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12-year-old on a mission to save Africa's most unusual animal, the okapi, an interview with Spencer Tait

(02/16/2010) Anyone who says a kid can't change the world hasn't met Spencer Tait. At the age of five Spencer had his first encounter with the Congo's elusive okapi at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Spencer—now 12 years old—describes that encounter as 'love at first sight'. He explains that while the okapi "looks like a mix between a zebra, horse, and giraffe [...] it's really only related to the giraffe." Seeing the okapi at the museum led Spencer not only to learn all about the okapi, but also to find out what was threatening the animal's survival, including the long civil conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the okapi's home. Most kids—and adults too—would probably leave it at that, but not Spencer.


Australia starts 10 million dollar initiative to find new species

(02/15/2010) Known as the 'Bush Blitz', Australia will spend 10 million Australian dollars (8.88 million US dollars) over the next three years to conduct biodiversity surveys in far-flung places, reports Sydney Morning Herald. The program hopes to both uncover new species and gather more data about innumerable little-known plants and animals on the continent.


Tropical timber imports to the U.S. plunge

(02/15/2010) U.S. tropical lumber imports plunged by nearly half between 2009 and 2008, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).


Illegal logging rampant in Peru

(02/15/2010) A survey of 78 forestry concessions in Peru found that 46 (59 percent) were in breach of their concession contracts, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).


Decline in fog threatens California's iconic redwood ecosystems

(02/15/2010) A surprising new study finds that during the past century the frequency of fog along California's coast has declined by approximately three hours a day. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the researchers are concerned that this decrease in fog threatens California's giant redwoods and the unique ecosystem they inhabit.


How free trade has devastated Africa's farmers and poor

(02/15/2010) A push in the mid-1980s for Africa to embrace free trade to aid its economies backfired in many of the continent's poorest countries, argues a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Africa was pushed to rollback government involvement in development and instead to rely on the private sector: government services shrunk, cash crops were pushed over staples, while tariffs and subsides were abolished. The insistence on free trade was meant to spur economic growth, but instead undercut traditional agricultural systems that had worked for centuries, eventually leading to a food crisis, which left millions hungry, caused multiple food riots, and destabilized governments.


Head of UN urges 'a wake-up call' to save biodiversity

(02/14/2010) Speaking at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that "business as usual is not an option" to protect the world' s biodiversity. The failure of governments worldwide to meet their pledges to protect biodiversity by 2010 is "a wake up call" according to Ki-moon.


UN official: Zimbabwe security forces poached 200 rhinos

(02/14/2010) Last week the secretary of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Willem Wijnstekers, announced that security forces in Zimbabwe had poached approximately 200 rhinos in a two year period. He did say how many elephants were poached by security forces.


The Critically Endangered South China Tiger Roars Again in 2010, the Chinese Year of the Tiger

(02/14/2010) Today marks the Chinese New Year for 2010, and the start of the traditional Year of the Tiger. The people of China might be celebrating future Years of the Tigers without their native and critically endangered South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) if not for the efforts of Save China's Tigers (SCT) a grassroots conservation effort headed by the charismatic Li Quan and her husband Stuart Bray. Both Ms Quan and Mr. Bray are former senior executives in international business circles. After leaving the corporate world, Ms Quan and Mr. Bray are now stepping up as champions for China's natural environment, much of which has been lost in the Chinese march towards "The Four Modernizations."


Bill Gates: ban coal and invest in clean energy technology

(02/12/2010) The planet needs "energy miracles" to overcome the dual challenges of meeting energy demand and addressing climate change, said Microsoft founder Bill Gates during a speech Friday at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California.


Expedition to photograph world's rarest cetacean threatened by lack of funding

(02/11/2010) Little known beyond the waters of the Gulf of California, the world's smallest cetacean (a group including whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is hanging on by a thread. The vaquita—which in Spanish means 'little cow'—has recently gained the dubious distinction of not only being the world's smallest cetacean, but the also the world's rarest. In 2006 it was announced that the Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was likely extinct, and conservationists fear the Critically Endangered 'little cow' is next. An expedition for this year is set to identify vaquita individuals, but even this is threatened by lack of funding.


Chinese farming practices are acidifying soils

(02/11/2010) A new study in Science shows that farming practices in China are acidifying the nation's soils and threatening long term productivity at a time when food concerns worldwide have never been higher. The culprit is the increasing use of nitrogen fertilizer.


Desertification threatens 38 percent of the world

(02/10/2010) Over one third of the world's land surface (38 percent) is threatened with desertification, according to a new study published in theInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. The study found that eight of fifteen eco-regions are threatened by desertification, including coastal areas, the prairies, the Mediterranean region, the savannah, the temperate steppes, the temperate deserts, tropical and subtropical steppes, and the tropical and subtropical deserts.


Companies disclose deforestation risk in their supply chains

(02/10/2010) An initiative that aims to root out deforestation by increasing the transparency of global supply chains released the results of its first survey on Wednesday, finding that most companies were not previously looking at the issue. Of 217 companies contacted by the Forest Footprint Disclosure project, only 35 responded with full data disclosure, including British Airways, BMW, Travis Perkins, L’Oréal, Weyerhaeuser, Kingfisher, Adidas, Nike, Mondi Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, and Unilever.


How to end Madagascar's logging crisis

(02/10/2010) In the aftermath of a military coup last March, Madagascar's rainforests have been pillaged for precious hardwoods, including rosewood and ebonies. Tens of thousands of hectares have been affected, including some of the island's most biologically-diverse national parks: Marojejy, Masoala, and Makira. Illegal logging has also spurred the rise of a commercial bushmeat trade. Hunters are now slaughtering rare and gentle lemurs for restaurants.


China is polluted: first national survey paints disturbing picture

(02/09/2010) The first ever national survey of pollution in China shows a nation that has paid for its economic growth in environmental pollution.


Canada creates massive new park in the boreal

(02/09/2010) Last Friday, the government of Canada and the governments of the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador signed a memorandum of understanding to create a the new Mealy Mountains National Park. Larger than Yellowstone National Park, the new Canadian park will span 11,000 square kilometers making it the largest protected area in Eastern Canada.


First footage captured of giant sea serpent of the deep: the oarfish

(02/09/2010) Scientists have captured what they believe to be the first footage ever of the oarfish, the species likely responsible for legends told of sea serpents.


Forgotten Species: the fiery Luristan Newt

(02/08/2010) The salamander was a mythical creature before it was a real one: the word salamander means a legendary lizard that both survived-in and could extinguish fire. A creature that the Ancient Greeks, including Aristotle, appeared to readily believe in. No one knows how the term salamander transferred from a mythical fire-dwelling monster to the small amphibious animals it applies to today, but I have a theory. Perhaps the sight of salamanders like Luristan newt—charcoal-black and flame-orange—caused people in the seventeenth century to lend the name of myth to the taxa.


Amazon rainforest will bear cost of biofuel policies in Brazil

(02/08/2010) Business-as-usual agricultural expansion to meet biofuel production targets for 2020 will take a heavy toll on Brazil's Amazon rainforest in coming years, undermining the potential emissions savings of transitioning from fossil fuels to biofuels, warns a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research suggests that intensification of cattle ranching, combined with efforts to promote high-yielding oil crops like oil palm could lessen forecast greenhouse gas emissions from indirect land use in the region.


New spiny pocket mouse discovered in the mountainous rainforests of Venezuela

(02/08/2010) Researchers have discovered a new species of spiny mouse that lives on four mountainous forests in the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range of Venezuela.


Asia's biggest logging company accused of bribery, violence in Papua New Guinea

(02/08/2010) A local organization in Papua New Guinea, known as Asples Madang, is fighting against one of the region's biggest industrial loggers, Rimbunan Hijau (RH) chaired by billionaire Tiong Hiew King. Aspeles Madang has accused Malaysian company, RH, of acquiring land illegally and of using brute force and bribery in its dealing with locals.


Google Earth boosts deforestation monitoring capabilities

(02/07/2010) Google has taken a step towards ramping up the deforestation monitoring capabilities the Google Earth Engine by contracting Massachusetts-based Clark Labs to develop an online version of its Land Change Modeler application.


86 percent of dolphins and whales threatened by fishing nets

(02/07/2010) A new report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) finds that almost 9 out of 10 toothed whales—including dolphins and porpoises—are threatened by entanglement and subsequent drowning from large-scale fishing operations equipment, such as gillnets, traps, longlines, and trawls. These operations threaten the highest percentage (86 percent) of the world's toothed whales.


Church of England drops mining company Vedanta due to indigenous rights concerns

(02/07/2010) The Church of England has dropped is 3.8 million pound stake (5.9 million US dollars) in controversial mining company, Vedanta Resources, citing concern over the company's human rights record. The Indian company has come under considerable criticism for its plan to build a bauxite mine on Niyamgiri Mountain, threatening the mountain, forests, and the local tribe Dongria Kondh tribe.


India to track every tiger death on-line

(02/07/2010) Due to increased problems with poaching, the conservation organization TRAFFIC has joined with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to begin tracking every tiger mortality in India with a new website called Tigernet.


Commodity trade and urbanization, rather than rural poverty, drive deforestation

(02/07/2010) Deforestation is increasingly correlated to urban population growth and trade rather than rural poverty, suggesting that measures proposed to reduce deforestation will be ineffective if they fail to address demand for commodities produced on forest lands, argues a new paper published in Nature GeoScience.


Certified palm oil sales accelerate

(02/05/2010) For the first time, sales of certified sustainable palm oil have nearly met production, reports the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a group that has developed the leading environmental certification standard for palm oil.


Forest conservation in U.S. climate policy: an interview with Jeff Horowitz

(02/05/2010) The Copenhagen Accord signed in December is widely seen as a disappointment. The Accord set no binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions targets and did not even commitment to a legally binding treaty in the future. Serious work is needed to bring the process back on track. But some progress was made. Countries agreed on international monitoring of emissions (a point of conflict between China and the United States) and funding (rich countries pledged $3 billion a year for the next three years and up to $100 billion a year by 2020) for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. Furthermore, there were gains for the REDD mechanism, a U.N.-backed plan to compensate developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation.


EU: rainforests can be converted to palm oil plantations for biofuel production

(02/04/2010) The European Union may be planning to classify oil palm plantations as forests, raising fears among environmental groups of expanded conversion of tropical rainforests for biofuel production, reports the EUobserver, which cites a leaked document from the European Commission. The draft document shows that policymakers are considering language that would specifically allow use of biofuels produced via conversion of rainforests to oil palm plantations.


Birder captures first footage ever of long whiskered owlet, one of the world's rarest birds

(02/04/2010) It was any birders dream come true: not only to see one of the world's rarest birds, but to discover a new unknown population. Israeli birder, Shachar Alterman, was surveying birds with the UK organization Neotropical Primate Conservation in Peruvian cloud forest when he heard and then saw the long whiskered owlet.


Sophisticated flying methods allow insects to hitchhike on fast winds

(02/04/2010) Researchers have long been fascinated by how insects migrate thousands of kilometers, for example from Britain to the Mediterranean. A new study, published in Science shows that although tiny, insects are not at the mercy of winds as expected. Instead they employ sophisticated flight behaviors to use fast winds to their advantage.


Extinct: last of the Andaman tribe dies

(02/04/2010) Boa Sr, the last speaker of ‘Bo’, one of the ten Great Andamanese languages, died last week, according to Survival International. She was 85.


The Amazongate fiasco

(02/03/2010) A claim published in the Sunday Times over the veracity of a statement published in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report may land the British newspaper in hot water. On Sunday, Jonathan Leake, Science & Environment Editor of the Sunday Times, accused the IPCC of making a "bogus rainforest claim" when it cited a report warning that up to 40 percent of the Amazon could be "drastically" affected by climate change. Climate change skeptics immediately seized on "Amazongate" as further evidence to discredit the IPCC just two weeks after it was found to be using shoddy glacier data in its 2007 climate assessment.


Rainforest expert agrees with IPCC: warns of 'tipping point' for Amazon

(02/03/2010) Amid questions over the Amazon forests' capacity to survive climate change, a renowned tropical biologist says that in fact the fears are real, reports Tierramerica. Speaking at the Biodiversity Science Policy Conference in Paris, Thomas Lovejoy, biodiversity chair at the Washington DC-based Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, and chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank, described the Amazon rainforest as "very close to a tipping point".


NASA: Arctic melt season lengthening

(02/03/2010) Newly released images from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center show that the Arctic's melt season has lengthened significantly over the past few decades.


Satellite photo of the world's tallest building and "The World" islands in Dubai

(02/03/2010) NASA has released an updated satellite photo showing Dubai's artificial islands and its newly completed Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building which stands more than 800 meters (2600 feet tall).


Tales From A Frozen Zoo

(02/02/2010) A "frozen zoo" is a cryonic or "cold storage" facility for the long term preservation of animal and plant genetic material such as skin cells, DNA, sperm, eggs, and embryos. The first facility of this type was developed by San Diego Zoological Society for the study and preservation of genetic material from endangered animal species from across the globe. The following article is a dialog with Dr. Oliver Ryder, Director of Genetics at the San Diego Zoological Society's Institute for Conservation Research, home of the San Diego Zoo’s genetics collection. This piece is intended to read as both an interview and a series of vignettes on the background, goals, and highlights of the San Diego Zoo's genetics collection or "Frozen Zoo"


Could special bonds fund the green revolution and stabilize the climate?

(02/02/2010) There is no question that governments around the world are moving slowly and sluggishly to combat climate change, especially when placed against the measures recommended by climate scientists. Only a handful of nations have actually cut overall greenhouse gas emissions, and the past couple decades have seen emissions rise rapidly worldwide as nations like India and China industrialize while Brazil and Indonesia continue massive deforestation. Global temperatures are rising in concert (though with natural fluctuations): the past decade is the warmest on record. After the failure of Copenhagen this past December to produce an ambitious and binding treaty, many are wondering if the world will ever address the threat of climate change or if future generations are set to live in a world far different—and more volatile—than the one we currently enjoy.


Pet dealer won't regain custody of 26,000 animals seized during raid

(02/02/2010) U.S. Global Exotics, an exotic pet dealer accused of animal cruelty and linked with a notorious wildlife smuggler based in Malaysia, will not be getting back of the 26,000 animals seized from their facility during a raid on December 15th, reports the Star-Telegram.


Bronx Zoo puts 'extinct' frogs on display

(02/02/2010) The Bronx Zoo has a put a most unusual frog on display: the Kihansi spray toad. For one thing, the Kihansi spray toad survived on only 5 acres in the Kihansi gorge in Tanzania, adapted to the areas' unique and constant mist from the gorge and a waterfall. For another, female Kihansi spray toads give birth to live young, instead of laying eggs. Finally, the Kihansi spray toad is extinct—at least in the wild.


On World Wetland's Day bad news for America's iconic ducks

(02/02/2010) World Wetland Day 2010 brings with it new research on America's prairie wetlands and bad news for the country's waterfowl. A new study in BioScience finds that America's prairies are greatly susceptible to climate change: a warmer and drier prairie will desiccate wetlands needed by ducks and other waterfowl for food, shelter, and breeding.


Environmentalists and indigenous groups decry approval of massive dam in Amazon

(02/02/2010) The approval of the hydro-electric Belo Monte Dam from the Brazilian environmental agency, IBAMA, has raised condemnations from environmentalists and indigenous groups. The dam will divert the flow of the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River, which runs through the Amazon in northeast Brazil. According to critics the dam will destroy vast areas of pristine rainforest, disrupt sensitive ecosystems, and relocate 12,000 people.


Half of Indonesia's species remain unknown

(02/02/2010) Incorporating 17,000 tropical islands, Indonesia is one of the world's richest areas of biodiversity. However, according to the Jakarta Post, over half of this biodiversity remains unrecorded with only 20 of the more than 400 regencies in the country recording species.


Jumbo squid explosion

(02/02/2010) Jumbo squid are back in the waters of Southern California and anglers are seeing an uptick in business, reports the Los Angeles Times.


Why top predators matter: an in-depth look at new research

(02/02/2010) Few species have faced such vitriolic hatred from humans as the world's top predators. Considered by many as pests—often as dangerous—they have been gunned down, poisoned, speared, 'finned', and decimated across their habitats. Even where large areas of habitat are protected, the one thing that is often missing are top predators. However, new research over the past few decades is showing just how vital these predators are to ecosystems. Biologists have long known that predators control populations of prey animals, but new studies show that they may do much more. From controlling smaller predators to protecting river banks from erosion to providing nutrient hotspots, it appears that top predators are indispensible to a working ecosystem. Top predators sit at the apex of an ecosystem's food chain. Wolves in Alaska, tigers in Siberia, lions in Kenya, white sharks in the Pacific are all examples of top predators.


Stopping wildlife trafficking in Congo

(02/01/2010) The bushmeat trade in the Congo basin has been widely publicized but poorly addressed. While fines and sentences exist for wildlife trafficking, they have traditionally been poorly enforced due to corruption, poor governance, and attentions focused on other priorities. Major traffickers, who tend to be rich and well-connected, trade with impunity, knowing that a well-placed bribe or a phone call can get them off with little more than a slap on a wrist. But the days of privilege may be drawing to a close in Republic of Congo thanks to the efforts of PALF [Projet d'Appui à l'Application de la Loi sur la Faune], a Brazzaville-based NGO which is working to build the capacity of Congolese authorities to enforce wildlife laws. In the process, PALF is helping root out corruption and raise awareness of the plight of the country's increasingly threatened wildlife, including forest elephants, big cats, chimps, and gorillas.


The secret life of a Californian pest

(02/01/2010) The acorn woodpecker is best known for its chortle, which may have inspired Woody the Woodpecker's iconic laugh. But many California residents say there's nothing funny about the hundreds of holes these birds leave outside of homes and businesses while storing acorns for the winter. In early 2009, two housing associations in the retirement community of Rossmoor found themselves at the heart of a national scandal after obtaining a depredation permit to shoot the winged vandals, according to the Los Angeles Times. But researchers on the Hastings Natural History Reserve in Carmel Valley don't see acorn woodpeckers as pests. For more than 40 years, biologists here have studied the ecological soap operas underlying acorn woodpecker social groups to learn why animals choose to cooperate in some situations and not in others.


Photos: New tropical frog undergoes remarkable transformation

(02/01/2010) Nature never runs out of surprises. Exploring Sudest Island off of Papua New Guinea, researchers discovered a new species of frog that drastically changes its appearance from juvenile to adulthood, a transformation that has never been seen in another frog.The new species, named Oreophryne ezra, is shiny black with bright yellow spots. Yet when it matures, the frog becomes rose-colored and even its eyes change from black to blue.


China leaves US (and Europe) in the dust on renewable energy

(02/01/2010) This year China has become the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines, doubling its wind capacity since 2005. The economically booming nation—and the world's most populous—has also invested heavily in nuclear power and the world's most efficient coal plants, according to the New York Times.



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