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SPECIAL REPORT: Palm oil, politics, and land use in Sumatra (Part II)

(04/26/2014) Although the province of Jambi is considered a "late bloomer" in terms of palm oil industry development, its rate of expansion is far from slow. Located along the eastern coast of central Sumatra, the province started to manage oil palm plantations in 1993-94. Now, palm oil is one of Jambi’s primary commodities, and plantation development is displacing growing numbers of local people and wildlife.


Japan changes its mind about Antarctic whaling ban, plans to continue hunts in 2015

(04/25/2014) Conservation groups were jubilant in response to last month's ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) banning Japan's long-standing "research" whaling practices in the Antarctic. However, the celebrations proved short-lived after news last week that Japan has rescinded its agreement to abide by the ruling and stop whaling altogether, opting instead to redesign its program and continue whale hunts in the Southern Ocean.


Wild food: scientists link forests to human nutrition

(04/25/2014) Food security is a mounting global issue. As a solution to increasing food scarcity, forests are commonly cleared to make land available for agriculture. Around the world, both industrial farmers and subsistence farmers alike are growing crops on deforested land. However, scientists are finding that the forests themselves may actually be key to providing local populations with higher quality diets.


Game of thorns: colorful, spiky tree frog discovered in Vietnam

(04/25/2014) Evening fog settled quickly on Mount Ngoc Linh, as the steady drone of cicadas and crickets took up their usual nighttime chorus. The night calm was broken by sudden crashing through the thick bamboo stands and excited voices. High in this isolated cloud forest in central Vietnam, researchers had come upon the first thorny tree frog known to science.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Crowdsourced forest monitoring

(04/25/2014) In the Brazilian Amazon, deforestation alerts are being submitted via smartphones. On the ground technicians send alerts to a database stored in 'the cloud.' This information is added to maps, which, along with satellite imagery, are used to inform law enforcement. And the speed of this process is getting real results.


Despite campaign, Girl Scout cookies still aren't deforestation free, say scout activists

(04/25/2014) Despite a high-profile campaign that caused one of the world's largest food companies to adopt a comprehensive zero deforestation policy, Girl Scout cookies still aren't necessarily free of rainforest destruction and social conflict, say the two girl scouts who launched the protest seven years ago.


Congo rainforest losing its greenness, finds NASA

(04/25/2014) The Congo, the world's second largest rainforest, is losing its greenness, finds a new study published in Nature.


The beef with beef: how 12 strategies could drastically cut agricultural emissions

(04/25/2014) Eating less beef, cutting food waste, and utilizing farm landscapes to sequester carbon are three ways a new report suggests the world could rapidly tackle agricultural emissions. Currently, global agriculture accounts for nearly a fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions when agriculturally-linked deforestation is included.


'Better late than never': Myanmar bans timber exports to save remaining forests

(04/24/2014) Myanmar contains some of Asia's largest forests, but has been losing them at a rapid pace during the last two decades as logging companies emptied woodlands to meet the demands of the lumber industry. In an effort to save its disappearing forests, Myanmar implemented a ban on raw timber exports, effective March 31, 2014. However, the ban affects only raw timber exports, not milled lumber, throwing into doubt its ability to adequately protect Myanmar's forests.


Brazil's new Forest Code a mixed bag for native ecosystems

(04/24/2014) The revised Forest Code passed into law by Brazil in 2012 could authorize conversion of 400,000 square miles of native grassland for industrial agriculture, while granting amnesty for deforesters in the Amazon rainforest, argues a policy piece published this week in the journal Science.


Brazil to test drones in monitoring the Amazon rainforest

(04/24/2014) Brazilian municipalities are planning to use drones to map properties and monitor forest cover as they move to step up enforcement of the country's Forest Code, reports The Financial Times.


Special Report: Palm oil, politics, and land use in Indonesian Borneo (Part I)

(04/24/2014) As one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, Indonesia is often at the receiving end of criticism and protests by activists, and even by its own people. Its poor forest and land management practices, which have been going on for decades, have degraded both its landscapes and its reputation.


Chelonians for dinner: hunting threatens at-risk turtles and tortoises in India

(04/23/2014) The extinction risk faced by mammals is often in the limelight. But it may be surprising to learn that next only to primates, chelonians—or turtles and tortoises—are the world’s most imperiled vertebrate group. New research indicates that two such species are being threatened by hunting in the Western Ghats of India.


Earth has fourth warmest March on record as forecasters see possible El Nino rising

(04/23/2014) Last March was the fourth warmest on record, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Overall, temperatures were 0.71 degrees Celsius (1.28 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average during March. Looking at the first three months of 2014, this year is the seventh warmest on record to date.


After widespread deforestation, China bans commercial logging in northern forests

(04/22/2014) Forestry authorities in China have stopped commercial logging in the nation's largest forest area, marking an end to more than a half-century of intensive deforestation that removed an estimated 600 million cubic meters (21 billion cubic feet) of timber. The logging shutdown was enacted in large part to protect soil and water quality of greater China, which are significantly affected by forest loss in the mountainous region.


Earth Day Picture Gallery: Celebrating Indonesia

(04/22/2014) This Earth Day, we've decided to highlight the spectacular natural wonders of Indonesia, which is arguably the most biodiverse country on Earth. Indonesia is rich with wildlife thanks to its geography: some 17,000 islands spanning 1.9 million square kilometers (741,000 square miles) of tropical seas. Accordingly, the country is home to an incredible array of habitats ranging from rainforests to tropical glaciers to coral reefs, which support untold numbers of species.


Illegal logging makes up 70 percent of Papua New Guinea's timber industry

(04/22/2014) Corruption, weak governance, and powerful timber barons are illegally stripping the forests of Papua New Guinea, according to a new report from the Chatham House. The policy institute finds that 70 percent of logging in Papua New Guinea is currently illegal, despite the fact that 99 percent of land is owned by local indigenous communities.


NASA detects surge in deforestation in Malaysia, Bolivia during first quarter of 2014

(04/21/2014) Forest disturbance in Malaysia, Bolivia, Panama, and Ecuador surged during the first quarter of 2014, according to NASA data.


Small monkeys take over when big primates have been hunted out in the Amazon

(04/21/2014) The barbecued leg of a spider monkey might not be your idea of a sumptuous dinner, but to the Matsés or one of the fifteen tribes in voluntary isolation in Peru, it is the result of a successful hunt and a proud moment for the hunter's family. However, a spider monkey tends to have only a single infant once every 30 months, which necessarily limits the number of adult monkeys available to subsistence hunters.


Brazil strips protected status from 5.2M ha

(04/21/2014) While Brazil led the world in establishing new protected areas in recent years, it has also stripped legal protected status from some 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) of land, finds a new study published in the journal Conservation Biology.


APRIL continued destroying high conservation rainforest up until January pledge

(04/21/2014) Plantation giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) continued to source fiber produced by destruction of high conservation value forests in Sumatra right up until it committed to a new forest conservation policy, according to an investigation by Eyes of the Forest, a coalition of environmental groups in Riau.


Behind the scenes of Showtime's blockbuster series on climate change

(04/18/2014) For years climate change activists and environmentalists have been clamoring for a high-profile, high-impact TV series about climate change to make Americans more aware of an issue that will affect billions of people around the globe in coming decades. This week they finally got it when Showtime released the first episode of Years of Living Dangerously, a big-budget TV series featuring a number of Hollywood's biggest stars as reporters and corespondents.


Rainforests on fire: climate change is pushing the Amazon over the edge

(04/18/2014) From 1999-2010, nearly three percent of the Amazon rainforest burned, and climate forecasts indicate dry conditions conducive to fire will only become more commonplace in the future. A new study indicates that rainforests are more vulnerable to fire than previously thought, and it warns the current combination of climate change and deforestation may be pushing Amazon forests past the breaking point.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Maps for the masses

(04/18/2014) Mark Mulligan makes maps for the masses. In his work on tropical forests, Mulligan uses GIS, modeling, remote sensing, and lab experiments to turn research into datasets and policy support systems, which are available online for use in development, decision-making, and education.


Is Aru safe? Indonesia suspends plan to clear half the islands' forests

(04/17/2014) Aru, an area made up of about ninety-five low-lying islands in the Maluku province of eastern Indonesia, has suspended a plan to clear half of its total forest cover for sugar cane. However, the island paradise is still not safe from large-scale deforestation, according to a report from Mongabay-Indonesia.


Legal logging concessions drive illegal logging in Peru, threatening forests and indigenous people

(04/17/2014) Nearly 70 percent of officially inspected logging concessions in Peru have had their permits canceled or are under investigation for major breaches of forestry laws, finds a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. Worryingly, the research also concludes that forestry permits are being widely used to launder timber illegally logged from outside concession areas.


Okapi-killing warlord shot dead in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

(04/17/2014) The head of an informal militia and poaching group, Paul Sadala a.k.a. 'Morgan,' was killed on Monday after surrendering himself to the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A well-known elephant poacher and terrorist, Morgan became most famous for leading an attack on the Okapi Wildlife Reserve station in 2012.


New relative of the 'penis snake' discovered in Myanmar

(04/17/2014) Scientists have discovered a new species of limbless amphibians, known as caecilians, in Myanmar. Dubbing the species, the colorful ichthyophis (Ichthyophis multicolor), the researchers describe the new amphibian in a recent paper published in Zootaxa. The world's most famous caecilian is the so-called penis snake (Atretochoana eiselti) which was rediscovered in Brazil in 2011.


Malaysia at risk of falling behind in push for more sustainable palm oil

(04/17/2014) The Malaysian state should play a more active role in supporting the transition toward less environmentally destructive palm oil production, says a coalition of Malaysian NGO's. In a statement issued Sunday, the Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC) urged Malaysian banks, palm oil associations, and other government-backed institutions to commit to 'improving social and environmental standards in the palm oil industry'.


Weird and mysterious: scientists find new shark species

(04/16/2014) A long snout with teeth jutting from the sides? Check. Catfish-like barbels dangling from its chin? Got them. Gills on the side of its body? It has those, too. These are characteristics of a bizarre group of sharks known as sawsharks. And until recently, only seven species were recognized. However, a new discovery raises that number by one more.


Ecuador will have referendum on fate of Yasuni after activists collect over 700,000 signatures

(04/16/2014) In what is a major victory for environmentalists, campaigners with United for Yasuni have collected 727,947 signatures triggering a national referendum on whether or not oil drilling should proceed in three blocs of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador.


Long lives, big impacts: human life expectancy linked to extinctions

(04/15/2014) Since the arrival of Homo sapiens, other species have been going extinct at an unprecedented rate. Most scientists now agree that extinction rates are between 100 and 1000 times greater than before humans existed. Working out what is driving these extinctions is fiendishly complicated, but a new study suggests that human life expectancy may be partly to blame.


Nearly a thousand environmental activists murdered since 2002

(04/15/2014) At least 908 people were murdered for taking a stand to defend the environment between 2002 and 2013, according to a new report today from Global Witness, which shows a dramatic uptick in the murder rate during the past four years. Notably, the report appears on the same day that another NGO, Survival International, released a video of a gunman terrorizing a Guarani indigenous community in Brazil.


Malaysia imperils forest reserves and sea turtle nesting ground for industrial site (photos)

(04/15/2014) Plans for an industrial site threaten one of Malaysia's only marine turtle nesting beaches and a forest home to rare trees and mammals, according to local activists. Recently, the state government of Perak approved two industrial project inside Tanjung Hantu Permanent Forest Reserve. But activists say these will not only cut into the reserve, but also scare away nesting turtles from Pasir Panjang.


Ants plant rainforests, one seed at a time

(04/14/2014) Deforestation is destroying forests around the world, but its effects are especially obvious in the Amazon Basin. Due to cattle ranching, soybean farming, logging, and slash-and-burn agriculture, the rainforest is disappearing at a rapid pace. But a recent study published in the Journal of Ecology offers a unique solution to replanting the deforested landscapes: ants.


Climate change solution? UN touts ambitious (but cheap) investment in renewable energy

(04/14/2014) The world is warming rapidly due to greenhouse gas emissions, threatening everything from our food supply to our ecosystems, but the solution may be surprisingly cheap, according to the third and final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report recommends a rapid and aggressive switch from fossil fuel-based energy to renewables.


Riddled with tumors: another blow to the Sumatran rhino species

(04/14/2014) Conservation for Sumatran rhinos suffered another blow last week, only days after Suci—one of only ten rhinos in captive breeding efforts—died at Cincinnati Zoo. Scientists in the Malaysian state of Sabah revealed that a newly captured female, Iman, suffers from an assortment of tumors in her uterus, hugely complicating reproduction efforts.


Life finds a way: the surprising biodiversity of cities

(04/11/2014) In the largest global assessment of urban biodiversity to date, researchers examined the biodiversity of urban areas and found that cities are home to a surprising number of species. The study underlines the conservation importance of preserving and creating green spaces when it comes to urban planning.


Amphibian pandemic may have hit Madagascar, hundreds of species at risk of infection

(04/11/2014) Madagascar is one of the world’s hotspots for amphibian diversity, home to so many frog species that many of them don’t even have names. But soon the island may also harbor a fungus causing drastic declines – even extinctions – of frogs around the world. Ironically, the wildlife trade that’s often blamed for helping spread the disease may also give scientists a chance to prevent it.


Forests in Indonesia's concession areas being rapidly destroyed

(04/10/2014) Forest clearing within areas zoned for timber, logging, oil palm, and mining accounted for nearly 45 percent of deforestation in Indonesia between 2000 and 2010, finds a new study that examined forest loss within industrial concessions.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Empowering everyone to watch over forests

(04/10/2014) Nigel Sizer has worked on the forefront of global forest issues for decades. Currently, he is the Global Director of the World Resource Institute's (WRI) Forests Program, whose projects include the Global Forest Watch, the Forest Legality Alliance, and the Global Restoration Initiative. These programs work with governments, businesses, and civil society with the aim of sustaining forests for generations to come.


A new face for palm oil? How a small co-op is changing the industry in Honduras

(04/10/2014) Expanding oil palm plantations are among the top reasons for deforestation globally, along with cattle ranching, timber, and soy. However, a small palm oil production outfit recently became the first cooperative in the world to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainable growth of African palms, employing a number of innovations to ensure the prosperity of both forests and local communities.


Giant ibis, little dodo, and the kakapo: meet the 100 weirdest and most endangered birds

(04/10/2014) The comic dodo, the stately great auk, the passenger pigeon blotting out the skies: human kind has wiped out nearly 200 species of birds in the last five hundred years. Now, if we don't act soon we'll add many new ones to the list: birds such as the giant ibis, the plains-wanderer, and the crow honeyeater. And these are just a few of the species that appear today on the long-awaited EDGE list.


Cargill commits to zero deforestation, but environmentalists have questions

(04/09/2014) After years of criticism from environmental groups, Cargill says it will establish policies to eliminate deforestation, peatlands conversion, and social conflict from its palm oil supply chain. But activists aren't yet sure what to make of the agribusiness giant's pledge. On Tuesday Cargill released a letter it sent to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets eco-certification standards, in response to a Greenpeace Report linking it to deforestation.


Collateral damage: new findings shed light on the full impact of commercial fishing

(04/09/2014) Aside from reducing the populations of the species sought for capture, commercial fisheries are also killing thousands of nontarget creatures such as sharks, albatross, and sea turtles, collectively referred to as “bycatch.” However, the full extent of the problem is only beginning to be grasped.


City lights threaten rainforests by deterring bats

(04/09/2014) Fruit-eating bats play an important role in forest regeneration, collecting and spreading seeds far and wide. However, human development may be stymying bat-mediated dispersal. In a new study, researchers found that fruit bats avoid feeding in light-polluted areas, which may significantly affect forest growth.


The enemy of your enemy is your ant bodyguard: spider uses one predator for protection against another

(04/09/2014) The notion of spiders using ants as bodyguards seems a bit contradictory, but that is exactly what occurs on the tropical forest floors of the Philippines. The jumping spider strategically nests within the vicinity of the aggressive Asian weaver ant as a defense tactic against its main predator, the spitting spider.


Emissions from rainforest logging average 16% of those from deforestation

(04/08/2014) Carbon emissions from selective logging operations in tropical rainforests are roughly a sixth of those from outright forest clearing, finds a new study that evaluated 13 forestry concessions in six countries. The study analyzed carbon losses from elements of logging operations, including timber extraction, collateral damage to surrounding vegetation, and logging infrastructure like roads and skid trails.


Procter & Gamble, Cargill pledge to cut deforestation linked to palm oil

(04/08/2014) Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Cargill today announced new measures to cut deforestation from their palm oil supply chains. P&G (NYSE:PG), a consumer products giant that owns brands like Head & Shoulders and Oil of Olay, pledged to establish traceability of palm oil to supplier mills by the end of 2015. The policy commits it to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain by 2020.


Featured video: Showtime releases first episode of major new climate change series online

(04/08/2014) Although Showtime's landmark new climate change series doesn't premiere until Sunday, the network has released an edited version of the first episode of Years of Living Dangerously to the public (see below). The nine-part documentary series is being billed as a "groundbreaking" exploration into the many ways that climate change is already wreaking havoc on the lives of people around the world.


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