Why are more female than male Magellanic penguins stranded in South America every year? [01/17/2019]
- Thousands of Magellanic penguins become stranded every year along the coast of South America, from northern Argentina all the way down to southern Brazil, and are unable to make it back to their breeding grounds in Patagonia 1,000 miles or more away. - Scientists have observed that the penguins that get left behind are three times as likely to be female as male. But, due to a dearth of data on the penguins’ migratory habits, it could not be determined why there was such a gender-based discrepancy to the strandings. - New research published this month in the journal Current Biology sheds new light on the situation, however, finding that, among other behavioral differences, female Magellanic penguins are likely to venture farther north than their male counterparts — and that by doing so, they’re more likely to run into the kinds of trouble that can leave them stranded.
Coffee in trouble: 60% of wild coffee species threatened with extinction [01/17/2019]
- Of the 124 species of wild coffee known to science, 75 species, or 60 percent, are threatened with extinction due to deforestation, climate change and the spread of diseases and pests, a new study has found. - The wild relative of Arabica, the most widely traded coffee in the world, is in particular trouble. - Around 72 percent of the wild coffee species occur within some protected area, but many of the parks also have lax enforcement, and coffee species are rarely included within park management plans. Coverage of the potential range of the species is also poor. - Moreover, only half of all wild coffee species occur in germplasm collections — critical resources for producing more resilient varieties of coffee in the future.
Cellphones are still endangering gorillas, but recycling old ones can help [01/17/2019]
- The Congo Basin, key habitat for gorillas and chimpanzees, is rich in minerals such as coltan, gold and tin that are used in electronics. - Mining is a major factor in the decline of species like the Grauer’s gorilla, which have lost habitat to the industry and are also hunted when forest is opened up for mining. - Participating in cellphone recycling programs helps reduce the demand for mining in gorilla habitat.
Camera traps find rich community of carnivores on Apostle Islands [01/16/2019]
- Some 160 camera traps deployed across the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior in Wisconsin, U.S., have revealed a diverse community of carnivores, including the American marten, black bear, bobcat, coyote, and gray wolf. - The camera trap survey provided the first photographic evidence of the American marten in the islands in over 50 years. The marten is listed as endangered in Wisconsin. - The study also found that islands that were larger or closer to the mainland, or both, held a greater number of carnivore species than islands that were small or more distant — patterns consistent with the concept of island biogeography. - The movement of the carnivores, either through swimming or via ice bridges formed when parts of the lake freeze, could be under threat from climate change, the researchers warn.
Asiatic black bear cubs rescued from illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam [01/15/2019]
- Vietnamese authorities confiscated the two female bear cubs from wildlife smugglers in Hai Phong province on January 9, according to Vienna, Austria-based animal welfare NGO Four Paws. - After spending a night in a hotel, the cubs were taken to a Four Paws bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh on January 10, where they are receiving intensive medical care. - Authorities do not know who was meant to buy the bear cubs or where their ultimate destination was. It’s likely that the bears were imported from Laos, though they could also have come from a bear farm in Vietnam.
‘Ecosystem guardians’ remain passionate despite dicey conditions [01/15/2019]
- A recent investigation conducted by several conservation groups has found that working conditions for wildlife rangers in Central America are difficult and in some cases dangerous. - Most of the rangers surveyed reported facing life-threatening situations during the course of their duties. - However, these ‘ecosystem guardians’ also remain passionate about their role in protecting Central America’s natural treasures.
China busts major ivory trafficking gang following EIA investigation [01/15/2019]
- In 2017, an undercover operation by the watchdog group Environmental Investigation Agency identified three men involved in smuggling elephant ivory from Africa to the little-known town of Shuidong in China, which, according to the trafficking syndicate, receives up to 80 percent of all illegal ivory from Africa. - Following EIA’s report, Chinese enforcement authorities raided several places in Shuidong and surrounding areas and arrested one of the three men who received a jail term of 15 years. A second member of the gang voluntarily returned to face trial and was jailed for six years. - The third identified member of the syndicate has also been repatriated to China from Nigeria under an INTERPOL Red Notice and will face trial in China. - In addition to these three men, enforcement actions have also led to the conviction of 11 suspects by the local court, with jail terms ranging from six to 15 years.
For orangutans affected by El Niño, change unfolds over time [01/15/2019]
- A long-term study in Kutai National Park in Indonesian Borneo has shown how weather caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycle affects the behavior, habitat requirements, feeding ecology and birth intervals of the park’s orangutans. - The study increases conservationists’ understanding of how orangutans survive in difficult and variable climatic conditions — important information given the likely impact of climate change. - Understanding the influence of the ENSO cycle was only possible through a multi-year study, highlighting the value of long-term projects. But the current trend is for short-term studies, which are often more appealing to funders and researchers.
Bringing the tapir back to Borneo [01/14/2019]
- Malayan tapirs were found in Borneo until at least 1,500 years ago and maybe into the modern era. - Some researchers have proposed bringing the tapir back to the island by rearing a new captive population on site. - Not everyone is convinced: some scientist view the idea as without conservation value and prohibitively expensive. - This post is part of “Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild”, a monthly column by Jeremy Hance, one of Mongabay’s first staff writers.
Latam Eco Review: Resistance, hope and camera traps [01/11/2019]
The recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service, include a call to cover climate change, the dangers of opposing Colombia’s largest hydropower plant, and the most inspiring conservation news of 2018. ‘We are not doing enough’: 25 media groups commit to cover climate change “Journalists across the continent have a profound obligation to […]
Studying human behavior to protect orangutans: Q&A with Liana Chua [01/11/2019]
- Conservation efforts have traditionally focused too much on wildlife and not enough on human communities, says social anthropologist Liana Chua. - When it comes to orangutans, Chua says indigenous communities in Borneo are unlikely to share the concerns and priorities of international conservation organizations. Killing of orangutans by humans is a major threat to the apes’ survival. - Devoting real attention to the issues that are important to local people is key to developing better conservation policies, Chua says. - Chua leads a project billed as “a novel anthropology-conservation collaboration” that aims to improve human-orangutan coexistence in Borneo.
In Malta, legal loopholes give poachers cover to hunt migratory birds [01/11/2019]
- Malta is a stopping-off point for some 170 species of birds migrating between Europe and Africa. But poachers kill or capture up to 200,000 wild birds every year — a problem widespread across the Mediterranean. - In particular, illegal trapping of birds such as finches continues to persist in Malta, despite the European Court of Justice ruling against Malta for allowing the trapping of protected species. - To legalize finch trapping within the framework of European law, Malta used a legal maneuver called a derogation by claiming that finch trapping was a traditional practice in the country. - Such legal derogations are being used as a smokescreen to illegally trap finches and other protected species not just in Malta but in other countries as well.
Rapid population drop weakened the Grauer’s gorilla gene pool [01/10/2019]
- The loss of 80 percent of all Grauer’s, or eastern lowland, gorillas in the past two decades has led to a severe reduction in the subspecies’ genetic diversity, new research has found. - That slide could make it more difficult for the fewer than 4,000 remaining Grauer’s gorillas to adapt to changes in their environment. - Scientists look for signs of hope in the animal’s sister subspecies, the mountain gorilla, which, studies suggest, has adapted to its own low levels of genetic diversity.
Why are fewer monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico? [01/09/2019]
- Fewer and fewer monarch butterflies are reaching their overwintering grounds in Mexico every year, and new research might shed light on why. - A 2016 study found that the monarch population in Mexican overwintering colonies has declined by approximately 80 percent over the past two decades. Pinpointing the causes of this decline has proven difficult, however. - A study published in the journal Animal Migration last month suggests a possible cause: The monarchs are simply finding places other than Mexico to spend the winter months, and possibly even giving up their migratory ways altogether, in order to survive.
Community-based conservation offers hope for Amazon’s giant South American turtle [01/09/2019]
- Rural communities began protecting the threatened giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) along a 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) stretch of the remote Juruá River in Brazil’s Amazonas state back in 1977 – becoming the largest community-based conservation management initiative ever conducted in the Brazilian Amazon. - A new study shows that these community stewards – who protect turtle nests and receive payment only in food baskets – have had incredible success not only in preserving endangered turtle species, but also in conserving riverine invertebrate and vertebrate species, including migratory birds, large catfish, caiman, river dolphins and manatees. - Today, the Middle Juruá River community-protected beaches are “true islands of biodiversity, while other unprotected beaches are inhabited by few species. They are empty of life,” say study authors. On the protected beaches, turtle egg predation is a mere 2 percent. On unprotected beaches on the same river, predation rates are as high as 99 percent. - The study also helps debunk a Brazilian and international policy that proposed the eviction of local traditional communities from newly instituted conservation units because they would be detrimental to conservation goals. Instead, researchers agree, traditional communities should be allowed to keep their homes and recruited as environmental stewards.
Start them young: Uganda targets children for conservation awareness [01/09/2019]
- Uganda is home to a wide variety of primates, including chimpanzees and mountain gorillas. Deforestation, hunting and rapid population growth are among the threats facing the country’s wildlife. - Aiming to inspire future generations to protect the country’s wildlife, Uganda has made conservation education part of its national curriculum. - Conservation education centers, which give children first-hand introductions to chimpanzees and other wildlife, are a key part of the education effort. - The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center in Entebbe is the country’s busiest, receiving more than 260,000 guests each year.
George, the last known Hawaiian snail of his kind, dies at 14 [01/09/2019]
- George, the last known member of the Hawaiian snail species Achatinella apexfulva, died on the first day of 2019. - In 1997, researchers collected the last 10 known A. apexfulva specimens from the island of O‘ahu in a last-gasp bid to save the species through captive breeding. A few offspring did result from the program, but none survived, except George. - George, who was 14 years old when he died, was emblematic of the plight of the Hawaiian land snails, which are threatened by habitat loss and the introduction of predatory species.
Flashing lights ward off livestock-hunting pumas in northern Chile [01/07/2019]
- A new paper reports that Foxlights, a brand of portable, intermittently flashing lights, kept pumas away from herds of alpacas and llamas during a recent calving season in northern Chile. - Herds without the lights nearby lost seven animals during the four-month study period. - The research used a “crossover” design, in which the herds without the lights at the beginning of the experiment had them installed halfway through, removing the possibility that the herds were protected by their locations and not the lights themselves.
New species of tree frog from Ecuador has a mysterious claw [01/07/2019]
- A team of biologists surveying a remote and largely unexplored part of the Andes in Ecuador have described a new species of tree frog that’s dark brown in color, with bright orange flecks dotting its body. - The researchers have named the tree frog Hyloscirtus hillisi, after David Hillis, a U.S. evolutionary biologist known for his work on the Hyloscirtus genus of tree frogs. - While the researchers don’t have an estimate of the frog’s population, they think its numbers are likely low. - The species’ small habitat also lies near a large-scale mining operation, putting the frog at immediate risk of extinction.
Indonesia confiscated some 200 pet cockatoos. What happened to them? [01/04/2019]
- As Indonesia cracks down on the illegal wildlife trade, it is struggling to deal with the influx of animals confiscated from traffickers. - Birds are among the most trafficked creatures. Due to a lack of rehabilitation centers, where they would slowly be prepared for life in the wild, many birds are released prematurely. - That seems to have been the case with a group of cockatoos that were handed into the state after the infamous “water bottle bust” of 2015, in which a smuggler was caught with 23 yellow-crested cockatoos stuffed into plastic water bottles in his luggage.
Eavesdrop on forest sounds to effectively monitor biodiversity, researchers say [01/03/2019]
- Recording and analyzing forest soundscapes can be an effective way of monitoring changes in animal communities in tropical forests and human presence, researchers say in a new commentary published in Science. - Bioacoustics, which can be used to cover a vast range of animal groups over large landscapes, can also fill the gap between the bird’s-eye view of satellites and the finer focus of on-the-ground surveys, to give a clearer picture of animal population trends over large landscapes. - Moreover, bioacoustics has the potential to be an important tool in assessing what’s working and what’s not working in conservation, such as to monitor forests maintained by companies under certification or zero-deforestation commitments. - The researchers have called for improvements in processing and analysis of huge acoustic data sets, which at the moment are the major bottlenecks in soundscape research.
Worst mass extinction event in Earth’s history was caused by global warming analogous to current climate crisis [01/03/2019]
- The Permian period ended about 250 million years ago with the largest recorded mass extinction in Earth’s history, when a series of massive volcanic eruptions is believed to have triggered global climate change that ultimately wiped out 96 percent of marine species in an event known as the “Great Dying.” - According to Justin Penn, a doctoral student at the University of Washington (UW), the Permian extinction can help us understand the impacts of climate change in our own current era. - Penn led a team of researchers that combined models of ocean conditions and animal metabolism with paleoceanographic records to show that the Permian mass extinction was caused by rising ocean temperatures, which in turn forced the metabolism of marine animals to speed up. Increased metabolism meant increased need for oxygen, but the warmer waters could not hold enough oxygen to meet those needs, and ocean life was left gasping for breath.
Cyclone harmed Fijian crab fishery in 2016, research finds [01/03/2019]
- Research published in the journal Climate and Development demonstrates that Tropical Cyclone Winston damaged mud-crab fisheries in Fiji in 2016. - Surveys of the mostly women crab fishers in Bua province before and after Winston, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere, revealed that mud crabs were smaller and less numerous following the cyclone. - The research could help government agencies address the lingering impacts of natural disasters to community fisheries.
Vietnam’s illegal ivory market continues to thrive, report finds [01/02/2019]
- Over two surveys conducted between November 2016 and June 2017, TRAFFIC’s researchers found more than 10,000 ivory items being offered on sale across 852 physical outlets and 17 online platforms, suggesting an ivory market that has continued to thrive over the past few decades. - Physical retail stores in Ho Chi Minh City and Buon Ma Thuot had the highest number of ivory items for sale, the surveys found, but two villages, Ban Don and Lak, had a disproportionately high number of items on sale compared to the number of stores. Among the online platforms, social media sites had the highest number of posts offering ivory for sale. - The ivory markets in Vietnam are, however, changing constantly. TRAFFIC’s researchers not only found ivory for sale in places where previous studies had found none, they also observed shifts in markets within their two surveys, over just an eight-month period. - The surveyors also found that the sellers were aware that selling ivory was illegal, but “it does not deter them from offering it openly for sale in Vietnam,” they said.
As a pandemic looms, researchers rush to test salamander vulnerability [12/31/2018]
- Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), the “salamander-eating” fungus, was first described in 2013 after it had almost entirely killed off several populations of fire salamanders in Europe. Researchers believe it spread there from Asia via the pet trade. - Researchers have yet to detect it in North America, but are very worried about its impacts if it arrives. The U.S. is home to more salamander species than any other country, many of which belong to families that are known to be particularly susceptible to the disease. - Biologists are racing to figure out how different species react to Bsal in an effort to know how it may spread and where best to target conservation efforts. - So far, all salamander species tested at one lab have been susceptible to Bsal infection.
Top 10 happy environmental stories of 2018 [12/31/2018]
- Throughout 2018, efforts to protect habitats and conserve threatened species were driven by governments, scientists, NGOs and indigenous communities. - The world pledged more conservation funding to protect the oceans, while protections for coastal ecosystems were also boosted. - Conservation initiatives steered by indigenous communities continue to garner attention and praise, not least because they tend to be more sustainable and effective than top-down programs. - These were among the upbeat, happy environmental and conservation stories we reported on in 2018.
China seizes totoaba swim bladders worth $26 million, arrests 16 [12/29/2018]
- Chinese customs officials have confiscated 444 kilograms (980 pounds) of totoaba swim bladders, estimated to be worth about $26 million. - The ongoing Chinese investigation also led to the arrest of 16 people known to be part of a major totoaba trafficking syndicate. - The illegal totoaba fishery has spelled doom not just for the totoabas themselves, but also for the vaquita, the world’s smallest and rarest porpoise, also found only in the Gulf of California.
An expanding frontier: Top 10 global palm oil stories of 2018 [12/28/2018]
- The world’s palm oil supply used to come almost entirely from just two countries: Indonesia and Malaysia. But over the past couple decades, interest in the popular commodity crop has increased in other tropical countries around the world. - Expansion in these new frontiers has had a variety of impacts, from habitat loss and degradation to alleged violation of the land rights of local communities. - Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite Mongabay stories about palm oil expansion around the world and the issues that affect it. - A separate post will look at palm oil stories within Indonesia and Malaysia.
‘Conservation never ends’: 40 years in the kingdom of gorillas [12/28/2018]
- While studying Rwanda’s critically endangered mountain gorillas in the 1970s, newlywed graduate students Amy Vedder and Bill Weber learned that the government was considering converting gorilla habitat into a cattle ranch. - At the time, conventional wisdom held that the mountain gorillas would inevitably go extinct. But Vedder and Weber believed the species could be saved, and proposed a then-revolutionary ecotourism scheme to the Rwandan government. - Forty years later, that scheme has proved its worth. Mountain gorilla populations have rebounded, and tourism generates hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Vedder and Weber now work to inspire the next generation of conservationists both in Rwanda and abroad. - In a series of interviews with Mongabay, Vedder and Weber reflect on a life in conservation.
Deadly tsunami leaves Javan rhinos untouched, but peril persists [12/28/2018]
- A tsunami that killed more than 400 people in Indonesia has left the last remaining population of Javan rhinos unscathed. - The species’ last habitat, Ujung Kulon National Park, was hit by the Dec. 22 tsunami caused by an eruption of the Anak Krakatau volcano, but the rhinos were not in harm’s way, officials have confirmed. - The disaster has once again highlighted the constant peril that the species lives under, and strengthened calls to establish a new habitat elsewhere to ensure the survival of the rhino.
In India, indigenous youths are filming their own forests and communities [12/27/2018]
- In India’s northeast, the Greenhub project is empowering indigenous youths to use video as a tool to forward forest conservation and social change. - Tallo Anthony, from the project’s first batch, has been one of the most successful participants, winning several awards. - The project strives to empower people living in remote areas of India’s northeast region, who don’t have access to technology and can’t afford to but are interested in and committed to using video as a tool for conservation. - Greenhub also encourages women to participate, with two out of 20 seats in every batch reserved for women, and more female candidates welcome.
Japan leaving IWC, to resume commercial whaling [12/26/2018]
- The government of Japan confirmed today that it is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and will resume commercial whaling operations in the North Pacific. - The IWC, an inter-governmental organization founded in 1946 focused on whale conservation and management of the whaling industry, adopted a moratorium on hunting whales in 1982. - The moratorium allows for IWC member nations to issue whaling permits for scientific research purposes. Japan has openly flouted the moratorium by issuing such permits and selling the harvested whale meat ever since the moratorium took effect in 1986.
Gardens with too many nonnative plants threaten populations of insect-eating birds, study finds [12/26/2018]
- Researchers teamed up with community scientists to explore how nonnative plants in yards and gardens affect the breeding success of chickadees, a common insect-eating bird in the U.S. - In gardens with less than 70% of native plants by biomass, chickadee populations crashed, because the insects they usually eat cannot live on nonnative trees and flowers. - Landscaping with native plants helps resident animals thrive by sustaining balanced populations of their prey.
Audio: The best wildlife calls featured on the Mongabay Newscast in 2018 [12/26/2018]
- The Mongabay Newscast featured a lot of big names in conservation and environmental science in 2018, from E.O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy to David Suzuki and Sylvia Earle. (We even had a rock star, Grammy-winning guitarist James Valentine of Maroon 5, on the podcast to discuss why he’s doing his part to help stop illegal logging). - We strive to make scientific research accessible to everyone by having these luminaries of the field on the show to explain their work and share their thoughts on the latest trends. Another way we provide our listeners with an up-close look at what’s going on in the conservation science world is through our Field Notes segments, which feature recordings of wildlife calls captured by research scientists in the field. - The growing fields of bioacoustics and soundscape ecology are shedding light on animal behavior, how wildlife react to human pressures on their habitat, and how ecosystems evolve and change over time. Here are the very best Field Notes we featured on the Mongabay Newscast in 2018 so you can dive into this exciting new method of examining the natural world and the creatures with whom we share planet Earth.
Is captive breeding the answer to Indonesia’s songbird crisis? [12/25/2018]
- In Indonesia, singing contests for songbirds have skyrocketed in popularity. Even the president is a fan. - Demand for some species has made them extremely valuable. Poaching has risen accordingly, and some birds have been driven to the brink of extinction. - The government is pushing captive breeding as a solution to the crisis. But some conservationists warn the policy may do more harm than good. - A prime concern is that breeding licenses are easily exploited by “wildlife launderers” who pass of wild-caught animals as captive-bred. This only increases poaching.
Photos: Top 10 new species of 2018 [12/25/2018]
- Every year, researchers describe new species of animals and plants, from forests and oceans, after months, or even several years, of trials and tribulations. - In 2018, Mongabay covered many of these new discoveries and descriptions, some a result of chance encounters. - In no particular order, we present our 10 top picks.
Critically endangered Philippine eagle hangs on despite horde of threats [12/24/2018]
- Once inhabiting every island in the Philippines, the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) – the world’s longest eagle – now occupies a fraction of its former range and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. - Habitat loss is the eagle’s biggest threat. More than 70 percent of the Philippine’s forests have been cleared since the 1970s to make room for urban and agricultural expansion, pushing the eagles higher into the mountains and fragmenting their available habitat. - Satellite data show recent encroachment into primary forest in several areas of remaining eagle habitat. Conservationists say one of these areas – a protected watershed area on the island of Mindanao – is controlled by armed groups, which reap profits from illegal logging enterprises. Eagle habitat further north on the island of Luzon was recently affected a strong typhoon, which hit the east coast of the island in September and which the World Meteorological Association attributed to human-caused climate change. - Conservationists worry a national ban on open-pit mining will be overturned, leading to more habitat loss as mining companies rush to exploit gold and copper deposits, and that hydroelectric projects will further reduce nesting sites for the eagles.
2018’s top 10 ocean news stories (commentary) [12/24/2018]
- Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2018. - Hopeful developments included international efforts to curb plastic pollution and negotiate an international treaty to protect the high seas. - Meanwhile, research documenting unprecedented ocean warming, acidification, and oxygen decline spotlighted the real-time unfolding of climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Two Indian tribes help reconstruct a forest’s history, in war and in peace [12/24/2018]
- A researcher-illustrator team has traced the emotional and personal links of two of India’s indigenous tribes to what is now a protected area via their memories. - By interviewing more than 200 community members, most of them from the Bugun and Shertukpen tribes living near Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh state, the duo have created an 86-page book and a web repository called “The Eaglenest Memory Project” containing illustrations and notes based on the tribes’ recollections. - The team pieced together the tribes’ memories into five main themes, including how they remember Eaglenest during and after the 1962 India-China war, the annual migration of the Shertukpen tribes through Eaglenest to Assam state, and how the Dalai Lama’s visit changed hunting practices among the Buguns.
Investigation reveals illegal cattle ranching in Paraguay’s vanishing Chaco [12/22/2018]
- In the buffer zone around the Defensores del Chaco National Park– the largest forest reserve in the country – new areas have been cleared to make way for livestock, while long-established cattle ranches are operating without environmental licenses. - According to official data from the Ministry of the Environment, more than a million hectares (10,000 square kilometers) were cleared in Paraguay’s Chaco ecosystem between January 2014 and January 2018. - The Ministry of the Environment has just 12 inspectors to deal with all the environmental complaints across the country.
Every sea turtle in global study found to have synthetic fibers and microplastics in their guts [12/21/2018]
- A recent study found microplastics in the intestines of humans around the globe, and new research has now done the same for sea turtles. - Researchers studied 102 sea turtles in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea. According to a paper published in the journal Global Change Biology earlier this month detailing their findings, synthetic particles less than 5 millimeters in length, including microplastics, were found in every single turtle studied. - More than 800 synthetic particles were found in the 102 turtles included in the study, with the most common being fibers that are shed by things like clothing, car tires, cigarette filters, ropes, and fishing nets as they break down after finding their way into the sea.
Essential ubiquity: How one tiny salamander species has a huge impact [12/21/2018]
- Red-backed salamanders are little lungless salamanders that live in the deciduous forests of eastern and central U.S. and up into Canada. They have one of the biggest distributions of any North American salamander. - Their secretive nature means they can be hard to find. However, they’re some of the most abundant leaf-litter organisms in the forests within their range. - Research indicates that because of their abundance, red-backed salamanders hold pivotal roles in their ecosystems, influencing a forest’s fungal communities. Fungi break down organic matter like fallen leaves, logs, and dead organisms. If nothing were to rot, the forest would soon starve. Red-backed salamanders feed on a wide variety of invertebrates like ants, spiders, centipedes, beetles, snails, and termites — many of which graze on fungus. - But while red-backed salamanders are still relatively common, they are facing a number of threats. Logging in the southern Appalachian Mountains has reduced their numbers an estimated 9 percent (representing a loss of around 250 million individuals). And a salamander-eating fungus may soon invade North America, which researchers are worried could decimate salamander populations across the continent.
The female park rangers protecting turtles from traffickers in Nicaragua [12/21/2018]
- The female park rangers in Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur area patrol the beaches against the theft of eggs from endangered sea turtles that nest there. - Species like the leatherback turtle have dwindled to less than 3 percent of their population in the eastern Pacific in the last three generations. - In Nicaragua, an estimated more than 6,000 dozen turtle eggs are sold every month, with restaurants by the coast offering them in dishes as part of their menus. - The NGO that hires the rangers say they manage to preserve 90 percent of turtle nests on the beaches they patrol, compared to 40 percent on government-patrolled beaches.
Conservation officers forced online in fight against bird trafficking [12/20/2018]
- Law enforcers in the Indonesian port city of Makassar are trying to keep up with wildlife traffickers who are increasingly using the internet to connect with buyers. - Officers have tried infiltrating online networks of traders and considered working with the police’s cybercrimes unit to trace phone numbers. - The government conservation agency has also started hosting a weekly radio program to spread awareness about the laws around protected plants and animals.
Peccary’s disappearance foreboding for other Mesoamerican wildlife [12/20/2018]
- A multinational team of scientists met to discuss the current status and future of the white-lipped peccary, a pig-like mammal that lives in Central and South America. - White-lipped peccaries no longer live in 87 percent of their former range, driven out largely by hunting and habitat loss. - The scientists say the disappearance of this species, which requires large tracts of unbroken forest, could portend the extinction of other wildlife.
Scarlet macaws stalked by wildlife traffickers in Guatemala [12/20/2018]
- This at-risk species is fighting for survival in the biological corridor shared by Belize, Guatemala and Mexico. It’s here where wildlife traffickers pluck the chicks from their nests. - Experts estimate there are fewer than 1,000 scarlet macaws remaining in this corridor.
The long journey to saving the Sumatran rhino, via Borneo (commentary) [12/20/2018]
- The presence of near-extinct Sumatran rhinos in Indonesian Borneo was for a long time the stuff of legend, with no hard evidence to support it. Still, wildlife experts spared no effort to investigate every scrap of information. - Those rumors eventually bore fruit with the capture of two individuals by conservationists in the past two years. The first rhino, however, died of injuries sustained before its capture. - Today, a facility in eastern Borneo holds the other rhino, a female, with around-the-clock care from vets and experts, as part of a wider effort to kick-start a captive-breeding program. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Deforestation and mining threaten a monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico [12/19/2018]
- Despite their declining number, the annual spectacle of the monarch butterfly migration continues to captivate tourists. Tens of thousands visit Michoacán and the State of Mexico every year to see the sight. - Extreme weather, deforestation, and herbicides are all reducing the butterfly population in North America. Another challenge is local: Mexico’s biggest mining company hopes to re-open a mine within the Biosphere Reserve, jeopardizing ongoing efforts to preserve the butterfly habitat. - These latent threats feel far away as we walk through the Sierra Chincua butterfly sanctuary, but the Federal Police pick-up trucks parked at the sanctuary’s entrance are a constant reminder of the powerful interests that could target the monarch’s forest habitat.
The true story of how 96 endangered sea turtle hatchlings survived a New York City beach [12/19/2018]
- It was a Thursday, so there probably wouldn’t have been too big of a crowd, but luckily there were at least a few beachgoers out at West Beach, near the western tip of the Rockaway Peninsula, when a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle — a member of a critically endangered species — crawled on shore and started building a nest. Even more luckily, a couple of those beachgoers had the presence of mind to report it to a 24-hour marine wildlife rescue hotline. - Those calls likely saved the lives of 96 sea turtle hatchlings, all of whom successfully made the trek back out to the ocean a couple months later. - While human activities are the primary reason Kemp’s Ridleys face an uncertain future — harvesting of adults and eggs, destruction of their coastal nesting habitats, and entanglement in fishing gear are the chief threats to the species — in this case, human intervention was crucial to the turtles’ survival.
‘Death by a thousand holes’: Scientists race to avert a salamander crisis [12/19/2018]
- A deadly fungus called Bsal decimated salamander populations in Europe, and scientists are very worried that it will soon invade North America. - North America – and the U.S. in particular – is the world’s hotspot of salamander diversity, hosting about a third of all species. Researchers think half of U.S. species may be susceptible to Bsal. - Scientists say it may be only a matter of time before Bsal gets to North America. And when it does, they warn that it could mean devastation for salamanders and even drive some species to extinction. - In an effort to head off the threat, scientists and government officials created the Bsal Task Force in 2015. Next month they intend to release their strategic plan, the culmination of years of collaboration and research, which provides a roadmap for what to do in the event Bsal is detected in North America.
Deep-sea survey of Australian marine parks reveals striking species [12/19/2018]
- A monthlong survey of deep-sea seamounts in and around Australia’s Huon and Tasman Fracture marine parks has revealed a spectacular range of species, from feathery corals and tulip-shaped glass sponges to bioluminescent squids and ghost sharks. - Researchers surveyed 45 seamounts and covered 200 kilometers (124 miles), collecting 60,000 stereo images and some 300 hours of video. - Close to the surface, they recorded data on 42 seabird species and eight whale and dolphin species. The researchers also used a net to collect some animals from the seamounts for identification, many of which are potentially new to science.
U.S. whale entanglement figures steady in 2017 [12/19/2018]
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded 76 whale entanglements in U.S. waters in 2017. - Floating fishing gear and other trash in the sea can impede a whale’s ability to feed and swim. - Humpback were most often seen entangled; historically, the species usually accounts for about two-thirds of reports in a given year. - Despite North Atlantic right whales only having been involved in two known entanglements in 2017, scientists say that any run-in with gear or trash threatens the recovery of the species, which now numbers around 450 animals.
Christmas ad conundrum: Is a palm oil boycott the way to save apes? [12/18/2018]
- British supermarket chain Iceland attempted to run a television advertisement highlighting the link between palm oil and the destruction of the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. - Deemed too political to air due to its links with campaigning group Greenpeace, the advertisement has been viewed online more than 70 million times, reigniting a debate on whether consumers should boycott products containing palm oil. - Many wildlife NGOs argue that calling for a blanket ban on palm oil could do more harm than good. Instead, they urge concerned consumers to pressure the industry to clean up its practices. - However, critics of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry’s leading standards council, say RSPO-certification has so far failed to stamp out deforestation and other harmful practices among member companies.
Relative of ‘penis snake’ amphibian named after Donald Trump [12/18/2018]
- EnviroBuild, a construction materials company based in the U.K., paid $25,000 for naming rights to the amphibian in a charity auction benefiting the Rainforest Trust, a conservation group. - EnviroBuild chose the name as a cheeky way to spur awareness about President Trump’s climate policies. - Little else was revealed about the new species, including where or when it was discovered.
Bird business: The man who taught his tribe to profit from conservation [12/18/2018]
- Indi Glow, a revered member of the Bugun indigenous group in Arunachal Pradesh, India, has been instrumental in making conservation community-friendly. - When astronomer-turned-ecologist Ramana Athreya approached the Buguns in 2003 with an idea for a community bird ecotourism venture, Indi agreed to give it a go, taking on the management of the business over the next few years. - Today, the bird tourism venture is profitable and has sparked other conservation initiatives on the Bugun community lands.
Wildlife, ecotourism industry at stake in Madagascar’s election, says scientist [12/18/2018]
- Madagascar’s election on Wednesday could have major implications for the future of the island’s environment and wildlife, says a prominent conservation scientist. - In an op-ed published this week in Al Jazeera, William F. Laurance, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia, warns that if Madagascar chooses former president Andry Rajoelina, the country’s dwindling natural resources could face renewed assault. - Under Rajoelina’s previous reign, which followed a 2009 coup, Madagascar’s forests, wildlife, and coastal waters were pillaged. - Laurance contrasts Rajoelina with his opponent, Marc Ravalomanana, who was lauded by conservationists during his tenure for expanding protected areas, banning commercial logging, and taking steps to reduce deforestation.
Shorebirds can no longer count on the Arctic as a safe haven for rearing their young [12/17/2018]
- A new analysis of over 70 years’ worth of shorebird population data suggests that climate change has altered the migratory birds’ Arctic safe haven to such a degree that it is now helping drive rapid declines in their numbers. - After studying data from 38,191 nests found across all seven continents and belonging to 237 populations of 111 different species, an international team led by researchers with the Milner Centre for Evolution at the UK’s University of Bath determined that shorebirds worldwide have experienced a drastic increase in nest predation over the past seven decades. - The data suggests that nest predation rates have doubled in the North Temperate Zone, which includes Europe and most of Asia and North America. In the Arctic, which migratory shorebirds are used to using as something of a refuge, rates of daily nest predation have tripled.
Pumas engineer their environment, providing habitat for other species [12/17/2018]
- A new study finds that mountain lions in the western United States change their surroundings and as a result are “ecosystem engineers.” - A team of scientists tracked 18 lion kills in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming and identified 215 species of beetles living in, on and off the carcasses — that is, the kills provided habitat as well as food for scavengers. - The work demonstrates the critical role mountain lions play in providing resources to other species in the ecosystems in which they live.
Latam Eco Review: Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries [12/15/2018]
A 14-country jaguar conservation plan, efforts to protect the last 7 female southern right whales in Peru and Chile, and unexpected biodiversity discovered along Chile’s north coast were among the top stories last week by our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Jaguar protection plan signed by 14 Latin countries Fourteen countries launched a plan to secure […]
Madagascar auctioning a large swath of virgin waters for oil exploration [12/14/2018]
- In September, Madagascar announced the opening of a large area of marine territory to oil exploration: 44 concessions totaling 63,296 square kilometers (24,440 square miles) in the Mozambique Channel off the country’s west coast. - Members of the hydrocarbon industry expressed excitement about the news, but civil society groups oppose the sale, arguing that the potential projects’ environmental and social impacts have not been evaluated. - Some of the 44 blocks overlap with a marine protected area, territory marked for potential future marine protected areas, or areas managed by local fishing communities.
Argentina creates two new marine parks to protect penguins, sea lions [12/14/2018]
- Argentina has officially created two large marine protected areas: the Yaganes Marine National Park, lying off the country’s southern tip, and the Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II Marine National Park in the South Atlantic. - Together, the two parks cover a total area of about 98,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles). - Industrial fishing is both an important source of revenue for Argentina and a threat to the country’s marine life. But the areas destined to become protected areas have had little fishing activity in recent years, which helped move negotiations in favor of the marine parks.
Dam drove ‘collapse’ of rainforest bird populations in Thailand [12/13/2018]
- A 165-square-kilometer (64-square-mile) reservoir in the lowland rainforest of Thailand has led to the “collapse” of the region’s bird populations, according to recent research. - Built in 1986, the Ratchaprapha dam altered the habitat and led to deforestation, resulting in the decline of many species and the local extinction of perhaps five. - The authors of the study say their findings highlight concerns about whether hydroelectric dams “are worth the environmental costs.”
Super-spreaders: How the curious life of a newt could ignite a pandemic [12/13/2018]
- The eastern U.S. is the world’s salamander hotspot, with more species per area than anywhere else on the planet. Often superabundant, salamanders hold important ecological roles in their habitats. - Eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) are the second most widely distributed salamander species in the U.S. They’re also incredibly mobile and are able to transition to a toxic, terrestrial form to move between ponds. - Like many other U.S. salamander species, eastern newts are highly susceptible to a fungal pathogen called Bactrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). While Bsal has yet to make an appearance in North America, it has wreaked havoc on salamander populations in Europe, and biologists worry its impact in the U.S. will be even worse. - Their susceptibility to Bsal coupled with their mobility mean eastern newts could act as “super-spreaders” of Bsal if the fungus gets to North America. Researchers worry that not only would the newts themselves face massive die-offs, but also they could quickly spread the disease to other salamander species.
From a new bird to a new community reserve: India’s tribe sets example [12/13/2018]
- In 2006, the discovery of the Bugun liocichla, a new species of bird, near Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, India, brought the area’s small tribe of Buguns into the international spotlight. It prompted both a community bird ecotourism business, and a series of small conservation actions to protect the forest that harbors the rare bird. - In 2013, the idea to protect the Bugun liocichla’s home took a more definitive shape, culminating in a community reserve. The reserve was formally created in 2017 after several rounds of discussions between the Buguns, researchers working in the area, and the local forest department. - Today, the community reserve is more effectively patrolled by a Bugun team than the sanctuary it abuts. - A few teething troubles remain to be worked out, but the researchers hope to streamline the running of the reserve in the coming years, so that the community takes center stage in the reserve’s management, while others step back.
A Zambian sanctuary finds caring for chimps is a lifetime commitment [12/13/2018]
- Home to more than 130 apes, Zambia’s Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is one of the world’s oldest and largest chimpanzee sanctuaries. - Chimpanzees can live for 50 years or more, so each new animal the center takes in will require decades of care and financial support. - With an ever-growing number of chimps in need of a home, simply financing daily operations is a challenge for this award-winning facility.
Birds on Broadway: A Q&A with the Audubon Mural Project’s Avi Gitler [12/12/2018]
- A public art project is bringing new bird life to uptown Manhattan in John James Audubon’s old neighborhood in New York City. - The Audubon Mural Project is an ongoing collaboration between the National Audobon Society and Gitler &____ Gallery. So far, 80 murals of 101 bird species have been painted, spanning 133rd to 165th street on Broadway. The project will eventually end at 193rd street, at the end of Audubon Avenue. - In this Q&A, Avi Gitler, co-producer of the Audubon Mural Project and founder of Gitler &____ Gallery, talks about the impetus for the public art project, which focuses on birds threatened by climate change, how he has enlisted the participating artists, and what he hopes public art about climate change-threatened birds can achieve.
Feed a fishery, starve a seabird [12/12/2018]
- Industrial fisheries increased their share of fish taken by 10 percent, while seabirds’ take dropped by nearly 20 percent, between 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, new research has found. - The study mapped out 40 years of data comparing the takes of seabirds and fisheries during that timeframe. - Scientists say that seabirds, which also face threats from pollution, plastic garbage and possible entanglements, could also face starvation as a result of the competition with large-scale fisheries for the same resource.
New species of giant salamander described after decades of mystery [12/11/2018]
- Scientists have described a new species of giant salamander that grows up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) long and is a type of siren, a group of eel-like salamanders that have only front limbs, and large, frilled gills behind their heads. - The formal description of the species, named the reticulated siren, comes after decades of surveys and exploration. - The researchers do not have a complete understanding of the reticulated siren yet, but given that much of its habitat lies in wetlands within the endangered longleaf pine ecosystem, the species is of conservation concern, they say.
In eastern Indonesia, a bird-trafficking hotspot flies under the radar [12/11/2018]
- Indonesia, one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, is a major hub of the illegal bird trade. Demand comes from both inside and outside its borders. - Aru, a remote archipelago near the giant island of New Guinea, is a major supplier of cockatoos and other exotic birds. - The relevant government agency is too understaffed to keep up with traffickers, officials say.
Ground-feeding birds in Southeast Asia may be going extinct outside protected areas [12/10/2018]
- Quails, partridges and pheasants, together called galliforms, are becoming increasingly restricted to protected areas in Southeast Asia. - Five species of galliforms, including three endemics, might no longer survive outside protected areas, a new study predicts. - Many local extinctions have occurred in Sumatra, where habitat loss appears more pronounced. - Researchers find that protected areas are becoming increasingly isolated and are not integrated into the wider landscape.
Pesticides could be painting black howler monkeys yellow in Costa Rica [12/10/2018]
- Mantled howler monkeys in Costa Rica are starting to appear with patches of yellow fur on their usually black coats. - A team of scientists believes that the dappled monkeys are consuming sulfur-containing pesticides along with the leaves they eat. - Sulfur from the pesticide ends up in the monkeys’ pigmentation, resulting in splashes of yellow on their coats.
Graphic video reveals brutality of pangolin poaching in northeast India [12/07/2018]
- Hunters in India are helping supply the illegal pangolin trade, and new research that probes their motivations might point to measures that can reduce the poaching and sale of the species known as “the world’s most trafficked mammal.” - An undercover video shot during the course of the research could prove to be a deterrent in and of itself, as it shows just how vicious and inhumane the pangolin trade can be. - Interventions to reduce poverty and promote alternative livelihoods are certainly necessary, the researchers write in the study, but they argue that these measures alone would likely be ineffective in reducing pangolin hunting.
As the mammal tree of life suffers hits, should we prioritize which species to save? [12/06/2018]
- More than 300 mammal species have gone extinct since shortly before the last ice age, a loss of more than 2.5 billion years of evolutionary history across all ancestral lines, a sweeping study reports. - Even in the best-case scenario — we completely stop climate change and extinctions within 50 years — evolution would need at least three million years to redevelop that lost biodiversity. - Choosing to save the most distinct at-risk species is one way to minimize ongoing damage to the mammal tree of life.
Tiny bits of ocean plastic threaten the survival of sea turtle hatchlings [12/05/2018]
- Smaller and smaller pieces of single-use plastic are ending up in the stomachs of juvenile sea turtles off the coast of Florida. - Of 96 stranded sea turtle hatchlings collected in a study, more than half died, while all the survivors passed plastic fragments through their bodies. - Increasing amounts of plastic entering the ocean and disintegrating into microscopic bits have increased the risk that sea turtles will choke on or struggle to pass plastic debris, making it harder for them to reach adulthood.
Culls push endangered fruit bat closer to extinction in Mauritius [12/05/2018]
- The government of Mauritius plans to cull 20 percent of the population of Mauritian flying foxes (Pteropus niger) in 2018 to protect farmers’ fruit trees. - Culls in prior years led to the extermination of tens of thousands of the bats, and the IUCN now lists the species, which lives only in Mauritius and perhaps a few nearby islands, as endangered. - A recent study found that, while bats (along with birds) do take a toll on farmers’ orchards, nets over the trees when the fruit ripens can dramatically diminish the damage they do.
For Ugandan villagers, tradition and tourism help keep the peace with gorillas [12/05/2018]
- Uganda is home to around half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas; thanks to conservation efforts the global population is now slightly above 1,000 and the species has recently been re-graded by the IUCN as “endangered’ rather than “critically endangered.” - Many indigenous groups in Uganda have traditional beliefs that encourage ape conservation. However, rapid population growth in the 20th century increasingly brought humans and gorillas into conflict. - Today, conservation groups are working to harness traditional knowledge to protect apes, and to develop new techniques that allow humans and gorillas to peacefully coexist.
Deadly parrot virus found in native birds from Asia and Africa [12/05/2018]
- Researchers have found beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) in wild parrots from eight new countries. - BFDV spreads through captive parrots worldwide, but its prevalence in wild species is unknown. Infected escapees could threaten native parrots, especially small populations. - Parrots in West Africa carried viruses that probably spread from other countries, showing that the human pet trade market has made the BFDV epidemic worse. - New regulations of live parrot trades are essential to protect susceptible species, researchers say.
The nature of conservation evidence: Imperfect, but good enough (commentary) [12/04/2018]
- Today’s conservationists in the field often must decide quickly what actions to take based on whatever evidence is available at the time. There typically isn’t the luxury to engage in a more formal information-gathering process. - Now, however, there is a push within the conservation community to move further toward a more extensive investigative process in order to prioritize what works and avoid funding failure. This is not a bad idea. But, if we are to be successful at this most urgent time for wildlife, we can’t lose sight of the fact that evidence is lots of things, and when it comes to conservation, it should not be solely interpreted as randomized control trials and rigorous statistical analyses. - Conservation field staff would urge us all to understand the environments in which they work and the need for quick decision-making. Constraining them from doing what they do best, discounting decades of experience and the local knowledge they’ve accrued, would be a real crime. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
In the belly of the beast: journalist delves into wildlife trafficking [12/04/2018]
- Rachel Nuwer, who has written for Mongabay, Smithsonian, the New York Times and other publications, published a new book in September, “Poached,” which delves deeply into the global wildlife trafficking epidemic. - Her book looks into the origins of the wildlife trade, its mechanisms, markets, and solutions. It covers charismatic mammals (elephants, rhinos and tigers), as well as the non-charismatic (pangolins and snakes). - In this exclusive Mongabay Q&A, the author shares some of her most harrowing moments on the trail of global wildlife traffickers. The scariest thing of all: how accepting people can often be to the slaughter of millions of wild animals, and to the extermination of species, so as to be served a rare meat or a bogus cure. - Still, Nuwer finds hope in the courageous individuals who fight the trade.
For elusive Javan rhinos, camera traps are a benevolent Big Brother [12/03/2018]
- Camera traps in an Indonesian park have recorded the first ever video of Javan rhinos mating in the wild. - The critically endangered species, with an estimated population of just 68 individuals, is notoriously elusive, evading even the conservationists and rangers responsible for studying and protecting it. - The network of 120 camera traps, introduced in 2010, has given researchers and park officials valuable insights into the rhinos’ biology and behavior, and helped inform conservation strategies for the species.
‘Drifters of opportunity’: Seabirds track energy in tidal currents [12/03/2018]
- A recent study used location data from GPS-tagged seabirds called razorbills to track currents in the Irish Sea. - When a team of biologists compared the movements of resting birds on the surface of the water with a mathematical model that lays out the currents, they found that the birds provided solid information on the speed and direction of the flow of water. - The researchers suggest that similar research using data from resting seabirds could help identify areas for the harvest of renewable tidal energy.
Photos: Here are the winners of the 2018 British Ecological Society photo contest [12/03/2018]
- Chris Oosthuizen of South Africa’s University of Pretoria won the top prize in the British Ecological Society’s “Capturing Ecology” photo competition this year with an image of a single colorful adult king penguin amidst a crowd of brown-colored chicks on Marion Island, part of the Prince Edward Islands in the Indian Ocean. - Oosthuizen is hopeful that the prize-winning photo might help draw attention to the challenges king penguins face due to the impacts of human activities. “Although the global population of king penguins is large, populations inhabiting islands around the Antarctic face an uncertain future,” he said. - In total, some 16 images were recognized this year by the British Ecological Society. “Capturing flora and fauna from across the planet, subjects range from African wild dog research to an artistic take on Galapagos iguanas to images exploring the relationships between people and nature,” the group said in a statement.
Singapore proposes total ivory ban, calls for public feedback [12/03/2018]
- Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has proposed a total ban on the sale and purchase of all forms of elephant ivory products in Singapore. - Display of elephant ivory in public would also be banned, except when used for educational purposes, such as in museums or zoos. - AVA has opened its proposal to public comments until Dec. 27 this year.
Guam’s invasive bird-destroying snake less unique than thought [12/03/2018]
- Researchers had previously blamed Guam’s devastating brown tree snake invasion on the snake’s uniquely toxic venom. - This venom, irditoxin, is actually present in all snakes within the cat-eye family, a new study shows, leading researchers to re-evaluate the brown tree snake’s success. - The snake has killed most of the island’s native bird species, threatening the ecological future of this tropical island.
Group helps illegal bird traders transition into different lines of business [12/03/2018]
- Instead of focusing on putting bird poachers and illegal traders behind bars, an NGO in Indonesian Borneo is creating incentives for them to stop. - It’s a unique approach in the Southeast Asian country, where conservation efforts have tended to focus on calls for tighter law enforcement and more rigorous punishment. - The group, Planet Indonesia, has identified more than 100 small bird shops in and around Pontianak, the biggest city in western Borneo, and says many of them are pondering changing professions. It’s know-how and capital that’s holding them back.
Virtual meetup highlights networked sensor technology for parks [11/30/2018]
- To encourage communication between the conservation community and technology developers, the WILDLABS platform began a series of virtual meetups earlier this month. - Speakers in the first meetup represented three groups developing and deploying networked sensors for improving wildlife security and reducing human-wildlife conflict. - The three tech developers described lessons they’ve learned on meeting the needs of rangers and reserve managers, using drones to fight poaching, and adapting technology to function in remote areas under difficult conditions.
First wild Sumatran rhino in Borneo captured for breeding campaign [11/29/2018]
- A female Sumatran rhinoceros has been captured in Indonesian Borneo and moved to a local sanctuary as part of an initiative to conserve the near-extinct species through captive breeding. - A team of veterinarians and rhino experts is now caring for the rhino around the clock, and will seek to establish whether she is viable for breeding. - Conservationists and government officials have welcomed news of the capture and rescue, a key step toward replenishing a species whose total population may be as low as 30 individuals. - The capture comes two years after another female rhino was trapped in the same district, only to die less than a month later.
The Bangladeshi tribe that’s guarding turtles, co-authoring research papers [11/29/2018]
- A team of indigenous parabiologists in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, documenting their forest’s wildlife, have uncovered a surprisingly wide range of species. - The parabiologists belong to the Mro ethnic group and work with the Creative Conservation Alliance co-founded by Shahriar Caesar Rahman and colleagues. They set up camera traps, monitor hunting and consumption of turtles and other wild animals in villages; act as protectors of hornbill nests; and serve as community leaders. - The Mro parabiologists have become so crucial to the researchers’ work that they are regularly listed as formal co-authors of scientific papers. - The Mro-CCA partnership has earned Rahman several laurels, including, most recently, the 2018 Whitley Award, dubbed the “green Oscars.”
Whale stress levels influenced by human activity, earwax study suggests [11/28/2018]
- Using earwax collected from baleen (filter-feeding) whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, scientists have been able to map the animals’ stress levels in relation to human activities over 146 years. - Between 1870 and 2016, the whales’ stress levels closely corresponded to activities such as industrial whaling, naval operations during World War II, and rising sea-surface temperature, the study found. - The effects on the whales of climate change, increased fishing and krill harvests, and sea ice decline need to be studied further, the researchers say.
Audio: Bill McKibben on the climate movements that give him hope [11/27/2018]
- On this episode, Bill McKibben discusses the climate movements that could spur the world to action and help us avert the worst impacts of global warming. - You might think that the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would be closely followed by Bill McKibben. But McKibben is not looking to the upcoming COP, taking place in Poland next week, to make much progress in the world’s attempts to combat climate change. - McKibben joins the Mongabay Newscast to discuss why he thinks these international climate efforts have run out of steam, the climate movements that give him hope, and what’s at stake if we don’t find a way to check global warming.
A living planet begins with thriving forests (commentary) [11/27/2018]
- In my lifetime, global wildlife populations have seen an overall decline of more than half.
That’s a statement of such enormity that it’s hard to process. - The evidence comes from WWF’s recent Living Planet Report 2018, which shows that, on average, populations of mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles declined by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. And the trends are still going in the wrong direction. My children could be reading about many of these species — such as orangutans and Amur leopards — in history books if conservation actions are not ramped up. - We need a fundamental shift in the way we treat our one and only planet, a New Deal for Nature and People by 2020, to galvanize serious international action to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, including efforts to stop the degradation and destruction of our forests. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Five wildlife conservationists held by Iran could face the death penalty [11/27/2018]
- Four conservationists arrested for suspected espionage in Iran in January face charges of “sowing corruption on Earth.” - The charges stem from the team’s use of camera traps to track the Asiatic cheetah, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guard contends that the accused were collecting information on the country’s missile program. - If convicted, the conservationists could be sentenced to death.
This blue-throated hummingbird is new to science — but already endangered [11/27/2018]
- From Ecuador’s southwestern highlands, ornithologists have described a new species of hummingbird, named blue-throated hillstar after its glittering ultramarine-blue chin and throat feathers. - The blue-throated hillstar prefers grasslands on the Ecuadoran Andes, which is being rapidly lost to human activity, and researchers think the bird is likely already critically endangered. - The researchers are now working with the local communities to protect the bird and its habitat.
Latam Eco Review: Jail time for jaguar traffickers [11/23/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, looked at jail sentences for wildlife traffickers in Bolivia; conserving river dolphins in Venezuela and culling lionfish in Colombia; and shark bycatch in Chile. Jaguar-tooth traffickers get up to four years’ prison in Bolivia A Bolivian court has set a legal precedent by sentencing traffickers in […]
Map pinpoints ‘last chance’ locations of endangered species [11/23/2018]
- A new assessment updates the last known ranges for nearly 1,500 species of animals and plants at 853 locations around the world. - The three-year effort is aimed at helping scientists, governments and conservationists identify the threats that could lead to the extinction of these species and find ways to address them. - Governments are already using this information to identify target areas for conservation to protect the last remaining habitats of threatened species. - Nearly half of the sites identified lack formal protection, despite many of them having been flagged as important more than a decade ago.
Turtles exposed to record levels of microplastics on Mediterranean beaches [11/23/2018]
- Beaches in northern Cyprus have the second highest recorded amount of microplastics among beaches studied across the world, a new study has found. - The Cyprus beaches are crucial nesting sites for green and loggerhead sea turtles, and high levels of microplastics in their nesting sites could pose a significant threat to turtle hatching success, researchers say. - The current magnitude of microplastic contamination is likely underestimated, the researchers warn.
Two iconic birds make a striking comeback, but much work remains [11/22/2018]
- BirdLife International has revised the information for the conservation status of more than 2,300 bird species this year. - Overall, 31 species of birds were moved to lower threat categories, while 58 species were uplisted to higher threat categories. - The pink pigeon, which has been downlisted to vulnerable from endangered, and the northern bald ibis, which has been downlisted to endangered from critically endangered, have shown some of the most dramatic improvements.
Progress on jaguar conservation in Suriname [11/20/2018]
- Dr. Mark J. Plotkin is the Co‑Founder & President of the Amazon Conservation Team, which partners with indigenous peoples to conserve forests and wildlife in Suriname, Colombia, and Brazil. - In this post, Plotkin writes about a recent meeting in Suriname to discuss an emerging threat to jaguars across Latin America: poaching for traditional Chinese medicine. - He notes that representatives who attended the meeting are now deeply engaged in designing an action plan for jaguar conservation in Suriname.
Restore wolves or slaughter deer to save Japanese forests? [11/20/2018]
- Without wolves, an important apex predator, Japan faces a booming deer population that has upset the ecological balance of the country’s forests. - The sika deer, which researchers say occupy two-thirds of Japanese national forests, pose a particular threat.
New dam set to spoil Sumatran wonderland (commentary) [11/20/2018]
- Amid the tropical rainforest in the Hadabuan Hills Ecosystem, where Siamang and Agile gibbons cry out and where Rhinoceros hornbills and Black hornbills growl and cackle above the forest canopy, survey work by a Korean hydroelectric company has just wrapped up, and construction is slated to begin in 2020 on a dam called Siborpa Hydroelectric Power Plant. - The Hadabuan Hills isn’t a national park or a wildlife sanctuary; about half of it is considered a hutan desa, or village forest. It is essentially a cluster of steep mountains that were too difficult to cultivate quickly and easily, and were thus spared wholesale conversion to oil palm plantations due to the challenging topography. - So far we have confirmed the presence of tigers, clouded leopards, marbled cats, golden cats, Malayan tapirs, sun bears, leaf monkeys, the fast-disappearing Sumatran Laughingthrush, and a plethora of other wildlife. If this place isn’t a national treasure, we don’t know what is. To see it badly scarred by a hydroelectric dam of questionable use and value would be deeply disturbing. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
These 4,000-year-old termite mounds are visible from space and still in use [11/20/2018]
- Some 200 million conical termite mounds rise from the ground in northeastern Brazil, each about 2 to 4 meters high and about 9 meters wide, visible on Google Earth. - Researchers dated the soil from 11 of these mounds and found that the piles are up to about 4,000 years old, making them almost as ancient as the pyramids of Giza. - The mounds are still inhabited by the termite species, Syntermes dirus, that first made them. - The mounds themselves lack any definite internal architecture, but there are extensive networks of underground tunnels that the termites use to safely access fallen leaves on the forest floor.
Human activities are impeding population growth of North Atlantic right whales [11/19/2018]
- New research finds that deaths caused by human activities are not just impacting individual North Atlantic right whales and their immediate family units, but actually impeding population growth and recovery of the species, which has been declining since 2010. - Peter Corkeron, head of a whale research initiative at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, led an international team that studied the western North Atlantic population and three populations of southern right whales, in order to determine whether or not the slow growth rate of North Atlantic right whales is attributable to humans. - More than 80 percent of North Atlantic right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once in their lives, and 59 percent have been entangled two or more times, the researchers found. The increased energy demands imposed on entangled whales can reduce the likelihood that a female will successfully give birth.
Jaw-dropping footage: conservationists catch Javan rhino in mud wallow [11/19/2018]
- With just 68 individuals surviving in a single site, the Javan rhino is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered animals. - The species is so elusive that conservationists have studied it for years without meeting one in the flesh. Even images are rare. - Now, newly released video and photos from a recent expedition by Global Wildlife Conservation and WWF show a Javan rhino wallowing in a mud bath.
Deforested, degraded land restoration a top priority for African leaders [11/19/2018]
- African leaders met at a summit to discuss land restoration across the continent on Nov. 13, ahead of the U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. - Representatives from several African countries shared their countries’ pledges to restore hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of degraded and deforested land in the coming decades. - The summit’s leaders said they hoped the deliberations during the day-long summit would help African countries in both their contributions to international targets and to the improvement of their natural ecosystems for the benefit of their citizens.
Latam Eco Review: Rampant roadkill and shrinking seaweed stocks [11/16/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, investigated Colombia’s roadkill rates; Chile’s marine forests; and Chinese energy projects in Ecuador. Mammals pay highest toll on Colombia’s highways Plans to double Colombia’s highway network by 2035 represent a major threat to wildlife conservation. A roadkill app and research have documented some 11,000 roadkill incidents, […]
Plan to ship gorillas from DRC to Zimbabwe raises alarm [11/16/2018]
- The head of Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority says the agency plans to receive a donation of gorillas and okapis from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), part of a wildlife exchange program that recently saw 10 white rhinos sent to the DRC from Zimbabwe. - The plan, officials say, is still being worked out. But the prospect has raised alarm over the welfare of the animals, the impact on the local ecosystem, and the possibility that animals from the DRC could be infected with Ebola. - Zimbabwe has previously sold wild animals for display in China, leading some activists to fear the gorillas and okapis could ultimately end up in that country — an allegation Zimbabwean authorities strongly deny.
‘Not all hope is lost’ as outlook for mountain gorillas brightens [11/14/2018]
- The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of mountain gorillas from Critically Endangered to Endangered today. - The new assessment cites the subspecies’ growing numbers, now at around 1,000 individuals, and the conservation efforts on its behalf. - Scientists say that, while this is an important milestone, mountain gorillas’ survival depends on continued conservation.
Republic of Congo names new national park, home to gorillas, elephants [11/14/2018]
- The new Ogooué-Leketi National Park is the Republic of Congo’s fifth national park. - It borders Batéké Plateau National Park in neighboring Gabon, and together the two parks form a transboundary protected area covering more than 5,500 square kilometers (2,120 square miles). - The official designation of Ogooué-Leketi National Park comes after three logging concessions that overlapped with the proposed park area were finally closed down. - All of the rights-holding communities that live close to the Ogooué-Leketi National Park were involved in the process of creating the protected area, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Congo program.
‘No one is helping us’: Venezuelan conservation crippled by crisis [11/14/2018]
- Many conservationists have fled Venezuela since an economic crisis began in 2014. - Those who have chosen to remain behind complain of a lack of funding and resources, and say they feel abandoned by the international community. - Despite incredible difficulties, some conservationists are still able to take action, including rediscovering a long-lost bird.
Audio: A Half-Earth progress report from E.O. Wilson [11/13/2018]
- On this episode, a progress report on the Half-Earth Project direct from legendary conservation biologist E.O. Wilson. - When Mongabay contributor Jeremy Hance spoke with Dr. Wilson back in January of 2017, Wilson said he’d found the goal of Half-Earth was energizing for people — and he tells us on this episode of the podcast that this continues to be true, as the conservation community has responded eagerly to the Half-Earth goal. - Wilson also discusses why he sees Half-Earth as a “moonshot” and how close we currently are to protecting half of Earth’s lands and waters.
China restores ban on rhino and tiger parts, for now [11/13/2018]
- In an announcement on Oct. 29, the Chinese government said it would permit the controlled use of rhino horn and tiger bone, obtained from farmed rhinos and tigers, for medical purposes. - China has since walked back the decision, postponing the implementation of the new regulations temporarily. - Even with the ban restored for now, activists are concerned that the message about the acceptability of animal parts in traditional Chinese medicine lacks clarity, and say they hope the ban will be reinstated permanently.
Honduras aims to save vital wildlife corridor from deforestation [11/13/2018]
- Honduras has pledged to remove livestock from the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to jaguars, tapirs and macaws. - The reserve is found in the Moskitia region’s rainforests, around 30 percent of which have been cleared in the past 15 years, largely due to cattle and livestock ranching. - Conservation groups hailed the move as one that would benefit both Honduras and the world because of the region’s biodiversity and carbon stocks.
Haiti may lose all primary forest by 2035, mass extinction underway [11/09/2018]
- Analysis of satellite imagery and aerial photographs indicate that all of Haiti’s remaining primary forest will disappear in less than two decades if current deforestation rates continue. Results indicate primary forest cover in Haiti shrank from 4.4 percent in 1988 to just 0.32 percent in 2016, and that 42 of Haiti’s 50 largest mountains have lost all of their primary forest cover. - These forests are home to endangered animals found nowhere else in the world; researchers say the country is already experiencing a mass extinction event due to habitat loss. - Deforestation-intensified flooding has also been implicated in thousands of human deaths. - Researchers say Haiti’s forest loss is driven largely by charcoal production and agriculture.
End of funding dims hopes for a Sumatran forest targeted by palm oil growers [11/09/2018]
- The Harapan lowland rainforest in Sumatra, one of only 36 global biodiversity hotspots, could be lost to oil palm plantations within the next five years. - The Danish government, which since 2011 has funded efforts to restore the forest and keep out encroaching farmers, will cease its funding at the end of this year. No other sources of funding are in sight to fill the gap. - The Danish ambassador to Indonesia says local authorities need to take on more of the responsibility of protecting the forest. - He says relying on donor funding is unsustainable over the long term, and has called for greater emphasis on developing ecotourism and trade in non-timber forest products.
Latam Eco Review: Hungry manatees and grand theft tortoise [11/09/2018]
The recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, concerned hungry manatees in Venezuelan zoos; giant tortoises stolen from the Galápagos Islands; and a ban on free, prior and informed consent in Colombian extractive projects. Venezuelan zoos struggle to feed their animals Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis is affecting the ability of researchers and zoo […]
Four of six black rhinos translocated to Chad are now dead [11/08/2018]
- Four of the six black rhinos reintroduced to Chad’s Zakouma National Park from South Africa in May are now dead, authorities say. - Two of the rhinos were found dead recently, following from the deaths of two other rhinos in October. - Authorities say the rhinos were not poached, and suggest they may have been having trouble adapting to their new habitat. More tests will be needed to determine the cause of death. - The deaths in Zakouma come just months after 11 black rhinos died within days of being reintroduced into Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park in July.
Roads divide opinions along with forests, study finds [11/08/2018]
- A team of researchers found that support for new road construction was split among indigenous communities living in Malaysia. - In general, people living in communities near an existing highway were more likely to support roads than those living in villages farther away from the highway. - The authors write that the findings lend support to the need for comprehensive social impact assessments before and during the construction of new roads.
Troika of trouble for Bolivia’s Cordillera de Sama Reserve [11/08/2018]
- Overgrazing and the construction of a highway, in addition to more severe and extreme droughts and cold spells, have significantly impacted the delicate ecosystem of Bolivia’s Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve. - Water is the most affected resource, even though the reserve is protected and an internationally important wetland. - Concerns remain that the changes could irreversibly alter the ecosystem.
For Javan rhinos, the last holdout may also be a deadly disease hotspot [11/08/2018]
- The Critically Endangered Javan rhino survives in just a single population in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. - In addition to environmental threats such as volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, the rhino is threatened by diseases that could be transmitted from both domestic livestock and native wild cattle living in and near the park. - Zoonotic diseases that pose a potential threat include trypanosomiasis and hemorrhagic septicemia.
Researchers say orangutans are declining, despite Indonesian government’s claims [11/07/2018]
- Researchers say a recent Indonesian government report inaccurately claims that the orangutan population in the country is increasing, which could have significant implications for future conservation plans. - The report, issued by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, states that the populations of 19 priority species, including orangutans, “increased by more than 10 percent” between 2015 and 2017. - But, in a letter published in the journal Current Biology on Monday, researchers say that that assertion “is in strong contrast” to many recently published and peer-reviewed scientific studies on the status of the three orangutan species.
Protection flip-flop leaves rare Indonesian shrikethrush in harm’s way [11/07/2018]
- The Sangihe shrikethrush is an elusive songbird found only on a single remote island in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province. - The species, which numbers less than 300 in the wild, was one of hundreds granted protected status by the Indonesian government earlier this year. - But the government inexplicably struck it from the list soon after, leaving wildlife activists concerned that the lack of protection will harm efforts to conserve the species. - Activists say one workaround would be to push for protective measures by local authorities.
Parrotfish, critical to reef health, now protected under Mexican law [11/07/2018]
- The government of Mexico added 10 species of parrotfish to its national registry of protected species in October. - In a letter to the government, the environmental NGO AIDA argued that parrotfish and other herbivorous fish, whose numbers have been declining due to fishing, are necessary to maintain the health of coral reefs. - AIDA has embarked on a three-year project to work with policymakers to protect herbivorous fish in Mexico and five other Latin American countries.
Research finds humans across the globe have microplastics in their stool [11/06/2018]
- Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria monitored eight people in eight different countries and found that every single stool sample collected tested positive for the presence of microplastics. - Food processing and plastic food packaging are major sources of microplastics in human diets. Microplastics can also enter the human food chain via marine animals that people consume — significant amounts of microplastics have been found in lobster, shrimp, and tuna, for instance. - The researchers found 9 different types of plastic in the human stools they tested — shipped to Vienna in plastic-free containers to be screened at the Environment Agency Austria — with an average of 20 microplastic particles ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometres found in every 10 grams of stool.
Savanna fires, a boon to grazers, cast rhinos into a ‘food desert’ [11/06/2018]
- Fire is a common tool used in conservation areas across Africa to help regenerate grass for grazers, reduce encroachment of bushes, and control ticks and diseases. But how fire affects rhinos and their food has remained unclear. - Researchers have found that black rhinos in Serengeti National Park prefer to graze in spots that burn just once in 10 years, and actively avoid areas that are burned frequently. The park’s managers carry out controlled burns at least once a year. - The study found that fires reduce the availability of the plants that the black rhinos prefer to eat. - The researchers have called for an adaptable fire strategy that allows burning in some areas to benefit grazers such as wildebeest and zebra, and avoids fires in rhinos’ preferred habitats.
Bear-human conflict risks pinpointed amid resurgent bear population [11/05/2018]
- New research maps out the potential risk “hotspots” for black bear-human conflict based on an analysis of conditions that led to nearly 400 bear deaths between 1997 and 2013. - The study area covered the Lake Tahoe Basin and the Great Basin Desert in western Nevada. - The methods used to predict risks based on environmental variables could help wildlife managers identify and mitigate human-carnivore conflict in other parts of the world, the authors write.
Latam Eco Review: Killing jaguars for arthritis creams and wine [11/02/2018]
The top stories last week from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, followed the fate of Suriname’s hunted jaguars, Bogota’s urban forest preserve, and Chile’s Humboldt Archipelago. Suriname’s jaguars killed for arthritis creams and wine Suriname’s jaguar population is being decimated for the Asian market in arthritis cream, soap, aphrodisiacs and even wine, according to an […]
Call to protect dwindling wilderness ‘before it disappears forever’ [11/01/2018]
- Just 23 percent of wilderness on land and 13 percent of wilderness at sea remains, according to new maps of global human impacts. - Five countries — Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and Brazil — contain 70 percent of the remaining wilderness. - The authors of the suite of studies argue that wilderness protection should move to the forefront of the conservation agenda.
‘At capacity’? A Nepali park reckons with its rhinos [11/01/2018]
- An investigation into a recent increase in natural deaths among the 600 greater one-horned rhinos in Chitwan National Park suggested the park may have reached its carrying capacity for the species. - The park and its resources are facing pressure both from a growing population of rhinos within the park and from increasing human settlement on its periphery. - Assessments of the park’s carrying capacity for rhinos vary wildly, ranging from 500 to more than 2,000, leading to differences of opinion about the role overcrowding could play in rhino deaths.
17 new brilliantly colored species of sea slugs described [11/01/2018]
- Researchers have just described 17 stunning new species of sea slugs that live among coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region. - All the species belong to the genus Hypselodoris, and come in a wide variety of colors. - Researchers reorganized the genus Hypselodoris, adding new-to-science species to the group, and revealing secrets of the evolution of their brilliant color patterns.
Thousands of radiated tortoises seized from traffickers in Madagascar [10/31/2018]
- More than 7,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises were confiscated by authorities from suspected wildlife traffickers in Madagascar on Oct. 24. - The seizure happened in the same area where a similar bust, involving nearly 10,000 tortoises of the same species, took place in April. - The NGO Turtle Survival Alliance is working with the Madagascar environment ministry to care for the surviving tortoises.
Will trade bans stop a deadly salamander plague from invading the US? [10/30/2018]
- In 2008, scientists started noticing that populations of fire salamanders were disappearing in Western Europe. A few years later, nearly all had vanished from large portions of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The culprit turned out to be a fungus called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, which infects the skin of salamanders and often kills them. Research indicates Bsal came from Asia and was spread to Europe via the importation of Asian salamanders. - The U.S. is home to the world’s highest diversity of salamander species, many of which are thought to be susceptible to Bsal infection. So far, scientists haven’t detected the pathogen in North America, but many believe it’s just a matter of time until it gets here unless drastic action is taken. - In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed a ban on the trade of 201 salamander species in 2016. However, the recent discovery that frogs can also carry Bsal has led to an outcry from scientists urging the government to ban the import of all salamander and frog species. - However, many hobbyists think a total ban is overkill. They instead favor a “clean trade” in which some imported animals would tested for Bsal.
What’s killing Nepal’s rhinos? [10/30/2018]
- Nepal has had remarkable success at tackling the poaching of its greater one-horned rhinos. But since 2015, it has witnessed a sharp increase in deaths from unknown or natural causes. - A number of theories have been advanced to explain the deaths: habitat degradation in Chitwan National Park and its surroundings leading to increased conflict over resources; the area reaching its natural carrying capacity for rhinos; a “baby boomer” die-off; or a simple shift in cause of death from death by poaching to death by natural causes. - The government commissioned a study into the problem, but the report has not been published
Audio: Documenting emperor penguin populations, a dispatch from Antarctica [10/30/2018]
- On this episode we get an update direct from Antarctica’s McMurdo Station about ongoing work to document Emperor penguin populations, an important indicator species of the Southern Ocean’s health. - Our guest is Michelle Larue, a research ecologist at the University of Minnesota who is helping lead a project that’s using satellite imagery together with ground and flight surveys to compile population estimates for each of the 54 known Emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica. The project’s goal is to compile population estimates every year for an entire decade. - LaRue, who has been to Antarctica multiple times to help assemble a decadal-scale dataset on Emperor penguin colonies, tells us what it’s like to work out of McMurdo Station, how she’s going about studying Emperor penguin population trends, and why the study of these flightless aquatic birds can help us keep tabs on the health of the Southern Ocean.
China legalizes use of tiger bone and rhino horn for traditional medicine [10/30/2018]
- China has legalized the “controlled” use of rhino horn and tiger bone for medical use and cultural purposes, the government said in an announcement. - China banned the trade in tiger bone and rhino horn in 1993, and removed both products from the list of medical ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine’s pharmacopoeia and curriculum. The latest decision reverses that 25-year ban. - Conservationists worry that legalization of the trade could provide cover for illegal activities, threatening the already imperiled global populations of the endangered animals.
Tsetse fly numbers dwindle in the warming Zambezi Valley [10/29/2018]
- Tsetse flies carry the microorganism that causes sleeping sickness in humans and livestock, but a recent study reveals that their numbers have dropped at a site in the Zambezi Valley as temperatures have climbed. - Sleeping sickness, known also as trypanosomiasis, is a debilitating and potentially deadly disease to humans that also kills perhaps 1 million cattle each year. - The study’s authors say that the decline of the tsetse in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley might be accompanied by a rise in their numbers in cooler locales where they once weren’t as prevalent.
Latam Eco Review: Wandering hippos, condor central, and the macaw trade [10/26/2018]
Top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, last week followed high-flying condors to their lowland home; hippos wandering through Colombia’s jungles; and scarlet macaws in their last holdout in Central America. Ecuador’s León River is ‘condor central’ No matter how high or how far Ecuador’s condors soar, they always return home to a semi-desert, […]
Africa’s slender-snouted crocodile is not one but two species [10/26/2018]
- The critically endangered slender-snouted crocodile is not one but two species, a new study has found. - While the West African crocodile continues to retain its original name Mecistops cataphractus, the Central African species has been named Mecistops leptorhynchus. - The description of M. leptorhynchus makes it the first new living crocodile species to be named and detailed in more than 80 years. - As two species, the slender-snouted crocodiles are smaller in numbers and are at greater risk of extinction.
Whales and dolphins change the way they communicate in a noisy ocean [10/26/2018]
- Two independent teams of biologists looked at the impact of ambient sound from ships on whales and dolphins. - The research on whales revealed that noise from a passing ship led humpbacks in the vicinity to stop singing, sometimes for 30 minutes after the ship had passed. - In the study on dolphins, the scientists showed that dolphins abbreviated their whistles in response to the sound. - Both teams raised concerns about whether sound in the ocean increases the stress on marine mammals and how it might affect their ability to communicate with fellow members of the same species.
Bird-rich Indonesian island yields up new songbird species [10/26/2018]
- Researchers have described a new species of songbird found only on the Indonesian island of Rote — the second new avian discovery there in less than a year. - The Rote leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus rotiensis) was initially assumed to be the same species as the Timor leaf-warbler from a neighboring island, but closer studies of its physical characteristics and genetic analyses have distinguished it as its own species. - Rote is home to a large number of species found only there or on neighboring islands, but lacks any major terrestrial protected area.
Genome-wide study confirms there are six tiger subspecies [10/25/2018]
- According to a study published in the journal Current Biology today, uncertainty about how many tiger subspecies there are in the world has frustrated efforts at conserving what’s left of the global tiger population. - A research team led by Yue-Chen Liu of China’s Peking University analyzed the complete genomes of 32 tiger specimens, selected to be representative of all six potential subspecies, to confirm that tigers do indeed fall into six genetically distinct groups. - The researchers also used their genome-wide survey to look for evidence that different groups of tigers have adapted to the distinct environments in their geographic regions through the process of natural selection. They say that their genomic research shows very little gene flow has occurred between tiger populations, but also that, despite the big cat’s low genetic diversity, each subspecies has a unique evolutionary history.
Citizen Ape: The fight for personhood for humans’ closest relatives [10/24/2018]
- The great ape personhood movement aims to extend legal personhood to apes, a distinction that recognizes these non-human animals as beings with the capacity to hold both rights and duties - The movement has had several notable successes in advocating for changes to laws, and in individual court verdicts freeing apes from captivity in harsh conditions. - Proponents hope that granting apes legal rights will also help bridge the gap between humans and non-human animals, along with the greater natural world. - The great ape personhood movement draws on both modern philosophy and on indigenous traditions that recognize apes as creatures with complex societies and rich emotional lives.
Camera trap photos confirm discovery of lowland bongo in Uganda for first time [10/24/2018]
- Endemic to the tropical forests of Central and West Africa, the lowland bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus) is known for its red-brown coat with white-yellow stripes and long, lightly spiraled horns. Adult male bongos can stand as tall as 1.3 meters (or over 4 feet) at the shoulders and weigh as much as 800 pounds. - Scientists with the UK-based Chester Zoo say that the mostly nocturnal ungulate was captured by motion-sensor camera traps in the lowland rainforests of Semuliki National Park in southwest Uganda, where the East African country borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). - The western or lowland bongo, one of two recognized subspecies of bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), is listed as Near-Threatened on the IUCN Red List. The subspecies faces ongoing population declines due to habitat loss, hunting for meat, and trophy hunting, threats that continue to increase as human settlements and commercial forestry expand ever-farther into their range.
Stay or go? Understanding a partial seasonal elephant migration [10/24/2018]
- Elephants in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park wearing GPS tracking tags shared a general dry-season home range but followed three different wet-season migration strategies: residency, short-distance migration, and long-distance migration. - Despite similar dry-season conditions that kept all the tagged elephants near provisioned waterholes, the migrating elephants began their seasonal movements at the onset of the first rains. - Scientists urge collaboration among stakeholders and countries to maintain the long-distance, cross-border migrations some animals need to survive.
Bat Week: the super powers of bats (photos) [10/24/2018]
- This photo post comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog. - Under this partnership, we publish occasional original contributions from Wild View that highlights an animal species or group. - In this post, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Sarah H. Olson and Julie Larsen Maher write about bats on the occasion of Bat Week, which runs from October 24-31.
CITES rejects another Madagascar plan to sell illegal rosewood stockpiles [10/24/2018]
- At a meeting in Sochi, Russia, earlier this month, CITES’s standing committee rejected Madagascar’s latest plan to sell off its stockpiles of illegally harvested rosewood, largely because the plan called for local timber barons to be paid for their troves of wood. - Environmental groups argued that operators who logged illegally should not be rewarded for it, and delegations from several African countries reportedly opposed the plan because they feared their own timber barons would learn the wrong lesson from the deal. - Madagascar’s environment ministry released a statement after the meeting indicating that it would take the recommendations made by the CITES committee into account in revising the plan for submission again in 2019.
Absent for decades, zebras reintroduced to park in southern Tanzania [10/24/2018]
- Staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners in Tanzania released 24 zebras into Kitulo National Park on Oct. 12 and 13. - The Kitulo Plateau in Tanzania’s southern highlands includes high-elevation grasslands, a unique habitat that requires fire and grazing animals to maintain its plant diversity. - The reintroduction, with plains zebras from Mikumi National Park, is part of a broader effort to “rewild” the southern highlands after decades of wildlife hunting and livestock grazing.
Two black rhinos found dead in Chad after move from South Africa [10/24/2018]
- Two of the six black rhinos that were flown from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad in May this year have died. - The two rhinos, a male and a female, were not poached, African Parks said, but the exact cause of death is not yet known. - The translocation of the six rhinos marked the return of critically endangered black rhinos to Chad after nearly 50 years of the species’ absence. - The four surviving rhinos are still alive and are being closely monitored, African Parks said.
New research measures impacts of China’s elephant ivory trade ban [10/23/2018]
- Research released last month by WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife monitoring network, found that there has been a substantial decline in the number of Chinese consumers buying ivory since the ivory trade ban went into effect on December 31, 2017. But there is still work to be done to diminish both the supply and demand for elephant ivory in China. - Of 2,000 Chinese consumers surveyed, 14 percent claimed to have bought ivory in the past year — significantly fewer than the 31 percent of respondents who said they’d recently purchased ivory during a pre-ban survey conducted in 2017. Some ivory sales have simply gone international, however: 18 percent of regular travelers reported buying ivory products while abroad, particularly in Thailand and Hong Kong. - TRAFFIC reports that all of the formerly accredited (i.e. legal) ivory shops the group’s investigators visited in 2018 have stopped selling ivory. But the illegal ivory trade has not been so thoroughly shut down. TRAFFIC investigators also visited 157 markets in 23 cities and found 2,812 ivory products on offer in 345 separate stores.
Study warns of dire ecological, social fallout from Sumatran dam [10/23/2018]
- A new study warns that the environmental impact of a planned hydroelectric plant in Sumatra’s unique Leuser Ecosystem will be much greater than initially thought. - The area is the last place on Earth that’s home to wild tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants — all critically endangered species whose habitat would be flooded and fragmented by the dam and its roads and power lines, activists say. - They also warn of the dam exacerbating disaster risks to local communities, in a region already prone to flooding, landslides and earthquakes. - Activists are mulling a lawsuit to void the project permit, but the developer says it has done everything by the book and that the new study is based on an outdated environmental impact analysis.
Indonesia’s Aceh sees harshest penalty yet for a wildlife crime [10/22/2018]
- Two men who tried to sell a tiger pelt received four-year sentences in Indonesia’s Aceh province earlier this month. - Sentences for wildlife traffickers have typically been low. Activists are pushing to revise the law to increase the maximum five-year penalty for wildlife crimes, but courts have tended to impose even lower sentences. - Just a few hundred Sumatran tigers remain in the wild. The big cat is one of a number of rare species sought after by poachers in Indonesia.