conservation news and environmental science news.
Terra preta found in Asia
(05/14/2012) Indigenous people of the Amazon produced rich agricultural soil by adding charcoal, manure, and animal bones to the otherwise nutrient-poor dirt of the world's greatest rainforest. The inputs allowed early indigenous people to farm their terra preta, or dark earth, sustainably in the Amazon. To date such practices are only known from the the Amazon and parts of Africa. But in a recent paper in the open access journal Forests scientists in Indonesian Borneo report on the first evidence of terra preta in Asia.
Noel Rowe: all the world's primates "in one place"
(05/14/2012) Spanning the gamut from mouse lemurs to mountain gorillas, All The World’s Primates is a comprehensive database of primate species. Founded in 2004 by Noel Rowe and Marc Myers and designed primarily to aid scientists and college students in primatology research, ATWP is also readily accessible to anyone who would like to know a little more about primates. The database is continually updated when new species are discovered; from its inception in 2004 until 2010, 58 new species had been added to the site. In addition to discoveries made by primatologists in the field, All The World’s Primates compiles information from the latest genetic studies. The site also includes photos and videos of many species, and was recently expanded to include a visual key for identification.
President of Czech Republic to give keynote at Heartland climate summit despite backlash over murderer billboards
(05/14/2012) Companies are abandoning the Heartland Institute left-and-right following the conservative group's controversial climate change billboard campaign, but Czech President, Václav Klaus, is sticking with the group, reports the Guardian. Although he criticized the Heartland's short-lived campaign, Klaus is still planning to be the keynote speaker at the Heartland Institute's upcoming annual climate change summit, which gathers prominent climate denialists from around the world.
We should help solve illegal logging, not be part of the problem
(05/14/2012) It's tempting to think of illegal logging as an environmental crisis but it takes a serious human toll too. Just ask the wife and children of Chut Wutty, an environmental activist who was murdered last week for investigating rampant illegal logging in Cambodia. Wutty was far from alone. Criminal gangs increasingly control illegal logging, and don't hesitate to kill those who dare to oppose them.
Pictures: Jaguar bonanza caught on camera
(05/13/2012) Images of several jaguars, including cubs, have been captured by camera traps on a Colombian ranch that is well known among cat researchers for its diversity of felines.
Picture: Happy migratory bird day
(05/13/2012) May 12-13 is World Migratory Bird Day for 2012.
Scientists launch crowd-funding experiment for research projects
(05/12/2012) Seeking to capitalize on the crowd-funding trend, a pair of biologists this month launched the #SciFund Challenge to raise money for dozens of scientific projects.
Greenpeace makes social media push for zero deforestation in Brazil
(05/12/2012) Greenpeace is leveraging social media in its push for a zero deforestation target in Brazil.
Regency head calls for stop to palm oil development in contested peat forest in Indonesia
(05/11/2012) The acting head of Nagan Raya Regency — the location of Tripa peat swamp — on Thursday demanded a stop to a controversial palm oil development project that conservationists say threatens a population of endangered orangutans, reports Serambi Indonesia.
Susan Cosier: Good environmental writing takes 'time, effort, and poetry'
(05/11/2012) Susan Cosier is a senior editor for Audubon, as well as running the magazine’s Green Guru column where she answers readers’ questions about how to live life in ways which are environmentally responsible. Susan studied environmental science as an undergrad at Wesleyan University, then went to NYU where she earned a Master of Arts in Science in the Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Her work has appeared in E/The Environmental Magazine, Wildlife Conservation, Utne Reader, and Scientific American MIND. Susan lives in Brooklyn, NY, and when she’s not writing about interesting things, she enjoys running, reading, traveling, and trying to learn Spanish.
Manta rays tracked by satellite
(05/11/2012) Satellite tracking technology has revealed new insights into the behavior of manta rays, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The findings are published in this week's issue of the journal PLoS.
Can loggers be conservationists?
(05/10/2012) Last year researchers took the first ever publicly-released video of an African golden cat (Profelis aurata) in a Gabon rainforest. This beautiful, but elusive, feline was filmed sitting docilely for the camera and chasing a bat. The least-known of Africa's wild cat species, the African golden cat has been difficult to study because it makes its home deep in the Congo rainforest. However, researchers didn't capture the cat on video in an untrammeled, pristine forest, but in a well-managed logging concession by Precious Woods Inc., where scientist's cameras also photographed gorillas, elephants, leopards, and duikers.
Featured video: the oceans and Rio+20
(05/10/2012) A new video by Pew Environment Group and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) hopes to convince policy-makers attending the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development this summer that urgent action is needed to save the ocean's from an environmental crisis.
U.S. undergoes warmest 12 months yet
(05/10/2012) Americans would not be remiss in asking, "is it getting hot in here?" According to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s National Climatic Data Center, the last twelve months (from May 2011 through April 2012) were the warmest on record for the lower 48 U.S. states since record keeping began in the late 19th Century.
'The real Hunger Games': a million children at risk as Sahel region suffers punishing drought
(05/09/2012) The UN warns that a million children in Africa's Sahel region face malnutrition due to drought in region. In all 15 million people face food insecurity in eight nations across the Sahel, a region that is still recovering from drought and a food crisis of 2010. In some countries the situation is worsened by conflict.
App designed to fight wildlife crime in Cambodia
(05/08/2012) Conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance has launched a new iPhone app that not only teaches users about Cambodian wildlife but also gives them information on how to help the group fight pervasive wildlife crime in the country. The app includes photos and information regarding species imperiled by the wildlife trade as well as informational videos with Jeff Corwin from the Animal Planet.
First camera trap video of world's rarest gorilla includes shocking charge
(05/08/2012) Ever wonder what it would be like to be charged by a male gorilla? A new video (below) released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), gives one a first hand look. Shot in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, the video is the first camera trap footage of the incredibly rare Cross River gorilla subspecies (Gorilla gorilla diehli); listed as Critically Endangered, the subspecies is believed to be down to only 250 individuals.
Heartland Institute losing major corporate sponsors after comparing climate change advocates to mass-murderers
(05/08/2012) The Heartland Institute has lost two corporate supporters since it unveiled a billboard campaign that compared those who accept the science of climate change to mass murderer Ted Kaczynski also known as the Unabomber. Yesterday, State Farm Insurance confirmed it was severing ties with the group, while on Sunday, Diageo, a major alcoholic drink company, announced it was also cutting its support of the conservative think tank. Even before this, General Motors (GM) cut ties with the group over its climate stance. The exodus of the three corporate supporters has lost the Heartland Institute an estimated $180,000 for 2012, according to fundraising documents leaked to the media.
13 arrested for blockading coal train, including Nobel Prize winning economist
(05/07/2012) Thirteen Canadians were peacefully arrested this weekend for blockading Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway train tracks in order to prevent the passage of coal stemming from the United States and destined to be burned in Asia. Among those arrested was Mark Jaccard, an economics professor with Simon Fraser University, who won the Nobel Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Cambodia suspends economic land concessions
(05/07/2012) Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced today that Cambodia would be temporarily suspending new economic land concessions and would revoke any concessions from companies involved in illegal logging, the evictions of locals or land-grabbing. The announcement comes two week after the high-profile death of local forest activist, Chut Wutty, who was shot and killed by military police while investigating illegal logging with two journalists.
Organizations target rhino horn consumption in China
(05/07/2012) Last year nearly 450 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa, which has become the epicenter for the global rhino poaching epidemic. Rhinos are dying to feed rising demand for rhino horn in Asia, which is ground up and sold as traditional Chinese medicine, even though scientific studies have shown that rhino horn has no medicinal benefit. Now, two organizations, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and Wildaid have announced a partnership to move beyond anti-poaching efforts and target rhino horn consumption in China.
Pictures of the day: activists highlight personal impacts of climate change worldwide
(05/07/2012) On Saturday, people around the world gathered to highlight the varied impacts of climate change on their lives. Organized by 350.org, the global day of action was a call to "connect the dots" between a warming Earth and extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, and fires among other impacts. Nearly 1,000 events were held worldwide.
Fallout for Heartland Institute after it likens those who accept climate change to 'murderers' and 'madmen'
(05/07/2012) According to the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, those who accept the science of climate change are 'on the radical fringe' with the movements most 'prominent advocates' being 'murderers, tyrants, and madmen.' The Heartland Institute's statements came as it launched a billboard campaign featuring notorious mass-murderer, Ted Kaczynski also known as the Unabomber, on a billboard in Chicago that read 'I still believe in Global Warming? Do you?' The Kaczynski billboard remained live for 24 hours before widespread condemnation, including from the Heartland Institute's own supporters, pushed the group to pull the billboard. It has now suspended the short-lived campaign which was also going to feature similar billboards with Fidel Castro, Osama Bin Laden, and hostage-taker James J. Lee.
Indonesia's Environment Ministry to sue APP, APRIL in $225B illegal logging case
(05/03/2012) Indonesia's Ministry of Environment is planning to sue 14 pulp and paper companies for illegally logging forests in Riau Province on the island of Sumatra, reports Tempo Magazine. 12 of the 14 companies are linked to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asian Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL), pulp and paper giants that have been heavily criticized by environmentalists for destroying rainforests and peatlands that serve as critical habitat for endangered tigers, elephants, and orangutans.
Just how far can a polar bear swim?
(05/03/2012) Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are capable of swimming incredible distances, according to a new study published in Zoology, which recorded polar bears regularly swimming over 30 miles (48 kilometers) and, in one case, as far as 220 miles (354 kilometers). The researchers believe the ability of polar bears to tackle such long-distance swims may help them survive as seasonal sea ice vanishes due to climate change.
Permaculture: a path toward a more sustainable Amazon?
(05/03/2012) Communities living in and around tropical forests remain highly dependent on forest products, including nuts, resins, fruit and vegetables, oils, and medicinal plants. But relatively few of these products have been successfully commercialized in ways that generates sustained local benefits. When commercialization does happen, outsiders or a few well-placed insiders usually see the biggest windfall. Large-scale exploitation can also lead to resource depletion or conversion of forests for monoculture-based production. The ecosystem and local people lose.
115 mining companies operating illegally in forest areas in Indonesia
(05/03/2012) More than 100 mining companies are operating without licenses in forest areas across 471,000 hectares in Indonesia, reports The Jakarta Post.
Exploring Asia's lost world
(05/03/2012) Abandoned by NGOs and the World Bank, carved out for rubber plantations and mining by the Cambodian government, spiraling into a chaos of poaching and illegal logging, and full of endangered species and never-explored places, Virachey National Park may be the world's greatest park that has been written off by the international community. But a new book by explorer and PhD student, Greg McCann, hopes to change that. Entitled Called Away by a Mountain Spirit: Journey to the Green Corridor, the book highlights expeditions by McCann into parts of Virachey that have rarely been seen by outsiders and have never been explored scientifically, including rare grasslands that once housed herds of Asian elephants, guar, and Sambar deer, before poachers drove them into hiding, and faraway mountains with rumors of tigers and mainland Javan rhinos.
Thousands worldwide to "connect the dots" between climate change and extreme weather this weekend
(05/03/2012) On Saturday, May 5th vulnerable populations from the United States to Bangladesh will "connect the dots" between devastating extreme weather and climate change in a global day of action organized by 350.org. The nearly 1,000 events occurring in over half of the world's nations are meant to highlight to governments, media, and the public that climate change is impacting lives through an increase in number and intensity of devastating weather events, such as droughts, heatwaves, and floods.
Nearly 200,000 homeless after floods in Peru's Amazon region
(05/02/2012) 191,000 people are homeless or have have suffered "significant" damage due to flooding in the Amazon region of eastern Peru, reports the Associated Press.
Assassinated forest activist Chut Wutty: 'I want to see people live with freedom'
(05/02/2012) Chut Wutty, a dedicated Cambodian activist, was shot dead at an illegal logging site by military police, last Thursday. At the time Wutty was driving with two journalists, who wrote a shocking eye-witness account of his death, revealing that he was physically and verbally abused, then shot whilst trying to drive away, and left to die. His death reveals the brutal power of logging syndicates and companies, which are looting the country’s natural wealth, and employing the military to silence their opponents.
Gas development pushing pronghorn out of vital wintering grounds
(05/02/2012) Development of natural gas fields in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is pushing pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) out of crucial wintering grounds, a situation that could result in a population decline according to a new study in Biological Conservation. By tracking 125 female pronghorn over five years in Wyoming, researchers found that highest quality habitat had fallen by over 80 percent in two vast gas fields on land owned by the government's Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Bigger is better for gorillas
(05/02/2012) A new study confirms that bigger and stronger silverback gorillas have more success finding mates and raising offspring.
Biodiversity loss cripples plant growth
(05/02/2012) For decades scientists have been warning that if global society continues with "business-as-usual" practices the result will be a mass extinction of the world's species, an extinction event some researchers say is already underway. However, the direct impacts of global biodiversity loss has been more difficult to compile. Now a new study in Nature finds that loss of plant biodiversity could cripple overall plant growth.
Animal picture of the day: the prehistoric peccary
(05/02/2012) The Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri) was only known from fossils and thought extinct, perhaps a victim of the megafaunal extinction that ended the Pleistocene, until researchers in the 1970s stumbled on a living population in Argentina. While peccaries look like and are distantly related to the pig species that originated in the Old World, they belong to their own family, the Tayassuidae.
The month in environmental news for April 2012
(05/02/2012) Mongabay.com provides a quick review of forest-related news for April 2012.
New attack on Greenpeace in Indonesia
(05/01/2012) As fallout from its campaign against Asia Pulp & Paper grows, Greenpeace's critics have opened a new front on the environmental group, accusing it of "embezzlement", reports Mongabay-Indonesia.
New video documents nearly all the world's remaining Javan rhinos
(05/01/2012) Nearly all the world's remaining Javan rhino have been documented on video via camera traps in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park, according to a montage put together by park authorities.
Oil company blamed for fire in Belize national park
(05/01/2012) At the end of March in southern Belize the sun beats down through blackened trees onto what was the only known low-lying sphagnum moss bog in Central America. Now it is an expanse of ash and pale crusts of burned moss onto which dragonflies settle briefly before passing on. Fire spread through the area at the end of February 2012, and since then reeds have begun to sprout, but otherwise it remains a scene of devastation with no sign that the moss is regenerating.
Featured video: climate, water, and desperation in Texas
(05/01/2012) As a part of PBS' new series Coping with Climate Change reporters visited several towns in Texas, which has suffered unprecedented drought beginning in 2010. The drought, which climatologists say is consistent with climate change predictions, has led to forest fires, vast tree mortalities, agricultural and livestock losses, and water shortages.
Greenpeace activists occupy icebreaker set for Arctic drilling
(05/01/2012) Greenpeace has announced that 20 of its activists, stemming from 13 countries, have locked themselves in an icebreaker ship in Helsinki, Finland. The ship is scheduled to move out to the Alaskan Arctic to aid in exploratory offshore drilling by oil giant Shell. Another icebreaker has already left for the U.S. Arctic; both have been leased to Shell by their owner, the Finnish government.
Over 30 Yangtze porpoises found dead in China as population nears extinction
(05/01/2012) Six years after the Yangtze river dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer), or baiji, was declared "functionally extinct" by scientists, another marine mammal appears on the edge of extinction in China's hugely degraded Yangtze River. In less than two months, 32 Yangtze finless porpoises (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis), a subspecies of the finless porpoise, have been dead found in Dongting and Poyang Lakes in the Yangtze, reports the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Animal picture of the day: Cicada emerging
(04/30/2012) Cicada's are generally large insects with broad heads and transparent wings. The group is known for some species' habitats of staying under ground for up to 17 years before emerging en masse, though many cicada species emerge annually in small groups. Once it emerges, it sheds its exoskeleten and begins to seek out mates. Males produce a loud, distinct sound.
High-tech hell: new documentary brings Africa's e-waste slum to life
(04/30/2012) Shirtless boys rapidly pull the computer apart, discarding bits and pieces, until they expose the wires, yank them out, and toss them into a fire. Acrid, toxic smoke blooms as the boys prod the wires and the fire strips the plastic around the wires, leaving the sought-after copper. Welcome, to Agbogbloshie, where your technology goes to die. A new film e-wasteland captures the horrors of the world's largest e-waste slum through surreal and staggering images. Shot over three weeks by one-man guerrilla filmmaker, David Fedele, e-wasteland is an entirely visual experience without dialogue or voiceover.
Skink biodiversity jumps 650 percent in the Caribbean
(04/30/2012) In a single paper in Zootaxa scientists have rewritten the current understanding of lizard biodiversity in the Caribbean. By going over museum specimens of skinks, scientists have discovered 24 new species and re-established nine species previously described species, long-thought invalid. The single paper has increased the number of skinks in the Caribbean by 650 percent, from six recognized species to 39. Unfortunately, half of these new species may already be extinct and all of them are likely imperiled.
Does the Tasmanian tiger exist? Is the saola extinct? Ask the leeches
(04/30/2012) The use of remote camera traps, which photograph animals as they pass, has revolutionized research on endangered and cryptic species. The tool has even allowed scientists to document animals new to science or feared extinct. But as important as camera traps have become, they are still prohibitively expensive for many conservationists and require many grueling hours in remote forests. A new paper in Current Biology, however, announces an incredibly innovative and cheaper way of recording rare mammals: seek out the leeches that feed on them. The research found that the presence of mammals, at least, can be determined by testing the victim's blood for DNA stored in the leech.
Frog photos for Save the Frogs Day
(04/28/2012) Today is Save the Frogs Day, a global event that aims to raise awareness on the plight of amphibians, which are increasingly endangered by climate change, habitat loss and degradation, pollution, invasive species, overexploitation, and the outbreak of a deadly fungal disease. In recognition of Save the Frogs Day, there are dozens of activities occurring around the world.
Video: All white killer whale spotted in Russia
(04/27/2012) Scientists in Russia have captured the first-known video footage of an all-white killer whale.
Palm oil is a major driver of peatlands destruction in Indonesian Borneo, finds new study
(04/27/2012) Developers in Indonesian Borneo are increasingly converting carbon-dense peatlands for oil palm plantations, driving deforestation and boosting greenhouse gas emissions, reports a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research concludes that nearly all unprotected forests in Ketapang District in West Kalimantan will be gone by 2020 given current trends.
Pictures of Yasuni, Ecuador's rainforest gem
(04/27/2012) In late 2010, mongabay.com reporter Jeremy Hance traveled to Yasuni National Park, arguably the most biodiverse place on the planet and home to a unique initiative to save a rainforest by asking the international community to pay to keep oil in the ground. Researchers have found more tree species in a single hectare in Yasuni National Park than in all of the U.S. and Canada combined. Yasuni also contains the highest biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians in the world with 271 species. But insects trump them all: entomologist Terry Erwin has estimated that a single hectare of rainforest in Yasuni may contain as many as 100,000 unique insect species.
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