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Illegal mining, plantation development rampant in Indonesian Borneo; state losses top $17B
(02/01/2011) Hundreds of mining and oil palm plantation companies are operating illegally in Indonesian Borneo, according to a investigation by an task force set up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Cell phone cameras help monitor atmospheric black carbon
(02/01/2011) Tracking those giant footprints in the Himalayas just became a whole lot easier. Cell phone cameras bring the microscopic air pollutants forming that carbon footprint into plain view. In a study from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC San Diego, V. Ramanathan and his colleagues use photographs of a quartz filter captured with a simple cell phone camera to monitor local atmospheric levels of black carbon.
Malaysian palm oil producers destroying Borneo peat forests faster than ever before
(02/01/2011) Peatlands and rainforests in Malaysia's Sarawak state on the island of Borneo are being rapidly destroyed for oil palm plantations, according to new studies by environmental group Wetlands International and remote sensing institute Sarvision. The analysis shows that more than one third (353,000 hectares or 872,000 acres) of Sarawak's peatswamp forests and ten percent of the state's rainforests were cleared between 2005 and 2010. About 65 percent of the area was converted for oil palm, which is replacing logging as timber stocks have been exhausted by unsustainable harvesting practices.
Record high fish consumption keeps populations imperiled
(02/01/2011) More people than ever are eating more fish than ever, according to a new report by the United Nations covering the year 2008. At the same time, fish populations in the world's oceans continue to decline threatening marine ecosystems, food security, and the fishing industry itself.
After another ranger killed, Virunga National Park requests UN peacekeepers
(02/01/2011) Less than a week after 3 wildlife rangers and 5 soldiers were killed in Virunga National Park by the rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), another ranger has been killed and a driver put in the hospital in critical condition. The situation has pushed park authorities to request UN peacekeepers for the park.
World Bank offers to save Serengeti from bisecting road
(01/31/2011) The World Bank has offered to help fund an alternative route for a planned road project that would otherwise cut through Tanzania's world famous Serengeti National Park, according to the German-based NGO Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). When announced last year, the road project raised protests from environmentalists, scientists, and Tanzanian tour companies, but the Tanzanian government refused to shift plans to an alternative southern route for the road, thereby bypassing the park.
Incredible new photos of uncontacted tribe in the Amazon
(01/31/2011) Taken by Brazil's Indian Affairs Department and released by indigenous-rights group, Survival International, new aerial photos show an uncontacted tribe on the border of Brazil and Peru in detail. According to a press release by Survival International, the photos "reveal a thriving, healthy community with baskets full of manioc and papaya fresh from their gardens", but a community that is also threatened by illegal loggers from Peru.
'Land grab' fears in Africa legitimate
(01/31/2011) A new report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has found that recent large-scale land deals in Africa are likely to provide scant benefit to some of the world's poorest and most famine-prone nations and will probably create new social and environmental problems. Analyzing 12 recent land leasing contracts investigators found a number of concerns, including contracts that are only a few pages long, exclusion of local people, and in one case actually giving land away for free. Many of the contracts last for 100 years, threatening to separate local communities from the land they live on indefinitely. "Most contracts for large-scale land deals in Africa are negotiated in secret," explains report author Lorenzo Cotula in a press release. "Only rarely do local landholders have a say in those negotiations and few contracts are publicly available after they have been signed."
Camera trap photos: big mammals survive in fragmented forest in Borneo
(01/30/2011) Camera trap photos taken in the fragmented forest along the Kinabatangan River in Borneo have revealed a number of key mammal species surviving despite forest loss mostly due to expanding palm oil plantations. The photos are apart of a recent program to monitor carnivores along the Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian state of Sabah by the Danau Girang Field Center (DGFC), the NGO HUTAN, Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), and the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Scientists to document impact of converting rainforest into oil palm plantations
(01/30/2011) Scientists have partnered with one of the world's largest palm oil producers to measure the impact of converting tropical forest into an oil palm plantation, reports Nature News.
The other side of Cancun: progress
(01/30/2011) Two big events happened in Cancun. The first was the Conference of the Parties (COP) which dealt with negotiations on the future of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is the official COP's annual event. The results were limited considering the urgency and the severity of global climate change. Not many surprises, unfortunately. The other event could be called 'Global Conference on Climate Changes and Sustainable Development.' There were several discussions, symposiums, workshops and meetings which were held in hotels all over Cancun. Formally these events are known as 'side-events' at COP.
Forest week in review: African wildlife collapse, greenwashing, and a big dam
(01/29/2011) A review of stories this week on mongabay.com
Obama's State of the Union salmon joke highlights complexity of coastal ecosystem services
(01/29/2011) U.S. President Barack Obama told his now-famous salmon joke on Tuesday to illustrate the silliness of unnecessarily complex regulation, but the joke says more about the complexity of coastal ecosystems – and the challenge of keeping them intact in the face of growing development – than it does about regulatory dysfunction. It's a challenge that must – and can – be met by getting the private sector involved in protecting the nature along our coasts.
Africa's vanishing wild: mammal populations cut in half
(01/27/2011) The big mammals for which Africa is so famous are vanishing in staggering numbers. According to a study published last year: Africa's large mammal populations have dropped by 59% in just 40 years. But what is even more alarming was that the study only looked at mammal populations residing in parks and wildlife areas, i.e. lands that are, at least on paper, under governmental protection. Surveying 78 protected areas for 69 species, the study included global favorites such as the African elephant, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, and even Africa's feline king, the lion. "We weren’t surprised that populations had dropped but we were surprised by how large the drops had been," lead author Ian Craigie told mongabay.com in an interview.
Despite fierce opposition, work begins on Belo Monte dam
(01/27/2011) Arguably the most opposed dam project in the world received the go-ahead this week, reports the BBC. Brazil's environmental agency, IBAMA, has approved the first step of the massive hydroelectric project: clearing 588 acres of rainforest in the Amazon, although the dam would flood nearly 200 square miles (500 square kilometers) of forest.
Rainforests are a source of philanthropy in Indonesia
(01/27/2011) There is nothing special about the assistance APP has provided to the people of Yogyakarta province in the vicinity of Mount Merapi. For APP, Indonesian forests have acted as philanthropists for many years, subsidizing its raw materials by providing it with free timber from the country’s natural forests. Greenomics Indonesia data (2010) shows that the value of subsidized timber provided by the Indonesian state to APP amounted to at least USD1.5 billion between 2003 and 2009.
Habitat for Humanity partners with controversial logging company in Indonesia
(01/27/2011) Habitat for Humanity's Indonesian affiliate has partnered with Asia Pulp & Paper, a controversial logging company that has been accused by human rights organizations and environmental groups of exacerbating social conflict and destroying rainforests, to build a "eco-tourism village" near a famous cultural heritage site on the island of Java.
Nike and Kimberly-Clark lead the corporate pack on forest sustainability
(01/27/2011) Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD), which asks international companies to reveal their impact on forests around the world, has released their second review. From biofuels to travel to media, FFD named corporate leaders in 19 categories, including Kimberly Clark for Personal-Household products and Nike for Clothing, Accessories and Footwear.
Is Obama's clean energy revolution possible?
(01/26/2011) Last night US President Barack Obama called for a massive green energy make-over of the world's largest economy. Describing the challenge as 'this generation's Sputnik moment' the US president set a goal of producing 80 percent of America's energy by clean sources by 2035. While this may sound improbable, two recent analyses back the president up, arguing that a global clean energy revolution is entirely possible within a few decades using contemporary technology and without breaking the bank. "Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources," Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford said in a press release. "It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will."
Egyptian jackal is actually ancient wolf
(01/26/2011) The Egyptian jackal, which may have been the inspiration for the Egyptian god Anubis, is actually not a jackal at all but a member of the wolf family. New genetic research in the open-access journal PLoS ONE finds that the Egyptian jackal is Africa's only member of the gray wolf family. The new wolf, dubbed by researchers as the African wolf, is most closely related to the Himalayan wolf.
Tiny bats trade in caves for pitcher plants in Borneo
(01/26/2011) A tiny species of bat in Borneo has chosen an unusual roost: a carnivorous pitcher plant, according to a recent study. The study examines how this behavior actually benefits both the bats and the plants, creating a symbiotic relationship.
Greening the world with palm oil?
(01/26/2011) The commercial shows a typical office setting. A worker sits drearily at a desk, shredding papers and watching minutes tick by on the clock. When his break comes, he takes out a Nestle KitKat bar. As he tears into the package, the viewer, but not the office worker, notices something is amiss—what should be chocolate has been replaced by the dark hairy finger of an orangutan. With the jarring crunch of teeth breaking through bone, the worker bites into the 'bar'. Drops of blood fall on the keyboard and run down his face. His officemates stare, horrified. The advertisement cuts to a solitary tree standing amid a deforested landscape. A chainsaw whines. The message: Palm oil—an ingredient in many Nestle products—is killing orangutans by destroying their habitat, the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.
Prairie grass-based biofuels could meet half current fuel demand without affecting forests, food
(01/26/2011) Biofuels could meet up to half the world's current fuel consumption without affecting food production or forests, argues a study published last month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Rainforest information in Romanian
(01/26/2011) Mongabay.com, a leading forest conservation and environmental science news web site, today announced the availability of its rainforest site for children in Romanian. The site is available at world.mongabay.com/romanian.
King of dinosaurs was a hunter, not a scavenger
(01/26/2011) Ecologists say they have used a computer model to put to rest a nearly century-old debate. Did Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the world's most well-known dinosaurs, hunt down its prey like a lion on the plains, or, instead, did it scavenge meals from other hunters like a vulture? According to scientists with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) the Tyrannosaurus had only one choice in order to survive: hunt.
Picture: scientists identify first known single-fingered dinosaur
(01/25/2011) Paleontologists working in China have discovered a first for dinosaurs: a species with only one finger. Named Linhenykus monodactylus, the extinct species stood only about two feet high and weighed about as much as a large parrot. Although small, the new dinosaur was a member of the carnivorous therapod dinosaurs, which include the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex. The find was announced in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Eight rangers, soldiers killed in Virunga National Park
(01/25/2011) Yesterday morning, 3 wildlife rangers and 5 soldiers working in Virunga National Park were killed by the rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). These 8 were killed and 3 more wounded when their vehicle was fired on by FDLR rebels with rocket launchers. Park director Emmanuel de Merode told the AFP that it was the most serious incident to occur in Virunga National Park in the past 12 months.
Indonesia grants slew of last-minute logging concessions on eve of moratorium
(01/25/2011) Indonesia's Minister of Forestry granted nearly 3 million hectares of plantation forestry concessions the day before the country's president was due to sign a decree establishing a two-year moratorium on new logging licenses, reports a new analysis by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.
Carbon criminals make off with $38 million in carbon credits heist
(01/25/2011) Cyberthieves who hacked the Czech carbon registry on Tuesday had intimate knowledge of different registries. They acted just days before a key security upgrade would have made the heist impossible, then sold the credits immediately – keeping the cash and letting the credits bounce around the system. Participants are now bracing for a fight over who will bear the loss.
Chinese citizen caught smuggling ivory from the Republic of Congo
(01/24/2011) A Chinese national was caught attempting to smuggle 22 pounds (10 kilos) of ivory out of the Republic of Congo on Saturday, according to the AFP. Officials confiscated five elephant tusks, 80 ivory chopsticks, 3 ivory carvings, and a number of smaller ivory-made items.
To succeed, REDD should consider factors outside forest sector
(01/24/2011) Policymakers should not ignore activities outside the forestry sector in efforts to reduce global deforestation, argues a new report published by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).
95% of Liberia's elephants killed by poachers
(01/24/2011) Since the 1980s, Liberia has lost 19,000 elephants to illegal poaching, according to Patrick Omondi of the Kenya Wildlife Service speaking in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. The poaching of Liberia's elephants has cut the population by 95% leaving only 1,000 elephants remaining.
Greenland melt is the worst yet
(01/24/2011) Melting of the Greenland ice sheet was the most extreme yet in 2010, beating the previous melt record from 2007. This continues a long-term trend whereby melting in Greenland has increased on average 17,000 square kilometers every year since 1979.
Asia's last lions lose conservation funds to tigers
(01/24/2011) The last lions of Asia and the final survivors of the Asiatic lion subspecies (Panthera leo persica) are losing their federal conservation funding to tiger programs, reports the Indian media agency Daily News & Analysis (DNA). While the Asiatic lion once roamed Central Asia, the Middle East, and even Eastern Europe, today the subspecies survives only in India's Gir Forest National Park in the north-western state of Gujarat.
Updating the top 100 weirdest and most imperiled mammals
(01/24/2011) A lot can change in three years. In January 2007, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) jumpstarted a program unique in the conservation world: EDGE, which stands for Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered, selects the species it works with not based on popularity or fund-raising potential but on how endangered and evolutionary unique (in laymen's terms: weird) they are. When EDGE first arrived in 2007, it made news with its announcement of the world's top 100 most unique and endangered mammals. While this list included a number of well-known species—such as the blue whale and the Asian elephant—it also introduced the public to many little-recognized mammals that share our planet, such as the adorable long-eared jerboa, the ancient poisonous solenodon, and the ET-like aye-aye. However, after three years the EDGE program found that their top 100 mammals list already need updating.
Cocaine production killing Colombia's rainforests
(01/24/2011) Researchers have found that coca cultivation is associated with high rates of forest loss, at least in the southern forests of Colombia. According to a new paper just published in Environmental Science and Technology, areas near new coca plots are significantly more likely to suffer from forest loss. Politicians, environmental groups, and others have long attributed deforestation to coca production. But these researchers are the first to quantity the effect of coca cultivation while controlling for other factors.
Marathon swimmer: an interview with the first man to swim the length of the Amazon
(01/23/2011) Explorers have been making their way down the world's mightiest river for hundreds of years. Untold numbers of people have not completed the journey, drowning in its murky waters, being eaten by animals, losing their way, succumbing to tropical disease, being killed by pirates or hostile local populations. But today a trip down the Amazon is less special—it has even been rafted and kayaked by a few intrepid souls. Traversing the majority of the Amazon can be done easily by commercial boat, provided you have the time and a lot of patience. But then in 2007 a Slovenian did something amazing: he swam the entire length of the river. The adventure took 66 days and exacted a heavy physical and mental toll, but Martin Strel survived and in so doing conveyed a simple, but powerful message to the world: we are part of the our environment.
Deforestation continues in Somalia despite charcoal ban
(01/23/2011) IRIN News, a news service operated by the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, has reported that charcoal production in Somalia is continuing to rise despite a government ban. Charcoal production has long been one of the principal drivers of deforestation in Somalia. The charcoal, which is usually smuggled out of the country illegally for sale in the Gulf States, also provides a source of income for Islamic militias like al Shabaab, which control large parts of Somalia in open defiance of the Western-backed government.
Can entrepreneurial insights save the Masai Mara?
(01/23/2011) At the epicenter of East Africa’s Great Migration, the Masai Mara of Southern Kenya hosts one of the world's great wildlife spectacles, as herds of over two million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle congregate in search of fresh grazing brought by the annual rains. Yet, even here in one of the world's great wild places, modern man casts a long shadow, and the Mara Ecosystem is degenerating under the pressures of uncontrolled tourism, divisive local politics, and the burgeoning population growth of the local Maasai people. Working to reverse what seems to many conservationists a hopeless trend for the area, a champion of the Masai Mara has emerged in AJ Patel, founder of the Hasla Mara Wildlife Conservation Foundation. Building a career as a successful entrepreneur and civic leader in San Francisco Bay Area's Silicon Valley, AJ now focuses his considerable business experience and skills for the cause of global wildlife conservation
'New' cat in Sumatra: clouded leopard is distinct subspecies
(01/23/2011) Just six years ago the beautiful medium-sized Asian cat, the clouded leopard, was considered a single species. Then in 2006 researchers announced that there were, in fact, two unique species of clouded leopard: one species (Neofelis nebulosa) that inhabited mainland Asia (from Nepal to China and south to peninsular Malaysia) and a more threatened species living on the islands of Borneo and of Sumatra, dubbed the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi). Now, researchers have confirmed that clouded leopards living on Sumatra are distinct from those on Borneo, further subdividing these two populations into unique subspecies.
How Genghis Khan cooled the planet
(01/20/2011) In 1206 AD Genghis Khan began the Mongol invasion: a horse-crazed bow-wielding military force that swept through much of modern-day Asia into the Middle East and Eastern Europe. But aside from creating the world's largest empire, the Mongol invasion had another global impact that has remained hidden in history according to new research by Julia Pongratz of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology. Genghis Khan and his empire, which lasted nearly two centuries, actually cooled the Earth.
New hope for rare lemurs in Madagascar
(01/20/2011) A survey of a remote forest area in Madagascar turned up seven new groups of silky sifaka, a critically endangered lemur threatened by habitat destruction. The finding raises hope that the species—which is listed as one of the world's 25 most endangered primates—is surviving in Marojejy National Park despite an outbreak of illegal rosewood logging in 2009 and 2010.
UN and conservation organizations condemn big oil's plan to drill in Virunga National Park
(01/20/2011) WWF, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN have all recently expressed concerns about two oil companies' plan to explore for oil in Africa's oldest and famed Virunga National Park. Home to a quarter of the world's mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, lions, forest elephants, and rare birds Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of Africa's most biodiverse parks and is classified by the UN as a World Heritage Site. But according to WWF plans by oil companies SOCO International and Dominion Petroleum could jeopardize not only the wildlife and ecosystems, but also local people.
World's weirdest aphrodisiac: elephant-digested durian fruit
(01/20/2011) The spiky, odorous, weighty, and almost impenetrable durian fruit is considered by some to be a fine delicacy, but others a putrid horror. Its taste has been described between a delicious custard and old gym socks. Still, even durian lovers may be uncomfortable with the idea of eating the fruit after it has been consumed and expelled by a wild Asian elephant. But according to the New Straits Times recently wealthy businessmen are willing to pay over $300 for a sample of elephant-ingested durian, which they believe acts as an aphrodisiac.
Major conservation biology textbook now free online
(01/20/2011) A highly regarded conservation textbook is now available online for free.
Carbon credits 'stolen'
(01/20/2011) The European Union temporarily shut down its carbon market after a security breach, reports Point Carbon.
NASA images reveal consistent climate warming among different temperature records
(01/19/2011) New images released by NASA illustrate how four different global temperature records show remarkably consistent warming around the world. Currently, global temperatures are analyzed by four major organizations: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), NOAA National Climatic Data Center, Met Office Hadley Center’s Climatic Research Unit, and the Japanese Meteorological Agency. Although each organization has garnered slightly different results year-to-year, all show a consistent warming trend globally, including that the most recent decade as the warmest since record-keeping began in the late Nineteenth Century.
Last year worst yet for rhino killings in South Africa
(01/19/2011) Three hundred and thirty-three rhinos were killed in South Africa last year, the highest number yet. Ten of the rhino were black rhinos, which are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the rest were white rhinos, listed as Near Threatened. In total South Africa has over 20,000 rhinos.
Africa gains new elephant species
(01/19/2011) DNA evidence has shown that the forest elephant-Africa's smaller, shyer pachyderm-is indeed a separate species from the much more well-known savanna elephant. While scientists have long debated the status of the forest elephant (should it be considered a separate population, a subspecies, or a unique species?) a new study in the open-access journal PLoS Biology finds that genetically the forest elephant is unarguably a new species. If conservation authorities accept the new study, it will change elephant conservation efforts throughout Africa.
Lion poisonings decimating vultures in Kenya
(01/19/2011) It's a common image of the African savanna: vultures flocking to a carcass on the great plains. However, a new study has found that vulture populations are plummeting in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve, a part of the Serengeti plains, due to habitat loss as well as the illegal killing of lions. Increasingly farmers and livestock owners have targeted lions and other big predators by poisoning livestock carcasses with toxic pesticides, such as Furadan. Not only illegal, such poisonings take their toll on other Serengeti wildlife, including vultures that perish after feeding on the laced carcasses.
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