conservation news and environmental science news.
U.S. to become world's largest oil producer in 5 years
(11/13/2012) In a dramatic reversal, the United States is set to become the world's largest producer of oil by 2017, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Sarawak minister tells clean energy activists to 'stop breathing'
(11/13/2012) A top minister in the Malaysian state of Sarawak has told activists campaigning for cleaner energy to 'stop breathing', reports The Borneo Post.
Greater bamboo lemur removed from 'most endangered primates' list
(11/13/2012) Madagascar's greater bamboo lemur has been removed from the list of the world's 25 most endangered primates after conservationists discovered previously unknown populations of the rare creature, according to the Aspinall Foundation, a charity that set in motion a species survival plan for the lemur.
Norway's $650B pension fund to require deforestation disclosure among portfolio companies
(11/12/2012) Norway's $650 billion sovereign wealth fund will ask companies in which it invests to disclose their impacts on tropical forests, as part of its effort to reduce deforestation, reports Reuters. The move could usher in broader reporting on the forest footprint of operations.
Cute animal picture of the day: baby giraffe
(11/12/2012) Reticulated giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), one of nine subspecies, are found in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. The world's tallest land animal, giraffes can stand as high as 5–6 meters (16–20 feet).
Hurricane Sandy pushes Haiti toward full-blown food crisis
(11/12/2012) Although Haiti avoided a direct hit by Hurricane Sandy, the tropical storm caused severe flooding across the southern part of the country decimating agricultural fields. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs now warns that 1.5 million Haitians are at risk of severe food insecurity, while 450,000 people face severe acute malnutrition, which can kill.
Conservationists turn camera traps on tiger poachers
(11/12/2012) Remote camera traps, which take photos or video when a sensor is triggered, have been increasingly used to document rare and shy wildlife, but now conservationists are taking the technology one step further: detecting poachers. Already, camera traps set up for wildlife have captured images of park trespassers and poachers worldwide, but for the first time conservationists are setting camera traps with the specific goal of tracking illegal activity.
Gaining from rain: precipitation is an indicator of tropical forest biodiversity
(11/12/2012) Policymakers seeking to conserve forests in southern India should focus on those receiving the highest levels of rainfall, according to new research. Scientists from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found rainfall to be the most important environmental determinant of species richness in the Anamalai region of the southern Western Ghats.
Tanzania weighs new soda ash plant in prime flamingo territory
(11/08/2012) In a choice between flamingoes and a soda ash plant, a new report shows that local residents near Lake Natron, Tanzania prefer flamingoes. This is good news for conservationists as the area is the most important breeding site in the world for lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor). While the report shows agreement between residents and conservation groups that the project isn't worth its cost or risk, the Tanzanian government is not giving up yet.
Foreign loggers and corrupt officials flouting logging moratorium in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(11/08/2012) In 2002 the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced a moratorium on commercial logging in a bid to save rapidly falling forests, however a new report by Global Witness alleges that industrial loggers are finding a way around the logging freeze. Through unscrupulous officials, foreign companies are abusing artisanal permits—meant for local community logging—to clear-cut wide swathes of tropical forest in the country. These logging companies are often targeting an endangered tree—wenge (Millettia laurentii)—largely for buyers in China and Europe.
Meet Cape Town's volunteer 'toad shepherds'
(11/08/2012) August marks the last month of winter in South Africa, and, as temperatures begin to rise, activists in Cape Town prepare for a truly unique conservation event. Every year at this time western leopard toads (Amietophrynus pantherinus) endemic to the region and Critically Endangered, embark on a night-time migration through Cape Town from their homes in the city's gardens to the ponds they use as breeding sites—as far as three kilometers away. This season over one hundred volunteers took to the streets, flashlights in hand, to assist the toads in navigating the increasing number of man-made obstacles in their path. Among them was life-long resident and mother, Hanniki Pieterse, who serves as an organizer for volunteers in her area.
Day after Obama re-elected, group plans massive march over Keystone Pipeline and climate change
(11/07/2012) Hours after President Obama's historic re-election, climate group 350.org announced a massive rally to apply pressure on the administration to reject the Keystone Pipeline, which would bring tar sands from Alberta to an international market. In 2011 the group and its partners carried out massive civil disobedience action, resulting in over 1,000 arrests, and a rally 12,000-strong that literally encircled the White House. The pressure, which was also brought to Obama campaign offices around the country, helped spur the Obama Administration to suspend the pipeline.
Development halted in crucial wildlife corridor in Malaysia
(11/07/2012) Kenyir Wildlife Corridor in northeast Malaysia is teeming with wildlife: elephants, gibbons, tigers, tapirs, and even black panthers (melanistic leopards) have been recorded in the 60 kilometer (37 mile) stretch of forest. In fact, researchers have recorded over 40 mammal species (see species list below), including 15 threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List. When these findings were presented by scientists to the Terengganu state government action followed quickly: all development projects have been halted pending a government study.
Threatened Galapagos coral may predict the future of reefs worldwide
(11/07/2012) The Galapagos Islands have been famous for a century and a half, but even Charles Darwin thought the archipelago’s list of living wonders didn’t include coral reefs. It took until the 1970s before scientists realized the islands did in fact have coral, but in 1983, the year the first major report on Galapagos reef formation was published, they were almost obliterated by El Niño. This summer, a major coral survey found that some of the islands’ coral communities are showing promising signs of recovery. Their struggle to survive may tell us what is in store for the rest of the world, where almost three-quarters of corals are predicted to suffer long-term damage by 2030.
Controversial dam gets approval in Laos
(11/07/2012) Laos has given approval to the hugely-controversial $3.5 billion Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River, reports the BBC. The massive dam, which would provide 95 percent of its energy production to Thailand, has been criticized for anticipated impacts on the river's fish populations, on which many locals depend.
Over 100,000 farmers squatting in Sumatran park to grow coffee
(11/06/2012) Sumatra's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park—home to the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and elephants—has become overrun with coffee farmers, loggers, and opportunists according to a new paper in Conservation and Society. An issue facing the park for decades, the study attempted for the first time to determine the number of squatters either living in or farming off Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the rough census—over 100,000 people—shocked scientists.
Strong deforestation signals from Central and West Africa in July, August, and September 2012
(11/06/2012) NASA satellites picked up signals of potential deforestation across extensive parts of Latin America, West and Central Africa, and Southeast Asia between July 1 and September 30, according to the latest update on Mongabay.com's Global Forest Disturbance Alert System (GloF-DAS).
Whale only known from bones washes up on beach in New Zealand
(11/05/2012) In 2010, a whale mother and male calf were found dead on Opape Beach in New Zealand. Although clearly in the beaked whale family—the most mysterious marine mammal family—scientists thought the pair were relatively well-known Gray's beaked whales (Mesoplodon grayi). That is until DNA findings told a shocking story: the mother and calf were actually spade-toothed beaked whales (Mesoplodon traversii), a species no one had ever seen before as anything more than a pile of bones.
New rare frog discovered in Sri Lanka, but left wholly unprotected
(11/05/2012) Sri Lanka, an island country lying off the southeast coast of India, has long been noted for its vast array of biodiversity. Islands in general are renowned for their weird and wonderful creatures, including high percentages of endemic species—and Sri Lanka, where scientists recently discovered a new frog species, is no exception.
It's not just Sandy: U.S. hit by record droughts, fires, and heatwaves in 2012
(11/05/2012) As the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy—killing over 100 people and producing upwards of $50 billion in damage along the U.S. East Coast—has reignited a long-dormant conversation on climate change in the media, it's important to note that this is not the only weird and wild weather the U.S. has seen this year. In fact, 2012 has been a year of record-breaking weather across the U.S.: the worst drought in decades, unprecedented heatwaves, and monster forest fires. While climatologists have long stated that it is not yet possible to blame a single extreme weather event on climate change, research is showing that rising temperatures are very likely increasing the chances of extreme weather events and worsening them when they occur.
As forest carbon credit market grows, REDD fails to keep pace, finds report
(11/05/2012) Forest carbon credits reached a record market value in 2011, but the market for credits generated under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism fell sharply, as new projects were slower-than-expected to develop and faced political and economic headwinds, reports a new assessment of the global forest carbon market published by Ecosystem Marketplace.
'The ivory trade is like drug trafficking' (warning graphic images)
(11/05/2012) For the past five years, Spanish biologist Luis Arranz has been the director of Garamba National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Arranz and a team of nearly 240 people, 140 guards among them, work to protect a vast area of about 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of virgin forest, home to a population of more than 2.300 elephants that are facing a new and more powerful enemy. The guards are encountering not only bigger groups of poachers, but with ever more sophisticated weapons. According to Arranz, armed groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army from Uganda are now killing elephants for their ivory.
Micro-hydro and decentralized green energy goals set in Borneo
(11/04/2012) The first ever meeting of the Southeast Asia Renewable Energy People's Assembly (SEAREPA) ended with agreement on 12 future projects, including developing community micro-hydro power and pushing for new policies on decentralized renewable energy in the region. Held in Malaysian state of Sabah on the island, the meeting brought together 130 people from some 80 different groups.
HSBC bank funding large-scale rainforest destruction and invasion of indigenous lands in Borneo, alleges report
(11/02/2012) HSBC has earned tens of millions financing the destruction of rainforests and invasion of indigenous land in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, alleges an explosive new report from Global Witness.
China, India should cut tariff on eco-certified palm oil to boost demand, says RSPO official
(11/02/2012) China and India, the world's largest palm oil buyers, should reduce or eliminate an import tariff on eco-certified palm oil to boost demand for less-damaging production of the widely-used oilseed, said the President of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) during the body's tenth annual meeting in Singapore.
Scientists create 'tree of life' mapping all known bird species
(11/02/2012) Scientists have created an evolutionary maps for all the world's nearly 10,000 bird species. The 'tree of life' is published in the current issue of the journal Nature.
Photos of flooded New York Aquarium released
(11/02/2012) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) today released pictures showing damage caused earlier this week at the New York Aquarium by Hurricane Sandy. The photos show extensive flooding in parts of the aquarium, which is located on the Coney Island boardwalk and is run by WCS.
Bloomberg endorses Obama, cites climate change
(11/01/2012) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today endorsed President Barack Obama for a second term, citing the importance of addressing climate change in the aftermath of the devastating impact of tropical storm Sandy earlier this week.
Artificial 'misting system' allows vanished toad to be released back into the wild
(11/01/2012) In 1996 scientists discovered a new species of dwarf toad: the Kihansi spray toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis). Although surviving on only two hectares near the Kihansi Gorge in Tanzania, the toads proved populous: around 17,000 individuals crowded the smallest known habitat of any vertebrate, living happily off the moist micro-habitat created by spray from adjacent waterfalls. Eight years later and the Kihansi spray toad was gone. Disease combined with the construction of a hydroelectric dam ended the toads' limited, but fecund, reign.
From 'fertilizer to fork': food accounts for a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions
(11/01/2012) Growing, transporting, refrigerating, and wasting food accounts for somewhere between 19-29 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, according to a new analysis by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). In hard numbers that's between 9.8 and 16.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than double the fossil fuel emissions of China in the same year. Over 80 percent of food emissions came from production (i.e. agriculture) which includes deforestation and land use change.
Above the ocean: saving the world's most threatened birds
(11/01/2012) A life on the ocean is a perilous one for any bird. They must expend energy staying aloft for thousands of miles and learn to be marathon swimmers; they must seek food beneath treacherous waves and brave the world's most extreme climates; they must navigate the perils both of an unforgiving sea and far-flung islands. Yet seabirds, which includes 346 global species that depend on marine ecosystems, have evolved numerous strategies and complex life histories to deal with the challenges of the sea successfully, and they have been doing so since the dinosaur’s last stand. Today, despite such a track record, no other bird family is more threatened; yet it's not the wild, unpredictable sea that endangers them, but pervasive human impacts.
Facing 'critical' situation, New York Aquarium closed indefinitely
(10/31/2012) The New York Aquarium on Coney Island suffered 'serious flood damage' during Hurricane Sandy and will be closed 'indefinitely', according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which runs the aquarium and other zoos in New York City.
Indonesia could plant 14.5m ha of oil palm in Borneo without further deforestation
(10/31/2012) Indonesia could establish some 14.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations in Borneo without needing to clear rainforest or high-carbon peatlands, finds a new interactive mapping tool developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI).
After protracted Greenpeace campaign, KFC UK says it will no longer source from Asia Pulp & Paper
(10/31/2012) After months of pressure from Greenpeace on its alleged links to deforestation in Indonesia, KFC UK/Ireland has adopted a forest policy that excludes fiber sourced via conversion of tropical rainforests. The policy excludes suppliers like Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), the Chinese/Indonesian forestry giant that has been the primary target of the Greenpeace campaign, but appears to apply only to Kentucky Fried Chicken operations in Britain and Ireland.
Happy Halloween: nine new species of tree-climbing tarantula discovered
(10/31/2012) If you suffer from acute arachnophobia, this is the perfect Halloween discovery for you: a spider expert has discovered nine new species of arboreal (tree-dwelling) tarantulas in the Brazil. Although tarantula diversity is highest in the Amazon rainforest, the new species are all found in lesser-known Brazilian ecosystems like the Atlantic Forest, of which less than 7 percent remains, and the cerrado, a massive savannah that is being rapidly lost to agriculture and cattle ranching.
After defeating coal plant, Borneo hosts renewable energy meeting
(10/31/2012) Last year, a coalition of environmentalists and locals won a David-versus-Goliath battle against a massive coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo. After facing a protracted campaign—including expert analysis of green energy options for Sabah—the state government announced it was scuttling plans to build the coal plant on a beach overlooking the Coral Triangle. Now, victorious grassroots campaigners are hosting the inaugural meeting of the Southeast Asia Renewable Energy People’s Assembly (SEAREPA), bringing 80 organizations together to discuss green energy options across southeast Asia.
Picture of the day: cheetah cubs wrestle Halloween pumpkins
(10/31/2012) The fastest land animal in the world, cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) can exceed 110 kilometers per hour (70 miles per hour) in short bursts. This speed allows them to take down prey using rapid-fire ambush hunting.
Mysteries surrounding the legendary and vanishing oriental bald ibis
(10/31/2012) In a remote corner of the Ethiopian highlands in January 2011, the bright tropical light combined with the fresh and thin air at 3,600 metres. The Ethiopian bird-watching guide and conservationist, Yilma Dellelegn, from the Ethiopian Wildlife Society, was startled when he spotted two un-ringed young bald ibises, together with two ringed and well known adult females (Zenobia and Salam) at their wintering site. Considering the dwindling numbers, two unaccounted for young birds, literally popping out of the blue, were a great surprise—and precious! The sighting had the potential to raise intriguing geographic and behavioral questions: in fact, the riddle of the migration and wintering strategy of the oriental northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) was still half way from being solved.
Leopard poaching is a bigger problem in India than previously believed
(10/31/2012) A recent study conducted by wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC uncovered unnerving statistics about the illegal trade of leopards (Panthera pardus) in India: at least four leopards have been poached every week for the past decade in the country. The study, entitled Illuminating the Blind Spot: A study on illegal trade in Leopard parts in India, highlights the severity of leopard poaching from 2001 to 2010, despite preventative measures established in 1972 by the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) that prohibit the sale of leopard parts in India.
New York Aquarium entirely 'underwater'
(10/30/2012) Hurricane Sandy, which brought storm surges that reached 14 feet to New York City, has put the Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium "under water," according to a statement from the organization. The aquarium is located on the Coney Island boardwalk, in the heart of an area where rescue operations are currently under way to save people stranded in their homes. There are reports that flooding has reached some people's roofs.
Hours before Hurricane Sandy hit, activists protested climate inaction in Times Square
(10/30/2012) On Sunday, as Hurricane Sandy roared towards the coast of the Eastern U.S., activists took to the streets in New York City to highlight the issue of climate change. Activists organized by 350.org unfurled a huge parachute in Times Square with the words, "End Climate Silence," a message meant to call attention to the fact that there has been almost zero mention of climate change during the presidential campaign, including not a single reference to the issue in the four presidential debates.
How climate change may be worsening Hurricane Sandy
(10/29/2012) While scientists are still debating some fundamental questions regarding hurricanes and climate change (such as: will climate change cause more or less hurricanes?), there's no debating that a monster hurricane is now imperiling the U.S. East Coast. A few connections between a warmer world and Hurricane Sandy can certainly be made, however: rising sea levels are likely to worsen storm surges; warmer waters bring more rain to increase flooding; and hotter temperatures may allow the hurricane to push both seasonal and geographic boundaries.
Picture of the day: Shell drilling rig within view of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
(10/29/2012) Twelve miles off shore from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge floats a seemingly tiny man-made device—at least from an airplane—but it's actually a 160-foot high Shell Dutch Royal oil drilling rig. While the hugely controversial plan to drill for oil in the Arctic ocean was postponed this year due to a variety of mishaps and delays, the Shell rig is expected to be in the area until the end of month drilling top holes in the ocean floor to prep oil drilling next year.
Photo: high-altitude bird rediscovered after 80 years
(10/29/2012) In 1929 the U.S. Stock Market collapsed, the Geneva Convention set standards for prisoners of war, the first Academy Awards was celebrated, and Jérôme Alexander Sillem collected two bird specimens on a high plateau in Xinjiang, China. For 62 years, the specimens sat in a drawer at the Zoological Museum of Amsterdam until C. S. Roselaar found them, studied them, and determined they, in fact, represented a new species of bird: Sillem's mountain finch (Leucosticte sillemi). Now, 83 years after Sillem collected the only known specimens, a French photographer, Yann Muzika, unwittingly took photographic proof that the finch species still survives.
Rebels kill 3 rangers in Congo's Virunga National Park
(10/27/2012) Mai-Mai PARECO rebels attacked a ranger patrol in Virunga National Park killing two park staff and one government soldier, reports Gorilla.cd, the park's official web site.
Future of the Tongass forest lies in salmon, not clear-cut logging
(10/25/2012) The Parnell administration's Timber Task Force recently unveiled a proposal to carve out two million acres of the Tongass National Forest for clear-cut logging under a state-managed "logging trust." The stated goal is to revive Southeast Alaska’s timber industry that collapsed two decades ago amid changing market conditions, logging cutbacks and evolving public opinion about timber harvesting on national forests.
Illegal hunting threatens iconic animals across Africa's great savannas, especially predators
(10/25/2012) Bushmeat hunting has become a grave concern for species in West and Central Africa, but a new report notes that lesser-known illegal hunting in Africa's iconic savannas is also decimating some animals. Surprisingly, illegal hunting across eastern and southern Africa is hitting big predators particularly hard, such as cheetah, lion, leopard, and wild dog. Although rarely targets of hunters, these predators are running out of food due to overhunting and, in addition, often becoming victims of snares set out for other species.
After seven year search, scientists film cryptic predator in Minas Gerais
(10/25/2012) South America's rare and little-known bush dog (Speothos venaticus) looks like a miniature dachshund who went bad: leaner, meaner, and not one to cuddle on your lap, the bush dog is found in 11 South American countries, but scientists believe it's rare in all of its habitats, which include the Amazon, the Pantanal wetlands, and the cerrado savannah. Given its scarcity, little is known about its wanderings.
Picture of the day: a bizarre baby bird with oral 'fingerprints'
(10/25/2012) The crested coua (Coua cristata) is native to island of Madagascar. Unlike much of Madagascar's wildlife, the crested coua is not considered threatened with extinction, but is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. There are around nine species of coua in the world, all found in Madagascar; the unique birds belong to the cuckoo family.
Smuggling of illegally logged rosewood in Madagascar continues, alleges report
(10/25/2012) Timber traders in Madagascar are smuggling illegally logged rosewood despite an official export ban, alleges a new report published by a Malagasy researcher.
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