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News articles on animals
Mongabay.com news articles on animals in blog format. Updated regularly.
(08/24/2011) If you're unfortunate enough to be bit by a venomous snake in South America, its most likely the fer-de-lance (Bothrops atrox).
Humanity knows less than 15 percent of the world's species
(08/23/2011) Scientists have named, cataloged, and described less than 2 million species in the past two and a half centuries, yet, according to an new innovative analysis, we are no-where near even a basic understanding of the diversity of life on this small blue planet. The study in PLoS Biology, which is likely to be controversial, predicts that there are 8.7 million species in the world, though the number could be as low as 7.4 or as high as 10 million. The research implies that about 86 percent of the world's species have still yet to be described.
Innovative program saves wildlife, protects forests, and fights poverty in Africa
(08/23/2011) Luangwa Valley in Zambia is home to stunning scenes of Africa wildlife: elephants, antelopes, zebra, buffalo, leopards, hyena, and lions all thrive in Luangwa's protected areas, while the Luangwa River is known for multitude of snapping crocodiles and its superabundant herds of hippos. In fact, the area's hippos were filmed for the BBC's program Life, including a dramatic battle between two males (see below). Yet as in many such places in Africa, abundant plains and forest wildlife bump up against the needs of impoverished local people. The resulting conflict usually ends in large-scale wildlife declines; the same trend was documented in the Luangwa Valley until a unique initiative began to make a difference not only in the life of animals, but of people as well.
Tough sentence for ivory smuggler may spell way forward in elephant poaching crisis
(08/22/2011) The Republic of the Congo sentenced an ivory smuggler to an unprecedented four years in prison, proving the government's rising willingness to crack down on poachers. The wildlife trade has been decimating elephant populations in the Congo, while a recent report from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) asserts further stringent measures are needed to counter the globally-linked criminal syndicates that largely responsible for the ivory trade jeopardizing wild elephants.
APP affiliate 'regrets' astroturfing on Indonesia deforestation claims
(08/21/2011) Solaris, an Australian affiliate of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), has been caught astroturfing an article that repeated criticism of APP from Greenpeace. The article, which appeared on Mumbrella—an Australian media and marketing news site—garnered a multitude of negative comments which were later tracked to IP addresses used by Solaris. Astroturfing is corporate or government messaging falsified as coming from the public or a grassroots movement.
New species is eel-equivalent of the coelacanth
(08/18/2011) The ocean holds endless surprises still. In an underwater cave off the Pacific island nation of Palau, reachers have made an astounding discovery: an eel species unknown to science that harkens back 200 million years. The species, described in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B as an 'enigmatic, small eel-like fish', sports anatomical features that differentiate it from the over 800 known species of eel surviving today.
Over 80 percent of rediscovered species still face extinction
(08/18/2011) Imagine if your job was to locate extinct species. In 2010, biologists with The Search for Lost Frogs set out on a tropical mission hoping to confirm the existence of frog species not seen in decades. The team recovered proof of four out of a hundred missing species, including a toad among the expedition's Top Ten Amphibians list. According to a new study study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, such biological surveys are critical conservation tools to prevent the 'romeo error': the abandonment of conservation efforts due to belief that a species is extinct. The study, the first of its kind, found that rediscovered species are especially in danger of vanishing again, this time altogether, without targeted conservation measures.
Conservation groups kicked out of CITES debate on elephants
(08/17/2011) The Standing Committee of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) tossed conservations NGOs out of the room during a debate on the rise in elephant poaching for illegal ivory. A vote of seven to six sent conservation groups making up the Species Survival Network (SSN) packing, however the groups were allowed back in before the day was over.
Cute animal picture of the day: red panda
(08/17/2011) The red panda is found in China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, and Myanmar. Once believed to be in the bear family (like the giant panda), the species is now has its own genus in the Musteloidea, which represents weasels, raccoons, and skunks.
Cameratraps take global snapshot of declining tropical mammals
(08/17/2011) A groundbreaking cameratrap study has mapped the abundance, or lack thereof, of tropical mammal populations across seven countries in some of the world's most important rainforests. Undertaken by The Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM), the study found that habitat loss was having a critical impact on mammals. The study, which documented 105 mammals (nearly 2 percent of the world's known mammals) on three continents, also confirmed that mammals fared far better—both in diversity and abundance—in areas with continuous forest versus areas that had been degraded.
Shell spills over 50,000 gallons of oil off Scotland
(08/16/2011) Yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell estimated that to date 54,600 gallons of oil had spilled into the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland, spreading some 19 miles wide (30 kilometers) at its maximum. While the company stopped the initial leak on Thursday, it has now announced that the oil has found a 'second pathway' and is still leaking into the sea around 84 gallons a day.
Featured video: WWF's Astonish Me
(08/16/2011) Highlighting new species recently discovered around the world, the short film Astonish Me, was created as apart of a happy 50th birthday celebration for conservation organization WWF.
Lessons from the world's longest study of rainforest fragments
(08/15/2011) For over 30 years, hundreds of scientists have scoured eleven forest fragments in the Amazon seeking answers to big questions: how do forest fragments' species and microclimate differ from their intact relatives? Will rainforest fragments provide a safe haven for imperiled species or are they last stand for the living dead? Should conservation focus on saving forest fragments or is it more important to focus the fight on big tropical landscapes? Are forest fragments capable of regrowth and expansion? Can a forest—once cut-off—heal itself? Such questions are increasingly important as forest fragments—patches of forest that are separated from larger forest landscapes due to expanding agriculture, pasture, or fire—increase worldwide along with the human footprint.
Animal picture of the day: ninja lemurs
(08/14/2011) On the ground Verreaux's Sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) move in sideways jumps giving them the appearance of elegant dancers or dangerous ninjas.
Dole destroying forest in national park for bananas
(08/14/2011) Dole Food Company, a US-based corporation famous for its tropical fruit products, is allegedly destroying rainforest in Somawathiya National Park in Sri Lanka for a banana plantation reports local press. The 4,700 hectare (11,600 acre) plantation, reportedly handed to local company Letsgrow by Sri Lanka's military, imperils an elephant migration route and a number of tropical species. Letsgrow has partnered with Dole on the plantation work, already clearing almost half the area, described as 'thick jungle'. Sri Lanka, which has only come out of a decades-long civil war in 2009, is currently seeking a rise in agricultural development.
China opens trade in 'legal' tiger skins
(08/14/2011) The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has warned the US, the UK, and all tiger-range nations that China has re-opened the trade in wild cat skins—including tigers—ahead of a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the EIA, China has reinitiated a Skin Registration Scheme that allows the trade of big cat skins from legal sources, such as captive-bred cats and controversial tiger farms, however the NGOS argues the scheme lacks transparency, providing an easy cover for the sale of skins taken from big cats poached in the wild.
The glass is half-full: conservation has made a difference
(08/11/2011) Don't despair: that's the message of a new paper in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, which argues that decades of conservation actions at multiple scales have had a positive impact for many of the world's endangered species. While such actions have not yet turned back the tide of the current mass extinction crisis, they have achieved notable successes which often get lost in the gloom-and-doom news stories on biodiversity declines. According to the paper, conservation actions take place on three scales. Microscale conservation focuses on a single species or ecosystem; mesoscale means conservation cooperation between a number of countries, such as efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade or protect wide-ranging species; and finally macroscale means global organizations or campaigns, such as those that pressure multinational corporations to become more biodiversity-friendly.
Animal picture of the day: the jaws of the piranha
(08/10/2011) Few fish have a more fearsome reputation than the piranha. Yet recent research has shown that attacks on humans are rare and often accidental, though they do eat their prey alive and are capable of stripping a cattle carcass bare (though it doesn't happen instantaneously).
Balancing agriculture and rainforest biodiversity in India’s Western Ghats
(08/08/2011) When one thinks of the world's great rainforests the Amazon, Congo, and the tropical forests of Southeast Asia and Indonesia usually come to mind. Rarely does India—home to over a billion people—make an appearance. But along India’s west coast lies one of the world's great tropical forests and biodiversity hotspots, the Western Ghats. However it's not just the explosion of life one finds in the Western Ghats that make it notable, it's also the forest's long—and ongoing—relationship to humans, lots of humans. Unlike many of the world's other great rainforests, the Western Ghats has long been a region of agriculture. This is one place in the world where elephants walk through tea fields and tigers migrate across betel nut plantations. While wildlife has survived alongside humans for centuries in the region, continuing development, population growth and intensification of agriculture are putting increased pressure on this always-precarious relationship. In a recent paper in Biological Conservation, four researchers examine how well agricultural landscapes support biodiversity conservation in one of India's most species-rich landscapes.
Featured video: Trouble in Lemur Land
(08/08/2011) A new film, Trouble in Lemur Land, showcases the Critically Endangered silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus). With only some 300 silky sifaka's surviving in the wild, this large and distinct lemur is considered one of the top 25 most endangered primates in the world.
Cute animal picture of the day: tufted deer fawn
(08/07/2011) Native to China and, perhaps, Myanmar (Burma), the tufted deer lives in mountainous damp forests.
Little-known animal picture of the day: the velvet asity
(08/04/2011) The velvet asity is a small bird endemic to Madagascar. The species is a part of a family of birds that only includes four species, all native to Madagascar.
Animal picture of the day: portrait of a cheetah
(08/03/2011) Capable of hitting speeds up to 75 miles per hour, the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the world's fastest land animal.
Singing frog leads to insights into human hearing
(08/03/2011) New understanding of how female tungara frogs sort out the din of multiple males singing may lead to insights into human hearing, according to a new study in Nature Communications.
Protected areas not enough to save life on Earth
(08/03/2011) Since the creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 protected areas have spread across the world. Today, over 100,000 protected areas—national parks, wildlife refuges, game reserves, marine protected areas (MPAs), wildlife sanctuaries, etc.—cover some 7.3 million square miles (19 million kilometers), mostly on land, though conservation areas in the oceans are spreading. While there are a number of reasons behind the establishment of protected areas, one of the most important is the conservation of wildlife for future generations. But now a new open access study in Marine Ecology Progress Series has found that protected areas are not enough to stem the loss of global biodiversity. Even with the volume of protected areas, many scientists say we are in the midst of a mass extinction with extinction levels jumping to 100 to 10,000 times the average rate over the past 500 million years. While protected areas are important, the study argues that society must deal with the underlying problems of human population and overconsumption if we are to have any chance of preserving life on Earth—and leaving a recognizable planet for our children.
Rat uses 'poison arrow' toxin from tree to defend against predators
(08/02/2011) The African crested rat, a rodent from East Africa, applies to plant toxin from tree bark to make itself poisonous, reports a new study published in Proceedings of The Royal Society B..
Ironic conservation: APP touts tiger relocation after allegedly destroying tiger's home
(08/02/2011) A female Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) has been relocated from her threatened rainforest home to Sembilang National Park. According to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and the Sumatran Tiger Conservation Foundation (YPHS), the tiger had become an issue in its home region due to human and wildlife conflict. The group touted saving the tiger as 'a significant moment for Sumatran tiger preservation'. However, Greenpeace says that the tiger would never have been a problem if APP were not destroying its habitat.
Animal picture of the day: the Jesus Christ lizard
(08/01/2011) The basilisk lizard walks on water. To escape danger the lizard will race across a stream, sprinting, literally, off the water's surface. But despite its nickname of 'Jesus Christ lizard' this is not a miracle, but adaptation.
Beetles: nature's herbicide
(08/01/2011) New research in the Journal of Applied Ecology shows that ground beetles help farmers in the UK by devouring weed seeds before they can sprout. The researchers say the study finds another proof of how biodiversity—the multitude of species on Earth—provides 'free' ecosystem services for people.
How fruit defines Borneo
(08/01/2011) Among conservationists and biologists, the mega-island of Borneo is a sort of Mecca. Its rich plant and animal biodiversity, as well as high degree of endemism (unique species found nowhere else) make it a naturalist's dream. There is one aspect of this biological richness which applies to the wellbeing and happiness of all of Borneo’s residents, human and animal, in a very direct way: fruit. From wild forest berries to juicy cultivated rambutans, fruit permeates the ecology, landscape and culture of Borneo. On the island there are over 70 wild fruit trees species and around 45 cultivated species that are consumed by people (1). Science has certainly not yet documented all the fruit consumed by wildlife, but we know that the total must be over 500 species.
Malaria may hurt conservation efforts, aid poachers
(07/31/2011) In 2009, 781,000 people died of malaria worldwide and nearly a quarter billion people contracted the mosquito-bourne disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While the impacts of malaria on people—among the world's worst diseases—have long been researched, a new study in Biological Conservation finds that malaria has a significant indirect impact on protected species. Many species contract various malaria strains, but the study also found that malaria in humans has the potential to leave endangered species unprotected.
Saving the wrong rhino in Indonesia?
(07/29/2011) The slideshow titled "APP: Establishing the Facts" would indeed be laughable if they were not so sad. In the slides on “Investing in Biodiversity,” APP appears to want to show how innovative it is in the conservation arena by focusing on the Javan rhino. The slides depict photos of wildlife and the Javan Rhino Sanctuary.
How to fight organized wildlife crime in East Asia
(07/27/2011) Organized criminal syndicates are wiping out some of the world's most charismatic wildlife to feed a growing appetite for animal parts in East Asia#8212;and so far governments and law enforcement are dropping the ball. This is the conclusion from a new paper in Oryx, which warns unless officials start taking wildlife crime seriously a number of important species could vanish from the Earth.
Video: Tiger trapped in Asia Pulp and Paper logging concession dies a gruesome death
(07/25/2011) Caught in a snare and left for days without access to food and water, a wild Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) perished from its wounds hours after forest officers reached it. As reported by Greenpeace—which photographed and filmed the rescue attempt—the tiger was trapped at the edge of a acacia plantation and remaining forest area actively being logged by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) in Riau Province. Sumatran tigers are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List; the subspecies, restricted to the Indonesian island, is in decline due to large-scale habitat loss and poaching.
US House Republicans propose to eliminate migratory bird conservation act
(07/25/2011) The US House of Representatives has proposed an environmental spending bill that strips funds from many environmental agencies, including eliminating altogether the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. The vote has been denounced by House Democrats.
Animal picture of the day: African wild dog travels 250 miles
(07/22/2011) Scientists have found a male African wild dog that has undergone an epic trip. In April 2010 the male dog was photographed in Save the Valley in eastern Zimbabwe then recently the same animal was photographed in Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana some 250 miles (400 kilometers) apart. This is one of the longest distances ever recorded for an African wild dog.
How to Save the Tiger
(07/19/2011) We are losing the tiger. Two hundred years ago, Asia’s great cat numbered in the hundreds of thousands and inhabited virtually the entire continent, from Siberia to Turkey, and Afghanistan to Bali. Today there are, at best, around 3,200 wild tigers left. The tiger is extinct in at least 14 countries and hangs on in only 7% of the habitat it once occupied - tiny, mostly isolated fragments in what was once an ocean of forest. Three sub-species, from Bali, Java and Central Asia are lost forever, and a fourth, the South China tiger has not been recorded in the wild for over a decade.
Animal picture of the day: world's biggest land animal from the air
(07/19/2011) Even the African elephant, the world's largest terrestrial animal, looks small from the air. African elephants (Loxodonta africana) range throughout southern, central, and western Africa, as far north as Mali. A highly social and intelligent species, African elephants live in herds headed by matriarchs. Adult males, however, are usually loners.
Blue iguana back from the dead
(07/18/2011) The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman's reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve.
Hundreds of Critically Endangered apes found in remote Vietnam
(07/18/2011) A new population—hundreds strong—of northern white-cheeked crested gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) has been found in Vietnam by researchers with Conservation International (CI). The group estimates that around 130 gibbon groups—455 individuals—survive in Pu Mat National Park, making it the only known viable population of this species in the world and effectively tripling the global populations. Unfortunately, these newly-discovered gibbons are imperiled by road-building through the park.
Fish use tools
(07/17/2011) A blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) has been photographed picking up a clam in its mouth, swimming over to a rock, and then using the rock as an anvil by smashing the clam against it until it breaks open. In the journal Coral Reefs scientists argue this is the first conclusive evidence of a fish using tools. Once thought only the domain of humans, biologists have found that tool use is actually present all over the animal kingdom, from elephants to chimps, and crows to capuchins. Such tool use is often considered evidence of higher intelligence.
'Trophy' cell phone pictures lead to arrests of tiger poachers
(07/14/2011) Two poachers were arrested in Thailand after a cell phone they left behind in the forest provided evidence of tiger poaching, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
First ever picture of long lost rainbow toad
(07/13/2011) Scientists are elated after the surprise rediscovery of a wildly-colored frog not seen for 87 years and never before photographed—until now. The Bornean rainbow toad, also known as the Sambas Stream toad (Ansonia latidisca) was rediscovered on Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sarawak by local scientists inspired by a 2010 search for the world's missing amphibians by Conservation International (CI). Leading up to its search CI released the World's Top 10 Most Wanted Lost Frogs (out of a hundred being searched for): the Bornean rainbow toad was listed as number 10.
Brainy lizards rival birds in intelligence
(07/13/2011) Reptiles have long been thought to be dim-witted, but a new study in Biology Letters finds that the Puerto Rican anole, a type of lizard, can match birds in smarts. Using cognitive tests that have been previously used on birds, researchers with Duke University found that the lizards were capable of solving a problem they've never encountered before, remembering the solution in future trials, and even changing techniques when presented with new challenges. In fact, the tiny anoles solved the test with fewer tries than birds. Given reptiles' reputation of being slow-on-the uptake the head author, Manuel Leal, said the findings are 'completely unexpected'.
Forgotten species: the rebellious spotted handfish
(07/12/2011) Evolution is a bizarre mistress. In her adaptation workshop she has crafted parrots that don't fly, amphibians with lifelong gills, poison-injecting rodents, and tusked whales. In an evolutionary hodge-podge that is reminiscent of such mythical beasts as chimeras and griffins, she has from time-to-time given some species' attributes of others, such as the marine iguana who is as happy underwater as a seal, the duck-billed platypus that lays eggs like a reptile, and the purple frog that has a lifestyle reminiscent of a mole. Then there's one of her least-known hodge-podges: the fish who 'walks' with hands instead of swimming.
South Sudan's choice: resource curse or wild wonder?
(07/11/2011) After the people of South Sudan have voted overwhelmingly for independence, the work of building a nation begins. Set to become the world's newest country on July 9th of this year, one of many tasks facing the nation's nascent leaders is the conservation of its stunning wildlife. In 2007, following two decades of brutal civil war, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) surveyed South Sudan. What they found surprised everyone: 1.3 million white-eared kob, tiang (or topi) antelope and Mongalla gazelle still roamed the plains, making up the world's second largest migration after the Serengeti. The civil war had not, as expected, largely diminished the Sudan's great wildernesses, which are also inhabited by buffalo, giraffe, lion, bongo, chimpanzee, and some 8,000 elephants. However, with new nationhood comes tough decisions and new pressures. Multi-national companies seeking to exploit the nation's vast natural resources are expected to arrive in South Sudan, tempting them with promises of development and economic growth, promises that have proven uneven at best across Africa.
Newest country boasts one of the world's greatest wildlife spectacles, but protection needed
(07/10/2011) At midnight local time on Friday, South Sudan became the world's newest nation. As celebrations continue in the new capital of Juba and congratulations come from every corner of the globe, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is urging the newborn nation to protect its ecosystems and rich wildlife in order to build a sustainable and forward-looking economy. Home to the world's second largest land migration, South Sudan boasts an abundance of African megafauna that is becoming increasingly rare throughout much of the continent.
Rhino poaching on record pace
(07/08/2011) Nearly 200 rhinos have been killed in South Africa through the first six months of 2011, reports TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Richard Leakey: 'selfish' critics choose wrong fight in Serengeti road
(07/02/2011) The controversial Serengeti road is going ahead, but with conditions. According to the Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige, the road will not be paved and it will be run by the Tanzanian park authority who will have the power to monitor traffic to 'ensure no harm comes to the wildlife population'. Critics argue that even an unpaved road would eventually cripple the largest land migration in the world. However, famed Kenyan conservationist, ex-politician, and anthropologist, Richard Leakey, told mongabay.com that critics of the road are focusing on the wrong fight while failing to respect Tanzania's right to develop. Leakey says that instead of attempting to stop the road from being built, which he believes is inevitable, critics should instead focus on funding a truly wildlife-friendly road.
Unpaved road through Serengeti to progress
(07/02/2011) After a week of confusion, the Tanzanian government has finally clarified its position on the hugely-controversial Serengeti road. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige, confirmed that a paved highway will not be built through the northern Serengeti National Park, however the government is still planning to construct a gravel road through the park. Yet critics have long warned that even an unpaved road would open Pandora's box: eventually commercial and population pressure would push the road to be paved, widened, and fenced leading to a collapse of the world's largest remaining-and most famous-land migration. Two million wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson's gazelle pass along this route in annual migration from Tanzania to Kenya.
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