Conservation newsFounded in 1999, Mongabay is a leading provider of environmental science and conservation news.
Photo: Scientists discover 'SpongeBob' mushroom in Borneo
(06/16/2011) Scientists have discovered a colorful new species of mushroom in the rainforest of Borneo and named it after a popular cartoon character: SpongeBob.
Record dead zone projected due to Midwest floods
(06/16/2011) Flooding in the Midwest is likely to cause the largest-ever dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Over 900 species added to endangered list during past year
(06/16/2011) The past twelve months have seen 914 species added to the threatened list by the world's authority of species endangerment, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List. Over 19,000 species are now classified in one of three threatened categories, i.e. Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered, a jump of 8,219 species since 2000. Species are added to the threatened list for a variety of reasons: for many this year was the first time they were evaluated, for others new information was discovered about their plight, and for some their situation in the wild simply deteriorated. While scientists have described nearly 2 million species, the IUCN Red List has evaluated only around 3 percent of these.
Poverty doesn't drive deforestation, argues new survey
(06/16/2011) Income from forests and other ecosystem generates a significant proportion of household income in developing countries, finds a six-year survey of 8,000 families from 60 sites in 24 countries.
Malaysian palm oil company violates Indonesia's logging moratorium
(06/16/2011) An undercover investigation has found evidence that a subsidiary of Malaysian palm oil company has illegally cleared forest in breach of the Indonesia's moratorium on new permits in primary forest areas and peatlands.
Bloody June: fifth rural activist assassinated in Brazil this month
(06/16/2011) A rural worker who confronted illegal loggers operating in the Brazilian state of Pará was found murdered near his home, reports the Associated Press. Murdered on the Esperanca landless settlement, his death is likely related to ongoing conflicts between loggers and farmers in the Esperanca community. The victim, Obede Souza, is the fifth person to be murdered this month after standing up to illegal loggers.
Peru cancels massive dam project after years of protests
(06/16/2011) Three years of sustained community opposition have brought down plans for a massive dam on the Madre de Dios River in Peru. Yesterday the Peruvian government announced it was terminating the contract with Empresa de Generación Eléctrica Amazonas Sur (Egasur) to build a 1.5 gigawatt dam, known as the Inambari Dam. The dam was one of six that were agreed upon between Peru and Brazil to supply the latter with energy.
East Kalimantan's forests heavily impacted, finds new assessment
(06/15/2011) 30 percent of forests and peatlands in Indonesia's East Kalimantan has been destroyed, while a substantial extent of the remainder has been damaged, finds a new assessment that identifies key areas for preservation.
Last chance to see: the Amazon's Xingu River
(06/15/2011) Not far from where the great Amazon River drains into the Atlantic, it splits off into a wide tributary, at first a fat vertical lake that, when viewed from satellite, eventually slims down to a wild scrawl through the dark green of the Amazon. In all, this tributary races almost completely southward through the Brazilian Amazon for 1,230 miles (1,979 kilometers)—nearly as long as the Colorado River—until it peters out in the savannah of Mato Grosso. Called home by diverse indigenous tribes and unique species, this is the Xingu River.
Revised Forest Code may cost Brazil climate commitments
(06/14/2011) The proposed revision of Brazil’s Forest Code could prevent the country from meeting its lower emissions target and is unlikely to ease rural poverty, concludes a new study by the Brazil-based Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA).
Conservation biology loses a leader: Navjot Sodhi, 1962-2011
(06/14/2011) Over the weekend I received very sad and unexpected news: my friend Navjot Sodhi, a scientist whose mentorship and research made him a leader in the field of conservation biology, died after a short battle with an aggressive blood cancer. He was 49. Navjot leaves behind his wife Charanjit, children Ada and Darwin, and bevy of friends, colleagues, and admirers.
NASA picture of largest fire in Arizona history
(06/14/2011) NASA released a satellite image of the Wallow Fire that has become the largest fire in Arizona history.
New bee species sports world's longest tongue
(06/14/2011) A new species of bee discovered in the Colombian rainforest could give the world's biggest raspberry! Researchers say the new bee has the longest tongue of any known bee, and may even have the world's longest tongue compared to body size of any animal: twice the length of the bee itself. The new species has been named Euglossa natesi in honor of bee-expert Guiomar Nates.
Could palm oil help save the Amazon?
(06/14/2011) For years now, environmentalists have become accustomed to associating palm oil with large-scale destruction of rainforests across Malaysia and Indonesia. Campaigners have linked palm oil-containing products like Girl Scout cookies and soap products to smoldering peatlands and dead orangutans. Now with Brazil announcing plans to dramatically scale-up palm oil production in the Amazon, could the same fate befall Earth's largest rainforest? With this potential there is a frenzy of activity in the Brazilian palm oil sector. Yet there is a conspicuous lack of hand wringing by environmentalists in the Amazon. The reason: done right, oil palm could emerge as a key component in the effort to save the Amazon rainforest. Responsible production there could even force changes in other parts of the world.
Google Earth used to identify marine animal behavior
(06/14/2011) From the all-seeing eye of Google Earth, one can spy the tip of Mount Everest, traffic on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and the ruins of Machu Picchu, but who would have guessed everyone's favorite interactive globe would also provide marine biologists a God's-eye view of fish behavior? Well, a new study in the just-launched Scientific Reports has discovered visible evidence on Google Earth of the interactions between marine predators and prey in the Great Barrier Reef.
Germany backs out of Yasuni deal
(06/13/2011) Germany has backed out of a pledge to commit $50 million a year to Ecuador's Yasuni ITT Initiative, reports Science Insider. The move by Germany potentially upsets an innovative program hailed by environmentalists and scientists alike. This one-of-a-kind initiative would protect a 200,000 hectare bloc in Yasuni National Park from oil drilling in return for a trust fund of $3.6 billion, or about half the market value of the nearly billion barrels of oil lying underneath the area. The plan is meant to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and safeguard the rights of indigenous people.
Profit, not poverty, increasingly the cause of deforestation
(06/13/2011) A new report highlights the increasing role commodity production and trade play in driving tropical deforestation.
Current carbon releases faster than at any time on record
(06/13/2011) The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of global warming that occurred nearly 56 million years ago due to massive releases of greenhouse gases, is frequently referenced as an analogue for projected climate change. However, recent findings suggest the current rate of carbon release is almost 10 times as rapid as at the peak of the PETM—and that biological systems may be significantly less able to adapt.
Environment versus economy: local communities find economic benefits from living next to conservation areas
(06/12/2011) While few would question that conserving a certain percentage of land or water is good for society overall, it has long been believed that protected areas economically impoverish, rather than enrich, communities living adjacent to them. Many communities worldwide have protested against the establishment of conservation areas near them, fearing that less access and increased regulations would imperil their livelihoods. However, a surprising study overturns the common wisdom: showing that, at least in Thailand and Costa Rica, protected areas actually boost local economies and decrease poverty.
Vietnam plans to build 90 coal plants
(06/12/2011) Vietnam's government has announced plans to build 90 coal-fired plants over the next 15 years even while being listed as among the top 11 most vulnerable nation's to climate change in the world, according to Eco-Business.
Majority of Brazilians reject changes in Amazon Forest Code
(06/11/2011) The vast majority of Brazilians reject a bill that would weaken Brazil's Forest Code, according to a new poll commissioned by green groups.
Mattel shuts down Barbie's Facebook page in response to Greenpeace campaign
(06/10/2011) Mattel shut down the comment function on the Barbie Facebook fan page after Greenpeace supporters barraged the page with complaints about the company's use of packaging materials linked to destruction of rainforests in Indonesia.
Sarawak's leader under investigation for corruption linked to logging
(06/10/2011) After months of heavy campaigning by human rights organizations and environmental group, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) announced it is investigating Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud for corruption.
Rash of murders threatens to silence environmental and social activism in Brazil
(06/10/2011) Authorities in Brazil have sent an elite police force consisting of 60 officers to offer protection to environmental activists in the Amazon after a series of killings, reports the Associated Press. The move comes 10 days after Brazil’s Vice President Michel Temer announced the creation of a working group on Amazon violence following the assassinations of three activists in the region in late May. The Brazilian Amazon is no stranger to systemic violence against environmental activists, yet the response from the federal government in the past two weeks is the most significant to date.
Can Brazil meet deforestation, climate goals and still grow its cattle industry?
(06/09/2011) Despite environmentalists' efforts to combat "rainforest beef" in the 1980s, pasture expansion for cattle is still the primary cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, says a new report produced by Brighter Green. While Brazil's investments in agribusiness have made it an agricultural powerhouse—the country is now the world’s third-largest exporter of farm commodities after the US and the European Union—unfortunately, two of the Brazil’s key products, cattle and soy, are still driving deforestation as well as economic growth. According to Brighter Green’s report, researchers estimate that cattle ranching caused 65-70 percent of land clearing in the Amazon between 2000 and 2005.
Russia and Norway carve up wildlife-rich Arctic sea for fossil fuels
(06/09/2011) As climate change melts the Arctic sea ice, nations are rushing to carve up once-inaccessible areas for oil and gas exploitation, industrial fishing, and shipping routes. Now, BBC reports that Russia and Norway have essentially agreed to split the Arctic's Barents Sea in half —one of the region's richest in biodiversity and ecological productivity—for industrial exploitation.
Mattel to investigate toy packaging sources after Greenpeace alleges deforestation link
(06/09/2011) Mattel will investigate the sources of its packaging material following a prominent campaign by Greenpeace that linked the Los Angeles-based toy-maker to deforestation in Indonesia. In a statement, Mattel said it "does it contract directly with Sinar Mas/APP" — the paper products Greenpeace has tied to destruction of rainforests in Sumatra. But Mattel said it has instructed its packaging suppliers to stop sourcing pulp from Sinar Mas/APP until it has investigated the Greenpeace's allegations.
Conservation issues in Tanzania
(06/09/2011) What's happening in Tanzania? This is a question making the rounds in East African conservation circles. Why is a nation that has so much invested in wild lands and wild animals pursuing projects that researchers say will not only gravely harm some of the nation's world-famous wildlife and ecosystems, but also undercut its economically-important tourism industry?
Forest protection plans failing to address food needs
(06/08/2011) Strategy plans for implementing programs to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) are failing to provide details on how they will address forest conversion for agriculture, which in most countries is a major driver of deforestation, argues a new report from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Lexeme Consulting.
Google Earth enhances oceans' layer
(06/08/2011) How do you celebrate World Oceans Day? Well, if you're Google you make the oceans of the world's most impressive interactive digital globe, Google Earth, come alive. With oceanographers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Google Earth has fine-tuned its oceans' resolution in selected areas from 1 kilometer to just 100 meters.
Longline fishing still drowning over a quarter million seabirds every year
(06/08/2011) A new analysis estimates that longline fisheries are still decimating seabirds, even after years of efforts to mitigate deaths. According to a study in Endangered Species Research around 300,000 seabirds are drowned by longline fisheries as bycatch. Attracted by bait on the longline—sometimes measuring hundreds of miles as it trails on the surface behind a boat—birds are often hooked and drowned.
Dutch buy first 'responsible' soy sourced from the Amazon
(06/08/2011) The Dutch food and feed industry has bought the first soy produced under the principles of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a body that aims to bring more socially and environmentally sustainable soy to market.
Indonesia's anti-mafia unit seeks to reopen $115 billion illegal logging case
(06/08/2011) Indonesia's Anti-Mafia Law Task Force asked authorities Tuesday to reopen an investigation into illegal logging that may have cost the Indonesian state $115 billion.
Indonesian president urges other countries not to buy illegally logged wood from Indonesia
(06/08/2011) Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono asked consuming countries to join the fight against illegal logging in Indonesia, reports the Jakarta Globe.
Barbie, Legos, other toys linked to destruction of Indonesia's rainforests
(06/07/2011) Some of the world's largest and most prominent toy-makers are sourcing their packaging materials from companies linked to large-scale destruction of Indonesia's rainforests, alleges a new report from Greenpeace. The report, How APP is Toying with Extinction, is based on forensic analysis of toy packaging from Mattel, which manufacturers Barbie and Hot Wheels toys; Disney, which makes a variety of toys linked to its movies; Hasbro, which produces GI Joe, Star Wars, and Sesame Street toys and various games like Monopoly and Scrabble; and Lego, which makes the iconic plastic building blocks. The analysis found traces of mixed-tropical hardwood (MTH) and acacia fiber which are principally sourced from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), an umbrella paper products brand that sources from several companies that have been linked to rainforest destruction in Sumatra.
Do kids learn anything at zoos?
(06/07/2011) A new study shows that zoos aren't just a fun place for kids to visit; they are also a teaching opportunity. Interviewing more than 3,000 children between 7 and 14, the largest study of its kind found that just over half of the kids (53 percent) showed improvement in at least one of three areas: conservation-related knowledge, concern for endangered species, or desire to participate in conservation efforts.
Climate scientists in Australia suffer death threats
(06/07/2011) It's not easy to be a climate scientist. First, the media often misconstrues what you say; then some politicians accuse you of lying, manipulating research, and being complicit in a vast conspiracy; and, finally, if you're in Australia, you're threatened with death. According to The Canberra Times over 30 climate scientists and economists have been forced to take security measures after being threatened with violence, sexual assault, and death. In some cases, the families of researchers were also included in threats.
90% of tropical forests managed poorly or not at all
(06/07/2011) More than 90 percent of tropical forests are managed poorly or not at all, says a new assessment by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).
Congo meeting fails to make forest commitment
(06/06/2011) Delegates from tropical forest countries meeting in Republic of Congo failed to come up with a formal commitment to protect rainforests, reports Nature News.
How do we save the Sumatran rhino?
(06/06/2011) Some conservation challenges are more daunting than others. For example, how do you save a species that has been whittled down to just a couple hundred individuals; still faces threats such as deforestation, poaching and trapping; is notoriously difficult to breed in captivity; and is losing precious time because surviving animals are so few and far-apart that simply finding one another—let alone mating and successfully bringing a baby into the world—is unlikely? This is the uphill task that faces conservationists scrambling to save the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). A new paper in Oryx, aptly named Now or never: what will it take to save the Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis from extinction? analyzes the conservation challenge, while putting forth a number of recommendations.
Picture: Fluorescent lizardfish, glowing reefs in Fiji
(06/06/2011) The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other partners are currently exploring a remote coral reef off Fiji's Totoya Island.
Ecosystem Goods and Services from Plantation Forests
(06/06/2011) Given that plantations cover 140 million hectares, or 4% of the global forested area, and are a growing source of round wood and pulp, Ecosystem Goods and Services from Plantation Forests is very well timed edited value that can add value to the discussion and implementation of sustainable forest management within a carbon constrained and biodiversity depleted global economic system.
Arctic on the line: oil industry versus Greenpeace at the top of the world
(06/06/2011) At the top of the world sits a lone region of shifting sea ice, bare islands, and strange creatures. For most of human history the Arctic remained inaccessible to all but the hardiest of peoples, keeping it relatively pristine and untouched. But today, the Arctic is arguably changing faster than anywhere else on Earth due to global climate change. Greenhouse gases from society have heated up parts of the Arctic over the past half-century by 4-5 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to a staggering decline in the Arctic sea ice. The large-scale changes suffered by the Arctic have created a new debate over conservation and exploitation, a debate currently represented by the protests of Greenpeace against oil company Cairn Energy, both of whom have been interviewed by mongabay.com (see below).
Photos: 600 new species discovered in Madagascar since 1999
(06/06/2011) More than 600 species of plants and animals have been described in Madagascar over the past decade, reiterating the position of Indian Ocean island as one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots, says a new report issued today by WWF.
South Sudan’s tropical forests fast disappearing
(06/06/2011) South Sudan’s tropical montane forests are fast disappearing according to new analysis by PRINS Engineering. At current rates, Mount Dongotomea, located in South Sudan’s most biodiverse ecosystem, could be completely stripped of tree cover by 2020.
Scientists urge Indonesia to stop road construction in tiger-rich national park
(06/06/2011) The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has drafted a resolution urging the Indonesian government to cancel plans to build four 40-foot wide roads through the countries oldest national park, Kerinci Seblat National Park. According to the ATBC, the world's largest professional society devoted to studying and conserving tropical forests, the road-building would imperil the parks' numerous species—many of which are already threatened with extinction—including Sumatra's most significant population of tigers.
Despite setbacks, voluntary carbon markets booming
(06/06/2011) The voluntary carbon market posted a 34 percent gain in 2010, trading a record 131 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtC02e). While the US accounted for the majority of trading activity, worth $424 million in total, market growth was strongest in developing countries.
Food security in developing world threatened by climate change
(06/06/2011) If swift action is not taken to prepare farmers in the developing world for hotter, drier, shorter growing seasons, climate change may threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of people by 2050. People in Africa and South Asia are particularly at risk of further impoverishment and hunger in a warmer world. According to the UN, a billion people are already going hungry worldwide.
Indonesia's moratorium map has errors, says government
(06/03/2011) The map underpinning Indonesia's moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and peatlands is "inaccurate", an Indonesian forestry official told The Jakarta Post.
(06/03/2011) As an American I know a lot about shame — the U.S. government and American companies have wrought appalling amounts of damage the world over. But as an admirer of Brazil's recent progress toward an economy that recognizes the contributions of culture and the environment, this week's decision to move forward on the Belo Monte dam came as a shock. Belo Monte undermines Brazil's standing as a global leader on the environment. Recent gains in demarcating indigenous lands, reducing deforestation, developing Earth monitoring technologies, and enforcing environmental laws look more tenuous with a project that runs over indigenous rights and the environment.
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