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Palm oil activist murdered in Jakarta

(05/23/2015) An Indonesian activist who opposed unbridled oil palm expansion was stabbed to death by a group of men before dawn this morning outside a nightclub in South Jakarta. Whether the attack was related to his activism or the spontaneous result of a barroom brawl is not yet clear. But Indonesian media are reporting that one of the assailants shouted that he was a soldier as he brandished the knife that killed Jopi Peranginangin, the 39-year-old head of campaigns for Sawit Watch, which strives for social and ecological justice in the palm oil industry.


Mining and Energy Contracts under Investigation as Corruption Scandals Rock Guatemala

(05/22/2015) The Guatemalan cabinet ministers for the environment, the interior, and energy and mines stepped down May 21 amid corruption scandals and massive protests. Investigations into alleged irregularities in mining, energy, and other environmental project contracts and permits have been thrust back into the spotlight. Mining and energy projects in the country have faced intense community resistance, which has often become the target of crackdowns by state and corporate security forces.


How to solve the global fish crisis? Ban fishing on the high seas

(05/22/2015) With demand for seafood increasing and numerous fish species declining due to overfishing and other threats, scientists are proposing a seemingly drastic solution: close the high seas to fishing and turn it into a fish bank for the world.


New hope for the world's most endangered zebra

(05/22/2015) Writer and conservation biologist Nika Levikov embarked on the team’s latest field mission led by Davidson, to the arid savannah landscape of northern Kenya to help find Grevy’s zebras and attach GPS collars. This sub-population has never before been formally documented. With GPS, their movements can be tracked and scientists can learn more about this most endangered zebra species.


Red tape or repression? NGOs fight for a place in the new Bolivia they helped Evo Morales create

(05/22/2015) For much of Bolivian history, environmental and human rights NGOs joined indigenous communities and the poor in an uphill battle against the entrenched old guard. Under the country's first indigenous president, these organizations face unexpected challenges.


Consumer choice: Shade-grown coffee and cocoa good for the birds, farmers, ecosystems

(05/22/2015) The next time you order that "wake up" cup of Joe or reach for a sweet treat, you may want to consider whether those coffee or cocoa beans were grown in the shade or open sun. Choosing the shade grown variety can offer huge benefits to tropical birds, their ecosystems and farmers says a new study by Cagan Şekercioğlu published in the Journal of Ornithology.


Photos from the front: the California oil spill in pictures

(05/21/2015) On Tuesday, an underground oil pipeline burst near Goleta, California, spilling crude oil into the Pacific, soiling beaches, killing marine animals, and coating birds in oil. Photographers captured scenes of the unfolding spill and clean-up response, even as the extent of the damage remains under investigation.


Timber 'mass graves' uncovered as Malaysian authorities pursue illegal loggers

(05/21/2015) A crackdown on illegal logging in Peninsular Malaysia's largest continuous forest complex has uncovered three timber 'mass graves' – burial sites where valuable logs have been stashed beneath tons of earth to hide evidence. The loggers apparently made haste in fleeing the hilly terrain where they left the timber. A joint operation by Malaysia's antigraft agency and Forestry Department found parts of logs sticking out of the ground and the red earth still unsettled, indications their quarry had hurriedly concealed the felled trees.


Indonesia sinks 41 foreign vessels in a single day to counter illegal fishing

(05/21/2015) The Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry redefined fireworks yesterday. In coordination with the national navy, it blew up 41 illegal foreign fishing vessels to commemorate National Resurgence Day, the birthday of the country's first native political party. The mass sinking brings to 60 the number of boats new administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has scuttled on charges of illegal, underreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.


Primary rainforest cleared for massive palm oil plantations in Peru

(05/20/2015) More than 9,400 hectares of closed-canopy Amazonian rainforest has been removed for two oil palm plantations in the Peruvian region of Ucayali since 2011, according to scientists working for MAAP, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project. The two plantations are linked to Czech entrepreneur Dennis Melka.


VICE’s 'Indonesia's Palm Bomb' presents a tragic view of palm oil driven deforestation from the frontlines

(05/20/2015) For the sixth episode of its third season, HBO’s Emmy-winning news series, VICE, focused its lens on Indonesia’s palm oil industry. The episode, entitled, 'Indonesia's Palm Bomb', follows VICE correspondent, Ben Anderson, as he investigates the environmental and social impact of widespread (and, at times, illegal) deforestation on wildlife and indigenous communities in Sumatra.


Sumatran tiger found dead in a pig trap

(05/20/2015) Authorities in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra buried the rotting carcass of a critically endangered female tiger that died after being ensnared by a pig trap on a rubber plantation earlier this month. The creature, a mother who was probably teaching her young to hunt, was found covered in wounds, its neck entangled in wire.


Golden Agri takes another hit as sustainability guru suspends its membership

(05/20/2015) The charity that Indonesia's Golden Agri-Resources has enlisted to devise and implement its zero-deforestation and community-engagement commitments suspended its cooperation with the palm oil giant yesterday, following breaches of the policies they had designed together. A few hours later, Golden Agri announced the resignation of its chief sustainability officer.


Tennis star responds to rainforest advocates

(05/20/2015) Roger Federer has responded to two Indonesian activists who asked the tennis star to use his influence to encourage Credit Suisse to end its relationship with a controversial logging company, reports the Bruno Manser Fund.


High pressure: is U.S. policy deterring illegal wood imports?

(05/19/2015) Some countries, such as the U.S., have imposed legislation at the consumer level, banning the import of illegally sourced wood through their borders. A new study finds that such legislation can be effective, with a 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act significantly reducing the influx of illegal wood into the U.S.


62M ha of Latin American forests cleared for agriculture since 2001

(05/19/2015) Over 62 million hectares (240,000 square miles) of forest across Latin America — an area roughly the size of Texas or the United Kingdom — were cleared for new croplands and pastureland between 2001 and 2013, find a study published in Environmental Research Letters.


West Africa’s weakest links: Supply chain defects are behind worst food waste

(05/19/2015) For produce raised on some of Senegal’s most fertile cropland, the shortest route to the richest urban markets runs through another country. This geographic reality, with its multiple logistical hurdles, illustrates the food security challenges facing Senegal and the wider West African region. The trouble with feeding people here is not so much the availability of food but its accessibility. The difficulties arise not just in agricultural production but also in inefficient food delivery systems – in harvesting, storage, processing and transport.


Nickel Mine, Lead Bullets: Maya Q'eqchi' seek justice in Guatemala and Canada

(05/19/2015) This week, indigenous victims of violence related to Guatemala's Fenix mine travel to Canada to speak outside the shareholder meeting of the mine's former owner, HudBay. Legal proceedings related to the violence are moving forward in Guatemala and Canada.


Flag states can be held liable for violations of fishing vessels abroad, international tribunal rules

(05/19/2015) The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled in April that countries have responsibility for the actions of the fishing vessels they license, even when those boats operate abroad. The ruling, made in response to a request by West African nations, may be used to curb illegal, underreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing.


Luxury hotel chain linked to destruction of rainforests

(05/19/2015) The Mandarin Oriental hotel chain has landed in environmentalists' crosshairs for the practices of its sister company Astra Agro Lestari, a rapidly expanding palm oil producer with fully developed plantations on an area larger than Singapore. The new She's Not a Fan campaign – a play off Mandarin's celebrity-fan endorsement drive – launched yesterday with a petition calling on Astra to stop destroying forests and elephant habitat. Multinational conglomerate Jardine Matheson owns both firms.


Peru eyes the Amazon for one of world’s most powerful dams

(05/18/2015) Peru is proposing a huge hydroelectric dam in the Amazon that, if built, will be one of the most powerful on Earth, do significant harm to the environment, and flood the homes of thousands of people. The proposed mega-dam would be constructed at the Pongo de Manseriche, a spectacular gorge on the free flowing Marañón River, the main source of the Amazon River.


China’s investment in Latin America taking toll on the environment, setting the stage for conflict

(05/18/2015) China has been investing heavily in Latin America’s natural resources and crude oil. Recently, the country even pledged to invest $250 billion over the next decade to strengthen its presence in the region, and compete with the U.S. But this increasing Chinese trade and investment in Latin America is also increasing environmental and social conflict, finds a new report published by Boston University.


Malaysian palm oil body encourages fiction over fact

(05/17/2015) In this commentary, David Dellatore, Program Manager at the Sumatran Orangutan Society, questions the value of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council's essay-writing contest which will pay contributors to conclude that palm oil is not a driver of deforestation


What's the current deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest?

(05/15/2015) Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, making it the biggest component in the region's deforestation rate. Helpfully, Brazil also has the best systems for tracking deforestation, with the government and Imazon, a national civil society organization, releasing updates on a quarterly and monthly basis using MODIS satellite data, respectively. Both the Brazilian government and Imazon release more accurate data on an annual basis using higher resolution Landsat satellite imagery.


Weapons trafficking experts target criminal wildlife trade networks

(05/15/2015) An outfit usually associated with investigating arms dealers and weapons traffickers is applying its advanced network mapping capabilities to go after wildlife trafficking syndicates. This week Washington D.C.-based C4ADS unveiled the Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell, a unit which consists of a team of analysts, network mapping technology provided by software company Palantir, and a network of NGOs and enforcement agencies. The unit analyses wildlife trade data to provide actionable intelligence to pursue and apprehend traffickers.


U.S. gov't gives conditional approval for offshore Arctic drilling

(05/15/2015) Earlier this week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc.'s multi-year Exploration Plan for the Chukchi Sea off the northern Alaska coast. Environmental groups have raised concerns over the approval, saying drilling in the area threatens wildlife, puts workers at risk, and will further contribute to global warming.


New genetic analysis aims to guide restoration of overharvested Myanmar teak forests

(05/15/2015) Teak is one of the most valued tropical hardwoods for its beauty, durability, and versatility. Teak trees naturally occur in the Indo-Pacific region, where a long history of exploitation, along with deforestation, has led to declines in the species. A recent study published in mongabay.com's open-access journal, Tropical Conservation Science, analyzes the genetic makeup of teak in Myanmar, its largest stronghold, and uses the results to offer advice about how Myanmar teak should be conserved.


Price trends a reliable, cheap indicator of wildlife declines, finds study

(05/15/2015) Market prices can provide an equally reliable indicator of wildlife declines as field data for a thirtieth of the price, according to a new study analyzing Sumatra's pet bird trade. The researchers found that species that were increasing in price but decreasing in trade volume were likely to have been identified by the ornithologists they surveyed beforehand as undergoing population declines.


Satellite images show deforestation on fringes of UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cameroon

(05/14/2015) In the push to become a middle-income country in the next two decades, Cameroon has courted investments in its vast natural resource wealth in the form of mining, logging and large-scale agriculture. But deforestation revealed by a recent Greenpeace Africa investigation highlights a lack of coordination in determining how to use the country’s land.


South African Airways bans all wildlife trophies from flights

(05/14/2015) Trophy hunters may need to find another flight home, as South African Airlines (SAA) has announced a new ban on any wildlife trophies from their flights. The debate over trophy hunting in Africa is rising as many of the continent's most beloved mammals—including lions, elephants, rhinos, and giraffes—face precipitous declines.


Geckos, moths and spider-scorpions: Six new species on Mount Tambora, say Indonesian researchers

(05/14/2015) Indonesian researchers believe they have identified six new animal species in the newly declared Mount Tambora National Park on the island of Sumbawa. Their haul includes two bent-toed geckoes, two moths and and two amblypygids, a type of arachnid that resembles a scorpion crossed with a spider.


Indonesia's partial forest-clearing moratorium extended, but activists wanted more

(05/14/2015) Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo extended the country's partial forest clearing moratorium yesterday on the day of its expiration, leaving largely intact a policy civil society groups had demanded be strengthened. The environment and forestry minister said the government greatly appreciated the calls from organizations like Greenpeace, Walhi, Kemitraan, Sawit Watch, World Resources Institute and others, and would address the proposed changes.


New mapping project uncovers road networks in Peru’s primary forests

(05/13/2015) A research team unearthed a suspicious network of roads in northern Peru in early 2013. For two years, they watched the network grow to over 150 kilometers in length, split into two networks. The southern part of the network is located entirely in the protected buffer region of the Cordillera de Azul National Park, and is characteristic of roads meant for logging.


Zero deforestation commitments bearing fruit in the Amazon

(05/13/2015) A high profile pledge by the world's largest meat company to limit deforestation for cattle production in the Amazon appears to be working, resulting in a dramatic increase in compliance with environmental registries and reduced forest clearing among supplier ranches, finds a comprehensive study published in the journal Conservation Letters.


Non-bank financiers ready to help Indonesian fishermen

(05/13/2015) The Indonesian Financial Services Authority has organized dozens of non-bank financial institutions to support the country's maritime and fisheries sector, a key priority for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Smaller operators in the sector have struggled to adapt to a new ban on trawlers and seine nets, and one of the government's goals is to make credit for environmentally friendly fishing gear more widely available, as industry groups have requested.


Food coating made with African ingredient aims to decrease food waste

(05/13/2015) In sub-Saharan Africa, up to half of all fruits and vegetables are wasted before they make it to a plate. Lack of refrigeration or stable electricity, as well as long and unpredictable supply chains, make it difficult to keep food fresh. But a new food coating that relies on gum arabic, a regionally produced tree sap, might help solve the problem.


Rhino poaching rate rises 18 percent in South Africa

(05/13/2015) In the first four months of 2015, poachers killed 393 rhinos in South Africa, the epicenter of the rhino poaching crisis. This is an 18 percent rise from last year, which saw 1,215 rhinos butchered in total. Like previous years, the biggest hotspot was Kruger National Park where 290 rhinos have died so far.


Satellite data shows how deforestation is impacting our weather and our food

(05/12/2015) The conversion of forests to cropland can drive local temperatures up or down by as much as a few degrees, according to a new report. Ironically, the authors write that these temperature fluctuations can lead to less productivity from the very same agricultural operations the forests were cleared to make way for.


The triumph of the bison: Europe's biggest animal bounces back a century after vanishing

(05/12/2015) On a path flanked by thick woods, I first spied our quarry. When she appeared, far away between the long verticals of bare trees, I could hardly believe she was there. She was a ghost, a specter haunting this winter forest. Her horns were prettily curved, her face slender, her whole 400 kilogram (880 pound) mass framed by the trees.


Scientists reconstruct what was in the Harapan Rainforest of Sumatra

(05/12/2015) A new study published in mongabay.com’s open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science describes how the Harapan Rainforest was prior to extensive logging and compares it to its current condition. The authors call for the Harapan's conservation because it is still very rich in species and holds rare habitats and many endemic plants.


New study finds the brilliant-thighed poison frog can learn its way home

(05/12/2015) Poison dart frogs (Dendropatidae), named for their poisonous secretions used by indigenous tribes to coat blow gun darts, may possess another less deadly talent. According to a recent study, published in the journal Biology Letters, the curiously named brilliant-thighed poison frog (Allobatis femoralis) can use its memory to find its way home through the rainforest.


Wilmar, Musim Mas supplier caught clearing elephant habitat for palm oil in Aceh

(05/12/2015) A new report provides evidence that a supplier of palm oil giants Wilmar and Musim Mas is bulldozing valuable forests in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem in violation of the companies’ zero-deforestation policies as well as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile, joint sustainability pact that also includes Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).


Videos reveal rare birds, wild monkeys, and jaguar family in oil-exploited park

(05/11/2015) A compilation of new camera trap videos from Yasuni National Park shows off rarely seen species like the rufuos-vented ground cuckoo and the short-eared dog as well as odd behavior, like sloths licking salt from the ground. The compilation is produced by Diego Mosquera, manager and head of the camera trap program at Tiputini Biodiversity Station.


Brazilian firm's mega-dam plans in Peru spark major social conflict

(05/11/2015) 'I don't want to sell my land because I've lived here since I was 17,' declared 82 year old María Araujo Silva. 'This was where my children were born. I want to die here. That's why I'm not in agreement. I'm not in agreement with the dam.' Araujo Silva is outraged at plans by Peru's government and Brazilian company Odebrecht to build a hydroelectric dam just downriver from her village, Huarac, on the Marañón River.


Indonesian forestry giant calls for stronger forest moratorium

(05/11/2015) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), an Indonesian forestry giant once targeted by environmentalists for its logging practices, has joined a growing chorus of voices calling for a stronger moratorium on deforestation and policies that enable companies to support conservation efforts. In a letter released Monday, Aida Greenbury, APP's Managing Director of Sustainability, asked Indonesian President Joko Widodo to extend the country's moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions.


Twitter campaign prompts Indonesians to free captive cockatoos in droves

(05/11/2015) Days after police at a port in Indonesia’s second-largest city arrested a passenger with 24 rare birds stuffed in plastic water bottles, a public outcry has prompted the government to set up shelters to accommodate people who wish to return more of the creatures, which have up to now been highly sought after by collectors and breeders.


Peru considers fate of Amazon wildlife paradise

(05/08/2015) The fate of La Sierra del Divisor, a 1.5 million hectare reserve lauded for its megadiversity of wildlife, will soon to be decided. According to El Comercio, next week the Peruvian government is expected to rule whether Divisor will be declared a national park. The designation, which was requested by local groups nearly a decade ago, would strengthen legal protection of the area, which faces logging, mining, coca cultivation, and agricultural encroachment. It would also establish rules for the buffer zone around the potential protected area.


World's critical habitats lost Connecticut-size area of forest in a decade

(05/08/2015) Many of the world's endangered animals live in only one place, making them hugely susceptible to environmental upset. One fell swoop, and entire species could disappear from existence forever. New analysis shows that possibility may be edging closer and closer to reality in some areas, with forests known to harbor high-risk species losing an area of tree cover the size of Connecticut in a little over a decade.


To improve food security, look to the forests, new report says

(05/08/2015) With as many as 1.5 billion people worldwide dependent on forests for all or most of their diet and livelihood, tending forests wisely could help alleviate global hunger, according to a report released Wednesday.


Energy Sprawl: Comparing biodiversity impacts of oil, gas and wind production

(05/08/2015) Energy has become a contentious and politicized topic, spurring activism, whether it be the fossil fuel divestment campaign, Keystone pipeline protests, or concern over wind turbine harm to birds. But whatever energy future we choose, two things are clear: an expanding human population will need more energy, and no matter what energy source we pick, it will have landscape-scale impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services.


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