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Top officials busted in Amazon logging raids, but political patronage may set them free
(07/08/2010) After two years of investigations, the Brazilian Federal Police arrested some of the most important politicians and authorities for illegal logging in the Amazon. Code-named Operation Jurupari, the Brazilian Federal Police uncovered a massive illegal logging scheme that resulted in the arrests of over 90 people and caused an estimated $500 million in damage to the Amazon rainforest. Over 496 square kilometers (192 square miles), an area the size of California or Spain, were affected and an estimated 1.5 million cubic meters (642 million board feet) of timber was illegally extracted. While the investigation focused on activities in the state of Mato Grosso, which is located in the southern Amazon and is one of the most deforested regions largely due to clearing land for expanding soya farms, it touched numerous others, including São Paulo, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais and Distrito Federal.
The changing nature of illegal logging - and illegal logging investigations - in Brazil's Amazon
(07/08/2010) Operation Jurupari followed on several previous Brazilian Federal Police investigations into SEMA, including: Operation Curupira I (June 2005); Curupira II (August 2005); Mapinguari (2007), Arc of Fire (2008), Termes (April 2008); and Caipora (2008). It was led by Franco Perazzoni, Brazilian Federal Police "Delegado" (or chief), who, since 2006, has headed the environmental crimes unit in Mato Grosso and been responsible for about 300 investigations on environmental crimes, of which about 75% were on illegal deforestation in federal areas. The nature of the illegal deforestation has changed over the years.
Amazon soy moratorium extended
(07/08/2010) Brazilian soy farmers have extended their moratorium on Amazon deforestation for another year, reports Greenpeace.
Goodbye to the Gulf: oil disaster hits region's 'primary production'
(07/08/2010) According to a new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the many ecosystem services provided by the Gulf of Mexico will be severely impacted by BP's giant oil spill. 'Ecosystem services' are the name given by scientists and experts to free benefits provided by intact ecosystems, for example pollination or clean water. In the Gulf of Mexico, such environmental benefits maintain marine food production, storm buffers, tourism, and carbon sequestration, but one of the most important of marine ecosystem services is known as 'primary production'.
Walmart fires back at Greenpeace over deforestation charges
(07/07/2010) Walmart on Wednesday fired back at Greenpeace after the activist group linked the retail giant to destruction of Indonesia's rainforests through its purchases from Sinar Mas Group's Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a Singapore-based firm associated with destructive logging practices. Noting that it was already working with Greenpeace to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain, the world's largest retailer said it "does not support deforestation" and does not source from APP for its "largest markets." Walmart said it was "surprised" Greenpeace targeted it in a recent press release announcing a new report.
Spotted uncontacted native flees, leaving dinner and dish behind
(07/07/2010) The man had set up camp and was preparing to cook live turtles for a meal when he was seen by people he did not know. He hid behind a tree and then fled from the camp into the forest, abandoning his uncooked turtles and a clay pot behind.
Violence a part of the illegal timber trade, says kidnapped activist
(07/07/2010) The European parliament made a historical move today when it voted overwhelmingly to ban illegal timber from its markets. For activists worldwide the ban on illegal timber in the EU is a reason to celebrate, but for one activist, Faith Doherty of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the move has special resonance. In early 2000, Doherty and an Indonesian colleague were kidnapped, beaten, and threatened with a gun by illegal loggers in Indonesian Borneo.
Europe bars illegal timber from markets
(07/07/2010) The European Parliament today voted overwhelming to bar illegally logged timber from E.U. markets. The legislation, which passed 644-25, will require all companies selling timber products in the E.U. to prove their wood is legally sourced. Companies that fail to demonstrate credible sourcing practices will be subject to fines. The rules will go into effect in 2012, but paper products will be exempted for five years.
Forest loss in India likely worse than conventionally believed
(07/06/2010) Researchers have questioned 2009 findings by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) that found that India's forests were, unlike many tropical Asian nations', on the rebound. According to the FSI, Indian forests had grown by almost five percent from the 1990s. Yet, were these finding too good to be true?
Forgotten species: the cryptic Jerdon's courser
(07/06/2010) According to my Oxford English Dictionary, 'cryptic' means: 'secret, mystical; mysterious; obscure in meaning; enigmatic'. This is the perfect adjective for the rare Indian bird, Jerdon's courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus). 'It is not so easy to spot as it is a small bird and when you show the torch it crouches and merges with the surroundings. So we need very good trained eyes to look for them,' Dr. P. Jeganathan recently told mongabay.com.
KFC, Walmart contributing to destruction of Indonesia's rainforests, endangering orangutans
(07/05/2010) Major U.S. companies are contributing to the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests by sourcing paper from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a subsidiary of Indonesia-based conglomerate Sinar Mas, alleges a new report from Greenpeace. Investigating two sites on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the activist group documented destruction of rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands by APP, a company that has lost several major contacts in recent years due to its poor environmental record. Greenpeace called out Walmart, Auchan, and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) as companies that continue to buy from APP despite its role in deforestation and peatlands degradation.
In the midst of marine collapse will we save our last ocean?
(07/05/2010) Imagine an ocean untouched by oil spills: a sea free of pollution, invasive species, dead zones, and over-exploitation; waters where marine animals exist in natural abundance and play ecological roles undimmed by mankind. Such a place may sound impossible in today's largely depleted oceans, but it exists: only discovered in 1841, the Ross Sea spreads over nearly a million kilometers adjacent to the Antarctic continent. Here killer whales, penguins, sea birds, whales, and giant fish all thrive. However, even with its status as the world's 'last ocean', the Ross Sea has not escaped human impact. Over the last 15 years commercial fisheries have begun to catch one of its most important species in the ecosystem to serve them up on the dinner plates of the wealthy.
Elle MacPherson promotes consumption of illegal rhino horn [warning: graphic image]
(07/02/2010) Despite a number of scientific studies showing that rhino horn has no curative properties, supermodel, entrepreneur, and recent host of Britain's Next Top Model, Elle Macpherson, says she ingests powdered rhino horn because: '[it] works for me'. In an interview with The Sunday Times via Twitter, Elle Macpherson says the illegal substance tastes like 'crushed bone and fungus'.
US pledges 136 million dollars to the environment in Indonesia
(07/01/2010) The US has pledged $136 million to environment and climate change initiatives in Indonesia over the next three years reports Reuters. Earlier in the year, Norway pledged over seven times the US amount (one billion US dollars) to fight deforestation in the Southeast Asian country.
Amazon and Atlantic Forest under threat: politicians press to dilute Brazil's forestry law
(07/01/2010) A group of Brazilian legislatures, known as the 'ruralistas', are working to change important aspects of the Brazil's landmark 1965 forestry code, undermining forest protection in the Amazon and the Mata Atlantica (also known as the Atlantic Forest) and perhaps heralding a new era of booming deforestation. The ruralistas, linked to big agribusiness and landowners, are taking aim at the part of the forestry code that requires landowners in the Amazon to retain 80 percent of their land area as legal reserves, arguing that the law threatens agricultural development.
Papua New Guinea strips communal land rights protections, opening door to big business
(06/30/2010) On May 28th the parliament in Papua New Guinea passed a sweeping amendment that protects resource corporations from any litigation related to environmental destruction, labor laws, and landowner abuse. All issues related to the environment would now be decided by the government with no possibility of later lawsuits. Uniquely in the world, over 90 percent of land in Papua New Guinea is owned by clan or communally, not be the government. However this new amendment drastically undercuts Papua New Guinea's landowners from taking legislative action before or after environmental damage is done. Essentially it places all environmental safeguards with the Environment and Conservation Minister.
Greener palm oil arrives in the United States
(06/29/2010) The first shipment of palm oil certified under sustainability criteria have arrived in the United States, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Photos: rats drive island lizard to extinction
(06/29/2010) The Selmunett lizard (Podarcis filfolensis ssp. Kieselbachi) is very likely extinct, according to Maltese naturalist Arnold Sciberras. One of four subspecies of the Maltese wall lizard, the Selmunett lizard was last seen in 2005. Although the lizard's home—Selmunett Island—has long been uninhabited by people, that fact did not help save the lizard. Over-predation by introduced rats is thought to be the primary cause of lizard's extinction.
Uncovering the intelligence of insects, an interview with Lars Chittka
(06/29/2010) Many people would likely consider 'insect intelligence' a contradiction in terms, viewing insects—when they think of them as anything more than pests—as something like hardwired tiny robots, not adaptive, not intelligent, and certainly not conscious. However, research over the last few decades have shown that a number of well-studied insects are capable of performing amazing intellectual feats, from recognizing individuals to employing a symbolic language in a behavior known as a 'bee waggle'. "Already in 1900, Buttel-Reepen asked whether honeybees are mere reflex machines—and emphatically denied that claim," Dr. Lars Chittka, professor of Sensory and Behavioral Ecology at Queen Mary University in London, told mongabay.com in an interview. "Over the last century, we have seen a fundamental change in perspective on the learning capacities of insects, and there a now several credible lines of evidence that insects are capable of cognitive feats that had previously been ascribed only to 'higher' vertebrates".
Photos: researchers uncover top priority areas for Bolivian primates
(06/28/2010) Employing a predictive model, researchers have located two areas in need of protection to ensure the survival of Bolivia's primate species. The study, published in Tropical Conservation Science, identified the potential distribution of Bolivia's 22 primates and discovered two priority regions, one in the Pando Department with a number of rare primates, and the other in Western Beni, home to two primate species that live no-where else.
Planting figs could save endangered species in Borneo
(06/28/2010) In one of the most remote and undisturbed forests of Borneo, the Maliau Basin in the Malaysian state of Sabah, researchers picked a single fig tree (Ficus caulocarpa) and surveyed the species feeding from it over a 5-day-period. Their findings, published in Tropical Conservation Science, shows that a fig tree over a short period of time feeds a high percentage of endangered species, prompting researchers to recommend replanting figs in disturbed forests as a way to save Borneo's frugivores (fruit-eating species) from extinction.
Saving one of West Africa's last hippo populations
(06/28/2010) A new study in Tropical Conservation Science highlights the need for further conservation actions to save one of West Africa's last hippo populations, located in southern Burkina Faso. Researchers surveyed 41 hippos in the 'Mare aux Hippopotames' Biosphere Reserve of Burkina Faso in 2008, up by six individuals since 2006, but down from a population of 68 in 1985. The hippos (Hippopotamus amphibious) remain threatened by possible conflict with locals and the fact that a number of their ponds are outside the protected area.
Long-ignored freshwater molluscs in Cuba under threat
(06/28/2010) Among biologists, Cuba is famous for its diversity of molluscs with some 3,000 species, including the fact that over 90 percent of its land snails live no-were else. Given this, it's not surprising that Cuba is known as the 'paradise of malacologists' (scientists who study molluscs). However, one type of mollusk has been largely ignored in Cuba: freshwater. A new study in Tropical Conservation Science hopes to remedy that.
Invertebrates in Brazilian traditional medicines
(06/28/2010) According to a new study in Tropical Conservation Science a surprising number of invertebrates are used in Brazilian traditional medicines, which are popular both in rural and urban areas. Researcher discovered that at least 81 species from five taxonomic groups are being used to treat a variety of illnesses in Brazil.
Forest loss occurring around Kibale National Park in Uganda
(06/28/2010) A new study in Tropical Conservation Science finds that Kibale National Park in Uganda has retained its tropical forest despite pressures of a dense human population and large-scale clearing activities just beyond the border of the park. Home to twelve primate species, including Chimpanzees, the park is known as a safe-haven for African primates.
How do Asian elephants survive in fragmented and unprotected landscapes?
(06/28/2010) A new study in Tropical Conservation Science has found that Asian elephants living in a combination of fragmented forests and agricultural landscapes still depend on natural landscapes—rivers and forests—for survival. Following two herds of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in the Valparai plateau among the Anamalai Hills of India for three years, researchers found that the elephants spent much of their time, relative to their availability, near rivers and amid forest fragments. When they entered agricultural landscapes they preferred Eucalyptus and coffee to tea.
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.
(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.
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.
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