clouded leopards from a distance I thought it was just some macaques on the road,” he told Mongabay. “Once I realized that it was actually three clouded leopards I stopped the car right away. I had my camera close by, but with only a 15mm macro lens attached. I wasn’t sure whether to just enjoy the moment or go into the boot of the car and change lenses. I figured I would regret it badly if I didn’t record it.” - The Sunda clouded leopard, found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, is such a rare and elusive big cat that it’s traditionally been rather difficult to study, never mind casually sight while driving through the forest.
New carbon maps of Sabah’s forests guide conservation in Borneo [11/29/2017]
- Airborne LiDAR mapping combined with satellite imagery analysis has provided scientists, government agencies and NGOs with a “wall-to-wall” account of the carbon held in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The study, led by ecologists from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, revealed that more than 40 percent of the forests with the highest carbon stocks aren’t covered by the state’s most stringent protections. - The findings give wildlife biologists the chance to examine how carbon stocks correlate with the presence of biodiversity; NGOs the opportunity to identify new high-carbon areas to set aside under oil palm certification schemes; and the Sabah government the information to determine which forests are the most valuable and therefore need further protections.