Conservation news

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Conservation catch-22: do nature reserves attract human settlers?

(06/28/2010) Does the creation of protected areas draw people to settle on their fringes, negatively impacting ecosystems and biodiversity? According to an opinion piece in Tropical Conservation Science the answer to this question is to date unknown.


Tiger farming and traditional Chinese medicine

(06/27/2010) The number of wild tigers has plummeted from 25,000-30,000 animals 50 years ago to around 3,200 today. A large part of the drop is from habitat loss and fragmentation. Tiger habitat has been reduced by 40 percent over the last decade, and tigers now occupy less than 7 percent of their historical range. Poaching has also contributed significantly to these dramatic population declines, particularly to supply parts for use in traditional medicine. In an interview with Laurel Neme, Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), notes that, although the Chinese government has made significant efforts to reduce demand for tiger products by eliminating tiger bone from the official pharmacopeias, raising consumer awareness and identifying cheaper and more effective herbal alternatives to tiger bone for use in TCM, tiger farms threaten to reopen demand for tiger products by breeding tigers excessively, stockpiling tiger carcasses, and stoking demand by making and selling wine made from tiger bone.


Interview with a conservation giant from India

(06/27/2010) It is perhaps sacrilegious to squeeze all the achievements of the Wildlife Trust of India Chairman, Dr M K Ranjitsinh in one short profile note. A scion of the former royal family of Wankaner in Saurashtra, Gujarat, he is one of the most distinguished and accomplished wildlifers in India and indeed the world. Named after the famous cricketer, Dr Ranjitsinh has led a peripatetic and multifarious life that has seen him make full use of his multi talented personality.


Ending deforestation could boost Brazilian agriculture

(06/26/2010) Ending Amazon deforestation could boost the fortunes of the Brazilian agricultural sector by $145-306 billion, estimates a new analysis issued by Avoided Deforestation Partners, a group pushing for U.S. climate legislation that includes a strong role for forest conservation. The analysis, which follows on the heels of a report that forecast large gains for U.S. farmers from progress in gradually stopping overseas deforestation by 2030, estimates that existing Brazilian farmers could see around $100 billion from higher commodity prices and improved access to markets. Meanwhile landholders in the Brazilian Amazon—including ranchers and farmers—could see $50-202 billion from carbon payments for forest protection.


Most climate change doubters lack expertise

(06/25/2010) An analysis of the scientific prominence and expertise of climate researchers shows that the few who are unconvinced of human-caused climate change rank far below researchers who are convinced. Most news media accounts fail to include that context when reporting claims from the doubters.


Scientists warn that Malaysia is converting tropical forests to rubberwood plantations

(06/24/2010) The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has condemned Malaysia's booming practice of converting tropical forests into rubberwood plantations, arguing that the conversion threatens Malaysia's biodiversity, endangered species, and releases significant greenhouse gas emissions.


Rainforest scientists urge UN to correct "serious loophole" by changing its definition of 'forest'

(06/24/2010) The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has released a resolution urging the UN to change its definition for 'forest', before the controversial definition undermines conservation efforts, biodiversity preservation, carbon sequestration, and the nascent REDD (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and forest Degradation).


U.S. farms and forests report draws ire in Brazil; cutting down the Amazon does not mean lower food prices

(06/24/2010) Not surprisingly, a US report released last week which argued that saving forests abroad will help US agricultural producers by reducing international competition has raised hackles in tropical forest counties. The report, commissioned by Avoided Deforestation Partners, a US group pushing for including tropical forest conservation in US climate policy, and the National Farmers Union, a lobbying firm, has threatened to erode support for stopping deforestation in places like Brazil. However, two rebuttals have been issued, one from international environmental organizations and the other from Brazilian NGOs, that counter findings in the US report and urge unity in stopping deforestation, not for the economic betterment of US producers, but for everyone.


The illegal logging cycle in Madagascar

(06/23/2010) The latest issue of the journal Madagascar Conservation & Development provides a comprehensive look into Madagascar's illegal logging trade, which has generated more than $200 million for a small group of individuals over the past year. The trade, which spikes just prior to national elections and may be a source of funds for ruling politicians, has taken a heavy toll on the lowland rainforests of Madagascar, with targeted species now at risk of extinction.


Massive forest loss spurs Nepal to ban logging for two months

(06/23/2010) Nepal has announced a two month ban on logging throughout the mountainous country, reports the AFP. The ban was issued after officials received reports of alarming deforestation in lowland areas; according to one official over 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) of forest was lost in a few months, more forest than was lost from 2000-2005.


Whaling talks break down: ban stays in place, yet whaling will continue

(06/23/2010) The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which was supposed to decide a way forward for whales over the next decade has ended without an agreement. Talks broke down, according to participants, because countries opposed to whaling and those that continue hunting and killing whales despite a ban on commercial whaling—i.e. Japan, Norway, and Iceland—have been unable to find enough common ground to pound out an agreement.


2010 the second hottest year on record through May

(06/23/2010) The first five months of 2010 have been the second warmest on record, according to data released by the University of Alabama Huntsville.


To whale or not to whale?: nations, environmental groups do some soul-searching

(06/22/2010) There are two ways forward on whaling according to visions being put forward at the International Whaling Commission this week. One way is to uphold the 24-year-long ban on hunting and killing whales. While this road sends a strong pro-conservation message, it also means that Japan, Norway, and Iceland will continue whaling as they have over the past couple decades, killing an average of 2,000 whales annually. These three countries employ a variety of excuses for their whaling—Iceland and Norway simply state that they do not recognize the whaling ban while Japan claims its whaling is only done for 'scientific purposes'—but it is clear that they will not end whaling and, to date, there is no punishment for their dismissal of the international treaty.


Violence at indigenous logging blockade in Borneo

(06/21/2010) A road blockade organized by Penan tribesmen in Malaysian Borneo turned violent over the weekend when a timber company official allegedly struck a native protester, reports the Bruno Manser Fund. Malaysian state police, who arrived in logging company vehicles, subsequently told the Penan to dismantle their blockade, which was established to protest continued logging of rainforest lands.


New plan to save the chimpanzee from extinction

(06/21/2010) Humankind's closest relative, the chimpanzee, is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Threatened by habitat and forest loss, hunting for bushmeat, trafficking for the illegal pet trade, mining, and disease, the species remains in a precarious position. Yet a new 10-year-plan with East and Central African hopes to ensure the chimpanzee's (Pan troglodytes) survival. The plan, which focuses on one subspecies of four, the eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), pushes for the conservation of 16 core areas that would protect 96 percent of the eastern chimpanzee population.


Rainforest slaughter continues in Madagascar despite "ban" on timber exports

(06/21/2010) New eyewitness reports indicate continued logging of Madagascar's Masoala National Park for rosewood despite a government "moratorium" on logging and timber exports. A source near Marofinaritra, a town between Masoala and Antalaha, reports heavy night-time movement of trucks carrying illegally logged timber from the park. The wood is believed to be destined for Antalaha, a regional hub for the rosewood trade.


Amazongate fraud

(06/21/2010) The Sunday Times over the weekend retracted a column that accused the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of making a 'bogus rainforest claim' when it cited a report warning that up to 40 percent of the Amazon could be "drastically" affected by climate change. The 'Amazongate' column, authored by Jonathan Leake, Science & Environment Editor of the Sunday Times, was immediately seized upon by climate skeptics as further evidence to discredit the IPCC just two weeks after it was found to be using shoddy glacier data in its 2007 climate assessment. But now the Sunday Times has removed Leake's column from its web site and issued on apology, admitting that the Amazon claim was indeed supported by scientific research. The Sunday Times also acknowledged misconduct in the way one of the story's sources—Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds in Britain—was quoted.


Environmentalists and indigenous groups condemn plan for six dams in Peruvian Amazon

(06/21/2010) Environmentalists and indigenous groups have come together to condemn a 15 million US dollar plan for six hydroelectric dams in the Peruvian Amazon, signed last week by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Peruvian President, Alan Garcia. While the six dams would produce over 6,000 megawatts, mostly for Brazil, critics say the dams will flood tens of thousands of hectares of rainforest, devastate the lifestyles of a number of indigenous groups, and only serve big Brazilian corporations.


Methane and Climate Change: From the Amazon to the Gulf of Mexico

(06/20/2010) In surveying the environmental damage unleashed from the BP oil spill, could we be missing the 800-pound gorilla in the closet? While oil poses undeniable ecological risks, methane (CH4) could prove daunting as well. As it turns out, crude which is destroying the Gulf of Mexico contains about 40 percent methane which may suffocate marine life and create vast “dead zones” where oxygen becomes so depleted that nothing is allowed to live.


Saving tropical forests helps protects U.S. agriculture, argues campaign

(06/18/2010) Reducing deforestation abroad helps protect the U.S. agricultural sector by ensuring higher prices for commodities and reducing the cost of compliance with expected climate regulations, argues a new report issued by Avoided Deforestation Partners, a group pushing for the inclusion of tropical forests in domestic climate policy, and the National Farmers Union, a farming lobby group.


New protected areas established in Brazil's fragmented Atlantic Forest

(06/17/2010) Brazil has designated an additional 65,070 hectare (161,000 acres) of land to be protected in the Mata Atlantica, or Atlantic Forest. The land is split between four new protected areas and an expansion of a national park.


Local voices: frustration growing over Senate plan on Tongass logging

(06/17/2010) Recently local Alaskan communities were leaked a new draft of a plan to log 80,000 acres of the Tongass forest making its way through the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. According to locals who wrote to mongabay.com, the draft reinforced their belief that the selection of which forests to get the axe has nothing to do with community or environmental concerns.


UN warns food prices could rise by 40 percent

(06/17/2010) Some staple food prices could rise by as much as 40 percent in the next decade, according to a new report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


EU set to ban illegal timber by 2012

(06/17/2010) In two years the EU will begin a ban on importing illegal timber products, reports the BBC. The ban will require companies to have proof that their products do not come from illegally logged sources.


Amazon logging industry declines

(06/17/2010) The global economic crisis and increased environmental law enforcement have taken a toll on the Amazon logging industry in Brazil, reports a major new assessment conducted by Imazon and the Brazilian Forest Service.


Freak floods in US predicted by 2009 climate change report

(06/16/2010) A rash of flash floods has struck the US during this spring: Rhode Island, Tennessee, Arkansas, and most recently Oklahoma have all faced devastating floods that have resulted in the loss of property and in some cases tragic deaths. While flash floods have occurred throughout US history, the number of big floods this year appears abnormal at best, but not unexpected by researchers. Climatologists warned last year that an increase in floods and severe storms is very probable as the world warms.


Malaria increases 50 percent following deforestation in the Amazon

(06/16/2010) A new study shows that deforestation in the Amazon helps spread disease by creating an optimal environment for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The study, published in the online issue of the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, found that clearing forests in the Brazilian Amazon raised incidences of malaria by almost 50 percent.


An interview with Rhett Butler

(06/16/2010) Rhett Butler, founder of Mongabay.com, spoke with Laurel Neme on her “The WildLife” radio show and podcast about what prompted him to develop this top environmental website and also about some of the more interesting and bizarre stories he’s pursued in Madagascar, the Amazon and around the world. Rhett founded Mongabay.com in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging local and global trends in technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development. Mongabay.com is an independent information source, not affiliated with any other organization.


Wildlife-rich river threatened by sand-dredging in Borneo

(06/15/2010) The Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo is home to a fabulous wealth of species, including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and a sizeable population of the world's smallest elephant, the Borneo pygmy elephant. While local politicians have stated numerous times that the ecology of the river will be protected, locals are reporting a number of legally sanctioned sang dredging operations on the river. Dredging can affect river flows, negatively impact wildlife, and release toxins from the sediments.


Photos: Tongass logging proposal 'fatally flawed' according to Alaskan biologist

(06/15/2010) A state biologist has labeled a logging proposal to hand over 80,000 acres of the Tongass temperate rainforest to Sealaska, a company with a poor environmental record, 'fatally flawed'. In a letter obtained by mongabay.com, Jack Gustafson, who worked for over 17 years as a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, argues that the bill will be destructive both to the environment and local economy.


Swiss giant orders investigation into its largest palm oil supplier

(06/15/2010) Migros, Switzerland's largest supermarket chain, will lodge a formal complaint against Malaysia's IOI Group after the palm oil grower was linked to illegal forest-clearing and encroachment on customary lands, reports the Bruno Manser Fund.


Voluntary carbon markets plunge in 2009

(06/14/2010) Battered by a faltering world economy and lack of progress on U.S. climate legislation, voluntary carbon markets declined by nearly every measure in 2009, according to the fourth annual State of the Voluntary Carbon Market Report issued today by Ecosystem Marketplace and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.


Deforestation on the rise again in Brazil

(06/14/2010) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon may be on the rise again after reaching record-low levels last year, reports Brazil's National Space Research Institute, INPE.


Australian rainforest plant yields possible cancer killer

(06/14/2010) A drug derived from a plant native to the Australian rainforest may prove to be a new weapon against cancer, according to the AFP. QBiotics Ltd has released a statement announcing that a drug made from the seeds of a rainforest shrub has successfully treated tumors in over 150 animals, and the company is now preparing to test the drug on humans.


When nature saves your life

(06/14/2010) If someone saves your life, you want to express your gratitude however you can -- a gesture, a "thank you,", or somehow returning the favor. Yet when you owe your life to a plant found thousands of miles away, the task becomes much harder. As a nurse, I’ve known for years that many life-saving medicines come from plants and animals found around the world. But I never thought that one day I would have to rely on the bark of a rare Asian tree to survive.


Indonesia's plan to save its rainforests

(06/14/2010) Late last year Indonesia made global headlines with a bold pledge to reduce deforestation, which claimed nearly 28 million hectares (108,000 square miles) of forest between 1990 and 2005 and is the source of about 80 percent of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia would voluntarily cut emissions 26 percent — and up to 41 percent with sufficient international support — from a projected baseline by 2020. Last month, Indonesia began to finally detail its plan, which includes a two-year moratorium on new forestry concession on rainforest lands and peat swamps and will be supported over the next five years by a one billion dollar contribution by Norway, under the Scandinavian nation's International Climate and Forests Initiative. In an interview with mongabay.com, Agus Purnomo and Yani Saloh of Indonesia's National Climate Change Council to the President discussed the new forest program and Norway's billion dollar commitment.


Poachers kidnap and murder ranger in India

(06/14/2010) A forest guard (i.e. ranger) in Orang National Park paid the ultimate price for protecting wildlife last week. Hassan Ali was found with two bullets in his stomach after being kidnapped by four men allegedly connected to poaching operations targeting the park.


New UN panel to focus on saving life on Earth

(06/14/2010) In South Korea last week 230 delegates from 85 nations approved a new UN science panel focusing on saving life on Earth, known as the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The panel, which is to be modeled off of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is meant to bridge the gap between scientific understanding of biodiversity loss and the policy decisions necessary to stop it.


Inga alley cropping: a sustainable alternative to slash and burn agriculture

(06/14/2010) It has been estimated that as many as 300 million farmers in tropical countries may take part in slash and burn agriculture. A practice that is environmentally destructive and ultimately unstable. However, research funded by the EEC and carried out in Costa Rica in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Mike Hands offers hope that it is possible to farm more successfully and sustainably in these tropical regions.


Borneo's lush forests are an illusion: trees grow on deserts

(06/14/2010) The lush green rainforests of Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) grow on a desert. The illusion of organic richness and bounty is nowhere stronger than in these coastal jungles and mangroves, swamps and heath forests. The soaring trees and dizzying diversity of flora and fauna suggest that there are reserves of energy and life stored somewhere in the land, and all the living organisms draw on this infinite reserve. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Using art to promote conservation

(06/14/2010) Pollyanna Pickering is widely recognized as one of Europe's foremost wildlife artists, and is one of the most published fine artists working in Britain today. She is an honorary patron of The Wildlife Art Society International, and a signature member of the Artists for Conservation Foundation and the Society of Feline Artists. She is also a full juried member of the New York based Society of Animal Artists. A familiar face on TV, the most recent documentary about her work Made in England was broadcast on BBC1 last year.


Indonesian government's promise up in smoke: fires rise by 59 percent

(06/13/2010) The Indonesian government failed to live up to its promises to reduce fires across the tropical nation last year. Instead a 2009 State Environment Report showed a 59 percent rise of fire hotspots from 19,192 in 2008 to 32,416 last year, as reported by The Jakarta Post.


Fishermen express doubts about coal plant overlooking their fishing grounds

(06/13/2010) Local fishermen in the Malaysian state of Sabah are uncertain of their future, if the government pushes ahead to build a 300 megawatt coal power plant. They have been told they will be moved from their current seaside village to one deeper inland, and while the coal plant will provide manual labor work in its building stages, the fishermen express doubt about the impacts over the long-term effects of the coal plant on their livelihood. "Someone mentioned that maybe we have to move to Sungai Merah, which is quite far from our village. We are also worried because Sungai Merah is not next to the sea like [our village] is," local fishermen, Ali Hia, told Green SURF and Save Sandakan members—two local organizations opposed to the coal plant—who recently visited the seaside village of Kampung Sinakut, site of the proposed coal plant.


To save species, Malaysia implements daring plan to trap wild Bornean rhino

(06/13/2010) With less than 40 individuals left in the world, the Bornean rhino is a small step away from extinction. Yet conservationists and government officials in the Malaysian state of Sabah are not letting this subspecies of the Sumatran rhino go without a fight. Implementing a daring last-ditch plan to save the animal, officials are working to capture a wild female to mate with a fertile male named Tam, who was rescued after wandering injured into a palm oil plantation two years ago.


Spill may be 40,000 barrels per day

(06/11/2010) The amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the blown-out Deepwater Horizon well may be 40,000 barrels, well above the official government estimate of 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day, according to an official with the U.S. Geological Survey.


Senate blocks attempt to strip EPA of power to regulate CO2 emissions

(06/10/2010) The U.S. Senate killed an effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.


12,000 Critically Endangered antelopes found dead

(06/10/2010) The Ural population of the Critically Endangered saiga, a curious-looking Asian antelope, has been decimated by an unknown assailant. 12,000 saigas, mostly females and their calves, were found dead in western Kazakhstan reports the Saiga Conservation Alliance.


Madagascar resumes shipments of illegally logged timber despite moratorium

(06/10/2010) Albert Camille Vital, Madagascar's Prime Minister under the regime that seized power during a coup on the Indian Ocean island nation last year, approved this week's shipment of nearly $16 million worth of timber illegally logged from the country's rainforest parks, according to documents provided to mongabay.com.


The penguin crisis: over 60 percent of the world's penguins threatened with extinction

(06/10/2010) Everyone loves penguins. With their characteristic black-and-white 'tuxedo' markings, upright waddle, and childlike stature, penguins seem at once exotic and familiar: exotic because they live far from most human habitations, familiar because they appear in innumerable books and movies. From Mr. Popper's Penguins to Happy Feet, and from March of the Penguins to And Tango Makes Three, penguins pop-up everywhere. The flightless birds have even provided the name and symbol to one of the world's most successful publishing houses. Yet despite their popularity amid the human kingdom, few people seem aware that penguins worldwide are facing an extinction crisis.


Massive forest carbon scam alleged in Liberia

(06/10/2010) Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf established a commission investigate a proposed forest carbon credit deal between the West African nation's Forest Development Authority (FDA) and UK-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation, reports Global Witness, an NGO that originally raised concerns about the scheme, which aimed to secure around a fifth of Liberia's total forest area — 400,000 hectares — in a forest carbon concession.


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