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News articles on animals

Mongabay.com news articles on animals in blog format. Updated regularly.









Forgotten species: the subterranean Gekko gigante

(04/08/2010) Travelers to tropical destinations are likely familiar with the gecko. Clinging to walls and ceilings of buildings—sometimes staring down at you from the bedroom ceiling or glancing at you quizzically from the bathroom door—the small adhesive-footed lizard could be aptly described in some tropical areas as ubiquitous. Despite the apparent commonness of some species, geckos are delightful lizards with round wide eyes, a thick gripping tongue, and of course that amazing knack of seemingly defying gravity with specialized toe pads. But not all geckos are as easily found—or as common—as those hanging out, literally, in a jungle lodge. The Gekko gigante, also known as the Gigante narrow-disked gecko, has been little- noticed by the public. Even scientists know little about the lovely gray-and-blue gecko beyond the fact that it lays its eggs on cool moist cave walls in two Philippine Islands.


Unilever backtracks: may purchase palm oil from Sinar Mas

(04/07/2010) The world's biggest buyer of palm oil, Unilever, says it will again purchase palm oil from PT SMART, a subsidiary of Indonesian company Sinar Mas, if allegations about deforestation and peatland destruction prove untrue, or if Sinar Mas shows it is addressing the issue. Last December, the food and cosmetic giant, Unilever, suspended its $32.6 million contract with Sinar Mas after an independent audit—spurred by a 2008 Greenpeace report—showed that the Indonesian company was involved in the illegal destruction of rainforests and peatlands. Yet the company now seems to be signaling that the contract is back on the table even as it touts its sustainability efforts to the public.


Photo: Fruit-eating dragon discovered in the Philippines

(04/07/2010) Scientists have discovered a new species of giant lizard in the unlikeliest of places: a highly populated, deforested landscape in the Philippines.


New blind snake discovery

(04/06/2010) Call them survivors: blindsnakes have been identified as one of the few groups of organisms that inhabited Madagascar when it broke from the Indian subcontinent around 100 million years ago. According to a new study in Biology Letters, blindsnakes not only survived the split of Madagascar and India, but likely traveled from Asia to Australia and Africa to South America on floating vegetation, the latter a journey that may have taken six months of drifting on ocean currents. "Blindsnakes are not very pretty, are rarely noticed, and are often mistaken for earthworms," says Blair Hedges of her subjects. "Nonetheless, they tell a very interesting evolutionary story."


New report finds millions of marine turtles killed by fisheries, not thousands

(04/06/2010) Humankind's appetite for seafood has had a bigger impact on the world's marine turtles than long thought. A new report by Conservation International (CI) in partnership with Duke University’s Project GloBAL (Global By-catch Assessment of Long-lived Species) finds that in the past eighteen years it is likely millions of marine turtles have been killed as bycatch by the world's fisheries.


Once common tortoise from Madagascar will be 'extinct in 20 years'

(04/05/2010) The radiated tortoise, once common throughout Madagascar, faces extinction within the next 20 years due to poaching for its meat and the illegal pet trade, according to biologists with the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Returning from field surveys in southern Madagascar's spiny forest, they found regions without a single turtle. Locals said that armed bands of poachers were taking truckloads of tortoises to be sold in meat markets. The tortoise is also popular in the underground pet trade, although it is protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).


History repeats itself: the path to extinction is still paved with greed and waste

(04/05/2010) As a child I read about the near-extinction of the American bison. Once the dominant species on America's Great Plains, I remember books illustrating how train-travelers would set their guns on open windows and shoot down bison by the hundreds as the locomotive sped through what was left of the wild west. The American bison plunged from an estimated 30 million to a few hundred at the opening of the 20th century. When I read about the bison's demise I remember thinking, with the characteristic superiority of a child, how such a thing could never happen today, that society has, in a word, 'progressed'. Grown-up now, the world has made me wiser: last month the international organization CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) struck down a ban on the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna. The story of the Atlantic bluefin tuna is a long and mostly irrational one—that is if one looks at the Atlantic bluefin from a scientific, ecologic, moral, or common-sense perspective.


Seed dispersal in the face of climate change, an interview with Arndt Hampe

(04/05/2010) Without seed dispersal plants could not survive. Seed dispersal, i.e. birds spreading seeds or wind carrying seeds, means the mechanism by which a seed is moved from its parent tree to a new area; if fortunate the seed will sprout in its new resting place, produce a plant which will eventually seed, and the process will begin anew. But in the face of vast human changes—including deforestation, urbanization, agriculture, and pasture lands, as well as the rising specter of climate change, researchers wonder how plants will survive, let alone thrive, in the future?


Sumatran rhino loses pregnancy: conservationists saddened but remain resolute

(03/31/2010) Rhino conservationists' hopes were dampened today by news that Ratu, a female Sumatran rhino, had lost her pregnancy. Just months after the announcement of the pregnancy—the first at Indonesia’s Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park—Ratu lost the embryo. Still, say conservationists, the very fact that Ratu became pregnant at all should keep hope alive for the beleaguered species.


First-ever photo of rare and spectacular hummingbird from Colombia

(03/31/2010) A conservationist has taken the first-ever photos of a living Santa Marta Sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus) in the El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, reports ProAves, a bird conservation group.


Rockhopper penguins benefit from new park in Argentina

(03/31/2010) Southern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) are easily distinguished by the spiked plumes on their head, their neon-yellow eyebrows, and red eyes. But these wild-looking penguins are also endangered: the IUCN Red List classifies them as Vulnerable to extinction due to pollution and drowning by fishing nets.


When it comes to Yellow Fever, conserving howler monkeys saves lives

(03/29/2010) Abundant and diverse wildlife help people in many ways: for example bees pollinate plants, birds and mammals disperse seeds, bats control pest populations, and both plants and animals have produced life-saving medicines and technological advances. But how could howler monkeys save people from a Yellow Fever outbreak? A new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science explores the link between howler monkeys, mosquitoes, and humans during a recent yellow fever outbreak in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.


Diverse habitats needed for survival of small mammals in Mexico

(03/29/2010) A new study in Tropical Conservation Science shows that small tropical mammals in Mexico—bats and rodents—require a variety of habitats to thrive. Surveying mammal populations in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, researchers found that sites comprising the greatest habitat diversity carried also the greatest diversity of rodents. In turn bats lived in all variety of habitats and moved easily from one to another.


More research and conservation efforts needed to save Colombia's monkeys

(03/29/2010) Approximately thirty monkey species inhabit the tropical forests of Colombia with at least five found no-where else in the world. A new review appearing the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science of Colombia's primates finds that a number of these species, including some greatly endangered species, have been neglected by scientists. The researchers looked at over 3,500 studies covering over a century of research by primatologists.


Finding forest for the endangered golden-headed lion tamarin

(03/29/2010) Brazil's golden-headed lion tamarin is a small primate with a black body and a bright mane of gold and orange. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) survives in only a single protected reserve in the largely degraded Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Otherwise its habitat lies in unprotected patches and fragments threatened by urbanization and agricultural expansion. Currently, a natural gas pipeline is being built through prime tamarin habitat.


Wildlife Management Areas in Africa require changes to become sustainable

(03/29/2010) Wildlife Management Areas in Africa were created to serve a dual purpose. By granting local communities usage rights over wildlife in designated areas, African countries hoped both to allow communities to benefit from their wildlife while taking an active part in conservation. A new paper in published in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science outlines the current problems facing WMAs, using Tanzania as an example, and recommends possible solutions.


Just how bad is meat-eating for the environment?

(03/28/2010) Meat is booming. In the past thirty years, livestock production has increased threefold. In many parts of the world where incomes are expanding, meat, once a delicacy, is now eaten regularly and voraciously. But what are the environmental impacts of this 'livestock revolution'? Two recent studies look at the global impact of the livestock industry, one alleges that its environmental impacts in relation to greenhouse gas emissions has been overestimated, while the other takes a holistic view of the industry's environmental impact.


Guerrillas could drive gorillas toward extinction in Congo, warns UN

(03/25/2010) Gorillas may disappear across much of the Congo Basin by the mid 2020s unless action is taken to protect against poaching and habitat destruction, warns a new report issued by United Nations and INTERPOL.


Photo: Camouflage expert discovered in Cambodia

(03/25/2010) Researchers have discovered a cryptic species of gecko in the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia, reports Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a conservation group that operates in the region.


Half of Indonesia's mangroves gone in less than thirty years

(03/23/2010) The Jakarta Post reports that, according to the local NGO People’s Coalition for Justice in Fisheries (Kiara), Indonesia's has lost 2.2 million hectares of mangroves in less than thirty years, going from covering 4.2 million hectares in 1982 to just 2 million hectares today.


CITES chooses 'commerce' over sharks, leaving endangered species vulnerable

(03/23/2010) Only the porbeagle shark received protection today from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Seven other shark species failed to win international protection despite plummeting populations due to overfishing. Once again, Japan led the opposition to regulating the trade in white-tipped sharks and scalloped hammerheads, including two look-alike species: the great hammerhead and the smooth hammerhead. Japan has dominated the CITES meeting, successfully leading resistance to banning the trade in the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna and against monitoring the coral trade.


Nestle fiasco continues: Indonesian oil palm planters threaten boycott too

(03/23/2010) Candy and food giant Nestle is finding itself between a rock and a hard place. The online campaign against Nestle continues: today protesters once again posted thousands of negative messages on the company's Facebook page, most demanding that Nestle cut out palm oil linked to deforestation from its products. At the same time, a new problem has cropped up for Nestle: Indonesian oil palm planters are threatening to boycott Nestle products. Proving that the issues surrounding oil palm and deforestation are nothing if not complex: Facebook protestors say they will boycott Nestle if it doesn't cut out all links to Sinar Mas, a company that Greenpeace has linked to deforestation, whereas the Indonesia Palm Oil Growers Association are preparing a boycott if Nestle stops buying from Sinar Mas, according to the Jakarta Post.


Rise in poaching pushes CITES to vote 'no' to ivory sales

(03/22/2010) The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has pleased conservationists with its decision to not allow the one-off sales of ivory from government stockpiles in Tanzania and Zambia given the recent rise in elephants poaching in Africa.


Scientists discover world's first amphibious insects: Hawaiian caterpillars

(03/22/2010) Scientists have never before discovered a truly amphibious insect until now: writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers have announced the discovery of 12 species of Hyposmocoma moths in the Hawaiian islands which they consider truly amphibious—that is a species able to survive both on land and underwater indefinitely.


CITES rejects monitoring of coral trade

(03/21/2010) After denying protection to polar bears, sharks, and the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has today voted against additional protections for harvested coral species, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group. The joint US and EU measure would have put in place scientific and trade monitoring of over thirty species of red and pink coral in the Mediterranean and western Pacific.


The Asian Animal Crisis

(03/18/2010) The United Nation declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). One of the goals of the IYB is to celebrate the achievements of the Convention of Biological Diversity signed by 192 countries since 1992. But what have we accomplished since 1992? Did we put an end to biodiversity loss? The truth is that there is not much to celebrate at all. Asia is a perfect example where the animal crisis and the loss of biodiversity have worsened over decades. The first question that should come to mind is: how many species have vanished in Asia because of human activities? Records of recently extinct species in Asia show 71 species that have disappeared in the wild. Examples include the Yunnan lake newt (Cynops wolterstorffi) from China, the Bonin thrush (Zoothera terrestris) from Japan, or the redtailed black shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) from Thailand.


Critically Endangered bluefin tuna receives no reprieve from CITES

(03/18/2010) A proposal to totally ban the trade in the Critically Endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna failed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), surprising many who saw positive signs leading up to the meeting of a successful ban.


High Arctic species plummeting across the board, others Arctic residents on the rise

(03/18/2010) Between 1970 and 2004 species populations in the high Arctic have declined by 26 percent, according to the first report by the Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI). While this may be a natural cycle, scientists are concerned that environmental impacts such as climate change are worsening natural population fluctuations in the high Arctic. Declining species include lemmings, red knot, and caribou. "Rapid changes to the Arctic’s ecosystems will have consequences for the Arctic that will be felt globally. The Arctic is host to abundant and diverse wildlife populations, many of which migrate annually from all regions of the globe. This region acts as a critical component in the Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological regulatory system," lead-author Louise McRae from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said in a press release.


Sharks lose out at UN meeting

(03/17/2010) An effort to bolster conservation measures for plummeting shark populations was defeated yesterday at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), according to the AP. The nonbinding measure would have increased transparency in the shark trade and produced research on illegal fishing for sharks.


Forgotten Species: the marooned pygmy three-toed sloth

(03/16/2010) Many people consider tropical islands mini-paradises: sanctuaries cut-off from the rest of the world. Some species flourish on islands for the same reason. With few predators and a largely consistent environment, once a species has comfortably adapted to its habitat there's little to do but thrive. That is until something changes: like humans showing up. Changes in confined island ecosystems often have large and rapid impacts, too fast and too big for marooned species to survive.


Video: no sunlight, no food, frozen conditions, but NASA finds complex life

(03/16/2010) In a discovery at the bottom of the world that could have implications on the search for extraterrestrial life, researchers were astounded to find an amphipod swimming beneath a massive Antarctic ice sheet.


Falklands Dispute: Argentine Sovereignty Won’t Solve the Problem

(03/15/2010) With Britain now moving to explore for oil and gas in the Falkland Islands, Argentina has cried foul. Buenos Aires claims that the Falklands, or the Malvinas as Argentines refer to the islands, represent a "colonial enclave" in the south Atlantic. The islands have been a British possession since 1833, and the local inhabitants consider themselves thoroughly British. Yet, Argentina claims the Malvinas as the country inherited them from the Spanish crown in the early 1800s. In 1982 Argentina seized the islands but was later expelled by a British naval force. The war was short but bloody, costing 650 Argentine and 250 British lives.


US Congressman pushes for bird-friendly buildings

(03/11/2010) Birds may see pleasanter skies in the US soon, if Congressman Mike Quigley has his way. Quigley, a democrat from Illinois, has introduced legislation that would require all federal buildings to become bird-friendly, potentially saving the lives of millions of birds every year.


Sharks swim safe around the Maldives

(03/11/2010) Sharks that dwell in the Maldives can breathe a sigh of relief: the island nation has declared 90,000 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean a safe-haven for sharks, banning shark fishing as well as any trade in shark fins.


Secrets of the Amazon: giant anacondas and floating forests, an interview with Paul Rosolie

(03/10/2010) At twenty-two Paul Rosolie has seen more adventure than many of us will in our lifetime. First visiting the Amazon at eighteen, Rosolie has explored strange jungle ecosystems, caught anaconda and black caiman bare-handed, joined indigenous hunting expeditions, led volunteer expeditions, and hand-raised a baby giant anteater. "Rainforests were my childhood obsession," Rosolie told Mongabay.com. "For as long as I can remember, going to the Amazon had been my dream […] In those first ten minutes [of visiting], cowering under the bellowing calls of howler monkeys, I saw trails of leaf cutter ants under impossibly large, vine-tangled trees; a flock of scarlet macaws crossed the sky like a brilliant flying rainbow. I saw a place where nature was in its full; it is the most amazing place on earth."


Orangutans use calls for a variety of reasons

(03/10/2010) Mature male orangutans produce what scientists call 'long calls', which can be heard for one kilometer in all directions even in dense forests. New research in Ethology has uncovered that these calls are employed for a number of reasons and provide information about who is calling and why.


Extinction outpaces evolution

(03/09/2010) Extinctions are currently outpacing the capacity for new species to evolve, according to Simon Stuart, chair of the Species Survival Commission for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Flash flood sweeps away elephant research camp in Kenya

(03/08/2010) A research camp with environmental organization Save the Elephants (STE) in Samburu National Reserve in Kenya fell victim to a flash flood last week, after the Ewaso Ng’iro River broke its banks. Fortunately, none of the researchers or employees were hurt, but the camp lost most of the equipment—including tents, food, computers, and collars—and data in the flood.


Frog in Australia goes from 'extinct' to very, very endangered

(03/08/2010) Facing habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and the devastating chytrid fungus, there has been little positive news about amphibians recently. However, a story out of Australia brings a much needed respite from bad news. In 2008 Luke Pearce, a fisheries conservation officer, stumbled on a frog that had been thought to be extinct for over thirty years. Not recorded since the 1970s, Pearce rediscovered the yellow-spotted bell frog (Litoria castanea) on rural Australian farmland in the Southern Tableland of New South Wales.


Why seed dispersers matter, an interview with Pierre-Michel Forget, chair of the FSD International Symposium

(03/07/2010) There are few areas of research in tropical biology more exciting and more important than seed dispersal. Seed dispersal—the process by which seeds are spread from parent trees to new sprouting ground—underpins the ecology of forests worldwide. In temperate forests, seeds are often spread by wind and water, though sometimes by animals such as squirrels and birds. But in the tropics the emphasis is far heavier on the latter, as Dr. Pierre-Michel Forget explains to mongabay.com. "[In rainforests] a majority of plants, trees, lianas, epiphytes, and herbs, are dispersed by fruit-eating animals. […] As seed size varies from tiny seeds less than one millimetres to several centimetres in length or diameter, then, a variety of animals is required to disperse such a continuum and variety of seed size, the smaller being transported by ants and dung beetles, the larger swallowed by cassowary, tapir and elephant, for instance."


Octopus pretends to be flounder to avoid predators

(03/04/2010) Marine researchers have discovered the Atlantic longarm octopus mimicking not only the color and appearance of the peacock flounder, but also its unique style of swimming in order to convince predators it's something it's not.


Photos: Madagascar's wonderful and wild frogs, an interview with Sahonagasy

(03/03/2010) To save Madagascar's embattled and beautiful amphibians, scientists are turning to the web. A new site built by herpetologists, Sahonagasy, is dedicated to gathering and providing information about Madagascar's unique amphibians in a bid to save them from the growing threat of extinction. "The past 20 years have seen resources wasted because of a poor coordination of efforts," explains Miguel Vences, herpetologist and professor at the Technical University of Braunschweig. "Many surveys and reports have been produced that were never published, many tourists found and photographed amphibians but these photos were not made available to mapping projects, many studies carried out by Malagasy students did not make use of literature because it was not available."


National parks in India and Nepal hit by rhino poachers

(03/02/2010) The rare Indian rhinoceros is not safe from poachers even in national parks. In Nepal's world renowned Royal Chitwan National Park, twenty-four Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) have been poached since the last census was taken in 2008. The most recent one was killed last Thursday. Approximately 372 Indian rhinos survive in the park, and the population is in decline.


Afghanistan protects 15 additional endangered species

(03/02/2010) Afghanistan's National Environment Protection Agency (NEP) has added 15 species to its Protected Species List, totaling 48 species now under protection. The new species includes the large-billed reed warbler, which was only recently discovered in the Central Asian nation. Fortunately, by law newly discovered species in Afghanistan receive automatic legal protection.


Prehistoric snake gobbled-up dinosaur babies

(03/02/2010) A fossilized snake has been discovered inside a titanosaur nest in India, leading researchers to conclude that the snake fed on newly-hatched dinosaur babies, rather than their eggs like modern snakes. Paleontologist and snake expert Jason Head says that the snake, known as Sanajeh indicus, lacked the wipe-jaws needed to swallow eggs, but just-hatched baby titanosaurs would have been perfect prey for the 3.5 meter (nearly 12 feet) long serpent. Titanosaurs belong to the sauropods, long-necked herbivorous dinosaurs which includes the world's largest animals to ever walk the land.


Common pesticide changes male frogs into females, likely devastating populations

(03/01/2010) One of the world's most popular pesticides, atrazine, chemically castrates male frogs and in some instances changes them into completely functionally females, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors conclude that atrazine likely plays a large, but unsuspected role in the current global amphibian crisis.


Polar bears are newcomers on the world stage

(03/01/2010) One of the most well-known animals, the polar bear, is a newcomer on the world stage, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. By studying the DNA of an ancient polar bear jawbone uncovered in 2004 in Norway scientists have for the first time pinpointed the time when the polar bear split from its closest relative, the brown bear. "Our results confirm that the polar bear is an evolutionarily young species that split off from brown bears some 150,000 years ago and evolved extremely rapidly during the late Pleistocene, perhaps adapting to the opening of new habitats and food sources in response to climate changes just before the last interglacial period."


Why we are failing orangutans

(03/01/2010) It is no secret that orangutans are threatened with extinction because their rain forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Ten years ago, Shawn Thompson, a writer, former journalist and university professor, set out to chronicle the threat to orangutans in a book released in March 2010. The book is called The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and the Secret Life of a Vanishing Species. The book spends most of the time talking about the nature of orangutans and the relationships between orangutans and people. But the ultimate underlying message is there about the source of the peril to orangutans and the solution. Thompson says that the problem of saving orangutans has to do with communications and human nature.


Guyana bans gold mining in the 'Land of the Giants'

(03/01/2010) Guyana has banned gold dredging in the Rewa Head region of the South American country after pressure from Amerindian communities in the area. A recent expedition to Rewa Head turned up unspoiled wilderness and mind-boggling biodiversity. The researchers, in just six weeks, stumbled on the world's largest snake (anaconda), spider (the aptly named goliath bird-eating spider), armadillo (the giant armadillo), anteater (the giant anteater), and otter (the giant otter), leading them to dub the area 'the Land of the Giants'. "During our brief survey we had encounters with wildlife that tropical biologists can spend years in the field waiting for. On a single day we had two tapirs paddle alongside our boat, we were swooped on by a crested eagle and then later charged by a group of giant otters."


How that cork in your wine bottle helps forests and biodiversity, an interview with Patrick Spencer

(03/01/2010) Next time you’re in the supermarket looking to buy a nice bottle of wine: think cork. Although it’s not widely known, the cork industry is helping to sustain one of the world’s most biodiverse forests, including a number of endangered species such as the Iberian lynx and the Barbary deer. Spreading across 6.6 million acres in southern Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy) and northern Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) oak cork trees Quercus suber are actually preserved and protected by the industry.



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