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Ecotourism brings home the bacon in the Peruvian Amazon

(11/15/2010) Ecotourism is one of the most profitable uses of tropical forest in the Tambopata area of the Peruvian Amazon, according to a study released on 29 September in the journal PLoS ONE. In 2002 Peru’s government passed legislation to allow ecotourism-controlled zones in the Tambopata region of southeastern Peru. Policymakers hoped such zones would preserve spectacular rainforest habitats while bringing in steady money. Critics have wondered, though, whether the strategy can succeed in the face of other profitable―yet destructive―ventures on pristine forested land.


Formal petition filed against Belo Monte dam

(11/11/2010) The struggle against Brazil's Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River continues as today indigenous groups sent a formal petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to suspend the dam's construction, stating the dam violates human rights. The dam, which has been contentious in Brazil for decades, would flood 500 square miles of rainforest, lead to the removal of at least 12,000 people in the region, and upturn the lives of 45,000 indigenous people who depend on the Xingu River for survival.


Chaco expedition working to "minimize the risk" of running into uncontacted natives

(11/11/2010) A joint expedition by the Natural History Museum (NHM), London and the Natural History Museum, Asuncion to study the biodiversity of the dwindling dry forests of Chaco in Paraguay have responded to recent concerns that they risk encountering uncontacted natives, which could potentially threaten the natives' lives as well as their own.


Evo Morales for the Nobel Prize?

(11/11/2010) Does Evo Morales merit a Nobel peace prize for his admirable work on climate justice? Former prize winners, as well as the Bolivian Congress, believe he deserves it and both have launched an international campaign on behalf of Bolivia’s indigenous president. In April of this year, Morales helped to organize the First World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which drew a whopping 35,000 people to the Bolivian city of Cochabamba. Designed as a kind of counter summit to the official Copenhagen conference of 2009, which proved a debacle in terms of reining in climate change, Cochabamba represented a milestone in social mobilization.


Rainforests thrived in warmer conditions in the past, yet study requires "caution"

(11/11/2010) A new study in Science is likely to reopen the contentious debate about the impact of climate change on tropical rainforests. Scientific modeling of future climate conditions in tropical rainforests, such as the Amazon, has shown that climate change—combined with deforestation and fire—could create a tipping point whereby a significant portion of the Amazon could turnover to savannah, pushing untold species to extinction and undercutting the many ecosystem services provided by tropical rainforests. Yet, a new study headed by Carlos Jaramillo, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), has found a tropical forest ecosystem thriving in much warmer conditions than today.


Brazil's development bank announces $588m fund to reduce agricultural emissions

(11/11/2010) Brazil's national development bank launched a 1 billion reais ($588 million) fund that will finance projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, reports Reuters.


Eight new plants discovered in Bolivia

(11/07/2010) Researchers have described eight new species of plant from in and near Madidi National Park in the Bolivian Andes. Described in the journal Novon by botanists with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the National Herbaium in Laz Paz, Bolivia, seven of the eight plants were found as apart of the Proyecto Madidi (Project Madidi), a ten year effort to describe the plant species of three inter-connecting protected areas in Bolivia—Madidi National Park, Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands, and Apolobamba Integrated Management Natural Area.


Deforestation jumps, but Guyana nonetheless qualifies for REDD payment

(11/07/2010) Guyana's deforestation rate over the past 12 months was roughly three times the average annual rate over the prior 20 year period, but was still well below the baseline under the recent $250 million forest conservation partnership with Norway, according to a new report released by Guyana Forestry Commission's REDD+ Monitoring Reporting and Verification System (MRVS).


Mato Grosso moves to strip protection of the Amazon rainforest

(11/07/2010) The Mato Grosso state assembly passed a bill that would substantially reduce protections for the Amazon rainforest and the Pantanal, a biologically-rich wetland, according to a statement signed by 27 organizations. The bill, which was approved 19 votes to one, would replace the ecological zoning system proposed by the state's former governor, Blairo Maggi, after three years of consultations with a wide range of stakeholders. The bill reduces areas set aside for conservation by 73 percent and calls for a 67 percent increase in the area zoned for agriculture intensification.


Deforestation falls, but rainforest damage surges in Brazil in Sept

(11/06/2010) Despite the worst drought on record in the region, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during September fell by 20 percent relative to September 2009, reports Imazon, a research institute that provides monthly updates on forest clearing.


Epidemic hits Amazonian indigenous group

(10/31/2010) An epidemic, suspected to be malaria, has struck down dozens of people of the Yanomami tribe in the Venezuelan Amazon, reports the Associated Press. Leaders of the three impacted village told health workers that approximately 50 people have died so far, many of them children.


Brazil to impose levy on oil profits to fund climate change adaption, mitigation

(10/26/2010) Brazil will fund climate change mitigation and adaption projects through a levy on domestic oil production, reports Reuters.


Brazil's national development bank found guilty of driving Amazon deforestation

(10/25/2010) BNDES, Brazil's national development bank, contributed to Amazon deforestation by lending billions of dollars to commercial meatpackers, driving expansion of cattle ranching across the world's largest rainforest, ruled an audit by the Federal Audit Court.


Amazon suffers worst drought in decades

(10/24/2010) The worst drought since 1963 has created a regional disaster in the Brazilian Amazon. Severely low water levels have isolated communities dependent on river transport. Given a worsening situation, Brazil announced on Friday an emergency package of $13.5 million for water purification, tents, and food airdrops.


Colombian marine reserve receives top honors at global biodiversity meeting

(10/20/2010) Coralina, a Colombian government agency that established the Seaflower Marine Protected Area (MPA) with local community involvement, is being heralded today by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan. Proving that conservation and sustainable economic opportunities can go hand-in-hand, Coralina was instrumental in creating a marine park that protects nearly 200 endangered species while providing sustainable jobs for local people in the Western Caribbean Colombian department of Archipelago of San Andrés, Old Providence and Santa Catalina. Coralina was one of over 1,000 agencies and organizations that are apart of the Countdown 2010 program, which highlights effective action to save species at the CBD.


Walmart takes on Amazon deforestation

(10/18/2010) The world's largest retailer last week announced new sourcing criteria for commodities closely associated with deforestation: palm oil and beef from the Amazon.


NGO warns oil exploration in Peru may 'decimate' uncontacted tribes

(10/17/2010) Survival International has warned that oil exploration in northern Peru threatens two uncontacted tribes. The organization, devoted to indigenous rights, has sent a letter to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, James Anaya, alleging that Peru is "violating international law" by allowing oil companies to explore a region home to uncontacted people, who are especially vulnerable to disease.


The ultimate bike trip: the Amazon rainforest

(10/17/2010) Like all commercial roads through rainforests, the 5,300 kilometer long Rodovia Transamazonica (in English, the Trans-Amazonia), brought two things: people and environmental destruction. Opening once-remote areas of the Amazon to both legal and illegal development, farmers, loggers, and miners cut swathes into the forest now easily visible from satellite. But the road has also brought little prosperity: many who live there are far from infrastructure and eek out an impoverished existence in a harsh lonely wilderness. This is not a place even the most adventurous travelers go, yet Doug Gunzelmann not only traveled the entirety of the Transamazonica in 2009, he cycled it. A self-described adventurer, Gunzelmann chose to bike the Transamazonica as a way to test his endurance on a road which only a few before have completed. But Gunzelmann wasn't just out for adrenaline-rushes, he was also deeply interested in the environmental issues related to the Transamazonica. What he found was a story without villains, but only humans—and the Amazon itself—trying to survive in a complex, confusing world.


Satellites show fragmented rainforests significantly drier than intact forest

(10/13/2010) A new study in Biological Conservation has shown that edge forests and forest patches are more vulnerable to burning because they are drier than intact forests. Using eight years of satellite imagery over East Amazonia, the researchers found that desiccation (extreme dryness) penetrated anywhere from 1 to 3 kilometers into forests depending on the level of fragmentation.


Brazil to auction off large blocks of Amazon rainforest for logging

(10/12/2010) Brazil will auction large blocks of the Amazon rainforest to private timber companies as part of an effort to reduce demand for illegal logging, reports Reuters. The government will grant 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of logging concessions by the end of the year, according to Antonio Carlos Hummel, head of Brazil's National Forestry Service. Within four to five years, 11 million hectares will be auctioned.


Can 'boutique capitalism' help protect the Amazon?

(10/11/2010) Most companies talk green, but few—almost none in fact—actually walk the walk. Sustainable design company, Ecostasy, not only walks the walk, but actually seeks out among the most challenging places to work: the imperiled Brazilian Amazon. Specializing in hand-crafted products by indigenous groups—such as jewelry, pots, and furniture—Ecostasy seeks to balance smart economics, environmental protection, and community development. Make no mistake, however, Ecostasy is not a non-profit, but a rare and refreshing example of a company truly dedicated to changing the world for the better. "In my mind, a virtuous company does not compromise ethical principles for economic interests. For me, being ethical is comprised of conducting oneself with honesty and responsibility to one’s constituencies (customers, employees, suppliers), society and the environment," Katherine Ponte, founder of Ecostasy, told mongabay.com in an interview.


Brazil to launch new deforestation monitoring system that 'sees' through clouds

(10/11/2010) Brazil will launch a new high resolution deforestation monitoring system that will be capable of detecting forest clearing under cloudy conditions.


Citizens of 188 countries challenge leaders on climate change

(10/11/2010) As world leaders continue to fumble a coherent, rapid, and comprehensive response to climate change, citizens from around the world yesterday sent a message to inert politicians by participating in over 7,300 events against climate change, according to 350.org, the head organizer of the day dubbed the 'Global Work Party'. "The fossil fuel industry may have thought that the collapse of the Copenhagen talks and its victory in the U.S. Congress were the final word—that people would give up in discouragement," said, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, so-called because 350 parts per millions (ppm) is the 'safe' amount of carbon in the atmosphere according to many scientists. Currently the concentration is around 390 ppm.


What is the Brazilian Brand?

(10/09/2010) An economic and social powerhouse, Brazil has burst forth on to the world stage with such tenacious drive and determination that observers may indeed wonder what sort of political impact the South American giant will have upon the wider region in the coming years. Though the country still faces incredible domestic challenges, the outgoing Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva administration has done much to put Brazil’s house in order and the president leaves office with record 80% popularity. Unlike its volatile and unstable Andean neighbors, Brazil has consolidated a credible democracy and recently concluded the first round of its presidential vote.


Green political revolution in Brazil?

(10/07/2010) Green party candidate Marina Silva captured 19 percent of the vote in Brazil's presidential election over the weekend, shocking analysts and forcing a run off between Dilma Rousseff, outgoing President Lula's hand-picked successor, and José Serra.


Yasuni on film: could a documentary save the world's most biodiverse ecosystem?

(10/04/2010) How do you save one of the most biologically and culturally diverse places in the world if most people have never heard of it? If you want a big audience—you make a film. This is what wildlife-filmmaker Ryan Killackey is hoping to do with his new movie Yasuni Man. Killackey says the film will show-off the wonders of Yasuni National Park while highlighting the complexity of its biggest threat: the oil industry. "Conceptually, the film resembles a true-life cross between the documentary Crude and the blockbuster Avatar—except it's real and it's happening now," Killackey told mongabay.com.


Unsure of domestic wood origin, some Brazilian furniture makers begin importing U.S. timber

(10/04/2010) Export-oriented Brazilian furniture manufacturers are importing certified timber from the United States rather than using wood of questionable origin produced domestically, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) in its bimonthly update.


Brazil’s Operation Jaguar: Busting a Poaching Ring

(10/03/2010) Twenty years ago Brazil's most notorious jaguar hunter, Teodoro Antonio Melo Neto, also known as 'Tonho da onça' or 'Jaguar Tony,' swore off poaching after logging 600 kills. The foe turned ally of the jaguar then convinced environmental and research institutes, such as the non-governmental organization Instituto Pró-Carnívoros, of his about face and to employ his tracking skills for conservation. Thus began years of assisting these agencies find the animals so that they could monitor their movements and research their habits. His dramatic change of heart even became the subject of a children’s book titled Tonho da onça, which related a conservation message. But on July 20, 2010, 'Jaguar Tony,' now 71 years old, revealed his true spots when federal agents arrested him along with seven others preparing for another in a long series of illegal hunts.


Stunning toxic frog protected as a result of drug trafficking conflict

(09/29/2010) A spectacular poison dart frog on the edge of extinction in the wild has been afforded temporary protection by warring drug gangs in Colombia's Chocó region, reports ProAves. The La Brea Poison Frog (Oophaga occultator), a colorful species only documented by scientists in 1975, has suffered from unsustainable collection for the pet trade, severe deforestation for coca cultivation, and aerial spraying for coca eradication, resulting in a substantial population decline. But the species has clung to life in a deforested landscape along the Saija River in Colombian Pacific coast in part due to conflict between three armed groups which has kept collectors out of the area.


Discovery of new population boosts almost-extinct Colombian bird

(09/28/2010) The Baudo oropendola (Psarocolius cassini) has gone from less than a dozen known individuals to nearly a hundred due to the discovery of two new colonies in northwestern Colombia by local conservation group, Fundación ProAves. However, the new colonies are located in an unprotected area currently being impacted by deforestation. George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy which focuses on bird conservation, said in a press release that his organization "is thrilled to have helped fund the research expedition that led to this stunning discovery of these two new colonies of this rare bird. Now we need to work with ProAves to conserve and protect them."


The effect of forest regeneration strategies on beetles

(09/27/2010) As conservationists attempt to find the best way to re-establish forests in abandoned areas, a new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science compares the impacts on bess beetles of different method to regeneration forest. Bess beetles are important dead wood-recyclers in the forest. Looking at three different forests in the Colombian Andes—natural regeneration, monoculture reforestation, and an old-growth forest as a baseline—researchers found that old-growth and natural regeneration had the highest diversity of bess beetles, while old-growth sported the greatest abundance of beetles.


Is Brazil’s Sustainable Development Really Sustainable?

(09/26/2010) Sustainable development seems to have left the realms of institutional debate in Brazil and has emerged into a reality for businesses to remain competitive in their markets. It is also being used as a tool to stimulate the country’s economic growth. A notable example of this is hydroelectricity, as the country has strived for many years to generate electricity in innovative ways, rather than relying on the use of fossil fuels. Companies are also voluntarily signing up and engaging in Brazil’s GHG Protocol Program with a view to reduce carbon emissions and businesses large and small are leading on sustainable business practices. While Brazil has received a lot of respect for this forward thinking approach to sustainability, they have also been heavily criticized for hydro projects since the 1980s; in recent months the target has notably been the decision to move forward with the plan to build 3 dams on the Xingu River, which lies in the Amazon Basin.


Peru weighs deporting rainforest defender after 20 years in the Amazon

(09/22/2010) There are very few times in life that you get to see a priest on a motorcycle. Fewer still that same-said priest zips off from a training session on REDD and forestry law back to his school for Indigenous youths located in the heartland of the Amazon, next to a prison and down the road from the rapidly growing city-center of Iquitos, Peru.


An undamaged Amazon produces its own clouds and rain

(09/21/2010) Researchers recently traveled to the remote Brazilian Amazon to investigate how clouds are formed and rain falls in an atmosphere unburdened by human-caused pollution. Studying the atmospheric aerosol particles, which impact cloud formation and particles, above a pristine forests, researchers discovered that when left alone the Amazon acts as its own 'bioreactor': clouds and precipitation are produced by the abundance of plant materials.


How the overlooked peccary engineers the Amazon, an interview with Harald Beck

(09/20/2010) When people think of the Amazon rainforest, they likely think of roaring jaguars, jumping monkeys, marching ants, and squeezing anacondas. The humble peccary would hardly be among the first animals to cross their mind, if they even know such pig-like animals exists! Yet new research on the peccary is proving just how vital these species are to the world's greatest rainforest. As seed dispersers and seed destroyers, engineers of freshwater habitats and forest gaps, peccaries play an immense, long overlooked, role in the rainforest. "Peccaries have the highest density and biomass of any Neotropical mammal species. Obviously these fellows have quite an appetite for almost anything, but primarily they consume fruits and seeds. Their specialized jaws allow them to crush very hard seeds. The cracking sounds can be heard through the thick vegetation long before we could see them. As peccary herds bulldoze through the leaf litter in search for insects, frogs, seeds, and fruits, they destroy (i.e. snap and trample) many seedlings and saplings, sometimes leaving only the bare ground behind," Harald Beck, assistant professor at Towson University in Maryland, told mongabay.com in an interview.


Brazil's cerrado wins protection, but will it be enough to save the wildlife-rich grassland?

(09/15/2010) Brazil announced a plan to protect the cerrado, the vast woody savanna that covers 20 percent of the country but has become the nation's biggest single source of carbon emissions due to conversion for agriculture and cattle pasture, reports Brazil's Ministry of the Environment.


Indigenous tribes, ranchers team to battle Amazon fires

(09/14/2010) Facing the worst outbreak of forest fires in three years, cattle ranchers and indigenous tribesmen in the southern Amazon have teamed up to extinguish nearly two dozen blazes over the past three months, offering hope that new alliances between long-time adversaries could help keep deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon on a downward trajectory.


A look at Ecuador's agreement to leave 846 million barrels of oil in the ground

(09/13/2010) Ecuador's pioneering initiative to voluntarily leave nearly a billion barrels of oil under Yasuní National Park, an Amazonian reserve that is arguably the most biodiverse spot on Earth, took a major step forward in early August when the government signed an accord with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the long-awaited establishment of a trust fund. The signing event generated a wave of international media attention, but there has been very little scrutiny of what was actually signed. Here we present an initial analysis of the signed agreement, along with a brief discussion of some of the potential caveats. Due to the precedent-setting nature of this agreement, attention to the details is now of the utmost importance.


Ecuador's tallest waterfall to be destroyed by Chinese dam

(09/07/2010) San Rafael Falls, Ecuador's tallest waterfall, is threatened by a Chinese-funded hydroelectric project, reports Save America's Forests, an environmental group.


Peru's rainforest highway triggers surge in deforestation, according to new 3D forest mapping

(09/06/2010) Scientists using a combination of satellite imagery, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys to create three-dimensional high resolution carbon maps of the Amazon rainforest have documented a surge in emissions from deforestation and selective logging following the paving of the Trans-Oceanic Highway in Peru. The study, published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that selective logging and other forms of forest degradation in Peru account for nearly a third of emissions compared to deforestation alone.


80% of tropical agricultural expansion between 1980-2000 came at expense of forests

(09/02/2010) More than 80 percent of agricultural expansion in the tropics between 1980 and 2000 came at the expense of forests, reports research published last week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study, based on analysis satellite images collected by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and led by Holly Gibbs of Stanford University, found that 55 percent of new agricultural land came at the expense of intact forests, while 28 percent came from disturbed forests. Another six percent came from shrub lands.


NASA: surge in Amazon fires

(08/31/2010) The number of fire hotspots has surged in the Bolivian and Brazilian parts of the Amazon, reveals data and imagery from NASA.


Amazon deforestation falls significantly in 2010, according to preliminary data

(08/31/2010) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down significantly since last year, according to preliminary estimates released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and Imazon, a Brazil-based NGO that tracks forest loss and degradation across the Amazon. Analysis of NASA MODIS data by Imazon found some 1,488 square kilometers of forest were cleared during the 12 months ended July 31, 2010, down 16 percent from the same period last year, when 1,766 square kilometers were deforested. Meanwhile analysis by INPE shows an even steeper drop from 4,375 square kilometers in August 2008 through July 2009 to 2,296 square kilometers in the current period, a decline of 48 percent. The discrepancy between INPE's and Imazon's estimates results from differences in how deforestation is tracked.


Cold snap may have killed millions of fish in Bolivia, poisoning rivers

(08/31/2010) Although the last few months have been some of the warmest worldwide on record, including 17 countries reaching or breaking all-time highs, temperatures have not been above average everywhere. Cold air from Antarctica has brought chilling temperatures to parts of South America, including Bolivia where millions of fish and thousands of caimans, turtles, and river dolphins have perished according to Nature Communications.


Jump in fires in Brazil becomes Twitter sensation

(08/27/2010) The number of fires burning in Brazil more than doubled since last year, sparking a Twitter sensation, with more than 120,000 users tweeting messages with the hashtag '#chegadequeimadas' about the fires in a 48 hour window.


146 dams threaten Amazon basin

(08/19/2010) Although developers and government often tout dams as environmentally-friendly energy sources, this is not always the case. Dams impact river flows, changing ecosystems indefinitely; they may flood large areas forcing people and wildlife to move; and in the tropics they can also become massive source of greenhouse gases due to emissions of methane. Despite these concerns, the Amazon basin—the world's largest tropical rainforest—is being seen as prime development for hydropower projects. Currently five nations—Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru—are planning over 146 big dams in the Amazon Basin. Some of these dams would flood pristine rainforests, others threaten indigenous people, and all would change the Amazonian ecosystem. Now a new website, Dams in Amazonia, outlines the sites and impacts of these dams with an interactive map.


U.S. signs debt-for-nature swap with Brazil to protect forests

(08/13/2010) The United States will cut Brazil's debt payments by $21 million under a debt-for-nature that will protect the Latin American country's endangered Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlantica), Caatinga and Cerrado ecosystems.


Summer from hell: seventeen nations hit all-time heat records

(08/09/2010) The summer isn't over yet, but already seventeen nations have matched or beaten their all-time heat records. According to Jeff Masters' WunderBlog, Belarus, the Ukraine, Cyprus, Russia, Finland, Qatar, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Niger, Chad, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Ascension Island, and the Solomon Islands have all equaled or broken their top temperature records this year. In addition, the hottest temperature ever recorded in Asia was taken in Pakistan at 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 degrees Celsius); this incredible temperature still has to be reviewed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


Colombian indigenous leader shot dead

(08/08/2010) Luis Alfredo Socarrás Pimienta, an indigenous leader with the Wayúu tribe, was murdered outside his home in Riohacha, Colombia on July 27th. A human rights activist and leader of several demonstrations against the abuse of indigenous people and for better living conditions, Socarrás Pimienta was thought to have been shot dead by a hitman who then fled the scene. Following the murder leaflets were given out citing the names of murderers’ next targets which included a dozen more members of the Wayúu tribes, according to Survival International.


Hunting threatens the other Amazon: where harpy eagles are common and jaguars easy to spot, an interview with Paul Rosolie

(08/05/2010) If you have been fortunate enough to visit the Amazon or any other great rainforest, you've probably been wowed by the multitude and diversity of life. However, you also likely quickly realized that the deep jungle is not quite what you may have imagined when you were a child: you don't watch as jaguars wrestle with giant anteaters or anacondas circle prey. Instead life in the Amazon is small: insects, birds, frogs. Even biologists will tell you that you can spend years in the Amazon and never see a single jaguar. Yet rainforest guide and modern day explorer Paul Rosolie says there is another Amazon, one so pristine and with such wild abundance that it seems impossible to imagine if not for Rosolie's stories, photos, and soon videos. This is an Amazon where the big animals—jaguars, tapir, anaconda, giant anteaters, and harpy eagles—are not only abundant but visible. Free from human impact and overhunting, these remote places—off the beaten path of tourists—are growing ever smaller and, according to Rosolie, are in danger of disappearing forever.



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