Conservation news

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Locals revolt against gold miner in Sulawesi

(03/30/2015) Residents of Indonesia's Buyat Bay and a national legal aid institute are preparing a case against a gold miner they say began operating in secret without locals' consent. They also accuse the company, owned by a prominent politician, of failing to acquire the proper licenses, clearing forest in a protected area and damaging the environment.


Mobile app reveals what products contain palm oil

(03/30/2015) A new app enables iPhone and Android users to scan barcodes to reveal whether household products contain palm oil.


Record heat in Antarctica

(03/29/2015) The temperature in Antarctica hit a record high last week, reports Weather Underground.


APRIL suspends contractor after environmentalists expose ongoing deforestation

(03/28/2015) Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) has suspended a contractor and a plantation manager after environmentalists exposed deforestation that violates the logging giant's sustainability policy.


Low crop prices means time is ripe for new forest protection programs

(03/27/2015) Today, conservation compliance is a U.S. policy between governments and farmers that reward farmers with federal subsidies for good conservation practices on designated vulnerable lands. But economist Clayton Ogg believes it could now be used to save forests in countries like Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia. "The main drivers for deforestation in recent years are high crop prices. However, as crop prices fall to more normal levels, farmers depend very heavily on government subsidies, and the subsidies become the major driver for deforestation," Ogg told mongabay.com.


Just how useful is forest restoration? New study seeks to find out

(03/27/2015) Across the world, scientists estimate there are about two billion hectares of degraded forestland. In Indonesia alone, 25 million hectares of former logging concessions currently have no management, according to research. A study recently published in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science suggests this may represent an important opportunity for biodiversity conservation through restoration.


New species of monitor lizards found on the black market

(03/27/2015) Searching the globe for undiscovered species takes biologists to far and remote locations, trekking through exotic locales that may yield a new discovery. However, exploring the black market can also produce results. And this is just the case for Rafe Brown, curator of the University Of Kansas (KU) Biodiversity Institute, during a recent visit to the Philippines. In a black market in Manila, Brown and his colleagues discovered two new species of water monitor lizard for sale.


Aceh unveils protected area in beleaguered Tripa peat swamp

(03/27/2015) As Indonesia's Supreme Court prepares to rule on an appeal from oil palm developer Kallista Alam, ordered to pay Rp366 billion in fines and reparations for cut-and-burning forest in the Tripa peat swamp region, the Aceh government has established a protected zone in the company's former concession, the culmination of a months-long program to rehabilitate the area.


APRIL violates sustainability policy by clearing peat forest after Jan cut-off

(03/26/2015) New data shows Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) is continuing to destroy rainforests on deep peat despite a high profile pledge to clean up its operations. Today Greenomics-Indonesia released an analysis of two NASA Landsat images confirming that APRIL's subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp Paper (RAPP) has cleared significant tracts of peat forest on Pulau Pedang island off Sumatra's coast since January 2015.


Why palm oil expanded, and what keeps it growing

(03/26/2015) Today, oil palm is Indonesia’s most important cash crop. In 2014, Indonesia produced 33.5 million tons of palm oil, generating $18.9 billion in export revenue. This makes palm oil Indonesia’s third most valuable export, behind only coal and petroleum gas. However, the rise of Indonesian palm oil is only a relatively recent phenomenon. The chart below shows the remarkable growth that the industry has displayed over the past 30 years.


Mexico’s club mosses at risk of extinction

(03/26/2015) All nine species of the club moss genus Phlegmariurus found in the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico are at risk of extinction, according to a new study published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. One of these species, P. orizabae, has not been recorded in the wild since 1854.


Indonesia's biodiversity-protected areas no match for encroachers, finds study

(03/26/2015) Indonesia's biodiversity-focused protected areas are failing to slow deforestation, while other categories have achieved mixed results, finds a new study. The coupling of poor law enforcement with the presence of high-value timber seems to be the main culprit.


Deer 'kissing' fawn among finalists in camera trap photo contest

(03/26/2015) A camera trap photo of a young buck touching noses with a fawn is among the finalists in a picture contest organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The image was snapped in a camera trap set up in Apopka, Florida.


Destruction of elephant, tiger, and orangutan habitat doubles

(03/25/2015) The rate of forest loss in Indonesia's Leuser Ecosystem — the only place on Earth where rhinos, orangutans, tigers, and elephants live in the same habitat — has more than doubled due to logging, encroachment, and conversion to industrial plantations, warn conservationists. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Sumatran Orangutan Society reported that 80,316 hectares of forest were lost between 2008 and 2013, a sharp increase from the 30,830 hectares cleared between 2002 and 2008.


Elephant poaching rate unchanged – and still devastating

(03/25/2015) New figures show essentially no change in the number of elephants killed in Africa by poachers last year, despite a high-profile meeting on the crisis which was attended by 46 countries and a number of commitments. Data from CITES' Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) estimated that around 20,000 elephants were killed in 2014, the same as in 2013.


Illegal cocoa plantations threaten Côte d’Ivoire’s parks and primates

(03/25/2015) Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest producer of cocoa, also boasts an ecosystem of great biological richness and species diversity, with over 2,250 endemic plants and 270 vertebrate species. Unfortunately, it also has the highest deforestation rate in all of sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to its rise as a significant player in the global agricultural economy after years of civil unrest.


Photos: expedition to Amazon’s white sands may have found new primate

(03/24/2015) Most people think of the Amazon rainforest as one massive, homogenous ecosystem—a giant castle of green. However, within the Amazon rainforest lie a myriad of distinct ecosystems, sporting unique characteristics and harboring endemic species. One of the rarer ecosystems in the Amazon is the white sands forest.


Reforestation programs may help reduce illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo

(03/24/2015) Can the act of planting a tree change one’s attitude towards forests and conservation? Erica Pohnan, Hotlin Ompusunggu, and Campbell Webb, from the conservation NGO Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), set out to answer this question by evaluating the effectiveness of reforestation programs in and around Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.


'How about that extension?' activists ask as forest exploitation moratorium deadline nears

(03/24/2015) Less than two months before the expiration of an Indonesian forest exploitation moratorium set up under an agreement with Norway, activists called on Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar to extend the prohibition, as she promised to do after taking office last year.


World's fragmented forests are deteriorating

(03/24/2015) The world's forests are fragmented and deteriorating, states a new paper published in Science Advances. After analyzing satellite imagery and compiling data from long-term fragmentation studies, the authors conclude that 70 percent of remaining forest land exists within 1 km of an edge, which negatively impacts their fauna, flora, and ecosystem services.


Halloween in the Amazon: baby bird dresses up like killer caterpillar

(03/23/2015) 'Mama, I wanna be a toxic caterpillar,' says the little bird. 'Okay,' mamma answers, 'but first you gotta study your Batesian mimicry.' Meet the cinereous mourner, an ash-colored, Amazonian bird that looks rather hum-drum compared to many other birds found in the region. Yet, scientists have discovered something special about the birds: its newborn babies look and move like a neon orange, toxic caterpillar.


The great Arctic decline: another sea ice record broken

(03/23/2015) Every winter, sea ice in the Arctic expands, providing vital habitat for birthing seals, hunting polar bears, and foraging walruses. But as the Arctic has warmed faster than any place on the planet—due climate change caused by burning fossil fuels—sea ice is not expanding as far as it once did.


Seeing the trees but not the forest (commentary)

(03/20/2015) Understanding forest dynamics is necessary for the sound management of forests, for both production and conservation. This includes an understanding of the extent of forest area, information about what the forest contains and how the forest resource is managed. Forest monitoring provides this information.


Pleasure palace in Lao facilitates wildlife poaching for Chinese elites

(03/20/2015) A city-sized resort complex in Laos is facilitating large-scale wildlife trafficking for Chinese tourists, exacerbating commercial poaching in the Southeast Asian nation, warns a new report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).


Study finds roads in Southeast Asia may be devastating forests, wildlife

(03/20/2015) Habitat loss and illegal hunting are leading drivers behind mammal population decline and extinction in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. But what's driving these drivers? Road infrastructure, according to research. Researchers conducted the first-ever comprehensive study examining the impacts of road infrastructure on mammal populations in Southeast Asia; their findings were recently published in PLOS One.


Carbon emissions flatlined last year

(03/19/2015) Global carbon emission plateaued last year, according to International Energy Agency, even as the world's economy grew three percent. This is the first time carbon emissions have stalled in the absence of an economic collapse. The news provides tentative hope that the world may finally tackling climate change ahead of much-anticipated climate talks in Paris.


Bottom trawling reduces size of commercially important flatfish

(03/19/2015) Oceans not only provide important ecosystem services, including climate regulation and nutrient cycling, but they also serve as a major contributor to food and jobs. Yet human actions in the oceans are having a major impact on species, sometimes in unexpected ways. Indeed, a recent study finds that bottom trawling may be making some fish skinner.


DRC mulls changing Virunga's boundaries for oil

(03/19/2015) Last Friday, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced it was considering changing the boundaries of Virunga National Park to accommodate oil exploitation. Africa's oldest park, Virunga is home to around a quarter of the world's mountain gorillas as well as thousands of other species, many of them threatened with extinction.


Riau misses deadline on 'village forest' project as zoning deadlock continues

(03/19/2015) A pair of local communities' five-year slog to establish village forest management areas in Riau is the latest victim of a deadlock over the Indonesian province's proposed zoning plan, whose long delay has been further exacerbated by the governor's arrest in a bribery case.


Who's funding palm oil?

(03/19/2015) Palm oil may be the single most important crop that you never heard of. A vegetable fat that resembles reddish butter at room temperature, palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Both nutritious and highly versatile, palm oil is now an important component of products ranging from biofuels and food to soaps and cosmetics. Estimates indicate that as much as 50 percent of the products used by the average Western consumer every day contain palm oil or its derivatives.


Indonesia's small islands being rapidly damaged by industrial activities

(03/18/2015) Intense exploitation of Indonesia's natural resources is taking a special toll on the country's small islands, with many subject to an outpouring of mining concessions that cover huge swaths of their tiny areas, often to the chagrin of local populations.


Discovery of 'Lost City' spurs conservation pledge

(03/18/2015) Earlier this month, National Geographic made big news: the discovery of what it called a 'lost city' below the thick jungles of Honduras. While the coverage has led to scientists crying sensationalism, it also resulted this week in a commitment of protection by the Honduras President, Juan Orlando Hernández, for a long-neglected portion of the country.


Indonesia's indigenous people still suffer human rights violations, says report

(03/18/2015) Indonesia's indigenous population has suffered a long history of human rights violations says a report to be released by the country's National Commission on Human Rights in May.


New report connects human health to biodiversity protection

(03/17/2015) During February, the 14th World Congress on Public Health in Kolkata, India, revealed a new "ground-breaking" report entitled, Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health, which demonstrates human health benefits yielded from protecting Earth's biodiversity. It's designed to be the new "flagship publication," acting as a primary source of information that supports the upcoming 2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals of the United Nations.


Can voluntary sustainability standards survive in emerging markets?

(03/17/2015) Last month, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) published a new edition of its The World in 2050 report. Confirming the findings of previous studies, the report describes a shift in economic power from the global north to the south. PwC projects that the US' and EU's share of world GDP will face a steady decline from around 33 percent in 2014 to about 25 percent by 2050. At the same time, emerging markets like China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, and Turkey (the so-called E7 countries) are gaining in importance as both producers and consumers in the global economy.


Minister explains sustainability claims behind Indonesia’s boat bombing

(03/17/2015) Boat bombing has been one of the most visible (and internationally controversial) elements of the new Indonesian fishery minister’s policies. But recently, Fishery Minister Susi Pudjiastuti explained that the bombings were really based on the concept of sustainability.


Conservationists catch-and-release record-smashing freshwater fish

(03/17/2015) Conservationists and scientists have managed to catch-and-release what could be the world's biggest freshwater fish ever for an upcoming episode of Ocean Mysteries. Naturalist and host of the show, Jeff Corwin—along with wildlife veterinarian, Nantarika Chansue, and the tourist fishing group, fishsiam.com—managed to reel in a giant freshwater stingray.


Declining palm oil prices: Good news and bad news for smallholders

(03/16/2015) Declining crop prices usually spell bad news for farmers, and poor smallholders in particular. The drop in the price of palm oil from a recent high of US$860 per metric ton in March 2014 to below US$640 in March 2015 (and far below 2010-2012 prices which exceeded US$1000) heralds a shift in perceptions of oil palm from an economic boon to poverty-stricken smallholders, to a liability that ties small-scale farmers to a less profitable commodity.


King of the jungle returns to Gabon after nearly 20 year absence

(03/16/2015) There's a new cat in town. For the first time since 1996, conservationists have proof of a lion roaming the wilds of the Central African country of Gabon. The lion—a healthy-looking, young male—was caught on camera trap in Batéké Plateau National Park, a 20,200 hectare expanse of grasslands and gallery forests.


When apes have choices and preferences (commentary)

(03/16/2015) One question that desperately needs to be asked when we talk about the rights of an intelligent species like apes is whether we allow them choices and preferences in the rights we give them. This issue and other issues of rights have been raised by me and a small team of orangutan experts in a report we prepared to be used in the court case of the 29-year-old orangutan Sandra in the zoo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The story of Sandra has been given prominence by the media.


Road rage: scientists denounce $60 trillion infrastructure expansion

(03/14/2015) Last November, at the annual G-20 summit - for the 20 wealthiest of the world’s nations - in Brisbane, Australia, a staggering commitment was made to invest $60 to $70 trillion worldwide in new infrastructure over the next 15 years. This is akin to doubling the current value of all global infrastructure put together.


Brazil confirms rising deforestation in the Amazon

(03/14/2015) The Brazilian government has officially confirmed that deforestation in the Amazon is pacing sharply higher than a year ago. Figures released last week by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows that forest clearing detected by DETER — a short term deforestation monitoring system based on coarse satellite imagery — is 63 percent higher for the twelve months ended January 31, 2015 relative to the year earlier period.


Proposed law could decimate Indonesia's remaining forests

(03/14/2015) A seemingly well-intended law that aims to turn forests over to traditional users could instead lead to large-scale destruction of Indonesia's native ecosystems, warns a prominent conservation biologist.


Scientists warn of global warming threat to temperate rainforests

(03/13/2015) In a new study published recently in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, researchers warn that temperate rainforests may be in for big changes in the face of global warming, and they recommend reducing greenhouse gas emissions before it's too late.


Scientists warn G20 that $60 trillion infrastructure plan is "doubling down on a dangerous vision"

(03/13/2015) If there's one thing most governments and even political parties appear to agree on it's a desire for more infrastructure, i.e. more roads, dams, bridges, power plants, airports and seaports, sewers, pipelines, and telecommunication systems. At the most recent G20 meeting in Brisbane, the world's biggest economies agreed on the need for more infrastructure around the globe, including a plan to boost infrastructure spending by trillions of dollars by 2030 and setting up a so-called Global Infrastructure Hub.


Indigenous leaders present plan to gov't for Suriname's largest official protected area

(03/13/2015) Indigenous leaders from southern Suriname took the first steps toward creating the South American country’s largest recognized protected area with a declaration to parliament on March 5.


New wormy amphibians discovered in Southeast Asia

(03/13/2015) Worms come in all different sizes, shapes, textures, colors, and flavors. Some attack human digestive systems, some surface after a rainstorm, and some come in plastic wrappers, covered in sour sugar, at the local grocery store. Despite their similar features and anatomies, many of the real worms (not the sugar kind) demonstrate convergent evolution, meaning they are not related but have independently evolved similar features.


Newly discovered Brazilian bird may number fewer than 10 individuals

(03/12/2015) In October 2002, a team of ornithologists at Murici in northeastern Brazil observed and recorded the call of a bird. At that time, the team believed they had chanced upon a rare bird previously described by other researchers as the Alagaos foliage-gleaner (Philydor novasei).


Even cockroaches have personalities

(03/12/2015) When I was ten, I acquired my first dog. Rani was a Doberman Pinscher—tall, lean, and a huge pushover. She was wonderfully friendly, but sadly misunderstood her whole life, regularly frightening all except those who knew her intimately. There were two innocuous reasons for this—both of which reveal the power of emotions shared across species.


New report: commercial agricultural expansion fueling illegal logging and land conflicts in Myanmar

(03/12/2015) The Myanmar government has been allocating land for large-scale private agricultural businesses in the country’s biodiversity-rich forests at an alarming rate, according to a new report released by Forest Trends, a Washington-based non-profit organization. And these concessions may be fueling illegal timber harvests and intensifying land conflicts, the report alleges.


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