Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
Palm oil industry pledges wildlife corridors to save orangutans
(10/03/2009) In an unlikely—and perhaps tenuous—alliance, conservationists and the palm oil industry met this week to draw up plans to save Asia's last great ape, the orangutan. As if to underscore the colloquium's importance, delegates on arriving in the Malaysian State of Sabah found the capital covered in a thick and strange fog caused by the burning of rainforests and peat lands in neighboring Kalimantan. After two days of intensive meetings the colloquium adopted a resolution which included the acquisition of land for creating wildlife buffer zones of at least 100 meters along all major rivers, in addition to corridors for connecting forests. Researchers said such corridors were essential if orangutans were to have a future in Sabah.
Palm oil developers in Papua New Guinea accused of deception in dealing with communities
(09/25/2009) Papua New Guinea, the independent eastern half of the world's second largest island (New Guinea), houses one of the planet's last frontier forests. These forests support a wealth of plants and animals as well as the Earth's most diverse assemblage of cultures—some 830 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea (PNG), representing more than 12 percent of the world's 6,900. But PNG's forests are fast-changing. Between 1972 and 2002 PNG lost more than 5 million hectares of forest, trailing only Brazil and Indonesia among tropical countries. Forest loss has been primarily a consequence of industrial logging and subsistence agriculture, but large-scale agroindustry—especially development of oil palm plantations—has emerged as an important new driver of land use change. Dozens of international companies have set up operations in the country over the past decade, including Cargill, an agribusiness giant based in Minneapolis. While Cargill says it is committed to sustainable and responsible palm oil production across its three plantations in PNG, the firm has been targeted by local and international NGOs, which claim it has polluted rivers and deceived local communities into signing agreements they do not understand. Some landowners say they are receiving few of the benefits oil palm promised to deliver, while losing their independence—they are now reliant on an export-oriented crop they can't eat. Opposition to further oil palm expansion is now growing, especially in Oro Provice, where Cargill's plantations are based.
Could agroforestry solve the biodiversity crisis and address poverty?, an interview with Shonil Bhagwat
(09/24/2009) With the world facing a variety of crises: climate change, food shortages, extreme poverty, and biodiversity loss, researchers are looking at ways to address more than one issue at once by revolutionizing sectors of society. One of the ideas is a transformation of agricultural practices from intensive chemical-dependent crops to mixing agriculture and forest, while relying on organic methods. The latter is known as agroforestry or land sharing—balancing the crop yields with biodiversity. Shonil Bhagwat, Director of MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, believes this philosophy could help the world tackle some of its biggest problems.
Two of the world's most endangered (and strangest) primates receive protection from new reserves in China and Vietnam
(09/24/2009) There are 200 Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys left in the world. The cao vit gibbon, however, is even worse off with only 110 individuals remaining, giving it the dubious honor of being the second most endangered primate in the world (the closely-related Hainan gibbon with only 17 individuals is likely number one). Both of these species—the cao vit gibbon and Tonkin snub nosed monkey—have received good news recently as new reserves in China and Vietnam have been created in part to aid their survival.
Will tropical trees survive climate change?, an interview with Kenneth J. Feeley
(09/24/2009) One of the most pressing issues in the conservation today is how climate change will affect tropical ecosystems. The short answer is: we don't know. Because of this, more and more scientists are looking at the probable impacts of a warmer world on the Earth's most vibrant and biodiverse ecosystems. Kenneth J. Feeley, tropical ecologist and new professor at Florida International University and the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, is conducting groundbreaking research in the tropical forests of Peru on the migration of tree species due to climate change.
Roads are enablers of rainforest destruction
(09/24/2009) Chainsaws, bulldozers, and fires are tools of rainforest destruction, but roads are enablers. Roads link resources to markets, enabling loggers, farmers, ranchers, miners, and land speculators to convert remote forests into economic opportunities. But the ecological cost is high: 95 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon occurs within 50-kilometers of a road; in Africa, where logging roads are rapidly expanding across the Congo basin, the bulk of bushmeat hunting occurs near roads. In Laos and Sumatra, roads are opening last remnants of intact forests to logging, poaching, and plantation development. But roads also cause subtler impacts, fragmenting habitats, altering microclimates, creating highways for invasive species, blocking movement of wildlife, and claiming animals as roadkill. A new paper, published in Trends in Evolution and Ecology, reviews these and other impacts of roads on rainforests. Its conclusions don't bode well for the future of forests.
Palm oil both a leading threat to orangutans and a key source of jobs in Sumatra
(09/24/2009) Of the world's two species of orangutan, a great ape that shares 96 percent of man's genetic makeup, the Sumatran orangutan is considerably more endangered than its cousin in Borneo. Today there are believed to be fewer than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans in the wild, a consequence of the wildlife trade, hunting, and accelerating destruction of their native forest habitat by loggers, small-scale farmers, and agribusiness. Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra is one of the last strongholds for the species, serving as a refuge among paper pulp concessions and rubber and oil palm plantations. While orangutans are relatively well protected in areas around tourist centers, they are affected by poorly regulated interactions with tourists, which have increased the risk of disease and resulted in high mortality rates among infants near tourist centers like Bukit Lawang. Further, orangutans that range outside the park or live in remote areas or on its margins face conflicts with developers, including loggers, who may or may not know about the existence of the park, and plantation workers, who may kill any orangutans they encounter in the fields. Working to improve the fate of orangutans that find their way into plantations and unprotected community areas is the Orangutan Information Center (OIC), a local NGO that collaborates with the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS).
Satellite lasers show melting of Greenland, Antarctic worse than expected
(09/23/2009) Researchers examining 43 million satellite measurements of Antarctica's thinning ice sheets and 7 million of Greenland's, show that the ice is melting faster than expected. Published in Nature the research is the most comprehensive picture to date of the melting glaciers, allowing scientists to better predict how sea levels may rise.
Working to save the 'living dead' in the Atlantic Forest, an interview with Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes
(09/23/2009) The Atlantic Forest may very well be the most imperiled tropical ecosystem in the world: it is estimated that seven percent (or less) of the original forest remains. Lining the coast of Brazil, what is left of the forest is largely patches and fragments that are hemmed in by metropolises and monocultures. Yet, some areas are worse than others, such as the Pernambuco Endemism Centre, a region in the northeast that has largely been ignored by scientists and conservation efforts. Here, 98 percent of the forest is gone, and 70 percent of what remains are patches measuring less than 10 hectares. Due to this fragmentation all large mammals have gone regionally extinct and the small mammals are described by Antonio Rossano Mendes Pontes, a professor and researcher at the Federal University of Pernambuco, as the 'living dead'.
Group of distinguished ecologists ask Obama to help save rainforests
(09/23/2009) A group of distinguished ecologists have asked President Obama to push for the inclusion of tropical forests in climate policy.
Global campaign has planted 7 billion trees
(09/23/2009) The campaign to plant seven billion trees has achieved its goal, the United Nations announced Tuesday. 7.3 billion trees have been planted in 167 countries since the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the initiative in 2006. The effort aimed to sequester vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere while generating benefits for human populations and wildlife.
New species of ghostshark discovered off California's coast
(09/22/2009) The discovery of Eastern Pacific black ghostshark Hydrolagus melanophasma is notable for a number of reasons. It is the first new species of cartilaginous fish—i.e fish whose skeletons are made entirely of cartilage, such as sharks, rays, and skate—to be described in California water since 1947. It is also a representative of an ancient and little-known group of fish.
500 global business leaders call for 50-85% cut in emissions by 2050
(09/22/2009) In a statement issued today, more than 500 business leaders have called for "an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal" on climate change.
Whale skeleton reveals species unknown to science
(09/22/2009) The importance of a whale to the oceanic ecosystem does not end with its life. After dying, a whale's body sinks to the bottom of the ocean and becomes food for many species, some of whom specialize on feeding on these corpses.
Indonesia: emissions to rise 50% by 2030, 3rd largest GHG emitter
(09/22/2009) A report released by the Indonesian government shows the country is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter, largely as a result of the destruction of rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands. Indonesia accounts for 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Hummer owners view themselves as morally upright
(09/22/2009) For many the Hummer has become a symbol of all that is wrong with America: wastefulness without regard to consequences, entitlement beyond the scope of reason, and individualism to the point of arrogance.
Prince Charles making progress in effort to save rainforests, says leading British environmentalist
(09/22/2009) Prince Charles of Great Britain has emerged as one of the world’s highest-profile promoters of a scheme that could finally put an end to destruction of tropical rainforests. The Prince’s Rainforest Project, launched in 2007, is promoting awareness of the role deforestation plays in climate change—it accounts for nearly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. The project also publicizes the multitude of benefits tropical forests provide, including maintenance of rainfall, biodiversity, and sustainable livelihoods for millions of people. But the initiative goes beyond merely raising awareness. Prince Charles is using his considerable influence to bring political and business leaders together to devise and support a plan to provide emergency funding to save rainforests. Tony Juniper, one of Britain’s best-known environmentalists and Special Adviser to the project, spoke about Prince Charles' efforts in an interview with mongabay.com.
New killer snake invades Florida
(09/22/2009) A new invasive python in Florida may be worse than the species already causing ecological havoc across the Everglades, reports the Miami Herald.
Employing dogs to save endangered species and places, an interview with Megan Parker
(09/21/2009) For millennia dogs have been helpers to humans: they have herded and protected livestock, pulled sleds, hunted game, led the blind, located people after disasters, and sniffed out drugs. Now a new occupation can be added: conservation aide. Working Dogs for Conservation (WDC) was begun by Megan Parker in 2000: the idea, to use dogs' impeccable scent capabilities for conservation initiatives, appears so logical and useful when Parker talks about it, one is surprised it took environmentalists so long to realize the potential of dogs.
EU biofuels policy undermines governance in Indonesia, alleges report
(09/21/2009) Indonesian authorities are failing to prevent illegal logging and conversion of protected areas for oil palm cultivation used to supply the European market with supposedly "green" biofuels, alleges a new report from Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and WALHI KalBar (Friends of the Earth Indonesia, West Kalimantan). The report, "Failing governance - Avoiding responsibilities", claims that European biofuel policies have driven reckless oil palm expansion in Ketapang District, West Kalimantan, resulting in illegal issuance of development permits and land conflicts, thereby undermining governance structures.
Photos: new deep sea species discovered off the Canary Islands
(09/21/2009) Owned by Spain, but located just off the northwest coast of Africa, the Canary Islands sport a wide variety of marine life, including five species of marine turtles, ten species of sharks and rays, and innumerable fish and invertebrates. However, a new expedition has gone beyond the known, sending a robot to depths of 500 meters to discover the secrets of the Canary Island's deep sea.
US subsidies of oil and coal more than double the subsidies of renewable energy
(09/21/2009) During the fiscal years of 2002-2008 the United States handed out subsidies to fossil fuel industries to a tune of 72 billion dollars, while renewable energy subsidies, during the same period, reached 29 billion dollars.
Fake Obama makes climate change top priority
(09/21/2009) In an effort to push the real President Obama to attend the UN Summit on Climate Change in December, a fake Obama took over on Friday.
Fashion labels drop APP after party highlights the plight of Indonesian forests
(09/21/2009) The fashion world has been rocked: not by the newest designer or the most shocking outfit, but by the continuing destruction of forests in Indonesia. On September 15th, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) helped open New York City's styling Fashion Week with a party to encourage fashion designers to take a closer look at the paper bags they give customers.
After declining 95% in 15 years, Saiga antelope begins to rebound with help from conservationists
(09/20/2009) In a decline on par with that suffered by the American bison in the Nineteenth Century, in the 1990s the saiga antelope of the Central Asian steppe plummeted from over one million individuals to 50,000, dropping a staggering 95 percent in a decade and a half. Since then new legislation and conservation measure have helped the species stabilize in some areas but in others the decline continues. Working for six years with the Saiga Conservation Alliance, Founding Member and Executive Secretary Elena Bykova has helped bring the species back from the very brink of extinction.
Voluntary Carbon Standard tops assessment of forestry carbon standards
(09/20/2009) The Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) tops the rankings of a recent assessment gauging various standards for forestry carbon credits.
Carbon Financing and Community Forestry
(09/20/2009) Deforestation and forest degradation contribute some 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Forest-related mitigation measures are now recognized to be amongst the most practical and cost-effective interventions to slow global warming – as well as providing a host of other environmental products and services. However, rural poverty, weak law enforcement, and escalating demand for food and fuel continue to drive forest destruction at an alarming rate – in the Asia-Pacific region alone, some 3.7 million hectares of natural forest are lost every year. This also threatens millions of already vulnerable rural livelihoods, often undermining traditional rights to vital forest resources.
Dangers for journalists who expose environmental issues
(09/19/2009) Guinean journalist Lai Baldé has been threatened. Egyptian blogger Tamer Mabrouk has been sued. Russian journalist Grigory Pasko has just spent four years in prison. His Uzbek colleague, Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov, has just been given a 10-year jail sentence. Mikhail Beketov, another Russian journalist, has lost a leg and several fingers as a result of an assault. Bulgarian reporter Maria Nikolaeva was threatened with having acid thrown in her face. Filipino journalist Joey Estriber has been missing since 2006... What do these journalists and many others have in common? They are or were covering environmental issues in countries where it is dangerous to do so.
Photo: Mystery 'alien-beast' in Panama is likely a sloth
(09/19/2009) The 'mystery alien-beast' discovered by four teens in a community in Panama and widely reported in the media over the past few days is likely a deformed sloth.
Brazil may ban sugarcane plantations from the Amazon, Pantanal
(09/18/2009) Brazil will restrict sugarcane plantations for ethanol production from the Amazon, the Pantanal, and other ecologically-sensitive areas under a plan announced Thursday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's administration, reports the Associated Press.
Kenya's pain: famine, drought, government ambivalence cripples once stable nation
(09/17/2009) Kenya was once considered one of Sub-Saharan Africa's success stories: the country possessed a relatively stable government, a good economy, a thriving tourist industry due to a beautiful landscape and abundant wildlife. But violent protests following a disputed election in 2007 hurt the country's reputation, and then—even worse—drought and famine struck the country this year. The government response has been lackluster, the international community has been distracted by the economic crisis, and suddenly Kenya seems no longer to be the light of East Africa, but a warning to the world about the perils of ignoring climate change, government corruption, and the global food and water shortages.
'Greening' logging concessions could help save great apes
(09/17/2009) Promoting reduced impact logging in forest areas already under concession could help protect populations of endangered great apes, argues a new report published by WWF.
Alleviating poverty and saving biodiversity are inherently linked argue scientists
(09/17/2009) Twenty-nine scientists argue in Science today that the world will not be able to lift up the world's poor unless it also addresses global biodiversity loss. They say that the same underlying problems—exploitation of resources, unsustainable overconsumption, climate change, population growth—are exacerbating global poverty and the extinction of species.
Climate Crisis Sparks Radical Response
(09/17/2009) The global political process to counter runaway climate change has become, for practical purposes, irrelevant. None of the currently proposed emissions reductions being seriously considered in policy making are appropriate to meet the severity of the situation. This overwhelming failure on the part of world governments is pushing the rapid unification of environmentalists, activists, scientists, and others to push for direct, immediate change.
Heavy oil pollution remains in Amazon, despite company claiming clean-up is finished
(09/17/2009) A new report shows that the Corrientes region of the Peruvian Amazon, which suffered decades of toxic contamination by Occidental Petroleum (OXY), is far from being cleaned-up. The survey, conducted by US non-profit E-Tech International, found that heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and hydrocarbons still exist at levels above the safety limits set by Peru and continue to threaten the Achuar indigenous community, who have long fought against the oil companies.
45 new snail species discovered on Australian islands
(09/17/2009) Surveys on islands off the coast in the Kimberley region of Western Australia have discovered at least 45 new species of snail.
Innovative reforestation project threatened by 'regime change' in Madagascar, an interview with Rainer Dolch
(09/16/2009) In Madagascar the TAMS Program (Tetik'asa Mampody Savoka, meaning "the project to bring back the forest") is under threat due to the new government's unwillingness to provide funding. The current government, after gaining power in a coup this year, has frozen all funds slated for the project and has yet to sign a carbon credit agreement with the World Bank which would bring much needed funding. "It remains to be seen if the recognition or not of Madagascar's transitional Government will lead to signing the contract with the World Bank in the near future. This is of course essential for the continuity of the project and its future," Rainer Dolch told Monagaby.com in an interview.
Saving gorillas by bringing healthcare to local people in Uganda, an interview with Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
(09/16/2009) How can bringing healthcare to local villagers in Uganda help save the Critically Endangered mountain gorilla? The answer lies in our genetics, says Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, wildlife veterinarian and director of Conservation through Public Health (CTPH). "Because we share 98.4% genetic material with gorillas we can easily transmit diseases to each other." Therefore, explains Kalema-Zikusoka "our efforts to protect the gorillas will always be undermined by the poor public health of the people who they share a habitat with. In order to effectively improve the health of the gorillas we needed to also improve the health of the people, which will not only directly reduced the health threat to gorillas through improvement of public health practices, but also improved community attitudes toward wildlife conservation."
Fifteen indigenous leaders arrested in Borneo for protesting dams that would flood their lands
(09/16/2009) After attempting to send a memorandum of protest against two dam proposals to the Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, fifteen indigenous leaders were arrested in Kuching, Sarawak, reports the non-governmental organization the Burno Manser Fund.
Independent review finds logging company has abused rights of indigenous Penan in Borneo
(09/15/2009) An independent review of Interhill Logging found that the Sarawak logging company has regularly violated forest laws and abused the rights of the indigenous Penan peoples. The review, conducted by French tourism giant ACCOR, found that Interhill Logging had not received free, prior, and informed consent from the local Penan people for its logging operations; the logging being done by Interhill "is very definitely not sustainable"; the company is not fully compiling with Sarawak's Natural Resources and Environment Board; and Interhill is providing no long-term benefits to the Penan peoples.
Vlad the Impaler of the bird world now at Bronx Zoo: skewers prey on thorns and barbed wire
(09/15/2009) The loggerhead shrike, also known as the 'butcher bird', employs a feeding strategy that would have been right at home in 15th Century Transylvania. Like the infamous Vlad the Impaler (the brutal prince which Bram Stoker based Dracula off), the loggerhead shrike is truly skilled at impaling. Using its hooked beak to break the spines of insects, lizards, rodents, and even other birds it then impales them on thorns or barbed wire to hold them while it disembodies them. Now, the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Bronx Zoo has brought the loggerhead shrike into its collection, but the shrike is there to illustrate more than its unique feeding practices.
Emissions from cerrado destruction in Brazil equal to emissions from Amazon deforestation
(09/15/2009) Damage to Brazil's vast cerrado grassland results in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those produced by destruction of the Amazon rainforest, said Carlos Minc, the country's Environment Minister.
Saving the last megafauna of Malaysia, an interview with Reuben Clements
(09/15/2009) Reuben Clements has achieved one success after another since graduating from the National University of Singapore. Currently working in peninsular Malaysia, he manages conservation programs for the Endangered Malayan tiger and the Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhino with World Wildlife Fund. At the same time he has discovered three new species of microsnails, one of which was named in the top ten new species of 2008 (a BIG achievement for a snail) due to its peculiar shell which has four different coiling axes. ie7uhig
On the edge of extinction, Fiji petrels observed at sea for the first time
(09/15/2009) The Critically Endangered Fiji petrel has been observed at sea for the first time by BirdLife International and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti. First recorded in 1855 from one specimen found on Gau Island, Fiji, the rare seabird disappeared from scientific view for 130 years. Beginning in 1984 a handful of 'grounded' Fiji petrels Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi were found after landing on village roofs in Gau, but this is the first observation of the bird in its element: at sea.
Economists, scientists warn that world crises require new order of international cooperation and enforcement
(09/15/2009) A group of environmental scientists and economists warn that under current governing models the number and scale of human-caused crises are "outrunning our ability to deal with them".
Social causes of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest
(09/14/2009) Understanding the web of social groups involved in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is key to containing forest loss, argues a leading Amazon researcher writing in the journal Ecology and Society. Philip Fearnside of the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA) reviews nine actors that have had significant roles in deforestation and reports differences in why they deforest, where they are active, and how they interact with each other.
Community engagement is key to saving the rarest zebra
(09/14/2009) Efforts to protect the world's largest and rarest species of zebra — Grévy's Zebra (Equus grevyi) — hinge on engaging communities to lead conservation in their region, says a Kenyan conservationist. Belinda Low, Executive Director of the Nairobi-based Grevy's Zebra Trust, says her group's programs, which employ members of local communities as scouts and conservation workers, are helping maintain dialog between communities while providing new opportunities for education and employment. Grevy's Zebra Trust is working with communities to plan livestock grazing so that it can be used as a tool to replenish the land, rather than degrade it
500 scientists call on Quebec to keep its promise to conserve half of its boreal forest
(09/13/2009) This March, the Canadian province of Quebec pledged to conserve 50 percent of its boreal forest lying north of the 49th parallel, protecting the region from industrial, mining, and energy development. On Thursday 500 scientists and conservation professionals—65 percent of whom have PhDs—sent a letter to Quebec's Premier Jean Charest calling on him to make good on his promise.
Oil road transforms indigenous nomadic hunters into commercial poachers in the Ecuadorian Amazon
(09/13/2009) The documentary Crude opened this weekend in New York, while the film shows the direct impact of the oil industry on indigenous groups a new study proves that the presence of oil companies can have subtler, but still major impacts, on indigenous groups and the ecosystems in which they live. In Ecuador's Yasuni National Park—comprising 982,000 hectares of what the researchers call "one of the most species diverse forests in the world"—the presence of an oil company has disrupted the lives of the Waorani and the Kichwa peoples, and the rich abundance of wildlife living within the forest.
Brazil to step up efforts to save the cerrado grassland
(09/11/2009) Brazil will try to reduce deforestation of the cerrado, a wooded grassland ecosystem in Brazil that is being destroyed twice as fast as the Amazon rainforest, according to the country's Environment Minister Carlos Minc.
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