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News articles on asia
Mongabay.com news articles on asia in blog format. Updated regularly.
When is a forest a forest? How definitions affect monitoring
(01/29/2015) What exactly is a forest? With forest definitions differing from country to country, and primary forests, secondary forests, and even tree plantations all perceived collectively as "tree cover" by satellite data, how does one accurately keep tabs on land changes?
China tries out logging ban in northeastern province
(01/28/2015) China's Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia to its north and east, contains 18.5 million hectares of state forest - more natural forest than any other province in the country. However, since the mid-twentieth century, Heilongjiang has had over 600 million cubic meters of timber extracted from its woodlands. Now, China is trying out a complete ban on commercial logging in the province's state-owned forests.
China’s recent forest tenure reforms threaten panda habitat
(01/27/2015) Since the 1950s, plantations and second-growth forests in China have been locally managed by village communities as collective forests, which today account for 58 percent of China's forestland. Many of these collective forests lie within mountainous rural areas, some of which are also home to the 1,600 or so wild giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) that survive today.
Rogue cop missing from jail
(01/27/2015) An Indonesian police official busted for illegal logging in West Papua has been missing from jail for nearly a year after being granted permission to seek medication treatment, reports the The Jakarta Post.
Company run Sarawak governor has amassed $1.4B in state infrastructure contracts
(01/27/2015) Cahya Mata Sarawak, a publicly-listed infrastructure company run by relatives of Sarawak's former chief minister and current governor, has received over $1.4 billion in state contracts over the past 20 years, alleges an investigative report released by the Bruno Manser Fund.
155 Chinese nationals arrested for illegal logging in Myanmar
(01/27/2015) 155 Chinese citizens have been arrested in Myanmar for illegal logging, reports Agence France-Presse.
Half of Borneo's mammals could lose a third of their habitat by 2080
(01/22/2015) Borneo consistently makes the list of the world’s “biodiversity hotspots” – areas full of a wide variety of forms of life found nowhere else, but which are also under threat. To better understand the hazards, a study published today in the journal Current Biology examines the effects of climate change and deforestation in the coming decades on mammals living on the island.
Palm oil giant launches online platform to support zero deforestation push
(01/22/2015) Wilmar, the world's largest palm oil company, has unveiled a tool it says will help eliminate deforestation from its global supply chain. The tool is an online dashboard that maps the company's supply chain, including the names of locations of its refineries and supplier mills.
Sundarbans still reeling from effects of December oil spill
(01/21/2015) Last month, an estimated 350,000 liters of fuel oil spilled into the Sundarbans delta on the Bay of Bengal. An oil tanker that had collided with a cargo vessel on December 9th sank into the Shela River, spilling its oil into a protected sanctuary for the rare and endangered Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) and the Ganges river dolphins (Platanista gangetica).
Video: clouded leopards and elephants grace drowned forest in Thailand
(01/21/2015) Camera trap video from Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Thailand has revealed an impressive array of wildlife, including scent-marking clouded leopards and a whole herd of Asian elephant. The camera traps were set by HabitatID, an organization devoted to using remote camera traps to prove to government officials that wildlife still flourishes in forgotten places.
India's tiger population up by more than 500 animals in four years
(01/20/2015) The tiger is in major trouble. In 1900, the global population was over 100,000 animals; today, it is on the precipice of extinction, hovering around just 3,000. In response, tiger range countries have pledged to double to the population by 2022. But there has been little evidence of success until now: India has announced that its tiger population has jumped a remarkable 29 percent in the last four years.
Indonesia's moratorium not enough to achieve emissions reduction target
(01/20/2015) When Indonesia's former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared a moratorium in May 2012 on the issuance of new permits for logging in primary forests and on peat lands, it was widely hailed as an important, albeit far too limited, step in clamping down on the country's levels of deforestation.
High deforestation rates in Malaysian states hit by flooding
(01/19/2015) Five states hard hit by flooding last month in Malaysia had high rates of forest loss in recent years, bolstering assertions that environmental degradation may have worsened the disaster. According to satellite data from researchers led by the University of Maryland's Matt Hansen and displayed on Global Forest Watch, the states of Johor, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, and Terengganu each lost more than 10 percent of their forest cover between 2001 and 2012. Loss was greatest in areas with dense tree cover.
Facing legacy of deforestation and corruption, Sarawak may cease granting new logging concessions
(01/18/2015) Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem says his government may stop granting new logging concessions, reports Malaysian state media.
Mother and cub: researchers photograph rare cat with cub in Sumatra
(01/13/2015) Researchers working in Kerinci Seblat National Park have captured a remarkable image of a mother Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) carrying her young in her mouth. The image was taken in mid-2014 as reported by Mongabay Indonesia by the Sumatran Tiger Research Team.
Will Indonesia's REDD+ Agency be dissolved?
(01/13/2015) Indonesia's cabinet-level agency tasked with reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (BP REDD+), may be dissolved after only one year in operation. The head of the newly merged Ministries of the Environment and Forestry has indicated she intends to absorb the group into her agency—stripping BP REDD+ of its ability to operate independently.
Indonesia to weaken peatlands protection to support plantations
(01/08/2015) The Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry has announced it will further hobble its peatlands protection law to allow plantations to continue operating on a business as usual basis.
New bat species has fangs you won't believe
(01/08/2015) What big teeth you have, my dear! The better to eat insects with—and make one's own ecological niche. Scientists have uncovered a new bat with stupendous canines in the rainforests of Lao PDR and Vietnam, aptly naming it Hypsugo dolichodon, or the long-toothed pipistrelle.
Half of Indonesia's deforestation occurs outside concession areas
(01/06/2015) Roughly half of Indonesia's natural forest loss occurs outside officially designated concession areas, concludes a new assessment that also finds higher deforestation rates in places with worse forest governance scores. The report, released last month by Forest Watch Indonesia, is based on analysis of satellite data spanning the archipelago. Unlike assessments by the Ministry of Forestry, the data includes areas outside the 'forest estate'.
Featured video: new documentary highlights 'Sumatra Burning'
(01/05/2015) A new half-hour documentary investigate the impact of the palm oil industry in Indonesia, including burning forests and peatlands as well as haze spreading across Indonesian borders. Entitled Sumatra Burning, the documentary explores palm oil production on the island of Sumatra, which is experiencing some of the highest deforestation rates on the planet.
Monkey sleep, monkey do: how primates choose their trees
(12/31/2014) Primates don't monkey around when deciding where to spend the night, but primatologists have had a poor grasp on what drives certain monkeys toward specific trees. Now, two extensive studies of Indonesian primates suggest that factors in selecting trees each evening are site-specific and different for each species—and that some overnight spots result in conflicts between monkeys and humans.
Activists call out 'one of the worst actors in pulp and paper'
(12/30/2014) The owner of the only mill in Indonesia equipped to produce dissolving pulp, Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL), is being held out as emblematic of the risks the industry’s massive recent growth pose to endangered forests.
Endangered mussel still harvested for food in Laos
(12/29/2014) Only one freshwater pearl mussel species is known to inhabit tropical water systems. However, despite being listed as Endangered by the IUCN, it is also still a part of the diet of villagers in Northern Laos. A study published recently found that the dwindling populations of the bivalve would benefit from a ban on their capture.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014
(12/29/2014) In what was widely seen as a possible breakthrough in the battle to coordinate some kind of response to global warming, China and the U.S. announced joint actions this year. On November 12th, the world's two most powerful countries surprised pretty much everyone by announcing that they would work together to tackle the crisis.
Indonesia's silent wildlife killer: hunting
(12/26/2014) By and large, Indonesia is a peaceful country. In fact, on the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s list of homicide rates, Indonesia ranks number 10, making Indonesians one of the least murderous people on Earth. A ban on gun ownership probably helps, although obviously there are many other ways to snuff out another person. Maybe Indonesia’s general tendency to avoid conflict helps, too. Whatever the reason why Indonesians are relatively unlikely to kill each other, such favors are not extended to Indonesia’s non-human wildlife. The relative safety of Indonesia’s people does not guarantee similar security for its animals.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014
(12/23/2014) In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.
Child labor and palm oil in Indonesia
(12/23/2014) Meet Bimo Kencana Arief. At 13 years old, this Indonesian middle school student is not spending his afternoons doing homework, helping around the house, or getting into trouble with the neighborhood children. Instead, Bimo is working up a sweat, hauling heavy oil palm fruits from the trees to a waiting truck. If he moves quickly, he can help his father earn up to $2 between 3:00 pm and dark.
Palm oil facilitates large-scale illegal logging in Indonesia
(12/16/2014) Development of oil palm plantations is providing cover for large-scale illegal logging in Indonesian Borneo, driving destruction of some of the island's most biodiverse forests and undermining efforts to reform the country's forestry sector, alleges a new report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Children 'clean' oil spill with kitchen utensils in the Sundarbans
(12/15/2014) On December 9th, a tanker slammed into another vessel along the Shela River in the world's largest mangrove forest: the Sundarbans in Bangladesh. The tanker sank, spilling an estimated 75,000 gallons (350,000 liters) of fuel oil into waterways that are a part of a reserve for threatened Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins.
10 years following tsunami, Aceh aims to create its own, new, and totally preventable disaster
(12/11/2014) In the run-up to the tenth anniversary of the devastating 2004 tsunami, that claimed the lives of around 200,000 of Aceh’s people, there is much concern that Aceh seems now to be deliberately steering itself towards yet another, entirely avoidable disaster. One that will harm yet more people and cause even more long-term economic damage to the province.
Indonesia sets reference level for cutting deforestation
(12/05/2014) The Indonesian government has established reference levels for measuring reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest and peatland degradation, reports Antara.
Tradeoff: Sabah banks on palm oil to boost forest protection
(12/05/2014) Last month Sabah set aside an additional 203,000 hectares of protected forest reserves, boosting the Malaysian state's extent of protected areas to 21 percent of its land mass. But instead of accolades, Sabah forestry leaders were criticized for how they went about securing those reserves: allowing thousands of hectares of deforested land within an officially designated forestry area to be converted for oil palm plantations
Old fishermen document declining range of the Indus River dolphin
(12/03/2014) The Indus River dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) is an endangered freshwater mammal found only in the Indus River and tributaries draining the Himalayas. Since 1879, the dolphin—locally known as the bhulan—has vanished from 80 percent of its range. Now, a study using interviews with dozens of elders in the Pakistani fishing communities along the river documents when dolphins disappeared from different river sections.
Is captive breeding the final resort for the Sumatran rhino?
(12/03/2014) Nearing extinction, the Sumatran rhino is running out of options. A native of Indonesia and Malaysia, the Sumatran rhino has declined in the past 30 years from an estimated 800 individuals to no more than 75 remaining today. So far there have been three ad hoc meetings held in 1984, 1993, and 2013, each attempting to develop policies that would potentially save this critical species.
Indonesia to audit licenses of palm oil companies that clear peatlands
(11/30/2014) New Indonesian president Joko Widodo has ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to review licenses for companies that have converted peatlands for oil palm plantations, reports Antara. Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, announced the move after a visit last week to Sungai Tohor, a community in Riau that has been particularly affected by peatlands degradation and haze caused by fires set for land clearing.
Former Malaysian chief: legal logging also 'destructive' of forests
(11/29/2014) Former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is calling for limits on legal logging in the Southeast Asian nation.
APP boosting timber productivity to support zero deforestation policy
(11/26/2014) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) appears to have enough plantation fiber to operate existing mills as well as supply a new mill under construction in South Sumatra without having to pulp natural forests, argues a new report that also finds the forestry giant is successfully improving yields to support its zero deforestation commitment.
New blood record: 1,020 rhinos killed in South Africa
(11/24/2014) South Africa has surpassed last year's grisly record for slaughtered rhinos—1,004—more than a month before the year ends. In an announcement on November 20th, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs said that 1,020 rhinos had been killed to date.
Sarawak chief calls state's logging industry 'corrupt'
(11/24/2014) In a surprising statement, Sarawak's new chief minister called the state's logging sector 'corrupt'.
Indonesia's anti-corruption agency questions former Minster of Forestry
(11/21/2014) Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) questioned the former Minister of Forestry about his role in altering zoning to facilitate oil palm expansion into public lands. The case centers around Riau Governor Annas Maamun, who allegedly accepted bribes to convert an area's status from 'production forest' into 'non-forested land'.
Conflict-fueled deforestation, poaching in Assam continue despite truce
(11/19/2014) Northeastern India boasts nearly 44 percent of the country’s dense forests, and contains one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. However, the region lost approximately 548,440 hectares of tree cover—more than 3 percent—from 2001 through 2012. Sonitpur, Assam, has been particularly hard hit as people flooded into the area and cleared forest.
Shifting the way the world shops (commentary)
(11/17/2014) If you are what you eat, then just as true, you are what you buy. From organic, fair-trade, responsible palm oil, Wildlife Friendly, and most recently deforestation-free, consumers can cast their lot with a variety of eco-friendly labels and define who they are by what they buy. It gives someone in New York City the chance to contribute to forest protection in Indonesia by using their wallets to influence the sustainability of the supply chain that serves them with goods.
One man plants forest larger than Central Park
(11/13/2014) Jadav “Molai” Payeng resides in northeast Assam’s Jorhat district in the village of Aruna Chapori. Here, for the past 35 years, he has worked to plant trees on a sandbar island in the river near his home—and in the process, single-handedly established a forest larger than New York City’s Central Park.
Only place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans coexist is under threat
(11/12/2014) A forest that is the only place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans coexist is under threat from planned infrastructure, mining, logging, and plantation projects, warns a new report from the Rainforest Action Network. The report looks at one of the last vestiges of wilderness on the island of Sumatra, which for the past three decades has been heavily ravaged by logging, fires, and conversion to industrial timber and oil palm plantations. This area, known as the Leuser Ecosystem, is today a battleground between business-as-usual interests seeking to mine its forests and a collection of conservationists, local communities, and a collection of companies seeking to steward its resources.
Will merging competing ministries help save Indonesia's forests?
(11/10/2014) Newly elected Indonesian president Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo announced on October 26th that the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment would be combined and that Siti Nurbaya would become Forests and Environment Minister. The move was part of Jokowi’s appointment of 34 cabinet level positions, ranging from Foreign Minister to Religious Affairs Minister.
Human infections by 'monkey malaria' increasing as forests disappear
(11/10/2014) 68% of malaria hospitalizations in Malaysia last year were caused by a once-rare strain of the disease traditionally limited to macaque monkeys. However, as deforestation has put humans and wild animals in closer proximity, Plasmodium knowlesi infections and deaths have increased rapidly. The strain is now responsible for three times the severe malaria infections in Malaysian Borneo than P. falciparum—the world's deadliest form of the parasite.
Flying under the radar in Central Africa, Chinese companies may be wreaking environmental havoc
(11/07/2014) Tchimpounga, chimpanzees, and extractive industries in the Republic of Congo. 'Tchimpounga is not just a sanctuary,' shouted Rebeca Atencia above the din of the outboard motor, as she pointed to our progress up the Kouilou River on her tablet, donated by Google, which included access to high-resolution satellite maps. The GPS tracking showed us as a small, blue diamond moving slowly up the murky river.
Another mining company found operating in flagrant violation of Indonesian law
(11/06/2014) A Harita group mining company in West Kalimantan, Indonesia has been operating well outside of its permit boundary, reports local NGO, Forest Monitoring Volunteers of Borneo (RPHK). Their investigation found that PT. Karya Utama Tambang Jaya, is operating illegally on 78 hectares of land. The company holds permits to mine bauxite (aluminum ore) on 8,878 hectares.
Perched on the precipice: India's vultures threatened by E.U. sale of killer drug
(11/05/2014) Poisoned by cattle carcasses treated with Diclofenac, India’s vultures died by the millions in the 1990s. A captive breeding program is helping to save the once-ubiquitous birds, but the very drug that drove India’s vultures to the precipice of extinction has been given a green light in Italy and Spain.
Book detailing corruption allegations against Malaysian ruler moves forward
(11/05/2014) A book alleging massive corruption by Sarawak's long-time ruler, Abdul Taib bin Mahmud, is being released despite apparent legal threats against the book's publisher and author.
'Too many people': Philippine island being deforested despite extensive protections
(10/31/2014) About an hour and a half plane ride from the Philippine capital Manila is Palawan, a long, narrow island home to about a quarter of all the animal species found in the country. But the province is losing its forests at a rapid clip due to human population increases, logging, quarrying, mining, and even a huge palm plantation.
Pet trade likely responsible for killer salamander fungus
(10/30/2014) As if amphibians weren't facing enough—a killer fungal disease, habitat destruction, pollution, and global warming—now scientists say that a second fungal disease could spell disaster for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of species. A new paper finds that this disease has the potential to wipe out salamanders and newts across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Americas.
Dissolving pulp: a growing threat to global forests
(10/30/2014) Dissolving pulp is not just a threat to the forests of Indonesia. It is a growing industry across the globe, and it’s putting several of the world’s endangered forests in jeopardy.
APP acknowledges historic land-grabbing in China, pledges reform
(10/30/2014) While Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) has made considerable progress on addressing social and environmental problems associated with its operations in Indonesia, the forestry giant still has much to do to rectify historic social grievances in China, says a report published by Landesa and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
Tigers vs. diamonds: India’s protected areas rampantly downgraded to make room for people, industry
(10/29/2014) In India’s central state of Madhya Pradesh lie 500 square kilometers (200 square miles) of protected land demarcated as the Panna Tiger Reserve. Recently, however, its protection status has been questioned, and global-scale analyses show Panna is far from alone among India’s many threatened Protected Areas.
How protected are they? Report finds world's Protected Areas may relax, shrink, even completely disappear
(10/28/2014) On March 1, 1872, the United States Congress declared 3,400 square miles of land spanning three states as the country’s - and the world’s - first national park. We call it Yellowstone. Today, there are over 160,000 PAs spanning 12.7 percent of the planet’s land surface.
Artists, musicians, writers protest government plans for massive coal plant in the Sundarbans
(10/28/2014) Over the weekend, Bangladeshi artists performed plays, sang songs, and recited poetry all in a bid to protect the Sundarbans—the world's biggest mangrove forest—from the threat of a massive coal plant. Construction is already under way on the hugely controversial Rampal coal plant, a 1,320 megawatt plant set just 14 kilometers from the edge of the Sundarbans.
Demand for rhino horn drops 38 percent in Vietnam after advertising campaigns
(10/22/2014) A new poll finds that consumer demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has dropped precipitously following several advertising campaigns. According to the poll by the Humane Society International (HIS) and Vietnam CITES, demand has plunged 38 percent since last year.
Coal, climate and orangutans – Indonesia’s quandary
(10/21/2014) What do the climate and orangutans have in common? They are both threatened by coal - the first by burning it, and the second by mining it. At the recent United Nations Climate Summit in New York, world leaders and multinational corporations pledged a variety of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation to avert a looming disaster caused by global warming.
Saving Asia's other endangered cats (photos)
(10/21/2014) It's no secret that when it comes to the wild cats of Asia—and, really, cats in general—tigers get all the press. In fact, tigers—down to an estimated 3,200 individuals—arguably dominate conservation across Asia. But as magnificent, grand, and endangered as the tigers are, there are a number of other felines in the region that are much less studied—and may be just as imperiled.
Indonesia developing mega coal mine five times larger than Singapore
(10/20/2014) Global miner BHP Billiton and Indonesian partner PT Adaro are developing what could become the single largest mine in Indonesia in terms of land area, with BHP owning 75 percent. The IndoMet mine complex in Central and East Kalimantan provinces on Borneo comprises seven coal concessions, which cover 350,000 hectares, or about five times the size of Singapore.
Walking the walk: zoo kicks off campaign for orangutans and sustainable palm oil
(10/20/2014) If you see people wearing orange this October, it might not be for Halloween, but for orangutans. Chester Zoo’s conservation campaign, Go Orange for Orangutans, kicks off this month for its second year. The campaign aims to raise money, and awareness, for orangutans in Borneo, which have become hugely impacted by deforestation often linked to palm oil plantations.
Indonesia’s tough choice: capping coal as Asian demand grows
(10/17/2014) Indonesia cannot build power stations fast enough. And neither can most of its Asian neighbors. Rapid economic and population growth are driving equally rapid demands for electricity as the region builds out power grids to connect up millions of people to fuel prosperity.
To become less damaging, target non-forest lands for palm oil, says book
(10/16/2014) Palm oil production has been spectacularly profitable but ecologically disastrous across Southeast Asia, consuming millions of hectares of indigenous lands, rainforests, and peatlands in recent decades. That paradox has made the crop highly controversial despite its importance in providing a high-yielding source of vegetable oil. A new book, published freely online by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), weighs in on the debate and concludes — like many before it — that the problem is not the crop itself, but how it is produced.
Indonesia tries to clamp down on coal sector’s worst excesses
(10/16/2014) Out of the jungles of East Borneo in Indonesia comes the fire that fuels Asia’s burgeoning economies: coal. Miners dig deep open pits, clearing forests and farmlands to extract coal from thick black seams, which is then crushed and loaded onto trucks and barges for shipment to China, India, Japan and other destinations in Asia.
Scientists find temperate bat in the hot tropics of the Western Ghats (photos)
(10/15/2014) The Western Ghats is one of the world’s eight richest biodiversity hotspots. A UNESCO World Heritage site, and also known as the Great Escarpment of India, the Ghats run parallel to India’s west coast. This great ecosystem is home to over 139 mammal species, nearly 50 of which are bats. And now scientists can add a new bat to this list: one that until now had only been documented from temperate regions.
India plans huge palm oil expansion, puts forests at risk
(10/14/2014) The world's largest importer of palm oil, India is seeking to slake its thirst domestically. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that India has the potential to cultivate oil palm in 1.03 million hectares of land--nearly the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut--and produce four to five million metric tons of palm oil per year.
Plantation companies in Sumatra failing to meet fire prevention standards
(10/14/2014) An inter-agency audit of 17 plantation and timber concessions in Riau Province, Indonesia, found that every company is failing to meet fire prevention and control standards. In addition, several companies are working in prohibited areas, including peatlands with depths over 3 meters.
New species named after the struggle for same-sex marriage
(10/13/2014) Scientists have named new species after celebrities, fictional characters, and even the corporations that threaten a species' very existence, but a new snail may be the first to be named after a global human rights movement: the on-going struggle for same-sex marriage. Scientists have named the new Taiwanese land snail, Aegista diversifamilia, meaning diverse human families.
Next big idea in forest conservation? Empower youth leaders
(10/09/2014) Want to save forests? Don't forget the youth, says Pedro Walpole, the Chair and Director of Research for the Environmental Science for Social Change, a Jesuit environmental research organization promoting sustainability and social justice across the Asia Pacific region. 'Youth leadership in environmental management is key,' Walpole told mongabay.com.
Helping orangutans survive: new project aims to connect habitat fragments in Kalimantan (PART II)
(10/08/2014) Two decades ago, a project to convert one million hectares of forest to rice paddies was undertaken by the Indonesian government in southern Kalimantan. The project was a massive failure and was eventually abandoned, but not before it destroyed critical orangutan habitat. Now a new project is trying to knit together what's left and turn the area's isolated orangutan populations into one of Borneo's largest.
Marooned in shrinking forests, Bornean orangutans hang on as disaster looms (PART I)
(10/07/2014) The great apes are among some of the most endangered species on Earth, the targets of poachers and the victims of deforestation. However, from time-to-time there comes news of hope. A study published recently describes the dire situation faced by Bornean orangutans, as well as an ambitious project to help save them.
Report rates palm oil companies on sustainability commitments
(10/05/2014) A new report published Forest Heroes, an advocacy campaign pushing for an end to deforestation, ranks global palm oil companies on their sustainability commitments. The Green Tigers, authored by Glen Hurowitz, reviews the recent history of environmental policies in the palm oil sector, beginning with the formation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004 through the wave of comprehensive zero deforestation commitments in 2013-2014.
Companies hire local communities to evade palm oil restrictions in Indonesia
(10/04/2014) As more palm oil companies are held accountable for deforestation in Indonesia, a growing number are hiring local communities to do their dirty work. According to the Oil Palm Farmers Union (SPKS), companies promise to buy mature fruits at attractive rates from smallholders and local villages who agree to clear and plant in protected forest areas. Through these agreements, companies distance themselves from the process, leaving the locals to bear responsibility for the destruction.
Will 'Asia's unicorn' survive? Hunting and deforestation continue in Vietnam biosphere reserve PART II
(10/02/2014) Encompassing 1.3 million hectares, Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve the largest such reserve in all of Southeast Asia. Because of the biological importance of the region, it was designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2007. But deforestation and bushmeat hunting continue, begging the question: is the wildlife of Western Nghe An Biosphere Reserve truly protected?
Officials bust one of the biggest players in illegal Indonesian manta ray trade
(10/01/2014) Writing this from a hotel room in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, I realize that I am filled with trepidation as I wait for the phone next to me to ring. When it does, the voice on the other end will tell me it’s go time; the culmination of many years of work towards ending the global trade in manta ray gills.
High Court denies appeal by palm oil company that cleared protected peat forest
(09/30/2014) Furthering Indonesia's renewed commitment to environmental justice, the High Court of Banda Aceh denied an appeal by PT. Kallista Alam, the oil palm company found guilty of destroying over 1,000 hectares of protected peat forest in Gunung Leuser ecosystem. The Court upheld the previous ruling, which fined the company 366 billion rupiah ($30 million) in penalties and restoration fees.
The largest biosphere reserve in Southeast Asia: Vietnam’s success story or a conservation failure? PART I
(09/30/2014) In 2010, poachers shot and killed the last Javan rhino in Vietnam, wiping out an entire subspecies. The Sumatran rhino, the Malayan tapir and the civet otter, too, have disappeared from the country. Moreover, charismatic species like tigers, elephants, gibbons and the secretive saola discovered recently in Vietnam’s forests are at risk of extinction in the coming decades as threats to wildlife continue unabated in the country.
Studying common birds could help save rare species in Vietnam
(09/30/2014) Studies in conservation biology often focus on rare, threatened species faced with impending extinction, but what about common animals of least concern? Could they too help conservationists fine-tune their approach? Doctoral researcher Laurel Yohe not only claims that they can, but demonstrates how in a new study. She and five other researchers compared ranges of five babblers with development across Vietnam.
Armed conflict decimates tigers, rhinos, and swamp deer in Indian park
(09/30/2014) The human cost of war is horrendous. However, while most attention is focused on the suffering caused to people—and rightly so—an understudied element is the impact on wildlife conservation. This is worrying given that many of the world’s conflict zones are situated in biodiversity hotspots.
A weed by any other name: remnant shrubs and trees play vital role in regenerating forests
(09/29/2014) Tropical forest restoration projects are exciting research sites for scientists studying factors that affect ecosystem recovery. Here, scientists are trying to understand plant community succession, i.e. the process of recovery after cleared lands are abandoned and allowed to regrow naturally. One of the most important components of this recovery process is seed dispersal, since seeds from nearby forests allow a deforested habitat to become populated again by native plants and trees.
Did the world's only venomous primate evolve to mimic the cobra?
(09/29/2014) The bite of a slow loris can be painful, and sometimes even lethal. After all, this cute-looking YouTube sensation is the only known 'venomous' primate in the world—a trait that might have strangely evolved to mimic spectacled cobras, according to a recent paper. Mimicry in mammals is rare. But anecdotal evidence and studies in the past have noted the uncanny cobra-like defensive postures, sounds, and gait in slow lorises.
Coal mine has heavy impact in Indonesian Borneo
(09/26/2014) Baharuddin should be happy. The rambutan and durian trees flanking his home are heavy with fruit. Two hectares of chilies stretch before his house. The price of chili — a staple commodity in Indonesia — has been stable for six months. From his 2,000 plants he hopes to earn 40 million rupiah ($3,400), much of which he wants to invest in expanding his crop. That is, if his farm can survive the threats that have destroyed so many of his neighbor's.
Chinese now emit more carbon per capita than Europeans
(09/22/2014) Last year, the people of China emitted more carbon per person than those in the EU, according this year's Global Carbon Budget. The report, updated annually, also found that global emissions jumped 2.5 percent last year and are set to hit a record high of 40 billion tonnes this year. The findings highlight how little global society has done to stem emissions, despite numerous pledges and past global agreements.
After 12 years, Indonesia finally ratifies transboundary haze agreement
(09/19/2014) Indonesia ended 12 years of stalling this week, becoming the last ASEAN nation to ratify an agreement on transboundary haze. As smoke from more than 1,200 fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan pushed air pollution in neighboring Singapore to 'unhealthy' levels, the Indonesian House of Representatives ratified the 2002 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP).
Is there hope for the vaquita? IUCN calls for action to save world's smallest, rarest porpoise
(09/19/2014) Since the baiji was declared extinct in the early aughts, the vaquita has taken its unenviable position as the world’s most threatened cetacean. The tiny porpoise currently numbers around 100, with accidental entanglement in gillnets primarily responsible for its decline. In response, the IUCN recently issued a statement calling for immediate action to curb vaquita bycatch and head off its extinction – which otherwise may lie just around the corner.
Legislation protecting Indonesia's indigenous communities is not good enough, says advocacy group
(09/18/2014) Approaching final legalization, an advocacy group for Indonesia’s indigenous communities has asked to postpone passing a bill granting protections to indigenous people, stating some demands still need to be addressed.
'We will win this war': Yeb Saño speaks out on global warming
(09/17/2014) Ahead of the upcoming Climate Change Summit to be held in New York, September 23, a Filipino man who last year made headlines around the world on the subject is speaking out.
Activists urge outgoing Indonesian president to protect key forest area before he steps down
(09/17/2014) Activists have launched an urgent appeal calling upon outgoing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to step up protection of the only ecosystem that houses Sumatran orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers.
Malayan tiger population plunges to just 250-340 individuals
(09/16/2014) Malaysia is on the edge of losing its tigers, and the world is one step nearer to losing another tiger subspecies: the Malayan tiger. Camera trap surveys from 2010-2013 have estimated that only 250-340 Malayan tigers remain, potentially a halving of the previous estimate of 500 individuals.
From 'production' forests to protected forests, groups work to save Sumatran orangutan habitat. But will it be enough?
(09/16/2014) The orangutan is native exclusively to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra — two regions that have seen the brunt of Indonesia's recent forest destruction due primarily to logging and plantation development. Although there are anywhere from 45,000 to 69,000 Bornean orangutans remaining in the wild, the Sumatran species numbers only about 7,300 according to a 2004 survey, and is dwindling further every year.
Indonesia's secret treasures: islands passed over by loggers, hunters and conservationists
(09/14/2014) As our boat sailed towards the forest-clad island, I had no idea what surprise awaited me. A few months ago I was asked to conduct a wildlife survey on a rarely visited island somewhere in Indonesia. For reasons explained below I will not disclose its name. Suffice to say it is one of the thousands of Indonesian islands without people on it. In terms of the wildlife I saw, the absence of people really showed.
Domestic conservation: Indonesia’s rich should step up to save nation’s dwindling natural resources
(09/13/2014) Indonesia’s middle and upper classes are becoming increasingly interested and supportive of environmental conservation. Still, they have some way to go to become real leaders and trendsetters on this important issue.
Meet the newest enemy to India's wildlife
(09/11/2014) A boom in infrastructure and population has forced India's wildlife to eke out a creative existence in an increasingly human-modified environment. Big cats such as the leopard are often spotted within large cities, on railway tracks, and sadly, on India's burgeoning and sprawling road network.
Elephants pay the price for palm oil in Malaysian Borneo, impact may reach far beyond reported kills
(09/10/2014) More than a dozen elephant kills were reported in Sabah in 2013 alone, but it is unknown exactly how many have lost their lives in recent years as palm plantations encroach further and further into the rainforest. What is clear is that if the loss of their forest habitat continues to drive conflicts with humans at the rate it is now, Borneo elephants’ long-term survival may be in jeopardy.
Companies at risk of sourcing illegal palm oil despite zero deforestation commitments, finds investigation
(09/05/2014) Major palm oil suppliers may be continuing to buy tainted palm oil despite high-profile commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, reports a new investigation published by Eyes on the Forest.
APP can meet projected pulp demand without clearing more forest
(09/05/2014) Indonesian forestry giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) won't need to clear additional forests to meet pulp requirements for current and forecast mill expansion, finds an independent assessment conducted by The Forest Trust (TFT) and Ata Marie.
Where should the roads go? New map offers a solution to the 'Pandora's Box of environmental problems'
(08/27/2014) Roads make it possible to bring goods to market, to get to the office, to log a forest, to hunt its wildlife. Without roads, human society as we know it could not exist. However, to build roads, trees must be cleared and swamps drained, shrinking valuable wildlife habitat and fragmenting populations in the process. A new study unveils an innovative map that defines which areas of the world would be best used to build roads – and which should be left alone.
Scientists honor missing activist by naming a spider after him
(08/25/2014) Swiss researchers have honored the memory of a missing indigenous peoples activist by naming an undescribed species of spider after him, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, the group he founded.
Scientists name new endangered species after the company that will decide its fate
(08/24/2014) Scientists have discovered a new snail species near a cement quarry in Malaysia, which as far as they know lives nowhere else in the world. It lives on a limestone hill called Kanthan given as a concession to an international company Lafarge. The cement producer quarries the hill for raw materials. As a result, the scientists have named the species after the company that will decide if it goes extinct.
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