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News articles on southeast asia

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









After Indonesian paper giant commits to no deforestation, pressure mounts on its biggest competitor

(02/12/2013) After Indonesian paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper's announcement last week that it will no longer source fiber produced from destruction of tropical rainforests, environmental groups are now urging Indonesia's other major paper company to make a similar commitment. On Tuesday, WWF echoed Greenpeace's call for Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. Like APP, APRIL has been linked to large-scale conversion of Sumatra's endangered rainforests for industrial tree plantations to produce pulp and paper.


Academics urge Indonesian President to end agrarian conflict

(02/12/2013) Academics have called on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to resolve agrarian conflict in the country. Around 130 academics and researchers from around the country presented a petition to the president last Thursday, urging him to take action and outlining steps he should take to address the problem at its roots.


Pity the pangolin: little-known mammal most common victim of the wildlife trade

(02/11/2013) Last year tens-of-thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhinos were butchered to feed the growing appetite of the illegal wildlife trade. This black market, largely centered in East Asia, also devoured tigers, sharks, leopards, turtles, snakes, and hundreds of other animals. Estimated at $19 billion annually, the booming trade has periodically captured global media attention, even receiving a high-profile speech by U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, last year. But the biggest mammal victim of the wildlife trade is not elephants, rhinos, or tigers, but an animal that receives little notice and even less press: the pangolin. If that name doesn't ring a bell, you're not alone.


Catching Borneo's mysterious wild cats on film

(02/07/2013) In my childhood's biology books from the 50's, the Australian marsupial tiger Thylacine is classified rare but alive. Today we know that the last thylacine died in a Tasmanian zoo 7th September, 1936, after a century of intensive hunting encouraged by bounties. The local government had finally introduced official protection 59 days before the last specimen died. Despite the optimism in my old books, no more thylacines were ever found. No film of it in the wild exists.


Investors beware: global land grabbing ends in 'financial damage' and human rights violations

(02/07/2013) Investing in companies that flout local community rights in developing countries often leads to severe economic losses, according to a new report from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). A rising trend in "land grabbing" from Africa to South America by corporations and even foreign governments results in social instability, which can lead to large-scale protests, violence, and even murder, delaying and sometimes derailing projects. Such instability poses massive risk to any investor, not to mention supporting corporate entities that are accused of ignoring human rights.


Palm oil company thugs attack Sulawesi villagers, injuring 8

(02/06/2013) Local thugs, allegedly linked to an oil palm plantation company, attacked a group of villagers in Indonesia’s Gorontalo province on the island of Sulawesi last week, injuring eight people, including a woman and a small child.


Sri Lanka to give poached ivory to Buddhist temple, flouting international agreements

(02/05/2013) The Sri Lankan government is planning to give 359 elephant tusks to a Buddhist temple, a move that critics say is flouting the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The illegal tusks were seized in Sri Lanka last May en route to Dubai from Kenya; they are believed to stem from hundreds of butchered elephants, including juveniles, inside Africa, possibly Uganda. The decision comes after a high-profile National Geographic article, Ivory Worship, outlined how demand for ivory religious handicrafts, particularly by Catholics and Buddhists, is worsening the current poaching crisis. In 2011, it was estimated that 25,000 elephants were illegally slaughtered for their tusks.


The beginning of the end of deforestation in Indonesia?

(02/05/2013) Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant that has been widely criticized for its role in driving deforestation and contributing to social conflict in Indonesia, today announced a zero deforestation policy that could have a dramatic impact on efforts to slow the Southeast Asian nation's high rate of deforestation. The policy, which went into effect February 1, is ambitious enough that one of APP's most vocal critics and agitators, Greenpeace, will suspend its highly-damaging campaign against the paper giant. The campaign against APP has cost the paper giant tens of millions of dollars in lost business since 2009. The new policy targets several of the major criticisms against APP, including deforestation, degradation of high carbon peatlands, conservation of critical wildlife habitat, and social conflict with local communities.


14 Bornean elephants found dead, likely poisoned

(01/31/2013) Wildlife officials in the Malaysian state of Sabah have found the bodies of 14 Bornean elephants in Gunung Rara Forest Reserve, and suspect that more may be found dead. While tests are pending, they believe the elephants were likely poisoned due to damage in the animals' digestive tracts. Only around 2,000 Bornean elephants (Elephas maximus borneensis) are left on the island of Borneo with the vast bulk found in Sabah.


HarperCollins establishes policy barring paper sourced from rainforest destruction

(01/29/2013) HarperCollins has established a policy that excludes paper sourced from destruction of tropical rainforests and old growth forests. The revised policy, posted on its web site earlier this month, is a response to a campaign by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an activist group that is targeting companies linked to clearing of Indonesian rainforests and peatlands for pulp and paper production:


Typhoon Bopha decimated coral reefs

(01/24/2013) When Typhoon Bopha, also known as Pablo, ran ashore on Mindanao, it was the largest tropical storm it ever hit the Philippine island. In its wake the massive superstorm left over 1,000 people were dead and 6.2 million affected with officials saying illegal logging and mining worsened the scale of the disaster. However, the Category 5 typhoon also left a trail of destruction that has been less reported: coral reefs.


Landmines, chains, and hope: the elephants of Thailand

(01/15/2013) Few animals draw more compassion and awe from people than elephants. Highly intelligent, deeply social, and touchingly sensitive, elephants have much in common with human beings, despite their size and shape. Yet elephants around the world are still often abused and mis-treated, whether to entertain tourists or as victims of human strife. A new film, The Last Elephants in Thailand, sets out to document both the good and bad that elephants encounter in a world dominated by homo sapiens.


Photos: Neon blue dragon discovered in Vietnamese rainforest

(01/15/2013) German and Russian biologists have discovered a stunning new species of lizard in Vietnam. The species, dubbed Calotes bachae, is described in a recent issue of the journal Zootaxa. Calotes bachae is a type of agama, a group of lizards commonly known as 'forest dragons.'


In the kingdom of the black panther

(01/15/2013) The black panther has a mythical aura: Rudyard Kipling chose the animal for one of his heroes in the Jungle Book, in the 1970s it became the symbol of an African-American socialist party, while comic guru Stan Lee selected the stunning feline for his first black superhero. But the real black panther isn't an actual species, instead it's a rare dark pigmentation found most commonly in leopards, but also occasionally in jaguars and other wild cats. The rarity of the black panther—not to mention its striking appearance—has added to their mystery. However, recent studies have found that black panthers, in this case 'black leopards,' are astoundingly common in one part of the world: the Malayan peninsula.


Malaysian candidate pledges to drop controversial dam in Sarawak if elected

(01/14/2013) Malaysia's current opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, has pledged to cancel the controversial Baram Dam in Sarawak if upcoming general elections sweep him into the office of Prime Minister. Ibrahim made the announcement while visiting the state of Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo, over the weekend, according to the indigenous rights NGO, Bruno Manser Fund.


New giant flying frog discovered near city of 9 million

(01/09/2013) Jodi Rowley is no stranger to discovering new amphibians—she's helped describe over 10 in her short career thus far—but still she was shocked to discover a new species of flying frog less than 100 kilometers from a major, bustling Southeast Asian metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City. Unfortunately, the new frog, dubbed Helen's tree frog (Rhacophorus helenae), may be on the verge of extinction, according to the description published in the Journal of Herpetology.


Paper giant breaks pledge to end rainforest logging in Sumatra, says group

(12/26/2012) Pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) continues to destroy large areas of rainforests and peatlands despite a commitment to end natural forest logging by 2009, says a new report issued by a coalition of Indonesian environmental groups. The Eyes on the Forest report finds that APRIL and its suppliers cleared at least 140,000 hectares (346,000 acres) of natural forest between 2008 and 2011 in Riau, accounting for 27 percent of all forest loss in the province during the period. Some of the area cleared by APRIL and its subsidiaries consisted of deep peat swamp forest, which stores massive amount of carbon.


China plans over 300 dam projects worldwide

(12/10/2012) A new report by the NGO, International Rivers, takes an in-depth look at the role China is playing in building mega-dams worldwide. According to the report, Chinese companies are involved in 308 hydroelectric projects across 70 nations. While dams are often billed as "green energy," they can have massive ecological impacts on rivers, raise local conflict, and even expel significant levels of greenhouse gases when built in the tropics.


Illegal logging, mining worsened impact of Philippines' killer typhoon

(12/06/2012) According to Filipino officials, rampant illegal logging and mining were likely a part of the cause for the high casualty count from Category 5 Typhoon Bopha (Pablo), especially in the Compostela Valley where government officials had warned people to stop the illegal activities. So far, 370 people have been found dead on the island of Mindanao with another 400 missing. Waters rose so high even emergency shelters were inundated.


Indonesia approves first REDD+ project in Borneo

(12/05/2012) The Indonesian government has approved its first REDD+ project to reduce emissions from deforestation and peatlands degradation, reports President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's office.


China and India plan 818 new coal plants

(11/26/2012) Even as the clamor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions reaches a new high—echoed recently by such staid institutions as the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA)—a new analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI) finds that 818 new coal-fired plants are under proposal in China and India. In all 1,199 new coal-fired plants are currently planned worldwide, according to the report, totaling 1.4 million megawatts of energy.


Sarawak minister tells clean energy activists to 'stop breathing'

(11/13/2012) A top minister in the Malaysian state of Sarawak has told activists campaigning for cleaner energy to 'stop breathing', reports The Borneo Post.


Development halted in crucial wildlife corridor in Malaysia

(11/07/2012) Kenyir Wildlife Corridor in northeast Malaysia is teeming with wildlife: elephants, gibbons, tigers, tapirs, and even black panthers (melanistic leopards) have been recorded in the 60 kilometer (37 mile) stretch of forest. In fact, researchers have recorded over 40 mammal species (see species list below), including 15 threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List. When these findings were presented by scientists to the Terengganu state government action followed quickly: all development projects have been halted pending a government study.


Controversial dam gets approval in Laos

(11/07/2012) Laos has given approval to the hugely-controversial $3.5 billion Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River, reports the BBC. The massive dam, which would provide 95 percent of its energy production to Thailand, has been criticized for anticipated impacts on the river's fish populations, on which many locals depend.


Over 100,000 farmers squatting in Sumatran park to grow coffee

(11/06/2012) Sumatra's Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park—home to the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and elephants—has become overrun with coffee farmers, loggers, and opportunists according to a new paper in Conservation and Society. An issue facing the park for decades, the study attempted for the first time to determine the number of squatters either living in or farming off Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the rough census—over 100,000 people—shocked scientists.


Micro-hydro and decentralized green energy goals set in Borneo

(11/04/2012) The first ever meeting of the Southeast Asia Renewable Energy People's Assembly (SEAREPA) ended with agreement on 12 future projects, including developing community micro-hydro power and pushing for new policies on decentralized renewable energy in the region. Held in Malaysian state of Sabah on the island, the meeting brought together 130 people from some 80 different groups.


HSBC bank funding large-scale rainforest destruction and invasion of indigenous lands in Borneo, alleges report

(11/02/2012) HSBC has earned tens of millions financing the destruction of rainforests and invasion of indigenous land in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, alleges an explosive new report from Global Witness.


After defeating coal plant, Borneo hosts renewable energy meeting

(10/31/2012) Last year, a coalition of environmentalists and locals won a David-versus-Goliath battle against a massive coal plant in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo. After facing a protracted campaign—including expert analysis of green energy options for Sabah—the state government announced it was scuttling plans to build the coal plant on a beach overlooking the Coral Triangle. Now, victorious grassroots campaigners are hosting the inaugural meeting of the Southeast Asia Renewable Energy People’s Assembly (SEAREPA), bringing 80 organizations together to discuss green energy options across southeast Asia.


APP overstates significance of its logging moratorium in Indonesia, says report

(10/25/2012) Beleaguered forestry giant Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) is overstating the conservation significance of its recently announced moratorium on forest conversion on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, argues a new report issued by an Indonesian activist group.


Indonesia remains epicenter for illegal wildlife trade in reptiles and amphibians

(10/24/2012) Demand for exotic pets is driving the illegal harvest and trade of herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) in Indonesian New Guinea, according to a recent study published in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation. Between September 2010 and April 2011, Daniel Natusch and Jessica Lyons of the University of New South Wales surveyed traders of amphibians and reptiles in the Indonesian provinces of Maluku, West Papua and Papua.


Rehabilitated orangutans in danger if industrial project proceeds in Borneo

(10/22/2012) The proposed extension of an industrial area in East Kalimantan, Indonesia will likely mean the end of a population of rehabilitated orangutans who reside there, according to the Indonesian environmental group Peduli Teluk Balikpapan. The Kariangau Industrial Area (KIK) will comprise 5,130 hectares of land currently covered by hardwood forests and mangroves when completed, including one third of orangutan habitat in Sungai Wain forest—a crucial portion that is not within the boundaries of the Sungai Wain Protection Forest and therefore not under any governmental protection.


The world's 25 most endangered primates: nearly a quarter in Madagascar

(10/15/2012) A coalition of conservation groups released the biannual Top 25 Primates list today, including nine species not appearing on the 2010 list, at the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India. Madagascar tops the list as home to the most threatened primates, including six on the list. Following Madagascar, Vietnam contains five, Indonesia three, and Brazil two. In all, over half (54 percent) of the world's primates, which have been evaluated, are considered threatened by the IUCN Red List.


The riot over rhinos: how a luxury and illegal commodity is driving the slaughter of one of the world’s iconic megafauna

(10/15/2012) 23,680 = the estimated number of wild rhinoceroses in South Africa. 35,000,000 = the number of American dollars generated by rhino hunting in South Africa. 97% = the percentage increase in illegally-hunted rhinos in 2011 from the national average in 1990. 30,000 = the number of pounds of rhino horns confiscated from poachers since 2010. 65 = the number of horns that have been stolen in South Africa from public display. 430...the number of rhinos killed this year, and counting...


Is your Halloween candy linked to rainforest destruction?

(10/11/2012) A campaign by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hopes to raise awareness about the link between Halloween candy and deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Employing the images of Critically Endangered orangutans, the zoo urges consumer to only buy candy containing eco-certified palm oil by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).


Dollar General drops APP due to rainforest destruction concerns

(10/11/2012) U.S. retailer Dollar General has stopped sourcing paper products from controversial brand Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) which has targeted 20 companies for selling APP-sourced tissue and paper towels. APP has been under fire for years for deforestation on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the last home to the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii), and Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus), each of which is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.


Cambodia drops case of murdered forest activist, Chut Wutty

(10/08/2012) An investigation into the mysterious death of Cambodian forest activist, Chut Wutty, has been dismissed by the courts, which critics allege is apart of an ongoing cover up. The court decided that since the suspect in Wutty's death, In Rattana, was also dead there was no need to proceed. Chut Witty was shot to death while escorting two journalists to a logging site run by Timbergreen. Wutty, whose death made international news, was a prominent activist against illegal logging in Cambodia.


90 percent of oil palm plantations came at expense of forest in Kalimantan

(10/08/2012) From 1990 to 2010 almost all palm oil expansion in Kalimantan came at the expense of forest cover, according to the most detailed look yet at the oil palm industry in the Indonesian state, published in Nature: Climate Change. Palm oil plantations now cover 31,640 square kilometers of the state, having expanded nearly 300 percent since 2000. The forest loss led to the emission of 0.41 gigatons of carbon, more than Indonesia's total industrial emissions produced in a year. Furthermore the scientists warn that if all current leases were converted by 2020, over a third of Kalimantan's lowland forests outside of protected areas would become plantations and nearly quadruple emissions.


Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil hits 10 year mark

(10/04/2012) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is holding its tenth annual meeting later this month. The initiative, which aims to improve the social and environmental performance of palm oil production through a certification standard, has advanced considerably during that time, moving from an idea to a reality: RSPO-certified palm oil now accounts for 12 percent of global palm oil production. Yet the RSPO is not without controversy. Some palm oil companies say its criteria are too costly to adopt and are therefore discriminatory, while environmental critics argue its bar for "sustainable" palm oil is too low and the loopholes allow producers to claim membership even if they aren't actually producing certified palm oil across all their holdings. Nonetheless the RSPO has support from many of the world's largest palm oil producers, traders, and consumers as well as the biggest NGOs.


Another journalist attacked in Cambodia for covering illegal logging

(09/27/2012) Two weeks after an environmental journalist was found murdered in the trunk of his car, another journalist has been brutally attacked in Cambodia. Ek Sokunthy with the local paper Ta Prum says he was beaten in his home by three assailants by a pistol and a stick. The attack follows swiftly after the high-profile murder of 44-year-old forest journalist Hang Serei Oudom.


Corruption still plundering forests in Laos for furniture

(09/26/2012) The forests of Lao are still suffering from widespread destruction with the government turning a blind eye to a thriving black market logging trade on the border of Laos and Vietnam, according to an update report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Last year, the EIA found that powerful players, including the Vietnamese military, were plundering Laos of its forests for raw logs. Smuggled from Laos into Vietnam, the raw logs are crafted into furniture, which are eventually exported to Europe and the U.S. Now, over a year later a new report finds little has changed.


New website highlights the plight of the pangolin

(09/25/2012) Scaly, insect-devouring, nocturnal, and notoriously shy, pangolins are strange mammals who remain unknown to many. But they are facing a major crisis as they are stolen from the wild in East Asia to serve as meat or traditional medicine. In Asia, two of the four species are now listed as Endangered due largely to poaching. Now, a new expert group through the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) aims to work toward better research and conservation of the world's imperiled pangolins, starting with launching a new website, PangolinSG.


Featured video: camera traps find rare, mountain animals in Sumatra

(09/24/2012) In May of this year, Dutch filmmaker, Marten Slothouwer and his team trudged up Sumatra's northern-most mountains with video camera equipment in hand, hoping to capture rare and cryptic species for the world to see. Already the camera trapping initiative, dubbed Eyes on Leuser, took incredible footage in the region's imperiled lowland rainforest, but the group hoped now to capture mountain endemics.


NGO: Malaysian leader worth $15 billion despite civil-servant salary; timber corruption suspected

(09/19/2012) Abdul Taib Mahmud, who has headed the Malaysian state of Sarawak for over 30 years, is worth $15 billion according to a new report by the Bruno Manser Fund. The report, The Taib Timber Mafia, alleges that Taib has used his position as head-of-state to build up incredible amounts of wealth by employing his family or political nominees to run the state's logging, agriculture, and construction businesses. Some environmental groups claim that Sarawak has lost 90 percent of its primary forests to logging, while indigenous tribes in the state have faced the destruction of their forests, harassment, and eviction.


Learning to live with elephants in Malaysia

(09/18/2012) Humans and elephants have a lot in common: both are highly intelligent, intensely social, and both are capable of having a massive impact on their local environments. Given their similarities, it might not be surprising that elephants and human have often run afoul of one another. Conflict between these two great species has probably been going on for thousands of years, but as human populations have grown dramatically, elephant populations have been crippled and forced into smaller-and-smaller pockets. No-where is this more true than in Southeast Asia.


Environmental journalist investigating illegal logging murdered in Cambodia

(09/13/2012) Less than five months after high-profile forest activist, Chut Wutty, was killed in Cambodia, an environmental journalist, Hang Serei Oudom, has been found slain in the trunk of his car, possibly murdered with an ax, reports the AFP. Oudum, who worked at the local paper Vorakchun Khmer Daily, was known for writing stories on epidemic of illegal logging in Cambodia, often linking the crime to business people and politicians. The car and body were found in a cashew nut plantation in Ratanakiri province, an area rife with logging.


Photos: camera traps capture wildlife bonanza in Borneo forest corridor

(09/10/2012) Camera traps placed in a corridor connecting two forest fragments have revealed (in stunning visuals) the importance of such linkages for Borneo's imperiled mammals and birds. Over 18 months, researchers with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) have photographed wildlife utilizing the corridor located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo.


Tiger and cubs filmed near proposed dam in Thailand

(09/04/2012) A tigress and two cubs have been filmed by remote camera trap in a forest under threat by a $400 million dam in Thailand. To be built on the Mae Wong River, the dam imperils two Thai protected areas, Mae Wong National Park and Huay Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)


Swiss to investigate UBS for alleged money laundering for Malaysian rainforest logging

(09/04/2012) Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation into whether banking giant UBS laundered money on behalf of a Malaysian politician who allegedly received illegal payments for allowing logging in Borneo, reports the Associated Press.


Sabah protects 700 sq mi of rainforest in Borneo

(08/30/2012) Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, has reclassified 183,000 hectares (700 sq km) of forest zoned for logging concessions as protected areas.


Rainforests decline sharply in Sumatra, but rate of deforestation slows

(08/28/2012) The extent of old-growth forest in Sumatra shrank by 40 percent over the past 20 years, while overall forest on the Indonesian island declined by 36 percent, finds a comprehensive new satellite-based assessment published in Environmental Research Letters. The research, conducted by an international team led by Belinda Arunarwati Margono of South Dakota State University and Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry, reveals the dire condition of Sumatra's once extensive rainforests. Overall Sumatra lost 7.5 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2010, of which about 2.6 million hectares was primary forest. The bulk of forest loss occurred in secondary forests that had been previously degraded by logging.



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