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









New relative of the 'penis snake' discovered in Myanmar

(04/17/2014) Scientists have discovered a new species of limbless amphibians, known as caecilians, in Myanmar. Dubbing the species, the colorful ichthyophis (Ichthyophis multicolor), the researchers describe the new amphibian in a recent paper published in Zootaxa. The world's most famous caecilian is the so-called penis snake (Atretochoana eiselti) which was rediscovered in Brazil in 2011.


Malaysia at risk of falling behind in push for more sustainable palm oil

(04/17/2014) The Malaysian state should play a more active role in supporting the transition toward less environmentally destructive palm oil production, says a coalition of Malaysian NGO's. In a statement issued Sunday, the Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC) urged Malaysian banks, palm oil associations, and other government-backed institutions to commit to 'improving social and environmental standards in the palm oil industry'.


Malaysia imperils forest reserves and sea turtle nesting ground for industrial site (photos)

(04/15/2014) Plans for an industrial site threaten one of Malaysia's only marine turtle nesting beaches and a forest home to rare trees and mammals, according to local activists. Recently, the state government of Perak approved two industrial project inside Tanjung Hantu Permanent Forest Reserve. But activists say these will not only cut into the reserve, but also scare away nesting turtles from Pasir Panjang.


Forests in Indonesia's concession areas being rapidly destroyed

(04/10/2014) Forest clearing within areas zoned for timber, logging, oil palm, and mining accounted for nearly 45 percent of deforestation in Indonesia between 2000 and 2010, finds a new study that examined forest loss within industrial concessions.


Giant ibis, little dodo, and the kakapo: meet the 100 weirdest and most endangered birds

(04/10/2014) The comic dodo, the stately great auk, the passenger pigeon blotting out the skies: human kind has wiped out nearly 200 species of birds in the last five hundred years. Now, if we don't act soon we'll add many new ones to the list: birds such as the giant ibis, the plains-wanderer, and the crow honeyeater. And these are just a few of the species that appear today on the long-awaited EDGE list.


Indonesian 'legal' timber scheme could be greenwashing illegal products, NGOs warn

(04/07/2014) Flaws in the country’s system to verify legal wood products could have implications for trade with Europe, as new research suggests even certified companies in Indonesia may not be meeting EU standards. Indonesian civil society groups have called on their government to reform its legal timber certification system, pointing to widespread illegal practices among certified companies and an auditing system that is 'almost impossible' for companies to fail.


Bioluminescent bacteria expose toxic arsenic in Bangladesh

(04/02/2014) A knob turns, and pure water streams from the faucet. In developed nations, this expectation borders on being a fundamental human right. Elsewhere in the world, tap water is a pipe dream, while finding potable groundwater can be a full-time occupation laced by lethal threats—such as arsenic contamination.


Kala: the face of tigers in peril

(03/27/2014) In 1864, Walter Campbell was an officer in the British Army, stationed in India when he penned these words in his journal: "Never attack a tiger on foot—if you can help it. There are cases in which you must do so. Then face him like a Briton, and kill him if you can; for if you fail to kill him, he will certainly kill you." In a stroke of good fortune for the tiger, perceptions in India have changed drastically since Campbell's time. Tiger hunting is now banned and conservationists are usually able to rescue the big cats if they become stranded while navigating increasingly human-occupied areas. But is this enough to save the tiger?


Just how bad is the logging crisis in Myanmar? 72 percent of exports illegal

(03/26/2014) Just days before Myanmar, also known as Burma, implements a ban on exporting raw logs, the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA) has released a new report that captures the sheer scale of the country's illegal logging crisis. According to the EIA, new data shows that 72 percent of logs exported from Myanmar between 2000-2013 were illegally harvested.


Deforestation makes Indonesia hotter, reduces quality of life

(03/26/2014) One of the reasons I like living in the tropics is that they are perpetually warm. A pair of shorts and a light shirt will comfortably get you through the day and night in most parts of Indonesia. Still there are the occasional unpleasant extremes. Even the most cold-blooded creature will likely break into a sweat walking for more than a few minutes in the sun filtering through Jakarta’s polluted skies. We consider such heat a normal part of the tropics. But is it really?


Europe approves vet drug that killed off almost all of Asia's vultures

(03/25/2014) When Europeans first arrived in North America, they exterminated three to five billion passenger pigeons (Ectopistes migratorius) in the short span of a century through a combination of habitat destruction and hunting. In 1914, the last living passenger pigeon perished at the Cincinnati Zoo. Despite the staggering scale of this extinction event, three species of vulture from Southeastern Asia retain the dubious distinction of having had the most rapid population crash of any avian fauna. They might not have begun with numbers as large as the passenger pigeon, but within the space of a single decade, their populations were reduced by 96 to 99 percent.


Long lost mammal photographed on camera trap in Vietnam

(03/25/2014) In 1929, two sons of Theodore Roosevelt (Teddy Junior and Kermit) led an expedition that killed a barking deer, or muntjac, in present-day Laos, which has left scientists puzzled for over 80 years. At first scientists believed it to be a distinct species of muntjac and named it Roosevelts' muntjac (Muntiacus rooseveltorum), however that designation was soon cast into doubt with some scientists claiming it was a specimen of an already-known muntjac or a subspecies. The problem was compounded by the fact that the animal simply disappeared in the wild. No one ever documented a living Roosevelts' muntjac again—until now.


Indigenous communities demand forest rights, blame land grabs for failure to curb deforestation

(03/25/2014) Indigenous and forest-dependent peoples from Asia, Africa and Latin America have called for increased recognition of customary land rights in order to curb deforestation and ensure the survival of their communities. The Palangkaraya Declaration on Deforestation and the Rights of Forest Peoples calls on governments to uphold forest peoples’ rights to control and manage their customary lands and to halt rights-violating development projects being carried out without consent from local communities.


General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive announce deforestation-free policies for palm oil sourcing

(03/24/2014) Two consumer products giants have joined the wave of companies committing to deforestation-free palm oil. On Monday General Mills and Colgate-Palmolive both announced palm oil policies that go beyond standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry's main certification body. The policies include provisions to protect wildlife-rich rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands, while respecting the rights of local communities.


Indonesia's orangutan action plan failing to save great red apes

(03/24/2014) In December 2007, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched Indonesia’s Strategy and Action Plan for National Conservation of Orangutans. Quoting the president from his speech, 'this will serve as a blueprint for our efforts to save some of our most exotic but endangered wildlife.' Furthermore, the president said that 'the Orangutan action plan formally endorses Indonesia’s commitment to orangutan conservation as expressed in 2005 when Indonesia signed the Kinshasa Declaration on the Protection of Great Apes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.'


Meet Iman: the Sumatran rhino's newest hope for survival

(03/24/2014) Hopes for one of the world's most imperiled megafauna rose this month when wildlife conservationists succeeded in catching a female Sumatran rhino named Iman in the Malaysian state of Sabah. The female, which experts believe to be fertile, has since been successfully transferred via helicopter to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary where experts plan to mate her with the local male, Tam. Located in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary is an uncompleted semi-wild enclosure and home to one of several last-ditch efforts to save the vanishing species from extinction.


The power of connections: India to establish Asia's largest protected forest

(03/21/2014) India has stepped up forest conservation efforts in recent years, with a major project underway to establish a large swath of uninterrupted habitat through the designation of additional protected areas and expanding those already under protection. If realized, these areas would converge to become Asia’s largest unbroken forest, encompassing approximately 15,000 square kilometers (5,790 square miles) over three states.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Offer health care for forest protection

(03/21/2014) Dr. Kinari Webb has a superpower: the ability to provide high-quality health care in a remote and rural landscape. And she uses her power not only to save lives, but also to protect the remaining Bornean rainforests. Twenty-one years ago, Kinari Webb traveled to Borneo to work with orangutans. She witnessed the faltering health of both the people and the environment and saw that the two issues were inseparable. When families must choose between the health of their children and the health of the forest that supports them, everyone loses. But in the region of Gunung Palung National Park — where an estimated 10 percent of the world's orangutans live — illegal logging and slash and burn farming methods paid the bills and locals saw few alternatives. Kinari vowed to study medicine and return with more to offer.


Community's push to clear forest for plantation challenges efforts to conserve in Indonesia

(03/20/2014) In the swampy peatlands of Basilam Baru in Sumatra's Riau Province a conflict between a community and a woodpulp company is illustrating some of the intractable challenges of conserving forests and addressing deforestation in Indonesia. On first glance the story seems depressingly familiar. One actor wants to preserve the forest, which serves as critical habitat for endangered Sumatran tigers and clouded leopards. The other wants to clear it for a plantation.


Photos: Forests, peatlands, plantations, and deforestation in Riau

(03/19/2014) Indonesia's Riau Province on the island of Sumatra has experienced rapid deforestation since the early 1990's, with primary forest cover plummeting by 85 percent in twenty years. Most of this forest loss has been driven by plantation development for timber, woodpulp, and palm oil production.


APP pledges to restore forests, if given the opportunity

(03/18/2014) Over the past 20 years, Sumatra's lowland rainforests have been destroyed at a virtually unmatched rate and scale. Since 1990, the island's primary forests shrank by 40 percent while its overall forest cover declined by 36 percent, mostly the result of logging, agricultural expansion, and conversion for oil palm and timber plantations. What little forest does survive is often degraded — today less than 8 percent of Sumatra retains primary forest.


Will zero deforestation commitments save Indonesia's forests?

(03/17/2014) Skirting the Malacca Strait near the Indonesian city of Dumai the air is thick with haze from peat fires burning below. As the sky clears, a landscape of sharply-cut geometric shapes becomes apparent. What was once carbon-dense peat forests and rainforests are today massive oil palm and wood pulp plantations.


Indonesian sugar company poised to destroy half of island paradise's forests

(03/14/2014) An Indonesian plantation company may be preparing to destroy up to half of the natural forests on Indonesia's remote Aru Islands, reports Forest Watch Indonesia. Analyzing land use plans for Aru, Forest Watch Indonesia found that local government officials have turned over 480,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) to 28 companies held by PT. Menara Group, a plantation conglomerate. 76 percent of the area is currently natural forest. Converting the area to sugar plantations would cut Aru's forest cover by half, from 730,000 ha to 365,000 ha.


Indonesia's proposed peat law too weak to protect peatlands, stop haze, says Greenpeace

(03/14/2014) A new regulation aiming to protect peatlands is likely to fall short of its goals, failing to stop peat degradation, emissions, and fires that are driving the current haze crisis in Southeast Asia, asserts a new analysis from Greenpeace.


Sumatra on fire: burning spikes in Indonesia

(03/13/2014) Fires in Sumatra's Riau province have spiked to levels unseen since last June, finds new analysis from the World Resources Institute (WRI) that reveals widespread burning within concessions managed by pulpwood, palm oil, and logging companies.


Indonesia politician gets 14 years in jail for illegal permits, forest corruption

(03/13/2014) The former governor of Indonesia’s Riau province has been sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay almost $90,000 in fines for illegally issuing logging permits in Riau and bribes linked to construction projects for sports facilities. On Wednesday, the anti-corruption court in Pekanbaru found former Riau Governor Rusli Zainal guilty of embezzlement relating to the illegal issuance of logging permits in the central Sumatran province, which has seen huge areas of forest lost to palm oil and pulp and paper companies in recent years.


West Sumatra joins Indonesia's REDD+ program

(03/12/2014) West Sumatra has officially joined Indonesia's effort to cut forest loss as a pilot province under the country's REDD+ program.


Photos: Greenpeace stages protest in rainforest destroyed for palm oil

(03/10/2014) On Monday, Greenpeace activists in Indonesia staged a dramatic protest in an area of rainforest freshly cleared for a new oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan. The demonstration came under the group's campaign to push consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to strengthen its palm oil sourcing policy to include a zero deforestation commitment like those signed recently by Nestle, Neste Oil, and Kellogg's, among others.


Islamic clerics issue 'fatwa' against poaching, declare the illegal wildlife trade 'haram'

(03/10/2014) Indonesia’s Islamic clerics drew praise from conservation groups last week after the top clerical body in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country issued a fatwa, or religious decree, against poaching and wildlife trafficking. The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) announced the fatwa on Tuesday, declaring the illegal wildlife trade to be haram, or forbidden under Islamic law. The fatwa forbids Indonesia’s Muslims from “all activities resulting in wildlife extinction” and is meant in part to help support existing national laws protecting endangered species, which are poorly enforced and have done little to prevent poaching.


Peatlands biosphere reserve facing severe encroachment in Sumatra

(03/06/2014) An important reserve that contains a block of fast-dwindling lowland swamp forest in Riau Province is facing an onslaught of encroachment for illegal oil palm plantations, worsening choking haze in the region, reports Mongabay-Indonesia.


Clash with palm oil company leaves one indigenous community member dead in Sumatra

(03/06/2014) A member of the Suku Anak Dalam indigenous community was killed and five others were injured during a clash with security forces on an oil palm concession owned by PT Asiatic Persada in Sumatra, reports Mongabay-Indonesia. The incident occurred Wednesday evening in Bungku, Jambi.


NASA photo reveals ongoing haze problem in Sumatra

(03/01/2014) A new satellite image released by NASA highlights Indonesia's ongoing problem with haze caused by land-clearing fires set across carbon-dense peatlands on the island of Sumatra.


Sarawak's top official accused of violating constitution

(02/27/2014) Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has been accused of violating Sarawak's constitution by engaging in commercial activities while serving as the state's top official over the past thirty plus years, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, an NGO that campaigns on behalf of Sarawak's forest people.


Procter & Gamble's palm oil suppliers linked to deforestation (photos)

(02/26/2014) A year-long investigation by Greenpeace has found companies that supply Procter & Gamble (P&G) (NYSE:PG) with palm oil are engaged in clearing of rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, suggesting that Head & Shoulders shampoo and other consumer products made by the company may be linked to forest destruction.


New forest map for Sarawak reveals large-scale deforestation, encroachment on indigenous territories

(02/24/2014) A new online platform released by the Bruno Manser Fund reveals large-scale destruction of Sarawak's rainforests, peatlands, and traditional lands. Drawing from a variety of sources, the Sarawak Geoportal includes data on logging concessions, oil palm plantations, existing and proposed dams, historical forest cover, the extent of indigenous cultivated areas, election results, and area where there are current native customary rights (NCR) disputes.


If Indonesia can't protect its orangutans, why doesn't it just 'sell' them?

(02/23/2014) It is obvious that at the moment Indonesia neither has the political commitment nor ability to safeguard its dwindling populations of orangutans. Despite its Presidentially supported Action Plan to stabilize all remaining wild populations by 2017, orangutan habitats in Sumatra and Borneo are disappearing as rapidly as ever.


Indonesian cop caught smuggling rare timber worth millions escapes with 2-year sentence

(02/21/2014) Green activists are crying foul after an Indonesian police officer believed to have laundered nearly $128 million in proceeds from illegal fuel and timber smuggling was sentenced to just two years in prison for illegal logging – a verdict described as 'shockingly lenient' and 'unbelievable' given the extent of his alleged crimes


Indonesia pledges to protect manta rays

(02/21/2014) In a move signaling their commitment to CITES agreements on international trade of plants and animals, the Indonesian government declared two species of manta ray 'protected' under Indonesian law. Decree Number 4/KEPMEN-KP/2014 issued by Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries states that two manta ray species, Manta birostris and Manta alfredi, now enjoy full protection throughout their entire life cycle. The decree explicitly extends that protection to all parts of their body.


APP, environmentalists talk future of Indonesia's forests

(02/20/2014) In February 2013, one of the world's most notorious forestry companies announced it would no longer chop down rainforests and peatlands to produce pulp and paper. The move was met with considerable skepticism by critics who had seen the company break previous high profile commitments to end deforestation. Why would this time be any different?


Uprising against illegal mining in Indonesia pits villagers against miners, police

(02/19/2014) Hundreds of villagers and fishermen on Bangka Island in North Sulawesi attempted to stop a ship owned by PT Mikgro Metal Perdana (MMP) from offloading heavy machinery to be used in mining operations. The Indonesian Supreme Court ruled in November that the company's mining permits, issued by the local government, should be invalidated.


Scientists discover new gecko hanging-on in single forest fragment

(02/17/2014) Scientists have identified a new species of day gecko that is the largest in its genus (Cnemaspis) to be found in Sri Lanka. To date, it has been observed only within the Rammalakanda Reserve in southern Sri Lanka, an area spanning just 1,700 hectares, raising questions about the viability of this population and hence the species' long-term prospects.


Indonesia rejects, delays 1.3m ha of concessions due to moratorium

(02/12/2014) The Indonesian government has rejected nearly 932,000 hectares (2.3 million acres) of oil palm, timber, and logging concessions due to its moratorium on new permits across millions of hectares of peatlands and rainforests, reports Mongabay-Indonesia.


Cambodia protects forest for giant ibis

(02/10/2014) Cambodia has set aside an area of forest just slightly smaller than Singapore to protect the country's national bird: the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea). Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the giant ibis is down to just a few hundred birds.


Proposed rail and road projects could devastate Nepal's tigers and rhinos

(02/06/2014) Chitwan National Park is a conservation success story. Since its establishment in 1973 the park's populations of both Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) and one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) have quintupled, a success achieved during a time when both species have been under siege globally by poachers. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the park is also a vital economic resource for locals: last year the park admitted over 150,000 tourists who brought in nearly $2 million in entry fees alone. But all this is imperiled by government plans for a new railway that would cut the park in half and a slew of new roads, according to a group of international conservationists known as the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers (ALERT).


Alpine bumblebees capable of flying over Mt. Everest

(02/05/2014) The genus Bombus consists of over 250 species of large, nectar-loving bumblebees. Their bright coloration serves as a warning to predators that they are unwelcome prey and their bodies are covered in a fine coat of hair - known as pile - which gives them their characteristically fuzzy look. Bumblebees display a remarkably capable flight performance despite being encumbered with oversized bodies supported by relatively diminutive wings.


Peatland plantations drive steep GHG emissions in Indonesia's Riau Province

(02/05/2014) Versatile is the best way to describe the reddish brown fruit born from oil palm trees. Both the flesh and seed of the fruit is used in many applications including cooking, cosmetics, and biofuel. In addition, the fruit is composed of 50 percent oil, making it a highly efficient product that requires less land than other oil producing crops.


APRIL's green pledge falls short, say environmentalists

(01/31/2014) Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL), Indonesia's second-largest pulp and paper producer, has announced a new environmental policy that aims to stem criticism about its forestry practices, which include large-scale conversion of rainforests and peatlands in Sumatra. But environmentalists say the pledge falls far short of the commitment made by APRIL's biggest competitor, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), last year.


Rainforest Alliance to independently audit APP's zero deforestation commitment

(01/29/2014) The Rainforest Alliance has agreed to conduct an audit of Asia Pulp & Paper's progress in implementing the zero deforestation policy the forestry giant signed last year. The deal, announced Thursday in Jakarta, could help boost the credibility of APP's policy, which while heralded as a breakthrough by several environmental groups, is still viewed with skepticism by some prominent critics, who remember past broken commitments from the paper producer.


Predator appreciation: how saving lions, tigers, and polar bears could rescue ourselves

(01/29/2014) In the new book, In Predatory Light: Lions and Tigers and Polar Bears, authors Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Sy Montgomery, and John Houston, and photographers Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson share with us an impassioned and detailed appeal to appreciate three of the world's biggest predators: lions, tigers, and polar bears. Through lengthy discussions, combining themes from scientific conservation to local community folklore, In Predatory Light takes us step by step deeper into the wild world of these awe-inspiring carnivores and their varied plight as they facedown extinction.


Investigation finds Chinese factory slaughters 600 whale sharks a year

(01/29/2014) A four-year investigation by WildLifeRisk, a Hong Kong-based marine conservation group, has found that a single factory in China’s Zhejiang Province slaughters some 600 whale sharks a year to produce oil for cosmetics and health supplements.



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