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The unknown role of coextinctions in the current extinction crisis

(05/28/2009) Scientists have long recognized ‘coextinctions’ as a major concern when it comes to the current mass extinction crisis. Despite such recognition, however, the role of coextinctions remains largely mysterious and little-studied. A new paper attempts to address this by settling what is known (and unknown) about the phenomenon of coextinctions and where research needs to go next.


Excluding forest carbon from climate policy will spur massive deforestation

(05/28/2009) Failure to develop policies that account for emissions from land use change will lead to widespread deforestation and higher costs for addressing climate change, warn researchers writing in the journal Science. Using a computer model that incorporates economics, energy, agriculture, land-use changes, emissions and concentrations of greenhouse gases, a team of researchers from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Maryland found that efforts to limit atmospheric carbon dioxide levels while ignoring emissions from terrestrial sources would lead to nearly a complete loss of unmanaged forests by 2100, resulting largely from increased expansion of bioenergy crops. Meanwhile placing a value ("tax") on terrestrial carbon emissions equivalent to that on industrial and fossil fuel emissions would lead to an increase in forest cover.


Oil and gas bonanza discovered in the Arctic

(05/28/2009) 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil is located north of the Arctic Circle, offering a potential bonanza for Russia, report researchers writing in the journal Science. Assessing natural resources around the North Pole, researchers from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) say the majority of undiscovered oil and gas will be found underwater on continental shelves, providing economic opportunities for countries with Arctic claims, including the U.S., Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway and Russia. The largest deposits of natural gas are expected in areas claimed by both Russia and Norway, whereas the most likely place for oil in the Arctic is in the Chukchi Sea, off northern Alaska.


Permian mass extinction caused by giant volcanic eruption

(05/28/2009) Two hundred and sixty million years ago the Earth experienced its worst mass extinction: 95 percent of marine life and 70 percent of terrestrial life vanished. Long a subject of dispute, researchers from the University of Leeds believe they have confirmed the reason behind the so-called Permian extinction.


Indigenous people, forest communities in Africa control less than 2% of forest land

(05/28/2009) Less than 2 percent of Africa’s tropical forests are under community control, hindering efforts to slow deforestation and alleviate rural poverty, reports a new assessment from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of non-governmental and community organizations.


Sushi restaurant, Nobu, warns patrons not to eat bluefin tuna, but serves it anyway

(05/27/2009) Last year, Nobu was caught red-handed serving critically-endangered bluefin tuna to patrons, even after servers claimed its tuna was not bluefin. Now after heavy criticism, the trendy restaurant, owned by Robert DeNiro and popular with celebrities, has finally taken action.


Dirt road converted into artificial island for birds in Eastern Turkey

(05/26/2009) A dirt road that had bisected Lake Kuyucuk in Turkey’s Kars Province has been turned into an island for birds to breed safely away from livestock, foxes, and humans. Converted from a road into island in only two months, the 200 meter-long artificial island is the first of its kind in Eastern Anatolia.


Rooks use tools in captivity rivaling ‘habitual tools users such as chimpanzees’

(05/26/2009) The rook, a member of the crow family, is the most recent bird to prove the ability to use tools, a capacity once thought to belong only to humans. Although rooks have never been observed using tools in the wild, researchers were astounded at how quickly—sometimes during the first try—rooks were able to employ tools to attain food.


Rich countries buy up agricultural land in poor countries

(05/26/2009) Over two-and-half million hectares in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; half a million hectares in Tanzania; and a quarter of a million hectares in Libya: these figures represent just some of the recent international land deals where wealthy countries buy up land in poorer nations for food, and sometimes biofuel, production. The controversial trend has sparked a recent report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) highlighting what nations have to gain—and lose—from participating in such deals.


Starfish may benefit from global warming

(05/25/2009) Climate change is expected to cause widespread disruptions to ecosystems and their resident species. Some creatures will go extinct, others will expand their ranges and thrive. A new study identifies starfish as one of the likely winners from rising ocean temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations.


Conservation through commerce in Costa Rica

(05/25/2009) While Costa Rica is lauded for its conservation ethic, environmental concerns remain in the country. Overdevelopment is tied to many issues, including pollution, degradation of ecosystems, deforestation, and soil erosion, while unsustainable fishing plagues coastal waters. Costa Rica's wildlife is also directly affected by hunting as crop and livestock pests, predation and displacement by introduced species, and the illegal pet trade.


New rainforest reserve in Congo benefits bonobos and locals

(05/25/2009) A partnership between local villages and conservation groups, headed up by the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI), has led to the creation of a new 1,847 square mile (4,875 square kilometer) reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The reserve will save some of the region’s last pristine forests: ensuring the survival of the embattled bonobo—the least-known of the world’s four great ape species—and protecting a wide variety of biodiversity from the Congo peacock to the dwarf crocodile. However, the Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve is worth attention for another reason: every step of its creation—from biological surveys to reserve management—has been run by the local Congolese NGO and villages of Kokolopori.


Conservation of Mexico's ungulate species explored

(05/25/2009) Nearly one third of the New World's 32 species of ungulates are found in Mexico, which serves as an important biological transition zone between temperate North America and tropical Central and South America. While few of these species are at risk of extinction, their ecological and economic importance makes them a significant conservation concern. As such, a special issue of Tropical Conservation Science, mongabay.com's open access journal, takes a closer look at Mexico's ungulates.


Photos: top 10 species discovered in 2008

(05/22/2009) Scientists documented 18,516 previously unknown species in 2007, report researchers from the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University, who also unveiled the "top 10 new species" described in 2008. The "top 10" species include a pea-sized seahorse, caffeine-free coffee, bacteria that live in hairspray, a tiny snake, a two foot long insect from Malaysia, a fossilized specimen of the oldest known live-bearing vertebrate, a snail whose shell twists around four axes, a ghost slug from Wales, a deep blue damselfish, and a palm that flowers itself to death.


Vietnam’s commercial wildlife farms threaten Asia’s species

(05/22/2009) Commercial wildlife farms are not alleviating pressure on wild populations as claimed by proponents, but exacerbating the problem according to a new report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Vietnam’s Forest Protection Department. Such farms, which rear snakes, turtles, crocodiles, tigers, monkeys, and other—often rare—species, are meant to provide customers throughout Southeast Asia with legally produced ‘wild’ meats and other products.


Did Malaysia cancel plans for palm oil development in the Amazon?

(05/21/2009) The Malaysian government's federal land agency (FELDA) is now denying its well-documented plan to develop oil palm plantations in the Amazon rainforest, reports Ecological Internet, a forest advocacy group that carried out a campaign against the project.


U.S. CO2 emissions fall 2.8% in 2008

(05/21/2009) Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use in the United States fell 2.8 percent in 2008, the largest annual drop in more than 20 years, reports the Energy Information Administration. A slowing economy and high gasoline prices contributed to the decline. U.S. emissions from fossil fuel burning in 2008 were 15.9 percent above the 1990 level (the baseline for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol) and 2.8 percent below the 2005 level (the baseline proposed under the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 [Waxman-Markey bill]).


Chevron faces shareholder rebuke on claims by Amazon rainforest Indians

(05/21/2009) Calpers, the country's largest public pension fund with $170 billion in assets, announced Thursday it will support a resolution calling on Chevron to examine whether it complies with environmental regulations in Ecuador. The move comes as the oil giant faces a potential $27 billion dollar liability for environmental damage caused by Texaco, a company Chevron (NYSE:CVX) acquired in 2001. In court filings Texaco has admitted to dumping and spilling billions of gallons of toxic waste and oil in eastern Ecuador's Amazon rainforest between 1964 and 1990.


Asia's conversion of forests for industrial rubber plantations hurts the environment

(05/21/2009) Policies promoting industrial rubber plantations over traditional swidden, or slash-and-burn, agriculture across Southeast Asia may carry significant environmental consequences, including loss of biodiversity, reduction of carbon stocks, pollution and degradation of local water supplies, report researchers writing in Science. Conducting field work in the Xishuangbanna prefecture of China's Yunnan province and assessing broader regional trends, Alan Ziegler of the National University of Singapore and colleagues argue that policies favoring agricultural intensification over small-scale slash-and-burn have encouraged the rapid expansion of rubber plantations across more than 500,000 hectares (1,930 square miles) of montane forest in China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Despite widespread perception among authorities that "swidden cultivation is a destructive system that leads only to forest loss and degradation", the researchers found that the transition to industrial plantations has not necessarily been a boon to the environment.


Drought threatens rare desert elephants

(05/21/2009) The worst drought in 26 years is threatening a rare herd of desert elephants in the West African country of Mail, warns the conservation organization Save the Elephants. The herd of 350-450 desert elephants live in the Gourma district of Mali,resting in the Sahel belt that separates the Saharan desert from the Sudan.


85 percent of oyster reefs gone, threatening coastal environments and a favored delicacy

(05/21/2009) The first global report on the state of shellfish was released today at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Washington, DC. Painting a dire picture for shellfish worldwide, the report found that 85 percent of oyster reefs have vanished.


Green groups, corporations call for forest conservation to counter global warming

(05/20/2009) A group of leading U.S. businesses and environmental groups today formed a coalition calling for the inclusion of forest conservation in domestic cap-and-trade legislation. The pact endorses policies that would allow companies to receive credit for reducing emissions by financing activities that protect forests in tropical countries. It also calls for five percent of proceeds from the auctioning of greenhouse gas emissions allowances under a cap-and-trade system to go towards funding forest conservation projects.


Voluntary carbon markets double in 2008

(05/20/2009) Voluntary carbon markets greatly expanded in both transaction volume and value in 2008, providing critical funds for projects aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report from Ecosystem Marketplace and New Carbon Finance. Fortifying the Foundation: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets 2009 — a survey of over 190 voluntary carbon credit retailers, brokers, accounting registries, and exchanges — found that voluntary carbon markets transacted 123 million metric tons of carbon credits valued at $705 million in 2008, up from 65 million tons of credits valued at $331 million in 2007.


Global warming estimates double in severity according to new MIT modeling

(05/20/2009) Employing the MIT Integrated Global System Model, scientists have found that global warming could be more than twice as severe as previous estimates six years ago. The MIT Integrated Global Systems Model, which uses computer simulations to analyze the relationship between climatic changes and the global economy, found during 400 runs of the model that there is a 90 percent probability that temperatures will have risen 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.


Study refutes criticism of polar bear listing under the Endangered Species Act

(05/20/2009) In May 2008 the Bush Administration listed the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing immediately received allegations of being politically biased and not based on sound science. However, a new paper addresses the allegations point by point and concludes that the decision to add the polar bear under the ESA was not only scientifically sound, but right.


APP, Sinar Mas plan to log habitat of critically endangered orangutans

(05/20/2009) Asia Pulp & Paper and Sinar Mas Group have acquired a license to clear hundreds of hectares of unprotected rainforest near Bukit Tigapuluh National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, report environmental groups who say the activity threatens a population of critically endangered orangutans that have been re-introduced into the wild. The companies intend to log the concession for timber and plant it for industrial timber and oil palm plantations.


Peru may take military action against Indians protesting Amazon energy development

(05/19/2009) Indigenous protesters have stepped up demonstrations over the Peruvian government's moves to support energy development in the Amazon rainforest, reports Reuters.


UN: Population growth rates fall to 1.1 percent in Asia-Pacific

(05/19/2009) The population growth rate in the Asia-Pacific region has dropped to 1.1 percent, according to the Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2008, compiled by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The 1.1 percent growth rate is the lowest in the developing world.


Congo biochar initiative will reduce poverty, protect forests, slow climate change

(05/19/2009) An initiative using soil carbon enrichment techniques to boost agricultural yields, alleviate poverty, and protect endangered forests in Central Africa was today selected as one of six projects to win funding under the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF). The scientific committee of the CBFF awarded Belgium's Biochar Fund and its Congolese partner ADAPEL €300,000 to implement its biochar concept in 10 villages in the Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The approach improves the fertility of soils through the introduction of "biochar" — charcoal produced from the burning of agricultural residues and waste biomass under reduced oxygen conditions — thereby increasing crop yields and reducing the need to clear forest for slash-and-burn agriculture.


Six nations pledge to protect the Coral Triangle

(05/19/2009) Last Friday, six nations signed a pledge launching the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF). Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Malaysia each agreed to protect the Coral Triangle, a region spanning 1.6 billion acres, half the size of the US.


Komodo dragons are venomous

(05/18/2009) The world's largest lizard relies on venom to weaken and immobilize its prey report researchers writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Until now it was believed that bacteria resident in the Komodo Dragon's mouth were the source of the reptile's toxicity.


Obama to increase fuel economy standard to 35 mpg by 2016

(05/18/2009) The Obama administration will direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation to raise fuel economy standards of automobiles to 35 miles per gallon by 2016, four years earlier than required under current federal law, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move is part of the administration's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for nearly one third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.


Scientists find world’s largest leatherback sea turtle population in Gabon

(05/17/2009) Scientists have found the world’s largest population of nesting leatherback sea turtles. On the beaches of Gabon in West Africa land and air surveys estimated the small country’s leatherback population to be between 15,730 and 41,373 individual females. The findings are published in Biological Conservation. Leatherback sea turtles are currently considered critically endangered by the IUCN, however these new numbers may cause marine biologists to reconsider that ranking.


Brazil moves closer to legitimizing illegal land-grab in the Amazon

(05/17/2009) Brazil moved a step closer to approving a controversial law that would grant land title to 300,000 properties illegally established across some 600,000 square kilometers (230,000 square miles) of protected Amazon forest, reports AFP. The move may improve governance in otherwise lawless areas, but could carry a steep environmental cost without safeguards.


Orangutan population in Borneo park plunges 90% in 5 years

(05/16/2009) The population of orangutans in Indonesia's Kutai National Park has plunged by 90 percent in the past five years due to large-scale deforestation promoted by local authorities, reports The Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP), an Indonesian environmental group.


Tropical storms may create seeds for reef restoration

(05/16/2009) Tropical reefs are easy to destroy and difficult to fix. It is estimated that global warming, unsustainable fishing, and pollution have already destroyed 20% of the world’s coral reefs. Recently, Virginia Garrison and Greg Ward of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) demonstrated how coral fragments that have broken loose during storms can be used to rebuild reefs. They reported their results in the October issue of Biological Conservation.


U.S. reauthorizes funding for rainforest conservation

(05/16/2009) The Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week unanimously passed the Tropical Forest and Coral Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2009 (S. 345) introduced by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN). The bill would provide up to $115 million in debt relief to tropical countries in exchange for commitments to conserve forests and coral reefs.


Updated Red-List: 192 birds are Critically-Endangered

(05/14/2009) In this year’s updated IUCN Red List on birds, six species were down-listed from Critically Endangered to Endangered, but eight species were up-listed to Critically Endangered, leading to the highest number of Critically Endangered birds ever on the list. In all 1,227 bird species (12 percent) are currently considered threatened with global extinction.


Global warming pushes mammals north in Michigan

(05/14/2009) A new study shows that mammals in the state of Michigan are moving north because of climate change, pushing out other species on the way. Researchers studied the distribution and population of nine small mammals from live-trapping data over 30 years and notes from research museums covering the past hundred years. They utilized over 14,000 records covering the nine species.


Blue whales return to migration pattern used before commercial whaling

(05/13/2009) The blue whale may be returning to a migration route that it abandoned during commercial whaling. Researchers have discovered whales migrating from California to the coastlines of British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska for the first time since 1965. Fifteen different cases of whales have been recorded in the north Pacific; four of the whales were individuals who had been viewed off the coast of California, as well.


Near-record flooding in the Amazon

(05/13/2009) Near-record flooding has displaced thousands of people in the Brazilian Amazon, reports the Associated Press.


Consumers show no interest in eco-certified palm oil; WWF threatens naming and shaming campaign

(05/13/2009) Lack of interest in eco-certified palm oil among buyers threatens to undermine efforts to improve the environmental performance of the industry, reports the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).


Peru gets $120m to protect 212,000 sq mi of Amazon rainforest

(05/13/2009) The Japanese government will loan Peru $120 million to protect 55 million hectares (212,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest over the next ten years, reports El Comercio.


Successful reintroduction of world’s smallest hog

(05/13/2009) The critically-endangered pygmy hog Porcula salvania is thriving one year after being reintroduced into Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, India. According to researchers with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT), surveys and camera traps have shown that two-thirds of the 16 originally released pygmy hogs have survived their first year. One of two pregnant females gave birth successfully with tracks of baby pygmy hogs found in the summer of last year.


Protecting global biodiversity must include islands

(05/12/2009) If the world is to save biodiversity, islands are key, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that while islands have fewer overall species than continental areas of the same size, they have far more endemic species, i.e. animals and plants that can be found no-where else in the world.


Turkey ignores bluefin tuna quotas, further imperiling critically-endangered species

(05/12/2009) A few weeks into the bluefin tuna fishing season and Turkey has decided to go it alone. Breaking international agreements, the Turkish government has announced that it will ignore agreed-upon bluefin tuna quotas. The news is not good for the survival of the critically-endangered fish species, since Turkey operates the largest Mediterranean fleet for bluefin tuna.


Approximately 200 new frogs discovered in Madagascar threatened by political instability

(05/11/2009) Amid the amphibian extinction crisis—where amphibians worldwide are disappearing due to habitat loss, pollution, and a devastating fungal epidemic—the Spanish Scientific Research Council (CSIC) has announced some good news. In a survey of the island-nation of Madagascar they have identified between 129 and 221 new species of frogs. The discovery of so many new species nearly doubles the island’s total number of frogs.


The EU and Republic of Congo announce system to eradicate illegal logging

(05/11/2009) The Republic of Congo and the EU have announced a new system to ensure that by 2011 no illegal timber will reach European Union member nations from the Republic of Congo. Under the system all wood products will be required to carry a license showing that the timber was obtained legally.


Fish operated on at ZSL London Zoo: Photo

(05/11/2009) A female prickly leatherjacket triggerfish Chaetodermis penicilligerus underwent an operation to remove a benign tumor from her tail at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Zoo.


As wolves face the gun, flawed science taints decision to remove species from ESA

(05/07/2009) On Monday the gray wolf was removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Idaho and Montana, two states that have protected the wolf for decades. According to the federal government the decision to remove those wolf populations was based on sound conservation science—a fact greatly disputed in conservation circles. For unlike the bald eagle, whose population is still rising after being delisted in 1995, when the wolf is removed from the ESA it will face guns blazing and an inevitable decline.


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