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





Proliferation of mountain roads a hazard to the environment in SE Asia

(07/12/2012) Mountain roads in rural Southeast Asia are providing market access for remote communities but causing significant environmental harm, including deforestation, landslides, and soil erosion, sometimes undermining the benefits they offer, warns a commentary published in Nature Geoscience.


Climate change increased the probability of Texas drought, African famine, and other extreme weather

(07/11/2012) Climate change is here and its increasing the chances for crazy weather, according to scientists. A prestigious group of climatologists have released a landmark report that makes the dramatic point that climate change is impacting our weather systems—and in turn our food crops, our economies, and even our lives—here-and-now. The new report in the American Meteorological Society is first of what is intended to be an annual offering that will attempt to tease out the connections between climate change and individual extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and floods.


Vietnam buys stakes in controversial oil blocks threatening Peru's most vulnerable indigenous people

(07/11/2012) Vietnam's state oil and gas company, PetroVietnam Exploration and Production (PVEP), has announced its intention to acquire a major stake in controversial oil operations in the remote Peruvian Amazon. This area, known as Lot 67, is one of the most biodiverse in the world and home to indigenous people living without regular contact with outsiders, sometimes dubbed 'isolated' or 'uncontacted', who could be decimated by contact with oil company workers because they are highly vulnerable to disease.


Wealthy consumption threatens species in developing countries

(07/11/2012) Consumption in wealthy nations is imperiling biodiversity abroad, according to a new study in Nature that investigates the link between international trade and biodiversity decline. The study shows how threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, located primarily in developing countries, can be connected to consumer demand for goods in wealthier nations. Some of the major commodities include coffee, cocoa, soy, beef and palm oil.


Building indigenous resilience in the face of land-grabbing, deforestation in Malaysian Borneo

(07/10/2012) In the 1980s images of loincloth-clad tribesmen blockading blocking logging roads in Malaysian Borneo shocked the world. But while their protests captured the spotlight momentarily, Borneo's forests continued to be destroyed at rapid rates, undermining traditional communities that are dependent on these ecosystems for food, shelter, medicine, clean water, and spiritual inspiration. Nomadic tribes are now but a memory in Borneo, but other tribal groups continue to fight for their forests by seeking legal recognition of their lands and blocking destructive projects, including oil palm plantations, logging operations, and large-scale hydroelectric projects. Helping them is The Borneo Project, a Berkeley-based non-profit that works in partnership with indigenous communities and the small non-profits that support them.


As U.S. sees record heat, extreme weather pummels 4 continents

(07/10/2012) It's not only the U.S. that has experienced record-breaking extreme weather events recently, in the last couple months extreme weather has struck around the world with startling ferocity. In addition to the much-covered heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts in the U.S., killer floods struck India, the worst drought yet recorded plagued South Korea, and massive forest fires swept through Siberia to name just a few.


Poaching results in elephant gender imbalance in Indian park

(07/09/2012) Scientists have undertaken a new census of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in India's Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve (BRT) following almost 30 years of sustained poaching. Estimating that the park contains four female elephants for every male, the scientists warn in a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science that this gender imbalance threatens the population. Poachers target male Asian elephants for their tusks, generally leaving females untouched.


Endangered fruit bats, and many other species, on the menu in the Philippines

(07/09/2012) Bushmeat hunting is well-known to be decimating animal populations in Africa, but has been little studied much of Southeast Asia. However, a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science shines light on the size and scale of bushmeat poaching in the Philippines. Studying an anonymous community near a national park on the island of Luzon, researchers found that poachers targeted 22 species, ten of which are considered either threatened or near threatened with extinction by the IUCN Red List.


Animal picture of the day: Sunda clouded leopard in Borneo

(07/09/2012) The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) is the largest wild cat in Borneo and is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red list of threatened species. Due to their nocturnal and cryptic habits they are seldom observed and very little is known of their basic ecology and distribution. This large Clouded leopard was photographed by remote camera trap in Malua BioBank as part of the Bornean Banteng Program which studies the rare banteng (Bos javanicus lowi).


The Cardamom Conundrum: Reconciling Development and Conservation in the Kingdom of Cambodia – Book Review

(07/04/2012) Tim Killeen’s new engaging book, The Cardamom Conundrum: Reconciling Development and Conservation in the Kingdom of Cambodia, describes decision-making options that the Government of Cambodia could engage in to develop their nation along a path of sustainability through resolving the sustainable economic development paradox, or “conundrum”. Dr. Killeen’s analysis demonstrated that this conundrum could be resolved based on a green economy with four pillars.


Pre-industrial deforestation still warming atmosphere

(07/03/2012) Fossil fuels were not burned in massive quantities prior to the Industrial Revolution, but humans were still pumping carbon into the atmosphere due to land use change, especially deforestation. In fact, a new study in Environmental Research Letters finds that deforestation prior to 1850 is still heating up our atmosphere today.


Animal picture of the day: rare image of Asiatic cheetah and cubs

(07/03/2012) The Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), also known as the Iranian cheetah, is one the world's rarest cat subspecies with somewhere between 70-110 individuals left. No surprisingly it is considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.


India's Western Ghats rainforest declared UNESCO World Heritage Site

(07/03/2012) India's Western Ghats, considered one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world, has been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In total, 39 different sites in the tropical rainforest—home to Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, lion-tailed macaques, and thousands of other species—have made it under the listing.


In pictures: Rainforests to palm oil

(07/02/2012) In late May I had the opportunity to fly from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo to Imbak Canyon and back. These are some of my photos. Historically Borneo was covered by a range of habitats, including dense tropical rainforests, swampy peatlands, and natural grasslands. But its lowland forests have been aggressively logged for timber and then converted for oil palm plantations.


Scientific expedition to survey species in China's Bigfoot territory

(07/02/2012) This month, nearly 40 scientists will enter a wild and remote region of western China, reports China's state media Xinhua. Spending several weeks in Shennongjia Nature Reserve, the researchers hope to study rare species like the golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. But the forest is also the source of China's 'wild man' sightings; known locally as the 'Yeren,' the unconfirmed primate has also been dubbed China's Bigfoot.


Cute animal picture of the day: dromedary camel baby

(07/02/2012) The dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) is the world's largest camel. It's easily recognizable by its single hump.


Forgotten species: the overlooked Sumatran striped rabbit

(06/28/2012) When you read the words 'Sumatra' and 'Endangered Species' in the same sentence there is a 99 percent chance that you will be reading about one of four animals: orangutans, tigers, elephants, or rhinos. These big four of Sumatra have become the rallying cry to save the island's ever-dwindling forests. This is not surprising, given that these species include some of the world's most publicly beloved animals and, in addition, they are all considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. But by dominating the headlines in Sumatra's deforestation crisis, these four species often overshadow the thousands of other species found on the island, many of which also face extinction. In fact when you read the words 'Sumatra' and 'Endangered Species' you will almost certainly not be reading about the Sumatran striped rabbit.


96 percent of the world's species remain unevaluated by the Red List

(06/28/2012) Nearly 250 species have been added to the threatened categories—i.e. Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered—in this year's update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. The 247 additions—including sixty bird species—pushes the number of threatened species globally perilously close to 20,000. However to date the Red List has only assessed 4 percent of the world's known species; for the other 96 percent, scientists simply don't know how they are faring.


Flouting moratorium, Cambodia approves four land concessions in protected areas

(06/27/2012) A month-and-a-half after Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, declared a moratorium on on new economic land concessions, the government has announced four new concessions, each located in protected areas. Economic land concessions have come under the microscope in Cambodia after large-scale protests by local people and the recent murder of forest activist Chut Wutty. Critics say the concessions, which last year totaled two million hectares (4.9 million acres) sold off to foreign corporations, have resulted in local land conflict and environmental degradation.


Agricultural area larger than Texas has been 'land-grabbed'

(06/26/2012) Compiling over 1,000 foreign land deals from 2000-2010, a new report finds that 702,000 square kilometers (271,043 square miles) of agricultural land worldwide has been sold-off to foreign governments or international corporations, an area larger than Texas. The report by the Worldwatch Institute finds that such land deals, often referred to as "land grabbing," have declined since a peak in 2009, but still remain high.


New Sumatran rhino mama filmed giving birth and nursing

(06/25/2012) On early Saturday morning, scientists were elated when first-time Sumatran rhino mother, Ratu, gave birth to a healthy male calf. The birth was filmed as well footage has been taken of the little tike—with massive eyes—nursing (see videos below). The new calf gives hope to a species on the very brink of extinction.


Historic birth for the Sumatran rhino

(06/24/2012) After two miscarriages and a pregnancy that lasted 15 months, Ratu, a female Sumatra rhino, has given birth to a healthy male calf, conservationists happily announced this weekend. The birth at a rhino sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra is the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and the best reproductive rhino science in the world. This is the first captive birth in Indonesia, and only the fourth captive birth for the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) in the last hundred years. The successful birth brings new hope for one of the world's rarest mammals: less than 200 Sumatra rhinos are thought to survive in the world.


Indonesian fires trigger haze alerts in Malaysia

(06/24/2012) Fires set for land clearing in Indonesia triggered health warnings in Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia last week, reports the Associated Press.


Cowards at Rio?: organizations decry 'pathetic' agreement

(06/20/2012) As world leaders head to Rio de Janeiro for the UN Summit on Sustainable Development, environmental and poverty groups are denouncing the last-minute text agreed on by dignitaries as "pathetic," (Greenpeace), a "damp squib" (Friends of the Earth), "a dead end" (Oxfam), and, if nothing changes, "a colossal waste of time" (WWF). "We were promised the 'future we want' but are now being presented with a 'common vision' of a polluter’s charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests,“ the head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, said. "This is not a foundation on which to grow economies or pull people out of poverty, it’s the last will and testament of a destructive twentieth century development model."


Sarawak tribe calls on German company to walk away from controversial dam

(06/19/2012) Indigenous people from the Malaysian state of Sarawak have sent a letter to the German company, Fichtner GmbH & Co. KG, demanding that the consulting group halt all activities related to the hugely-controversial Baram dam, reports the NGO Bruno Manser Fund. Critics of the dam and it parent project known as the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) initiative, say the hydroelectric dam will displace 20,000 people and flood 40,000 hectares of primary rainforest.


Over 700 people killed defending forest and land rights in past ten years

(06/19/2012) On May 24th, 2011, forest activist José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, were gunned down in an ambush in the Brazilian state of Pará. A longtime activist, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva had made a name for himself for openly criticizing illegal logging in the state which is rife with deforestation. The killers even cut off the ears of the da Silvas, a common practice of assassins in Brazil to prove to their employers that they had committed the deed. Less than a year before he was murdered, da Silva warned in a TEDx Talk, "I could get a bullet in my head at any moment...because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers."


WWF: biggest villain at Rio+20 is Canada

(06/18/2012) Having sent a delegation to the United Nation's Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the world's biggest conservation group, has recently declared their Heroes and Villains of Rio+20—so far. The NGO has strong words for the negotiating position of the U.S. and the major oil exporting countries (OPEC), but saves its harshest criticisms for Canada.


Nearly 50 tigers die in India in last six months

(06/18/2012) Since January 1st, 48 Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) have been found dead in India, which has the world's largest population of tigers. According to India's National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), 19 of those deaths have been confirmed to be at the hands of poachers, but that number could become even higher. In order to combat a surge in tiger poaching, the Indian state of Maharashtra has recently granted legal immunity to any forest ranger who shoots a poacher.


Deforestation-based policy 'no longer tenable' says Indonesian President

(06/17/2012) Indonesia 'has reversed course' from a forest policy that drove deforestation in previous decades and is poised to become a leader in 'sustainable forestry', asserted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during a speech on Wednesday at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor.


Conservationists successfully hatch world's fourth most endangered turtle

(06/11/2012) The world's fourth most endangered turtle has received a happy boost from breeding efforts, reports the AFP. Bangladeshi scientists have successfully hatched 25 northern river terrapins (Batagur baska) using an artificial beach constructed in the country's Bhawal National Park.


New campaign targets snares in effort to save world's big cats

(06/05/2012) Last summer, a wild Sumatran tiger—one of only a few hundred surviving on the island—made news in a story that did not have a happy ending. The cat had become entangled in a snare in a logging concession owned by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). The tiger spent seven days without food or water before wildlife rangers found it, but its snared right paw was a bloody black mess. Although the rangers were able to sedate and free the cat, it died shortly thereafter from its wounds.


The rarest rhino's last stand

(06/04/2012) Trekking through deep mud and sawgrass we find a stinking wallow. The elite rangers, dressed completely in black despite the tropical heat, mark the site with the GPS unit, measure the mucky puddle's depth, and move on. This is the first sign of one of the planet's rarest animals—the Javan rhino. Only 35 or so remain, including none in captivity. This patch of rainforest and swamp in Ujung Kulon National Park—on the very tip of West Java—is their last and only refuge.


Indigenous rights rising in tropical forests, but big gaps remain

(05/31/2012) In the last twenty years, rights for indigenous forest dwellers have expanded significantly, according to a new report by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). Covering nearly thirty tropical forest countries, the report finds that indigenous people now hold rights to 31 percent of the forest land in these countries, rising from 21 percent in 1992. However, landmark land rights for indigenous people remain imperiled by lack of enforcement, land-grabbing, government ambivalence, and industrial development. The report comes less than a month before the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development, a meeting of global leaders that marks two decades since the Rio Earth Summit.


Broadcaster for Radio Free Sarawak goes missing in Malaysia

(05/31/2012) Peter John Jaban, a broadcaster on Radio Free Sarawak better known by his on-air pseudonym Papa Orang Utan, was arrested on Thursday Kota Kinabalu International airport, while attempting to board a plane to Miri, Sarawak, reports The Sarawak Report.


IKEA logging old-growth forest for low-price furniture in Russia

(05/30/2012) A new campaign is targeting IKEA, the world's biggest furniture retailer, for logging old-growth forests in the Karelia region of Russia. An alliance of groups, headed by the Swedish NGO Protect the Forest, allege that IKEA's subsidiary, Swedwood, is clearcutting thousands of hectares of old and biodiverse forests. But, Swedwood's 300,000 hectare concession is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), generally considered the world's strongest forestry certifier.


Featured video: baby hornbills grow up in a jar

(05/29/2012) A researcher in Malaysia has captured footage of Oriental pied hornbills (Anthracoceros albirostris) raising chicks in an earthen jar in the Kenyir rainforest of Malaysia. The first video shows the father Oriental pied hornbill feeding the chicks, while the second shows a chick leaving its nest.


Another record in global carbon emissions puts globe on track for 'devastating consequences'

(05/29/2012) Last year global carbon dioxide emissions rose 3.2 percent to a new record of 31.6 gigatons, keeping the planet on track to suffer dangerous climate change, which could propel global crop failures, sea level rise, worsening extreme weather, and mass extinction. According to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), China's carbon emissions rose the most last year (9.3 percent) while emissions in Europe and the U.S. dipped slightly. China is the currently the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, while the U.S. has emitted the most historically.


Massive economic growth does little for happiness in China

(05/29/2012) Economic growth alone may not raise happiness, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy Science (PNAS). Despite a stunning economic growth rate of around 10 percent per year over the last two decades, China's people have not seem a big boost in their overall life satisfaction.


Another red herring from Asia Pulp & Paper on its deforestation problem

(05/29/2012) In a press release issued last Thursday, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) asserted that the presence of mixed tropical hardwood fiber (MTH) in its products 'does not come from the felling of virgin tropical rainforest trees in Indonesia'. The embattled paper giant goes on to say that 'the presence of MTH fiber says nothing about whether the product is sustainable or not" and that "MTH can be found easily in recycled paper.' All these points are true. But what APP doesn't tell you is that its response is yet another facade in its effort to deflect criticism from its forestry practices.


Nearly 2,000 fish species traded in U.S. tropical aquarium market

(05/24/2012) The U.S. tropical aquarium market poses problems and opportunities for conservation, according to a landmark study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. The study reviewed import records in the U.S. for one year (2004-2005) and found that over 11 million wild tropical fish from 1,802 species were imported from 40 different countries. While the number of fish species targeted surprised researchers, the total amount of fish imported was actually less than expected.


Blue tarantula, walking cactus, and a worm from Hell: the top 10 new species of 2011

(05/23/2012) A sneezing monkey, a blue tarantula, and an extinct walking cactus are just three of the remarkable new species listed in the annual Top Ten New Species put together by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University. This year's list includes a wide-variety of life forms from fungi to flower and invertebrate to primate.


Indigenous group paid $0.65/ha for forest worth $5,000/ha in Indonesia

(05/23/2012) A palm oil company has paid indigenous Moi landowners in Indonesian Papua a paltry $0.65 per hectare for land that will be worth $5,000 a hectare once cultivated, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Indonesian NGO, Telepak. The report outlines similar disadvantageous deals in timber with the same companies breaking their promises of bringing education and infrastructure.


Indonesia revises moratorium map; makes contested orangutan forest off-limits

(05/22/2012) Indonesia is making 'encouraging' progress on its push to reduce deforestation by improving governance over its forests and peatlands, but still needs to do more to enforce environmental laws, said the head of the country's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) task force speaking at a press conference Monday in Jakarta. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Head of the Indonesian President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4) and Chair of the REDD+ Task Force, said an effort to develop a map of Indonesia's forests and forest concessions has been completed, although the Ministry of Forestry has yet to deliver the map to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, missing last Friday's deadline. The map serves as the basis for a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions in primary forests and peatlands had been completed.


Charting a new environmental course in China

(05/21/2012) Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) works in more than 30 countries and has projects in all 50 of the United States. The Conservancy has over one million members, and has protected more than 119 million acres of wild-lands and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide. TNC has taken an active interest in China, the world's most populated nation, and in many important ways, a critical center of global development. The following is an interview with multiple directors of The Nature Conservancy's China Program.


Over half of world's tiger reserves lack minimum protection

(05/21/2012) A year-and-a-half after a landmark summit that pledged to double the world's number of tigers by 2022, and still 65 percent of tiger reserves lack minimum standards of protection for the world's largest cat, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Reporting at the first meeting of all 13 tiger-range countries since the 2010 summit, WWF said that 41 tiger reserves of 63 did not have enough boots on the ground to combat tiger poaching.


Growing cardamom impacts forests for decades

(05/17/2012) Over 25 years after people stopped growing cardamom in Sri Lanka's Knuckles Forest Reserve (KFR), the spice crop is still having an impact on the forest, according to a recent study in Forest Ecology and Management. The clearing of understory plants and the use of fertilizers continue to shape the forest in the protected area.


New population of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey discovered in China

(05/16/2012) Scientists in China have located a second population of the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), a primate that was only first discovered two years ago in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Long Yongcheng, scientist with the Nature Conservancy in China, told the China Daily that his team have discovered 50-100 Myanmar snub-nosed monkeys in the Gaoligong Mountain Natural Reserve near the border with Myanmar in Yunnan Province.


Asia Pulp & Paper to temporarily suspend rainforest clearing in Indonesia

(05/16/2012) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a forestry giant that has been heavily criticized for destroying rainforests and peatlands in Indonesia, will temporarily suspend clearing of natural forest areas until conservation assessments have been conducted.


Wildlife in the tropics plummets by over 60 percent

(05/15/2012) In 48 years wildlife populations in the tropics, the region that holds the bulk of the world's biodiversity, have fallen by an alarming 61 percent, according to the most recent update to the Living Planet Index. Produced by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the index currently tracks almost 10,000 populations of 2,688 vertebrate species (including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) in both the tropics and temperate regions.


Terra preta found in Asia

(05/14/2012) Indigenous people of the Amazon produced rich agricultural soil by adding charcoal, manure, and animal bones to the otherwise nutrient-poor dirt of the world's greatest rainforest. The inputs allowed early indigenous people to farm their terra preta, or dark earth, sustainably in the Amazon. To date such practices are only known from the the Amazon and parts of Africa. But in a recent paper in the open access journal Forests scientists in Indonesian Borneo report on the first evidence of terra preta in Asia.



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