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California introduces bill to close ivory loophole
(01/08/2015) California congresswoman, Toni G. Atkins, introduced a bill yesterday (AB 96) that would close a major loophole allowing ivory to be sold all over the state. Thousands of miles away, across Africa, poachers are decimating elephants for their ivory tusks. A recent study estimated that one fifth of the continent's elephants have been slaughtered in just three years.
Kalimantan community maps forest to thwart timber companies
(01/08/2015) The small village of Tumbang Bahanei is inhabited by 139 indigenous families that tend to 2,859 hectares of customary forest, 132 hectares of rice fields, 5,841 hectares of rubber forest, and 43 hectares of forest designated for indigenous tourism. In total, this amounts to just over 8,880 hectares. The residents know these numbers precisely, because they have been diligently mapping every corner of their territory in a desperate attempt to prevent it from being snatched up by timber companies.
New bat species has fangs you won't believe
(01/08/2015) What big teeth you have, my dear! The better to eat insects with—and make one's own ecological niche. Scientists have uncovered a new bat with stupendous canines in the rainforests of Lao PDR and Vietnam, aptly naming it Hypsugo dolichodon, or the long-toothed pipistrelle.
Sulawesi community vies to maintain rights to forest
(01/07/2015) Around 3,000 people from 833 households live in Tompo Bulu's seven sub-villages. Traditional culture and ritual run thick in this area. The residents of Karampuang believe the area is where the cultures from eastern and western Indonesia first met. Local myth holds that the first leader of the area descended from the sky with a mandate that the locals must maintain their traditional way of life.
Palm oil threatens community forest in Central Kalimantan
(01/07/2015) Delang district is different than many parts of Central Kalimantan. Namely, on the drive in from Nangabulik, you won't see large-scale oil palm plantations, and the forest appears to be well maintained. This is because the locals are keenly aware of the importance of their land at the headwaters of the Lamandau River.
How black rhinos and local communities help each other in Namibia
(01/07/2015) Africa's rhinos are in a state of crisis. Poaching for their horn has resulted in the deaths of thousands of animals and pushed the continent's two species—the white and black rhino—against the wall. Yet, despite the crisis, there are pockets of rhino territory where poaching remains rare and rhinos live comparatively unmolested. Indeed, one of the brightest spots for rhinos is in Namibia.
One clever ape: new book celebrates real-life Orangutan Houdini
(01/07/2015) An interview with Laurel Neme about her new children's book, Orangutan Houdini. When no one is looking, a gangly orangutan named Fu Manchu reaches into his mouth and pulls out a wire. Carefully, Fu, housed at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska, begins to pick the lock to his enclosure's door, and escapes! He and his orangutan cohort have the run of the zoo, until his keeper Jerry brings them all back home.
Time for a checkup: researchers examine the health of lowland tapirs
(01/07/2015) The Brazilian tapir may get a bad rap in Brazil, where referring to someone as a 'tapir' essentially equates to calling them an 'ass,' but history has shown that this species is deserving of a lot more respect. These hardy 'living fossils' have survived multiple extinction events since the Eocene, yet their ability to survive the ongoing Anthopocene extinction remains uncertain.
Peru’s first environment minister dies at 74
(01/07/2015) Born to a poor family of coffee farmers on the western slopes of the Andes in 1940, Antonio Brack Egg became one of Peru’s most respected ecologists and led the country in protecting its profound biodiversity. Completing his doctorate at the university of Wurzburg, Germany in 1973, Brack Egg started his life of Peruvian public service with the Ministry of Agriculture, working to reestablish threatened populations of vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), a relative of the llama, honored as Peru’s national animal.
Traditional farming technique preserves soil, forest in Kalimantan
(01/06/2015) The road winds five kilometers through a thick canopy of trees before ending abruptly at a stream and a small, stout wooden cabin in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Amid, the cabin's owner, proudly explains that he constructed it from local hardwoods—high value trees still readily available in the surrounding hills.
Earthworms under threat
(01/06/2015) 1st November 1837 was a disappointing day at the Geological Society of London. The men (and they were only men) of the Society were expecting great things from the young Charles Darwin, recently returned from his Beagle voyage. Yet on that day only William Buckland saw sufficient value in Darwin’s work to recommend it for publication – but then Buckland himself was an oddity, given his work on fossil feces and his proclivity for eating his way through the Animal Kingdom (moles and bluebottle flies, he reported, are particularly distasteful).
Coffee farmers help protect Flores forest
(01/06/2015) Located on the slopes of Inerie Mountain on the island of Flores in Indonesia, farmers in Bajawa and Golewa districts have practiced sustainable agroforestry for generations, producing coffee for export to the U.S. and Europe known as Arabica Flores Bajawa (AFB). Although not as well-known as other specialty coffees in Indonesia, its popularity is increasing, and Ngada regency now produces more than 300 tons of AFB per harvest.
Judge protects Midwest wolves after 1,599 killed in three years
(01/06/2015) Future wolf hunting and trapping seasons in the Upper Midwest are on hold after a judge ruled the Obama Administration erred in removing the top predator from the Endangered Species Act. The ruling came nearly three years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections for the Great Lakes' wolf population. Since then hunters and trappers have killed 1,599 wolves.
Half of Indonesia's deforestation occurs outside concession areas
(01/06/2015) Roughly half of Indonesia's natural forest loss occurs outside officially designated concession areas, concludes a new assessment that also finds higher deforestation rates in places with worse forest governance scores. The report, released last month by Forest Watch Indonesia, is based on analysis of satellite data spanning the archipelago. Unlike assessments by the Ministry of Forestry, the data includes areas outside the 'forest estate'.
Two vanishing prairie butterflies added to the Endangered Species Act
(01/05/2015) This fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added two little-known prairie butterflies to the Endangered Species Act. One of the species, the Poweshiek skipperling, may be down to only a few hundred individuals. The Dakota skipperling is faring a little better, but both have lost the majority of their habitat in the pass few hundred years and continue to decline.
Featured video: new documentary highlights 'Sumatra Burning'
(01/05/2015) A new half-hour documentary investigate the impact of the palm oil industry in Indonesia, including burning forests and peatlands as well as haze spreading across Indonesian borders. Entitled Sumatra Burning, the documentary explores palm oil production on the island of Sumatra, which is experiencing some of the highest deforestation rates on the planet.
Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015
(01/02/2015) 2014 was a landmark year for tropical rainforests, with dozens of major companies committing to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, the launch of new platforms for monitoring forests, and sharp drop in clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, among other big developments. Here's a quick look ahead at what might be in store for tropical forests in 2015.
Things you want to know about Mongabay
(01/01/2015) This is a compilation of responses to some of the most frequently asked questions for Mongabay. If you have additional questions you'd like me to answer, you can ask them using this form.
Most popular environmental news stories in 2014
(12/31/2014) In 2014 Mongabay published more than 1,100 stories in English and over 450 posts in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Japanese, and Chinese. Mongabay-Indonesia published nearly 1,400 posts in Indonesian. Stories ran the gamut from light-hearted feel-good pieces to hard-hitting investigative content to thought-provoking interviews.
Monkey sleep, monkey do: how primates choose their trees
(12/31/2014) Primates don't monkey around when deciding where to spend the night, but primatologists have had a poor grasp on what drives certain monkeys toward specific trees. Now, two extensive studies of Indonesian primates suggest that factors in selecting trees each evening are site-specific and different for each species—and that some overnight spots result in conflicts between monkeys and humans.
Activists call out 'one of the worst actors in pulp and paper'
(12/30/2014) The owner of the only mill in Indonesia equipped to produce dissolving pulp, Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL), is being held out as emblematic of the risks the industry’s massive recent growth pose to endangered forests.
Top 10 camera trap photos of animals
(12/30/2014) Camera traps are revolutionizing the world of conservation, helping researchers document elusive wildlife, record rarely-observed animal behavior, catch poachers, and identify high conservation value areas. The non-invasive tool also offers incredible marketing value, showcasing the sometimes little-seen targets of conservation efforts.
2014: the year in rainforests
(12/30/2014) 2014 could be classified as 'The Year of the Zero Deforestation Commitment'. During 2014, nearly two dozen major companies, ranging from palm oil producers to fast food chains to toothpaste makers, established policies to exclude palm oil sourced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.
Rat eradication needed to save seabird colony
(12/30/2014) Although only a nuisance in your home, on an isolated island chain (archipelago) off the northeastern coast of Brazil, rats pose a threat to the red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus). The seabird nests in the remote Abrolhos National Park, but two species of invasive rats prey on its eggs and young: the house rat (Rattus rattus) and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus).
Meet Biofaces: the Facebook for wildlife enthusiasts
(12/30/2014) Love wildlife? Wish you had a place online to share your photos, videos, and stories with other wild enthusiasts—kind of like a Facebook for wildlife lovers? Well, look no further than Biofaces, a new website meant to "make wildlife loving people happy," according to its creator, Leonardo Avelino Duarte.
Young journalists win prizes for environmental reporting
(12/30/2014) This year, Mongabay published over 165 articles written by journalists participating in its internship program. To highlight some of the excellent work, Mongabay held a competition for intern contributions to the site, asking individuals to submit their most compelling pieces. A staff selection panel reviewed the selections and chose the winners.
Endangered mussel still harvested for food in Laos
(12/29/2014) Only one freshwater pearl mussel species is known to inhabit tropical water systems. However, despite being listed as Endangered by the IUCN, it is also still a part of the diet of villagers in Northern Laos. A study published recently found that the dwindling populations of the bivalve would benefit from a ban on their capture.
Camera traps capture rare footage of wild bonobos (video)
(12/29/2014) Bonobos, our ape cousins, love peace. Unlike chimpanzees, also our close relatives, bonobos are known to resolve conflict through sex instead of aggression. They kiss, they caress, and females display genito-genital rubbing (also called G-G rubbing) to communicate, bond, and reconcile.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014
(12/29/2014) In what was widely seen as a possible breakthrough in the battle to coordinate some kind of response to global warming, China and the U.S. announced joint actions this year. On November 12th, the world's two most powerful countries surprised pretty much everyone by announcing that they would work together to tackle the crisis.
Indonesia's silent wildlife killer: hunting
(12/26/2014) By and large, Indonesia is a peaceful country. In fact, on the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s list of homicide rates, Indonesia ranks number 10, making Indonesians one of the least murderous people on Earth. A ban on gun ownership probably helps, although obviously there are many other ways to snuff out another person. Maybe Indonesia’s general tendency to avoid conflict helps, too. Whatever the reason why Indonesians are relatively unlikely to kill each other, such favors are not extended to Indonesia’s non-human wildlife. The relative safety of Indonesia’s people does not guarantee similar security for its animals.
Connecting the Dots: from Christmas Cookies to Climate Change
(12/26/2014) Harrison Ford checking out everyday products to see which ones contain palm oil. Not exactly the high-octane activity we associate with an adventurer like Ford…so what gives? Ford cares about the ingredients used to make these products because our high demand for these everyday consumer goods is directly tied to high rates of deforestation and climate change. He was in the frozen food aisle to find out just how prevalent palm oil is in our food supply.
Scientists rediscover Critically Endangered streamside frog in Costa Rica
(12/26/2014) In the past 20 years, amphibian species around the world have experienced rapid decline due to climate change, disease, invasive species, habitat loss and degradation. Populations have decreased by approximately 40 percent with nearly 200 species thought to have gone extinct since 1980. However, despite these discouraging statistics, new research efforts are turning up lost populations of some vanished frogs.
Favorite nature and wildlife photos from 2014
(12/24/2014) During the course of my reporting in 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to several countries and take some pictures in the field. Below are some of my favorite images from the year. Most of these photos are from Sumatra (Indonesia), Sabah (Malaysia), and Queensland (Australia), although there are a few from the United States.
Ecuador sends aid money back to Germany over planned rainforest visit
(12/23/2014) A visit to a rainforest slated for oil drilling has blown up into a diplomatic row between Ecuador and Germany. Ecuador has said it will no longer partner with Germany on environmental issues and will return aid money, after the South American government discovered that German legislators were attempting to visit the much-embattled Yasuni National Park.
Palawan palm oil presence likely to grow, industry rep denies harmful impact
(12/23/2014) Plans to convert eight million hectares of land for palm oil production on Palawan island in the Philippines have been met with opposition from environmental and social advocacy groups, with a petition to cease development sent to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by an anti-palm oil expansion group. But an industry representative denies claims that all eight million hectares will be cultivated to the detriment of wildlife and human communities, maintaining palm oil expansion will be beneficial to the people of Palawan.
Advocacy group lashes out against palm oil expansion on Philippine island
(12/23/2014) In the first week of November, an anti-oil palm expansion group sent a copy of their petition to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous People for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights hoping to elevate their concerns over land-grabbing issues faced by tribes in Palawan, Philippines, due to planned palm oil expansion in the province.
How a frog with a strange name is helping improve conservation in Brazil
(12/23/2014) Protecting the biodiversity of the Amazon basin is an immense undertaking, and to its credit the Brazilian government has a set procedure for doing so. However, there are gaps in the process that may prevent the authorities from fully protecting the species that call this place home. To investigate this, a recent study uses as an example the brilliant-thighed frog, a species that is found across the Amazon Basin—including the area surrounding the soon-to-be dammed Xingu River.
Conservation conflicting with local ways of life in Mexican reserve
(12/23/2014) Although conservation has good intentions, it can give rise to conflicts when the interests of conservationists put local peoples’ livelihoods at stake. A recent study has uncovered an unhappy symbiosis between Mayan subsistence hunters and authorities in Yucatán, Mexico. A lack of understanding and communication about hunting regulations are forcing Mayan hunter societies to alter their traditional ways of living.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014
(12/23/2014) In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.
Child labor and palm oil in Indonesia
(12/23/2014) Meet Bimo Kencana Arief. At 13 years old, this Indonesian middle school student is not spending his afternoons doing homework, helping around the house, or getting into trouble with the neighborhood children. Instead, Bimo is working up a sweat, hauling heavy oil palm fruits from the trees to a waiting truck. If he moves quickly, he can help his father earn up to $2 between 3:00 pm and dark.
Greenpeace: zero deforestation pioneer makes progress, but still has work to do
(12/22/2014) Half a decade ago, Golden-Agri Resources (GAR) was losing customers right and left in the midst of a Greenpeace campaign that blamed the Singapore-based palm oil giant for destroying forests in Indonesia. Then in February 2011, GAR surprised the world when it announced it would no longer clear rainforests or peatlands for new plantations. The company also committed to resolving social conflicts and respecting the right of local communities to reject plantation development on their traditional lands. Observers thought it could be mark the beginning a transformation in how palm oil was produced.
Shifting attitudes may help endangered wild dogs in Thailand
(12/22/2014) Once found throughout much of Asia, the dhole—a wild dog species that looks something like a jackal—has been displaced by humans from much of its range. But a new study published in mongabay.org's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science, offers hope that the two species may be able to coexist, with people living next to protected forest areas in southeastern Thailand showing a favorable attitude towards increasing awareness and conservation efforts for the endangered canids.
The biggest new species discoveries in 2014 (photos)
(12/22/2014) Biologists describe upwards of 15,000 previously undocumented species every year. Some of these species are complete surprises, sometimes representing new genera. Others may be identified after genetic analysis distinguishes them from closely-related species. Some — especially conspicuous birds and mammals — are already known to local populations, but hadn't been formally described by scientists.
Genetics study sheds light on Chile’s most endangered bird
(12/22/2014) A member of the Furnariidae family, the small brown and beige bird possesses rusty “spine-like” tail feathers and inhabits densely vegetated areas. Scientists estimate the total population to range from 140 to 500 individuals. In 2012 the IUCN declared the Masafuera Rayadito to be a Critically Endangered species.
Edited Reality: What I Learned from Filming Eaten Alive
(12/22/2014) On November 3, 2014, I woke up to check my flight status from Bangalore to New York. What I found when I opened my laptop was a mindboggling amount of emails, hate mail, death threats, and interview requests. The numbers were staggering. The night before, the Discovery Channel had aired the first trailers for the show they decided to call Eaten Alive.
Pictures: the top new animal discoveries of 2014
(12/20/2014) Seemingly every year scientists set a new record with the number of species they describe. 2014 will be no exception. Below are some of the 'new species' highlights from the past year. The list includes species whose descriptions were first published in 2014. Some of the 'discoveries' occurred in years prior.
125M ha of degraded lands identified for forest-friendly agricultural expansion
(12/19/2014) A team of researchers has identified 125 million hectares (309 million acres) of land suitable for agricultural expansion that won't come at the expense of tropical forests. The study argues that shifting agricultural expansion away from forests to these 'degraded lands' would avoid 13 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would be released were they converted for plantations, pasture, and croplands.
Puerto Rico's only native toad bounces back from edge of extinction
(12/19/2014) Once common on the islands of Puerto Rico and Virgin Gorda, the Puerto Rican crested toad declined by more than 80 percent over the past decade, leaving behind just some 200 individuals in the wild. But researchers have turned their fate around. Since 1992, they have successfully bred in captivity and re-introduced to the wild more than 300,000 of these threatened toads.
Impacts of deforestation on Amazonian river ecosystems could be far-reaching
(12/18/2014) A study by researchers in Brazil published this week has found that deforestation in the Southern Amazon may impair significantly the structure and function of rivers, and make them less able to support life.
Plant wars: some tree species compete better against grasses for reforestation
(12/18/2014) What happens to degraded pastureland once the cows are kicked out? After years of letting the area rest, does it eventually become what it once was? Not likely. When disruptions such as invasive species and human interference are introduced to an area, ecological succession doesn’t occur the way it should naturally.
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