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News articles on southeast asia

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





Palm oil activist murdered in Jakarta

(05/23/2015) An Indonesian activist who opposed unbridled oil palm expansion was stabbed to death by a group of men before dawn this morning outside a nightclub in South Jakarta. Whether the attack was related to his activism or the spontaneous result of a barroom brawl is not yet clear. But Indonesian media are reporting that one of the assailants shouted that he was a soldier as he brandished the knife that killed Jopi Peranginangin, the 39-year-old head of campaigns for Sawit Watch, which strives for social and ecological justice in the palm oil industry.


Timber 'mass graves' uncovered as Malaysian authorities pursue illegal loggers

(05/21/2015) A crackdown on illegal logging in Peninsular Malaysia's largest continuous forest complex has uncovered three timber 'mass graves' – burial sites where valuable logs have been stashed beneath tons of earth to hide evidence. The loggers apparently made haste in fleeing the hilly terrain where they left the timber. A joint operation by Malaysia's antigraft agency and Forestry Department found parts of logs sticking out of the ground and the red earth still unsettled, indications their quarry had hurriedly concealed the felled trees.


Indonesia sinks 41 foreign vessels in a single day to counter illegal fishing

(05/21/2015) The Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry redefined fireworks yesterday. In coordination with the national navy, it blew up 41 illegal foreign fishing vessels to commemorate National Resurgence Day, the birthday of the country's first native political party. The mass sinking brings to 60 the number of boats new administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has scuttled on charges of illegal, underreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.


Sumatran tiger found dead in a pig trap

(05/20/2015) Authorities in the Indonesian province of West Sumatra buried the rotting carcass of a critically endangered female tiger that died after being ensnared by a pig trap on a rubber plantation earlier this month. The creature, a mother who was probably teaching her young to hunt, was found covered in wounds, its neck entangled in wire.


Golden Agri takes another hit as sustainability guru suspends its membership

(05/20/2015) The charity that Indonesia's Golden Agri-Resources has enlisted to devise and implement its zero-deforestation and community-engagement commitments suspended its cooperation with the palm oil giant yesterday, following breaches of the policies they had designed together. A few hours later, Golden Agri announced the resignation of its chief sustainability officer.


Price trends a reliable, cheap indicator of wildlife declines, finds study

(05/15/2015) Market prices can provide an equally reliable indicator of wildlife declines as field data for a thirtieth of the price, according to a new study analyzing Sumatra's pet bird trade. The researchers found that species that were increasing in price but decreasing in trade volume were likely to have been identified by the ornithologists they surveyed beforehand as undergoing population declines.


Geckos, moths and spider-scorpions: Six new species on Mount Tambora, say Indonesian researchers

(05/14/2015) Indonesian researchers believe they have identified six new animal species in the newly declared Mount Tambora National Park on the island of Sumbawa. Their haul includes two bent-toed geckoes, two moths and and two amblypygids, a type of arachnid that resembles a scorpion crossed with a spider.


Indonesia's partial forest-clearing moratorium extended, but activists wanted more

(05/14/2015) Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo extended the country's partial forest clearing moratorium yesterday on the day of its expiration, leaving largely intact a policy civil society groups had demanded be strengthened. The environment and forestry minister said the government greatly appreciated the calls from organizations like Greenpeace, Walhi, Kemitraan, Sawit Watch, World Resources Institute and others, and would address the proposed changes.


Non-bank financiers ready to help Indonesian fishermen

(05/13/2015) The Indonesian Financial Services Authority has organized dozens of non-bank financial institutions to support the country's maritime and fisheries sector, a key priority for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Smaller operators in the sector have struggled to adapt to a new ban on trawlers and seine nets, and one of the government's goals is to make credit for environmentally friendly fishing gear more widely available, as industry groups have requested.


Wilmar, Musim Mas supplier caught clearing elephant habitat for palm oil in Aceh

(05/12/2015) A new report provides evidence that a supplier of palm oil giants Wilmar and Musim Mas is bulldozing valuable forests in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem in violation of the companies’ zero-deforestation policies as well as the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a high-profile, joint sustainability pact that also includes Golden Agri-Resources, Asian Agri, Musim Mas and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).


Twitter campaign prompts Indonesians to free captive cockatoos in droves

(05/11/2015) Days after police at a port in Indonesia’s second-largest city arrested a passenger with 24 rare birds stuffed in plastic water bottles, a public outcry has prompted the government to set up shelters to accommodate people who wish to return more of the creatures, which have up to now been highly sought after by collectors and breeders.


Golden Agri's wings clipped by RSPO in West Kalimantan

(05/08/2015) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has prohibited Golden Agri-Resources, one of its most prominent members, from "acquiring or developing any new areas" pending the resolution of a formal complaint against the palm oil giant in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province. The decision is a stern directive from an organization that has been criticized for failing to take action against companies that flout its standards.


Hai Fa controversy just a hiccup in Indonesia's illegal fishing crackdown

(05/07/2015) Despite resistance from some quarters, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and his hard-charging maritime affairs and fisheries minister have shown no signs of abating their crackdown on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the archipelago.


Police probe ship's crew after nabbing smuggler with 24 rare birds in plastic bottles

(05/07/2015) Police at a major port in Indonesia's second city of Surabaya, where 24 rare birds of paradise were found stuffed in plastic water bottles aboard a passenger vessel yesterday, are coordinating with the authorities at the creatures' place of origin to tighten security.


Bribery a matter of course for illegal Thai fishing ships in Indonesia

(05/06/2015) A convoy of blue Thai fishing boats slowly entered the mouth of the Kapuas River near Pontianak, the capital of Indonesia's West Kalimantan province, escorted by an Indonesian warship. The boats were directed to moor at the local Navy base, about 62 nautical miles from the site of their capture. The crew were transferred to the warship. There they sat on the deck. A naval personnel pointed to a fisherman in a rumpled blue shirt. His name was Sam Phong, 28. He could speak a bit of Indonesian, though not fluently. Still, his speech shed a bit of light on why he had so diligently been fishing illegally in Indonesian waters.


Aru, Mentawai peoples hit the big screen in Oslo

(05/06/2015) A pair of documentaries about small-island indigenous peoples in Indonesia were screened in Oslo on Tuesday as part of a global roadshow leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris in December. The shorts, "Oil Palm Free Islands" and "The Warden of Jagarian Forest," are part of the If Not Us Than Who series, an initiative of UK-based Handcrafted Films.


West Papua 'oil palm atlas' portrays industry's explosion in region

(05/06/2015) There's a saying in the Indonesian palm oil industry: Sumatra is yesterday, Kalimantan is today, and Papua is tomorrow. Tomorrow might well have arrived. A new report sheds light on the industry's rapid expansion in Indonesia's Papua and West Papua provinces – and on the companies behind the plantation drive. The result is a portrayal of a frontier region's early encounters with a crop that has come to dominate the Sumatran and Bornean landscapes – a portrait made that much starker by the central government's foreign media blackout in the territory.


30 illegal orangutan pets seized in West Kalimantan

(05/05/2015) Thirty orangutans being kept as household pets in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province have been seized and placed in a rehabilitation center, where they are learning to fend for themselves so they can be released into their natural habitats, local conservation authorities report.


Riau forum asks Jokowi to help business save forests

(05/04/2015) A sustainable-business forum in Indonesia's Riau province urged the government to support companies' zero-deforestation commitments, which remain hampered by policies that prevent firms from preserving forests in their concessions. Under the current legal regime, if a plantation company decides to set aside land for conservation, the government reserves the right to take it back and give it to a firm that will develop it.


94 trafficked pangolins released into Sumatran wilds after massive bust

(05/04/2015) Following a major seizure of illegal wildlife goods in North Sumatra, the Indonesian authorities released 94 critically endangered pangolins into the wild last week, including a newborn whose mother died shortly after the authorities caught up with the traffickers. Five tons of pangolin meat were burned in the wake of the bust.


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.


Indonesia to zone its seas in bid to become 'global maritime axis'

(04/30/2015) The Indonesian government is preparing a spatial plan for its marine territory, the beginning of a blueprint to transform the archipelagic country into a “global maritime axis” in line with new President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s platform. Mapping the nation’s seas will support the alignment different programs and the integration of various marine sources of economic growth.


Help on the way for 'green investment' in Indonesia

(04/29/2015) The Indonesian government plans to expand the list of incentives for "green investment," cabinet members said at a summit in Jakarta on Monday. On the table are tax breaks for imports of equipment that reduces pollution; and longer permits and favorable interest rates for companies with environmentally friendly policies.


Leuser Park authorities still trying to move thousands of squatters

(04/28/2015) The Indonesian government will take another stab at relocating thousands of squatters from Mount Leuser National Park, most of whom were dispaced by the decades-long insurgency in Aceh province and whose presence has fueled deforestation in the protected area.


Two more Sumatran elephants found dead in Aceh

(04/27/2015) A pair of critically endangered Sumatran elephants were found dead this month in Indonesia's Aceh province, just the latest casualties for a species that has been brought into increasing conflict with humans amid the country's oil palm boom. One was shot through the head by a poacher. The other was injured by a snare trap and perished shortly thereafter.


Jokowi must strengthen Indonesia's forest moratorium, not just extend it: activists

(04/25/2015) Less than a month before the expiry of a moratorium on new licenses for land-based exploitation in primary forests and on peat, environmentalists are calling for the Indonesian president to not only prolong the policy but strengthen it too, hampered as they say it has been by chaotic implementation, weak enforcement, standards that don’t go far enough and, some suggest, a lack of political will to see it through.


Conservation in Myanmar: a cause for optimism?

(04/24/2015) Fifty years of relative political and economic isolation have yielded slow economic growth and contributed to the conservation of many of Myanmar’s native species. However, the dissolution of Myanmar’s military junta in 2011 marked the beginning of a new age of increasing political and economic liberalization and international engagement. Many experts fear that possible rapid development fueled by international investment, improved infrastructure and expanded transport networks, pose a grave risk to Myanmar’s biodiversity and forests.


Thailand, Indonesia join forces against illegal fishing amid EU ultimatum

(04/24/2015) Amid EU threats to blacklist Thai seafood if the industry fails to clean up its act by October, the Southeast Asian country and its neighbor Indonesia agreed on Thursday to form a joint task force to combat illegal fishing, which remains in the spotlight in the wake of an Associated Press investigation into slavery aboard Thai-run ships in Indonesian waters.


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.


In Indonesia, making REDD+ about carbon won't help biodiversity: study

(04/23/2015) Areas important for carbon correlate poorly with areas important for biodiversity in the country, a reality future REDD+ planning must take into account, a new study contends. The research was meant to address claims that REDD+ offers huge opportunities for biodiversity conservation.


Indonesian ombudsman asks minister to offer fishermen ‘exit strategy' from seining

(04/22/2015) On Sunday, the Indonesian ombudsman asked the maritime affairs minister to help fishermen adapt to the government's new ban on seine and trawl fishing, a response to locals' complaints that they had already made big investments in procuring and installing the now-prohibited gear.


Farmers fall short in legal challenge to Java cement plant

(04/20/2015) A grassroots movement to halt construction of a cement factory and mine in Indonesia's Rembang regency suffered a major setback last week when a Central Java court rejected a lawsuit against a permit held by state-owned Semen Indonesia, the country's largest cement producer.


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.


Fishermen's ire over trawler ban pushes Indonesia to form special task force

(04/15/2015) Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will form a new task force to deal with fishermen’s concerns about the new ban on trawlers and seine nets, the result of a meeting between him and fishermen’s representatives who stated their case against the swiftness of its imposition.


Americans join in protesting reclamation of Bali's Benoa Bay

(04/14/2015) Americans and Indonesians demonstrated in Washington D.C. last week in protest of a massive land reclamation project in Bali’s Benoa Bay, to which opposition, activists say, is coming from increasingly international circles. Meanwhile, the governor of East Java rejected a proposal to dredge sea sand for the project off the coast of his province.


Faulty impact assessments plague Indonesian mines: Komnas HAM

(04/10/2015) A member of Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission held up the Rembang cement factory case as an example of how environmental impact assessments are frequently manipulated by the companies required to undertake them.


Kaiduan dam in Borneo meets fierce opposition

(04/06/2015) Activists are calling on the government of Sabah, Malaysia, to reconsider the proposed Kaiduan dam, saying it has not considered other solutions to Sabah's looming water crisis and has failed to consult with the indigenous people who will be displaced if the project proceeds.


Aceh's purge of illegal oil palm at 3,000 hectares and counting

(04/06/2015) A joint effort to eradicate illegal oil palm in an area of Indonesia's Aceh province that was devastated by flash flooding in 2006 has passed the 3,000-hectare mark. The plantations lie within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on earth where the Sumatran rhino, elephant, tiger and orangutan coexist in the wild.


Blockade at Wilmar mill could erupt into full-blown strike

(04/03/2015) Local people blocked the road to a Wilmar palm oil mill in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province, demanding the release of nine day laborers who were arrested during an earlier protest over delayed wages. Trucks carrying fresh fruit bunches from nearby plantations were unable to deliver their cargo.


Reservations about Indonesian 'land reform' as details unclear

(04/02/2015) Indonesian civil society groups and experts welcome President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's campaign promise to redistribute nine million hectares of land to farmers – in principle. But they remain wary of what the program, whose details have yet to be made clear, might look like in practice. These reservations were expressed at a discussion on the plan held in Jakarta on April 1.


Illegal deforestation driven by EU appetite for beef, palm oil, soy, say new reports

(04/01/2015) A new report finds that the European Union is driving international trade in commodities grown on land cleared outside of the law. In 2012 alone, the report says, the EU imported $6.5 billion worth of illegally sourced beef, leather, palm oil and soy, which amounts to nearly one-fourth of all global trade and some 2.4 million hectares (59.3 million acres) of forest illegally cleared.


Pollution from East Asia affecting air quality in Borneo's rainforests

(04/01/2015) A study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics finds that industrial activities in East Asia are polluting the air in the rainforests of Borneo and that, once there, the pollutants could be traveling into the upper atmosphere and impacting Earth’s ozone layer.


Chinese-backed smelter plan causes concern among Sulawesi fishermen

(03/31/2015) As a pair of Chinese-owned miners companies proceed with plans to construct nickel smelters in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, in line with a national edict to increase in-country mineral processing capacity, locals fear the factories will only intensify environmental degradation from the same firms' mining operations and harm fishing communities that rely on the area.


Locals revolt against gold miner in Sulawesi

(03/30/2015) Residents of Indonesia's Buyat Bay and a national legal aid institute are preparing a case against a gold miner they say began operating in secret without locals' consent. They also accuse the company, owned by a prominent politician, of failing to acquire the proper licenses, clearing forest in a protected area and damaging the environment.


Aceh unveils protected area in beleaguered Tripa peat swamp

(03/27/2015) As Indonesia's Supreme Court prepares to rule on an appeal from oil palm developer Kallista Alam, ordered to pay Rp366 billion in fines and reparations for cut-and-burning forest in the Tripa peat swamp region, the Aceh government has established a protected zone in the company's former concession, the culmination of a months-long program to rehabilitate the area.


Indonesia's biodiversity-protected areas no match for encroachers, finds study

(03/26/2015) Indonesia's biodiversity-focused protected areas are failing to slow deforestation, while other categories have achieved mixed results, finds a new study. The coupling of poor law enforcement with the presence of high-value timber seems to be the main culprit.


Study finds roads in Southeast Asia may be devastating forests, wildlife

(03/20/2015) Habitat loss and illegal hunting are leading drivers behind mammal population decline and extinction in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. But what's driving these drivers? Road infrastructure, according to research. Researchers conducted the first-ever comprehensive study examining the impacts of road infrastructure on mammal populations in Southeast Asia; their findings were recently published in PLOS One.


Minister explains sustainability claims behind Indonesia’s boat bombing

(03/17/2015) Boat bombing has been one of the most visible (and internationally controversial) elements of the new Indonesian fishery minister’s policies. But recently, Fishery Minister Susi Pudjiastuti explained that the bombings were really based on the concept of sustainability.


Conservationists catch-and-release record-smashing freshwater fish

(03/17/2015) Conservationists and scientists have managed to catch-and-release what could be the world's biggest freshwater fish ever for an upcoming episode of Ocean Mysteries. Naturalist and host of the show, Jeff Corwin—along with wildlife veterinarian, Nantarika Chansue, and the tourist fishing group, fishsiam.com—managed to reel in a giant freshwater stingray.


Proposed law could decimate Indonesia's remaining forests

(03/14/2015) A seemingly well-intended law that aims to turn forests over to traditional users could instead lead to large-scale destruction of Indonesia's native ecosystems, warns a prominent conservation biologist.


New report: commercial agricultural expansion fueling illegal logging and land conflicts in Myanmar

(03/12/2015) The Myanmar government has been allocating land for large-scale private agricultural businesses in the country’s biodiversity-rich forests at an alarming rate, according to a new report released by Forest Trends, a Washington-based non-profit organization. And these concessions may be fueling illegal timber harvests and intensifying land conflicts, the report alleges.


UN report warns of grave consequences if mangroves not protected

(03/11/2015) According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), global destruction of mangrove forests impacts biodiversity, food security, and the lives and livelihoods of some of the most marginalized communities in the world. Mangroves, which are forests of salt-tolerant trees and shrubs that lie along coastlines in the tropics and subtropics, are also invaluable carbon sinks. And we’re not doing nearly enough to protect them, says a recent report.


New bird species confirmed in Sulawesi 15 years after first sighting

(03/06/2015) Although it’s a hotspot of avian biodiversity, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been “poorly studied ornithologically,” according to a study published in the scientific journal PloS one. Case in point: the subject of the study, a new species of flycatcher first observed in 1997 but not formally described by scientists until November 2014.


Indonesian fisheries ministry imposes new limits on gear and fish harvests

(03/04/2015) The Indonesian fisheries ministry has introduced two divisive pieces of legislation aimed at increasing the sustainability of Indonesia’s depleted ocean fisheries. Permen KP 1/2015 imposes size limits on wild-caught lobsters and crab, and forbids catching egg-bearing crustaceans. Permen KP 2/2015 bans trawl and seine fisheries. Fishermen last Thursday demonstrated outside the Ministry to protest the damage this will cause to their livelihoods.


Reports slam Malaysian timber companies, urge reforms in forest management

(02/27/2015) Two international NGOs have called out Malaysia in recent months over the country’s widespread illegal logging. Malaysia has been accused of not doing enough to protect its diminishing forests and thwart the illicit timber trade, particularly in Sarawak, the site of the country’s worst deforestation. Lax oversight, endemic corruption and limited transparency have allowed for Malaysia’s forests to be plundered by both the government and the private sector.


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.


Reports blame illegal logging for felling Sarawak forest

(02/25/2015) A recent report by the international affairs think tank Chatham House has highlighted Malaysia’s lack of progress in dealing with illegal logging, blaming corruption and a lack of transparency on the country’s sluggish approach to environmental policy reform.


Cambodia deports activist leader...then suspends controversial dam

(02/25/2015) On Monday, Cambodia deported well-known environmental activist, Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, back to his native Spain. Co-founder of the Cambodian NGO, Mother Nature, Gonzalez-Davidson played a vital role in blocking efforts to build the Cheay Areng Dam. But a day after deporting the activist, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, said the country would postpone the dam until 2018.


42 pangolins rescued...then sold to restaurants

(02/17/2015) On February 1st, local police seized 42 live Sunda pangolins from poachers and handed them over to forest rangers in Vietnam's northern province of Bac Ninh. While the poachers were slapped with a fine, the rangers turned around and sold the live pangolins to local restaurants for a reported $56 a kilo, netting a total of $11,300 for the Critically Endangered mammals.


Sabah shocked by banteng poaching

(02/16/2015) Malaysia's Daily Express recently published graphic photos of poachers in the Malaysian state of Sabah posing proudly with a number of illegally slaughtered large animals, including the incredibly rare and cryptic banteng. Wild, forest cattle, banteng are scattered across parts of Southeast Asia, but Borneo is home to a distinct subspecies: Bos javanicus lowi.


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: clouded leopards and elephants grace drowned forest in Thailand

(01/21/2015) Camera trap video from Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Thailand has revealed an impressive array of wildlife, including scent-marking clouded leopards and a whole herd of Asian elephant. The camera traps were set by HabitatID, an organization devoted to using remote camera traps to prove to government officials that wildlife still flourishes in forgotten places.


Indonesia's moratorium not enough to achieve emissions reduction target

(01/20/2015) When Indonesia's former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared a moratorium in May 2012 on the issuance of new permits for logging in primary forests and on peat lands, it was widely hailed as an important, albeit far too limited, step in clamping down on the country's levels of deforestation.


High deforestation rates in Malaysian states hit by flooding

(01/19/2015) Five states hard hit by flooding last month in Malaysia had high rates of forest loss in recent years, bolstering assertions that environmental degradation may have worsened the disaster. According to satellite data from researchers led by the University of Maryland's Matt Hansen and displayed on Global Forest Watch, the states of Johor, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, and Terengganu each lost more than 10 percent of their forest cover between 2001 and 2012. Loss was greatest in areas with dense tree cover.


Mother and cub: researchers photograph rare cat with cub in Sumatra

(01/13/2015) Researchers working in Kerinci Seblat National Park have captured a remarkable image of a mother Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) carrying her young in her mouth. The image was taken in mid-2014 as reported by Mongabay Indonesia by the Sumatran Tiger Research Team.


New bat species has fangs you won't believe

(01/08/2015) What big teeth you have, my dear! The better to eat insects with—and make one's own ecological niche. Scientists have uncovered a new bat with stupendous canines in the rainforests of Lao PDR and Vietnam, aptly naming it Hypsugo dolichodon, or the long-toothed pipistrelle.


Featured video: new documentary highlights 'Sumatra Burning'

(01/05/2015) A new half-hour documentary investigate the impact of the palm oil industry in Indonesia, including burning forests and peatlands as well as haze spreading across Indonesian borders. Entitled Sumatra Burning, the documentary explores palm oil production on the island of Sumatra, which is experiencing some of the highest deforestation rates on the planet.


Monkey sleep, monkey do: how primates choose their trees

(12/31/2014) Primates don't monkey around when deciding where to spend the night, but primatologists have had a poor grasp on what drives certain monkeys toward specific trees. Now, two extensive studies of Indonesian primates suggest that factors in selecting trees each evening are site-specific and different for each species—and that some overnight spots result in conflicts between monkeys and humans.


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.


Indonesia's silent wildlife killer: hunting

(12/26/2014) By and large, Indonesia is a peaceful country. In fact, on the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s list of homicide rates, Indonesia ranks number 10, making Indonesians one of the least murderous people on Earth. A ban on gun ownership probably helps, although obviously there are many other ways to snuff out another person. Maybe Indonesia’s general tendency to avoid conflict helps, too. Whatever the reason why Indonesians are relatively unlikely to kill each other, such favors are not extended to Indonesia’s non-human wildlife. The relative safety of Indonesia’s people does not guarantee similar security for its animals.


Shifting attitudes may help endangered wild dogs in Thailand

(12/22/2014) Once found throughout much of Asia, the dhole—a wild dog species that looks something like a jackal—has been displaced by humans from much of its range. But a new study published in mongabay.org's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science, offers hope that the two species may be able to coexist, with people living next to protected forest areas in southeastern Thailand showing a favorable attitude towards increasing awareness and conservation efforts for the endangered canids.


New mapping technique sheds light on dry forests

(12/16/2014) The extreme habitat heterogeneity of Southeast Asian forests makes it difficult to map their different compositions, resulting in a lack of study of many forest types and their underrepresentation in protected area networks. To address this issue, researchers came up with a remote sensing-based method to accurately delineate forest types, which they demonstrate in a study released this week by focusing on one particular forest type: Dry Deciduous Dipterocarp forests.


Striking new gecko discovered in Thailand

(12/09/2014) A research team based in western Thailand has discovered a new gecko species in the Kanchanaburi Province, a region renowned for its number of species found nowhere else in the world. A recent publication describes the Sai Yok bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus saiyok), the sixth reptile species endemic to the region known to science.


APP boosting timber productivity to support zero deforestation policy

(11/26/2014) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) appears to have enough plantation fiber to operate existing mills as well as supply a new mill under construction in South Sumatra without having to pulp natural forests, argues a new report that also finds the forestry giant is successfully improving yields to support its zero deforestation commitment.


Sarawak chief calls state's logging industry 'corrupt'

(11/24/2014) In a surprising statement, Sarawak's new chief minister called the state's logging sector 'corrupt'.


‘Militarized occupation’: local communities pay the price for palm oil

(11/11/2014) There’s little doubt that the use of palm oil is expanding rapidly throughout the world, and with it the need for millions of hectares of land to grow oil palm trees. The results can be devastating for local communities who depend on the agriculture and forests that these lands support. A recent report catalogs the issues that arise with oil palm expansion.


Will merging competing ministries help save Indonesia's forests?

(11/10/2014) Newly elected Indonesian president Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo announced on October 26th that the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment would be combined and that Siti Nurbaya would become Forests and Environment Minister. The move was part of Jokowi’s appointment of 34 cabinet level positions, ranging from Foreign Minister to Religious Affairs Minister.


'Too many people': Philippine island being deforested despite extensive protections

(10/31/2014) About an hour and a half plane ride from the Philippine capital Manila is Palawan, a long, narrow island home to about a quarter of all the animal species found in the country. But the province is losing its forests at a rapid clip due to human population increases, logging, quarrying, mining, and even a huge palm plantation.


Demand for rhino horn drops 38 percent in Vietnam after advertising campaigns

(10/22/2014) A new poll finds that consumer demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has dropped precipitously following several advertising campaigns. According to the poll by the Humane Society International (HIS) and Vietnam CITES, demand has plunged 38 percent since last year.


Saving Asia's other endangered cats (photos)

(10/21/2014) It's no secret that when it comes to the wild cats of Asia—and, really, cats in general—tigers get all the press. In fact, tigers—down to an estimated 3,200 individuals—arguably dominate conservation across Asia. But as magnificent, grand, and endangered as the tigers are, there are a number of other felines in the region that are much less studied—and may be just as imperiled.


Walking the walk: zoo kicks off campaign for orangutans and sustainable palm oil

(10/20/2014) If you see people wearing orange this October, it might not be for Halloween, but for orangutans. Chester Zoo’s conservation campaign, Go Orange for Orangutans, kicks off this month for its second year. The campaign aims to raise money, and awareness, for orangutans in Borneo, which have become hugely impacted by deforestation often linked to palm oil plantations.


Next big idea in forest conservation? Empower youth leaders

(10/09/2014) Want to save forests? Don't forget the youth, says Pedro Walpole, the Chair and Director of Research for the Environmental Science for Social Change, a Jesuit environmental research organization promoting sustainability and social justice across the Asia Pacific region. 'Youth leadership in environmental management is key,' Walpole told mongabay.com.


Helping orangutans survive: new project aims to connect habitat fragments in Kalimantan (PART II)

(10/08/2014) Two decades ago, a project to convert one million hectares of forest to rice paddies was undertaken by the Indonesian government in southern Kalimantan. The project was a massive failure and was eventually abandoned, but not before it destroyed critical orangutan habitat. Now a new project is trying to knit together what's left and turn the area's isolated orangutan populations into one of Borneo's largest.


Marooned in shrinking forests, Bornean orangutans hang on as disaster looms (PART I)

(10/07/2014) The great apes are among some of the most endangered species on Earth, the targets of poachers and the victims of deforestation. However, from time-to-time there comes news of hope. A study published recently describes the dire situation faced by Bornean orangutans, as well as an ambitious project to help save them.


High Court denies appeal by palm oil company that cleared protected peat forest

(09/30/2014) Furthering Indonesia's renewed commitment to environmental justice, the High Court of Banda Aceh denied an appeal by PT. Kallista Alam, the oil palm company found guilty of destroying over 1,000 hectares of protected peat forest in Gunung Leuser ecosystem. The Court upheld the previous ruling, which fined the company 366 billion rupiah ($30 million) in penalties and restoration fees.


The largest biosphere reserve in Southeast Asia: Vietnam’s success story or a conservation failure? PART I

(09/30/2014) In 2010, poachers shot and killed the last Javan rhino in Vietnam, wiping out an entire subspecies. The Sumatran rhino, the Malayan tapir and the civet otter, too, have disappeared from the country. Moreover, charismatic species like tigers, elephants, gibbons and the secretive saola discovered recently in Vietnam’s forests are at risk of extinction in the coming decades as threats to wildlife continue unabated in the country.


Studying common birds could help save rare species in Vietnam

(09/30/2014) Studies in conservation biology often focus on rare, threatened species faced with impending extinction, but what about common animals of least concern? Could they too help conservationists fine-tune their approach? Doctoral researcher Laurel Yohe not only claims that they can, but demonstrates how in a new study. She and five other researchers compared ranges of five babblers with development across Vietnam.


A weed by any other name: remnant shrubs and trees play vital role in regenerating forests

(09/29/2014) Tropical forest restoration projects are exciting research sites for scientists studying factors that affect ecosystem recovery. Here, scientists are trying to understand plant community succession, i.e. the process of recovery after cleared lands are abandoned and allowed to regrow naturally. One of the most important components of this recovery process is seed dispersal, since seeds from nearby forests allow a deforested habitat to become populated again by native plants and trees.


Did the world's only venomous primate evolve to mimic the cobra?

(09/29/2014) The bite of a slow loris can be painful, and sometimes even lethal. After all, this cute-looking YouTube sensation is the only known 'venomous' primate in the world—a trait that might have strangely evolved to mimic spectacled cobras, according to a recent paper. Mimicry in mammals is rare. But anecdotal evidence and studies in the past have noted the uncanny cobra-like defensive postures, sounds, and gait in slow lorises.


Coal mine has heavy impact in Indonesian Borneo

(09/26/2014) Baharuddin should be happy. The rambutan and durian trees flanking his home are heavy with fruit. Two hectares of chilies stretch before his house. The price of chili — a staple commodity in Indonesia — has been stable for six months. From his 2,000 plants he hopes to earn 40 million rupiah ($3,400), much of which he wants to invest in expanding his crop. That is, if his farm can survive the threats that have destroyed so many of his neighbor's.


Malayan tiger population plunges to just 250-340 individuals

(09/16/2014) Malaysia is on the edge of losing its tigers, and the world is one step nearer to losing another tiger subspecies: the Malayan tiger. Camera trap surveys from 2010-2013 have estimated that only 250-340 Malayan tigers remain, potentially a halving of the previous estimate of 500 individuals.


From 'production' forests to protected forests, groups work to save Sumatran orangutan habitat. But will it be enough?

(09/16/2014) The orangutan is native exclusively to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra — two regions that have seen the brunt of Indonesia's recent forest destruction due primarily to logging and plantation development. Although there are anywhere from 45,000 to 69,000 Bornean orangutans remaining in the wild, the Sumatran species numbers only about 7,300 according to a 2004 survey, and is dwindling further every year.


Bizarre lizard newest victim of reptile pet trade

(09/15/2014) If you've never heard of the earless monitor lizard, you're not alone: this cryptic lizard has long-escaped the attention of the larger public. But over the past couple years its bizarre appearance has been splashed across social media sites for reptile collectors. While this decidedly-quirky attention may seem benign, it could actually threaten the species' existence.


Indonesia's secret treasures: islands passed over by loggers, hunters and conservationists

(09/14/2014) As our boat sailed towards the forest-clad island, I had no idea what surprise awaited me. A few months ago I was asked to conduct a wildlife survey on a rarely visited island somewhere in Indonesia. For reasons explained below I will not disclose its name. Suffice to say it is one of the thousands of Indonesian islands without people on it. In terms of the wildlife I saw, the absence of people really showed.


Domestic conservation: Indonesia’s rich should step up to save nation’s dwindling natural resources

(09/13/2014) Indonesia’s middle and upper classes are becoming increasingly interested and supportive of environmental conservation. Still, they have some way to go to become real leaders and trendsetters on this important issue.


Elephants pay the price for palm oil in Malaysian Borneo, impact may reach far beyond reported kills

(09/10/2014) More than a dozen elephant kills were reported in Sabah in 2013 alone, but it is unknown exactly how many have lost their lives in recent years as palm plantations encroach further and further into the rainforest. What is clear is that if the loss of their forest habitat continues to drive conflicts with humans at the rate it is now, Borneo elephants’ long-term survival may be in jeopardy.


'A global tragedy' in the making? Thailand plans highway expansion through World Heritage Site

(08/29/2014) Dong Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC) is the largest tract of surviving forest in central Thailand, renowned for its biodiversity. Now, the Thai government is planning major expansions to a road that bisects the complex – which scientists say will bar animal movement throughout their natural ranges, result in higher rates of road kill, and give hunters and loggers increased access to the forest.


Scientists honor missing activist by naming a spider after him

(08/25/2014) Swiss researchers have honored the memory of a missing indigenous peoples activist by naming an undescribed species of spider after him, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, the group he founded.


Scientists name new endangered species after the company that will decide its fate

(08/24/2014) Scientists have discovered a new snail species near a cement quarry in Malaysia, which as far as they know lives nowhere else in the world. It lives on a limestone hill called Kanthan given as a concession to an international company Lafarge. The cement producer quarries the hill for raw materials. As a result, the scientists have named the species after the company that will decide if it goes extinct.



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