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









Surprising habitat: camera traps reveal high levels of mammal diversity in oil palm plantations

(07/21/2014) After more than four and a half years of camera trap footage, the results are encouraging: 36 mammal species, of which more than half are legally protected, are prospering in this most surprising of spots: an oil palm plantation in the province of East Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo.


Germany tops energy efficiency rating while U.S. remains stuck near the bottom

(07/21/2014) Two years after the first energy efficiency ranking report put out by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and the U.S. still lags widely behind most of the world's other large economies. In the second report, the U.S. came in at number 13 out of 16 nations—even beaten by new-comer to the report, India—while Germany took the top spot.


What is peat swamp, and why should I care?

(07/20/2014) Long considered an unproductive hindrance to growth and development, peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia have been systematically cleared, drained and burned away to make room plantations and construction. Now, as alternating cycles of fires and flood create larger development problems, while greenhouse gas emissions skyrocket, it is time to take a closer look at peat, and understand why clearing it is a very bad idea.


30% of Borneo's rainforests destroyed since 1973

(07/16/2014) More than 30 percent of Borneo's rainforests have been destroyed over the past forty years due to fires, industrial logging, and the spread of plantations, finds a new study that provides the most comprehensive analysis of the island's forest cover to date. The research, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that just over a quarter of Borneo's lowland forests remain intact.


Only 15 percent of world's biodiversity hotspots left intact

(07/14/2014) The world's 35 biodiversity hotspots—which harbor 75 percent of the planet's endangered land vertebrates—are in more trouble than expected, according to a sobering new analysis of remaining primary vegetation. In all less than 15 percent of natural intact vegetation is left in the these hotspots, which include well-known jewels such as Madagascar, the tropical Andes, and Sundaland.


Downturn in shade-grown coffee putting forests, wildlife, people at risk

(07/11/2014) Growing coffee in the shade of forests allows native vegetation to persist, thereby reducing the impact of agriculture on the natural landscape. While production of shade-grown coffee surged in recent decades, it is now experiencing a decline. A recent study analyzed the situation, finding that the growth of consumer demand and changes in coffee agronomy has caused coffee production and management to change drastically.


APP won't acquire companies that continue to destroy forests

(07/08/2014) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) will not acquire companies that continue to destroy forests, according to a new procedure for association introduced by the Indonesian forestry giant. The procedure, developed after months of consultations with NGOs, effectively closes a loophole some environmentalists feared would allow APP to sidestep its zero deforestation commitment by acquiring companies that continued to clear forest after its February 5, 2013 deadline.


Booming populations, rising economies, threatened biodiversity: the tropics will never be the same

(07/07/2014) For those living either north or south of the tropics, images of this green ring around the Earth's equator often include verdant rainforests, exotic animals, and unchanging weather; but they may also be of entrenched poverty, unstable governments, and appalling environmental destruction. A massive new report, The State of the Tropics, however, finds that the truth is far more complicated.


Price of ivory triples in China

(07/07/2014) In the last four years the price of ivory in China has tripled, according to new research from Save the Elephants. The news has worrying implications for governments and conservationists struggling to save elephants in Africa amidst a poaching epidemic, which has seen tens-of-thousands of elephants butchered for their tusks across the continent annually


APP: Indonesia needs a new business model

(07/04/2014) In response to news that Indonesia has now surpassed Brazil as the world's top deforester, the head of sustainability at one of Indonesia's biggest forestry companies is calling for a new business model in how the Southeast Asian nation manages its forest. In a letter published Friday, Aida Greenbury, Asia Pulp & Paper's Managing Director Sustainability, said Indonesia needs to take a more comprehensive approach to tackling deforestation.


Do Indonesians really want more big plantations?

(07/04/2014) How to best use Indonesia’s land resources? This is one of the more crucial questions facing the Presidential candidates in Indonesia’s upcoming elections.


No restrictions: Japan's demand for illegal wood driving rampant deforestation in Siberia

(07/03/2014) Illegal logging is taking a huge toll on forests around the world. In response, many countries have banned the import of timber whose legal harvest cannot be verified. However, Japan has made no strides to reduce its import of illegal timber. Instead, it is knowingly importing mass quantities of wood sourced from vulnerable forests in Siberia, according to a recent report.


Next big idea in forest conservation? The 'double-edged sword' of democracy

(07/03/2014) Dr. Douglas Sheil considers himself an ecologist, but his research includes both conservation and management of tropical forests. Currently teaching at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) Sheil has authored and co-authored over 200 publications including scholarly articles, books, and popular articles on the subject.


Horror movie bugs: new wasp species builds nest with the bodies of dead ants

(07/02/2014) If ants made horror movies this is probably what it would look like: mounds of murdered ants sealed up in a cell. The villain of the piece—at least from the perspective of the ants—is a new species of spider wasp, which scientists have aptly dubbed the bone-house wasp (Deuteragenia ossarium) in a paper released today in PLOS ONE.


Bigfoot found? Nope, 'sasquatch hairs' come from cows, raccoons, and humans

(07/01/2014) Subjecting 30 hairs purportedly from bigfoot, the yeti, and other mystery apes has revealed a menagerie of sources, but none of them giant primates (unless you count humans). Using DNA testing, the scientists undertook the most rigorous and wide-ranging examination yet of evidence of these cryptic—perhaps mythical—apes, according to a new study in the Proceedings of Royal Society B.


On the brink of extinction: Javan rhino has new enemy in invasive palm

(07/01/2014) The last of Indonesia's critically endangered Javan rhinoceroses have survived poachers, rapid deforestation and life in the shadow of one of the archipelago's most active volcanoes. But an invasive plant is now posing a new threat to the world's rarest species of rhino.


Malaysian citizens want govt to spend more to save native rainforests

(06/30/2014) As developing countries reach upper middle income (UMI) status, their populations are willing to pay increasing amounts toward tropical forest conservation, yet government spending on these programs lags far behind, concludes a study available today in the PNAS Online Early Edition.


Despite moratorium, Indonesia now has world's highest deforestation rate

(06/29/2014) Despite a high-level pledge to combat deforestation and a nationwide moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions, deforestation has continued to rise in Indonesia, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change. Annual forest loss in the southeast Asian nation is now the highest in the world, exceeding even Brazil.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Playing games to understand what drives deforestation

(06/26/2014) Dr. Claude Garcia plays games, but you won’t find him betting his shirt at the casino. As leader of the Forest Management and Development Research Group at ETH Zürich, Garcia and his team use participatory modeling and role-playing games, merged with more traditional disciplinary sciences such as ecology, economics, and sociology to understand and manage complex landscape change in the tropics.


Despite early headwinds, Indonesia's biggest REDD+ project moves forward in Borneo

(06/26/2014) Just over a year ago, the Indonesian government officially approved the country's first REDD+ forest carbon conservation project: Rimba Raya, which aims to protect more than 64,000 hectares of peat forest in Central Kalimantan. The approval came after years of delays from the Ministry of Forestry and a substantial reduction in the project's concession area. But InfiniteEarth, the firm behind the project, pressed on. Now a year later, Rimba Raya's is not only still in business, but is scaling up its operations.


Logging in Vietnam still affecting rare trees 30 years later

(06/25/2014) Restricted geographic ranges, high habitat specificity, and small local population sizes all contribute to the natural rarity of many tree species. Anthropogenic activities such as selective logging can compound this rarity by modifying habitats and altering the competitive balance among tree species. According to a new study, previous logging in the forests of Vietnam continue to put rare tree species at risk.


Is the banteng making a comeback? Researchers find new population in Cambodia

(06/23/2014) Researchers have discovered a new population of banteng, a species of wild cattle, in northwestern Cambodia. The discovery was announced June 4, 2014 by Fauna and Flora International (FFI), and efforts are underway to implement conservation initiatives to protect the area and its newfound banteng, which are listed as Endangered by the IUCN.


Wilmar to investigate palm oil company allegedly destroying orangutan forest

(06/23/2014) A Wilmar supplier is allegedly destroying orangutan habitat in Indonesian Borneo, potentially putting it in breach of the plantation giant's zero deforestation policy, reports Greenomics. According to analysis of satellite data by Greenomics, PT Sumatera Jaya Agro Lestari (SJAL) has cleared an area of forest that is classified as orangutan habitat.


Monkeys reset camera trap, capture first-ever images of flat-headed cats in park

(06/23/2014) Photo trapping is a popular technique for gathering images and information about elusive wildlife. Recently, camera traps captured the first-ever images of wild flat-headed cats in the Pasoh Forest Reserve, an unexpected find in the forestland southeast of Kuala Lumpur, according to a new report in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.


Broken promises no more? Signs Sabah may finally uphold commitment on wildlife corridors

(06/23/2014) Five years ago an unlikely meeting was held in the Malaysian state of Sabah to discuss how to save wildlife amid worsening forest fragmentation. Although the meeting brought together longtime adversaries—conservationists and the palm oil industry—it appeared at the time to build new relationships and even point toward a way forward for Sabah's embattled forests.


The palm oil diet: study finds displaced orangutans have little else to eat

(06/20/2014) In a recent study, researchers assessed how orangutans have adapted to living among oil palm plantations on Borneo. They found that while orangutans have adapted to the island’s human-transformed landscapes better than expected, oil palm plantations are unable to sustain orangutan populations in the long-term.


Apeidemiology: researchers model ape disease transmission for the first time

(06/20/2014) In a nine-year-long study published recently in PLOS ONE, a team of researchers attempted to understand how diseases spread and differ among orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), creating the first-ever epidemiological model for great ape populations.


Scientists discover carnivorous water rat in Indonesia, good example of convergent evolution

(06/19/2014) Researchers have discovered a new carnivorous water rat on the island of Sulawesi that's so unique it represents an entirely new genus. They believe many more new rodent species await discovery in this relatively undisturbed part of Indonesia, but mining and other types of development may threaten vital habitat before it’s even surveyed.


Chinese fishermen get the ultimate phone video: a swimming tiger

(06/19/2014) Two Chinese fishermen got the catch of their lives...on mobile phone this week. While fishing in the Ussuri River, which acts as a border between Russia and China, the fishermen were approached by a swimming Siberian tiger. These tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are down to around 350-500 animals.


Indonesian logger: cleared peat forest doesn't have high conservation value

(06/17/2014) An Indonesian logging company says that clearing of peat forest on an island off Sumatra is 'in line with its Sustainable Forest Management Policy' because the area wasn't found to be of high conservation value. In a letter responding to concerns raised by environmental groups, Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) said its forest policy applies to all its concessions, including the Pulau Padang concession where Greenpeace documented deep peat clearance last month.


Researchers discover new species of wolf snake in Cambodia, name it after an Australian zoo

(06/16/2014) A new species of wolf snake has been discovered in the Cardamom Mountains of southeast Cambodia.


Despite green pledge, Wilmar partner continues to destroy forest for palm oil

(06/12/2014) Two palm oil companies partially owned by Wilmar are continuing to destroy rainforests in Indonesia despite a high profile zero deforestation pledge, alleges a new report published by Greenomics.


Despite poaching, Indian rhino population jumps by 27 percent in eight years

(06/10/2014) The world's stronghold for Indian rhinos—the state of Assam—has seen its population leap by 27 percent since 2006, despite a worsening epidemic of poaching that has also seen 156 rhinos killed during the same period. According to a new white paper, the population of Indian rhinos in Assam hit 2,544 this year.


Bears, cats, and mystery mammals: camera traps in 'paper park' prove its worth protecting

(06/09/2014) Can a single photograph change the fate of a park? A new conservation group, HabitatID, believes so, and is putting this belief into action. Setting up camera traps in Cambodia's Virachey National Park, the group hopes that photos of charismatic and endangered species will help reinvigorate protection for a park that has been abandoned by conservation groups and underfunded by the government.


Another year of fires, another year of inaction

(06/06/2014) With a 70% chance of an El Niño this year, Indonesia could soon be facing the ire of its nearest neighbors yet again as the dry season approaches with the ever present threat of vegetation fires.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Work locally, relentlessly, and, if necessary, ignore the government

(06/05/2014) In 1997, Gabriella Fredriksson, then a young PhD student, was studying sun bears in East Kalamantan, Indonesia, when massive forest fires broke out in the park. 'It quickly became clear that there was no government agency, NGO, or private company in the area interested in assisting putting out these fires, which were threatening to burn down the entire reserve,' Fredriksson told mongabay.com.


Colorful bird on remote Indonesian islands should be classified as distinct species, say scientists

(06/04/2014) A colorful bird found on the Wakatobi islands south of Sulawesi in Indonesia is sufficiently distinct from birds in nearby areas to be classified as a unique species, argue scientists writing in the current issue of the open-access journal PLoS ONE.


Newly discovered snails at risk of extinction

(06/03/2014) A team of Dutch and Malaysian scientists has recently completed one part of a taxonomic revision of Plectostoma, a genus of tiny land snails in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, according to their article published recently in ZooKeys, it seems that these animals may be going extinct as fast as they are being discovered.


Logger continues to destroy Indonesian rainforest despite green promises (Photos)

(06/03/2014) Indonesian logging giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) is continuing to destroy endangered rainforests on Sumatra despite a high profile commitment to clean up its operations, reveal aerial photos captured by Greenpeace last month.


Facebook, Twitter to carry 24 hours of live rainforest animal sightings on Monday

(05/29/2014) Next week, the rainforests of Southeast Asia are going live. On June 2nd, 11 organizations in the region will be posting lives video, photos, and wildlife sightings over 24 hours on Facebook and Twitter (see #rainforestlive). Dubbed Rainforest: Live, the initiative hopes to raise awareness of quickly vanishing ecosystems and species.


Indonesia's haze from forest fires kills 110,000 people per year

(05/28/2014) Haze caused by burning peat forests in Indonesia kills an average of 110,000 people per year and up to 300,000 during el Niño events, while releasing hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, warns a new report from Greenpeace. Sumatra: Going up in smoke argues that peatland and forest protection are the best way to protect the region from the effects of haze.


Brunei to limit agricultural land use to 1 percent

(05/25/2014) The tiny, but densely forested country of Brunei Darussalam says it will limit agricultural conversion to one percent of its land mass, preserving much of the rest for biodiversity and other services afforded by healthy forest ecosystems.


Indonesia's forests increasingly empty of wildlife

(05/25/2014) Tropical rainforests are the most species-rich ecosystems in the world. Each square kilometer has hundreds of tree species, birds and mammals, and countless other creatures. The idea that these forests could be devoid of animal life therefore seems ludicrous. Still the disappearance of birds, mammals and other species is what is happening in Indonesian forests. The 'empty forest' syndrome is becoming an increasing reality in this country.


Indonesian activist: strong company commitments, media push government on forest issues

(05/23/2014) Indonesia has become notorious for its high rate of forest loss, but there are nascent signs of progress. The central government has implemented a moratorium across some 14.5 million hectares of forest and peatlands, while a handful of Indonesian companies have adopted policies that establish social and environmental safeguards.


WWF accuses APRIL of breaking sustainability commitment by logging rainforest in Borneo

(05/23/2014) Environmental group WWF has accused Singapore-based pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) of breaking its recent conservation commitment by destroying rainforest in Indonesian Borneo. APRIL has denied the charges.


Zero-deforestation commitments pose acute challenges for commercial giants in the palm oil industry

(05/22/2014) The path to zero-deforestation appears to be paved with good intentions, but how successful are these companies in staying on that path? A controversial proposal to construct a refinery in the wildlife-rich Balikpapan Bay in Indonesian Borneo highlights the challenges faced by both palm oil companies and conservationists in the face of zero-deforestation commitments.


Timber concessions in Sumatra have high conservation value, according to report

(05/21/2014) Five industrial plantation forest concessions that supply timber to PT Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) in South Sumatra – locally known as HTI concessions – are areas of high conservation value inhabited by endangered Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and other endemic wildlife, according to a report issued at the end of March.


Chinese officials seize nearly a thousand dead pangolins

(05/20/2014) In one of the biggest pangolin trafficking cases yet recorded in China, officials confiscated 956 animals stuffed into 189 coolers this month. The dead pangolins were being carried overland in a truck, with the total haul weighing four tonnes. The traffickers were caught at the border of Guangdong Province. If convicted, they face up to ten years in jail.


Chinese poachers caught with 555 marine turtles, most dead (PHOTOS)

(05/15/2014) On Friday, eleven Chinese fishermen were caught by Filipino police with 555 marine turtles, 378 of which were dead. Officials in the Philippines have since released the 177 living turtles. But the incident has sparked an international standoff between the Philippines and China as the Chinese nationals were arrested in disputed waters in the South China Sea.


NASA data: 1997 all over again for Indonesia?

(05/14/2014) The latest data from NASA shows that conditions developing in the tropical Pacific are eerily similar to those in 1997, when El Niño wreaked havoc across Indonesia, spurring a severe drought that exacerbated massive peatland and forest fires which spread choking haze across much of South and Southeast Asia.



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