conservation news and environmental science news.
Cute animal picture of the day: red panda
(08/17/2011) The red panda is found in China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, and Myanmar. Once believed to be in the bear family (like the giant panda), the species is now has its own genus in the Musteloidea, which represents weasels, raccoons, and skunks.
Cameratraps take global snapshot of declining tropical mammals
(08/17/2011) A groundbreaking cameratrap study has mapped the abundance, or lack thereof, of tropical mammal populations across seven countries in some of the world's most important rainforests. Undertaken by The Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM), the study found that habitat loss was having a critical impact on mammals. The study, which documented 105 mammals (nearly 2 percent of the world's known mammals) on three continents, also confirmed that mammals fared far better—both in diversity and abundance—in areas with continuous forest versus areas that had been degraded.
Animal picture of the day: the brilliant cock-of-the-rock
(08/16/2011) The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) is an unmistakable bird, whose males support such brilliant and bushy head plumage that their beaks are often hidden entirely, giving them a look wholly unique in the animal kingdom.
World nations see six all-time record high temperatures, no lows so far in 2011
(08/16/2011) Eight months into the year, six nations have seen record high temperatures, including Kuwait, Iraq, Armenia, Iran, and Republic of the Congo, reports Jeff Master's Wunderblog. To date no record lows have been recorded in any country in the world so far. This is similar, though not quite as extreme, to last year when twenty countries broke all time highs with none hitting an all time low.
The importance of recognizing viewpoints in a rapidly changing world
(08/16/2011) Is oil palm bad? Is protecting tropical forests more important than converting them for economic development? Should we spike trees to make sure no one cuts them down? Answers to these questions depend on which side of the argument you're on. But often people on either side of debates hardly know what their opponents are thinking.
Shell spills over 50,000 gallons of oil off Scotland
(08/16/2011) Yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell estimated that to date 54,600 gallons of oil had spilled into the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland, spreading some 19 miles wide (30 kilometers) at its maximum. While the company stopped the initial leak on Thursday, it has now announced that the oil has found a 'second pathway' and is still leaking into the sea around 84 gallons a day.
Featured video: WWF's Astonish Me
(08/16/2011) Highlighting new species recently discovered around the world, the short film Astonish Me, was created as apart of a happy 50th birthday celebration for conservation organization WWF.
Picture of the day: African costume you can't miss
(08/15/2011) Benin is a small country on the west coast of Africa. It achieved independence from France in 1960 and democracy in 1989.
Lessons from the world's longest study of rainforest fragments
(08/15/2011) For over 30 years, hundreds of scientists have scoured eleven forest fragments in the Amazon seeking answers to big questions: how do forest fragments' species and microclimate differ from their intact relatives? Will rainforest fragments provide a safe haven for imperiled species or are they last stand for the living dead? Should conservation focus on saving forest fragments or is it more important to focus the fight on big tropical landscapes? Are forest fragments capable of regrowth and expansion? Can a forest—once cut-off—heal itself? Such questions are increasingly important as forest fragments—patches of forest that are separated from larger forest landscapes due to expanding agriculture, pasture, or fire—increase worldwide along with the human footprint.
Animal picture of the day: ninja lemurs
(08/14/2011) On the ground Verreaux's Sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) move in sideways jumps giving them the appearance of elegant dancers or dangerous ninjas.
Dole destroying forest in national park for bananas
(08/14/2011) Dole Food Company, a US-based corporation famous for its tropical fruit products, is allegedly destroying rainforest in Somawathiya National Park in Sri Lanka for a banana plantation reports local press. The 4,700 hectare (11,600 acre) plantation, reportedly handed to local company Letsgrow by Sri Lanka's military, imperils an elephant migration route and a number of tropical species. Letsgrow has partnered with Dole on the plantation work, already clearing almost half the area, described as 'thick jungle'. Sri Lanka, which has only come out of a decades-long civil war in 2009, is currently seeking a rise in agricultural development.
WWF to investigate program that partners with notorious loggers
(08/14/2011) The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has announced an independent review of its Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) following a report from Global Witness that criticized the conservation organization for working with a number of logging companies that destroy forests, imperil species, and abuse human rights. While WWF's GTFN is meant to support companies in changing their ways, Global Witness' report argued that it led to greenwashing forest destruction, including illegal logging.
China opens trade in 'legal' tiger skins
(08/14/2011) The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has warned the US, the UK, and all tiger-range nations that China has re-opened the trade in wild cat skins—including tigers—ahead of a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the EIA, China has reinitiated a Skin Registration Scheme that allows the trade of big cat skins from legal sources, such as captive-bred cats and controversial tiger farms, however the NGOS argues the scheme lacks transparency, providing an easy cover for the sale of skins taken from big cats poached in the wild.
Picture of the day: the high price of gold for the Amazon rainforest
(08/11/2011) The surging price of gold is impacting some of the world's most important ecosystems: tropical forests.
The glass is half-full: conservation has made a difference
(08/11/2011) Don't despair: that's the message of a new paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, which argues that decades of conservation actions at multiple scales have had a positive impact for many of the world's endangered species. While such actions have not yet turned back the tide of the current mass extinction crisis, they have achieved notable successes which often get lost in the gloom-and-doom news stories on biodiversity declines. According to the paper, conservation actions take place on three scales. Microscale conservation focuses on a single species or ecosystem; mesoscale means conservation cooperation between a number of countries, such as efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade or protect wide-ranging species; and finally macroscale means global organizations or campaigns, such as those that pressure multinational corporations to become more biodiversity-friendly.
Taking corporate sustainability seriously means changing business culture
(08/11/2011) As more and more people demand companies to become sustainable and environmentally conscious, many corporations are at a loss of how to begin making the changes necessary. If they attempt to make changes—but fall short or focus poorly—they risk their actions being labeled as 'greenwash'. In addition, if they implement smart changes and self-regulations, but their employees don't buy-in to the process, all their investments will be for nothing. This is where Accountability Now, a young, fresh social responsibility agency, comes in. Clare Raybould, director of Accountability Now, believes companies—large and small—have the potential to change the world for the better, but they simply need a guiding hand to change not just the way a company works, but its culture.
A modest proposal for wealthy countries to reforest their land for the common good
(08/11/2011) The Coalition of Financially Challenged Countries with Lots of Trees, known as "CoFCCLoT", representing most of the world's remaining tropical forests is asking wealthy nations to share global responsibilities and reforest their land for the common good of stabilizing climate and protecting biodiversity.
Animal picture of the day: the jaws of the piranha
(08/10/2011) Few fish have a more fearsome reputation than the piranha. Yet recent research has shown that attacks on humans are rare and often accidental, though they do eat their prey alive and are capable of stripping a cattle carcass bare (though it doesn't happen instantaneously).
Arctic sea ice in free fall: new record low for July
(08/10/2011) Average Arctic sea ice extent hit a new record low for July according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).If the melt continues apace, the sea ice extent could hit its lowest point since record keeping by satellite began 32 years ago. However, ice loss slowed through the second half of July as weather grew colder in the Arctic, and by the end of the month was slightly above conditions in 2007, in which the lowest sea ice extent ever was measured.
Congo to 'reforest' with plantations across one million hectares
(08/10/2011) The Republic of the Congo has announced a new program to create plantations across one million hectares (2.47 million acres) of degraded forest lands. The program, known as the national program of afforestation and reforestation (RAN), is being pushed to support various industries, carbon sequestration and to take pressure off native forests. According to Reuters, the Republic of the Congo is seeking donor and international investment of $2.6 billion for the initiative. However, plantations are controversial in conservation-terms as they store significantly less carbon and support little biodiversity when compared to natural forest.
Photos: 10 new frogs discovered in India's great rainforest
(08/09/2011) Ten new species of frog have been discovered in India's Western Ghats according to two new papers in Biosystematica. Although human populations have farmed in the Western Ghats for centuries, the new discoveries prove that the rainforest still holds many surprises. The Western Ghats lie along India's west coast and have been dubbed one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, but the rich wildlife is imperiled by rising human impacts.
Uncontacted tribe missing after armed drug dealers storm their forest
(08/09/2011) Concern is rising for the welfare of uncontacted natives in the Brazilian Amazon after armed marauders stormed the area where they were last documented. Last week men with rifles and machine guns, believed to be drug traffickers from Peru, overran a remote government guard post run by FUNAI (Brazil's Indigenous Affairs Department) on the Envira River, near the uncontacted indigenous people's location on the border of Brazil and Peru. The uncontacted indigenous people in question made headlines worldwide earlier this year after photos and film of them were released from flyovers.
Picture of the day: faces of the indigenous, celebrating the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
(08/09/2011) Today, August 9th, is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. To help celebrate the world's indigenous cultures, mongabay.com has put together this collection of photos.
Science has been nearly silent in Brazil’s Forest Code debate
(08/09/2011) A recent push to revise Brazil’s forest code has emerged as one of the more contentious political issues in the country, pitting agribuisness against environmentalists trying to preserve the Amazon rainforest. Historically, the forest code has required private landowners to maintain a substantial proportion of natural forest cover on their properties, though the law has often been ignored. While both sides claim to be basing their recommendations on the 'best science' available, Brazilian scientists say they haven’t had much of a voice in the debate. In fact, says Antonio Donato Nobre, a researcher at the Amazon Research Institute and Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, 'throughout the development of the said revisions, Congress has neither invited nor commissioned a coordinated and serious contribution from the scientific community.'
Balancing agriculture and rainforest biodiversity in India’s Western Ghats
(08/08/2011) When one thinks of the world's great rainforests the Amazon, Congo, and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Indonesia usually come to mind. Rarely does India—home to over a billion people—make an appearance. But along India’s west coast lies one of the world's great tropical forests and biodiversity hotspots, the Western Ghats. However it's not just the explosion of life one finds in the Western Ghats that make it notable, it's also the forest's long—and ongoing—relationship to humans, lots of humans. Unlike many of the world's other great rainforests, the Western Ghats has long been a region of agriculture. This is one place in the world where elephants walk through tea fields and tigers migrate across betel nut plantations. While wildlife has survived alongside humans for centuries in the region, continuing development, population growth and intensification of agriculture are putting increased pressure on this always-precarious relationship. In a recent paper in Biological Conservation, four researchers examine how well agricultural landscapes support biodiversity conservation in one of India's most species-rich landscapes.
Arctic open for exploitation: Obama administration grants Shell approval to drill
(08/08/2011) Less than a year and a half after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration has bucked warnings from environmentalists to grant preliminary approval to oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell, to drill off the Arctic coast. Exploratory drilling will occur just north of the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the Beaufort Sea, home to bowhead and beluga whales, seals, walruses, polar bears, and a wide variety of migrating birds.
Featured video: Trouble in Lemur Land
(08/08/2011) A new film, Trouble in Lemur Land, showcases the Critically Endangered silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus). With only some 300 silky sifaka's surviving in the wild, this large and distinct lemur is considered one of the top 25 most endangered primates in the world.
Oil horror in Nigeria: 30 years, one billion dollars to clean-up
(08/08/2011) Fifty years of oil spills in Nigeria's now infamous Ogoniland region will take up to three decades and over a billion dollars ($1 billion for just the first five years) to restore environments to healthy conditions, according to a new independent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The most thorough study to date has found that widespread pollution has hit the Niger Delta even harder than assumed with devastating impacts on fishing grounds and community health. Last week Shell, one of the biggest operators in Nigeria, admitted to two massive oil spills in 2008 totaling 11 million gallons of crude.
Cute animal picture of the day: tufted deer fawn
(08/07/2011) Native to China and, perhaps, Myanmar (Burma), the tufted deer lives in mountainous damp forests.
Fuji Xerox Australia dumps paper supplier accused of rainforest destruction
(08/05/2011) Fuji Xerox Australia have severed ties with Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), an paper products giant accused of illegally clearing rainforests in Sumatra for pulp and paper production, reports Nine News.
Little-known animal picture of the day: the velvet asity
(08/04/2011) The velvet asity is a small bird endemic to Madagascar. The species is a part of a family of birds that only includes four species, all native to Madagascar.
Famine spreads: 29,000 young children perish
(08/04/2011) As the UN announces that famine has spread in Somalia to three additional regions (making five in total now), the US has put the first number to the amount of children under 5 who have so far perished from starvation in the last 90 days: 29,000. Nearly half of the total population of Somalia is currently in need of emergency food assistance. Yet, the al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, which controls parts of Somalia, has made bringing assistance to many of the malnourished incredibly difficult, if not impossible. The famine in Somalia has been brought-on by lack of governance combined with crippling droughts throughout East Africa, which some experts have linked to climate change. High food prices worldwide and a lagging response by the international community and donors have made matters only worse.
Satellite data shows slight increase in Amazon deforestation over June last year
(08/03/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose 17 percent in June compared to the same period a year earlier, reports Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
Animal picture of the day: portrait of a cheetah
(08/03/2011) Capable of hitting speeds up to 75 miles per hour, the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the world's fastest land animal.
Singing frog leads to insights into human hearing
(08/03/2011) New understanding of how female tungara frogs sort out the din of multiple males singing may lead to insights into human hearing, according to a new study in Nature Communications.
Protected areas not enough to save life on Earth
(08/03/2011) Since the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 protected areas have spread across the world. Today, over 100,000 protected areas—national parks, wildlife refuges, game reserves, marine protected areas (MPAs), wildlife sanctuaries, etc.—cover some 7.3 million square miles (19 million kilometers), mostly on land, though conservation areas in the oceans are spreading. While there are a number of reasons behind the establishment of protected areas, one of the most important is the conservation of wildlife for future generations. But now a new open access study in Marine Ecology Progress Series has found that protected areas are not enough to stem the loss of global biodiversity. Even with the volume of protected areas, many scientists say we are in the midst of a mass extinction with extinction levels jumping to 100 to 10,000 times the average rate over the past 500 million years. While protected areas are important, the study argues that society must deal with the underlying problems of human population and overconsumption if we are to have any chance of preserving life on Earth—and leaving a recognizable planet for our children.
Malaysian government to launch RSPO rival for palm oil certification
(08/02/2011) The Malaysian government is developing its own certification system for palm oil production, potentially creating another rival to the certification system run by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), reports Malaysia's Business Times.
Rat uses 'poison arrow' toxin from tree to defend against predators
(08/02/2011) The African crested rat, a rodent from East Africa, applies to plant toxin from tree bark to make itself poisonous, reports a new study published in Proceedings of The Royal Society B..
Picture of the day: horse-and-rider in the Amazon
(08/02/2011) Riding a horse in the world's greatest tropical rainforest may be the definition of what kids today call 'bad-ass'. It certainly makes cowboys in Texas look prosaic.
Ironic conservation: APP touts tiger relocation after allegedly destroying tiger's home
(08/02/2011) A female Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) has been relocated from her threatened rainforest home to Sembilang National Park. According to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Foundation (YPHS), the tiger had become an issue in its home region due to human and wildlife conflict. The group touted saving the tiger as 'a significant moment for Sumatran tiger preservation'. However, Greenpeace says that the tiger would never have been a problem if APP were not destroying its habitat.
July in review: lizards, alligator-eating pythons, toads, and an Arctic heatwave
(08/02/2011) Herps dominated the list of popular mongabay.com stories for the month of July.
Animal picture of the day: the Jesus Christ lizard
(08/01/2011) The basilisk lizard walks on water. To escape danger the lizard will race across a stream, sprinting, literally, off the water's surface. But despite its nickname of 'Jesus Christ lizard' this is not a miracle, but adaptation.
Chart: US suffers record drought
(08/01/2011) An exceptional drought is still scorching major parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. A new report from the National Drought Mitigation Center finds that over July, nearly 12 percent of the US saw exceptional drought conditions, the highest record since monitoring began a dozen years. Exceptional drought is the worst possible on a 5-scale drought scale.
Beetles: nature's herbicide
(08/01/2011) New research in the Journal of Applied Ecology shows that ground beetles help farmers in the UK by devouring weed seeds before they can sprout. The researchers say the study finds another proof of how biodiversity—the multitude of species on Earth—provides 'free' ecosystem services for people.
How fruit defines Borneo
(08/01/2011) Among conservationists and biologists, the mega-island of Borneo is a sort of Mecca. Its rich plant and animal biodiversity, as well as high degree of endemism (unique species found nowhere else) make it a naturalist's dream. There is one aspect of this biological richness which applies to the wellbeing and happiness of all of Borneo’s residents, human and animal, in a very direct way: fruit. From wild forest berries to juicy cultivated rambutans, fruit permeates the ecology, landscape and culture of Borneo. On the island there are over 70 wild fruit trees species and around 45 cultivated species that are consumed by people (1). Science has certainly not yet documented all the fruit consumed by wildlife, but we know that the total must be over 500 species.
Malaria may hurt conservation efforts, aid poachers
(07/31/2011) In 2009, 781,000 people died of malaria worldwide and nearly a quarter billion people contracted the mosquito-bourne disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While the impacts of malaria on people—among the world's worst diseases—have long been researched, a new study in Biological Conservation finds that malaria has a significant indirect impact on protected species. Many species contract various malaria strains, but the study also found that malaria in humans has the potential to leave endangered species unprotected.
Indigenous peoples in Suriname still wait for land rights
(07/31/2011) Legal rights and recognition for the diverse indigenous peoples of Suriname have lagged behind those in other South American countries. Despite pressure from the UN and binding judgments by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Suriname has yet to recognize indigenous and tribal land rights, a situation that has disconnected local communities from decisions regarding the land they have inhabited for centuries and in some cases millennia. A new report, Securing Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Conservation in Suriname: A Review outlines how this lack of rights has alienated indigenous communities from conservation efforts in Suriname. Instead of having an active say in the creation of conservation reserves, as well as their management, decisions on indigenous lands have traditionally been imposed from the 'top-down' either by government officials or NGOs.
Picture of the day: beach on a tropical island paradise
(07/30/2011) Beach on Nosy Mangabe, a tropical island paradise for wildlife enthusiasts.
Cute animal picture of the day: baby tarsier
(07/29/2011) The spectral tarsier of Sulawesi is one of the world's smallest primates, weighing roughly the equivalent ten U.S. quarters when full-grown.
Saving the wrong rhino in Indonesia?
(07/29/2011) The slideshow titled "APP: Establishing the Facts" would indeed be laughable if they were not so sad. In the slides on “Investing in Biodiversity,” APP appears to want to show how innovative it is in the conservation arena by focusing on the Javan rhino. The slides depict photos of wildlife and the Javan Rhino Sanctuary.
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