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New mapping technique sheds light on dry forests

(12/16/2014) The extreme habitat heterogeneity of Southeast Asian forests makes it difficult to map their different compositions, resulting in a lack of study of many forest types and their underrepresentation in protected area networks. To address this issue, researchers came up with a remote sensing-based method to accurately delineate forest types, which they demonstrate in a study released this week by focusing on one particular forest type: Dry Deciduous Dipterocarp forests.


Hunting is a greater threat than logging for most wildlife in Borneo

(12/16/2014) Persistence is the key factor in the two most common human stressors on tropical wildlife. In Malaysian Borneo, hunting continually diminishes wildlife populations, whereas the negative impacts from selective logging are more transient, according to a recent study in Conservation Biology.


Palm oil facilitates large-scale illegal logging in Indonesia

(12/16/2014) Development of oil palm plantations is providing cover for large-scale illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo, driving destruction of some of the island's most biodiverse forests and undermining efforts to reform the country's forestry sector, alleges a new report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).


Growth of forests may not be keeping pace with rising CO2 levels

(12/15/2014) Plants rely on three critical elements for growth: carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are therefore expected to increase rates of forest growth, in turn helping counter some of humanity's influence on global climate. But a new study provides evidence that challenges that assumption.


Then there were five: rhino death moves species closer to extinction

(12/15/2014) As if news for rhinos couldn't get any worse: this weekend, Angalifu, died a the San Diego Zoo. Forty four-year-old Angalifu was a male northern white rhino and his death means only five of this subspecies remains on the planet. Angalifu's death, which keepers suspect was simply from old age, follows soon after the death of another northern white rhino, Suni, in October.


Gibbon species pushed towards extinction as island loses its trees

(12/15/2014) Only about 30 Hainan gibbons currently inhabit our world and all of them are confined to the 2,100-hectare Bawangling National Nature Reserve on the western part of Hainan Island. Endemic to this island, these gibbons primarily inhabited the lowland broadleaf and semi-deciduous monsoon forests that today are almost entirely deforested.


Children 'clean' oil spill with kitchen utensils in the Sundarbans

(12/15/2014) On December 9th, a tanker slammed into another vessel along the Shela River in the world's largest mangrove forest: the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. The tanker sank, spilling an estimated 75,000 gallons (350,000 liters) of fuel oil into waterways that are a part of a reserve for threatened Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins.


New poison dart frog needs immediate conservation plan

(12/15/2014) It was a surprising discovery in an unlikely location. In a leaf litter nearly four inches deep under a dense canopy of rainforest trees, researchers Marcos Ponce and Abel Batista with the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí worked to complete an inventory of endangered species in Panama's Isthmian-Atlantic moist forest. But they were both completely unsuspecting of what they were about to find: a new poison dart frog.


Reefs reduce 97 percent of wave energy, could be better than artificial barriers

(12/15/2014) We have a lot of stake in the coast. Coastal waters are where we host fisheries, build homes and turn to for tourism and recreation. So how should coastal communities, which comprise nearly 40 percent of the world's population, safeguard against flooding, erosion and violent weather? Marine scientist Michael Beck suggests the solution is growing right beneath some waves and, in many cases, it has been waiting there for thousands of years.


Conservation and the rights of indigenous communities

(12/12/2014) Many conservationists have long supported local communities and indigenous peoples seeking recognition of their rights to land and natural resources. In addition to being the right thing to do, supporting these local initiatives in land and seascapes across the globe helps strengthen the constituency for conserving healthy wildlife populations, habitats, and natural ecosystems.


EU adopts law mandating palm oil labeling on food products

(12/12/2014) Tomorrow the European Union will begin enforcing legislation that mandates labeling of specific vegetable oils on food products. The move means consumers will soon know whether the products they consume contain palm oil, canola, or one of many other sources of plant-based fat.


Indigenous communities 'among the very few best protectors' of Peruvian Amazon

(12/12/2014) A new report examines the effects of timber harvesting, gold mining, agriculture, and oil and natural gas drilling that have been on the rise recently in the Peruvian Amazon, and states that ensuring indigenous land rights is a key tool in the fight to protect it.


Boosting the conservation value of 4M sq km of rainforest logging concessions

(12/12/2014) Short of buying back logging concessions, switching from conventional logging approaches to reduced impact logging techniques across existing forestry concessions may be the best way boost biodiversity in areas earmarked for timber extraction, argues paper.


An app to save 400 million animals

(12/11/2014) Brazilian biologist Alex Bager has been leading a crusade to raise awareness of a major but neglected threat to biodiversity in his country. Every year over 475 million animals die in Brazil as victims of roadkill, according to an estimate by Centro Brasileiro de Ecologia de Estradas, an initiative funded and coordinated by Bager. This means 15 animals are run down every second on Brazilian roads and highways.


Bamboo could help fight global warming

(12/11/2014) Restoring degraded land and forests with the world’s fastest growing plant, bamboo, can contribute to major carbon emission reductions. This is according to a new report that discusses the massive potential of bamboo in fighting global warming, with bamboo forests projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050 in China alone.


New film highlights local resistance to Nicaragua's canal

(12/11/2014) This fall, filmmakers Tom Miller and Nuin-Tara Key with Pretty Good Productions found themselves in Nicaragua where they heard about a stunning project: the Gran Canal. Approved last year, the canal is meant to compete with the Panama Canal to the south. Built by a Chinese company, it will cut through 278 kilometers, destroying forests and driving through the largest freshwater body in Central America.


10 years following tsunami, Aceh aims to create its own, new, and totally preventable disaster

(12/11/2014) In the run-up to the tenth anniversary of the devastating 2004 tsunami, that claimed the lives of around 200,000 of Aceh’s people, there is much concern that Aceh seems now to be deliberately steering itself towards yet another, entirely avoidable disaster. One that will harm yet more people and cause even more long-term economic damage to the province.


New pit viper discovered in Sumatra

(12/10/2014) A new pit viper was discovered by researchers working in Sumatra, Indonesia. The viper, named Trimeresurus gunaleni, was identified by the researchers while they were studying a group of Trimeresurus sumanatrus, first described by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1822.


To collect or not to collect? Experts debate the need for specimens

(12/10/2014) In 1912, a group of intrepid explorers led by Rollo and Ida Beck, widely acknowledged to be the foremost marine bird collectors of their time, embarked on a most remarkable effort to catalogue South America's oceanic birds. Museums of the day held opportunistically collected specimens from scattered sources, but rarely did these include ocean-bound birds that spent little time near the coast.


Huge swath of forest in Indonesian Borneo slated for clearing by 'sustainable' company

(12/10/2014) A major wood fiber concession has moved ahead on developing a sizable chunk of forest in one of Indonesia’s most vulnerable provinces before a formal conservation assessment of the land could be completed, Greenomics Indonesia reports.


Lizard see, lizard do: scientists discover surprising behavior in reptiles

(12/10/2014) Imitation can be obnoxious. For those with siblings, imitating your brother's or sister's every word was a surefire way to steadily drive them toward insanity. Annoying it may be, imitation is also special; it's a behavior long regarded to be uniquely human. The skill of imitation is a little less exclusive now, as reptiles join the ranks of creatures capable of the social feat. Researchers from the United Kingdom and Austria recently demonstrated that one lizard, the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), can learn through imitation.


Deforestation puts cultural survival of forest-dependent peoples at risk

(12/10/2014) Forest-dependent peoples face grave threats from deforestation and other depredations, warns a new report that urges greater recognition of traditional land use and support of community-led initiatives to fight forest loss. The report, published Monday during climate talks in Lima, is based on research by dozens of indigenous and forest communities from Africa, Asia and Latin America.


False victories for sustainability – Amazonian Hydropower

(12/09/2014) Dams are hugely controversial, especially in the Amazon Rainforest. Their proponents, flashing green credentials, have dammed the tributaries of the Amazon for decades. However, there is a rising backlash against the huge economical, environmental, and sociological costs dams bring. A paper led by Dr. James Randall Kahn from Washington and Lee University is the latest in this volley.


Striking new gecko discovered in Thailand

(12/09/2014) A research team based in western Thailand has discovered a new gecko species in the Kanchanaburi Province, a region renowned for its number of species found nowhere else in the world. A recent publication describes the Sai Yok bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus saiyok), the sixth reptile species endemic to the region known to science.


For the first time, Sea Shepherd targets Antarctic toothfish poachers

(12/09/2014) For the first time, marine conservation group, Sea Shepherd, is employing their controversial methods to protect Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish. Dubbed 'Operation Icefish,' Sea Shepherd Australia is sending two ships into Antarctic waters to disrupt illegal vessels targeting the little-known species that are often sold in luxury markets as Chilean seabass.


Relief for Kenya’s rare coastal forest

(12/09/2014) In October this year, CAMAC Energy, an oil and gas exploration and production company, announced that they would conduct seismic surveys for oil and gas within Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, one of the last remaining fragments of coastal forests in East Africa. But following immense pressure from the environmental front, CAMAC Energy cancelled their plans to conduct surveys inside the forest.


Groups call on world leaders to stop incentives for big dams

(12/09/2014) Nearly 200 civil society organizations have called on world leaders to exclude large hydroelectric projects from receiving green climate funds and other incentives.


Pollinators puzzle to find flowers amidst natural and human fumes

(12/09/2014) While unpleasant car exhaust makes us wrinkle our noses, such human-made fumes may pose serious problems to insects searching for nectar. Researchers recently revealed that background odors make finding flowers difficult for pollinators. The study, published in Science, measured how hawk moths (Manduca sexta) pick out the sacred datura flower scent (Datura wrightii) amidst all the other smells that waft through the environment.


Tribal violence comes naturally to chimpanzees

(12/08/2014) It all went to hell when Jane Goodall started handing out bananas. Within a few years, the previously peaceful chimpanzees she was studying split into two warring tribes. Gangs of males from the larger faction systematically slaughtered their former tribemates. All over the bananas. Or so the argument goes.


Indigenous leader murdered before he could attend Climate Summit

(12/08/2014) Days before José Isidro Tendetza Antún was supposed to travel to the UN Climate Summit in Lima to publicly file a complaint against a massive mining operation, he went missing. Now, the Guardian reports that the body of the Shuar indigenous leader has been found, bound and buried in an unmarked grave on the banks of the Zamora River.


Initiative to restore 50M acres of degraded Latin American ecosystems by 2020

(12/07/2014) A coalition of governments and organizations today pledged to restore 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of degraded forests and ecosystems across Latin America by 2020 under an initiative that aims to curb boost rural incomes, fight climate change, and increase agricultural production. The effort is backed by $365 million from five impact investors.


Indonesia's ambitious plan to reforest 2M ha annually

(12/05/2014) Indonesia’s new government has ambitious reforestation plans. President Joko Widodo’s election campaign included a commitment to reforest 2 million hectares of degraded land annually.


Indonesia sets reference level for cutting deforestation

(12/05/2014) The Indonesian government has established reference levels for measuring reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest and peatland degradation, reports Antara.


How an indigenous community in Ecuador stood up to big oil - and won

(12/05/2014) The Sarayaku, a Kichwa indigenous people numbering 1,200 from the Ecuadorian Amazon, won a historic court case in 2012. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the government of Ecuador must publicly apologize, consult with, and recompense the Sarayaku for allowing oil exploration by Argentine Compañia General de Combustibles on their territory without prior consultation


Biodiversity protection is key to REDD+ success, study shows

(12/05/2014) Protecting biodiversity may be crucial for successfully storing carbon in forests, scientists say. A recent publication on Oryx - The International Journal of Conservation suggests that biodiversity loss –especially through hunting – will hinder the success of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects.


A landmark year for forests (commentary)

(12/05/2014) About one year ago today, I was pretty down. It was Thanksgiving night, and the Forest Heroes campaign, which I chair, had been running a big global campaign to persuade Wilmar International, Asia’s largest agribusiness company, to eliminate deforestation and human rights abuse throughout its enormous supply chain.


Tradeoff: Sabah banks on palm oil to boost forest protection

(12/05/2014) Last month Sabah set aside an additional 203,000 hectares of protected forest reserves, boosting the Malaysian state's extent of protected areas to 21 percent of its land mass. But instead of accolades, Sabah forestry leaders were criticized for how they went about securing those reserves: allowing thousands of hectares of deforested land within an officially designated forestry area to be converted for oil palm plantations


Giant stone face unveiled in the Amazon rainforest (video)

(12/04/2014) A new short film documents the journey of an indigenous tribe hiking deep into their territory in the Peruvian Amazon to encounter a mysterious stone countenance that was allegedly carved by ancient peoples. According to Handcrafted Films, which produced the documentary entitled The Reunion, this was the first time the Rostro Harakbut has been filmed.


Musim Mas says its palm oil will be deforestation-free

(12/04/2014) Singapore-based Musim Mas has established a new sustainability policy that it says will eliminate deforestation, peatlands conversion, and social conflict from its palm oil supply chain. The company, which operates plantations in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo, has been under pressure from environmentalists to join a growing number of palm oil producers and traders that have made zero deforestation pledges.


New endangered bird species discovered in Brazil

(12/04/2014) The Bahian mouse-colored tapaculo (Scytalopus gonzagai) has only just been discovered by scientists in the heavily logged Atlantic Forest of southeast Brazil -- and it’s already believed to be endangered.


Is the Gran Canal really a 'big Christmas present' for Nicaraguans?

(12/04/2014) "A big Christmas present"—that is how Paul Oquist, an advisor to Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, described the country's plan to build a mega-canal across the nation. Preliminary construction on the canal is set to begin December 24th, despite major concerns over environmental destruction, forced removal of thousands of people, and a lack of transparency.


Rhino conservationist dead at 87

(12/04/2014) South African conservationist Ian Player has died at the age of 87.


Deforestation jumps in Peru

(12/03/2014) Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon increased significantly last year, says a top official.


One-two punch: farming, global warming destroying unique East African forests

(12/03/2014) Lush mountains speckle East Africa's grasslands and desert, from Mozambique to Ethiopia. These isolated habitats are home to a plethora of species, and are considered by scientists to be some of the most biodiverse regions in the world. However, their forests are being cut down for farmland and are threatened by global warming, putting at risk multitudes of species that have nowhere else to go.


New survey finds surprisingly large population of endangered owl

(12/03/2014) The Anjouan scops owl—an elusive owl found only on its tiny eponymous island—was once considered among the world's most endangered owls, and even the most threatened birds. However, the first in-depth survey of the owls on the island finds that, in fact, the population is far larger than initially estimated.


Old fishermen document declining range of the Indus River dolphin

(12/03/2014) The Indus River dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) is an endangered freshwater mammal found only in the Indus River and tributaries draining the Himalayas. Since 1879, the dolphin—locally known as the bhulan—has vanished from 80 percent of its range. Now, a study using interviews with dozens of elders in the Pakistani fishing communities along the river documents when dolphins disappeared from different river sections.


Is captive breeding the final resort for the Sumatran rhino?

(12/03/2014) Nearing extinction, the Sumatran rhino is running out of options. A native of Indonesia and Malaysia, the Sumatran rhino has declined in the past 30 years from an estimated 800 individuals to no more than 75 remaining today. So far there have been three ad hoc meetings held in 1984, 1993, and 2013, each attempting to develop policies that would potentially save this critical species.


Nano-tags track baby sea turtles during their first few hours

(12/03/2014) Baby sea turtles vanish after they scamper into the ocean. Years later, juvenile turtles may pop up thousands of kilometers away, but often scientists don't see them again until they return to their birthplaces to nest on the beach. Now, using tiny tracking tags weighing no more than two watermelon seeds, a team has followed newborn loggerhead turtles during their first critical hours at sea, revealing how they evade predators and hitch rides on the ocean's currents.


Embattled palm oil giant announces sustainability policy, but fails to win over critics

(12/02/2014) Malaysian palm oil giant Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) has joined a growing list of companies committing to zero deforestation for commodity production.


Rhino, cheetah win the world's top camera trap photo contest

(12/02/2014) Two big—and endangered—mammals took 2014's top prizes in the world's biggest camera trap photo contest: a black rhino and a Asiatic cheetah. The gorgeous shot of a black rhino at night in Zambia photo won the overall photo competition, while the image of a super-rare Asiatic cheetah in Iran took the top research prize.


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