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News articles on southeast asia

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





Scientists capture one of the world's rarest big cats on film (photos)

(05/21/2013) Less than a hundred kilometers from the bustling metropolis of Jakarta, scientists have captured incredible photos of one of the world's most endangered big cats: the Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas). Taken by a research project in Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park, the photos show the magnificent animal relaxing in dense primary rainforest. Scientists believe that fewer than 250 mature Javan leopard survive, and the population may be down to 100.


Could the Tasmanian tiger be hiding out in New Guinea?

(05/20/2013) Many people still believe the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) survives in the wilds of Tasmania, even though the species was declared extinct over eighty years ago. Sightings and reports of the elusive carnivorous marsupial, which was the top predator on the island, pop-up almost as frequently as those of Bigfoot in North America, but to date no definitive evidence has emerged of its survival. Yet, a noted cryptozoologist (one who searches for hidden animals), Dr. Karl Shuker, wrote recently that tiger hunters should perhaps turn their attention to a different island: New Guinea.


Top Indonesian official calls out misinformation in environmental campaign

(05/20/2013) Indonesia's top REDD+ official confirmed there is no plan to open 1.2 million hectares of forest in Sumatra's Aceh Province, calling into question numbers used by environmentalists in their bid to stop reclassification of the province's forest land.


In landmark ruling, Indonesia's indigenous people win right to millions of hectares of forest

(05/17/2013) In a landmark ruling, Indonesia's Constitutional Court has invalidated the Indonesian government's claim to millions of hectares of forest land, potentially giving indigenous and local communities the right to manage their customary forests, reports Mongabay-Indonesia. In a review of a 1999 forestry law, the court ruled that customary forests should not be classified as "State Forest Areas". The move is significant because Indonesia's central government has control over the country's vast forest estate, effectively enabling agencies like the Ministry of Forestry to grant large concessions to companies for logging and plantations even if the area has been managed for generations by local people.


Analysis: Indonesia renews moratorium on logging, palm plantations

(05/16/2013) Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a bold and courageous decision this week to extend the country’s forest moratorium. With this decision, which aims to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peat lands for another two years, the government could help protect valuable forests and drive sustainable development.


Four dead and dozens trapped after collapse at Freeport mine in Papua

(05/15/2013) Four workers were found dead and 10 rescued after the collapse of a tunnel at Freeport-McMoran’s Grasberg mine in the highlands of Indonesia’s Papua province on Tuesday.


Indonesia officially extends forestry moratorium

(05/15/2013) The Indonesian government has officially extended its moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions in 65 million hectares of forests and peatlands for another two years. The move, which had been expected, was announced Wednesday by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.


Palm oil company violated RSPO standards, evicted from sustainability body

(05/13/2013) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has evicted Indonesian palm oil giant Dutapalma Nusantara for violating key principles for sustainability.


Indonesian palm oil giant cutting deforestation from supply chain

(05/13/2013) Indonesian palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is continuing to reduce deforestation under its 2011 forest conservation policy despite ongoing forest destruction by other palm oil producers in the sector, finds a new assessment by Greenomics, an Indonesian activist group. However the report finds GAR's operations are not completely deforestation-free.


Indonesia welcomes Greenpeace ship 3 years after eviction

(05/09/2013) Indonesia has welcomed Greenpeace's ship, the Rainbow Warrior, back into its waters for the first time since deporting the vessel in October 2010. The Rainbow Warrior arrived today in Jayapura, a major port in Indonesian New Guinea, as the first leg of a tour to raise environmental awareness across the archipelago, according to the activist group.


UN report gives Indonesia low marks in forest governance

(05/09/2013) A new UN report exposes serious flaws in Indonesia’s forest governance, serving as a wake up call to policy makers aiming to conserve forests in the country, which boasts the third largest area of tropical forest coverage in the world. On Monday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with the Government of Indonesia launched a comprehensive forest governance index, which evaluates forest governance at the central, provincial and district levels and offers policy recommendations designed to better equip the country to conserve forests and peatlands.


Court rules for palm oil company in controversial deforestation case

(05/05/2013) Court orders Aceh governor to reverse decision to cancel palm oil concession in protected peatlands. An Indonesian court has ruled in favor of plantation company PT Kallista Alam in a lawsuit brought against the governor of Indonesia’s Aceh province for revoking the company’s license to develop palm oil plantations in a protected peat swamp forest.


Endangered primates and cats may be hiding out in swamps and mangrove forests

(05/02/2013) What happens to animals when their forest is cut down? If they can, they migrate to different forests. But in an age when forests are falling far and fast, many species may have to shift to entirely different environments. A new paper in Folia Primatologica theorizes that some 60 primate species and 20 wild cat species in Asia and Africa may be relying more on less-impacted environments such as swamp forests, mangroves, and peat forests.


Samsung admits to using tin linked to child labor, deforestation; Apple mum on sourcing

(04/25/2013) Mobile device giant Samsung has admitted to using tin sourced from a controversial mining operation on the Indonesian island of Bangka, where unregulated mining kills 150 miners a year and causes substantial environmental damage, reports The Guardian and Mongabay-Indonesia.


Indonesian palm oil giant clearing peat forest despite its RSPO membership, alleges Greenpeace

(04/25/2013) A major Indonesian palm oil producer continues to clear rainforests in Sumatra despite being a prominent member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), casting doubts on the body's effectiveness in limiting deforestation, alleges a new report from Greenpeace.


The river of plenty: uncovering the secrets of the amazing Mekong

(04/23/2013) Home to giant catfish and stingrays, feeding over 60 million people, and with the largest abundance of freshwater fish in the world, the Mekong River, and its numerous tributaries, brings food, culture, and life to much of Southeast Asia. Despite this, little is known about the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Mekong, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of freshwater biodiversity. Meanwhile, the river is facing an existential crisis in the form of 77 proposed dams, while population growth, pollution, and development further imperil this understudied, but vast, ecosystem.


Malaysia may be home to more Asian tapirs than previously thought (photos)

(04/23/2013) You can't mistake an Asian tapir for anything else: for one thing, it's the only tapir on the continent; for another, it's distinct black-and-white blocky markings distinguishes it from any other tapir (or large mammal) on Earth. But still little is known about the Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus), including the number surviving. However, researchers in Malaysia are working to change that: a new study for the first time estimates population density for the neglected megafauna, while another predicts where populations may still be hiding in peninsular Malaysia, including selectively-logged areas.


Cobra bust in Vietnam

(04/23/2013) Authorities in Vietnam arrested a man who they say was transporting 53 king cobras — a protected snake species — in his car, reports the Associated Press.


Rhino horn madness: over two rhinos killed a day in South Africa

(04/22/2013) Rhino poachers have killed 232 rhinos during 2013 so far in South Africa, reports Annamiticus, which averages out to 2.1 a day. The country has become a flashpoint for rhino poaching as it holds more rhinos than any other country on Earth. Rhinos are being slaughter for their horns, which are believed to be a curative in Chinese traditional medicine, although there is no evidence this is so.


Indonesian palm oil industry would support land swaps to protect forest, while expanding production

(04/19/2013) Indonesian palm oil companies would support land swaps as a means to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation while simultaneously expanding production, representatives from the country's largest association of palm oil producers told mongabay.com in an interview last month.


To win concessions in Aceh, mining company hires official being investigated for graft

(04/18/2013) A Toronto Stock Exchange-listed mining company has hired an official being investigated for corruption under its effort to convince the Aceh provincial government to re-zone protected forest areas for a gold mine on Indonesia's Sumatra island, according to an alliance of Indonesian environmentalists. The official, former Golkar Deputy Chairman Fadel Muhammad, has been retained by East Asia Minerals to help it win a carve-out for its Miwah project, a 30,000-hectare concession atop a forested mountain in Aceh.


Unidentified toxin caused the deaths of Borneo elephants

(04/18/2013) After three months, officials still don't know for certain what killed at least 14 Bornean elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) in the Malaysian state of Sabah. However tests do indicate that the herd perished from a "caustic intoxicant," possibly ingested accidentally or just as easily intentionally poisoned. A distinct subspecies, Bornean elephants are the world's smallest with a population that has fallen to around 2,000 on the island.


Mining company working with Indonesian govt to strip forest of protected status

(04/16/2013) A Toronto-listed mining company says it is working closely with the Indonesian government to strip the protected status of some 1.2 million hectares of forest on the island of Sumatra. In a statement issued Tuesday, East Asia Minerals Corporation (TSX:EAS) claimed it is actively involved in the process of devising a new spatial plan for Aceh province, Sumatra's western-most province. The proposed changes to the spatial plan, which governs land use in the province, would re-zone large areas of protected forest in Aceh for industrial activities.


Civet poop coffee may be threatening wild species

(04/16/2013) Popularization of the world's strangest coffee may be imperiling a a suite of small mammals in Indonesia, according to a new study in Small Carnivore Conservation. The coffee, known as kopi luwak (kopi for coffee and luwak for the civet), is made from whole coffee beans that have passed through the guts of the animal and out the other side. The coffee is apparently noted for its distinct taste, though some have argued it is little more than novelty.


Double bad: Chinese vessel that collided with protected coral reef holding 22,000 pounds of pangolin meat

(04/15/2013) What do you do when you're smuggling 22,000 pounds of an endangered species on your boat? Answer: crash into a protected coral reef in the Philippines. Last Monday a Chinese vessel slammed into a coral reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park; on Saturday the Filipino coastguard discovered 400 boxes of pangolin meat while inspecting the ship. Pangolins, which are scaly insect-eating mammals, have been decimated by the illegal wildlife trade as their scales are prized in Chinese Traditional Medicine and their meat is considered a delicacy.


Will Indonesia renew its moratorium on new forest conversion licenses?

(04/12/2013) Indonesia’s forestry minister has again said that the country will extend its two-year moratorium on primary forest and peatland conversion, which is set to expire next month.


Sarawak to protect population of rarest orangutan sub-species

(04/10/2013) After facilitating large-scale logging and conversion of extensive areas of rainforest habitat, the government of Sarawak says it will protect a population of up to 200 of the world’s rarest Bornean orangutans recently identified during field surveys by conservationists, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


Indonesia to raise logging, mining fees in forest areas

(04/08/2013) Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry will soon raise fees on forest exploitation activities including logging, mining, and oil and gas exploration as part of an effort to increase income from resource use.


Sumatran rhino population plunges, down to 100 animals

(04/08/2013) Less than 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in the world today, according to a bleak new population estimate by experts. The last survey in 2008 estimated that around 250 Sumatran rhinos survived, but that estimate now appears optimistic and has been slashed by 60 percent. However conservationists are responding with a major new agreement between the Indonesian and Malaysian governments at a recent summit by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC).


Investigation clears APP of deforestation allegations in Borneo

(04/04/2013) Two logging companies that supply Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) with timber have not violated the Indonesian forestry giant's new zero deforestation commitment, according to a field investigation by The Forest Trust, a conservation group. The investigation was a direct response to allegations raised in a report published last week by Relawan Pemantau Hutan Kalimantan (RPHK), a consortium of local NGOs in West Kalimantan, the western-most province in Indonesian Borneo. The RPHK report found evidence of active clearing within two concession areas linked to Asia Tani Persada (ATP) and Daya Tani Kalbar (DTK), companies that supply APP with timber for its pulp mills.


Sumatran rhino found in Kalimantan after unseen in region for 20 years

(04/02/2013) Conservationists working to save the Sumatran rhino—one of the world's most imperiled mammals—heard good news this week as WWF-Indonesia has found evidence of at least one Sumatran rhino persisting in the Indonesian state of Kalimantan, located on the island of Borneo. Small populations of Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) survive on Sumatra and on Borneo (in the Malaysian state of Sabah), but this is the first time scientists have confirmed the presence of the notoriously shy animal in Kalimantan in over two decades.


Proposed coal plant threatens Critically Endangered Philippine cockatoo

(04/02/2013) One kilometer off the Philippine island of Palawan lies the Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary; here forest grows unimpeded from a coral island surrounded by mangroves and coral reefs. Although tiny, over a hundred bird species have been recorded on the island along with a major population of large flying foxes, while in the waters below swim at least 130 species of coral fish, three types of marine turtles, and that curious-looking marine mammal, dugongs. Most importantly, perhaps, the island is home to the world's largest population of Philippine cockatoos (Cacatua haematuropygia), currently listed as Critically Endangered. But, although uninhabited by people, Rasa Island may soon be altered irrevocably by human impacts.


Poachers enlisting impoverished wildlife rangers as accomplices in elephant, rhino killing

(04/01/2013) Corruption among wildlife rangers is becoming a serious impediment in the fight against poaching, fuelled by soaring levels of cash offered by criminal poacher syndicates, senior conservation chiefs have admitted. Rangers in countries as diverse as Tanzania and Cambodia are being bribed by increasingly organised poaching gangs keen to supply ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts to meet huge consumer demand in Asia.


NGO says Malaysian regulators should shut down two Sarawak companies after damning video

(03/26/2013) The fallout from a video by Global Witness exposing widespread corruption in Sarawak continues, as the Bruno Manser Fund, a European NGO, has called on the Companies Commission of Malaysia to "dereigster" land corporations highlighted in the video. The video purports to connect the head of Sarawak, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, to illegal land deals on indigenous territory.


Over ten percent of a species' total population found in smuggler's bag

(03/25/2013) On Friday, March 15th Thai authorities arrested a 38-year-old man attempting to collect a bag containing 54 ploughshare tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora) and 21 radiated tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) in Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Found only in Madagascar both species are listed as Critically Endangered and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but have become lucrative targets for the black-market pet trade given their scarcity and beauty.


Conservation scientists: Aceh's spatial plan a risk to forests, wildlife, and people

(03/22/2013) A group of biologists and conservation scientists meeting in Sumatra warned that potential changes to Aceh's spatial plan could undermine some of the ecological services that underpin the Indonesian province's economy and well-being of its citizens. After its meeting from March 18-22 in Banda Aceh, the Asia chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) issued a declaration [PDF] highlighting the importance of the region's tropical forest ecosystem, which is potentially at risk due to proposed changes to its spatial plan.


Ant communities more segregated in palm oil plantations than rainforest

(03/21/2013) Ants are an important ecological group in both degraded and natural habitats. They interact with many other species and mediate a range of ecological processes. These interactions are often interpreted in the context of ant mosaics, where dominant species form strict territories, keeping other ants out. This segregation between ant species is well-documented in monoculture plantations. Now new research published in Ecography has shown that these changes are driven by the replacement of rainforests with monocultures and not the arrival of non-native species.


Video uncovers top level corruption in Sarawak over indigenous forests

(03/20/2013) Tax evasion, kick-backs, bribery, and corruption all make appearances in a shocking new undercover video by Global Witness that shows how top individuals in the Sarawak government may be robbing the state of revenue for their own personal gain. Anti-corruption groups have believed that corruption has been rife in the Malaysian state of Sarawak for decades, but Global Witness says their investigation offers undeniable proof.


The beautiful amphibian from Hell: scientists discover new crocodile newt in Vietnam (photos)

(03/19/2013) Researchers have discovered a new species of Vietnamese salamander that looks like it was birthed from an abyssal volcano. Found tucked away in Tokyo's National Museum of Nature and Science, the scientists described the species in the new edition of Current Herpetology. Coal-black with orange-tinted toes, the new crocodile newt (in the genus Tylototriton) was determined to be a new species when it showed morphological and genetic differences from near relatives. Despite its remarkable appearance, the researchers say these are typical colors for crocodile newts.


APP conservation policy came after it pulped most of its forests

(03/19/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper's widely heralded forest conservation policy came after the forestry giant had already cleared nearly all of the legally protected forests within its concessions in Sumatra, alleges a new report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.


Cambodia loses half its seasonal wetlands in 10 years

(03/18/2013) Cambodia lost more than half of its seasonally flooded grasslands in ten years due to industrial agricultural conversion, abandonment of traditional farming, and illegal drainage, putting several endangered bird species at risk and undermining traditional livelihoods in the region, reports a new study published in the journal Conservation Biology.


Into the unknown mountains of Cambodia: rare birds, rice wine, and talk of tigers

(03/14/2013) Ringed with forested mountains forming the borders with Laos and Vietnam, the northeast corner of Cambodia has been an intriguing blank spot among my extensive travels through the country. Nestled up against this frontier is Virachey National Park, created in 1993. I began searching for a way to explore this area a couple of years ago, hoping to connect with conservation NGOs to get me into the park; no one seemed to know much about it. I learned that the area had been written off by these groups due to massive land concessions given to logging and rubber concerns. The World Bank abandoned its 8-year effort to create a management scheme for Virachey after the concessions were granted in 2007. A moratorium on the concessions is temporarily in place, but illegal logging incursions into the park continue.


Elephant woes: conservationists mixed on elephant actions at CITES

(03/14/2013) Conservationists couldn't agree if the glass was half-full or half-empty on action to protect elephants at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand. Elephants, especially in Africa, have faced a massive rise in poaching over the last decade with tens-of-thousands shot dead every year. Forests elephants in central Africa have been especially targeted: new research estimates that an astounding 60 percent of the world's forest elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks in the last ten years alone. While conservationists had hopes that CITES would move aggressively against elephant poaching, the results were a decidedly mixed-bag.


Prayers for dying elephants: Buddhists hold prayer ceremony for elephants decimated by poachers

(03/11/2013) Buddhist leaders prayed for slaughtered African elephants in Bangkok, Thailand last week, reports WWF. During a special merit-making ceremony, often reserved for the recently deceased, Buddhist monks, abbots, and leaders prayed for the tens-of-thousands of elephants that have been killed for their ivory tusks. Bangkok is currently hosting an international meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), where the elephant crisis is being discussed.


Norway's wealth fund dumps 23 palm oil companies under new deforestation policy

(03/11/2013) Norway's $700 billion pension fund continues to divest from companies linked to tropical deforestation, selling stakes in 23 palm oil producers last year, reports Rainforest Foundation Norway, an activist group that has led the campaign for divestment. The move by the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) — the world's largest sovereign wealth fund — came after it revised its investment guidelines to include deforestation as a portfolio risk.


Captive frogs may be spreading diseases to wild cousins across Southeast Asia

(03/07/2013) Scientists have documented a series of links between exotic frogs for trade and diseases in wild frogs in Southeast Asia, including the first documented case of the chytrid fungus—a virulent and lethal disease—in Singapore. According to researchers writing in a new study in EcoHealth, frogs imported into Southeast Asia as pets, food, or traditional medicine are very likely spreading diseases to wild populations.


What happened to the elephants of Bouba Ndjida? [warning: graphic photos]

(03/07/2013) A new report released by the Wildlife Conservation Society says that poachers have killed a staggering 62 percent of Africa's forest elephants in the last decade. The insatiable demand for elephant ivory hails mainly from China and Thailand, which is ironically hosting this year's CITES (CoP16) meeting. The meeting will continue until March 13 2013. The study is based on a survey of five elephant range states including Cameroon. Cameroon is the home of Bouba Ndjida National Park, where the dizzying massacre of 650 elephants occurred last year.


Dozens arrested after community fights deforestation by paper company in Indonesia

(03/07/2013) Dozens of villagers from Indonesia’s North Sumatra province traveled to Jakarta this week to demand the release of 16 farmers who remain in detention after conflicts erupted between indigenous communities in Humbang Hasundutan district and PT Toba Pulp Lestari, a unit of the pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL).


Featured video: rare, strange mammal caught on camera in Sumatra

(03/05/2013) A video camera trap expedition into Sumatra's Leuser ecosystem has captured a rarely-seen, bizarre mammal on tape. The Sumatran serow (Capricornis sumatraensis) is a goat-antelope found both on Sumatra and mainland Southeast Asia. Rarely seen and little-studied, the animals inhabit highland areas.


Thailand's Prime Minister commits to ending ivory trade

(03/04/2013) Yesterday, Thailand's Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, committed to ending the ivory trade in her country. Her announcement came during the opening of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, which seeks to regulate trade in biodiversity across borders. Wildlife groups say that Thailand's legal trade in domestic ivory—international ivory is illegal of course—has created an easy opening for smugglers from abroad. Currently the ivory trade in Thailand is estimated to be second only to that of China.



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