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Palm oil body, Greenpeace spar over Indonesia fire blame

(07/16/2013) Greenpeace and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body that sets criteria for greener palm oil production, are caught up in a row over the origin of fires that cast a pall over Sumatra, Singapore, and Malaysia last month. The dispute started when media outlets, based on independent analysis of satellite data, identified several members of the RSPO as possible culprits in the fires in Riau Province. Greenpeace said the findings indicated that the RSPO is failing to hold its members accountable for burning. The activist group also criticized the RSPO for not expressly prohibiting deforestation and conversion of peatlands.


Scientists build app to automatically identify species based on their calls

(07/16/2013) New technology makes it possible to automatically identify species by their vocalizations. The platform, detailed in the current issue of the journal PeerJ, has been used at sites in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica to identify frogs, insects, birds, and monkeys. Many of the animals identified by the system are typically difficult to spot in their natural environment, but audio recordings of their calls reveal not only their presence but also their activity patterns.


Plan to preserve the world's 'last ocean' killed by Russia

(07/16/2013) As the most pristine marine ecosystem on the planet, Antarctica's Ross Sea has become dubbed the world's "last ocean." Home to an abundance of penguins, whales, orcas, seals, and massive fish, the Ross Sea has so far largely avoided the degradation that has impacted much of the world's other marine waters. However, a landmark proposal to protect the Ross Sea, as well as the coastline of East Antarctica, has failed today due to opposition by Russia.


Naturalist rediscovers the long-lost night parrot

(07/16/2013) An Australian bushman and naturalist claims to have captured video footage of the night parrot, a bird not seen alive for more than a century. John Young, who describes himself as a wildlife detective, showed the footage and a number of still photos of the bird to a packed room of enthusiasts and media at the Queensland Museum on Wednesday. The desert-dwelling night parrot, Pezoporus occidentalis, has never been photographed and the only evidence of its continued existence has been two dead birds found in 1990 and 2006.


Madagascar's rate of speciation slowing down

(07/16/2013) While Madagascar is famous for its incredible diversity of plants and animals, a new study suggests that the island's rate of speciation has slowed to a crawl.


Losing our monarchs: iconic monarch butterfly down to lowest numbers in 20 years

(07/15/2013) In the next few months, the beating of fragile fiery orange and black wings will transport the monarch butterfly south. But the number of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) reaching their final destination has steadily declined, dropping to its lowest level in two decades last winter, according to a recent survey.


How tigers are faring in their final frontier

(07/15/2013) “Gone are the tiger-filled days when Corbett, as a small boy wandering the jungles of Nepal in the 1880s, peeped over a plum bush that heaved as a tiger walked out on the far side.” Adele Conover, in the Smithsonian magazine. Even as recently as the 1930s, 40,000 tigers roamed the forests of India. By the 1970s, tiger number had plummeted to less than 2,000. Historically, the tiger ranged from the Caspian Sea to the Russian Far North to the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. Now, they occupy just 7% of this historical range, with India home to over half of the tigers remaining in the wild. And what a world they inhabit.


Scientists: lions need funding not fences

(07/15/2013) Fences are not the answer to the decline in Africa's lions, according to a new paper in Ecology Letters. The new research directly counters an earlier controversial study that argued keeping lions fenced-in would be cheaper and more effective in saving the big cats. African lion (Panthera leo) populations across the continent have fallen dramatically: it's estimated that the current population is around 15,000-35,000 lions, down from 100,000 just 50 years ago. The animal kings are suffering from booming human populations, habitat loss and fragmentation, prey decline, trophy hunting, and human-lion conflict.


Forgotten species: the arapaima or 'dinosaur fish'

(07/15/2013) Let's go back some 14,000 years (or up to 50,000 depending on who you talk to), since this is the first time humans encountered the meandering, seemingly endless river system of the Amazon. Certainly, the world's first Amazonians would have been astounded by the giant beasts of the region, including ground sloths and mastodons (both now extinct), as well as giant anteaters, armadillos, and tapirs, currently the biggest land animal on the continent. But these first explorers might have been even more surprised by what dwelled in the rivers: anaconda, caiman, and the arapaima. Wait, the what?


Featured video: Indonesian community uses mapping to fight palm oil takeover

(07/15/2013) Communities across Indonesia are facing the questions: palm oil or no? A new short documentary Mapping our Future explores the issue through one community's efforts in West Kalimantan to map our their ancestral lands as they attempt to take control of their future.


The Warbler Guide - book review

(07/15/2013) Written by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, with illustrations by Catherine Hamilton, The Warbler Guide by Princeton University Press is the "go-to" guide for identifying the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. Warblers are notoriously difficult to identify. These champion singers are small, hidden amongst the tree top canopy, flighty and dancing from branch to branch, with variegated coloring blending greens, yellows, reds, browns, and grays.


Baby elephant safe in new home after standoff with Aceh village

(07/15/2013) Abdul Thaleb could not hold back tears as he watched rescuers prepare Raju, a baby Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) likely no more than a few weeks old, for the six-hour journey from Aceh’s Blang Pante village to the Saree Elephant Conservation Center (PKG), which would be his new home. Thaleb had been caring for Raju since villagers found the baby elephant alone without its mother in a nearby forest on June 18. For ten days, he had been feeding the still-nursing calf by hand, fashioning makeshift bottles from plastic bags and purchasing baby formula with donations and money from his own pocket.


5 men rescued, 1 killed, after 5-day Sumatran tiger standoff

(07/12/2013) Five men were finally rescued on Monday after spending five days trapped in a tree by a group of Sumatran tigers. A team of around 30 people rescued the men after several tiger tamers were able to lure the animals away using chants and mantras. The men were attacked inside Aceh’s Gunung Leuser National Park by a mother tiger after accidentally killing its cub in a trap the group had set to hunt deer. The tiger killed one of the men, 28-year-old David, and forced the others to escape up a tree.


To protect themselves, lemurs learn alarm calls of other species

(07/11/2013) Solitary lemurs in Madagascar rely on the alarm calls of birds and more social lemurs to evade predators, reports a study published in PLoS ONE.


Forests may be using less water as CO2 rises

(07/11/2013) Forests may be becoming more efficient in their use of water as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, reports a new study in Nature.


Activists raise alarm over park that will dispossess Borneo tribe of land

(07/10/2013) Rights activists are warning that a proposal to classify islands forming in the midst of the Bakun Dam reservoir will further deprive indigenous forest people of their traditional land.


Tiny suckermouth catfish discovered in Brazil

(07/10/2013) Scientists have discovered a new suckermouth catfish in the Rio Paraíba do Sul basin in southeastern Brazil.


Haze fires concentrated in deforested peatlands, not forest areas, confirms satellite analysis

(07/10/2013) A new mapping tool based on NASA satellite data confirms that the majority of fires that drove the recent haze over Sumatra and Malaysia were concentrated in deforested peatlands and scrub, rather than natural forest areas.


Chain of custody nonsense from FSC & PEFC: protecting income streams rather than the world's forests

(07/10/2013) The FSC and PEFC released a joint statement on July 8th urging ISO members to vote against a new proposal for an ISO Chain of Custody certification. I expected the statement to explain that the proposed standard was weak, that it would allow illegally logged timber into supply chains, that it would be bad for the world's forests. Instead, the statement amounts to a call for no new competition.


Stand up paddleboarding in the Amazon for conservation

(07/09/2013) This week an international team is setting off on a unique journey, aiming to be the first to descend the Amazon River using inflatable Stand Up Paddle boards. The group, led by Dr. Mika Peck, a conservation biologist from the University of Sussex with years of work in Ecuador and Colombia, includes Brazilian and Colombian researchers as well as an indigenous community leader.


Rising temperatures are triggering rainforest trees to produce more flowers

(07/09/2013) Slight rises in temperatures are triggering rainforest trees to produce more flowers, reports a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.


Palm oil lobby group misleads on origin of haze, fires

(07/09/2013) World Growth International, a group that lobbies on behalf of industrial forestry and palm oil companies, is clouding the origin of the fires that triggered 'haze' air pollution alerts across Singapore and Malaysia last month.


Chinese lose 2.5 billion years of life expectancy due to coal burning

(07/08/2013) Chinese who live north of the Huai River will lose an aggregate 2.5 billion years of life expectancy due to the extensive use of coal burning in the region, concludes a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


New shrew discovered in Vietnam forest

(07/08/2013) Researchers have described a previously unknown species of white toothed shrew in the forests of Vietnam. The study was published July 2 in the open access journal ZooKeys.


Hurricane intensity, frequency to increase with climate change

(07/08/2013) Warmer ocean temperatures will increase the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes in "most locations" this century, concludes a new study based on simulations using six global climate models.


Yangtze finless porpoise drops to Critically Endangered

(07/07/2013) The newest update to the IUCN Red List has downgraded the status of the Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) from Endangered to Critically Endangered, reflecting the deteriorating state of arguably the world's most degraded river system. The downgrade follows a survey last year that counted only 1,000 animals, a 50 percent decline from 2006.


Featured video: could we rewild Britain with wolves and lions?

(07/07/2013) Environmentalist and journalist, George Mobiot, makes a passionate new plea for the controversial idea of rewilding parts of Europe in his new book Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding. Rewildling—a relatively recent idea—entails bringing back some of the animals (especially large ones) lost in parts of the world in order to restore ecosystems and, in Mobiot's view, retrieve a deeper connection between humans and the wild again.


Brazil confirms Amazon deforestation increase

(07/06/2013) Data released by the Brazilian government Friday confirms an increase in Amazon forest loss.


Illegal palm oil from an Indonesian national park used by Asian Agri, Wilmar, WWF report says

(07/05/2013) Illegal palm oil expansion inside Indonesia’s Tesso Nilo National Park is threatening protected forests and the reputation of two companies who claim to be sources of sustainably-produced palm oil, says a new WWF-Indonesia report.


Biodiversity conservation funding can be better targeted, scientists find

(07/04/2013) Researchers identified the most underfunded countries globally for nature conservation in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this week. The 40 most severely underfunded countries contain a third of the world’s threatened mammals. The study provides an opportunity for a ‘rapid global triage’ in conservation: better coordination between donors and a very modest increase in international assistance can limit immediate biodiversity losses at relatively little cost.


Influential British editor banned from Sarawak

(07/03/2013) Clare Rewcastle Brown, the editor of Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak, has been deported from Sarawak reports the Bruno Manser Fund. Both the Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak are known for high-profile and investigative journalism that is often critical of Sarawak's chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud or 'Taib', and his family for alleged corruption.


New long-horned beetle discovered in China

(07/03/2013) Recent expeditions by the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Zoology to the Yunnan Province of China have uncovered the existence of a new species of long-horned beetle. This newly discovered beetle has a beautifully colored blue-green body with short, slender, and distinctively blue legs according to a new article in Zookeys.


Obama to take on elephant and rhino poaching in Africa

(07/03/2013) Barack Obama launched a new initiative against wildlife trafficking on Monday, using his executive authority to take action against an illegal trade that is fueling rebel wars and now threatens the survival of elephants and rhinoceroses. The initiative, announced as the president visited Tanzania on the final stop of his African tour, was the second time in a week Obama has used an executive order to advance environmental policy, after announcing a sweeping new climate change plan.


Making movies to save Uganda's great apes

(07/03/2013) A new series of films aims to protect Uganda's great ape species (mountain gorillas and chimpanzees) by bringing entertaining and educational movies to a rural audience living on the edges of Kibale National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Produced with heavy input from locals, these films are acted with an all-Ugandan task to teach those living near great apes about the species and their conservation-needs.


Australia terminates landmark REDD+ project in Borneo

(07/03/2013) Australia is ending its major forest restoration project in Indonesian Borneo, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.


Vocal-sac breeding frog possibly extinct

(07/02/2013) Somewhere in the wet pine forests of Chile, a male frog is gulping-up a bunch of eggs. No he's not eating them, he's just being a good dad. Darwin's frogs are known for their unique parenting-style: tadpoles are incubated in the vocal sac of the father. First recorded by Charles Darwin during his world famous voyage aboard the Beagle, the amphibians were common in the native Chilean pine forests until the last few decades. Now, scientists believe that one of the two species, the northern Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma rufum), may have vanished for good. And the other is hanging on by a thread.


The Egyptian Vulture on the Balkans – a hopeful but perilous conservation story

(07/02/2013) “They look like humans: have bare skin, wrinkles, hairdos… Maybe that’s why many people don’t like them,” says Dr. Stoyan Nikolov from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds about Egyptian vultures. Poisoned, electrocuted, shot, these rare and magnificent birds are the fastest disappearing raptors in Europe. The globally endangered species has become extinct in nine European countries in the past half a century. Dr Nikolov, the manager of an EU-funded conservation project along with more than 100 people on his team are working hard to make sure that the Egyptian vulture does not disappear from Bulgaria and Greece.


In age of climate change, Australia's vast coal fields could become worthless

(07/02/2013) Australia's huge coal industry is a speculative bubble ripe for financial implosion if the world's governments fulfill their agreement to act on climate change, according to a new report. The warning that much of the nation's coal reserves will become worthless as the world hits carbon emission limits comes after banking giant Citi also warned Australian investors that fossil fuel companies could do little to avoid the future loss of value.


Over 700 species added to the threatened categories on the IUCN Red List (photos)

(07/02/2013) In another sign of the global biodiversity crisis, the IUCN Red List has added 715 species to its threatened categories of Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered in this year's update. Some of these species were evaluated by the IUCN Red List for the first time while others saw their conditions deteriorate, such as the the white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) which is now listed as Vulnerable due to overhunting, deforestation, and possibly disease. As of this year, the Red List has evaluated 70,923 of the world's species—including almost all mammals, birds, and amphibians—of which 20,934 are deemed threatened.


San Francisco seafood restaurants go sustainable

(07/02/2013) The Seafood Watch Program, first created by Monterey Bay Aquarium in the late 1990s, is arguably the best-known guide to sustainably-caught seafood in the U.S. Listing seafood choices in three categories—green (best choices), yellow (good alternatives), and red (avoid)—the guide informs consumers of the best options. However, it's one thing to create a well-respected guide, and another issues altogether to get producers and consumers to use it. But a newer partnership, the San Francisco Seafood Watch Alliance, is working to bridge this gap. Maggie Ostdahl of Aquarium of the Bay works with the Seafood Watch Restaurant program and restaurants across San Francisco—one of the best places in the country for seafood—to source sustainable seafood. Restaurant partners avoid seafood on the guide's red list.


Can palm oil be part of green growth in Indonesia?

(07/02/2013) A new report lays out key leverage points for shifting Indonesia's palm oil industry toward a greener development path.


Beaten and captured orangutan dies in Indonesia's Aceh Province

(07/02/2013) An orangutan in Indonesia’s Aceh province died last Thursday after being beaten by residents of a local village attempting to capture the animal. The case casts a tragic spotlight on what is becoming an increasingly serious problem in the region, as habitat decline and weak law enforcement leave wild orangutans at risk of being killed or captured and kept illegally as pets.


APP reports accidental breach of deforestation moratorium

(07/01/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has reported an accidental breach of its moratorium on deforestation.


Wilmar to cut off suppliers found to be setting fires

(07/01/2013) Wilmar International Ltd., the world’s largest palm oil trader, will sever ties with any Indonesian suppliers found to be using fire illegal to clear land or manage their plantations, reports Bloomberg.


New forensic method tells the difference between poached and legal ivory

(07/01/2013) Forensic-dating could end a major loophole in the current global ban on ivory, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Scientists have developed a method to determine the age of ivory, allowing traders to tell the difference between ivory taken before the ban in 1989, which is still legal, and recently-poached ivory.


Featured video: Home is “slothified” after taking in 200 of these adorable rescued creatures

(07/01/2013) This video by Conservation International features an amazing woman who shares her home with over 200 rescued sloths. Monique Pool, founder of the Green Heritage Fund Suriname and CI partner, has been rescuing sloths for the past few years after an area of forest in Paramaribo, Suriname, was being cut down for raising cattle. After anticipating rescuing only 14 sloths, she and her team ended up moving 200 animals due to the scope of the region being cleared.


Amazonian students help monitor threatened frog populations

(07/01/2013) According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, amphibians are the most threatened group of animals on Earth: currently around 30 percent of the world's amphibians are listed as threatened with extinction. However this percentage doesn't include those species about which too little is known to evaluate (26 percent). Amphibians face many threats but two of the largest are habitat loss and the lethal chytrid fungus, which has rapidly spread worldwide and is likely responsible for numerous extinctions. But conservationists are coming up with innovative and creative ways to keep amphibians from disappearing, including a program from the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) that is working with students in the Peruvian Amazon to monitor frog populations.


Brazilian state to pay counties that cut Amazon deforestation

(07/01/2013) The Brazilian state of Pará has launched a new compensation scheme to incentivize further cuts in deforestation.


Activists, indigenous people plan healing walk in 'sick' tar sands landscape

(07/01/2013) Hundreds of activists including Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein are going into the heart of Canada's tar sands this week – not to protest the destruction of the local environment, but to pray for the 'healing' of land and the people. Native elders from all over North America will lead people past lakes of tailings wastewater and massive infrastructure of the tar sands industry along the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray, Alberta.


Saving the Raja of India's grasslands: new efforts to conserve the Critically Endangered Great Indian Bustard

(06/30/2013) The Great Indian Bustard, one of India's iconic birds, once ranged across most of the Indian subcontinent. Due to a variety of factors, however, the Great Indian Bustard is also now India's rarest bird and faces imminent extinction. The following is an interview with Ramki Sreenivasan, co-founder of Conservation India, a group that recently petitioned the Rajasthan Chief Minister to kick start "Project Bustard."


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