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Counting orangutans: the best way to survey the great apes

(03/28/2011) How do you count orangutans when they are difficult to spot in the wild given that they are shy, arboreal, and few and far between? To find a solution, biologists have turned to estimating orangutan populations by counting their nests, which the great apes make anew every night. In order to make the most accurate count possible, researchers have studied the different factors that could impact the success, or lack thereof, of nest-counters in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.


Alien plants invade Nigerian protected 'gene bank'

(03/28/2011) Very few studies have been conducted on invasive species in Nigeria, however a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science has discovered 25 invasive plants in a field gene bank at the National Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NASGRAB) in Ibadan. The gene bank is used to establish populations of important and, in some cases threatened, native plant species. The gene bank spans 12 hectares, but the study found that 18% of the area was overtaken with invasive species that likely compete with the protected Nigerian plants for nutrients, space, and light. Among the 25 invasive species, 14 were herbs, 8 were vines, 2 were shrubs, and one was a tree.


Cloud forest dung beetles in India point to 'fossil ecosystem'

(03/28/2011) In the cloud forests and grasslands of India's Western Ghats, known as sholas, researchers have for the first time comprehensively studied the inhabiting dung beetle populations. The resulting study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, has led scientists to hypothesize that the beetles in concordance with the sheep-like mammal, the nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius), may be a sign of a 'fossil ecosystem'.


Sawarak chief minister claims 70% of forest intact, invites independent observers to verify

(03/28/2011) Embattled Chief Minister of Sarawak Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud challenged independent observers to demonstrate that anything less than 70 percent of the Malaysian state's forest cover is "intact" rain forest, according to an interview with Sarawak Reports, a pro-Taib web site created earlier this month.


Rainforest information in Thai

(03/26/2011) Mongabay.com, a leading forest conservation and environmental science news web site, today announced the availability of its rainforest site for children in Thai. The site is available at world.mongabay.com/thai.


German bank dumps palm oil company stock

(03/25/2011) DWS, a fund management company run by Deutsche Bank, has dropped all Wilmar International stock from its financial products over concerns that the palm oil giant has failed to produce palm oil in a responsible manner despite being a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a eco-certification initiative. The move follows a campaign by Robin Wood, a German activist group.


Expedition granted?: hoping to save nearly-extinct seals through National Geographic contest

(03/24/2011) Dashiell Masland, known as 'Dash', has always been in love with the sea and its inhabitants. Now, she is hoping to take that passion to the Hawaiian Islands to save one of the world's most threatened marine mammals: the Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi). Extinction is a real possibility: already, the related Carribbean monk seal vanished forever around 1950. Decimated by sealers, whalers, and even soldiers in World War II, the Hawaiian monk seals are struggling to make a come back with only 1,100 individuals surviving and the population decreasing by 4% a year. Today many face starvation due to a lack of prey. This is where Masland, who is currently competing in National Geographic's Expedition Granted, hopes to help.


Arctic sea ice maximum ties for lowest on record

(03/24/2011) Providing more data on how climate change is impacting the Arctic, the maximum extent of sea ice this year was tied with 2006 for the lowest on record. Maximum sea ice simply means the territory the sea ice covers at its greatest point before the seasonal melt begins.


Involving communities in forest governance boosts biodiversity, local income

(03/24/2011) Involving local communities in the governance of forest resources boosts economic returns and biodiversity relative to areas where locals have little participation, report researchers writing in Science. The findings have implications for efforts to protect and sustainably manage forests under the reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) mechanism.


Pro-deforestation group criticizes palm oil giant for sustainability pact

(03/24/2011) World Growth International, a group that advocates on behalf of industrial forestry interests, has criticized Golden Agri Resources (GAR), Indonesia's largest palm oil producer, for signing a forest policy that aims to protect high conservation value and high carbon stock forest and requires free, prior informed consent (FPIC) in working with communities potentially affected by oil palm development. In a newsletter published March 10, World Growth International claimed that GAR's agreement "could severely hamper the company's growth" by limiting where it can establish new plantations and says that negotiating with multiple stakeholders "will delay and complicate any investment by the company." World Growth International concludes by implying that GAR may renege on its commitment. But Peter Heng, Managing Director, Communications and Sustainability at GAR, disagreed with World Growth International's assessment.


New organization seeks to make biofuels sustainable, but is it possible?

(03/24/2011) Not too long ago policy-makers, scientists, and environmentalists saw biofuels as a significant tool to provide sustainable energy to the world. However, as it became clear that biofuels were not only connected to deforestation, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions (sometimes exceeding fossil fuels), but also competed with the global food supply and water sources, biofuels no longer seemed like a silver bullet, but a new problem facing the environment and the poor. Still, biofuels have persisted not so much due to perceived environmental benefits, but to entrenched interests by the big agricultural industry, lobbyists, and governments. However, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) hopes to begin certifying environmentally friendly biofuels that don't compete with food production or water sources.


New seabird discovered, first in 55 years

(03/23/2011) Stephen Maturin, if he were not fictional, would be delighted. A new seabird has been discovered by an international expedition headed by one of the world's top seabird-experts, Peter Harrison, after he received photos from vacationing birders of an unusual looking storm petrel off the coast of Chile.


Amazon deforestation flat since last year

(03/23/2011) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is roughly flat for the 7 months ended February 28 relative to the same period last year, reports Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO.


5 million hectares of Papua New Guinea forests handed to foreign corporations

(03/23/2011) During a meeting in March 2011 twenty-six experts—from biologists to social scientists to NGO staff—crafted a statement calling on the Papua New Guinea government to stop granting Special Agricultural and Business Leases. According to the group, these leases, or SABLs as they are know, circumvent Papua New Guinea's strong community land rights laws and imperil some of the world's most intact rainforests. To date 5.6 million hectares (13.8 million acres) of forest have been leased under SABLs, an area larger than all of Costa Rica. "Papua New Guinea is among the most biologically and culturally diverse nations on Earth. [The country's] remarkable diversity of cultural groups rely intimately on their traditional lands and forests in order to meet their needs for farming plots, forest goods, wild game, traditional and religious sites, and many other goods and services," reads the statement, dubbed the Cairns Declaration. However, according to the declaration all of this is threatened by the Papua New Guinea government using SABLs to grant large sections of land without going through the proper channels.


What is the current status of REDD+?

(03/23/2011) The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism is supposed to be the great hope for saving the world's forests. Advocates say REDD — now known as REDD+ — could finally create financial incentives for keeping forests standing instead of chopping them down for timber, pulp and paper, cattle, palm oil, and rubber. At the same time, REDD could generate benefits for the rural poor, while safeguarding biodiversity and other ecosystem services. But the devil is in the details. Ensuring that REDD is properly designed, funded, and implemented means that progress has been slower than some supporters have hoped. A poorly designed REDD may be worse than no REDD at all. So where does that leave REDD now? Mongabay asked John-O Niles, the Director of the Tropical Forest Group, for his thoughts on the current status of REDD policy.


Top forest policies recognized

(03/23/2011) 19 forest policies have been nominated for an award by the World Future Council, a global think tank.


Conservationists oppose snow leopard hunt for 'science'

(03/23/2011) Conservationists have come out in opposition against a plan by the Mongolian government to issue four permits to kill snow leopards (Panthera uncia ) for 'scientific research'. The permits were awarded to foreign nationals last month. Snow leopards are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List with their population declining. "If the planned hunting of snow leopards is allowed to go forward, Mongolia's creditability as a leader in conservation of [snow leopards] and other rare species will be severely tarnished," reads a letter from Tom McCarthy, Executive Director of Panthera's Snow Leopard Program and George Schaller, Vice President of Panthera, to Mongolia's Minister of Nature, Environment, and Tourism.


Climate change caused by deforestation triggers species migration

(03/23/2011) Local climate shifts caused by deforestation and land cover change are causing insects to migrate to higher — and cooler — habitats, reports a new study published in the journal Biotropica. The research has implications for predicting how species will respond to climate change.


PUMA goes carbon neutral by protecting lions in Kenya

(03/23/2011) PUMA, the sporting goods brand, and its parent company PPR will offset their 2010 carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing carbon credits generated through conservation of wildlife habitat in Kenya.


Photos: penguins devastated by oil spill

(03/22/2011) Disturbing photos show northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) hit hard by an oil spill from a wrecked cargo ship on Nightingale Island in the Southern Atlantic. Already listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the oil spill threatens nearly half of the northern rockhopper population according to BirdLife International. Already conservation workers say 'hundreds' of penguins have been oiled. Located the remote Southern Atlantic, Nightingale Island is a part of the UK's Tristan da Cunha archipelago. The island's are home to a variety of birdlife, including species that survive no-where else but on the archipelago.


US approves first deepwater drilling in Gulf since BP disaster as oil tar balls reappear on coast

(03/22/2011) Yesterday the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement awarded Royal Dutch Shell PLC the first deep-water exploration permit since the BP disaster last year, which sent some 4.9 million barrels of oil and up to 500,000 tons of methane into the Gulf of Mexico over three months.


Hundreds of endangered penguins covered in oil after remote spill

(03/21/2011) Conservation workers have found hundreds of oiled northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) after a cargo vessel wrecked on Nightingale Island, apart of the UK's Tristan da Cunha archipelago. Northern rockhopper penguins are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. According to a press release by BirdLife International, the spill threatens nearly half of the world's northern rockhopper population.


Palm oil company gives up land contested by local communities as part of sustainability pledge

(03/21/2011) An Indonesia palm oil company has relinquished part of its plantation concession to communities that traditionally use the land as part of its commitment to sustainability principles under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), reports the Forest Peoples Programme. The move is a response to a new procedure that could reduce conflict between palm oil developers and forest-dependent communities.


Controversial logging company seeks to raise $450 million in China

(03/21/2011) Asia Pulp & Paper (China) Investment aims to raise up to 3 billion renminbi ($457 million) through a bond issue, reports IFR Asia.


Expedition granted?: Indonesia's 'paper parks' targeted in National Geographic contest

(03/21/2011) Twenty-five year old Trevor Frost wants to save parks in Indonesia under attack by illegal logging, mining, and poaching. A lack of infrastructure, support, and funds has left many protected areas around the world to be dubbed 'paper parks', protected on paper, but not in reality. Frost, who is currently running in National Geographic's contest Expedition Granted, hopes to study the problem in Sumatra—among the world's most imperiled forests and wildlife—and show the world what we are losing even in National Parks.


Want water? save forests

(03/21/2011) The UN-backed Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) is urging nations to conserve their forests in a bid to mitigate rising water scarcity problem.


India government: forest target 'unrealistic'

(03/20/2011) Not long ago much of India was covered in vast and varied forests. Today just over one-fifth (21%) of the nation remains under forest cover, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) but an ambitious plan hopes to bring the forest cover percentage to 33%, or one third of the country. However that goal has been dubbed 'unrealistic' by India's influential Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, as reported by The Hindu.


Pet trade, palm oil, and poaching: the challenges of saving the 'forgotten bear'

(03/20/2011) Siew Te Wong is one of the few scientists who study sun bears (Ursus malayanus). He spoke with Laurel Neme on her "The WildLife" radio show and podcast about the interesting biological characteristics of this rare Southeast Asian bear, threats to the species and what is being done to help them. Sun bears are the smallest of the eight bear species. They’re about half the size of a North American black bear and typically sport a tan crescent on their chests. Similar to the "moon bear," or Asian black bear, the sun bear’s name comes from this marking, which looks like a rising or setting sun.


Earthquake shifted peninsula in Japan 17 feet

(03/20/2011) The massive March 11 Tōhoku earthquake shifted Japan's Oshika Peninsula 5.3 meters (17 feet) in a east-southeasterly direction toward the epicenter, reports Kyodo.


As US Republicans officially dismiss climate change, scientists charge them with 'willful ignorance'

(03/17/2011) US Republican congress members officially rejected the widespread scientific consensus that the world is warming and the cause is primarily greenhouse gas emissions. As Republicans in the US House and Commerce Committee voted to stop the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, they were also forced to vote on three Democratic amendments asking congress to confirm the science behind climate change. The amendments failed as all 31 Republicans, representing the majority, voted against every amendment, summarily rejecting decades of climate research. However scientists have responded in a particularly scathing opinion piece in Nature, one of the world's most respected scientific journals.


Pulp and paper firms urged to save 1.2M ha of forest slated for clearing in Indonesia

(03/17/2011) Indonesian environmental groups launched a urgent plea urging the country's two largest pulp and paper companies not to clear 800,000 hectares of forest and peatland in their concessions in Sumatra. Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of Indonesian NGOs, released maps showing that Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) control blocks of land representing 31 percent of the remaining forest in the province of Riau, one of Sumatra's most forested provinces. Much of the forest lies on deep peat, which releases large of amount of carbon when drained and cleared for timber plantations.


Oil exploration on hold in Virunga National Park—for now

(03/17/2011) The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suspended oil exploration in Africa's oldest national park, Virunga, until a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is conducted. The move ends oil companies, Soco and Dominion's plans to explore for oil in blocs within the park that were awarded to the companies last year.


Open source forest accounting methodology for REDD projects developed

(03/17/2011) Avoided Deforestation Partners, a forest conservation group, has coordinated the development of an "open source" forest carbon accounting methodology that could help speed projects aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation. The group says the new protocols could substantially reduce the cost of establishing forest carbon conservation projects under the REDD mechanism. Carbon accounting and methodology costs can easily top $100,000, making it difficult for small projects to win certification.


Goodbye national parks: when 'eternal' protected areas come under attack

(03/17/2011) One of the major tenets behind the creation of a national park, or other protected area, is that it will not fade, but remain in essence beyond the pressures of human society, enjoyed by current generations while being preserved for future ones. The protected area is a gift, in a way, handed from one wise generation to the next. However, in the real world, dominated by short-term thinking, government protected areas are not 'inalienable', as Abraham Lincoln dubbed one of the first; but face being shrunk, losing legal protection, or in some cases abolished altogether. A first of its kind study, published in Conservation Letters, recorded 89 instances in 27 countries of protected areas being downsized (shrunk), downgraded (decrease in legal protections), and degazetted (abolished) since 1900. Referred to by the authors as PADDD (protected areas downgraded, downsized, or degazetted), the trend has been little studied despite its large impact on conservation efforts.


Navy pictures reveal tsunami damage

(03/17/2011) The U.S. Navy released pictures showing widespread damage in Japan following last week's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and accompanying tsunami.


Photos of tsunami destruction

(03/17/2011) The U.S. Navy released pictures widespread destruction in Japan following last week's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and accompanying tsunami.


Pictures of tsunami devastation, including a house floating in the open ocean

(03/17/2011) The U.S. Navy released shocking pictures showing widespread devastation in Japan following last week's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and accompanying tsunami. The photos include a house floating in the open ocean, scenes of destruction in Ofunato, and piles of vehicles and debris, among others.


Serengeti road project opposed by 'powerful' tour company lobby

(03/16/2011) Government plans to build a road through Serengeti National Park came up against more opposition this week as the Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators (Tato) came out against the project, reports The Citizen. Tato, described as powerful local lobby group by the Tanzanian media, stated that the road would hurt tourism and urged the government to select a proposed alternative route that would by-pass the park. Tato's opposition may signal a shift to more local criticism of the road as opposition against the project has come mostly from international environmentalists, scientists, and governments.


New population discovered of the America's mini snow leopard: the Andean cat

(03/16/2011) The elusive Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita), which until the late 1990s was only known to scientists by a couple photographs, has been discovered beyond the Andes mountain range for which it is named. According to researchers, the wild Andean cat resembles Asia's snow leopard, both in appearance and its habitat above altitudes of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), only in this case the wild cat is about the size of a domesticated feline. But, scientists have now discovered that the cat, which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, also inhabits the Patagonian steppe at elevations as low as 650 meters (2,100 feet).


Using Google Earth to monitor threats to archeological sites

(03/16/2011) A new alert system uses Google Earth and other satellite-based tools to protect cultural heritage sites from fire, looting, encroachment, destructive tourism, and other threats, says the Global Heritage Fund, the group that launched the initiative.


Coalition calls on Europe to label palm oil on food products

(03/15/2011) Do you have the right to know whether the chocolate bar you're munching on includes palm oil, which is blamed for vast deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia? How about that frozen pizza? According to a coalition of environmental and conservation groups it's time for food manufacturers to add palm oil to the label in Europe, instead of currently being listed as simply, and erroneously (palm kernels are fruits), 'vegetable oil'.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Kesennuma

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in Kesennuma caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Minamisoma-Kashima

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in Minamisoma-Kashima caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Sendai airport

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation of Sendai airport caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of the Oshika Peninsula and Iigoham

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in the Oshika Peninsula and Iigoham caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Watari / Lake Torinoumi

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in Watari / Lake Torinoumi caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Ofunato Rikuzentakata

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in Ofunato Rikuzentakata caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Odohama

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in Odohama caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Iwaki-Ueda

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in Iwaki-Ueda caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


2011 tsunami: Before and after photos of Watari

(03/15/2011) Google released satellite images revealing the devastation in Watari caused by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.


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