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Passenger pigeon redo? Superabundant bird collapses across Eurasia

(06/08/2015) In 1914 the world's last passenger pigeon died. Nicknamed, Martha, she was not killed by hunters, but simply old age. With her passing, the passenger pigeon fell into extinction. A hundred years before Martha's death, however, the passenger pigeon may have been the most populous bird in the world with a population often estimated in the billions. Now, conservationists warn history may be repeating itself.


Well grounded: orangutans are more terrestrial than previously thought

(06/08/2015) For years scientists have believed that orangutans are primarily arboreal. Indeed, most photographs and videos of orangutans depict them up in the trees. But a recent study challenges that thinking with photographic evidence that orangutans spend a lot more time on the ground than previously thought.


In Sumatra, an oasis in a sea of oil palm

(06/08/2015) Sumatra is estimated to have lost 85 percent of its forests in the past half century, primarily due to widespread conversion for oil palm and pulp plantations. In the village of Tangkahan, however, residents have managed to preserve their forests and create one of Indonesia's ecotourism hotspots.


Amid rhinoceros poaching frenzy, dark days for South African society

(06/05/2015) South Africa is in the eye of a global rhino-poaching cyclone, with highly organized and elusive international syndicates running a brisk black-market trade in rhino horn. Public trust is faltering: 'Rhino money buys many people at all levels,' a senior antipoaching official said.


Population of Maui's dolphins slips below 50

(06/05/2015) Maui's dolphins are edging closer to extinction. Strikingly marked, with a dark, rounded dorsal fin that has been likened to a Mickey Mouse ear, the dolphins max out at just four and a half feet long. New papers show their population has reached a new low, with fewer than 47 individuals remaining alive.


Coordinated protests hit Socfin plantations in four countries

(06/05/2015) French NGO ReAct is coordinating protest actions against the plantation operations of Socfin, a Belgian company with origins in the Belgian Congo. Yesterday, protesters gathered in Paris outside the headquarters of Bolloré, another conglomerate which holds a 39 percent stake in Socfin. Other demonstrations have been staged in three African countries and Cambodia in recent weeks.


In Aceh, an illegal logger reformed

(06/05/2015) Mukhtar used to be an illegal logger. Now he coordinates community forest rangers in Indonesia's Aceh province. His job involves preventing dangerous human-elephant encounters and helping communities protect themselves from environmental offenders - like Mukhtar once was.


Proposed Andean headwater dams an ecological calamity for Amazon Basin

(06/04/2015) High in the Andes Mountains, countless minor streams begin their pilgrimage downward, joining forces with the rain to form the tributaries of the Amazon River. The sediments and organic matter they carry with them on their journey seaward are the nutrient-rich lifeblood that nurtures and sustains the vast aquatic and terrestrial web of life in the Amazon Basin.


As mangroves disappear at 'an alarming rate,' conservationists urge more protection

(06/04/2015) In 2010, the Jakarta Post reported that, according to a local NGO called People’s Coalition for Justice in Fisheries, Indonesia lost 2.2 million hectares of mangroves in less than 30 years. Conservationists hope Sri Lanka’s move to protect all its mangroves could help push other South and Southeast Asian mangrove range countries in the same direction.


Sri Lanka becomes first country to completely protect mangroves

(06/04/2015) In a press conference held in May 2015 in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, U.S.-based nonprofit Seacology, Sri Lanka-based NGO Sudeesa (formerly known as the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka) and the government of Sri Lanka announced a joint program that makes Sri Lanka the first country in the world to grant full protection to all its mangrove forests.


Tigers expanding? Conservationists discover big cats in Thai park

(06/04/2015) For the first time conservationists have confirmed Indochinese tigers in Thailand's Chaloem Ratanakosin National Park. In January, camera traps used by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Thailand's Department of National Parks took a photo of a tigress, confirming what had only been rumors. A couple months later the camera traps photographed a male tiger in the same park.


Student becomes first researcher to hold an Annamite striped rabbit

(06/03/2015) Almost nothing is known about the Annamite striped rabbit. First described in 1999, this beautifully-colored rabbit is found in Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos, but—rarely seen and little-studied—it's life history is a complete mystery. But Sarah Woodfin, a student at the University of East Anglia, got lucky when undertaking a three month research trip on the species. Really lucky.


Cajamarca: Let them Eat Gold

(06/03/2015) Mega-dam projects on the main stem of the Marañón River would drown Peru's Breadbasket. The Marañón River is one of the mighty Amazon's most important tributaries. It runs through a region of northern Peru where two of South America's most important bioregions merge: the mountainous highlands of the Andes joining the dense tropical rainforest of the Amazon. It is one of the most biologically rich, rapidly changing and threatened areas of the world.


Pulp giant APRIL updates sustainability policy with Greenpeace's tentative approval

(06/03/2015) Indonesia's second-largest pulp and paper producer has announced a new sustainability policy it hopes will win it the good graces of NGOs like Greenpeace, which has campaigned with some success for a boycott of the company due to its destructive environmental practices. Unlike the previous policy, the new one protects carbon-rich peatlands and forests of high-carbon stock.


The poachers' bill: at least 65,000 elephants in Tanzania

(06/02/2015) During the last couple years there have been persistent rumors and trickles of information that elephant poaching was running rampant in Tanzania as the government stood by and did little. Yesterday, the government finally confirmed the rumors: Tanzania's savanna elephant population has dropped from 109,051 animals in 2009 to just 43,330 last year—a plunge of 60% in just five years.


Photo essay: Polluted, overfished, and choked by weeds, world's second-largest lake is 'on its knees'

(06/02/2015) Lake Victoria is choking with pollution from industrial, agricultural, and human waste. Its problems are compounded by illegal fishing, catching of juvenile fish, and infestations of water hyacinth and the carnivorous Nile perch, which has wiped out many native fish species. Activists say lax law enforcement and a lack of political will are failing the lake, whose fisheries help feed nearly 22 million people.


Director-generals inaugurated as merger of Indonesian Environment, Forestry Ministries continues

(06/02/2015) Indonesia's newly merged Environment and Forestry Ministry completed a major step in its restructuring last week with the inauguration of 13 director-generals, with important implications for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's agendas on climate change, land reform and more. Notable appointments include Climate Change Oversight Director-General Nur Masripatin, Environmental and Forestry Spatial Planning Director-General San Afri Awang and Social Forestry and Environmental Partnerships Director-General Hadi Daryanto.


PepsiCo, Walmart, investors call for stronger palm oil standard

(06/01/2015) Major global brands and a network of activist investors have joined together to call on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to adopt stronger criteria to eliminate deforestation from palm oil supply chains. The call, put out Monday in the form of a letter, says the world's leading palm oil certification standard "does not sufficiently address critical sustainability concerns in the palm oil supply chain".


How many tree species are found in the world's rainforests?

(06/01/2015) The world's tropical rainforests are likely home to 40,000 to 53,000 tree species, argues a paper published this week in PNAS. Analyzing abundance data spanning 657,000 individual tress across 11,371 species, Ferry Slik and 140 other researchers developed estimates for each of the world's three major tropical regions.


Have the 'Bandit 6' poached their last toothfish in the Southern Ocean?

(06/01/2015) Last month the Songhua and the Yongding were boarded by authorities in Cape Verde. They were the last of six vessels notorious for poaching toothfish in the waters around Antarctica to be put out of commission in recent months, in large part due to a confrontational campaign by the ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd.


Private sector innovations reduce food loss in West Africa

(06/01/2015) Why is Africa's second largest tomato producer also the world's biggest importer of tomato paste? The question is a preoccupation for Lamido Sanusi, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. For Sanusi and other experts, the problem is a lack of processing capacity, which leads to enormous waste and a giant food import bill.


Zambia lifts hunting ban on big cats

(06/01/2015) Nine months after Zambia lifted its general trophy hunting ban—including on elephants—the country has now lifted its ban on hunting African lions and leopards. The Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) lifted the ban after surveying its big cat populations and setting new regulations.


Scientists pick 2014's top 10 new species (photos)

(05/31/2015) A group of taxonomists has released their annual list of the top 10 'new' species.


Malaysian state eyes 100% certified palm oil by 2025

(05/30/2015) Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, is weighing a proposal to produce only palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification initiative, by 2025. The move, if approved, would represent the first time a sub-national or state entity has committed to 100% certified palm oil production.


Elephants rejoice: China to end ivory trade

(05/29/2015) The Chinese government announced today that it will 'eventually' shut down its legal domestic ivory market. The move, which surprised conservationists, could provide a major boost in efforts to stop the mass killing of elephants for their ivory.


Invasive predators, deforestation driving Tasmanian parrot over the edge

(05/29/2015) In the forests of Tasmania lives the swift parrot (Lathamus discolour), a highly threatened bird found nowhere else in the world. New research published recently in Biological Conservation finds they are more at risk of extinction than previously thought, with introduced sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps) and logging dealing two big blows to their remaining numbers.


First-of-its-kind mapping technique sheds new light on tropical forests

(05/29/2015) Scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts have developed vegetation height maps for the entire tropics at very fine spatial scales. These first-of its-kind high resolution maps can help researchers estimate forest cover, monitor biodiversity and wildlife habitats, and manage and monitor timber.


Butterflies stand out as useful bioindicators in Malaysia

(05/29/2015) In choosing sites to target for protection, conservationists often turn to what they call bioindicators: species, or small groups of species, that when present suggest that a place has high biodiversity. A recent study tested several potential bioindicators in Malaysia, and found that butterflies came out on top.


Vaquita porpoises down to 'way less than 100,' Mexican agents shoot fisherman while enforcing new protected area

(05/29/2015) With fewer than 100 individuals alive and dropping fast, the vaquita porpoise is just a swish of the tail away from extinction. In April, alerted by scientists that the vaquita population had recently suffered its biggest decline ever, the Mexican government announced an emergency two-year ban on gillnet fishing across the porpoise's main habitat in the upper Gulf of California. A frenzied race to fish for another critically endangered species, the totoaba, is behind the plummeting porpoise numbers.


Community conservation increases endangered monkey population in Peru

(05/29/2015) Community conservation projects — initiatives that actively involve local people in conservation efforts — have gained increasing attention in recent years. Yet few studies have examined their success in protecting natural resources. A recent study on a project to conserve yellow-tailed woolly monkeys shows that they can work.


Proposed border checkpoint and road threaten critical Cambodian forest and wildlife

(05/28/2015) A proposed border checkpoint at Kbal Damrei, on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, together with a new road leading up to it, may harm Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Protected Forest. The proposed border crossing is slated to be developed within Mondulkiri Protected Forest, in Eastern Cambodia.


New bird uncovered in South American conflict region, researchers urge protection

(05/28/2015) For many years, study skins of a bird languished in a dusty drawer in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, classified hurriedly (and erroneously,) as Scytalopus atratus nigricans, a songbird found in lower montane forests. Recently, scientists rediscovered the bird on the Venezuelan slopes of the Perijá Mountains, and were able to use twenty-first century techniques to describe its genetics, ecology and appearance. In doing so, they identified it as a new species: the Perijá tapaculo.


Together we stand: A policy approach to reducing food loss in West Africa

(05/28/2015) West African countries have recognized that when it comes to food security, no nation is an island. Since achieving independence, West African countries have strived for regional integration. By building strong political and economic ties, the 15 member nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aimed to maximize economic development and minimize inter-country conflict.


120,000 dead: half of the world's saiga die in less than a month

(05/28/2015) No one knows what's killing them, but scientists estimate that almost half of the world's saiga (Saiga tatarica) have perished since May 10th. To date, researchers on-the-ground unofficially estimate that 120,000 saiga have died in Kazakhstan from what appears to be a wildly virulent disease, although no cause has been ruled out.


GAR, Wilmar punish palm oil supplier for clearing rainforest in New Guinea

(05/28/2015) Palm oil trader Golden Agri-Resources announced today that it would suspend purchases of crude palm oil from plantation developer Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri, which was outed in an NGO report last week for the third time in the past year for clearing forest in Indonesia's West Papua province, in violation of Golden Agri's no-deforestation commitment. Wilmar has also frozen its dealings with the company, though Asian Agri and Musim Mas, which also buy from it, have given no indication they will do the same.


Ghosts of problems past and present loom over Nigerian palm oil plans

(05/28/2015) Palm oil giant Wilmar has set up shop in Nigeria in a big way, with plans to operate over 30,000 hectares in the country's Cross River State. Some say the project is little more than a land grab, has caused environmental damage and seen people turned off their land and lose their livelihoods in areas such as Ibiae and Biase.


China unveils plans for huge railway in South America

(05/27/2015) China is looking to add another rung to its investment presence in Latin America, with an announcement of plans to build an expansive railway bisecting the continent from Brazil to Peru. The bid has raised the hackles of conservation groups, which are concerned the railway will run through sensitive ecosystems, harm threatened wildlife, and affect indigenous communities.


Uganda's elephant population has risen 600% since its 1980s low

(05/27/2015) In the 1980s, Uganda's elephants looked like they were on their way to extinction. The country had only about 700-800 elephants left, all in a single park; poachers had exterminated the rest. But a new survey as a part of the Great Elephant Census has confirmed that Uganda is today a bright spot in the current ivory poaching crisis. The country has more than 5,000 elephants and growing.


China defends trans-Amazon railway, says it will protect the environment

(05/27/2015) Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has defended a plan to build a railway across the South American continent as a way to protect the environment and grow the region's economy, reports AFP.


Amazon deforestation speeding global warming

(05/27/2015) Human activity has destroyed huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest's biomass as trees are cleared to make way for pasture, soy fields, and other developments. Now, a new study has determined how much that destruction has contributed to climate change.


Greenpeace re-engages with APP after response to activist's killing

(05/27/2015) Greenpeace is re-engaging with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) after the Indonesian forestry giant quickly responded to the killing of a community activist on one of its suppler plantations.


Drone Herders: Tanzanian rangers and researchers use UAVs to protect elephants and crops

(05/27/2015) HEC, otherwise known as human elephant conflict, is a centuries-old problem responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of elephants. This ongoing battle between African farmers trying to grow crops and hungry elephants foraging for a meal, has motivated conservationists to find solutions for protecting the largest and one of the most intelligent land animals on the planet. Scientists’ most recent effort -- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), frisbee-sized remote controlled quad-helicopters -- may provide the answer that researchers have been looking for.


'Green' hydropower dam fuels charges of gross human rights violations

(05/27/2015) A hydropower project planned on Guatemala's Icbolay River has resulted in major human rights abuses, advocacy groups are charging. The 24-megawatt Santa Rita dam is backed by the World Bank and several European banks, as well as the Guatemalan government. In spite of the alleged abuses, the dam's owner has been granted approval to earn carbon offset credits for the electricity the dam would generate that could be traded under the European Union's Emission Trading System.


Can improved oil palm productivity and Indonesia's forestry moratorium go hand in hand?

(05/27/2015) An op-ed from Mongabay-Indonesia chief editor Ridzki R. Sigit, who calls for renewed efforts to boost smallholder productivity on Indonesia's oil palm plantations in the wake of the renewal of the country's moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and on peat.


Up to 11 stunningly colorful chameleon species discovered in Madagascar

(05/26/2015) The panther chameleon, a lizard prized in the pet trade for its remarkable color changing abilities, may actually represent 11 different species, report researchers writing in the journal Molecular Ecology. Analyzing the genetics of more than 300 individual panther chameleons, Swiss and Malagasy researchers make a case that different color morphs of Furcifer pardalis may be distinct species.


Cash prizes offered for solutions to wildlife poaching crisis

(05/26/2015) A coalition has launched an initiative, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge to spark and drive investment in innovative science and technology solutions to help reduce the damage caused by wildlife trafficking. The initiative is backed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC.


Mozambique loses almost 10,000 elephants in just five years

(05/26/2015) Mozambique has lost nearly half of its elephants to relentless, brutal, and highly-organized poaching in just five years, according to a new government survey. In 2010, the country was home to an estimated 20,000 pachyderms, today it houses just 10,300.


Nepal's rhino population rises by 72% in ten years

(05/26/2015) A new survey in Nepal counted 645 one-horned rhinos, up from 375 animals ten years ago and 534 animals in 2011. This represent a rise of 72 percent over the last ten years, an impressive feat given that the world's rhinos are facing a savage poaching crisis.


Offshore drilling proposed in Belize's spectacular marine areas

(05/26/2015) The government of Belize has proposed opening up most of the country's marine area, including seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to offshore drilling for oil and gas, according to the Associated Press. Belize currently has a voluntary moratorium on any such drilling.


Palm oil activist murdered in Jakarta

(05/23/2015) An Indonesian activist who opposed unbridled oil palm expansion was stabbed to death by a group of men before dawn this morning outside a nightclub in South Jakarta. Whether the attack was related to his activism or the spontaneous result of a barroom brawl is not yet clear. But Indonesian media are reporting that one of the assailants shouted that he was a soldier as he brandished the knife that killed Jopi Peranginangin, the 39-year-old head of campaigns for Sawit Watch, which strives for social and ecological justice in the palm oil industry.


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