Conservation news

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'River wolves' recover in Peruvian park, but still remain threatened inside and out (photos)

(10/14/2014) Lobo de río, or river wolf, is the very evocative Spanish name for one of the Amazon's most spectacular mammals: the giant river otter. This highly intelligent, deeply social, and simply charming freshwater predator almost vanished entirely due to a relentless fur trade in the 20th Century. But decades after the trade in giant river otter pelts was outlawed, the species is making a comeback.


Another environmental journalist killed in Cambodia

(10/14/2014) Another Cambodian journalist has been gunned down while investigating illegal logging by state officials.


Could California be facing a mega-drought?

(10/13/2014) Scientists and politicians, everyone agrees: California is in deep trouble. As the state enters its fourth year of drought and the soil has never been drier. Some look at the sky with hope that El Niño will bring much needed rain. But most are starting to wonder if this is just the beginning. Are we entering a mega-drought that could last for more than a decade?


Jane Goodall joins mongabay

(10/13/2014) Famed primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall—whose image is known the world over—has joined the advisory board of mongabay.org. This is the non-profit branch of mongabay.com, an environmental and science website with a special focus on tropical forests. Goodall first came to global prominence at the age of 26 when she set off to Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania to study chimpanzee behavior.


New species named after the struggle for same-sex marriage

(10/13/2014) Scientists have named new species after celebrities, fictional characters, and even the corporations that threaten a species' very existence, but a new snail may be the first to be named after a global human rights movement: the on-going struggle for same-sex marriage. Scientists have named the new Taiwanese land snail, Aegista diversifamilia, meaning diverse human families.


Forest restoration commitments: driven by science or politics?

(10/10/2014) During September's UN Climate Summit, three African nations were recognized for their commitments to restore collectively millions of hectares of forest. But several organizations declined invitations to sign the pact because they say it fails to lay out “concrete action” to fight climate change, and some experts in the field worry that the announcements are little more than political posturing.


Greenpeace sinks Lego's $116 million deal with Shell Oil over Arctic drilling

(10/09/2014) Lego has announced it will be severing its partnership with the oil giant, Shell, when the current contract expires after a clever campaign by environmental activist group, Greenpeace. Since 2011, Lego has been selling exclusive sets at Shell stations, but the companies' relationship actually goes back decades. In 1966, the Danish toy company first began selling Lego sets with Shell's brand stamped on them.


Google, zoo to leverage 'TV white space' to monitor wildlife

(10/09/2014) Imagine watching a tiger stalk a sambar deer or catching a ghost-like glimpse of the rarely-seen saola—all from your desktop and in real time. Well, this may soon be possible under a new partnership with Google and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which will test TV white space to monitor zoo animals as a trial run for real-time filming life in the wild.


'A remarkable conservation achievement': Ecuador reserve expands as forest disappears

(10/09/2014) A strip of rainforest running along the northwestern Ecuadorian coast and up through Colombia is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Yet, less than 10 percent of Ecuador’s portion remains intact, with more forest lost every year to human development. But a little more has been saved for now, with 500 hectares added to an area reserve.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Empower youth leaders

(10/09/2014) Want to save forests? Don't forget the youth, says Pedro Walpole, the Chair and Director of Research for the Environmental Science for Social Change, a Jesuit environmental research organization promoting sustainability and social justice across the Asia Pacific region. 'Youth leadership in environmental management is key,' Walpole told mongabay.com.


Forest fragmentation's carbon bomb: 736 million tonnes C02 annually

(10/09/2014) Scientists have long known that forest fragments are not the same ecologically as intact forest landscapes. When forests are slashed into fragments, winds dry out the edges leading to dying trees and rising temperatures. Biodiversity often drops, while local extinctions rise and big animals vanish. Now, a new study finds another worrisome impact of forest fragmentation: carbon emissions.


Brazil unlikely to sustain gains in reducing deforestation without new incentives for ranchers, says study

(10/09/2014) Cattle ranchers that drive the vast majority of forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon are unlikely to be held at bay indefinitely unless they are afforded new incentives for keeping trees standing, argues new analysis published by an economic research group. The findings suggest that Brazil's recent progress in reducing deforestation — annual forest loss in the region has dropped by roughly 80 percent since 2004 — could easily be reversed.


INTERPOL launches African environmental crime unit

(10/08/2014) To help fight illegal poaching and trafficking, INTERPOL, the world's largest international police organization, has launched an environmental crimes unit in Africa.


Helping orangutans survive: new project aims to connect habitat fragments in Kalimantan (PART II)

(10/08/2014) Two decades ago, a project to convert one million hectares of forest to rice paddies was undertaken by the Indonesian government in southern Kalimantan. The project was a massive failure and was eventually abandoned, but not before it destroyed critical orangutan habitat. Now a new project is trying to knit together what's left and turn the area's isolated orangutan populations into one of Borneo's largest.


The only solution for polar bears: 'stop the rise in CO2 and other greenhouse gases'

(10/08/2014) Steven Amstrup, Chief Scientist for Polar Bears International, has worked diligently on polar bears for over 30 years. He radio-collared some of the first bears and discovered that annual activity areas for 75 tracked females averaged at a stunning 149,000 square kilometers. His recent work highlighted the cost of global warming to these incredible animals and the sea ice they so closely depend on.


Marooned in shrinking forests, Bornean orangutans hang on as disaster looms (PART I)

(10/07/2014) The great apes are among some of the most endangered species on Earth, the targets of poachers and the victims of deforestation. However, from time-to-time there comes news of hope. A study published recently describes the dire situation faced by Bornean orangutans, as well as an ambitious project to help save them.


An impossible balancing act? Forests benefit from isolation, but at cost to local communities

(10/07/2014) The indigenous people of the Amazon live in areas that house many of the Amazon’s diverse species. The Rupununi region of Guyana is one such area, with approximately 20,000 Makushi and Wapishana people living in isolation. According to a recent study published in Environmental Modelling & Software, a simulation model revealed a link between growing indigenous populations and gradual local resource depletion.


Saving Peru's sea turtles and marine birds: conservationists and fishermen partner to tackle bycatch

(10/07/2014) Marine conservationists often view fisheries as an enemy of sorts, vacuuming up fish with little thought to the long-term consequences and using equipment that also ends up killing other species, i.e. bycatch like sea turtles and marine birds. However, Joanna Alfaro Shigueto, the President of the Peruvian NGOProDelphinus and winner of a 2012 Whitley Award, has chosen a different tact.


Elephants worth much, much more alive than dead, says new report

(10/06/2014) Elephants are worth 76 times more when they’re alive than dead, according to a new analysis released this past weekend. The report follows on the heels of findings by WWF that the world has lost 50 percent of its wildlife over the past 40 years, with more than half of African elephants killed for ivory in just one decade.


Use of mammals still prevalent in Brazil’s Conservation Units

(10/06/2014) For as long as humans and animals have co-existed, people have utilized them as resources. Animals, and their parts, have been used for a variety of purposes, ranging from basic food to more esoteric practices such as in magical ceremonies or religion. A new study has found that the undocumented use of animals, particularly mammals, continues to occur in Brazil’s protected areas known as Conservation Units.


The Zanaga iron ore mine – a test of best laid plans for preserving wildlife

(10/06/2014) One of the largest iron ore deposits in Africa is located in a strip 47 kilometers long and three kilometers wide in the Republic of the Congo (RoC), bordering Gabon. A core section of the Guineo-Congolian Forest rises above this vast mineral deposit, and provides a home to flagship endangered species like western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and forest elephants.


Photos: Czech Republic publicly burns confiscated rhino horns

(10/06/2014) Late last month, armed guards escorted officials marching 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of rhino horns to a pyre for burning. The event, at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, was the first public burning of rhino horns in Europe. The Czech Republic burned the horns, which came from a government stockpile as well as from past rhinos held at the zoo, in a bid to help conserve rhinos.


Report rates palm oil companies on sustainability commitments

(10/05/2014) A new report published Forest Heroes, an advocacy campaign pushing for an end to deforestation, ranks global palm oil companies on their sustainability commitments. The Green Tigers, authored by Glen Hurowitz, reviews the recent history of environmental policies in the palm oil sector, beginning with the formation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004 through the wave of comprehensive zero deforestation commitments in 2013-2014.


Central Kalimantan to set up palm oil monitoring system to in bid cut deforestation 80%

(10/05/2014) The Indonesian province of Central Kalimantan is moving forward on an oil palm plantation monitoring system it hopes will help meet a commitment to reduce deforestation 80 percent by 2020. The online monitoring system will include "information on the performance of plantation concessions such as productivity, the number of smallholder farmers, deforestation and other land cover change, and fire occurrence," according to Earth Innovation Institute which designed and is helping the provincial government implement the system.


Companies hire local communities to evade palm oil restrictions in Indonesia

(10/04/2014) As more palm oil companies are held accountable for deforestation in Indonesia, a growing number are hiring local communities to do their dirty work. According to the Oil Palm Farmers Union (SPKS), companies promise to buy mature fruits at attractive rates from smallholders and local villages who agree to clear and plant in protected forest areas. Through these agreements, companies distance themselves from the process, leaving the locals to bear responsibility for the destruction.


Balu Wala, or the Kuna ‘good life': how one indigenous tribe is passing on its traditions (photos)

(10/03/2014) Jesús Smith is sitting at his old wooden desk facing the entrance to his house. He's hunched over, shirtless, and wearing his chunky reading glasses while writing copious notes by hand — a favorite pastime. When he sees the profile of one of his students, Julio, walking past his doorway, he yells, 'Hey! I'll see you in class tomorrow!'


Outcompeted: Species competition may result in geographic isolation

(10/03/2014) Scientists have long believed that gene flow and species dispersal is only interrupted by physical barriers, like mountain ranges, rivers or even the complete disappearance of a suitable habitat. But new research into the distribution of two mouse opossum species in South America suggests that other factors may play a role as well, such as competition and predation.


Will 'Asia's unicorn' survive? Hunting and deforestation continue in Vietnam biosphere reserve PART II

(10/02/2014) Encompassing 1.3 million hectares, Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve the largest such reserve in all of Southeast Asia. Because of the biological importance of the region, it was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2007. But deforestation and bushmeat hunting continue, begging the question: is the wildlife of Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve truly protected?


Despite high deforestation, Indonesia making progress on forests, says Norwegian official

(10/02/2014) Despite having a deforestation rate that now outpaces that of the Brazilian Amazon, Indonesia is beginning to undertake critical reforms necessary to curb destruction of its carbon-dense rainforests and peatlands, says a top Norwegian official. Speaking with mongabay.com in Jakarta on Monday, Stig Traavik, Norway's ambassador to Indonesia, drew parallels between recent developments in Indonesia and initiatives launched in Brazil a decade ago, when deforestation was nearly five times higher than it is today.


Infamous pet and zoo supplier lost 3,500 animals a week (photos)

(10/02/2014) Nearly five years ago, a seven month long investigation, led by PETA, into an exotic animal wholesaler finally came to a dreary end. Authorities raided U.S. Global Exotics (USGE) in Arlington, Texas, confiscating over 26,400 animals from 171 species and types, held in inhumane and unsanitary conditions. The raid would become one of the largest exotic animal seizures in U.S. history.


What makes the jaguar the ultimate survivor? New books highlights mega-predator's remarkable past and precarious future

(10/02/2014) For thousands of years the jaguar was a God, then it was vermin to be destroyed, and today it is the inspiration for arguably the most ambitious conservation effort on the planet. A new book by renowned big cat conservationist, Alan Rabinowitz, tells this remarkable story from the jaguar's evolutionary origins in Asia to its re-emergence today as a cultural and ecological symbol.


Throng of 35,000 walruses is largest ever recorded on land, sign of warming arctic

(10/01/2014) A mass of thousands of walruses were spotted hauled up on land in northwest Alaska during NOAA aerial surveys earlier this week. An estimated 35,000 occupied a single beach – a record number illustrating a trend in an unnatural behavior scientists say is due to global warming.


Small chocolate company takes big steps toward conservation and human development

(10/01/2014) Madécasse is not just another chocolate company selling their bars in high-end supermarkets across the United States and Europe. Their bean-to-bar business model is shaping the way small companies deal with the developing world while providing new reasons to conserve a biodiversity hotspot.


Officials bust one of the biggest players in illegal Indonesian manta ray trade

(10/01/2014) Writing this from a hotel room in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, I realize that I am filled with trepidation as I wait for the phone next to me to ring. When it does, the voice on the other end will tell me it’s go time; the culmination of many years of work towards ending the global trade in manta ray gills.


High Court denies appeal by palm oil company that cleared protected peat forest

(09/30/2014) Furthering Indonesia's renewed commitment to environmental justice, the High Court of Banda Aceh denied an appeal by PT. Kallista Alam, the oil palm company found guilty of destroying over 1,000 hectares of protected peat forest in Gunung Leuser ecosystem. The Court upheld the previous ruling, which fined the company 366 billion rupiah ($30 million) in penalties and restoration fees.


The largest biosphere reserve in Southeast Asia: Vietnam’s success story or a conservation failure? PART I

(09/30/2014) In 2010, poachers shot and killed the last Javan rhino in Vietnam, wiping out an entire subspecies. The Sumatran rhino, the Malayan tapir and the civet otter, too, have disappeared from the country. Moreover, charismatic species like tigers, elephants, gibbons and the secretive saola discovered recently in Vietnam’s forests are at risk of extinction in the coming decades as threats to wildlife continue unabated in the country.


Studying common birds could help save rare species in Vietnam

(09/30/2014) Studies in conservation biology often focus on rare, threatened species faced with impending extinction, but what about common animals of least concern? Could they too help conservationists fine-tune their approach? Doctoral researcher Laurel Yohe not only claims that they can, but demonstrates how in a new study. She and five other researchers compared ranges of five babblers with development across Vietnam.


Malaysian palm oil company destroys Borneo forests, despite buyer's zero deforestation commitment

(09/30/2014) Malaysian palm oil company Genting Plantations is continuing to destroy forests despite a high-profile pledge by one of its customers to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain, alleges a report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.


Armed conflict decimates tigers, rhinos, and swamp deer in Indian park

(09/30/2014) The human cost of war is horrendous. However, while most attention is focused on the suffering caused to people—and rightly so—an understudied element is the impact on wildlife conservation. This is worrying given that many of the world’s conflict zones are situated in biodiversity hotspots.


Joint force uses Google Earth to find elephant poaching camps in Mozambique, captures poachers in raid

(09/30/2014) On Monday, September 22, two ivory poachers were arrested in Mozambique during a late-night raid near Niassa National Reserve. The arrest followed on the heels of nearly two-dozen reported kills in the reserve in just the first two weeks of the month.


A weed by any other name: remnant shrubs and trees play vital role in regenerating forests

(09/29/2014) Tropical forest restoration projects are exciting research sites for scientists studying factors that affect ecosystem recovery. Here, scientists are trying to understand plant community succession, i.e. the process of recovery after cleared lands are abandoned and allowed to regrow naturally. One of the most important components of this recovery process is seed dispersal, since seeds from nearby forests allow a deforested habitat to become populated again by native plants and trees.


Climate change to boost farmland, diminish harvests, says new study

(09/29/2014) Climate change is likely to alter how we humans grow adequate amounts of food for a swelling global population. Assessing just how much and where those changes will occur has been difficult. But a new study takes aim at those very questions and could provide a guide for the debate over feeding the planet while also preserving biodiversity and the forests that filter out the carbon we produce.


Did the world's only venomous primate evolve to mimic the cobra?

(09/29/2014) The bite of a slow loris can be painful, and sometimes even lethal. After all, this cute-looking YouTube sensation is the only known 'venomous' primate in the world—a trait that might have strangely evolved to mimic spectacled cobras, according to a recent paper. Mimicry in mammals is rare. But anecdotal evidence and studies in the past have noted the uncanny cobra-like defensive postures, sounds, and gait in slow lorises.


Dogs may be responsible for declining mammals in Brazil’s agroforests

(09/26/2014) With an estimated population of 700 million individuals, domestic dogs are the most abundant carnivore in the world and are present everywhere that man has settled. Domestic dogs are not usually viewed as a huge threat to wildlife and native habitats, but according to a recent study dogs fit all three categories to be considered an invasive species and may be decimating mammals in agroforests in Brazil.


Diverse, deceptive, declining: orchids threatened by deforestation in South America

(09/26/2014) Pushing past a thick fern leaf, Crain stopped short, overcome by joy. As he broke into dance, his assistant peered curiously at the tiny lentil-shaped fruit dangling from a stem, and resolutely decided Crain was mad. After more than two years studying a rare Puerto Rican endemic orchid species, Crain had finally found his first specimen bearing fruit.


Coal mine has heavy impact in Indonesian Borneo

(09/26/2014) Baharuddin should be happy. The rambutan and durian trees flanking his home are heavy with fruit. Two hectares of chilies stretch before his house. The price of chili — a staple commodity in Indonesia — has been stable for six months. From his 2,000 plants he hopes to earn 40 million rupiah ($3,400), much of which he wants to invest in expanding his crop. That is, if his farm can survive the threats that have destroyed so many of his neighbor's.


Hitchhiking Caribbean lizard upends island biogeography theory

(09/26/2014) The biggest factor determining species diversity and distribution on islands is not size and isolation, as traditional island biogeography theory states, but economics. Simply put, the more trade an island is engaged in, the more boats visit it, and with more boats comes more hitchhikers.


Reintroduction program ups Mexico's scarlet macaw population by 34 percent in one year

(09/25/2014) While listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, the scarlet macaw has disappeared from almost all of its native range in Mexico, is very rare in most Central America countries, and is locally extinct in El Salvador. A new paper published this week finds a reintroduction program was hugely successful in its first year of operation, with a 92 percent survival rate for released birds.


Four countries pledge to restore 30 million hectares of degraded lands at UN Summit

(09/25/2014) In 2011, Germany and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature launched the Bonn Challenge, which pledged to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. Several countries have already made commitments—including the U.S.—but this week at the UN Climate Summit four more jumped on board.


Scientists uncover six potentially new species in Peru, including bizarre aquatic mammal (photos)

(09/25/2014) A group of Peruvian and Mexican scientists say they have uncovered at least six new species near South America's most famous archaeological site: Machu Picchu. The discoveries include a new mammal, a new lizard, and four new frogs. While the scientists are working on formally describing the species, they have released photos and a few tantalizing details about the new discoveries.


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