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









Eco-friendly palm oil initiative censures company linked to deforestation

(09/23/2010) The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body the sets standards for eco-friendly palm oil production, on Thursday said Indonesian palm oil producer Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) breached its sustainability criteria and faces expulsion, reports AFP.


Another food goliath falls to palm oil campaign

(09/22/2010) One of the world's biggest food makers, General Mills, has pledged to source only sustainable and responsible palm oil within five years time. With this announcement, General Mills becomes only the most recent food giant to pledge to move away from problematic sources of palm oil, which is used in everything from processed foods to health and beauty products. Nestle made a similar pledge earlier this year after a brutalizing social media campaign that lasted for months while Unilever, the world's biggest palm oil buyer, has been working closely with green groups for years.


'Snakes on a plane' trafficker gets 6 months in jail

(09/06/2010) Notorious wildlife trafficker Anson Wong has been fined 190,000 Malaysian ringgit ($61,000) and sentenced to 6 months in jail for attempting to smuggle 95 boa constrictors, reports the Malaysian Star.


Burger King drops palm oil supplier linked to Borneo rainforest destruction

(09/02/2010) Burger King announced it would no longer source palm oil from Sinar Mas, an Indonesian conglomerate, after an independent audit showed one of the company's subsidiaries had destroyed rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands in Borneo and Sumatra, according to a statement on the fast food chain's Facebook page.


Morgan Stanley to underwrite coal mining on Borneo

(09/01/2010) Morgan Stanley, CIMB Securities, and Credit Suisse will underwrite the initial public offering of PT Borneo Lumbung Energi (Borneo Energy), a company that owns Asmin Koalindo Tuhup, a mining company that operates in Central Kalimantan in Indonesia Borneo, reports ANTARA.


Rapid growth of palm oil industry tramples indigenous peoples' rights, says report

(08/30/2010) Rapid expansion of oil palm plantations across Southeast Asia have run roughshod over customary tenure systems, resulting in exploitation of local communities, conflict, and outright human rights abuses, reports a new assessment of the palm oil sector by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), an international indigenous rights group.


Snakes on a plane! Malaysian reptile trafficker busted at airport

(08/28/2010) A notorious reptile smuggler has been busted at Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Airport after his luggage was found to contain 98 snakes and a turtle, reports the Malaysian Star.


Norway urged to dump shares of other forest-destroying companies

(08/27/2010) Norway's Climate and Forests Initiative, which has set aside billions of dollars for efforts to reduce deforestation, should work with the country's Ministry of Finance to divest the Government Pension Fund from companies that destroy forests, says the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an environmental group.


Photos: Asia's tiniest frog discovered living inside carnivorous plants in Borneo

(08/25/2010) One of the world's smallest frogs has been discovered living inside carnivorous plants in Borneo, reports Conservation International, a conservation group that is jointly supporting a campaign with IUCN to search for some of the world's 'lost amphibians.' The species, described in Zootaxa by Indraneil Das and Alexander Haas of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Biozentrum Grindel und Zoologisches Museum of Hamburg, is named Microhyla nepenthicola after the plant in which is was found, Nepenthes ampullaria, a species of pitcher plant from Malaysian Borneo.


Allegations abound: are nepotism and corruption behind the Sabah coal plant?

(08/25/2010) Allegations of government corruption and corporate kick-backs are swirling around a planned 300 MW Chinese coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah. While the plan to build the coal plant in Lahad Datu Bay has come up against strong and unrelenting grassroots opposition, the federal government continues to turn a deaf ear to opposition, arguing that the energy plant is necessary to power Sabah and stop blackouts. However, critics say the coal plant—which is to be built on the edge of the Coral Triangle and 20 kilometers from Tabin Wildlife Reserve—will damage fish stocks with chlorine and thermal discharges, upend the lives of locals dependent on fishing, and devastate eco-tourism in the region. In addition, the coal plant goes directly against Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's agreement at Copenhagen to reduce the country's carbon emission intensity by 40 percent by 2020.


Norway divests from Malaysian logging company after rainforest destruction

(08/24/2010) The Norwegian Government's pension fund sold all its 16 million shares of Samling Global, a Malaysian timber company, after concluding the firm had committed 'serious transgessions' in logging outside of concession areas and destroying protected rainforests, reports the Bruno Manser Fund. The sale, worth a total of $1.2 million, represents about 0.3 percent of the company's outstanding shares based on today's closing market price in Hong Kong.


Malaysia preparing to take big step backward on energy policy

(08/13/2010) I write to you as a deeply concerned and saddened citizen of Malaysia. For most of the 45 years of my life, I have been proud to be Malaysian. Recently, I have become heartbroken to be Malaysian. I am profoundly grateful to write this with the support of both my local communities in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and California, U.S.A., and a larger world community. That said, I take full ownership of and sole responsibility for the views articulated in this letter; I express them from my stand as a mother, an earth citizen and a leader.


Logged forests retain considerable biodiversity in Borneo providing conservation opportunity

(08/12/2010) A new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B finds that forests which have undergone logging in the past, sometimes even twice, retain significant levels of biodiversity in Borneo. The researchers say these findings should push conservationists to protect more logged forests from being converted into oil palm plantations where biodiversity levels drop considerably and endangered species are almost wholly absent. Given that much of Borneo's forests have been logged as least once, these long-dismissed forests could become a new frontier for conservationists.


Orangutan populations collapse in pristine forest areas

(08/12/2010) Orangutan encounter rates have fallen six-fold in Borneo over the past 150 years, report researchers writing in the journal PLoS One. Erik Meijaard, an ecologist with People and Nature Consulting International, and colleagues compared present-day encounter rates with collection rates from naturalists working in the mid-19th Century. They found orangutans are much rarer today even in pristine forest areas. The results suggest hunting is taking a toll on orangutan populations.


Nation's wealth does not guarantee green practices

(08/11/2010) Developing countries are not the only ones that could benefit from a little environmental support. Wealthier countries may need to 'know themselves' and address these issues at home too. According to a recent study in the open access journal PLoS ONE, wealth may be the most important factor determining a country’s environmental impact. The team had originally planned to study "country-level environmental performance and human health issues," lead author Corey Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modeling and professor at the University of Adelaide, told mongabay.com. Once they began looking at the available indexes, however, they saw the need for a purely environmental analysis.


Photos: world's top ten 'lost frogs'

(08/09/2010) The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International (CI) have sent teams of researchers to 14 countries on five continents to search for the world's lost frogs. These are amphibian species that have not been seen for years—in some cases even up to a century—but may still survive in the wild. Amphibians worldwide are currently undergoing an extinction crisis. While amphibians struggle to survive against habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and overexploitation, they are also being wiped out by a fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis.


Environmental assessment for Borneo coal plant riddled with errors

(08/03/2010) The Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) for a proposed coal plant in Sabah is full of holes, according to activists with the organization Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future), which opposes the plant. The official environmental report from Lahad Datu Energy lists species not endemic to Borneo, mistakes the nearest ecosystem to the coal plant, and confuses indigenous groups. Even more seriously, the DEIA leaves out information on the coal plant's specifics and possible 'green' alternatives.


Longtime target of green groups, Cargill, to supply sustainably-certified palm oil to Unilever

(07/30/2010) Agriculture giant Cargill has announced an agreement to supply Unilever with 10,000 metric tons of palm oil sustainably-certified from the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Cargill has often come under fire from green groups for being linked to the rainforest destruction. The Dutch-English company Unilever—the world's biggest buyer of palm oil—has been trying to move its palm oil sources away from deforestation with a goal of sourcing only 'sustainable' palm oil by 2015.


Endangered otter rediscovered in Borneo

(07/25/2010) The last time the hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) was seen in Borneo it was road-kill, but researchers have now photographed a living individual of this elusive and endangered species. Photos were taken by camera trap in the Dermakot forest in Sabah, a state of Malaysian Borneo. While the last specimen known in Borneo was killed by a car in 1997, the species hasn't been found confirmed in Sabah for over a century.


Illegal logging declining worldwide, but still 'major problem'

(07/15/2010) A new report by the Chatham House finds that illegal logging in tropical forest nation is primarily on the decline, providing evidence that new laws and international efforts on the issue are having a positive impact. According to the report, the total global production of illegal timber has fallen by 22 percent since 2002. Yet the report also finds that nations—both producers and consumers—have a long way to go before illegal logging is an issue of the past.


Greener palm oil arrives in the United States

(06/29/2010) The first shipment of palm oil certified under sustainability criteria have arrived in the United States, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).


Planting figs could save endangered species in Borneo

(06/28/2010) In one of the most remote and undisturbed forests of Borneo, the Maliau Basin in the Malaysian state of Sabah, researchers picked a single fig tree (Ficus caulocarpa) and surveyed the species feeding from it over a 5-day-period. Their findings, published in Tropical Conservation Science, shows that a fig tree over a short period of time feeds a high percentage of endangered species, prompting researchers to recommend replanting figs in disturbed forests as a way to save Borneo's frugivores (fruit-eating species) from extinction.


Scientists warn that Malaysia is converting tropical forests to rubberwood plantations

(06/24/2010) The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) has condemned Malaysia's booming practice of converting tropical forests into rubberwood plantations, arguing that the conversion threatens Malaysia's biodiversity, endangered species, and releases significant greenhouse gas emissions.


U.S. farms and forests report draws ire in Brazil; cutting down the Amazon does not mean lower food prices

(06/24/2010) Not surprisingly, a US report released last week which argued that saving forests abroad will help US agricultural producers by reducing international competition has raised hackles in tropical forest counties. The report, commissioned by Avoided Deforestation Partners, a US group pushing for including tropical forest conservation in US climate policy, and the National Farmers Union, a lobbying firm, has threatened to erode support for stopping deforestation in places like Brazil. However, two rebuttals have been issued, one from international environmental organizations and the other from Brazilian NGOs, that counter findings in the US report and urge unity in stopping deforestation, not for the economic betterment of US producers, but for everyone.


Violence at indigenous logging blockade in Borneo

(06/21/2010) A road blockade organized by Penan tribesmen in Malaysian Borneo turned violent over the weekend when a timber company official allegedly struck a native protester, reports the Bruno Manser Fund. Malaysian state police, who arrived in logging company vehicles, subsequently told the Penan to dismantle their blockade, which was established to protest continued logging of rainforest lands.


Wildlife-rich river threatened by sand-dredging in Borneo

(06/15/2010) The Kinabatangan River in Malaysian Borneo is home to a fabulous wealth of species, including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, and a sizeable population of the world's smallest elephant, the Borneo pygmy elephant. While local politicians have stated numerous times that the ecology of the river will be protected, locals are reporting a number of legally sanctioned sang dredging operations on the river. Dredging can affect river flows, negatively impact wildlife, and release toxins from the sediments.


Swiss giant orders investigation into its largest palm oil supplier

(06/15/2010) Migros, Switzerland's largest supermarket chain, will lodge a formal complaint against Malaysia's IOI Group after the palm oil grower was linked to illegal forest-clearing and encroachment on customary lands, reports the Bruno Manser Fund.


Fishermen express doubts about coal plant overlooking their fishing grounds

(06/13/2010) Local fishermen in the Malaysian state of Sabah are uncertain of their future, if the government pushes ahead to build a 300 megawatt coal power plant. They have been told they will be moved from their current seaside village to one deeper inland, and while the coal plant will provide manual labor work in its building stages, the fishermen express doubt about the impacts over the long-term effects of the coal plant on their livelihood. "Someone mentioned that maybe we have to move to Sungai Merah, which is quite far from our village. We are also worried because Sungai Merah is not next to the sea like [our village] is," local fishermen, Ali Hia, told Green SURF and Save Sandakan members—two local organizations opposed to the coal plant—who recently visited the seaside village of Kampung Sinakut, site of the proposed coal plant.


To save species, Malaysia implements daring plan to trap wild Bornean rhino

(06/13/2010) With less than 40 individuals left in the world, the Bornean rhino is a small step away from extinction. Yet conservationists and government officials in the Malaysian state of Sabah are not letting this subspecies of the Sumatran rhino go without a fight. Implementing a daring last-ditch plan to save the animal, officials are working to capture a wild female to mate with a fertile male named Tam, who was rescued after wandering injured into a palm oil plantation two years ago.


A total ban on primary forest logging needed to save the world, an interview with activist Glen Barry

(06/02/2010) Radical, controversial, ahead-of-his-time, brilliant, or extremist: call Dr. Glen Barry, the head of Ecological Internet, what you will, but there is no question that his environmental advocacy group has achieved major successes in the past years, even if many of these are below the radar of big conservation groups and mainstream media. "We tend to be a little different than many organizations in that we do take a deep ecology, or biocentric approach," Barry says of the organization he heads. "[Ecological Internet] is very, very concerned about the state of the planet. It is my analysis that we have passed the carrying capacity of the Earth, that in several matters we have crossed different ecosystem tipping points or are near doing so. And we really act with more urgency, and more ecological science, than I think the average campaign organization."


Photos reveal paradise-like site for coal plant in Borneo

(05/21/2010) With the world's eyes on the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, many are beginning to ponder the rightness of not just America's, but the world's dependence on fossil fuels. Yet large-scale fossil-fuel energy projects continue to march ahead, including one in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo to build a 300 MW coal plant, which has come under fierce opposition from locals (already the project has been forced to move locations twice). The newest proposal will build the coal plant, as photos below reveal, on an undeveloped beach overlooking the Coral Triangle, one of the world's most biodiverse marine environments, with transmission lines likely running through nearby pristine rainforest that are home to several endangered species, including orangutans and Bornean rhinos.


Malaysia introducing tough new wildlife laws

(05/20/2010) By the end of the year, Malaysia will begin enforcing its new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 including stiffer penalties for poaching and other wildlife-related crimes, such as first time punishments for wildlife cruelty and zoos that operate without license.


Brazil launches major push for sustainable palm oil in the Amazon

(05/07/2010) Brazilian President Lula da Silva on Thursday laid out plans to expand palm oil production in the Amazon while minimizing risk to Earth's largest rainforest. The plan, called the Program for Sustainable Production of Palm Oil (O Programa de Produção Sustentável de Óleo de Palma), will provide $60 million to promote cultivation of oil palm in abandoned and degraded agricultural areas, including long-ago deforested lands used for sugar cane and pasture. Brazilian officials claim up to 50 million hectares of such land exist in the country.


Activists lock themselves in Cargill headquarters as new report alleges illegal deforestation

(05/05/2010) Following a damning report from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) alleging illegal clearing of rainforest in Indonesia by agriculture-giant Cargill, activists have infiltrated Cargill headquarters in Wayzata, Minnesota and refuse to come out until the CEO agrees to meet with them. According to local reports, five activists are locked inside a staircase, while others are protesting outside the building.


United States has higher percentage of forest loss than Brazil

(04/26/2010) Forests continue to decline worldwide, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). Employing satellite imagery researchers found that over a million square kilometers of forest were lost around the world between 2000 and 2005. This represents a 3.1 percent loss of total forest as estimated from 2000. Yet the study reveals some surprises: including the fact that from 2000 to 2005 both the United States and Canada had higher percentages of forest loss than even Brazil.


New report alleges Sarawak government, police, and loggers "act in collusion to harass and intimidate indigenous communities"

(04/15/2010) A new report by JOANGOHutan, the Malaysian Network of Indigenous Peoples and Non-Governmental Organizations, paints an atmosphere of abuse and ambivalence toward indigenous communities embroiled in land disputes in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. According to the report, there are currently 140 land dispute cases in limbo in the Sarawak courts. Indigenous groups are fighting loggers, oil palm plantation developers, and the paper industry for their tribal lands, yet indigenous tribes have not found advocates in state government.


Hope for survival as isolated orangutans joined by rope bridge

(04/11/2010) Researchers in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo are joyful after receiving confirmation that a young male orangutan used a rope bridge to cross a river, which has separated one orangutan population from another. Due to logging and clearing forests for oil palm plantations, which cover 18 percent of land in Sabah, orangutans on the Kinabantangan River have been cut into fragmented populations.


Photos: rescued sun bears in Borneo moved to new facility

(04/08/2010) Rescued sun bears in Sabah, Borneo are getting a new home this week. The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC) has finished Phase 1 of its construction of a new home for the bears. Eventually the center will include visitor facilities and observation gallery where tourists will have the chance to watch the bears. For now, though, the bears will enjoy brand new state-of-the-art facilities and, for the first time, access to a pristine forest.


Unilever backtracks: may purchase palm oil from Sinar Mas

(04/07/2010) The world's biggest buyer of palm oil, Unilever, says it will again purchase palm oil from PT SMART, a subsidiary of Indonesian company Sinar Mas, if allegations about deforestation and peatland destruction prove untrue, or if Sinar Mas shows it is addressing the issue. Last December, the food and cosmetic giant, Unilever, suspended its $32.6 million contract with Sinar Mas after an independent audit—spurred by a 2008 Greenpeace report—showed that the Indonesian company was involved in the illegal destruction of rainforests and peatlands. Yet the company now seems to be signaling that the contract is back on the table even as it touts its sustainability efforts to the public.


Malaysian palm oil grower loses case over damages to rainforest community

(04/01/2010) IOI group suffered a legal setback this week when the Miri High Court — a court for Miri District in Sarawak, a state in Malaysian Borneo — ruled that the palm oil grower is liable for damages caused by the destruction of land belonging to Long Teran Kanan, a Kayan native community. The legal battle has dragged on for 12-years but now represents an important precedent for forest-dependent communities in Malaysia, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, an NGO that campaigns on behalf of Sarawak's forest people.


Sumatran rhino loses pregnancy: conservationists saddened but remain resolute

(03/31/2010) Rhino conservationists' hopes were dampened today by news that Ratu, a female Sumatran rhino, had lost her pregnancy. Just months after the announcement of the pregnancy—the first at Indonesia’s Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park—Ratu lost the embryo. Still, say conservationists, the very fact that Ratu became pregnant at all should keep hope alive for the beleaguered species.


Nestle's palm oil debacle highlights current limitations of certification scheme

(03/26/2010) Last week Nestle, the world's largest food processor, was caught in a firestorm when it attempted to censor a Greenpeace campaign that targeted its use of palm oil sourced from a supplier accused of environmentally-damaging practices. The incident brought the increasingly raucous debate over palm oil into the spotlight and renewed questions over an industry-backed certification scheme that aims to improve the crop's environmental performance.


Analysis shows Borneo can say 'no' to coal power

(03/17/2010) Plans for a coal power plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo have run into stiff opposition. Environmentalists say the coal plant could damage extensive coral reef systems, pollute water supplies, open rainforests to mining, and contribute to global climate change, undercutting Sabah's image as a 'green' destination. The federal government contends that the coal plant is necessary to fix Sabah's energy problems. However, a recent energy audit by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California Berkeley shows that pollution-intensive coal doesn't have to be in Sabah's future.


Oil palm plantations support fewer ant species than rainforest

(03/02/2010) Oil palm plantations support substantially less biodiversity than natural forests when it comes to ant species, reports new research published in Basic and Applied Ecology. Tom Fayle, a University of Cambridge biologist, and colleagues sampled ant populations in Danum Valley Conservation Area, a rainforest, and nearby oil palm plantations in Sabah, a state Malaysian Borneo. The researchers counted 16,000 worker ants from 309 species in the natural forest but only in 110 species at the oil palm plantation.


Why we are failing orangutans

(03/01/2010) It is no secret that orangutans are threatened with extinction because their rain forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Ten years ago, Shawn Thompson, a writer, former journalist and university professor, set out to chronicle the threat to orangutans in a book released in March 2010. The book is called The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and the Secret Life of a Vanishing Species. The book spends most of the time talking about the nature of orangutans and the relationships between orangutans and people. But the ultimate underlying message is there about the source of the peril to orangutans and the solution. Thompson says that the problem of saving orangutans has to do with communications and human nature.


Where two worlds collide: visiting Tabin Wildlife Reserve

(02/21/2010) The vehicle stopped on the way into Tabin Wildlife Reserve as a troupe of pig-tailed macaques began making their way across the road. In a flash a domestic dog, which may or may not have been 'ownerless', ambushed the group. Chaos erupted as the big predator fell upon the community. As quickly as it began it was all over and the dog was rushing over with an infant monkey in its mouth, leaving the macaques' screeching out their helplessness. As my uncustomary welcome to Tabin Wildlife Reserve shows: the park is a meeting of two worlds. On the left side of the road leading into the reserve is a massive oil palm plantation, on the right is the rainforest and the many species the reserve protects. Tabin, therefore, gives the visitor a unique up-close view of the debate raging in Borneo and throughout much of Southeast Asia over conservation and environment versus oil palm plantations.


Pregnancy gives new hope for rhino on-the-brink of extinction

(02/18/2010) Though they grew up world's apart, Sumatran rhinos Ratu and Andalas have given conservationists new-found hope for saving the embattled species. The rhino couple is expecting, according to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary at Way Kambas, Indonesia. One of the world's most endangered big mammals, Sumatran rhinos are unique due to their hairy bodies and small size (at least compared to other rhinos). The last surviving members of the genus Dicerorhinus, only 200 Sumatran rhinos are estimated to survive in the wild. Ratu's pregnancy holds special significance for a number of reasons. It is the first pregnancy at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary; it will be both Ratu's and Andalas' first calf; it is also the first pregnancy in captivity since Andalas' mother Emi—the only Sumatran rhino to successfully give birth in captivity for 112 years—passed away last fall.


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.


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.


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.



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