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Could camera traps save wildlife worldwide?

(08/31/2010) It's safe to say that the humble camera trap has revolutionized wildlife conservation. This simple contraption—an automated digital camera that takes a flash photo whenever an animal triggers an infrared sensor—has allowed scientists to collect photographic evidence of rarely seen, and often globally endangered species, with little expense and relative ease—at least compared to tromping through tropical forests and swamps looking for endangered rhino scat . Now researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are taking the utility of the camera trap one step further: a study in Animal Conservation uses a novel methodology, entitled the Wildlife Picture Index (WPI), to analyze population trends of 26 species in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. While the study found a bleak decline in species, it shows the potential of camera traps for moving conservation forward since it marks the first time researchers have used camera traps to analyze long-term population trends of multiple species.


Photos: 'Tarzan' chameleon discovered in Madagascar

(08/31/2010) Scientists have discovered a new species of chameleon in a small block of rainforest in Madagascar.


Cold snap may have killed millions of fish in Bolivia, poisoning rivers

(08/31/2010) Although the last few months have been some of the warmest worldwide on record, including 17 countries reaching or breaking all-time highs, temperatures have not been above average everywhere. Cold air from Antarctica has brought chilling temperatures to parts of South America, including Bolivia where millions of fish and thousands of caimans, turtles, and river dolphins have perished according to Nature Communications.


Coral reef survival depends on the super small, an interview with Forest Rohwer

(08/30/2010) If you take a teaspoon and dip it into the ocean what will you have? Some drops of lifeless water? Only a few decades ago this is what scientists would have said, however, the development of increasingly powerful microscopes have shown us a world long unknown, which has vital importance for the survival of one of the world's most threatened and most treasured ecosystems: coral reefs. A single milliliter of water is now known to contain at least a million living microbes, i.e. organisms too small to see without a microscope. After discovering their super-abundant presence, researchers are now beginning to uncover how these incredibly tiny life-forms shape the fate of the world's coral reefs.


Google Earth animation shows Brazilian plans to turn Amazon into 'series of stagnant reservoirs'

(08/30/2010) The decision last week by the Brazilian government to move forward on the $17 billion Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu river will set in motion a plan to build more than 100 dams across the Amazon basin, potentially turning tributaries of the world's largest river into 'an endless series of stagnant reservoirs', says a new short film released by Amazon Watch and International Rivers.


How best to balance economic growth and protection of the environment?

(08/30/2010) When people are hungry for an uncertain income, they will destroy everything. When people become poor due to a poor decision they were excluded from making, who should be responsible for that? Development is seen as the answer to poverty. However, many controversial developments have actually increased poverty, and while the investors in such schemes may benefit, the local people pay the price. This happened in Tundai, a fishing village in the ex-mega rice area near Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. When central government in the 1990s decided to convert the peat swamp forests into rice fields, the community had no voice or involvement in the decision. The project failed. Now over a million hectares of former lush forests have become a wasteland, and the people of Tundai have been thrust into poverty.


Rapid growth of palm oil industry tramples indigenous peoples' rights, says report

(08/30/2010) Rapid expansion of oil palm plantations across Southeast Asia have run roughshod over customary tenure systems, resulting in exploitation of local communities, conflict, and outright human rights abuses, reports a new assessment of the palm oil sector by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), an international indigenous rights group.


EU's biofuels target driving land grabs in Africa, says group

(08/30/2010) The European Union's renewable fuels target is driving land grabs in Africa that threaten the environment and local communities, claims a new report from Friends of the Earth (FOE).


A slow comeback for the endangered Eurasian otter in France

(08/29/2010) In the late 1970s, the fate of the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) in France was very gloomy. By just looking at the otter's range map, one could see that most of the country was left with vast regions devoid of a species that was once found in every region. Estimations barely reached 1,500 otters left in the wild for the whole country. Today, 2,000 to 3,000 individuals are believed to room in creeks and rivers mostly in the Massif Central, the Atlantic side (Bretagne) and western area, in particular in the wetland of Poitevin. The upward trend in population size is good news and a step towards reconstituting sustainable populations, however, the overall population is still critically low. By contrast, in the early 1900s otters were quite abundant in France with over 50,000 wild animals.


Snakes on a plane! Malaysian reptile trafficker busted at airport

(08/28/2010) A notorious reptile smuggler has been busted at Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Airport after his luggage was found to contain 98 snakes and a turtle, reports the Malaysian Star.


Jump in fires in Brazil becomes Twitter sensation

(08/27/2010) The number of fires burning in Brazil more than doubled since last year, sparking a Twitter sensation, with more than 120,000 users tweeting messages with the hashtag '#chegadequeimadas' about the fires in a 48 hour window.


Cargill to engage Indonesian supplier after audit confirms forest destruction

(08/27/2010) Cargill will engage one of its major palm oil suppliers after an independent audit confirmed that the Indonesian company has been destroying rainforests and peatlands in Borneo to establish oil palm plantations.


Norway urged to dump shares of other forest-destroying companies

(08/27/2010) Norway's Climate and Forests Initiative, which has set aside billions of dollars for efforts to reduce deforestation, should work with the country's Ministry of Finance to divest the Government Pension Fund from companies that destroy forests, says the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an environmental group.


Photo: Live tiger cub found in check-in baggage among stuffed tiger toys

(08/27/2010) A two-month old tiger cub was found drugged and concealed among stuffed-tiger toys in a woman's luggage at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport on Sunday, reports TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.


Cargill backtracks on sustainability push for palm oil, says activist group

(08/26/2010) Cargill has not suspended its relationship with a palm oil company recently exposed for misleading investors and buyers on its environmental transgressions, reports the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an activist group campaigning against environmentally-damaging forms of palm oil production.


U.S. government may finance massive coal projects in India, South Africa

(08/26/2010) The United States Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) voted on Wednesday to seek a final review of a $900m loan for a controversial 3,960 MW coal-fired power plant in India, reports Pacific Environment, a San Francisco-based environmental group.


Photos: Asia's tiniest frog discovered living inside carnivorous plants in Borneo

(08/25/2010) One of the world's smallest frogs has been discovered living inside carnivorous plants in Borneo, reports Conservation International, a conservation group that is jointly supporting a campaign with IUCN to search for some of the world's 'lost amphibians.' The species, described in Zootaxa by Indraneil Das and Alexander Haas of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Biozentrum Grindel und Zoologisches Museum of Hamburg, is named Microhyla nepenthicola after the plant in which is was found, Nepenthes ampullaria, a species of pitcher plant from Malaysian Borneo.


Allegations abound: are nepotism and corruption behind the Sabah coal plant?

(08/25/2010) Allegations of government corruption and corporate kick-backs are swirling around a planned 300 MW Chinese coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah. While the plan to build the coal plant in Lahad Datu Bay has come up against strong and unrelenting grassroots opposition, the federal government continues to turn a deaf ear to opposition, arguing that the energy plant is necessary to power Sabah and stop blackouts. However, critics say the coal plant—which is to be built on the edge of the Coral Triangle and 20 kilometers from Tabin Wildlife Reserve—will damage fish stocks with chlorine and thermal discharges, upend the lives of locals dependent on fishing, and devastate eco-tourism in the region. In addition, the coal plant goes directly against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's agreement at Copenhagen to reduce the country's carbon emission intensity by 40 percent by 2020.


Indonesia's forest conservation plan may not sufficiently reduce emissions

(08/25/2010) One third of Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation originate from areas not officially defined as 'forest' suggesting that efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) may fail unless they account for carbon across the country's entire landscape, warns a new report published by the World Agroforestry Centre (CGIAR). The policy brief finds that up to 600 million tons of Indonesia's carbon emissions 'occur outside institutionally defined forests' and are therefore not accounted for under the current national REDD+ policy, which, if implemented, would enable Indonesia to win compensation from industrialized countries for protecting its carbon-dense forests and peatlands as a climate change mechanism.


Gazprom, Shell and Clinton Foundation back rainforest carbon deal in Borneo

(08/24/2010) A forest conservation project backed by Shell, Gazprom Market and Trading and the Clinton Foundation on the island of Borneo has won approval under a carbon accounting standard, reports Reuters.


India blocks 'Avatar' mining project that threatened tribe

(08/24/2010) A controversial plan to construct a bauxite mine on indigenous lands in the Indian state of Orissa has been canceled by the country's environment ministry. The scheme had been opposed by a wide range of human rights and environmental groups, which likened the mine to India's Avatar for its potential damage. An earlier mine, run by the same company — Vedanta — caused pollution, adversely affected crops, and caused social upheaval.


$28 billion pledged by rich nations to fight climate change

(08/24/2010) $27.9 billion in "fast-start" funding has so far been pledged by industrialized countries to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, according to a new climate finance tracking tool released by the World Resources Institute (WRI). The tool aims to create transparency around climate change funds to ensure that rich countries follow through on their commitments and that the money is not wasted or "lost."


Norway divests from Malaysian logging company after rainforest destruction

(08/24/2010) The Norwegian Government's pension fund sold all its 16 million shares of Samling Global, a Malaysian timber company, after concluding the firm had committed 'serious transgessions' in logging outside of concession areas and destroying protected rainforests, reports the Bruno Manser Fund. The sale, worth a total of $1.2 million, represents about 0.3 percent of the company's outstanding shares based on today's closing market price in Hong Kong.


Saving Prairie Chickens

(08/24/2010) It's not so complicated, but it's much easier said than done. I'm referring to the restoration of a species to a habitat that has been transformed over time in the absence of keystone grazing species like bison which served essentially as landscape architects and grounds crew for expansive grassland habitat. In an effort to restore the endangered Attwater’s prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri) to the coastal prairie ecosystems of Texas and Louisiana, restoration biologists had to find such available and suitable habitat.


Indonesia gets first $30M from Norway under $1B forest deal

(08/19/2010) Norway has agreed to transfer an initial $30 million to Indonesia under its $1 billion REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) partnership with the Southeast Asian country.


Lion populations plummet in Uganda's parks

(08/19/2010) Lion populations across Uganda's park system have declined 40 percent in less than a decade, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


Massive oil plume discovered in the Gulf

(08/19/2010) Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have detected a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, reports a study published in Science.


Satellites show mangrove forest loss even worse than estimated

(08/19/2010) New satellite data shows that human actions are wiping out mangrove forests even faster than previous bleak estimates. Conducted by the US Geological Survey and NASA, the researchers found that mangroves comprise 12.3 percent less area than previously estimated. In total, satellites reveal that mangrove forests cover approximately 53,290 square miles (137,760 square kilometers). "Our assessment shows, for the first time, the exact extent and distribution of mangrove forests of the world at 30 meters spatial resolution, the highest resolution ever," said Dr Chandra Giri from USGS.


NASA image captures one of the warmest Julys on record

(08/19/2010) The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has found that the global average temperature of July 2010 was nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.55 degrees Celsius) higher than average temperatures from July1951-1980. In fact, this July was tied for the warmest on record with July 2005 and 1998.


Fraud allegations against Indonesian palm oil giant widen, tarnishing auditors and sustainable palm oil initiative

(08/19/2010) Sinar Mas, an Indonesian conglomerate whose holdings include Asia Pulp and Paper, a paper products brand, and PT Smart, a palm oil producer, was sharply rebuked Wednesday over a recent report where it claimed not to have engaged in destruction of forests and peatlands. At least one of its companies, Golden Agri Resources, may now face an investigation for deliberately misleading shareholders in its corporate filings.


146 dams threaten Amazon basin

(08/19/2010) Although developers and government often tout dams as environmentally-friendly energy sources, this is not always the case. Dams impact river flows, changing ecosystems indefinitely; they may flood large areas forcing people and wildlife to move; and in the tropics they can also become massive source of greenhouse gases due to emissions of methane. Despite these concerns, the Amazon basin—the world's largest tropical rainforest—is being seen as prime development for hydropower projects. Currently five nations—Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru—are planning over 146 big dams in the Amazon Basin. Some of these dams would flood pristine rainforests, others threaten indigenous people, and all would change the Amazonian ecosystem. Now a new website, Dams in Amazonia, outlines the sites and impacts of these dams with an interactive map.


Beyond bizarre: strange hairy antelope photographed in Kenya

(08/19/2010) Is it a hairy goat roaming the plains? An antelope with some genetic mix-up? At this point no one knows. This strange creature was photographed in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. Apart of the Serengeti plains, the Masai Mara covers 1,500 square kilometers and is home to a wide-range of iconic African savannah species, from elephants to lions and giraffes to hippos.The photos were first published on conservation organization WildlifeDirect's website.


Exploring Kenya's sky island

(08/18/2010) Rising over 2,500 meters from Kenya's northern desert, the Mathews Range is a sky island: isolated mountain forests surrounded by valleys. Long cut off from other forests, 'sky islands' such as this often contain unique species and ecosystems. Supported by the Nature Conservancy, an expedition including local community programs Northern Rangelands Trust and Namunyak Conservancy recently spent a week surveying the mountain range, expanding the range of a number of species and discovering what is likely a new insect.


Monster turtle killed off by man

(08/17/2010) Researchers have linked another extinction to human beings: this time of a massive prehistoric horned turtle. Prehistoric turtles in the Meiolania genus were thought to have vanished some 50,000 years ago. However, scientists have found a new species that was likely wiped out by human hunters much more recently.


Golden toad saved from brink of extinction

(08/17/2010) One hundred Kihansi Spray Toads have been flown to their native Tanzania after a close brush with extinction, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


India's Avatar: decision coming on mine that threatens indigenous group

(08/17/2010) In the Indian state of Orissa a drama more wild than James Cameron's imagination has been playing out. An indigenous people, the Dongria Kondh, have spent years protesting the plans of British-based mining giant Vedanta Resources to build a 125-billion-rupee ($2.7 billion) open-cast mine on the Niyamgiri Mountain, which they have long viewed as a deity. Yesterday, the Dongria Kondh won a victory, but not the war: a four-person panel set up by the India's Environment Ministry said the mine should not go ahead as it threatens two tribal groups. Another panel with the Forestry Advisory Council (FAC) will consider this report on August 20th as Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, mulls whether or not to approve the mine.


Vampire killing spree in Peru

(08/16/2010) At least four children died after rabid vampire bats attacked Awajun indigenous communities in a remote part of Peru, reports the BBC.


Massive coral bleaching in Indonesia

(08/16/2010) A large-scale bleaching event due to high ocean temperatures appears to be underway off the coast of Sumatra, an Indonesian island, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


Logging may swamp Indonesian peatlands, destroy local sustainable sago industry

(08/16/2010) Industrial logging concessions on islands off the coast of Sumatra threaten to undermine a sustainable community industry that may hold to key to protecting Indonesia's carbon-dense, but increasingly endangered peatlands.


Could biochar save the world?

(08/16/2010) Biochar—the agricultural application of charcoal produced from burning biomass—may be one of this century's most important social and environmental revolutions. This seemingly humble practice—a technology that goes back thousands of years—has the potential to help mitigate a number of entrenched global problems: desperate hunger, lack of soil fertility in the tropics, rainforest destruction due to slash-and-burn agriculture, and even climate change. "Biochar is a recalcitrant form of carbon that will stay almost entirely unaltered in soils for very long periods of time. So you can sequester carbon in a simple, durable and safe way by putting the char in the soil. Other types of carbon in soils rapidly turn into carbon dioxide. Char doesn't," managing director of the Biochar Fund, Laurens Rademakers, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.


Researchers classify Rothschild's giraffe as endangered

(08/15/2010) With less than 670 Rothschild's giraffes surviving in the wild, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List has listed the subspecies as 'Endangered'. Surviving in Kenya and Uganda, Rothschild's giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) is hanging on in small isolated populations usually in protected areas where populations are already at a maximum. "[We] hope this will highlight to the world the critical state its tallest creature is in," giraffe-expert and conservationist, Julian Fennessey said in a statement.


The biology and conservation of declining coral reefs, an interview with Kristian Teleki

(08/15/2010) Coral reefs are often considered the "rainforests of the sea" because of their amazing biodiversity. In fact, coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. It is not unusual for a reef to have several hundred species of snails, sixty species of corals, and several hundred species of fish. While they comprise under 1% of the world’s ocean surface, one-quarter of all marine species call coral reefs their home. Fish, mollusks, sea stars, sea urchins, and more depend on this important ecosystem, and humans do too. Coral reefs supply important goods and services–from shoreline protection to tourism and fisheries–which by some estimates are worth $375 billion a year.


U.S. signs debt-for-nature swap with Brazil to protect forests

(08/13/2010) The United States will cut Brazil's debt payments by $21 million under a debt-for-nature that will protect the Latin American country's endangered Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlantica), Caatinga and Cerrado ecosystems.


Malaysia preparing to take big step backward on energy policy

(08/13/2010) I write to you as a deeply concerned and saddened citizen of Malaysia. For most of the 45 years of my life, I have been proud to be Malaysian. Recently, I have become heartbroken to be Malaysian. I am profoundly grateful to write this with the support of both my local communities in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and California, U.S.A., and a larger world community. That said, I take full ownership of and sole responsibility for the views articulated in this letter; I express them from my stand as a mother, an earth citizen and a leader.


Logged forests retain considerable biodiversity in Borneo providing conservation opportunity

(08/12/2010) A new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B finds that forests which have undergone logging in the past, sometimes even twice, retain significant levels of biodiversity in Borneo. The researchers say these findings should push conservationists to protect more logged forests from being converted into oil palm plantations where biodiversity levels drop considerably and endangered species are almost wholly absent. Given that much of Borneo's forests have been logged as least once, these long-dismissed forests could become a new frontier for conservationists.


APP refutes Greenpeace charges on deforestation, though audit remains absent

(08/12/2010) Asia Pulp & Paper, which has long been a target of green groups for deforestation and threatening imperiled species, is touting a new audit the pulping company says finds allegations made by environmental NGOs, including Greenpeace and WWF, are "baseless, inaccurate, and without validity". Conducted by the international accounting and auditing firm Mazars, the audit itself has not been released; however Mazars has signed off on the validity of a 24 page document entitled "Getting the Facts Down on Paper".


Orangutan populations collapse in pristine forest areas

(08/12/2010) Orangutan encounter rates have fallen six-fold in Borneo over the past 150 years, report researchers writing in the journal PLoS One. Erik Meijaard, an ecologist with People and Nature Consulting International, and colleagues compared present-day encounter rates with collection rates from naturalists working in the mid-19th Century. They found orangutans are much rarer today even in pristine forest areas. The results suggest hunting is taking a toll on orangutan populations.


Stunning monkey discovered in the Colombian Amazon

(08/11/2010) While the Amazon is being whittled away on all sides by logging, agriculture, roads, cattle ranching, mining, oil and gas exploration, today's announcement of a new monkey species proves that the world's greatest tropical rainforest still has many surprises to reveal. Scientists with the National University of Colombia and support from Conservation International (CI) have announced the discovery of a new monkey in the journal Primate Conservation on the Colombian border with Peru and Ecuador. The new species is a titi monkey, dubbed the Caquetá titi ( Callicebus caquetensis). However, the announcement comes with deep concern as researchers say it is likely the new species is already Critically Endangered due to a small population living in an area undergoing rapid deforestation for agriculture.


Guilty verdict over euthanizing tigers in Germany touches off debate about role of zoos

(08/11/2010) In June a German court handed down a guilty verdict to the Magdeburg Zoo director, Kai Perret, and three employees for euthanizing three tiger cubs in 2008. The zoo decided to kill the cubs when it was discovered that the cubs' father was not a 100 percent Siberian tiger (i.e. he was a mix of two different subspecies). This is generally standard practice at many zoos around the world as animals that are not 'genetically pure' are considered useless for conservation efforts. However, the court found the workers guilt of breaking animal rights laws, finding that there was "no sufficient reasons to kill less valuable, but totally healthy animals."


Nation's wealth does not guarantee green practices

(08/11/2010) Developing countries are not the only ones that could benefit from a little environmental support. Wealthier countries may need to 'know themselves' and address these issues at home too. According to a recent study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, wealth may be the most important factor determining a country’s environmental impact. The team had originally planned to study "country-level environmental performance and human health issues," lead author Corey Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modeling and professor at the University of Adelaide, told mongabay.com. Once they began looking at the available indexes, however, they saw the need for a purely environmental analysis.


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