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





Large animals invaluable for tree-seed dispersal and regeneration of tropical forests

(03/30/2015) Nearly two-thirds of tropical forests in Southeast Asia have been degraded by logging, agriculture and other human uses, and their fauna have been decimated by hunting and the bushmeat trade. But if those degraded tropical forests are to recover naturally, they will need to rely on their remaining large wild animals to disperse large tree seeds, according to a new study.


APRIL suspends contractor after environmentalists expose ongoing deforestation

(03/28/2015) Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) has suspended a contractor and a plantation manager after environmentalists exposed deforestation that violates the logging giant's sustainability policy.


APRIL violates sustainability policy by clearing peat forest after Jan cut-off

(03/26/2015) New data shows Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) is continuing to destroy rainforests on deep peat despite a high profile pledge to clean up its operations. Today Greenomics-Indonesia released an analysis of two NASA Landsat images confirming that APRIL's subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp Paper (RAPP) has cleared significant tracts of peat forest on Pulau Pedang island off Sumatra's coast since January 2015.


Indonesia's biodiversity-protected areas no match for encroachers, finds study

(03/26/2015) Indonesia's biodiversity-focused protected areas are failing to slow deforestation, while other categories have achieved mixed results, finds a new study. The coupling of poor law enforcement with the presence of high-value timber seems to be the main culprit.


Destruction of elephant, tiger, and orangutan habitat doubles

(03/25/2015) The rate of forest loss in Indonesia's Leuser Ecosystem — the only place on Earth where rhinos, orangutans, tigers, and elephants live in the same habitat — has more than doubled due to logging, encroachment, and conversion to industrial plantations, warn conservationists. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Sumatran Orangutan Society reported that 80,316 hectares of forest were lost between 2008 and 2013, a sharp increase from the 30,830 hectares cleared between 2002 and 2008.


'How about that extension?' activists ask as forest exploitation moratorium deadline nears

(03/24/2015) Less than two months before the expiration of an Indonesian forest exploitation moratorium set up under an agreement with Norway, activists called on Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar to extend the prohibition, as she promised to do after taking office last year.


Pleasure palace in Lao facilitates wildlife poaching for Chinese elites

(03/20/2015) A city-sized resort complex in Laos is facilitating large-scale wildlife trafficking for Chinese tourists, exacerbating commercial poaching in the Southeast Asian nation, warns a new report published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).


Who's funding palm oil?

(03/19/2015) Palm oil may be the single most important crop that you never heard of. A vegetable fat that resembles reddish butter at room temperature, palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Both nutritious and highly versatile, palm oil is now an important component of products ranging from biofuels and food to soaps and cosmetics. Estimates indicate that as much as 50 percent of the products used by the average Western consumer every day contain palm oil or its derivatives.


Indonesia's small islands being rapidly damaged by industrial activities

(03/18/2015) Intense exploitation of Indonesia's natural resources is taking a special toll on the country's small islands, with many subject to an outpouring of mining concessions that cover huge swaths of their tiny areas, often to the chagrin of local populations.


Conservationists catch-and-release record-smashing freshwater fish

(03/17/2015) Conservationists and scientists have managed to catch-and-release what could be the world's biggest freshwater fish ever for an upcoming episode of Ocean Mysteries. Naturalist and host of the show, Jeff Corwin—along with wildlife veterinarian, Nantarika Chansue, and the tourist fishing group, fishsiam.com—managed to reel in a giant freshwater stingray.


Declining palm oil prices: Good news and bad news for smallholders

(03/16/2015) Declining crop prices usually spell bad news for farmers, and poor smallholders in particular. The drop in the price of palm oil from a recent high of US$860 per metric ton in March 2014 to below US$640 in March 2015 (and far below 2010-2012 prices which exceeded US$1000) heralds a shift in perceptions of oil palm from an economic boon to poverty-stricken smallholders, to a liability that ties small-scale farmers to a less profitable commodity.


Proposed law could decimate Indonesia's remaining forests

(03/14/2015) A seemingly well-intended law that aims to turn forests over to traditional users could instead lead to large-scale destruction of Indonesia's native ecosystems, warns a prominent conservation biologist.


New wormy amphibians discovered in Southeast Asia

(03/13/2015) Worms come in all different sizes, shapes, textures, colors, and flavors. Some attack human digestive systems, some surface after a rainstorm, and some come in plastic wrappers, covered in sour sugar, at the local grocery store. Despite their similar features and anatomies, many of the real worms (not the sugar kind) demonstrate convergent evolution, meaning they are not related but have independently evolved similar features.


New report: commercial agricultural expansion fueling illegal logging and land conflicts in Myanmar

(03/12/2015) The Myanmar government has been allocating land for large-scale private agricultural businesses in the country’s biodiversity-rich forests at an alarming rate, according to a new report released by Forest Trends, a Washington-based non-profit organization. And these concessions may be fueling illegal timber harvests and intensifying land conflicts, the report alleges.


Tiger family photo surprises scientists

(03/10/2015) In a frigid Russian forest, a camera trap snapped 21 family photos over two minutes. This wasn't a usual family, though, this was a tiger family, more specifically an Amur tiger family. And this wasn't even a usual tiger family: the cameras showed a dad leading the way.


New bird species confirmed in Sulawesi 15 years after first sighting

(03/06/2015) Although it’s a hotspot of avian biodiversity, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been “poorly studied ornithologically,” according to a study published in the scientific journal PloS one. Case in point: the subject of the study, a new species of flycatcher first observed in 1997 but not formally described by scientists until November 2014.


Indonesian fisheries ministry imposes new limits on gear and fish harvests

(03/04/2015) The Indonesian fisheries ministry has introduced two divisive pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the sustainability of Indonesia’s depleted ocean fisheries. Permen KP 1/2015 imposes size limits on wild-caught lobsters and crab, and forbids catching egg-bearing crustaceans. Permen KP 2/2015 bans trawl and seine fisheries. Fishermen last Thursday demonstrated outside the Ministry to protest the damage this will cause to their livelihoods.


Giant panda population rises by nearly 17 percent

(03/02/2015) One of the most iconic animals on the planet got good news this week. The world's giant panda population has risen by 268 individuals over the last decade, hitting a total of 1,864 animals, according to China's fourth decadal survey. This represents a total rise of 16.8 percent.


Reports slam Malaysian timber companies, urge reforms in forest management

(02/27/2015) Two international NGOs have called out Malaysia in recent months over the country’s widespread illegal logging. Malaysia has been accused of not doing enough to protect its diminishing forests and thwart the illicit timber trade, particularly in Sarawak, the site of the country’s worst deforestation. Lax oversight, endemic corruption and limited transparency have allowed for Malaysia’s forests to be plundered by both the government and the private sector.


Jokowi's environmental commitments in Indonesia

(02/26/2015) Last fall Indonesia elected its first president with no ties to the established political order or the military. Joko Widodo's election was widely heralded by reformers who hoped the politician's capable management in his stints as mayor of the town of Solo and metropolis of Jakarta could transform Indonesia's chronically underperforming bureaucracy, potentially ushering in a new era of improved human rights, better environmental stewardship, reduced corruption, and healthier economic growth.


Photos: Amur leopard population hits at least 65

(02/26/2015) Most of the world's big predators are in decline, but there are some happy stories out there. This week, WWF announced that the Amur leopard population has grown to a total of 65-69 cats. This represents a more than doubling of the population in eight years. Still, the Critically Endangered subspecies remains perilously close to extinction.


Reports blame illegal logging for felling Sarawak forest

(02/25/2015) A recent report by the international affairs think tank Chatham House has highlighted Malaysia’s lack of progress in dealing with illegal logging, blaming corruption and a lack of transparency on the country’s sluggish approach to environmental policy reform.


Cambodia deports activist leader...then suspends controversial dam

(02/25/2015) On Monday, Cambodia deported well-known environmental activist, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, back to his native Spain. Co-founder of the Cambodian NGO, Mother Nature, Gonzalez-Davidson played a vital role in blocking efforts to build the Cheay Areng Dam. But a day after deporting the activist, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said the country would postpone the dam until 2018.


Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis

(02/25/2015) Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.


Santander Bank cuts off APRIL due to deforestation

(02/24/2015) Banking giant Santander says it will not extend further financing to Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) due to evidence that the Singapore-based pulp and paper company is continuing to destroy rainforests in Indonesia. The move comes after Greenpeace launched a global campaign against the bank.


Locals lead scientists to new population of near-extinct reptile

(02/24/2015) By the early Twentieth Century, the world had pretty much given up on the Arakan forest turtle, named after the hills where it was found in 1875 in western Myanmar. Now, this Lazarus reptile —which has been dubbed one of the 25 most threatened turtles on the planet —has more good news: researchers have documented an entirely new population where no one


New Guinea rainforest being leveled for palm oil, revealing gaps in zero deforestation pacts

(02/23/2015) An Indonesian palm oil firm is destroying rainforests in New Guinea despite high profile zero deforestation pledges from its customers, finds research by Greenomics-Indonesia. Landsat imagery acquired and analyzed by Greenomics shows that Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri (ANJ) is clearing high carbon stock forests in the southern part of West Papua's Bird's Head Peninsula in Indonesian New Guinea.


Are small-scale hydro projects always greener?

(02/23/2015) Rising energy demand and global efforts to mitigate climate change have made renewable energy projects increasingly attractive. One widely known and well-developed source of renewable energy is hydroelectricity. However, past environmental campaigns against large dams have resulted in policy changes in some parts of the world, leading to an increasing number of small hydropower projects.


Authorities catch kingpin responsible for killing 20 rhinos

(02/19/2015) With the aid of Interpol, authorities have arrested the leader of a rhino poaching gang responsible for killing a 20 Indian rhinoceros in Nepal. Last month, authorities nabbed Raj Kumar Praja in Malaysia where he had been evading capture for two years. Kumar was already evicted of 15 poaching incidents in absentia and sentenced to 15 years in prison.


Chinese banks funding rainforest destruction in Indonesia

(02/18/2015) While Santander Bank has made headlines in recent days for financing an Indonesian forestry giant's ongoing clearance of carbon-dense forests in Sumatra, Chinese banks among the largest funders of the company, reveals analysis conducted by BankTrack.org.


Indonesia to squander fuel savings on biofuel subsidies that may drive deforestation, say groups

(02/17/2015) Instead of wisely investing the windfall generated by cutting petrol subsidies, Indonesia is poised to squander funds by increasing subsidies for biofuel production that could exacerbate social conflict and drive deforestation, warn environmental groups.


Indonesian forestry and fishery ministries move to eradicate corruption

(02/17/2015) Today Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) signed a memorandum of understanding with the national forestry and fishery ministries as well as a number of provincial governors to better integrate management and monitoring of the country’s oceans and forests.


42 pangolins rescued...then sold to restaurants

(02/17/2015) On February 1st, local police seized 42 live Sunda pangolins from poachers and handed them over to forest rangers in Vietnam's northern province of Bac Ninh. While the poachers were slapped with a fine, the rangers turned around and sold the live pangolins to local restaurants for a reported $56 a kilo, netting a total of $11,300 for the Critically Endangered mammals.


Sabah shocked by banteng poaching

(02/16/2015) Malaysia's Daily Express recently published graphic photos of poachers in the Malaysian state of Sabah posing proudly with a number of illegally slaughtered large animals, including the incredibly rare and cryptic banteng. Wild, forest cattle, banteng are scattered across parts of Southeast Asia, but Borneo is home to a distinct subspecies: Bos javanicus lowi.


Banco Santander targeted over deforestation link

(02/11/2015) Greenpeace has opened a new front in its campaign against a controversial Indonesian logging company by targeting one of its major financiers: Banco Santander.


Indonesia dissolves agency charged with forestry reform

(02/11/2015) The world's first cabinet-level ministry dedicated to implementing REDD+ has been dissolved. In accordance with Indonesian Presidential Decree No. 16/2015 the agency known as BP REDD+, along with the National Council on Climate Change, has been absorbed into the newly merged Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (MoEF) as part of a massive government restructuring.


Malaysian authorities failing to take action against poachers

(02/10/2015) Authorities in Sabah are failing to enforce anti-poaching laws, undermining governance and wildlife protection efforts in the Malaysian Borneo state, argues a letter published by several local conservation groups.


Pollinator collapse could lead to a rise in malnutrition

(02/09/2015) Saving the world's pollinators may be a public health issue, according to recent research. Scientists have long believed that pollinators are important for human nutrition, but this is first time they have tested the hypothesis. What they found is disturbing: pollinator collapse could increase nutrient deficiency across local populations by a up to 56 percent in four developing counties.


Forestry giant's zero deforestation commitment put to test

(02/05/2015) An independent audit of the world’s largest pulp and paper producer found that the company had achieved a wide range of results in meeting promises to end deforestation and resolve conflicts with forest communities. In 2013 Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) announced its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), which included a pledge to end deforestation among its suppliers, improve communication and conflict resolution with forest communities, protecting peatlands, and sourcing fiber only from responsible suppliers.


Norway asked to divest from company linked to Malaysian official

(02/03/2015) Activists have petitioned the world's largest sovereign wealth fund to drop its investment in a company they say is linked to large-scale corruption in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.


In unprecedented move, Indonesia punishes illegal manta ray trader

(02/03/2015) For the first time, Indonesia has sentenced an illegal manta ray trafficker to jail time and a fine, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society.


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).



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