conservation news and environmental science news.
Picture of the day: tarsier rescued from palm oil plantation
(03/20/2012) Earlier this month, biologists with Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo, found and rescued a tarsier from a locally owned palm oil plantation. "For a day, we kept the animal in a cage at the field centre and fed him with insects", explained Alice Miles, a Cardiff University student leading a project on tarsier and slow loris ecology at DGFC.
2010, not 1998, warmest year on record
(03/20/2012) An updated temperature analysis by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit has confirmed that 2010, not 1998, was the warmest year since record keeping began in the late 19th Century. The new analysis adds in temperature data from 400 stations across northern Canada, Russia, and the Arctic, which had been left out of the previous analysis.
'Where's my mama?': campaign targets cruel slow loris pet trade [warning: graphic photo]
(03/20/2012) A new campaign by The Body Shop West Malaysia and TRAFFIC Southeast Asia attempts to raise awareness of the illegal slow loris pet trade. YouTube videos of "cute" pet slow lorises have raised demand for these endangered primates, but as the campaign highlights the pet trade is fueling slow loris deaths in the wild and cruel treatment, such as pulling out their teeth, to make them more desirable pets.
Belize enacts moratorium on rosewood
(03/20/2012) The Belizean Government has banned the harvesting and export of rosewood with immediate effect, in response to the widespread clearing of the hardwood species for the Asian market. A government statement released on Friday, March 16th claimed the moratorium was necessary "to carry out an orderly assessment of the situation on the ground and as a first response to regulate the timber trade occurring in southern Belize." The government would subsequently institute "a rigorous regulatory framework throughout the country."
Cambodia sells off national park for city-sized pleasure resorts
(03/19/2012) The Cambodian government has handed over nearly 20 percent of Botum Sakor National Park to a Chinese real-estate firm building a massive casino and resorts in the middle of pristine rainforest, reports Reuters. The city-sized resorts, costing $3.8 billion, will include a 64 kilometers highway, an airport, hotels, and golf courses. Botum Sakur is home to a number of endangered species including the pileated gibbon (Hylobates pileatus) and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).
Russia, South Korea sign agreement to resurrect woolly mammoth
(03/19/2012) Last week Russian and South Korean educational facilities signed an agreement to work together to bring back the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) from extinction. The project will be headed by Hwang Sooam of South Korea's Bioengineering Research Institute and will involve implanting a woolly mammoth embryo into a modern elephant.
Invasive primates threaten Atlantic Forest natives
(03/19/2012) Scientists have called for the removal of eight invasive primates from Brazil's imperiled Atlantic Forest in a new study published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society. The researchers fear that the eight alien monkeys could hurt other species due to increased competition, predation, and possible disease.
Solitary male monkeys cause crop damage in Uganda
(03/19/2012) Solitary male red-tailed monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius) cause significant damage to cocoa crops in Uganda, according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society (TCS). Researchers examined crop raiding by social groups of red-tailed monkeys and lone males, only to discover that solitary males caused significantly more damage to cocoa crops than the average group member. The research may have implications for how to mitigate human-wildlife conflict in the area.
Chimp conservation requires protecting fragmented river forests in Uganda
(03/19/2012) Forest fragments along riversides in Uganda may make good habitats for chimpanzees but remain unprotected, according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society (TCS). Researchers surveyed a riverine forest known as Bulindi in Uganda, in-between Budongo and Bugoma Forest Reserves, to determine if it was suitable for the long-term survival of eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) populations.
How tiny otters survive in agricultural India
(03/19/2012) In the fragmented rainforests of India, many animals must move through human-modified landscapes such as agricultural fields to survive. This includes the world's smallest otter species: the Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus). According to a new study published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society, the Asian small-clawed otter is widespread in streams flowing through tea and coffee estates of the Western Ghats, but requires improved protection.
Wildlife corridor key to conserving tigers, rhinos in Nepal
(03/19/2012) A single forest corridor links two of Nepal's great wildlife areas: Chitwan National Park and the Mahabharat mountain range, also known as the "little Himalayas." The Barandabhar Forest Corridor (BFC) has become essential for the long term survival Nepal's Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris). Yet, according to a new paper published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society (TCS), the corridor is imperiled by deforestation, a highway, and inconsistent management policies.
Tink frog calls allow researchers to measure population
(03/19/2012) Given their often tiny size and cryptic nature, how does one determine frog populations in the rainforest? Just eavesdrop. A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society (TCS) employed automated recorders to listen to amphibian calls to determine if the common tink frog (Diasporus diastema) could be found in recovering secondary forests in Costa Rica.
Airborne lasers discover undocumented deforestation in Belize park
(03/19/2012) A NASA funded expedition using airborne lasers to study ancient Mayan ruins has also documented widespread illegal deforestation in the Caracol Archaeological Reserve. The lasers found that forest disturbance was actually 58 percent greater than recent satellite surveys showed, according new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society (TCS). Such deforestation not only imperils biodiversity, carbon storage, and migration routes for Central American species, but could also lead to plundering of the Maya site of Caracol.
How best to monitor biodiversity in REDD+ projects?
(03/19/2012) If done well, REDD+ projects (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) may not only save carbon rich forests, but also protect embattled biodiversity. But what's the best way to ensure both and carbon and species are preserved under REDD+, a program that proposes to pay nations to keep forests standing? A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society (TCS) argues that a one-size-fits-all approach to monitoring biodiversity in REDD+ projects would not only be difficult to develop, but would likely fail given vast differences in forest ecology and threats worldwide. Instead local sites should develop monitoring programs based on a generally approved roadmap.
Oil exploration approved in Africa's oldest park, Virunga National Park
(03/19/2012) Permits for controversial oil exploration in Virunga National Park have been released after request by NGO Global Witness. Oil company, SOCO International, has confirmed it has received two permits to undertake preliminary exploration, including seismic tests, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Virunga is famous for its population of the Critically Endangered mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei).
Global rainforest carbon map released online
(03/18/2012) Researchers have posted carbon stock data for the world's tropical forests on ArcGIS Online, a web-based mapping platform developed by Esri.
APP affiliates in U.S., Australia, pledge to drop controversial pulp supplier linked to deforestation
(03/17/2012) Two affiliates of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) have announced they are severing at least some ties with the beleaguered paper giant, according to the Northern Virginia Daily and Greenpeace, an environmental group whose recent undercover investigation found ramin, a protected species, at APP's pulp mill in Sumatra.
Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon: a view from the ground
(03/15/2012) On the back of a partially functioning motorcycle I fly down miles of winding footpath at high-speed through the dense Amazon rainforest, the driver never able to see more than several feet ahead. Myriads of bizarre creatures lie camouflaged amongst the dense vines and lush foliage; flocks of parrots fly overhead in rainbows of color; a moss-covered three-toed sloth dangles from an overhanging branch; a troop of red howler monkeys rumble continuously in the background; leafcutter ants form miles of crawling highways across the forest floor. Even the hot, wet air feels alive.
Scientists say massive palm oil plantation will "cut the heart out" of Cameroon's rainforest
(03/15/2012) Eleven top scientists have slammed a proposed palm oil plantation in a Cameroonian rainforest surrounded by five protected areas. In an open letter, the researchers allege that Herakles Farm, which proposes the 70,000 hectare plantation in southwest Cameroon, has misled the government about the state of the forest to be cleared and has violated rules set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), of which it's a member. The scientists, many of whom are considered leaders in their field, argue that the plantation will destroy rich forests, imperil endangered species, and sow conflict with local people.
Ministry of Forestry signed off on clearing of forest with protected species in Indonesia
(03/15/2012) Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry signed off on a plan by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) suppliers to log areas of forest that contained protected ramin species, according to documents released by Greenomics-Indonesia, an activist group. The micro-delineation documents, which are required to win approval for forestry projects in Indonesia, confirm that APP suppliers were aware that ramin trees were present in the concessions, which have since been converted to wood-pulp plantations.
Featured Video: the true cost of the tar sands
(03/15/2012) What's the big deal about the tar sands? Canadian photographer Garth Lenz presents the local environmental and social concerns presented by the tar sands in a concise, impassioned speech in a TEDx talk in Victoria, Canada.
Amazon plant yields miracle cure for dental pain
(03/14/2012) The world may soon benefit from a plant long-used by indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon for toothaches, eliminating the need for local injections in some cases. Researchers have created a medicinal gel from a plant known commonly as spilanthes extract (Acmella Oleracea), which could become a fully natural alternative to current anesthetics and may even have a wide-range of applications beyond dental care.
Three U.S. retailers pledge to avoid fish from embattled Ross Sea
(03/14/2012) The Ross Sea, a massive bay off Antarctica, has been dubbed the world's last ocean due to its pristine state, long-untouched by industry and fisheries. However, over the last 15 years New Zealand commercial fisheries have entered the sea, seeking the slow-growing Antarctic toothfish which is usually sold as the high-end Chilean sea bass. Now as conservation groups plead for nations to grant the Ross Sea protected status, Greenpeace has begun a campaign to get good retailers to steer clear of stocking Antarctic toothfish. To date, Safeway, Wegmans, and Harris Teeter has all pledged not to source from the Ross Sea.
New reports from inside Cameroon confirm grisly mass killing of elephants (warning: graphic photos)
(03/14/2012) The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has recently returned from Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon, where at least 400 elephants have been slaughtered since mid-January. IFAW is the only international organization that has assessed the situation within the park.
Animal photos of the day: elephants in the English countryside
(03/14/2012) Elephants have been spotted roaming the pastoral fields of eastern England. Released for a jaunt from the Zoological Society of London's Whipsnade Zoo, a herd of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), including a four-month-old calf named Scott, took in the scenic views of Aylesbury Vale from the Chiltern Hills. "Scott usually crashes out as soon as he's back from the walk. We put piles of hay down in the barn and he’s out for the count."
Surging demand for vegetable oil drives rainforest destruction
(03/14/2012) Surging demand for vegetable oil has emerged as an important driver of tropical deforestation over the past two decades and is threatening biodiversity, carbon stocks, and other ecosystem functions in some of the world's most critical forest areas, warns a report published last week by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). But the report sees some reason for optimism, including emerging leadership from some producers, rising demand for "greener" products from buyers, new government policies to monitor deforestation and shift cropland expansion to non-forest area, and partnerships between civil society and key private sector players to improve the sustainability of vegetable oil production.
Europe may finally account for emissions from deforestation, farming
(03/13/2012) The E.U. may finally correct a loophole that allows European countries to ignore greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and farming under their carbon accounting system, reports BBC News.
Climate change could increase fires, logging, and hunting in rainforests
(03/13/2012) The combined impacts of deforestation and climate change will bring a host of new troubles for the world's tropical rainforests argues a new study in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Drying rainforests due to climate change could lead to previously inaccessible forests falling to loggers, burning in unprecedented fires, or being overexploited by hunters.
Javan officials employ camera traps to find extinct tiger
(03/13/2012) Although officially declared extinct in 2003, some people believe the Javan tiger (panthera tigris sondaica) is still alive in the island's Meru Betiri National Park. To prove the big cat has not vanished for good, wildlife officials have installed five camera traps in the park, reports Antara News.
Without data, fate of great apes unknown
(03/12/2012) Our closest nonhuman relatives, the great apes, are in mortal danger. Every one of the six great ape species is endangered, and without more effective conservation measures, they may be extinct in the wild within a human generation. The four African great ape species (bonobos, chimpanzees and two species of gorilla) inhabit a broad swath of land across the middle of Africa, and two species of orangutans live in rainforests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Southeast Asia.
Camera traps go under the ocean, seeking sharks
(03/12/2012) Remote camera traps, which have become a hugely important conservation tool on land during the past decade, have now gone underwater. Marine biologists have used underwater video camera traps to compare the population of Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezii) in Belize's protected areas versus fishing areas in a new study in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. Conducted from 2005-2010, the study found that reef sharks benefited significantly from conservation areas.
Tar sands emit more carbon than previously estimated
(03/12/2012) Environmentalists have targeted the oil-producing tar sands in Canada in part because its crude comes with heftier carbon emissions than conventional sources. Now, a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found an additional source of carbon that has been unaccounted for: peatlands. Mining the oil in the tar sands, dubbed "oil sands" by the industry, will require the wholesale destruction of nearly 30,000 hectares of peatlands, emitting between 11.4 and 47.3 million metric tons of additional carbon.
Animal photos of the day: the most elusive bird in the world?
(03/12/2012) Few people have ever laid eyes on the Junin rail (Laterallus tuerosi). Located in a single lake in Peru, the well-camouflaged bird hides spends its time deep in marshes to avoid predators. This behavior has also allowed to largely avoid human onlookers, making it one of the world's most difficult birds to observe.
Alaskan fishermen tell government to focus on salmon, not logging
(03/12/2012) Alaskan fishermen and tour operators visited Washington D.C. last week to urge the federal government to shift the focus from logging to conservation in the Tongass rainforest. Local Alaskans along with NGOs Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, and Sitka Conservation Society, made the case that conservation, including the restoration of fish habitat, was a far better strategy for the local economy and jobs than logging. The Tongass rainforest is currently the subject of a controversial logging proposal by the government for the indigenous-owned company, Sealaska.
Climate journalism gone awry
(03/12/2012) A leading journalist and editor at The Atlantic made a startling admission regarding how she writes about climate science last week. Megan McArdle, who not long ago wrote in-depth about documents leaked from Heartland Institute, has noted that as a journalist she depends on her comprehension of climate science on two non-experts and one climatologist who is widely viewed as an outlier for his view that climate change may actually be good for the world.
Africa Wildlife Foundation faces lawsuit from indigenous community in Kenya
(03/12/2012) Africa Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the conservation nonprofit based in Washington, DC, is facing a lawsuit by Kenya’s Samburu tribe over alleged unlawful evictions. The hearing, originally scheduled for January 23, has now been postponed to later this month. The dispute is over an area of land in Laikipia District in Kenya, one of Africa’s most wildlife rich areas. Until recently, it was also the homeland of some 2,000 semi nomadic members of the Samburu tribe. At least according to the Samburu.
Appeal for help as death toll in Madagascar tops 110 from tropical storm
(03/11/2012) More than 110 are dead and 330,000 homeless after two tropical storms battered Madagascar over the past month, says the island nation's disaster management agency.
Amendment to bypass Obama's opposition to the Keystone pipeline fails
(03/10/2012) The Senate this week rejected a measure that would have circumvented the Obama Administration's opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, reports CNN.
Meet the dinosaur that looks like a crow
(03/08/2012) The more we discover about dinosaurs, the more these "terrible lizards" resemble otherworldly birds. None more so than the microraptor, which paleontologists have meticulously reconstructed in a paper in Science. Not only was the microraptor about the size of a modern-day crow, it looked very crow-like according to paleontologists, even down to the discovery that it sported dark iridescent feathers, the first yet recorded in nature.
Solar cells cross new threshold
(03/08/2012) Imagine powering your cell phone by leaving it on the window sill. Sounds like science fiction? Actually, this might soon turn into reality. Scientists have been exploring the potential of solar energy for decades. One of the cheapest ways to turn solar energy into electricity is by creating solar cells from organic polymers, which are easily manipulated by scientists. However, such cells are not efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. But now, researchers at UCLA’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering have come up with a new type of solar cell that sets the record in changing sunlight into power.
Environmental news - month in review: wildlife traffickers busted, funders of climate denial revealed
(03/08/2012) Mongabay.com provides a quick review of forest-related news for February 2012.
RSPO-certified palm oil production jumps, generates $21M in premiums for producers
(03/08/2012) Production and sales of palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) reached record volume in 2011, reports a new analysis published by the multistakeholder body.
International Labor Organization raps Brazil over monster dam
(03/07/2012) The UN's International Labor Organization (ILO) has released a report stating that the Brazilian government violated the rights of indigenous people by moving forward on the massive Belo Monte dam without consulting indigenous communities. The report follows a request last year by the The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the Brazilian government to suspend the dam, which is currently being constructed on the Xingu River in the Amazon.
Rally calls on Brazil President to veto new forest code
(03/07/2012) A coalition of 200 organizations, known as the Comitê Brasil in Defense of Forests and Sustainable Development, rallied today in Brasilia against proposed changes to Brazil's Forestry Code. The code, which was supposed to be voted on this week but has been delayed to shore up more support, would make changes in over 40-year-old code that some conservationists fear could lead to further deforestation in the Amazon. Protestors called on the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, to veto the bill as it stands now, holding signs exclaiming, "Veta Dilma!" ("Veto it Dilma!").
After illegal logging allegations, certifier lodges complaint against paper giant APP
(03/07/2012) Less than a week after Greenpeace released evidence that protected tree species were being illegally logged and pulped at an Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) mill in Sumatra, a major certifier, the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), has lodged a complaint and asked for an investigation. In addition to PEFC's move, the National Geographic Society (NGS), which was found to be sourcing from APP recently, has publicly broken ties with the company, and Greenpeace has handed over its evidence to Indonesian police who told the group there would be an investigation.
United Nations meets clean water goal
(03/07/2012) Over the past two decades (1990-2010) over two billion people have received access to improved drinking water, bringing the current number of people worldwide who have access to better water up to 89 percent. This accomplishment meets the UN's Millennium Development Goal's (MDG) target of cutting in half the amount of people worldwide who do not have access to safe and sustainable drinking water. According to a report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), the goal was met in 2010, five years before its target year of 2015.
Niger creates desert park bigger than Hungary
(03/07/2012) Yesterday, the Niger government formally created the Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature and Cultural Reserve in the Sahara Desert, reports the Sahara Conservation Fund. The reserve, now one of the largest in Africa, expands existing protected areas to 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 sq. miles), an area bigger than Hungary and nearly twice the size of Costa Rica.
Featured Video: new family of legless amphibians discovered
(03/07/2012) Researchers exploring northeast India have discovered a new family of legless amphibians, known as caecilians. Although caecilians superficially resemble giant earthworms, they are in fact vertebrates and are most closely related to their amphibian kin, frogs and salamanders.
Brazil delays Forest Code vote
(03/07/2012) Brazil's Congress will delay its vote on a controversial revision to its forest code, which regulates how much forest can be legally chopped down, reports Brazilian state media.
Animal photos of the day: green sea turtle saved in China
(03/06/2012) Last month, an organization devoted to marine turtles in the China, Sea Turtle 911, released a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) back into the wild in an event that included adoring crowds and a lecture on sea turtle conservation. The sea turtle, dubbed "Crush," had been rescued from a local fishing village. Green sea turtles are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. "Despite the endangered status of sea turtles, there remains a thriving illegal market for sea turtle meat and products in China," a press release from Sea Turtle 911 notes.
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