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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.
Over 450 wolves shot dead in Idaho, Montana to date
(02/27/2012) Less than a year after being pulled off the Endangered Species Act (ESA), gray wolves (Canis lupus) in the western U.S. are facing an onslaught of hunting. The hunting season for wolves has just closed in Montana with 160 individuals killed, around 75 percent of 220-wolf kill quota for the state. In neighboring Idaho, where 318 wolves have been killed so far by hunters and trappers, the season extends until June. In other states—Oregon, Washington, California, and Utah—wolf hunting is not currently allowed, and the species is still under federal protection in Wyoming.
When giant coyotes roamed the Earth
(02/27/2012) Not long ago, geologically speaking, coyotes (Canis latrans) were bigger and more robust than today's animals. In the late Pleistocene, over 10,000 years ago, coyotes rivaled grey wolves (Canis lupus) in size. But, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), coyotes shrunk significantly following the megafaunal extinction—including the disappearance of big herbivores like giant sloths and mastodons and predators like the smilodon—due to changes in prey and predator competition.
Paleontologists reconstruct extinct, "elegant" penguin
(02/27/2012) Around 25 million years ago a penguin with a long, sharp beak and massive flippers lived in a New Zealand that was almost entirely underwater. The bird, named Kairuku after a Maori word that means "diver who returns with food," was first discovered in 1977, but has only recently been reconstructed by scientists in a study in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
U.S. legislation threatens oldest, tallest trees in Tongass rainforest
(02/27/2012) Up to 17 percent of the tallest old-growth trees in the Tongass temperate rainforest could be cut under new U.S. legislation, according to a report by Audubon Alaska. The report argues that the legislation under consideration (S 730 and HR 1408) would resurrect the banned practice of "high-grading," which allows loggers to select the largest, most-ancient trees across the forest for cutting despite their ecological importance. The legislation is a part of a controversial 65,000 acre logging concession in Tongass to Sealaska Corporation, which is owned by 20,000 members of Native communities, from the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes.
Cute baby animal photos of the day: twin slender lorises born at London Zoo
(02/27/2012) Twin grey slender lorises (Loris lydekkerianus) were born in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) zoo in London this month, a notable event since lorises rarely give birth to twins. Found in India and Sri Lanka, these nocturnal, big-eyed primates scour trees for insects. Although listed as Least Concern, the species is imperiled by deforestation, impacts from cats, electrocution on power lines, use in traditional medicine, and the pet trade.
Scientists recommend marine protected areas for Madagascar
(02/27/2012) With the government of Madagascar planning to increase marine protected areas by one million hectares, a group of researchers have laid out flexible recommendations in a new study in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The researchers employed four different analyses in order to highlight a number of different conservation options, however the different analyses pointed to the need to protect certain areas with high biodiversity, including the Barren Islands' reefs, the reefs of Juan de Nova, the Banc de Leven, and the shallow banks of the Cap Sainte Marie.
Featured video: scientists capture first footage of Shepherd's beaked whale
(02/27/2012) Scientists have captured what is believed to be the world's first footage of the cryptic Shepherd's beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi), one of a number of beaked whale species about which scientists know almost nothing.
Tourism for biodiversity in Tambopata
(02/27/2012) Research and exploration in the Neotropics are extraordinary, life-changing experiences. In the past two decades, a new generation of collaborative projects has emerged throughout Central and South America to provide access to tropical biodiversity. Scientists, local naturalists, guides, students and travelers now have the chance to mingle and share knowledge. Fusion programs offering immersion in tropical biology, travel, ecological field work, and adventure often support local wilderness preservation, inspire and educate visitors.
Indonesia's moratorium will not significantly reduce emissions, but has other benefits, finds analysis
(02/27/2012) Indonesia's moratorium on new forest concessions alone "does not significantly contribute" to its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent from a projected 2020 baseline, concludes a new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI). However the study says the moratorium does support the target in the long-term by creating a window for enacting governance reform needed to stop destructive business-as-usual approaches to forest management.
Thai king: punish corrupt officials who allowed logging
(02/27/2012) Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej urged the Thai government to punish officials who allowed illegal logging which he blamed for worsening floods last year that left more than 1,000 people dead.
Scientists discover deadly new sea snake
(02/24/2012) Scientists in Australia have discovered a species of sea snake in estuaries of the Gulf of Carpenteria in northern Australia. The snake is described in the current issue of Zootaxa.
Feds bust rhino horn traffickers
(02/23/2012) Federal agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested seven people on charges of trafficking endangered rhino horn in the United States, reports the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior. The arrests were made in Los Angeles, Newark, and New York.
Model airplane used to monitor rainforests - conservation drones take flight
(02/23/2012) Conservationists have converted a remote-controlled plane into a potent tool for conservation. Using seed funding from the National Geographic Society, The Orangutan Conservancy, and the Denver Zoo, Lian Pin Koh, an ecologist at the ETH Zürich, and Serge Wich, a biologist at the University of Zürich and PanEco, have developed a conservation drone equipped with cameras, sensors and GPS. So far they have used the remote-controlled aircraft to map deforestation, count orangutans and other endangered species, and get a bird's eye view of hard-to-access forest areas in North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Busted: orangutan trafficker prosecuted and sent to prison in Sumatra for the first time
(02/23/2012) For the first time in Medan, North Sumatra, an orangutan trader has been prosecuted and sent to prison for trafficking in the endangered apes, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Palm oil firm pays 'precedent-setting' fine for unauthorized land-clearing in Indonesia
(02/23/2012) A subsidiary of agribusiness giant Cargill has paid a $1 million fine for clearing land for oil palm outside its concession, a move that could set an important precedent for palm oil developers operating in Indonesia, according to Greenomics-Indonesia, a Jakarta-based environmental group.
Malaysia drops the ball on wildlife trafficking, says group
(02/23/2012) Malaysia failed to effectively assemble a case against convicted wildlife smuggler Anson Wong, leading to his early release from prison, says an anti-wildlife trafficking group.
Cute animal photo of the day: twin cottontop tamarins born in London Zoo
(02/23/2012) Twin cottontop tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) were born in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) zoo in London this month. Mother Sabi gave birth to the pair after five months. Currently the twins are only five centimeters tall (two inches) tall. Found only in Colombia, cottontop tamarins are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Currently it's estimated around 6,000 individuals survive in the wild.
Scientists discover world's deepest terrestrial animal
(02/22/2012) It's not the prehistoric monsters from the Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth or the human-bat hybrids of The Decsent, but it's an astonishing discovery nonetheless: intrepid scientists have discovered the world's deepest surviving terrestrial animal to date, a small wingless insect known as a springtail. Explorers discovered the new species, Plutomurus ortobalaganensis at a shocking 1.23 miles (1.98 kilometers) below the surface. The species was discovered by the Ibero-Russian CaveX Team Expedition in Krubera-Voronja Cave, the world's only known cave to go deeper than 2 kilometers.
'Snakes on a Plane' trafficker freed early from jail
(02/22/2012) Notorious wildlife trafficker Anson Wong has been freed from prison after a court reduced his five-year term, reports Malaysian state media. Wong had served 17-and-a-half-months for illegally exporting nearly 100 reptiles from Malaysia.
Amazon.com stops selling whale meat
(02/22/2012) Amazon Japan, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, pulled all whale meat products (and possibly dolphin meat) from its site after a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Humane Society International highlighted the issue. Last December the organizations recorded 147 whale products on sale at Amazon Japan despite an international whaling moratorium since 1986. Japan, along with Iceland and Norway, continues to industrially hunt whales. Japan says their whale hunt is for scientific purposes only, but environmentalists dispute this.
NASA satellite image shows extent of logging in Pacific Northwest
(02/22/2012) New satellite and space radar images by NASA shows the decline of forests in the Pacific Northwest, specifically in Washington and Oregon. Lost to development, agriculture, and large-scale logging, the maps apart of the National Biomass and Carbon Dataset (NBCD) show the patchy, fragmented nature of the forests in the two U.S. states.
Wild orangutans to watch film about orangutans
(02/22/2012) Born to be Wild 3D, an IMAX documentary in part about the plight of orphaned and injured Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), will soon be aired in the rainforest that inspired it. Producer Drew Fellman is setting up a screen in the rainforest to screen the film for orphaned orangutans. "They came to be like members of the crew," Fellman told the Associated Press.
Photo: new cookies-and-cream insect surprises researchers in Belize
(02/21/2012) Scientists have discovered the first ever insect in the Ripipterygidae family in Belize. Measuring only 5 millimeters (0.19 inches), the tiny insect uses its powerful legs to leap away from predators much like a grasshopper.
Colombian community leader talks about REDD
(02/21/2012) A pioneering project to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in a former conflict zone in Colombia has won gold certification under the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) standard. The accreditation will help local communities access carbon finance in their efforts to safeguard biologically-rich forests. The project is located in Colombia's Darien region, near the border with Panama. The area is part of the Chocó, the rainforest ecosystem that runs along the Pacific coast of Colombia and Ecuador but has been heavily affected in places by deforestation. Everildys Cordoba is the project's coordinator on the community side. Cordoba grew up in Penaloza, a small town not far from the Caribbean coast of Colombia and the country's border with Panama. But in 1998, she was forcibly displaced by armed actors. Today, she has returned to her land to lead the project.
Fact follows fiction: Watership Down land to make way for housing developments
(02/21/2012) In the classic novel, Watership Down, rabbits must flee their countryside home to make way for a new housing development. Now, the land that inspired author Richard Adams' much-beloved mythic tale is slated to bulldozed for 2,000 new homes. Located in the UK county of Berkshire, near the town of Newberry, the land in question is known as Sandleford Park.
Birders beware: climate change could push 600 tropical birds into extinction
(02/21/2012) There may be less birds for birders to see in the world as the planet warms. Climate change, in combination with deforestation, could send between 100 and 2,500 tropical birds to extinction before the end of century, according to new research published in Biological Conservation. The wide range depends on the extent of climate and how much habitat is lost, but researchers say the most likely range of extinctions is between 600 and 900 species, meaning about 10-14 percent of tropical birds, excluding migratory species.
Earth First! activist Nathan Coe: radical cultural shifts required to stave off ecological collapse
(02/21/2012) Many ideals, actions, and movements considered as fringe or radical by the standards of mainstream culture have gained prominence as global biodiversity withers and the biogeochemical cycles of the entire Earth System are upset by human activities. As endangered species and ecosystems are increasingly threatened, direct confrontation between activists and the entities that drive environmental damage seems also to be increasing. At the same time, concern that present global governance and distribution systems are unable to provide security, clean water, affordable food and a stable future to most of society, is spurring some to move toward new models, including sustainable, autonomous communities and decentralized production. Mongabay recently had the opportunity to discuss some of these issues with activist and writer Nathan Coe.
Interactive map reveals the human cost of mountaintop mining
(02/21/2012) Environmental degradation can have major impacts on a community's quality of life and a new interactive map of mountain top mining for coal in the U.S. makes this abundantly clear: based on 21 scientific studies, the map highlights how communities near mountain top mining have lower life expectancy, higher birth defects, worsening poverty, and are more likely to suffer from cancer, as well as heart and respiratory disease. Created by the non-profit Appalachian Voices and posted on ilovemountains.org, the map show that most communities near mountain top removal sites are in the bottom 1 percent for overall well-bring in the U.S.
Climate scientist admits to deceptively obtaining Heartland Institute files
(02/21/2012) Climatologist Peter Gleick with the Pacific Institute has admitted to obtaining documents from the conservative advocacy group, the Heartland Institute, through a fake name and leaking them to the press.
Madagascar - The Last Inheritor of Gondwana: Documentary Review
(02/20/2012) Madagascar split from the supercontinent of Gondwana about 150 million years ago. As a result, most of the living creatures in Madagascar are unique to the ecosystems in the island. Madagascar: The Last Inheritor of Gondwana is a documentary that does an excellent job of showing Madagascar’s magnificent biodiversity, but falls short in delivering Madagascar’s "clear" and "urgent" message.
NASA map reveals the heights of the world's forests
(02/20/2012) The height of a forest is important in a number of different ways. First the taller a forest, the more likely there are important niche habitats in the canopy providing homes to unique species. In addition, a forests' height says something about its ability to sequester carbon: the taller a forest the more carbon it can hold. Now a team of researchers, led by NASA, has created the world's first global map showing the height of the world's forests (click here for interactive map), publishing their findings in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Six nations, including U.S., set up climate initiative to target short-term greenhouse gases
(02/20/2012) With global negotiations to tackle carbon emissions progressing interminably, nations are seeking roundabout ways to combat global climate change. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced in India last week a new six nation initiative to target non-carbon greenhouse gases, including soot (also known as "black carbon"), methane, and hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs). Reductions of these emissions would not only impact short-term climate change, but also improve health and agriculture worldwide according to a recent study in Science.
Celebrate frogs on leap day!
(02/20/2012) The NGO Amphibian Ark is asking frog-lovers to visit their local zoos on up-coming leap day, February 29th. Dubbed, Leaping Ahead of Extinction, the program includes 58 zoos and other amphibian breeding facilities in seventeen countries that have captive breeding populations of endangered amphibians.
Innovative conservation: wild silk, endangered species, and poverty in Madagascar
(02/20/2012) For anyone who works in conservation in Madagascar, confronting the complex difficulties of widespread poverty is a part of the job. But with the wealth of Madagascar's wildlife rapidly diminishing— such as lemurs, miniature chameleons, and hedgehog-looking tenrecs found no-where else in the world—the island-nation has become a testing ground for innovative conservation programs that focus on tackling entrenched poverty to save dwindling species and degraded places. The local NGO, the Madagascar Organization of Silk Workers or SEPALI, along with its U.S. partner Conservation through Poverty Alleviation (CPALI), is one such innovative program. In order to alleviate local pressure on the newly-established Makira Protected Area, SEPALI is aiding local farmers in artisanal silk production from endemic moths. The program uses Madagascar's famed wildlife to help create more economically stable communities.
Brazil's plan to cut protected areas for dams faces constitutional challenge
(02/17/2012) Federal public prosecutors in Brazil have challenged a plan to strip protected status from 86,288 hectares of land to make way for five new dams, reports International Rivers. The challenge is set to be heard by Brazil's Supreme Court.
Elephant massacre in Cameroon (warning: graphic photo)
(02/17/2012) More than 200 elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks in less than a month in Cameroon, reports the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The group blames Sudanese poachers for cross-border raids from Chad into Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon.
More than 1 million acres of New Guinea forest cut from Indonesia's forest moratorium
(02/16/2012) More than 400,000 hectares of land — including 350,000 hectares of peatland — in Indonesian New Guinea lost their protected status during a November 2011 revision of Indonesia's moratorium on new forest concessions, reports a new analysis by Greenomics-Indonesia, a Jakarta-based NGO.
NGO: Thailand must list rosewood under CITES
(02/16/2012) In order to save its remaining forests, Thailand must list rosewood under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) this year, according to a new report from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Illegal logging and smuggling of rosewood is being driven by increasing demand in China for rosewood, which is used to produce high-end luxury furniture known as "Hongmu."
Republic of the Congo expands park to protect fearless chimps
(02/16/2012) The Republic of the Congo has expanded its Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park by 37,295 hectares (144 square miles) to include a dense swamp forest, home to a population of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) that show no fear of humans. Known as the Goualougo Triangle, the swamp forest is also home to forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) and western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The expansion of the park to include the Goualougo Triangle makes good on a government commitment from 2001.
What a Bornean elephant wants: more protected forests and wildlife corridors
(02/16/2012) Forest fragmentation and destruction is imperiling the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis), according to a new paper published in PLoS ONE. Using satellite collars to track the pachyderms for the first time in the Malaysian state of Sabah, scientists have found that the elephants are extremely sensitive to habitat fragmentation from palm oil plantations and logging.
Heartland Institute threatens to sue journalists who covered 'Denial Gate' leak
(02/15/2012) The Heartland Institute, a conservative advocacy group, is threatening to sue journalists, bloggers, and activists who reported on internal documents that detail the group's fundraising efforts and lay out a new program to replace climate change education in schools with curriculum meant to instill doubt on climate science.
Paper giant hammered on forest certification claims
(02/15/2012) Beleaguered paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper was sharply criticized Wednesday for its claims that its operations are certified sustainable by independent auditors. WWF said its survey of certifiers and certification schemes shows that none apply to 'the most controversial operations' of APP's suppliers: clearing of rainforests and peatlands that are home to endangered tigers, elephants, and orangutans. In responding to complaints from environmentalists that its operations are responsible for large-scale destruction of native forests, APP often touts various certification standards which it says demonstrate its commitment to sustainability. Yet the new WWF survey found that these standards don't apply across all of the paper giant's operations — APP's suppliers in Indonesia continue to harvest and convert natural forests. Nor do the certification standards necessarily prove that APP's forest management practices are 'sustainable'.
California cap-and-trade law spurs U.S. forest carbon projects
(02/15/2012) Now that California's carbon market has arrived, an Australian-based company that specializes in forest carbon offsets has jump started two forest projects with private landowners in the western U.S. The new company, Forest Carbon Partners, will make the projects available as carbon offsets for California polluters.
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