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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.
Tornado season likely to expand due to climate change
(03/06/2012) Last Friday, around a hundred tornadoes left a wake of destruction in the U.S., killing 39 people to date and destroying entire towns. The tragedy hit hardest in Kentucky and Indiana and experts predict the weather-disaster will cost over $1 billion. But isn't this early for tornado season? Yes, say experts, and climatologists add that while research on tornadoes and climate change is currently in its infancy, it's possible, probably even likely, that climate change is expanding tornado season in the U.S. due to the earlier arrival of spring.
Innovative program seeks to safeguard Peruvian Amazon from impacts of Inter-Oceanic Highway
(03/06/2012) Arbio was begun by Michel Saini and Tatiana Espinosa Q. in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios. The project focuses on a protective response to the increased encroachment and destructive land use driven by development. The recent construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway in the Madre de Dios area presents an enormous threat to forest biodiversity. Arbio provides opportunities to help establish a buffer zone near the road to limit intrusive agricultural and deforestation activities.
Cute baby animal photos of the day: baby pot-bellied seahorses
(03/05/2012) The Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) New York Aquarium has recently celebrated the arrival of "fry" (baby) pot-bellied seahorses (Hippocampus abdominalis). Found in the seas surrounding Australia, the pot-bellied seahorse is protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), since they are stolen from the wild for traditional medicine, decorations, and pets.
Featured Video: logging run amuck in Latvia
(03/05/2012) A recent expose by Al Jazeera reveals the environmental toll of clear-cutting on Latvia's forests, in addition to highlighting the fact that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies clear-cut forests.
Sawfish impale, cleave prey with snout
(03/05/2012) Although all seven species of sawfish are nearly extinct, scientists have spent little time studying these vanishing species. However that is changing as a new study in Current Biology sheds light on the sawfishes' most distinguishing feature: its long toothed snout, which gives the fish its name. "I was surprised to see how skilled sawfish are with their saw," said co-author Barbara Wueringer of the University of Queensland in a press release. "They use their saw to impale prey on the rostral teeth by producing several lateral swipes per second."
World's most toxic frog gets new reserve
(03/05/2012) Touching a wild golden poison frog could kill you within minutes: in fact, a single golden poison frog, whose Latin name Phyllobates terribilis is even more evocative than its common one, is capable of killing 10 humans with its one milligram dose of poison. Yet the deadly nature of this tiny frog has not stopped it from nearing extinction. Now, in a bid to save the species, the World Land Trust (WLT) and Colombian NGO ProAves have teamed up to establish a 50 hectare (124 acres) reserve in the Chocó rainforest.
Military called in to stop Cameroon elephant slaughter - but may be too late
(03/05/2012) Cameroon's military has been called in to Bouba Ndjida National Park to take on foreign poachers that have slaughtered hundreds of elephants for their ivory, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Reports vary, but between 200-480 elephants have been killed in recent weeks in the park by what is widely assumed to be poachers from Sudan.
Carbon emissions paving way for mass extinction in oceans
(03/05/2012) Human emissions of carbon dioxide may be acidifying the oceans at a rate not seen in 300 million years, according to new research published in Science. The ground-breaking study, which measures for the first time the rate of current acidification compared with other occurrences going back 300 million years, warns that carbon emissions, unchecked, will likely lead to a mass extinction in the world's oceans. Acidification particularly threatens species dependent on calcium carbonate (a chemical compound that drops as the ocean acidifies) such as coral reefs, marine mollusks, and even some plankton. As these species vanish, thousands of others that depend on them are likely to follow.
Investigation links APP to illegal logging of protected trees
(03/01/2012) A year-long undercover investigation has found evidence of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) companies cutting and pulping legally protected ramin trees, a practice that violates both Indonesian and international law. Found largely in Sumatra's peatswamp forests, the logging of ramin trees (in the genus Gonystylus) has been banned in Indonesia since 2001; the trees are also listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and thus require special permits to export. The new allegations come after APP, an umbrella paper brand, has lost several customers due to its continued reliance on pulp from rainforest and peatland forests in Sumatra.
National Geographic linked to rainforest destruction
(03/01/2012) A new report by Greenpeace has found a direct link between National Geographic Society (NGS) products and rainforest destruction in Indonesia that threatens tigers and orangutans. An analysis on National Geographic books found Sumatran rainforest fiber from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a brand whose suppliers have been linked to rainforest destruction in Sumatra, and, in the most recent Greenpeace report, alleged illegal logging of protected rainforest trees. One of the world's largest non-profit science and educational organizations, National Geographic is known worldwide for its magazines, documentaries, and award-winning photos. The organization also has a long-standing history of championing environmental and conservation issues. However, National Geographic says it has not sourced APP paper for "several years."
Madagascar lifts rosewood ban. Or does it?
(03/01/2012) Madagascar's transitional government lifted its ban on exports of rosewood, ebony and other precious wood last month, but the decision is now under review due to concerns about foreign dominance of the trade, say local sources. Environmentalists are nonetheless concerned that a loosening of restrictions on old-growth timber could ignite another logging frenzy in the country's rainforest parks, which are renowned for their biodiversity.
TransCanada to build southern half of Keystone to avoid State Department approval
(02/29/2012) Keystone XL is becoming the project that refuses to die: TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, has said it plans to build the southern half of the pipeline while it waits to determine a new route for the northern section. The company does not need approval from the State Department, which turned down the entire pipeline in January, to build the southern half from Texas to Oklahoma. However, the Obama Administration has embraced the idea. Carrying carbon-intensive tar sands oil down from Canada to a global market, the proposed pipeline galvanized environmental and climate activists last year, resulting in several large protests and civil disobedience actions.
Elephant death-toll rises to almost 500 in one park in Cameroon (warning: graphic photo)
(02/29/2012) Wildlife officials have found 458 dead elephants in Cameroon's embattled Bouba Ndjida National Park, reports the AFP. However officials fear the actual number is even higher around 480. Over the last six weeks a well-organized group of poachers has run free in the park, slaughtering elephants for their ivory tusks which will make their way to markets in Asia.
International Bird Area in Kenya saved from conversion into biofuel crop
(02/29/2012) A campaign by NGO Nature Kenya has saved the Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird Area (IBA) from destruction for planting biofuel crops, reports BirdLife International. Located near Kenya's eastern coastline, the forest is home to two IUCN Red List Endangered species, Clarke's weaver (Ploceus golandi) and sokoke pipit (Anthus sokokensis), both of which are imperiled by habitat loss. The plan to covert 10,000 hectares of the forest in jatropha, used for biofuels, was recently rejected by Kenya's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
Possible embezzlement halts WWF-run REDD project in Tanzania
(02/29/2012) Two conservation and community projects in Tanzania have been halted after the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reported possible corruption. WWF is running the projects with funds from the Norwegian government. One of the projects is a pilot REDD project, a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical, developing countries.
Cute baby animal photos of the day: twin Malagasy giant jumping rats born at London Zoo
(02/28/2012) Twin Malagasy giant jumping rats (Hypogeomys antimena) were born in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) zoo in London this month. Found only on the island of Madagascar, also home to the world's lemurs, these rodents are the biggest on the island. These large rodents take the ecological place of rabbits in Madagascar, but unlike other rodents they form lifelong monogamous pairs and reproduce very slowly.
India targets forests for destruction, industrial development
(02/28/2012) In a bid to fast-track industrial projects, India's Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is opening up 25 percent of forests that were previously listed as "no-go" areas, reports the Hindustan Times. The designation will allow between 30 and 50 new industrial projects to go ahead rapidly, including road construction and coal mining. Reportedly the changes came after industry representatives met with the Prime Minister's Office, headed by Manmohan Singh, to complain that projects were being held up by environmental regulations, in some cases taking six years for approval.
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