conservation news and environmental science news.
The EU and Republic of Congo announce system to eradicate illegal logging
(05/11/2009) The Republic of Congo and the EU have announced a new system to ensure that by 2011 no illegal timber will reach European Union member nations from the Republic of Congo. Under the system all wood products will be required to carry a license showing that the timber was obtained legally.
Fish operated on at ZSL London Zoo: Photo
(05/11/2009) A female prickly leatherjacket triggerfish Chaetodermis penicilligerus underwent an operation to remove a benign tumor from her tail at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Zoo.
As wolves face the gun, flawed science taints decision to remove species from ESA
(05/07/2009) On Monday the gray wolf was removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in Idaho and Montana, two states that have protected the wolf for decades. According to the federal government the decision to remove those wolf populations was based on sound conservation science—a fact greatly disputed in conservation circles. For unlike the bald eagle, whose population is still rising after being delisted in 1995, when the wolf is removed from the ESA it will face guns blazing and an inevitable decline.
Secret movements of the basking shark uncovered
(05/07/2009) Researchers with the Massachusetts Mariner Fisheries have uncovered the secret life of the world’s second largest fish, known for its cavernous mouth. The basking shark, which measures over 10 meters and weighs as much as seven tons, has long baffled scientists by disappearing from view half of every year. A new study from Current Biology found that the basking shark spends this time deep in the Atlantic’s tropical waters.
Bioelectricity bests ethanol on two fronts: land use and global warming
(05/07/2009) Yesterday the Obama Administration established a Biofuels Interagency Working Group to oversee implementation of new rules and research regarding biofuels. On the group’s first day of work they would do well to look at a new study in Science Magazine comparing the efficacy of ethanol versus bioelectricity.
Australia delays climate measures, but raises targets
(05/06/2009) Australia on Monday abruptly shifted its climate policy to give polluting industries more time to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Famous elephant matriarch, Echo, dies from old age
(05/06/2009) Subject of several documentaries, Kenya’s most famous elephant, Echo, died last Sunday from old age, likely exasperated by drought conditions in East Africa.
Prince Charles’ new online initiative for rainforests makes media splash
(05/06/2009) Releasing a video with as many species of celebrity as ants in the rainforest, while simultaneously turning to online sites such as MySpace and YouTube, appears to have worked for Prince Charles, a longtime advocate of rainforest conservation. His conservation organization’s new outreach to online users has garnered considerable coverage from the international media.
Chimpanzee population plummets 90 percent in supposedly strong region
(05/06/2009) Chimp populations continue to decline in Africa. A new survey of our closest relatives in the Cote D’Ivoire found that the population fell from an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 individuals to a paltry 800 to 1,200, a decline that took place in less than twenty years.
Not only do fish feel pain, it changes their behavior
(05/06/2009) Just months after a study made a splash in the media that proved crabs experience pain, a new study of goldfish shows that not only do these fish also feel pain, but it changes their future behavior. Published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science the study tested goldfish by slowly raising the temperature in their tank. In the warming tank, researchers administered one group of fish morphine and the other saline.
First-ever photo of jaguar on Barro Colorado Island
(05/04/2009) Researchers have captured the first-ever photo of a jaguar on Barro Colorado Island, a key tropical forest research site in Panama, reports the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The picture was snapped by a camera trap set up by Montclair State University zoologist Jackie Willis and her husband Greg. The pair have been using the traps — which use infrared to detect and photograph passing wildlife — for animal surveys on Barro Colorado since 1994.
Will the illegal trade of the critically endangered Philippine forest turtle lead to its extinction?
(05/04/2009) Endangered Species International (ESI) conducted ongoing monitoring at markets known to sell pets and wild animals in Manila, Philippines, to monitor the status of the trade of one of the most endangered turtle in the world: the Philippine forest turtle Siebenrockiella (Panayenemys) leytensis,. The critically endangered Philippine forest turtle is endemic to the Philippines, occurring only on one major island, Palawan, and its small satellite island, Dumaran.
Sime Darby signs palm oil deal in Liberia
(05/04/2009) Sime Darby, a Malaysian palm oil producer, will invest $800 million in palm oil and rubber plantations in Liberia, reports Reuters.
U.S. imports 1 billion pet animals from the wild between 2000 and 2006
(04/30/2009) Poor regulation of the international wildlife trade has increased the vulnerability of the U.S. to outbreaks of disease and alien invasive species, report researchers writing in Science. Analyzing Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS) data gathered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 2000 through 2006, Katherine Smith of Brown University and colleagues found that of the more than 1.5 billion live wildlife animals legally imported to the United States during the period, only 14 percent were classified to the level of species despite federal mandates for such labeling. The lack of accurate reporting makes it impossible to "accurately assess the diversity of wildlife imported or the risk they pose as invasive species or hosts of harmful pathogens," they write.
Coral reef loss in Caribbean leads to ongoing fish declines
(04/30/2009) Analyzing 48 surveys of Caribbean fish populations over fifty years, from 1955-2007, a new meta-study has found that fish populations in the famously clear waters began to drop in the mid-90s, leading to a consistent decline that hasn’t stopped. The study published in Current Biology discovered a region-wide decline of about 3-6 percent per year in three out of six trophic groups of fish, i.e. groupings of species categorized by their place on the food chain. The declines didn’t show major differences between species targeted by fishermen and those that are not, implying that overfishing isn’t the only cause of the decline in the Caribbean.
Birds can dance, proving humans aren't the only ones with rhythm
(04/30/2009) Another ability long-thought to belong solely to humans, like tool-use or counting, does in fact occur in other species, according to two new studies. In this case, it is the capacity to move rhythmically with music. Studying two different birds the research groups found that the birds weren’t just moving randomly or mimicking owners, but actually changing the tempo of their movement to match the music—in other words, dancing.
Canada and Britain abandon conventional coal
(04/29/2009) In an effort to curb climate change, both Britain and Canada have announced plans to stop building new conventional coal power plants, a move long-advocated by environmentalists. Both nations have turned their sights to the possibility of clean coal, a controversial and still unproven method that has divided environmentalists, scientists, and policy makers.
Huge cache of smuggled ivory represents up to 40 elephants
(04/29/2009) On April 25th two men were pursued by wildlife rangers from the Amboseli-Tsavo Game Scouts Association in Tanzania. The men escaped across the border to southern Kenya where they were caught by police, who had been tipped off by the wildlife scouts. The two men’s SUV contained 1,550 lbs (703 kilograms) of elephant tusks, representing a total of up to forty individuals according to the Kenyan Wildlife Service. This is considered the largest seizure in the region since the ivory smuggling boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The ivory is estimated at a value of $750,000 (or 60 million Kenyan shillings).
Obama administration overturns rule that weakened Endangered Species Act
(04/28/2009) Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Obama administration will reverse an Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulation that allowed federal agencies to go ahead with actions that may impact endangered species without consulting with experts, essentially circumventing the role of conservation scientists in such decisions.
New park in United Arab Emirates to protect rare mammals
(04/28/2009) With only 2,500 individuals in the wild, the Arabian tahr is certainly in need of the sanctuary just established by the United Arab Emirates. The country’s first mountain reserve, Wadi Wurayah Fujairah covers 129 square kilometers (80 square miles).
Bronx zoo closes exhibits, evicts hundreds of animals following budget crisis
(04/28/2009) Following a budget shortfall of 15 million dollars, the Bronx Zoo has announced that it will be closing several exhibits and sending away hundreds of animals.
Global warming to cripple Southeast Asia economically
(04/28/2009) By the end of the century nations in Southeast Asia will face debilitating economic loss due to global warming, according to a new study from the Asian Development Bank. Analyzing Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam the study found that they could suffer an annual loss of 6.7 percent ($230 billion dollars) in combined gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the global average which is estimated at a loss of 2.6 percent.
Tropical storms affect carbon sinks by knocking down forests
(04/27/2009) Studying nearly a hundred and fifty years of tropical storm landfalls in the United States, researchers have discovered that the storm systems have a sizeable impact on forest carbon sinks due to the large-scale destruction of trees.
New protections for coral reefs and dwindling fish species in Belize
(04/27/2009) Coral reefs in Belize, considered to be some of the most pristine in the west, have secured additional protections. Rene Montero, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, signed a set of new laws this month to protect Belize’s coral reefs and the fish that inhabit them. The additional laws protect increasingly overfished species, ban spearfishing in marine reserves, and create no-take zones, according to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Starving vultures in Europe allowed to feast again
(04/26/2009) European vultures have been thrown a lifeline. Last week, Members of the European Parliament voted to change a law that had banned farmers across the continent from leaving dead livestock in the field, a major source of food for vultures.
The story of ‘Save the Frogs Day’, April 28th, An Interview with Kerry Kriger
(04/26/2009) Founder and director of SAVE THE FROGS!, Dr. Kerry Kriger is responsible for the first annual Save The Frogs Day on Tuesday, April 28th with events planned worldwide from the United States to Nepal, and Australia to China. “I’m continually amazed at the positive response it’s gotten. I thought of Save The Frogs Day one night last December when I was the only full-time SAVE THE FROGS! employee and I only had a couple part-time volunteers,” Kriger explains.
Environmental campaign blocks palm oil project in Cote d' Ivoire wetland
(04/25/2009) Environmentalists have thwarted plans to establish an oil palm plantation in the Tanoe forest wetlands of southern Cote d' Ivoire (Ivory Coast), reports AFP.
Fire contributes 20% of global warming emissions
(04/23/2009) Fire accounts for roughly half of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and about twenty percent of total emissions from human activities, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The estimates — based on analysis of fire's impact on emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane; albedo or the reflectivity of Earth's surface; and release of aerosols and other particulates — suggest fire plays a major large role in climate than conventionally believed.
DNA testing finds identical animals actually different species
(04/23/2009) Seemingly identical animals on the outside may in fact be completely different species, according to scientists who have made a startling discovery that could have widespread implications for biology.
Antarctica’s sea ice increasing due to ozone hole, but scientists predict global warming will catch-up
(04/23/2009) Increasing ice in Antarctica is not a sign that the earth is actually cooling instead of warming as some climate change-skeptics have attested. A new study finds that the growth in Antarctic ice during the last 30 years is actually due to shifting weather patterns caused by the hole in the ozone layer. The researchers predict that eventually global warming will catch up to Antarctica leading to overall melting as it has in the Arctic.
After disease engulfs island, rare mountain chicken frogs airlifted to safety
(04/23/2009) In a rescue operation that sounds straight out of an action film, 50 mountain chicken frogs were airlifted from the Caribbean island Montserrat after the discovery of Chytridomycosis, a fungal disease that has wiped out amphibian populations worldwide. Already, hundreds of the critically-endangered mountain chicken frogs succumbed to the disease, which is thought to have made its way to the island in late 2008 or early 2009.
Great Cats and Rare Canids Act and Crane Conservation Act pass the US House
(04/22/2009) The US House of Representatives passed today, the 39th Earth Day, two bills that would aid some of the world’s most embattled wildlife: the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act (H.R. 411) and the Crane Conservation Act (H.R. 388).
Indigenous forest management offers lessons in fighting global warming
(04/22/2009) A new book written by members of indigenous communities across Indonesia argues that traditional forest management practices can provide important lessons in the effort to slow climate change.
Howler monkeys poisoned because of misinformed link to yellow fever
(04/22/2009) There have been numerous reports of howler monkeys poisoned in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul due to misinformation regarding the monkeys and the yellow fever virus. Some locals believed that the monkeys, which also suffer from yellow fever, were in fact the disease-carriers, but yellow fever is carried by mosquitoes not monkeys. A new campaign headed by Dr. Julio Cesar Bicca Marques wants to set the record straight. The campaign, entitled ‘Save Our Guardian Angels’, is working to inform the public of the actual and important role of howler monkeys in yellow fever outbreaks.
River systems worldwide are losing water due to global warming
(04/22/2009) Many rivers around the world are losing water due to global climate change, according to a new study from the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate. Large populations depend on some of the rivers for everything from agriculture to clean drinking resources, including the Yellow River, the Ganges, the Niger, and the Colorado, which have all shown significant declines.
Afghanistan announces first national park on Earth Day
(04/22/2009) War-wearied Afghanis received uplifting news on Earth Day this year. Their nation has announced the creation of the nation’s first national park, Band-e-Amir, protecting a one-of-a-kind landscape encompassing six sky-blue lakes separated by natural dams. Announced by Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) at a ceremony in the FAO Building at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock in Kabul this morning, key funding for the park was provided by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
100 nature images for Earth Day
(04/22/2009) Biodiversity - from tigers in Bhutan to gila monsters in the United States to Horned beetles in Africa to tube worms in hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean to sea cucumbers living on the coral reefs of Madagascar to the mites on your cheese - is makes life on Earth livable for our species. By extinguishing hotbeds of biodiversity - rainforests, wetlands, coral reefs, and grasslands - we are destroying a part of ourselves. Biodiversity will recover after humanity is gone, but in the meantime, the continuing loss of our fellow species will make Earth an awfully crowded, but lonely place.
Indigenous people serve as guardians of forest carbon, must be involved in climate solutions
(04/22/2009) Efforts to create an international climate framework — including a carbon financing mechanism for forest conservation — must involve forest people, said indigenous leaders attending the Indigenous Peoples Global Summit on Climate Change meeting this week in Anchorage, Alaska.
Earth Day photos reflecting our world's beauty
(04/22/2009) With Earth Day fast becoming just another commercial holiday — albeit one where most people still have to go to the work — mongabay is taking a visual approach to capture the beauty that surrounds us. Here are around 120 photos I've taken at sites around the world, most of which were snapped in the past five years. The animals pictured are in their natural settings — no zoo or aquarium specimen are included. I've done my best to name most of the creatures pictured, although I haven't been able to identify many of the insects.
Famous Kenyan park experiencing large declines in wildlife
(04/21/2009) In Masai Mara, one of Africa’s most treasured parks, researchers have found significant, in some cases catastrophic, declines of wild grazing animals. In fifteen years six of seven hoofed animals—giraffes, warthogs, hartebeest, impala, topis and waterbucks—showed declines. The study published in the British Journal of Zoology confirms what has long been expected: wildlife populations in Masai Mara are plummeting due to increased competition with humans and livestock.
U.S. climate change legislation may cut energy costs - report
(04/21/2009) The U.S. can dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions while reducing energy spending at the same time, reports a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
New legislation in Brazil opens up road-paving across country, threatening Amazon
(04/21/2009) Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies has approved a measure that would speed up paving roads across the country, including paving a road that environmentalists have long-fought, BR-319. Environmental groups across the nation have warned of widespread deforestation if the measure passes the Senate and is signed by the president.
Expedition in Philippines uncovers one of the world’s rarest mammals along with possible new species
(04/21/2009) A two week expedition into the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP) in the Philippines has led to several discoveries. In the 80,454 hectare park (nearly 200,000 acres), the expedition found what may be new species of insects and plants, in addition to a frog likely unknown to science. They also discovered evidence of the Visayan spotted deer, considered to be the world’s rarest deer and one of the rarest mammals. The team discovered droppings from the deer, which will be analyzed for food content.
Avoided deforestation projects highly desirable for carbon offsets finds survey
(04/21/2009) 91 percent of companies rated avoided deforestation as the most desirable forestry projects for carbon offsets, reports a survey by EcoSecurities, Conservation International, The Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance and ClimateBiz.
New chameleon species named after carbon conservation pioneer
(04/21/2009) A newly discovered species of chameleon from Tanzania has been named after Dorjee Sun, CEO of Carbon Conservation, an outfit which seeks to make rainforest conservation profitable through a carbon market mechanism known as REDD for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.
Mexican Salamanders Used in Neurology Labs May Go Extinct in Wild
(04/21/2009) Ambystoma mexicanum, a salamander found only in the fetid canals surrounding Mexico City, faces extinction despite the efforts of researchers. As reported by Robert Koenig in the 5 December issue of Science, ecologists estimate that there are now only 100 of these salamanders per square kilometer in the canals, swamps, and lakes around the city – a rapid drop from their density of 600 per square kilometer in the 1980s. The population has dwindled as the system of waterways has dried up and become more polluted, and the salamander is now designated as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Luis Zambrano of the National Autonomous University of Mexico is studying the axolotl to better understand its ecology, reproduction, and conservation. He’s working to identify the best areas of habitat and establish reserves.
Colorado River unlikely to meet current water demands in warmer, drier world
(04/20/2009) Feeding the water habits of such major cities as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, in addition to providing irrigation waters for the entire Southwestern United States, has stretched the Colorado River thin. The river no longer consistently reaches the sea as it once did. Now a new study warns that the Colorado River system, which has proven dependable for human use throughout the 20th Century, may soon experience shortages due to global warming.
Republic of Congo to turn over 25 M acres of land to South African farmers
(04/20/2009) The government of Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) has offered 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of land to South African farmers in an effort to improve the central African nation's food security, reports Reuters. The area is nearly twice the amount of arable land in South Africa.
Gabonese environmental activist receives prize for standing up to government, Chinese company
(04/20/2009) Marc Ona Essangui is a beloved environmental leader in his native Gabon, however by winning the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize he is now being introduced to a larger audience: the world. Essangui received the prize for exposing unsavory truths about a deal between the Gabon government and a Chinese company, CMEC, to mine for iron ore in the Congo rainforest, the world’s second largest tropical forest. The Belinga mine is a $3.5 billion project that also includes a hydroelectric dam, which will flood traditional lands and destroy what is considered the most beautiful waterfall in the forests of equatorial Africa. The Kongou Falls is located in the Ivindo National Park.
Illegal hunting in Laos takes toll on wildlife
(04/20/2009) Deep in the rugged mountains of Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area (NEPL) on the Laos–Vietnam border, men smoke cigarettes and talk in hushed voices as they tramp through the forest. Approaching a baited trap, they hear the frantic snarls of an ensnared tiger. The tiger hangs by its front foot, suspended by a cable attached to a tree. The men shoot and make quick work of the tiger, removing its bones but leaving some of its carcass, including parts of its pelt, behind. The real money is no longer in tiger skins, but bones: the 10 to 12 kilograms of bone harvested from the adult tiger will yield $12,000-$15,000 in a region where per capita income is around $400 a year. Though the authorities are able to trace the weapon shells back to their village and locals know of the hunters' haul, two years later the evidence has not been enough to hold the men accountable for their crimes.
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