conservation news and environmental science news.
Despite moratorium, Indonesia failing to take action on illegal palm oil plantations
(07/12/2012) Indonesian authorities are failing to take action against a palm oil company that is operating illegally in Central Kalimantan, alleges a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telapak.
Indigenous tribes end occupation of Belo Monte
(07/12/2012) After occupying the construction site of the massive Belo Monte dam for 21 days, some 300 indigenous people have left and gone home. The representatives from nine Amazonian tribes abandoned their occupation after two days of meeting with the dam's builder, the Norte Energia consortium.
Animal picture of the day: the greater roadrunner
(07/12/2012) Charging at speeds up to 26 miles an hour (42 kilometers), the greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) chases down prey like lizards and snakes. It is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, and is found across the Southwestern U.S. Although the greater roadrunner is capable of flight, it prefers racing along the ground.
Proliferation of mountain roads a hazard to the environment in SE Asia
(07/12/2012) Mountain roads in rural Southeast Asia are providing market access for remote communities but causing significant environmental harm, including deforestation, landslides, and soil erosion, sometimes undermining the benefits they offer, warns a commentary published in Nature Geoscience.
Thousands of scientists hold mock funeral in Canada to highlight nation's "death of evidence"
(07/11/2012) Carrying signs that said 'Stop Harper's War on Knowledge' and 'Scientists Shouldn't Wear a Muzzle,' Canada's scientists were unusually theatrical yesterday at a rally against the Canadian government's cuts for basic science funding and environmental protections. Scientists, dressed in white coats, carried a coffin to represent "the death of evidence" in Canada, while a costumed grim-reaper led the way. According to police, around 2,000 joined in the protest.
Climate change increased the probability of Texas drought, African famine, and other extreme weather
(07/11/2012) Climate change is here and its increasing the chances for crazy weather, according to scientists. A prestigious group of climatologists have released a landmark report that makes the dramatic point that climate change is impacting our weather systems—and in turn our food crops, our economies, and even our lives—here-and-now. The new report in the American Meteorological Society is first of what is intended to be an annual offering that will attempt to tease out the connections between climate change and individual extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and floods.
Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru get big boost in deforestation tracking, biomass measurement
(07/11/2012) Efforts to rapidly and accurately track deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru got a boost this week with a special technical training session organized by the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force. The meeting, convened at Stanford University and Google's Silicon Valley campus, paired staffers from government agencies and NGOs in the four tropical countries with technical experts from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Forum on Readiness for REDD, Woods Hole Research Center, and Google Earth Outreach. The participants received training to augment existing deforestation, forest degradation and biomass monitoring capabilities, which are highly variable both between countries and within sub-national agencies and jurisdictions.
San Francisco bars officials from buying Apple computers for city business
(07/11/2012) Employees at San Francisco agencies will no longer be able to buy Apple products for official city business due to the computer giant's decision to pull out of a green certification scheme for consumer electronics, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Pastures, not forest, are best place for oil palm expansion in Colombia
(07/11/2012) Colombia is targeting a six-fold increase in crude palm-oil production by 2020. Conservationists fear this may compromise the nation’s natural ecosystems, but a new study suggests the impact may be minimized by limiting new oil palm plantations to certain areas of pasture land.
Cute animal picture of the day: stranded sea lion finds new home
(07/11/2012) A young female California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) , who had stranded herself three times, has found a new home at the Bronx Zoo. After her most recent escapade of showing up at a beachside bar in California, experts decided she was too habituated to humans to re-release back into the ocean for a third time. She was transferred to the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo.
Vietnam buys stakes in controversial oil blocks threatening Peru's most vulnerable indigenous people
(07/11/2012) Vietnam's state oil and gas company, PetroVietnam Exploration and Production (PVEP), has announced its intention to acquire a major stake in controversial oil operations in the remote Peruvian Amazon. This area, known as Lot 67, is one of the most biodiverse in the world and home to indigenous people living without regular contact with outsiders, sometimes dubbed 'isolated' or 'uncontacted', who could be decimated by contact with oil company workers because they are highly vulnerable to disease.
Wealthy consumption threatens species in developing countries
(07/11/2012) Consumption in wealthy nations is imperiling biodiversity abroad, according to a new study in Nature that investigates the link between international trade and biodiversity decline. The study shows how threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, located primarily in developing countries, can be connected to consumer demand for goods in wealthier nations. Some of the major commodities include coffee, cocoa, soy, beef and palm oil.
Building indigenous resilience in the face of land-grabbing, deforestation in Malaysian Borneo
(07/10/2012) In the 1980s images of loincloth-clad tribesmen blockading blocking logging roads in Malaysian Borneo shocked the world. But while their protests captured the spotlight momentarily, Borneo's forests continued to be destroyed at rapid rates, undermining traditional communities that are dependent on these ecosystems for food, shelter, medicine, clean water, and spiritual inspiration. Nomadic tribes are now but a memory in Borneo, but other tribal groups continue to fight for their forests by seeking legal recognition of their lands and blocking destructive projects, including oil palm plantations, logging operations, and large-scale hydroelectric projects. Helping them is The Borneo Project, a Berkeley-based non-profit that works in partnership with indigenous communities and the small non-profits that support them.
As U.S. sees record heat, extreme weather pummels 4 continents
(07/10/2012) It's not only the U.S. that has experienced record-breaking extreme weather events recently, in the last couple months extreme weather has struck around the world with startling ferocity. In addition to the much-covered heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts in the U.S., killer floods struck India, the worst drought yet recorded plagued South Korea, and massive forest fires swept through Siberia to name just a few.
Pictures of the day: LEGO animals storm Bronx Zoo
(07/10/2012) LEGO animals are debuting next to the real things at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo this summer. LEGO artists have created a menagerie of animals including lemurs, a tiger, hornbills, rhinos, gorillas, flamingoes, a giraffe, and a zebra. The exhibition runs until September 3rd. "The safari brings to life the challenges faced by wildlife due to habitat loss and real threats to their survival. The goal of the program is to connect young minds to nature and inspire visitors to help build a future for wildlife," the Bronx Zoo says in a press release.
Meet the world's rarest snake: only 18 left
(07/10/2012) It's slithery, brown, and doesn't mind being picked up: meet the Saint Lucia racer (Liophis ornatus), which holds the dubious honor of being the world's most endangered snake. A five month extensive survey found just 18 animals on a small islet off of the Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia. The snake had once been abundant on Saint Lucia, as well, but was decimated by invasive mongooses. For nearly 40 years the snake was thought to be extinct until in 1973 a single snake was found on the Maria Major Island, a 12-hectare (30 acre) protected islet, a mile off the coast of Saint Lucia (see map below).
2,600 scientists: climate change killing the world's coral reefs
(07/10/2012) In an unprecedented show of concern, 2,600 (and rising) of the world's top marine scientists have released a Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs that raises alarm bells about the state of the world's reefs as they are pummeled by rising temperatures and ocean acidification, both caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The statement was released at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium.
Remote-controlled model planes offer bird's-eye approach to conservation
(07/10/2012) Inexpensive aerial drones can help conservationists map forests, monitor land use change like deforestation, and track wildlife in remote and inaccessible areas, reports a new study published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Indigenous leaders demand suspension of Belo Monte dam
(07/10/2012) Indigenous leaders from six Amazon tribes have asked the Brazilian government to immediately suspend the installation license for the controversial Belo Monte dam, reports Amazon Watch, an activist group that is campaigning against the project.
Vale's $1 trillion iron mine in the Amazon wins approval
(07/09/2012) The Brazilian government approved the environmental license for the expansion of an iron mine in the Amazon region, reports Vale, the Brazilian mining giant behind the project.
Google Earth used to discover unknown forest in Angola, scientists find it full of rare birds
(07/09/2012) An expedition, followed up by some computer hunting on Google Earth, has discovered large remnants of old growth forest, including thriving bird communities, in the mountains of Angola. The Namba Mountains in Angola were expected to contain around 100 hectares of forest, but an on-the-ground survey, coupled with online research, has discovered numerous forest fragments totaling around 590 hectares in the remote mountains, boosting the chances for many rare species.
Predicting the distribution of tropical dung beetles
(07/09/2012) Although they live in almost every ecosystem in the world—from your backyard to the Antarctic—scientists know very little about many insect species, including many individual species' distribution. A new study in mongabay.com's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science attempts to predict the range of 53 dung beetle species in the genus Eurysternus, all of which are found in the American tropics. Dung beetles are hugely important to their environments, since they efficiently devour and recycle waste.
Poaching in the Serengeti linked to poverty, high legal hunting prices
(07/09/2012) In the effort to protect the Serengeti—arguably Africa's most famous ecosystem—one of the major problems is the bushmeat trade. Population growth, little available protein, poverty, and a long-standing history of hunting has led many communities to poach wildlife within Serengeti National Park. Interviewing over a thousand community members in the western Serengeti, scientists found that community members are largely aware that wildlife hunting is illegal and that conservation of wild species is important, but hunt animals anyway partly out of necessity.
Making reforestation work in abandoned pasturelands
(07/09/2012) Tropical reforestation is not easy, especially in abandoned pasturelands. But a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science finds that removing grasses prior to and after planting native tree seeds significantly improves the chances of forests to take root. The study site, located in Mexico's Lacandon rainforest, was covered in an invasive African grass (Cynodon plectostachyus).
Poaching results in elephant gender imbalance in Indian park
(07/09/2012) Scientists have undertaken a new census of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in India's Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve (BRT) following almost 30 years of sustained poaching. Estimating that the park contains four female elephants for every male, the scientists warn in a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science that this gender imbalance threatens the population. Poachers target male Asian elephants for their tusks, generally leaving females untouched.
Critically Endangered capuchins discovered in four new locations
(07/09/2012) The Ecuadorian capuchin, a Critically Endangered subspecies of the white-fronted capuchin (Cebus albifrons), has been discovered in four new locations according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. Found only in Ecuador and northern Peru, the scientists say the monkey may be unique enough to warrant consideration as a distinct species.
Tracking elephants in Cameroon to mitigate conflict with locals
(07/09/2012) Elephant conservation is imperiled by poor spatial planning, according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. Tracking two elephant matriarchs in and around Bénoué National Park in Cameroon, scientists found that the herds spent over half their time outside of the park, highlighting the potential for human-wildlife conflict as elephants are known to raid fields.
Bad science journalism: articles spread misinformation about whale sharks
(07/09/2012) The death of one of the world's largest recorded whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in the Arabian Sea provoked a sudden global interest in these massive shark. Weighing 14.5 tons, the fish in question made 'whale shark 'whale shark' the number 3 top search in Google Trends on the day the news hit. But, according to a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science, more than half the reports filed by journalists were "factually wrong."
Endangered fruit bats, and many other species, on the menu in the Philippines
(07/09/2012) Bushmeat hunting is well-known to be decimating animal populations in Africa, but has been little studied much of Southeast Asia. However, a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science shines light on the size and scale of bushmeat poaching in the Philippines. Studying an anonymous community near a national park on the island of Luzon, researchers found that poachers targeted 22 species, ten of which are considered either threatened or near threatened with extinction by the IUCN Red List.
Indonesia green news review: Sulawesi regent arrested for alleged palm oil corruption
(07/09/2012) Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested Amran Batalipu, the regent of Buol, Central Sulawesi, on charges that he received bribes in issuing palm oil plantation permits in his regency.
Animal picture of the day: Sunda clouded leopard in Borneo
(07/09/2012) The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) is the largest wild cat in Borneo and is classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red list of threatened species. Due to their nocturnal and cryptic habits they are seldom observed and very little is known of their basic ecology and distribution. This large Clouded leopard was photographed by remote camera trap in Malua BioBank as part of the Bornean Banteng Program which studies the rare banteng (Bos javanicus lowi).
Protest in China leads to cancellation of copper smelter
(07/06/2012) A massive protest triggered cancellation of a controversial copper smelter local communities feared would lead to air pollution, reports The New York Times. Outcry also led to the release of jailed protesters who demonstrated against the project.
Nature's Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation – Book Review
(07/06/2012) Migration patterns, natal homing, and daily activities by animals all require significant navigation capacities. In Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation, Dr. James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould explore the mathematical and physical underpinnings of what it takes for these species to successfully navigate.
Poacher known as 'Morgan' behind devastating massacre at Okapi Wildlife Reserve
(07/05/2012) Officials have pointed to an infamous elephant poacher known as 'Morgan' as the head of the murderous attack at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve station in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) late last month. The attack by Morgan and his crew left seven people dead, including two wildlife rangers. The poachers also shot dead 13 captive okapis at the headquarters, which were considered ambassadors for the imperiled forest. One okapi remains alive, but injured and conservationists are not optimistic about its survival. UNESCO and the the NGO Fauna and Flora international have issued an emergency appeal to raise $120,000 dollars within two weeks for the victim's families as well as for rapidly rebuilding the station.
Experts dispute recent study that claims little impact by pre-Columbian tribes in Amazon
(07/05/2012) A study last month in the journal Science argued that pre-Columbian peoples had little impact on the western and central Amazon, going against a recently composed picture of the early Amazon inhabited by large, sophisticated populations influencing both the forest and its biodiversity. The new study, based on hundreds of soil samples, theorizes that indigenous populations in much of the Amazon were tiny and always on the move, largely sticking to rivers and practicing marginal agriculture. However, the study raised eyebrows as soon as it was released, including those of notable researchers who openly criticized its methods and pointed out omissions in the paper, such as no mention of hundreds of geoglyphs, manmade earthen structures, found in the region.
New colorful rainforest frog named after Prince Charles (PICTURES)
(07/04/2012) Researchers have discovered a previously unknown species of frog and named it in honor of Price Charles, according to a paper published in the journal Zootaxa.
The Cardamom Conundrum: Reconciling Development and Conservation in the Kingdom of Cambodia – Book Review
(07/04/2012) Tim Killeen’s new engaging book, The Cardamom Conundrum: Reconciling Development and Conservation in the Kingdom of Cambodia, describes decision-making options that the Government of Cambodia could engage in to develop their nation along a path of sustainability through resolving the sustainable economic development paradox, or “conundrum”. Dr. Killeen’s analysis demonstrated that this conundrum could be resolved based on a green economy with four pillars.
Pre-industrial deforestation still warming atmosphere
(07/03/2012) Fossil fuels were not burned in massive quantities prior to the Industrial Revolution, but humans were still pumping carbon into the atmosphere due to land use change, especially deforestation. In fact, a new study in Environmental Research Letters finds that deforestation prior to 1850 is still heating up our atmosphere today.
Indigenous tribes occupy Belo Monte dam for over 10 days
(07/03/2012) As of Tuesday, the occupation of Belo Monte dam by indigenous tribes entered its 13th day. Indigenous people, who have fought the planned Brazilian dam for decades, argue that the massive hydroelectric project on the Xingu River will devastate their way of life. According to a statement from the tribes, 17 indigenous villages from 13 ethnic groups are now represented at the occupation, which has successfully scuttled some work on the dam.
Animal picture of the day: rare image of Asiatic cheetah and cubs
(07/03/2012) The Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), also known as the Iranian cheetah, is one the world's rarest cat subspecies with somewhere between 70-110 individuals left. No surprisingly it is considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.
India's Western Ghats rainforest declared UNESCO World Heritage Site
(07/03/2012) India's Western Ghats, considered one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world, has been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In total, 39 different sites in the tropical rainforest—home to Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, lion-tailed macaques, and thousands of other species—have made it under the listing.
Cutting-edge research center opens in Madagascar rainforest
(07/03/2012) A high-tech research center opened today on the edge of a rainforest in Madagascar. The facility, known as the Centre Valbio, will support efforts to study Madagascar's unique wildlife, deliver health care to impoverished communities, and understand links between the environment and the rural economy. The project was led by Patricia Wright, a Stony Brook University biologist whose 1986 discovery of the golden bamboo lemur led to the protection of a large swathe of rainforest known as Ranomafana.
In pictures: Rainforests to palm oil
(07/02/2012) In late May I had the opportunity to fly from Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo to Imbak Canyon and back. These are some of my photos. Historically Borneo was covered by a range of habitats, including dense tropical rainforests, swampy peatlands, and natural grasslands. But its lowland forests have been aggressively logged for timber and then converted for oil palm plantations.
Scientific expedition to survey species in China's Bigfoot territory
(07/02/2012) This month, nearly 40 scientists will enter a wild and remote region of western China, reports China's state media Xinhua. Spending several weeks in Shennongjia Nature Reserve, the researchers hope to study rare species like the golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. But the forest is also the source of China's 'wild man' sightings; known locally as the 'Yeren,' the unconfirmed primate has also been dubbed China's Bigfoot.
10,000 sq mi of Congo rainforest declared World Heritage site
(07/02/2012) Central Africa has the newest World Heritage site.
Picture: baby black lemur born at Howletts Wild Animal Park
(07/02/2012) Howletts Wild Animal Park in near Canterbury in Britain released photos of an infant black lemur born recently.
Cute animal picture of the day: dromedary camel baby
(07/02/2012) The dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) is the world's largest camel. It's easily recognizable by its single hump.
Scientist: 'no doubt' that climate change is playing a role in U.S. fires
(07/02/2012) A noted climate scientist says there is 'no doubt' that climate change is 'playing a role' in this year's series of record fires in the western U.S. A massive wildfire in Colorado has forced the evacuation of 36,000 people, destroyed over 300 homes, and killed two people. The devastation wrought by the Waldo Canyon Fire even prompted a visit form U.S. President Barack Obama. But this is not the only epic fire in the U.S. this year: less than a month before the Colorado disaster, New Mexico experienced its largest fire on record in Gila Nation Forest; the conflagration burned up 247,000 acres (100,000 hectares). Other major wildfires have occurred in Utah and Wyoming, as well as other parts of New Mexico and Colorado.
Gabon torches their ivory stock as poachers attack okapi reserve
(07/02/2012) Last week, the west African nation of Gabon committed over 1,200 ivory tusks and carvings to the fire. The act, which was meant to send a strong signal to illegal wildlife poachers across Africa, came only a few days after militia poachers stormed the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The assailants killed 13 okapis and six people, including two wildlife rangers, in retaliation for a crackdown against poaching and mining in the protected area. Poaching has reached epidemic levels in Africa due to increasing bushmeat consumption and a rise in East Asian demand for black-market ivory and rhino horns.
Investigation into Riau pulp companies could save 60,000 ha of forest allocated for clearing
(07/01/2012) An NGO alliance in Riau urged the Indonesian government to investigate 14 companies following the conviction of several officials for corruption in issuing permits. The NGOs said if the 14 companies implicated, Riau could save nearly 60 thousand hectares of forests, planned to be transformed into plantations. The 14 companies are associated with RAPP and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).
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