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Destruction worsens in Madagascar

(08/20/2009) Armed bands are decimating rainforest reserves in northeastern Madagascar, killing lemurs and intimidating conservation workers, despite widespread condemnation by international environmental groups.


Plastic Vortexes Leaching Chemicals into World's Oceans

(08/20/2009) While scientists have acknowledged the existence of billions of pounds of plastic containers, Styrofoam, and similar waste have created massive oceanic trash vortexes (floating islands of garbage), little is known of the effects of the dissolution of these materials into the water.


Lion population in Kenya could disappear in 10 to 20 years

(08/20/2009) The Kenyan Wildlife Service recently announced that massive declines in lion population may lead to their disappearence from the region within less than 2 decades. Kenya currently has an estimated 2000 lions, but is losing the large cats at a rate of around 100 each year.


Hardly indestructible, plastics begin decomposing in ocean within a year, spreading harmful chemicals

(08/20/2009) Scientists had assumed that plastics were basically indestructible. While floating plastic in the ocean was dangerous to particular species of marine life which consumed them or got snared by them, the scientists thought that the threat didn’t extend beyond this. However, a new study shows that plastic in the ocean may be quite insidious. Researchers found that so-called indestructible plastics actually decompose in the ocean, releasing potentially toxic substances throughout the seas.


No escape from mercury for US fish

(08/20/2009) Between 1998 and 2005, the US Geological Survey conducted tests on fish from 291 rivers and streams across the United States for mercury. Not one fish had escaped mercury contamination. One-quarter of the fish tested contained levels of mercury higher than those deemed safe for humans, and over two-thirds of the fish tested had mercury levels that exceeding those that safe for fish-eating mammals according the Environmental Protection Agency.


Newly discovered deep sea worms throw bioluminescent 'bombs'

(08/20/2009) Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have announced in Science the discovery of seven new species of deep sea worms, five of which drop orb-like parts of their body which cause a brilliant green display of bioluminescence. For this reason researchers have nicknamed them the ‘green bombers’. The worms are not just new species, but a clade of animals entirely unknown to science until now.


Rehabilitation not enough to solve orangutan crisis in Indonesia

(08/20/2009) A baby orangutan ambles across the grass at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation’s Nyaru Menteng rehabilitation center in Central Kalimantan, in the heart of Indonesian Borneo. The ape pauses, picks up a stick and makes his way over to a plastic log, lined with small holes. Breaking the stick in two, he pokes one end into a hole in an effort to extract honey that has been deposited by a conservation worker. His expression shows the tool’s use has been fruitful. But he is not alone. To his right another orangutan has turned half a coconut shell into a helmet, two others wrestle on the lawn, and another youngster scales a papaya tree. There are dozens of orangutans, all of which are about the same age. Just outside the compound, dozens of younger orangutans are getting climbing lessons from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) staff, while still younger orangutans are being fed milk from bottles in a nearby nursery. Still more orangutans—teenagers and adults—can be found on “Orangutan Island” beyond the center’s main grounds. Meanwhile several recently wild orangutans sit in cages. This is a waiting game. BOS hopes to eventually release all of these orangutans back into their natural habitat—the majestic rainforests and swampy peatlands of Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. But for many, this is a fate that may never be realized.


Appalling photos reveal lemur carnage in Madagascar [warning: graphic images]

(08/20/2009) New pictures released by Conservation International depict a troubling development in Madagascar: the emergence of a commercial bushmeat market for lemurs. In the aftermath of a March coup that saw Madagascar's president replaced at gunpoint by the capital city's mayor, Madagascar's reserves — especially in the northern part of the country — were ravaged by illegal loggers. Armed bands, financed by foreign timber traders, went into Marojejy and Masoala national parks, harvesting valuable hardwoods including rosewood and ebonies. Without support from the central government — or international agencies that pulled aid following the coup — there was no one to stop the carnage. But now it emerges that timber wasn't the only target.


Weak forest definition may undermine REDD efforts

(08/20/2009) The weak definition of what constitutes forest under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) puts the effectiveness of a proposed mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) at risk, argue researchers writing in the journal Conservation Letters.


Brazil's 'Obama' weighs presidential bid

(08/20/2009) Marina Silva, the charismatic rubber tapper who went on to become senator and Environment Minister, is weighing a presidential bid in Brazil's 2010 election, according to multiple reports. Political observers say that while her chances are long, Silva's entrance and focus on the environment could spur interest among Brazilians disenchanted by the Workers' Party, the dominant part which has been tarnished lately by corruption scandals.


Camping in the Okavango Delta in Botswana

(08/19/2009) The first animal we saw in the Okavango was unmistakable. Although far away, we could easily make it out with its telltale trunk: an African elephant—the world’s largest land animal—was striding peaceably through the delta’s calm waters. We watched, entranced, from the mokoro, a small boat powered and steered by a local wielding a long pole to push the craft along.


Idaho to allow 25 percent of its wolf population to be killed in one season

(08/19/2009) The state of Idaho has set a quota of 220 individuals for the wolf hunting season which begins on September 1st. If the quota a quarter of Idaho’s estimated 880 wolves will be killed.


Record global ocean temperature in July

(08/19/2009) The world's ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for July, breaking the previous record set in 1998, reports NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. At 62.56°F (16.99°C), ocean temperatures were 1.06°F (0.59°C) above the 20th century average.


50 of the world’s most endangered crocodiles released into the wild in the Philippines

(08/18/2009) The wild population of the Critically Endangered Philippine crocodile Crocodylus mindorensis has just received a very welcome boost. Fifty crocodiles have been released into Dicatian Lake, Isabela Province on Luzon Island.


Biofuel company eyes dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico for creating fish-powered fuel

(08/18/2009) 'Dead zones' in the ocean are called such for a reason. Every year agricultural run-off, especially fertilizer, floods the oceans with an abundance of nutrients leading to algae blooms, i.e. massive explosions of phytoplankton. The demise of these blooms, and the rise of bacteria feeding on them, eventually starves the entire area of oxygen creating a 'dead zone' where the vast majority marine life can't survive. Considered by most to be an environmental catastrophe, a new company is looking at dead zones in a different light: fuel and profit.


New center for studying temperate rainforests announced in Alaska

(08/18/2009) Temperate rainforests will soon have a new center in Juneau, Alaska. It is hoped that the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center (ACRC) will instigate new research and educational opportunities.


World Bank violated environmental rules in lending to palm oil companies, finds internal audit

(08/18/2009) A coalition of indigenous rights' organizations and green groups is calling on the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) to suspend lending to oil palm plantation developers over revelations by its own internal auditors that the loan-making entity failed to follow its own procedures for protecting against social and environmental abuses.


World's rarest tree kangaroo gets help from those who once hunted it

(08/17/2009) The world's rarest tree kangaroo is in the midst of a comeback in a remote part of Papua New Guinea. On the brink of extinction in 2001 with a population estimated at fewer than 100 individuals, Scott's Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus scottae), or the tenkile, is recovering, thanks to the efforts of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance to motivate local communities to reduce hunting and respect critical forest habitat. The tenkile Conservation Alliance, led by Australians Jim and Jean Thomas, works to provide alternative sources of protein and raise environmental awareness among local communities.


Guyana uses aggressive deforestation baseline in its plan to seek carbon payments

(08/17/2009) Guyana's deforestation projections under its proposal for seeking carbon payments for conserving its forests are raising questions, according to commentary published in Stabroek News.


Economic crisis threatens conservation programs and endangered species, an interview with Paula Kahumbu of WildlifeDirect

(08/17/2009) Founded in 2004 by legendary conservationist Richard Leakey, WildlifeDirect is an innovative member of the conservation community. WildlifeDirect is really a meta-organization: it gathers together hundreds of conservation initiatives who blog regularly about the trials and joys of practicing on-the-ground conservation. From stories of gorillas reintroduced in the wild to tracking elephants in the Okavango Delta to saving sea turtles in Sumatra, WildlifeDirect provides the unique experience of actually hearing directly from scientists and conservationists worldwide.


China moves forward on global warming: top scientists recommend emissions peak in 2030

(08/17/2009) In a move that many have seen as a step forward for China in terms of its willingness to combat climate change, the nation’s top climatologists have released a report recommending that China begin drawing down greenhouse gas emissions after 2030. The report comes just four months before a widely anticipated global meeting to set up a new international framework to combat climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Sears catalogue continues to harm boreal forest and caribou

(08/17/2009) Sears Holding Company, most known for their ubiquitous catalogues, continues to stall on releasing a more environmental paper policy, according to the nonprofit environmental organization ForestEthics. Sears’ long delay to implement a more forest-friendly policy is adding pressure to already threatened caribou populations and deforesting forests in Canada, where the company sources much of its paper.


Oil companies in the UK are big users of palm oil biodiesel

(08/17/2009) British motorists are unwittingly big consumers of palm oil produced on rainforest lands in southeast Asia, reports The Times.


Forest fires set by Borneo dam developer contributes to haze in Malaysia, Singapore

(08/17/2009) The developer of a massive hydroelectric project in Borneo plans to set fire to thousands hectares of logged over rainforest in the dam area, contributing to polluting haze already blanketing the region and raising the risk of forest fires in adjacent areas, reports a local environmental group. The Sarawak Conservation Action Network has learned that Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, the operator of the Bakun Hydroelectric Power Dam project, is in the process of clear-cuting 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of rainforest set to be flooded by the dam. The remnants are being torched, in direct violation of Malaysia's laws against open burning.


Saving the tsingy forests in Madagascar

(08/17/2009) After the success of their Sahafina Forest project, Biodiversity Conservation Madagascar is now branching out to the tsingy forest of Beanka, a project set to launch in October this year. Biodiversity Conservation Madagascar (BCM) has been granted a 25-year lease on a 14,000-hectare area of dry hardwood forest, the Beanka tsingy, situated 75 km east of Maintirano in western Madagascar. ‘Tsingy’ are spectacular razor-sharp limestone pinnacles found on the west and north of the island, formed by acidic rain erosion. The deciduous forests that inhabit them are characterized by high plant and animal endemism. The Malagasy organization plans to apply the same principles here – protection of the forest, socio-economic development and forest restoration – that brought them success with their last project, the 2,500-hectare forest block of Sahafina on Madagascar’s east coast.


Cadbury dumps palm oil after consumer protests

(08/17/2009) Cadbury New Zealand, responding to widespread consumer protests, will stop adding palm oil to its milk chocolate products, reports the New Zealand Herald. The candy-maker substituted palm oil and other vegetable fat for cocoa butter earlier this year. The company cited cost savings for the decision, but the move triggered outcry from environmental groups who blame palm oil production for destruction of rainforests across Indonesia and Malaysia, key habitat for orangutans and other endangered species. Concerns that Cadbury chocolate could be imperiling orangutans led the Auckland Zoo and others to ban Cadbury products. Meanwhile consumers swamped the company with letters and petitions protesting its use of palm oil.


Photos reveal illegal logging near uncontacted natives in Peru

(08/17/2009) Ariel photos show proof of illegal logging for mahogany occurring in a Peruvian reserve set aside for uncontacted natives. The photos, taken by Chris Fagan from Round River Conservation Studies, show logging camps set-up inside the Murunahua Reserve, meant to protect the uncontacted indigenous group, known as the Murunahua Indians, in the Peruvian Amazon.


Examining monkey tools: archaeology expands to include non-human primates

(08/17/2009) Archaeology, the study of ancient cultures and their artifacts, has always been confined to the technology of humans and direct human ancestors. However, a new study recently published in the journal Nature examines the benefits of expanding the field of archaeology to include non-human primates.


Da Vinci’s lion comes back to life

(08/17/2009) In 1515 Leonardo Da Vinci, artist and engineer, invented a mechanical lion that was given as a gift to Francois I, then King of France. The original was lost, but a new model has been crafted in Amboise, France by Renato Boaretto.


Police face murder charges in killing of indigenous protesters in Peru

(08/16/2009) A federal prosecutor in Peru filed murder charges against two police generals and 15 other officers over the deaths of indigenous protesters at a roadblock in June, reports the Associated Press. The Indians were protesting new rules that would have made it easier for foreign developers to exploit oil and gas, timber, and minerals in Peru's Amazon rainforest. The skirmish left 23 police and at least ten protesters dead.


Borneo ablaze: forest fires threaten world’s largest remaining population of orangutans

(08/16/2009) Raging fires have broken out in the peat-swamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, threatening the largest population of orangutans in the world. The fires were started by people but have spread uncontrollably due to the extreme drought that Borneo is currently experiencing as a result of El Niño conditions.


The Tipping Point in Civilizational Collapse

(08/14/2009) Just as biological systems exhibit tipping points which once passed catalyze irreversible and often unpredictable patterns of change, so do civilizations and social structures. In past civilizational collapses, these tipping points were generally catalyzed by soil depletion, resource shortages, environmental degradation, and social upheaval.


Climate Activists Push the Limits

(08/14/2009) As major polluters and industrial countries continually postpone commitments to reduce carbon emissions, climate change activists are stepping up their efforts.


World population set to reach 7 billion in two years

(08/13/2009) Despite declining birth rates in some developed countries, the world population is still growing—and fast. A new study by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) finds that the human population will hit a new milestone of seven billion people by 2011.


Largely unexplored rainforest slated to be leveled for gold mining in Colombia

(08/13/2009) Serrania de San Luca is a rainforest-covered massif rising to 2,300 meters (7,500 feet) in northern Colombia. Despite being little-explored and containing several endangered species, the forest is threatened by industrial gold mining operations, according to the local conservation group ProAves. Already the forest has been reduced to 10 percent of its original 2.5 million acres due to agriculture, small-scale mining, and other human impacts. Now, the Colombian government has granted large concessions to AngloGold Ashanti, a gold mining company out of South Africa which has been criticized by the Human Rights Watch for allegedly aligning itself with locally armed gangs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Will hydrocarbon biofuels replace gasoline and ethanol?

(08/13/2009) In a Perspectives piece in Science, John R. Regalbuto argues that the world will soon see a revolution in biofuels, but not those made from corn. Instead Regalbuto, program director of Catalysis and Biocatalysis at the National Science Foundation, says that the future of biofuels is in substances that can be converted into hydrocarbons, such as switch grass, woody biomass, corn stover, and even algae.


Tropical plant expert Stephen P. Hubbell wins this year's Eminent Ecologist Award

(08/13/2009) Stephen P. Hubbell has won the 2009 Eminent Ecologist Award. Hubbell is a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA.


Pesticide use linked to dying frogs in California

(08/13/2009) Pesticides used by farmers in California's Central Valley could be killing frogs in the Sierra mountains, report researchers.


Brazilian beef giant announces moratorium on rainforest beef

(08/13/2009) Brazil's second-largest beef exporter, Bertin, announced it would establish a moratorium on buying cattle from farms involved in Amazon deforestation, reports Greenpeace. The move comes after the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) withdrew a $90 million loan to Bertin following revelations in a Greenpeace report that the company was buying beef produced on illegally deforested lands. The report, which linked some of the world's most prominent brands to rainforest destruction in the Amazon, had an immediate impact, triggering a cascade of events.


Greenpeace gets called out by activist group on logging agreement

(08/13/2009) A forest activist group has called out Greenpeace on its support of Kimberly-Clark's new fiber-sourcing policy.


Amazon stores 10 billion tons of carbon in 'dead wood'

(08/12/2009) Old growth forests in the Amazon store nearly 10 billion tons of carbon in dead trees and branches, a total greater than global annual emissions from fossil fuel combustion, according to scientists who have conducted the first pan-Amazon analysis of "necromass."


Boreal forests in wealthy countries being rapidly destroyed

(08/12/2009) Boreal forests in some of the world's wealthiest countries are being rapidly destroyed by human activities — including mining, logging, and purposely-set fires — report researchers writing in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.


India surpasses Japan in CO2 emissions

(08/12/2009) India accounts for about five percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, roughly a quarter of the emissions of China and the United States, according to an Indian government study reported by Reuters.


Issues around palm oil development prove complex, controversial

(08/12/2009) A new report from published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) highlights the benefits — and controversies — of large-scale expansion of oil palm agriculture in Southeast Asia. The review, titled "The impacts and opportunities of oil palm in Southeast Asia: What do we know and what do we need to know?", notes that while oil palm is a highly productive and profitable crop, there are serious concerns about its environmental and social impact when established on disputed land or in place of tropical forests and peatlands.


Northern India’s water is vanishing due to agriculture, human consumption

(08/12/2009) It’s a disaster in the making: a new study by NASA and UC Irvine has found that the groundwater beneath northern India has been vanishing at a rate of a foot per year during the last decade. In total 109 cubic kilometers (26 cubic miles) has been lost in six years time—three times the size of Lake Mead in the United States.


After a hundred years, salmon swim by the Eiffel tower again

(08/12/2009) Atlantic salmon have returned to the Seine river reports the AFP. Absent for nearly a century, the salmon have returned entirely of their own volition: no reintroduction efforts were undertaken.


Historical deforestation in Madagascar may not be as bad as commonly believed

(08/12/2009) The long-held assumption that Madagascar has lost 90 percent of its forest cover due to fire and slash-and-burn agriculture may be overstated, argues new research published in Conservation Letters. Analyzing 6000-year pollen records in four sites, Malika Virah-Sawmy of Oxford University found evidence that vegetation in southeast Madagascar has for millennia been a mosaic of forests, woodlands and savannas, rather than continuous forests as generally believed. Virah-Sawmy says the findings demonstrate the importance of conserving Madagascar's remaining ecosystems as a buffer against climate change.


Incinerators in China put health of Americans at risk

(08/12/2009) Toxic pollutants from China's trash incinerators are spreading far and wide, putting the health of Chinese citizens in China and Americans in the United States at risk, reports the New York Times.


Loss of Great Barrier Reef due to global warming would cost Australia $37.7 billion

(08/12/2009) A recent study reports that the loss of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef due to climate change poses a catastrophe not just for marine life, but would cost $37.7 billion during the next century.


Climate change will challenge US military

(08/11/2009) US military intelligence analysts claim that climate change will present significant strategic issues around the world. The increased occurrences and severity of storms, droughts, resource shortages, and the spread of disease are all linked to climate change.


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