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News articles on featured
Mongabay.com news articles on featured in blog format. Updated regularly.
Damming Dissent: Community leaders behind bars in Guatemala after opposing hydro projects
(07/02/2015) The Guatemalan government has granted concessions for several hydroelectric dams in the department of Huehuetenango without consulting the local Mayan population or obtaining their consent, activists charge. Communities resisting the dam projects have been experiencing a multi-pronged crackdown, including arrests and at least three murders.
Chinese turtle heist sends rare Philippine species to brink of extinction, international rescue underway
(06/29/2015) On Friday, June 19, Philippine authorities raided a warehouse on the island of Palawan and confiscated more than 4,000 live, illegally harvested rare turtles, only days before they were to be shipped to foreign food and pet markets. The massive haul included over 3,800 critically endangered Philippine forest turtles – animals in very poor health and showing signs of severe neglect from long captivity.
Do we need to move 'beyond certification' to save forests?
(06/25/2015) Over the past two years dozens of companies have established 'zero-deforestation' or 'deforestation-free' policies for the commodities they source, trade, and produce. The pace of adoption has been staggeringly fast for a business that have been historically slow-moving relative to other industries. Some sectors, like the Indonesian palm oil industry and the Brazilian soy industry, even appear to be nearing a critical mass where the majority of international buyers and traders are now bound by such agreements.
Amazon tribe creates 500-page traditional medicine encyclopedia
(06/24/2015) In one of the great tragedies of our age, indigenous traditions, stories, cultures and knowledge are winking out across the world. Whole languages and mythologies are vanishing, and in some cases even entire indigenous groups are falling into extinction. This is what makes the news that a tribe in the Amazon have created a 500-page encyclopedia of their traditional medicine all the more remarkable.
Video: Vet describes emotional toll of responding to brutal rhino poaching
(06/24/2015) In March 2012 poachers struck a South African game reserve. They drugged three rhinos and hacked off their horns, inflicting massive facial trauma to the immobile but unanesthetized animals. Wildlife veterinarian Will Fowlds attended to the victims.
Social-media firestorm defends popular man-eating tiger in India, raising conservation questions
(06/23/2015) On May 8, 56-year-old forest guard Rampal Saini was attacked and killed by a tiger named Ustad with a bite to the neck. Ustad was hugely popular with tourists and had gained a massive online following. But Saini was Ustad's fourth victim in a span of five years, and his death unleashed a heated debate — especially online — about whether the ensuing decision to banish him to captivity was the right one.
New solidarity in struggle to protect Turkey's 'life spaces'
(06/19/2015) Emerging regional and national networks seek to build connections between local communities and provide support to their fights against dams, mines, and other environmental threats.
Can we save the Sumatran rhino? Indonesia holds out hope
(06/19/2015) 'One percent of the world's population,' veterinarian Zulfi Arsan says as he nods towards Bina, a 714-kilogram, 30-year-old female Sumatran rhinoceros leisurely crunching branches whole. A gentle and easygoing rhino, pink-hued Bina doesn't seem to mind the two-legged hominids snapping pictures and awing at her every move at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary.
It can be done! – Building better dams in the Andean Amazon
(06/18/2015) More than 150 dams are currently planned for five of the six major Andean tributaries of the Amazon River. Damming those large, free-flowing streams would provide hydropower to half a dozen South American countries – meeting their energy needs for decades to come, but with unknown, potentially calamitous environmental and social impacts.
151 dams could be catastrophic to Amazon ecological connectivity
(06/10/2015) As South American countries begin to move beyond fossil fuels, many are looking to hydropower. The rivers flowing from the Andes Mountains down into the Amazon basin could provide a wealth of liquid potential to meet the energy demands of expanding populations, economies, and development.
Saving the greater sage grouse, the most hotly-debated bird since the spotted owl (PHOTOS)
(06/09/2015) The greater sage grouse -- also known as the sage chicken, sage hen and sage cock -- is North America's largest grouse and an icon of both sagebrush country and the untamed West. But it is rapidly disappearing from the 11 Western U.S. states and two Canadian provinces it calls home.
Bolivia's aggressive agricultural development plans threaten forests
(06/08/2015) Bolivia's government, supported by some small and most large producers, pushes to expand agricultural lands at the expense of the nation's environment. In April 2015, small-scale Bolivian farmers gathered for a summit with stakeholders from a very different part of the agricultural sector: commercial farmers who oversee vast farms and watch international exchange markets just as closely as the weather.
Amid rhinoceros poaching frenzy, dark days for South African society
(06/05/2015) South Africa is in the eye of a global rhino-poaching cyclone, with highly organized and elusive international syndicates running a brisk black-market trade in rhino horn. Public trust is faltering: 'Rhino money buys many people at all levels,' a senior antipoaching official said.
Cajamarca: Let them Eat Gold
(06/03/2015) Mega-dam projects on the main stem of the Marañón River would drown Peru's Breadbasket. The Marañón River is one of the mighty Amazon's most important tributaries. It runs through a region of northern Peru where two of South America's most important bioregions merge: the mountainous highlands of the Andes joining the dense tropical rainforest of the Amazon. It is one of the most biologically rich, rapidly changing and threatened areas of the world.
Photo essay: Polluted, overfished, and choked by weeds, world's second-largest lake is 'on its knees'
(06/02/2015) Lake Victoria is choking with pollution from industrial, agricultural, and human waste. Its problems are compounded by illegal fishing, catching of juvenile fish, and infestations of water hyacinth and the carnivorous Nile perch, which has wiped out many native fish species. Activists say lax law enforcement and a lack of political will are failing the lake, whose fisheries help feed nearly 22 million people.
Have the 'Bandit 6' poached their last toothfish in the Southern Ocean?
(06/01/2015) Last month the Songhua and the Yongding were boarded by authorities in Cape Verde. They were the last of six vessels notorious for poaching toothfish in the waters around Antarctica to be put out of commission in recent months, in large part due to a confrontational campaign by the ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd.
Vaquita porpoises down to 'way less than 100,' Mexican agents shoot fisherman while enforcing new protected area
(05/29/2015) With fewer than 100 individuals alive and dropping fast, the vaquita porpoise is just a swish of the tail away from extinction. In April, alerted by scientists that the vaquita population had recently suffered its biggest decline ever, the Mexican government announced an emergency two-year ban on gillnet fishing across the porpoise's main habitat in the upper Gulf of California. A frenzied race to fish for another critically endangered species, the totoaba, is behind the plummeting porpoise numbers.
GAR, Wilmar punish palm oil supplier for clearing rainforest in New Guinea
(05/28/2015) Palm oil trader Golden Agri-Resources announced today that it would suspend purchases of crude palm oil from plantation developer Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri, which was outed in an NGO report last week for the third time in the past year for clearing forest in Indonesia's West Papua province, in violation of Golden Agri's no-deforestation commitment. Wilmar has also frozen its dealings with the company, though Asian Agri and Musim Mas, which also buy from it, have given no indication they will do the same.
Drone Herders: Tanzanian rangers and researchers use UAVs to protect elephants and crops
(05/27/2015) HEC, otherwise known as human elephant conflict, is a centuries-old problem responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of elephants. This ongoing battle between African farmers trying to grow crops and hungry elephants foraging for a meal, has motivated conservationists to find solutions for protecting the largest and one of the most intelligent land animals on the planet. Scientists’ most recent effort -- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), frisbee-sized remote controlled quad-helicopters -- may provide the answer that researchers have been looking for.
Can improved oil palm productivity and Indonesia's forestry moratorium go hand in hand?
(05/27/2015) An op-ed from Mongabay-Indonesia chief editor Ridzki R. Sigit, who calls for renewed efforts to boost smallholder productivity on Indonesia's oil palm plantations in the wake of the renewal of the country's moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and on peat.
Mining and Energy Contracts under Investigation as Corruption Scandals Rock Guatemala
(05/22/2015) The Guatemalan cabinet ministers for the environment, the interior, and energy and mines stepped down May 21 amid corruption scandals and massive protests. Investigations into alleged irregularities in mining, energy, and other environmental project contracts and permits have been thrust back into the spotlight. Mining and energy projects in the country have faced intense community resistance, which has often become the target of crackdowns by state and corporate security forces.
How to solve the global fish crisis? Ban fishing on the high seas
(05/22/2015) With demand for seafood increasing and numerous fish species declining due to overfishing and other threats, scientists are proposing a seemingly drastic solution: close the high seas to fishing and turn it into a fish bank for the world.
Red tape or repression? NGOs fight for a place in the new Bolivia they helped Evo Morales create
(05/22/2015) For much of Bolivian history, environmental and human rights NGOs joined indigenous communities and the poor in an uphill battle against the entrenched old guard. Under the country's first indigenous president, these organizations face unexpected challenges.
Consumer choice: Shade-grown coffee and cocoa good for the birds, farmers, ecosystems
(05/22/2015) The next time you order that "wake up" cup of Joe or reach for a sweet treat, you may want to consider whether those coffee or cocoa beans were grown in the shade or open sun. Choosing the shade grown variety can offer huge benefits to tropical birds, their ecosystems and farmers says a new study by Cagan Şekercioğlu published in the Journal of Ornithology.
Photos from the front: the California oil spill in pictures
(05/21/2015) On Tuesday, an underground oil pipeline burst near Goleta, California, spilling crude oil into the Pacific, soiling beaches, killing marine animals, and coating birds in oil. Photographers captured scenes of the unfolding spill and clean-up response, even as the extent of the damage remains under investigation.
Nickel Mine, Lead Bullets: Maya Q'eqchi' seek justice in Guatemala and Canada
(05/19/2015) This week, indigenous victims of violence related to Guatemala's Fenix mine travel to Canada to speak outside the shareholder meeting of the mine's former owner, HudBay. Legal proceedings related to the violence are moving forward in Guatemala and Canada.
Peru eyes the Amazon for one of world’s most powerful dams
(05/18/2015) Peru is proposing a huge hydroelectric dam in the Amazon that, if built, will be one of the most powerful on Earth, do significant harm to the environment, and flood the homes of thousands of people. The proposed mega-dam would be constructed at the Pongo de Manseriche, a spectacular gorge on the free flowing Marañón River, the main source of the Amazon River.
What's the current deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest?
(05/15/2015) Nearly two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest is located in Brazil, making it the biggest component in the region's deforestation rate. Helpfully, Brazil also has the best systems for tracking deforestation, with the government and Imazon, a national civil society organization, releasing updates on a quarterly and monthly basis using MODIS satellite data, respectively. Both the Brazilian government and Imazon release more accurate data on an annual basis using higher resolution Landsat satellite imagery.
The triumph of the bison: Europe's biggest animal bounces back a century after vanishing
(05/12/2015) On a path flanked by thick woods, I first spied our quarry. When she appeared, far away between the long verticals of bare trees, I could hardly believe she was there. She was a ghost, a specter haunting this winter forest. Her horns were prettily curved, her face slender, her whole 400 kilogram (880 pound) mass framed by the trees.
Videos reveal rare birds, wild monkeys, and jaguar family in oil-exploited park
(05/11/2015) A compilation of new camera trap videos from Yasuni National Park shows off rarely seen species like the rufuos-vented ground cuckoo and the short-eared dog as well as odd behavior, like sloths licking salt from the ground. The compilation is produced by Diego Mosquera, manager and head of the camera trap program at Tiputini Biodiversity Station.
Brazilian firm's mega-dam plans in Peru spark major social conflict
(05/11/2015) 'I don't want to sell my land because I've lived here since I was 17,' declared 82 year old María Araujo Silva. 'This was where my children were born. I want to die here. That's why I'm not in agreement. I'm not in agreement with the dam.' Araujo Silva is outraged at plans by Peru's government and Brazilian company Odebrecht to build a hydroelectric dam just downriver from her village, Huarac, on the Marañón River.
Activist deported from Cambodia continues fighting dam from abroad
(05/06/2015) Alex Gonzalez-Davidson has been campaigning to prevent construction of a proposed dam on the Areng River in the Cardamom Mountains. The Cambodian government deported him in February, but evidence is mounting that the dam project may have stalled.
Javanese fishermen switch from lobsters to stingrays as an unintended consequence of new catch limits
(05/06/2015) New minimum size limits for Indonesian lobster and crab catches were a commendable conservation initiative intended to boost crustacean stocks. But the new regulation may inadvertently threaten the very species it aims to protect.
Borneo's rainforest may get high-tech 3D scan to boost conservation
(05/04/2015) Conservation efforts in Borneo's embattled rainforest may get a boost with the launch of the newest version of an advanced airplane-based monitoring and assessment system. On Friday, the Carnegie Institution officially unveiled the latest upgrade of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an airplane equipped with technologies that enable scientists to conduct extremely high resolution scans of forest structure, biomass, and biological diversity. The platform has generated a wealth of information in places where it has been flown before.
Ongoing overkill: loss of big herbivores leading to 'empty landscapes'
(05/01/2015) Ten thousand years from now, human historians—or alien ones—may view the current wave of biodiversity loss and extinctions as concurrent with the Pleistocene extinction. At that time, peaking around 11,000 years ago, many scientists argue that human hunters killed off the majority of the world's big species. According to a paper today in history may be repeating itself.
Palm giants ask Indonesian gov't to clear path toward sustainability
(05/01/2015) Executives from palm oil giants Wilmar, Cargill and Golden Agri Resources appeared at a green investment summit in Jakarta this week, providing a window into the nature of a high-profile, joint sustainability pact the companies have entered into together with Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The agreement, known as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, has been lauded in some quarters for its potential to transform the sector and dismissed in others as mere lip service to protecting the environment.
Officials: Sumatran rhino is extinct in the wild in Sabah
(04/23/2015) There are no Sumatran rhinos left in the wild in the Malaysian state of Sabah, confirmed Masidi Manjun, the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, over the weekend. In 2008, conservationists estimated there were around 50 rhinos in the state. Five years later, it dropped that estimate to just ten. Now, it's admitted the awful truth: the wild rhino is very likely gone.
Photo essay: the flying fox show
(04/22/2015) Rain or clear, wind or still, full moon or no. Every night thousands of flying foxes rise from a small mangrove island among the lesser Sunda islands of Indonesia. Around sunset the Sunda flying fox begin to stir in their roots—their stomachs waking them—until the boldest among them takes off into the sky.
Killings of environmental activists jumped by 20 percent last year
(04/20/2015) The assassination, murder, and extrajudicial killing of environmental activists rose by 20 percent last year, according to a new grim report by Global Witness. The organization documented 116 killings in 2014 across 17 countries with the highest number in Brazil, which saw 29 environmental and land defenders killed.
Your name here: auctioning the naming rights to new species to fund conservation
(04/17/2015) Meg Lowman is on a mission to save northern Ethiopia's church forests, one at a time. Numbering around 3,500, these small "sacred" patches of forest surrounding churches are isolated natural oases in Ethiopia's otherwise mostly agricultural terrain, and they are losing ground to human activity at an alarming rate. Church forests are considered critical conservation areas. They are home to hundreds of species found nowhere else in the world, with new discoveries still being made.
Photo Essay: Geopolitical pawns, the fishermen of Lý Sơn, Vietnam
(04/17/2015) 'When they came, what could we do?' 46-year-old fisherman Nguyên Phú asks, crouching down like a frog with his hands above his head. 'We just put our hands up like this, and said, 'Don't shoot! Don't shoot!'' Their caution is warranted. If they venture too deeply into Vietnam's claimed territorial waters, a Chinese patrol boat will swoop down on them.
Indonesia's public water movement consolidates after two of its biggest wins
(04/17/2015) With the tide of privatized water in Indonesia as close to turning since the dictator Suharto was president, an entire spectrum of stakeholders is scrambling to chart a path forward on the heels of two landmark – and unexpected – court decisions. First, the Constitutional Court struck down the main governing law on water resources. Then a Jakarta court annulled the city's contract with private operators Palyja and Aetra, which have run the city's piped network since 1998 amid continual allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
Court rules deforestation of Peruvian rainforest for chocolate was legal
(04/16/2015) A regional court in Loreto, Peru recently ruled that the clearing of more than 2,000 hectares of forest by Cacao del Peru Norte for a plantation to grow cacao, the raw material behind chocolate, was legal, reported the investigative news site OjoPúblico on April 9. The ruling rejects contentions brought by Forestry Department that the company should have sought approval to clear the trees.
Empowering women in order to save the harvest
(04/16/2015) There are plenty of technological challenges to reducing food waste in sub-Saharan Africa, but a challenge that might prove more important to overcome is gender inequality. Women are responsible for nearly half of agricultural labor in sub-Saharan Africa, with some estimates reaching up to 90 percent. But they often don't have the authority to make financial decisions for their families, even when it comes to managing or selling the crops they've grown themselves.
The crop-saving champion of Tanzania: Bertha Mjawa
(04/15/2015) In the late 1980s, Bertha Mjawa remembers seeing endless quantities of fruits and vegetables getting thrown out across Tanzania because rot or insects had gotten to them. Years later, she has helped turn Tanzania into a model for reducing food waste.
Unique center trains Tanzanian farmers to preserve their fruits and veggies
(04/14/2015) Farmers and traders throughout sub-Saharan Africa lose nearly half of their fruits and vegetables before they reach the consumer. To get more food to people who need it, the Postharvest Training and Services Center teaches them better methods of storing, processing, and transporting their crops.
Expedition in the Congo rediscovers lost primate
(04/14/2015) The last time there was a sighting of Bouvier's red colobus disco was all the rage, the Internet was non-existent, and Madonna still referred solely to the mother of God. But then the African monkey vanished and conservationists feared it had gone extinct—a victim of the bushmeat trade. For years, research groups called for an expedition to find out if Bouvier's red colobus still survived.
Combating food waste in sub-Saharan Africa
(04/09/2015) In sub-Saharan Africa, a sizeable portion of essential food crops are lost before they can be eaten or sold. Long a neglected aspect of the agricultural system, this waste stream of food is starting to attract attention from global agriculture organizations and financial institutions, offering hope that the losses can be reduced, and with them rates of rural hunger and malnutrition.
New group hopes to raise global profile of the peace-loving bonobo
(04/08/2015) Of the world's six species of great ape (not including us), it's safe to say that bonobos (Pan paniscus) are the least studied and least known publicly. But a new organization, the Bonobo Project, is hoping to change that. To the untrained eye, a bonobo looks little different from their closest relative, the chimpanzee. But the differences between these two cousins are actually quite large.
Who's to blame for forest loss in Borneo timber concession?
(04/06/2015) The apparent loss of some 4,000 hectares of forested peatland in Indonesian Borneo is raising questions on who bears responsibility for forest clearing in un-utilized concessions. On Monday, Greenomics-Indonesia issued a report revealing the loss of significant tracts of peat forest in a West Kalimantan concession held by PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH), a plantation company whose operation in South Sumatra supplies Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) with woodpulp for its mills.
Fighting fire with money: can finance protect Indonesia’s forests?
(04/06/2015) In previous articles, we have seen an overview of the problems with the Indonesian palm oil industry. Such problems are largely caused by rent-seeking politicians and businessmen, who are willing to sacrifice endangered wildlife, the health of their countrymen and long-term environmental stability in the pursuit of profit. These actors exert a significant influence on and within the Indonesian government. As a result, Indonesia remains conflicted between the opposing goals of conservation and economic growth.
Kenya crackdown on terrorism threatens NGOs, wildlife, media
(04/03/2015) The terrorist attack that killed at least 147 people at Garissa University on April 2nd was another tragic milestone in Kenya’s ongoing battle with the al-Shabab terrorist group based in Somalia. In response to several other brutal attacks on civilians, Kenya’s government recently passed and proposed harsh new laws that are alarming environmental activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, opposition politicians and the public.
Could inland aquaculture help save the oceans and feed the world?
(04/02/2015) Mark Kwok has always loved the ocean. An avid diver and spear fisherman, he has travelled the planet in search of exotic fish and undersea adventure. Born into a wealthy Hong Kong family, he had the freedom to explore the world’s oceans. But in the last decade or so, he hasn’t been content just looking at fish. He’s been growing them. In a squat, unassuming cluster of buildings in an industrial suburb north of Hong Kong, Kwok is experimenting with a potentially revolutionary technology.
Russia and Canada lead the world in forest loss in 2013
(04/02/2015) Russia and Canada led the world in forest loss, accounting for nearly forty percent of the 18 million hectares of forest lost globally in 2013, reveals a new analysis based on high resolution satellite imagery. The research — released today on Global Forest Watch, a forest monitoring and research platform — was led by Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland and involved Google, World Resources Institute (WRI), and other institutions
Here comes progress: what will planned megaprojects mean for an Amazon city?
(03/31/2015) The city of Itaituba, in western Pará state, is home to several construction projects of strategic interest for the Brazilian government. However, with local infrastructure fragile, residents are worried they will not share in the spoils.
Nobody listened to them: fishing communities to be displaced by dams want a say in their future
(03/30/2015) Hydroelectric dams planned along the Brazil’s Tapajós River will evict over 2,500 people from small fishing communities and kill the fish they depend upon for survival, but the government is refusing to consult them about its plans.
9 months after Amazonian oil pipeline spill, effects and fears linger
(03/30/2015) When Peru's state-run oil company pulled out of this small Kukama Indian village in mid-December after cleaning up an oil pipeline spill, residents thought life could slowly return to normal. But more than three months later, wisps of oil floating down the Cuninico River—along with a larger spill in the neighboring community of San Pedro—are a reminder that the problems are not over.
Photos: expedition to Amazon’s white sands may have found new primate
(03/24/2015) Most people think of the Amazon rainforest as one massive, homogenous ecosystem—a giant castle of green. However, within the Amazon rainforest lie a myriad of distinct ecosystems, sporting unique characteristics and harboring endemic species. One of the rarer ecosystems in the Amazon is the white sands forest.
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.
Discovery of 'Lost City' spurs conservation pledge
(03/18/2015) Earlier this month, National Geographic made big news: the discovery of what it called a 'lost city' below the thick jungles of Honduras. While the coverage has led to scientists crying sensationalism, it also resulted this week in a commitment of protection by the Honduras President, Juan Orlando Hernández, for a long-neglected portion of the country.
New study argues the Anthropocene began in 1610
(03/11/2015) In 1610, William Shakespeare began penning one of his greatest plays, The Tempest, which some critics view as a commentary on European colonization of far-away islands and continents. Along those lines, a study today in Nature argues that 1610 is the first year of the human-dominated epoch, known as the Anthropocene, due to the upheavals caused by the 'discovery' of the New World.
Human impacts are 'decoupling' coral reef ecosystems
(03/09/2015) There is a growing consensus among scientists that we have entered the age of the Anthropocene, or the epoch of humans. In other words, at some point between the 12,000 years separating the beginning of agriculture and the Industrial Revolution, humans became the dominant source of change on the planet, shaping everything from the land to the atmosphere to even the geologic record where we etch our reign.
Employing shame for environmental change
(03/03/2015) Anyone who has ever felt the sting of shame, knows its power. Shame has long been used by societal institutions—families, communities, governments, religions—for making individuals tow the line of the majority. But a new book explores another—arguably more positive—side of shame: its potential to challenge rule-breaking and ethically-defunct corporations.
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.
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.
Partnering for conservation benefits Tacana people, Bolivian park
(02/25/2015) Kneeling in a small clearing amid tropical trees, Baldemar Mazaro skillfully arranges a circle of sticks and a noose of cord in the community of San Miguel de Bala. He hands a branch to a tourist and asks her to prod the sticks as if the branch were the nose of an animal snuffling around, looking for food.
$7 million could save lemurs from extinction
(02/25/2015) Last year, scientists released an emergency three-year plan that they argued could, quite literally, save the world's lemurs from mass extinction. Costing just $7.6 million, the plan focused on setting up better protections in 30 lemur hotspots. However, there was one sticking point: donating to small programs in one of the world's poorest countries was not exactly user friendly.
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
Dams or indigenous land: the battle over the Munduruku frontier
(02/20/2015) The Munduruku indigenous tribe have begun to mark out the limits of their land, in an action that could halt the giant São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, the apple of the Brazilian government's eye. Although sacred, this land will be flooded if the dam goes ahead. 'We are not leaving,' says the village chief.
Exclusive: Funai confirms that land threatened by dam projects belongs to indigenous tribe
(02/19/2015) The Brazilian government opposes granting traditional land to the Munduruku people since it would jeopardize seven proposed hydroelectric dams on the Tapajós River. For this reason, a year-old report by Funai that supports the Munduruku claim has not been officially published, but a copy of this report was obtained by the Brazilian publication Publica.
How do parks affect the poor? Jury’s still out, some experts say
(02/13/2015) In Peru’s vast northeastern region, where roads are scarce and forests abundant, crackdowns on the illegal plundering of timber, fish, and wildlife are sporadic and expensive. To fill the gap, the Peruvian National Park Service and non-profit conservation organizations encourage community groups to patrol their lakes and forests and control fishing and hunting.
'Sustainable' cacao company allegedly defies government's call to halt plantation development
(02/13/2015) A company aiming to be the world’s largest producer of sustainable cacao, the bean used to make chocolate, appears to have ignored orders from the Peruvian government to cease operations for failing to provide justification for having razed what scientists say was more than 2,000 hectares of old-growth Amazonian rainforest.
U.S. Central Plains and Southwest will likely face apocalyptic drought
(02/12/2015) In the recent film Interstellar, a mysterious phenomenon known as "the blight" is wiping out agriculture around the world until only corn—for some reason—survives. Humanity is on the brink of starvation. While the blight may be science fiction, global warming is not, and a new study finds that future warming could decimate the western U.S. over the next century.
Innovating Brazil nuts: a business with roots in the rainforest
(02/11/2015) Scientist and entrepreneur turn to Brazil nuts to protect Peru's threatened forests. Sofía Rubio was eight years old when she decided she wanted to be a biologist. 'I would skip school to go to the woods with my father or mother,' who did research in what is now the Tambopata National Reserve in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon, she says.
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.
Video: innovative tourism helps protect forests in Amazonian Peru
(02/05/2015) A new short documentary highlights the innovative, locally-grown tourist ventures sprouting up in the buffer zone around Peru's Tambopata National Reserve. Not only do these tourist adventures--some specializing in rehabilitating wildlife, others in finding out how locals live, and some even in jungle yoga--help provide jobs and income in a region dominated by extractive industries, but they are also help to keep forests standing.
Scientists, conservationists call for more inclusive efforts to save forests
(02/05/2015) Last month the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco brought together 167 scientists, educators, civil society leaders, artists, and interested members of the public at the Forest Solutions Summit to discuss approaches for bolstering protection and wiser use of global forests.
The Amazon's oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest
(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world's last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.
Community tourism fills niche around Tambopata National Reserve
(01/29/2015) When Víctor Zambrano retired from the military and returned to his family’s old homestead outside the fast-growing jungle town of Puerto Maldonado in Peru, he got an unpleasant surprise. Strangers had moved in and cleared the trees to raise cattle. As Zambrano tells it, he ran up the Peruvian flag, chased the invaders off, and set to work planting 19,000 native tree seedlings.
Accounting for natural capital on financial exchanges
(01/26/2015) Last month, Norway's stock exchange, the Oslo Børs, introduced a way for investors to use their money to promote sustainability. A new list by the stock exchange highlights green bonds, financial products issued by companies to raise capital for environmentally friendly projects. Notably, the list requires that issuing companies obtain and publicize outside opinions on the projects' environmental features.
Indigenous territories play dual role as homelands and protected areas
(01/22/2015) Indigenous communities claim—and scientific evidence increasingly shows—that indigenous forested territories are as well protected as, or better protected than, government-designated parks. In areas under pressure from roads or development projects, deforestation rates are sometimes even lower in indigenous territories than in official protected areas.
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).
Environmental wisdom: keeping indigenous stories alive
(01/21/2015) Enchanted lakes and magic hills: how traditional stories support conservation and abundance. 'Long ago, when animals were gente...' Those words, uttered countless times by indigenous Amazonian storytellers, blur the boundary between humans and other creatures in the forests and rivers, revealing a different view of the way human and non-human worlds intertwine.
A model forest? Regional park balances local needs and conservation
(01/21/2015) Regional conservation area safeguards subsistence and spirituality in the Peruvian Amazon. For Alfredo Rojas, the history of the remote villages along the Ampiyacu River is one of enslavement. Growing up here, Rojas listened to his parents tell stories of the rubber barons who beat and killed the Indians who failed to meet their latex quota.
Company chops down rainforest to produce 'sustainable' chocolate
(01/20/2015) A cacao grower with roots in Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry has set up shop in the Peruvian Amazon. The CEO of United Cacao has told the international press that he wants to change the industry for the better, but a cadre of scientists and conservation groups charge that United Cacao has quietly cut down more than 2,000 hectares of rainforest.
Scandal and intrigue overshadow environment at the Simandou mine in Guinea
(01/20/2015) Critically Endangered chimpanzees stand to lose their home over giant iron mine in West Africa. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa decades ago well-laid plans often crumbled to dust in the unpredictable confusion of life there. We just muttered with resignation, 'WAWA' – West Africa wins again. The Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea could be one of the biggest WAWAs the region has ever produced.
Ocean's 15: meet the species that have vanished forever from our seas
(01/15/2015) In the last 500 years, the oceans have suffered far fewer extinctions than on land—at least that we know of. According to a recent study in Science, 15 animals are known to have vanished forever from the oceans while terrestrial ecosystems have seen 514 extinctions. The researchers, however, warn that the number of marine extinctions could rise rapidly as the oceans are industrialized.
Empty seas? Scientists warn of an industrialized ocean
(01/15/2015) This is obvious, but still important: humans are not a marine species. Even as we have colonized most of our planet's terrestrial landscapes, we have not yet colonized the oceans. And for most of our history, we have impacted them only on the periphery. A new review in Science finds that this has saved marine species and ecosystems from large-scale damage—that is, until the last couple centuries.
No experience necessary: how studying tamarins led to an innovative research organization in the Amazon
(01/15/2015) While conducting doctoral research on tamarin reproductive biology in the Peruvian Amazon, Mrinalini Watsa realized she needed help in the field. Rather than hiring seasonal assistance she, along with Gideon Erkenswick, decided to create a life-changing non-profit organization, PrimatesPeru. The new NGO would allow students to conduct field research in one of the most biodiverse, yet threatened, places on Earth.
Did palm oil expansion play a role in the Ebola crisis?
(01/14/2015) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa may have been the result of complex economic and agricultural policies developed by authorities in Guinea and Liberia, according to a new commentary in Environment and Planning A. Looking at the economic activities around villages where Ebola first emerged, the investigators analyzed a shift in land-use activities in Guinea's forested region, particularly an increase in oil palm.
Casting for another job: will fishers take up a new livelihood?
(01/12/2015) Can alternative income programs save Fiji's reef fish? Many implicate the failure of Fiji's government to prioritize sustainable management over fisheries development projects, or suggest that Fijians' mindsets must dramatically shift first.
How black rhinos and local communities help each other in Namibia
(01/07/2015) Africa's rhinos are in a state of crisis. Poaching for their horn has resulted in the deaths of thousands of animals and pushed the continent's two species—the white and black rhino—against the wall. Yet, despite the crisis, there are pockets of rhino territory where poaching remains rare and rhinos live comparatively unmolested. Indeed, one of the brightest spots for rhinos is in Namibia.
Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015
(01/02/2015) 2014 was a landmark year for tropical rainforests, with dozens of major companies committing to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, the launch of new platforms for monitoring forests, and sharp drop in clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, among other big developments. Here's a quick look ahead at what might be in store for tropical forests in 2015.
2014: the year in rainforests
(12/30/2014) 2014 could be classified as 'The Year of the Zero Deforestation Commitment'. During 2014, nearly two dozen major companies, ranging from palm oil producers to fast food chains to toothpaste makers, established policies to exclude palm oil sourced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.
Meet Biofaces: the Facebook for wildlife enthusiasts
(12/30/2014) Love wildlife? Wish you had a place online to share your photos, videos, and stories with other wild enthusiasts—kind of like a Facebook for wildlife lovers? Well, look no further than Biofaces, a new website meant to "make wildlife loving people happy," according to its creator, Leonardo Avelino Duarte.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2014
(12/29/2014) In what was widely seen as a possible breakthrough in the battle to coordinate some kind of response to global warming, China and the U.S. announced joint actions this year. On November 12th, the world's two most powerful countries surprised pretty much everyone by announcing that they would work together to tackle the crisis.
Favorite nature and wildlife photos from 2014
(12/24/2014) During the course of my reporting in 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to several countries and take some pictures in the field. Below are some of my favorite images from the year. Most of these photos are from Sumatra (Indonesia), Sabah (Malaysia), and Queensland (Australia), although there are a few from the United States.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014
(12/23/2014) In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.
Edited Reality: What I Learned from Filming Eaten Alive
(12/22/2014) On November 3, 2014, I woke up to check my flight status from Bangalore to New York. What I found when I opened my laptop was a mindboggling amount of emails, hate mail, death threats, and interview requests. The numbers were staggering. The night before, the Discovery Channel had aired the first trailers for the show they decided to call Eaten Alive.
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