Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
Odd porcupine hugely imperiled by hunting, deforestation
(12/16/2013) The thin-spined porcupine, also known as the bristle-spined rat, is a truly distinct animal: a sort of cross between New World porcupines and spiny rats with genetic research showing it is slightly closer to the former rather than the latter. But the thin-spined porcupine (Chaetomys subspinosus), found only in Brazil's Atlantic Forest, is imperiled by human activities. In fact, a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science found that the species remains a target for hunters, despite a reputation for tasting terrible.
Indonesian palm oil company demolishes homes and evicts villagers in week-long raid
(12/14/2013) Nearly 150 homes were reportedly destroyed in the latest incident in a long-standing conflict between indigenous Batin Sembilan residents and former Wilmar unit PT Asiatic Persada. Indonesian security forces allegedly stormed several villages inside a Sumatran palm oil plantation concession last weekend and earlier this week, accompanying company staff and hired thugs accused of destroying dozens of homes and looting residents’ property.
Sonar directly impacts whale behavior, according to military study
(12/13/2013) Noises from pile-driving, explosives, ship motors and other industrial activities have all been linked to adverse effects on marine wildlife. A new study, funded by the US Navy and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests that military sonar may be directly impacting whale behavior. The idea that sonar might affect the behavior of whales is not new. A number of reports in the past have linked the use of military sonar to mass stranding events of beaked whales and baleen whale species.
Reforestation can't offset massive fossil fuels emissions
(12/13/2013) With the Australian, Japanese, and Canadian governments making an about-face on carbon-emissions reduction targets during the Warsaw climate summit, some experts are warning that the global need for solutions offsetting CO2 emissions is passing a "red line." Land-based mitigation practices comprise one of the solutions on the table as a result of both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol; however, a paper published in Nature Climate Change by an international team led by Brendan Mackey, has raised the looming question of whether or not land-based practices can actually improve CO2 levels as much as hoped.
Featured video: U.S. forests decimated for 'green' bio-energy in Europe
(12/12/2013) Wetland forests in the southern U.S. are becoming the victims of a drive for so-called green energy in Europe, according to activist group Dogwood Alliance, which has produced a new video highlighting the issue. The activists contend that bio-energy that depends on chopping down forests not only devastates vital ecosystems, but actually emits more greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels.
Big data shows tropical mammals on the decline
(12/12/2013) The world's largest remote camera trap initiative—monitoring 275 species in 17 protected areas—is getting some big data assistance from Hewlett-Packard (HP). To date, the monitoring program known as the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network has taken over 1.5 million photos of animals in 14 tropical countries, but conservationists have struggled with how to quickly evaluate the flood of data.
Logging kingpin linked to kidnapping, violent assault seeks legitimacy via IPO
(12/11/2013) A businessman whose company kidnapped and violently assaulted environmentalists investigating illegal logging in a national park is set to earn millions of dollars from Thursday's initial public offering of Sawit Sumbermas Sarana, a palm oil company with holdings in Indonesian Borneo. Environmentalists are warning responsible investors to steer clear of the IPO.
Environmentalists call for recognition of orangutan, rhino habitat as heritage site
(12/11/2013) Environmentalists in Indonesia's Aceh Province are calling upon the local governor to nominate the Leuser Ecosystem as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to help protect the area — one of the last places where rhinos, elephants, tigers, and orangutans share the same habitat — from new legislation that would grant large blocks of forest for logging concessions, mining, and industrial plantations.
Bonobos: the Congo Basin's great gardeners
(12/11/2013) The survival of primary forests depends on many overlapping interactions. Among these interactions include tropical gardeners, like the bonobo (Pan pansicus) in the Congo Basin, according to a new study in the Journal of Tropical Ecology. Bonobos are known as a keystone species, vital to the diversification and existence of their forests.
Indonesia urged to implement decision recognizing indigenous rights to land
(12/10/2013) Indigenous rights groups are circulating a petition asking the Indonesian government to immediately implement a court ruling that would take management of million of hectares of customary forest out of the hands of the Ministry of Forestry and turn it over to traditional communities. The petition was posted on Change.org by Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).
Journalists win environmental news reporting prizes
(12/10/2013) Mongabay's internship program has benefited from the hard work and great environmental reporting of more than 30 writing interns since the program's inception in July 2012. This year, Mongabay asked this pool of contributing authors to submit their most compelling piece out of over 150 articles. The submissions were then reviewed by a panel.
Ecuador's government shuts down indigenous rights organization over oil battle
(12/10/2013) Last Wednesday, the government of Ecuador shutdown the indigenous rights NGO, Fundación Pachamama, in Quito over the group's opposition to oil drilling in indigenous areas. More than a dozen government officials showed up at Pachamama's office with a resolution by the Ministry of Environment that officially dissolved the organization, the first such moved by the government which in June passed an Executive Decree that tightened governmental oversight of the country's NGOs.
Average American consumes 50,000 pounds of raw materials annually for the stuff they buy
(12/10/2013) The average American car weighs about 3,000 pounds. But to produce that vehicle, a lot more raw materials were used than its final weight! Maybe as much as 100 times more, as reported by scientists in a recent paper in the Proceedings of National Academy of Science. For this car to be produced, iron ore is mined in Australia and made into steel. Steel is then shipped to Japan and made into a car, which is then sold in the U.S. Most studies until now, measured national consumption by accounting only for the final weight of the products we purchase.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2013
(12/10/2013) 1. Carbon concentrations hit 400ppm while the IPCC sets global carbon budget: For the first time since our appearance on Earth, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. The last time concentrations were this high for a sustained period was 4-5 million years ago when temperatures were 10 degrees Celsius higher. Meanwhile, in the slow-moving effort to curb carbon emissions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) crafted a global carbon budget showing that most of the world's fossil fuel reserves must be left untouched if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
China bans shark fin, bird's nest soup from state banquets
(12/10/2013) China has banned shark fin and bird's nest soup from being served at official state banquets, reports Chinese state media.
Palm oil IPO presents environmental, financial risks
(12/10/2013) An Indonesian palm oil company has failed to disclose all the financial and environmental risks to investors ahead of its December 12 initial public offering (IPO), alleges a new report from environmental groups. PT Sawit Sumbermas Sarana (SSMS), a palm oil company that operates plantations in Indonesian Borneo, aims to raise a trillion ($88 million) in this week's IPO.
Conventional satellite imagery may underestimate forest clearing for subsistence agriculture
(12/09/2013) Analysis of forest cover using medium-scale satellite imagery may miss deforestation for small-scale subsistence agriculture, finds a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
New mountain porcupine discovered in Brazil (photos)
(12/09/2013) In Brazil's Baturite Mountains, scientists have uncovered a new species of prehensile-tailed porcupine, according to a new paper in Revista Nordestina de Biologia. Dubbed, the Baturite porcupine (Coendou baturitensis), the new species was discovered when scientists noticed significant differences between it and its closest relative, the Brazilian porcupine (Coendou prehensilis). The name prehensile-tailed refers to these porcupines long, mobile tail which they use as a fifth limb to adroitly climb trees.
Making cap-and-trade work: the history and future of a proven program
(12/09/2013) While the merits for slowing climate change will be treated here as a given, the method for doing so looms elusive. In a recent article, I described pricing carbon through carbon taxes and carbon credits as a way to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and slow global climate change. As there has been some emotive controversy towards both of these, I would like to analyze them more deeply, starting here with carbon credits.
Like ancient humans, some lemurs slumber in caves
(12/05/2013) After playing, feeding, and socializing in trees all day, some ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) take their nightly respite in caves, according to a new study in Madagascar Conservation and Development. The findings are important because this is the first time scientists have ever recorded primates regularly using caves (see video below).
World's biggest palm oil company makes zero deforestation commitment
(12/05/2013) Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil trader and a long-time target of environmentalists, has signed a landmark policy that commits the company to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. The deal, if fully implemented, has the potential to transform the palm oil industry, which has emerged over the past decade as one of the world's most important drivers of tropical forest destruction.
Top scientists propose ambitious plans to safeguard world from devastating climate change
(12/05/2013) Two degrees is too much: that's the conclusion of a landmark new paper by top economists and climatologists, including James Hansen formerly of NASA. The paper, appearing in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, argues that global society must aim for only one degree Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impact of climate change, and not the two degrees Celsius agreed on by the world's governments. But given that the world's governments are not yet on track to even achieve the two degree target, how could we lock in just one? A combination of renewable energy, nuclear power, and, most importantly, a rising price on carbon emissions, according to the eighteen scientists.
Humans are not apex predators, but meat-eating on the rise worldwide
(12/05/2013) A new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has measured the "trophic level" of human beings for the first time. Falling between 1 and 5.5, trophic levels refer to where species fit on the food chain. Apex predators like tigers and sharks are given a 5.5 on trophic scale since they survive almost entirely on consuming meat, while plants and phytoplankton, which make their own food, are at the bottom of the scale. Humans, according to the new paper, currently fall in the middle: 2.21. However, rising meat-eating in countries like China, India, and Brazil is pushing our trophic level higher with massive environmental impacts.
Green investors urge companies to clean up palm oil industry
(12/04/2013) A coalition of investors and asset managers is urging stakeholders in the palm oil industry to adopt policies that exclude deforestation and human rights violations from their supply chains. The call, coordinated by Green Century Capital Management, was issued in the form of letters sent to 40 major palm oil producers, financiers and buyers.
APP's Borneo expansion to be constrained by forest conservation policy
(12/04/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) will not convert any blocks of forest found to have high conservation value or substantial carbon stocks as it expands in Indonesian Borneo, according the forestry giant's managing director of sustainability. Responding to a report published by Greenomics, Aida Greenbury said APP's 10-month-old forest conservation policy applies to four suppliers operating in East and West Kalimantan.
Microsoft founder funds Africa-wide elephant survey to measure ivory poachers' toll
(12/04/2013) Beginning next year, light planes and helicopters will undertake the first ever continent-wide aerial survey of Africa's vanishing elephant populations. The hugely ambitious initiative, which will count elephant herds in 13 countries, is being funded by Microsoft founder, Paul Allen, through his Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
Sky islands: exploring East Africa's last frontier
(12/04/2013) The montane rainforests of East Africa are little-known to the global public. The Amazon and Congo loom much larger in our minds, while the savannas of East Africa remain the iconic ecosystems for the region. However these ancient, biodiverse forests—sitting on the tops of mountains rising from the African savanna—are home to some remarkable species, many found only in a single forest. A team of international scientists—Michele Menegon, Fabio Pupin, and Simon Loader—have made it their mission to document the little-known reptiles and amphibians in these so-called sky islands, many of which are highly imperiled.
Sri Lankan elephant amnesty will lead to poaching, warn conservationists
(12/03/2013) Environmentalists have responded with alarm to a proposed amnesty permitting the registration of illegally captured elephants in Sri Lanka. Recent reports in Sri Lankan media have outlined the proposal, stating that during the amnesty period it would be possible to register elephant calves for a fee of about $7,600. Elephants are closely linked with Sri Lankan history and culture, and are considered sacred in both Buddhism and Hinduism. But the situation for elephants in the country is complicated.
86 percent of big animals in the Sahara Desert are extinct or endangered
(12/03/2013) Bigger than all of Brazil, among the harshest ecosystems on Earth, and largely undeveloped, one would expect that the Sahara desert would be a haven for desert wildlife. One would anticipate that big African animals—which are facing poaching and habitat loss in other parts of the world—would thrive in this vast wilderness. But a new landmark study in Diversity and Distributions finds that the megafauna of the Sahara desert are on the verge of total collapse.
Where have all the dugongs gone?
(12/03/2013) Legend has it that lonely sailors mistook them for beautiful, mythical mermaids. But as it turns out, the muse behind these beguiling sea nymphs was instead the dugong – a rather ungainly, gentle and mini-bus sized marine mammal, cousin to the manatees and part of the sea cow family. However, while they may have once fuelled stories for fairytales and Disney movies, their far-from-glamorous life is currently under serious threat in many parts of the world.
Animal Earth: exploring the hidden biodiversity of our planet
(12/03/2013) Most of the species on Earth we never see. In fact, we have no idea what they look like, much less how spectacular they are. In general, people can identify relatively few of their backyard species, much less those of other continents. This disconnect likely leads to an inability in the general public to relate to biodiversity and, by extension, the loss of it. One of the most remarkable books I have read is a recent release that makes serious strides to repair that disconnect and affirm the human bond with biodiversity. Animal Earth: The Amazing Diversity of Living Creatures written by Ross Piper, a zoologist with the University of Leeds, opens up the door to discovery.
Brazil could boost agriculture without destroying forests
(12/03/2013) Brazil could substantially boost its agricultural output while increasing protection of its native ecosystems, finds a new analysis published by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), an international think tank.
Plantations used as cover for destruction of old-growth forests in Myanmar
(12/02/2013) As Wild Burma: Nature's Lost Kingdom airs on the BBC, the forests documented in the series are increasingly being cut down, according to a new report by U.S. NGO Forest Trends. The report alleges that wide swathes of forest are being cleared in ethnic minority areas of Myanmar (also known as Burma), ostensibly for palm oil and rubber plantations. However after the lucrative timber is extracted, the report finds little evidence that the companies involved are serious about establishing plantations.
Reversing local extinction: scientists bring the northern bald ibis back to Europe after 300 years
(12/02/2013) The northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), also called the hermit ibis or waldrapp, is a migratory bird. Once, the bald ibis lived in the Middle East, northern Africa and southern and central Europe, but due to hunting, loss of habitat and pesticide-use, the birds disappeared from most of these areas and is currently considered Critically Endangered. It became extinct in Europe 300 years ago; the bird is almost gone in Syria, with only a single individual recorded at the country's lone breeding site in 2013; and the only stronghold left is a small population of around 500 birds in Morocco. But now, a team of scientists from Austria is working to reestablish a self-sustaining, migratory population of bald ibis in Europe.
22,000 elephants slaughtered for their ivory in 2012
(12/02/2013) As the African Elephant Summit open in Botswana today, conservationists released a new estimate of the number of African elephants lost to the guns of poachers last year: 22,000. Some 15,000 elephants killed in 42 sites across 27 countries on the continent, according to newly released data from the CITES program, Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE). But conservationists estimate another 7,000 went unreported. The number killed is a slight decrease over 2011 numbers of 25,000.
Little dude takes the prize: rare dormouse wins BBC camera trap contest (photos)
(12/02/2013) The image of a rare dormouse has won the fourth annual BBC Wildlife Camera-Trap Photo of the Year award. Photographed in Turkey, the Roach's mouse-tailed dormouse (Myomimus roachi) is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List with its habitat rapidly disappearing for agriculture. The photo took the grand prize out of 850 entries from around world in a contest that takes into account the scientific importance of submitted photos.
New project works to raise the profile of the world's littlest bear
(12/02/2013) The world's least-known bear also happens to be the smallest: sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), so called for the yellowish horseshoe mark on its chest, are found across Southeast Asia. But despite their telltale markings, super-long tongues, and endearing cuteness, sun bears remain little-studied and little-known compared to many of the region's other large mammals. Now, a new project is working to raise the profile of the sun bears of Borneo—Survival of the Sun Bears—which are a smaller subspecies of the mainland animals.
Hedge fund downgrades stock over company's links to illegal logging in Russian Far East
(12/02/2013) A hedge fund manager has downgraded Lumber Liquidators' stock over the company's alleged links to illegal logging in the Russian Far East, reports The Wall Street Journal. Speaking at the Robin Hood Investors Conference on November 22, Whitney Tilson, the founder of Kase Capital Management, said Lumber Liquidators' stock price may be inflated due to purchases of illegally sourced timber from Russia.
Palm oil company Bumitama under fire for clearing rainforest, endangering orangutans
(12/02/2013) Bumitama Agri, an Indonesian palm oil producer, is breaking the law by clearing forests and developing plantations without the proper licenses, a coalition of NGOs said in a report released on Nov. 21. The groups have called on financiers to either force Bumitama to shape up or cut ties with the company and with global palm oil traders such as Wilmar and IOI that do business with Bumitama.
Illegal timber, rhino horn, elephant ivory seized in raids across Africa
(12/01/2013) Raids in southern and eastern Africa yielded a stash of contraband linked to illegal poaching and logging, reports Interpol, which coordinated the operations.
Journalism prizes explore community forestry, commodity supply chains, China's seafood consumption
(12/01/2013) Mongabay.org announces three new $20,000 environmental reporting prizes under its Special Reporting Initiatives program. Three new environmental journalism prizes will enable journalists to do in-depth reporting on three important environmental topics: the role of community forest management in addressing climate change, cleaning up commodity supply chains, and the market for more sustainable seafood in China. The prizes come under Mongabay.org's Special Reporting Initiatives(SRI), a program that provides funding for environmental reporting. Mongabay.org will commit up to $20,000 to fund the top proposal.
Video: the conservation drone revolution
(11/29/2013) The use of small autonomous flying vehicles — model airplanes to hobbyists — is revolutionizing the field of conservation, enabling researchers to track wildlife, monitor for poachers, and survey inaccessible forests and reefs.
Scientists discover new cat species roaming Brazil
(11/27/2013) As a family, cats are some of the most well-studied animals on Earth, but that doesn't mean these adept carnivores don't continue to surprise us. Scientists have announced today the stunning discovery of a new species of cat, long-confused with another. Looking at the molecular data of small cats in Brazil, researchers found that the tigrina—also known as the oncilla in Central America—is actually two separate species. The new species has been dubbed Leopardus guttulus and is found in the Atlantic Forest of southern Brazil, while the other Leopardus tigrinus is found in the cerrado and Caatinga ecosystems in northeastern Brazil.
28 percent of potential bonobo habitat remains suitable
(11/27/2013) Only 27.5 percent of potential bonobo habitat is still suitable for the African great ape, according to the most comprehensive study of species' range yet appearing in Biodiversity Conservation. 'Bonobos are only found in lowland rainforest south of the sweeping arch of the Congo River, west of the Lualaba River, and north of the Kasai River,' lead author Jena Hickey with Cornell told mongabay.com. 'Our model identified 28 percent of that range as suitable for bonobos. This species of ape could use much more of its range if it weren't for the habitat loss and forest fragmentation that gives poachers easier access to illegally hunt bonobos.'
Google Earth reveals fish catch is 6 times greater than thought in Persian Gulf
(11/27/2013) Google Earth has once again been used by researchers for scientific discovery.
Mangrove ecosystems being obliterated in Myanmar
(11/27/2013) Mangrove cover in Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Delta declined by nearly two-thirds between 1978 and 2011, leaving coastal areas more vulnerable to disasters like Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,000 people in 2008, finds a new study published in the journal Global Environmental Change. The research, led by a team of scientists from the National University of Singapore and Mangrove and Environmental Rehabilitation Network in Yangon, is based on remote sensing and field data.
Controversial palm oil project approved in Cameroon rainforest
(11/26/2013) A controversial palm oil project set in the West African rainforest in Cameroon has won a three-year provisional lease to convert 20,000 hectares of land for plantations. The project, which is run by U.S.-based Herakles Farms, has been heavily opposed by environmental groups who say it will destroy blocks of wildlife-rich forest.
Camera traps reveal Amur leopards are breeding in China (photos)
(11/26/2013) Good news today about one of the world's rarest mammals: camera traps in China's Wangqing Nature Reserve have captured the first proof of breeding Amur leopards in the country, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The photos show a mother Amur leopard with two cubs. A recent survey by WWF-Russia estimated the total wild population of Amur leopards at just 50 individuals, but that's a population on the rise (from a possible nadir of 25) and expanding into long-unused territory.
Not all mangroves are created equal: new map reveals carbon storage hot-spots
(11/26/2013) Mangrove forests are one of the most important weapons in the fight against climate change. Not only do they directly store huge amounts of carbon, but they actively capture additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it in their soils. When mangroves are destroyed, huge quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere, significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Consumer report uncovers why people buy rhino horn
(11/26/2013) The rhinoceros is one of the largest and most iconic animals to roam the earth. However, poaching for their horn, erroneously believed to have medicinal value, has led the IUCN Red List to classify three of the world's five species as Critically Endangered. But, a new consumer report by the wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, finds that rhino horn consumers in Vietnam buy the illegal product as much to raise their social status as to attempt to treat a fever or hangover.
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