conservation news and environmental science news.
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.
Brazil's Congress OKs weakened version of forest law; environmentalists outraged
(04/26/2012) Brazil's Congress on Wednesday approved controversial changes to the country's Forest Code, a move supporters argue will simplify environmental laws and ease agricultural expansion, but environmentalists say will spark deforestation and grant amnesty for past illegal logging. The measure needs to be approved by President Dilma Rousseff to become law.
Palm oil industry lobbies EPA to reverse palm oil biofuel findings
(04/26/2012) Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil processor and trader, has hired a major lobbying firm to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling that palm oil-based biodiesel will not meet greenhouse gas emissions standards under America's Renewable Fuels Standard, reports The Hill.
Organic yields lag behind industrial farming, but that's not the whole story
(04/26/2012) In general, industrial agriculture beats organic farming in yields, according to a comprehensive new study in Nature. The study adds new data to the sometimes heated debate of organic versus conventional farming. Proponents of organic farming argue that these practices are environmentally friendly, sustainable over the long-term, and provide a number of social goods. However, critics argue that organic farming requires more land, thereby increasing global deforestation, which offsets any other environmental benefits of organic food production. At stake is whether organic or conventional is capable of feeding the world's seven billion people (and rising), including increasing demand for energy-intensive foods like meat in the developing world.
Forest activist shot dead in Cambodia allegedly over photos of illegal logging
(04/26/2012) Chut Wutty, a prominent activist against illegal logging and deforestation, has been killed in the Koh Kong province of Cambodia. Wutty was shot dead at a military police checkpoint while traveling with two journalists with The Cambodia Daily. The journalists are currently being held for questioning by the military police.
NGO: lifting sanctions on Myanmar must lead to forestry reform
(04/26/2012) Following historic elections, many foreign powers have relaxed or lifted sanctions against Myanmar, also known as Burma. But the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warns that the end of sanctions presents Myanmar and the world with a choice: further plundering of the country's forests for outside markets or large-scale forestry reform.
Oil company Perenco endangering 'uncontacted' indigenous people, says Peru
(04/25/2012) The company hoping to exploit the oil deposits slated to transform Peru’s economy has been declared to be endangering the lives of indigenous people living in "voluntary isolation" by the country’s indigenous affairs department (INDEPA). Perenco, an Anglo-French company with headquarters in London and Paris, is currently seeking approval from Peru’s Energy Ministry (MEM) to develop its operations in the Loreto region in the north of the country.
In sustainability push, Unilever aims to build palm oil processing plant in Indonesia
(04/25/2012) Unilever is in talks to build a $130 million palm oil processing mill in Indonesia as part of its commitment to use more environmentally-friendly palm oil in its products, reports The Wall Street Journal. The mill, which would be located in Sumatra, would produce about 10 percent of Unilever's annual consumption of palm oil, which is produced from fruit from the oil palm tree. Unilever is the world's largest single consumer of palm oil, using 1.36 million tons a year for beauty and food products, including Dove soap, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and Vasoline.
Carnage in Komodo: world-famous reef destroyed by poachers' bombs
(04/25/2012) Illegal fishermen have been utilizing homemade bombs to kill fish off the coast of Komodo Island, Indonesia, reports the Associated Press (AP); the bombs have not only injured fish populations in the protected area, but has also blasted biodiverse coral reefs popular with tourists. A scuba teacher told the AP that a section of Tatawa Besar coral reef, a popular diving spot, had been "blasted, ripped off, turned upside down."
Tiger spotted in China (Pictures)
(04/25/2012) Camera traps have captured rare images of Amur or Siberian tigers in China.
Rare leopard photographed in China
(04/25/2012) Camera traps in China's Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve have captured an image of the critically endangered Amur leopard, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society. The photograph, coupled with a recent study that suggests the presence of 8-11 leopard in Jilin Province, suggests that Amur leopards may be rebounding in China.
New reptile discovered in world's strangest archipelago
(04/25/2012) Few people have ever heard of the Socotra Archipelago even though, biologically-speaking, it is among the world's most wondrous set of islands. Over one third of Socotra's plants are found no-where else on Earth, i.e. endemic, while 90 percent of its reptiles are also endemic. Adding to its list of unique life-forms, researchers have recently uncovered a new skink species that is found only on the island of Abd al Kuri, which is slightly smaller than New York City's Staten Island. Dubbed the "the other Galapagos," the four Socotra islands are under the jurisdiction of Yemen, although geographically speaking the islands are actually closer to Somalia.
$90 million in corrupt logging money linked to Malaysian Chief Minister, UBS bank
(04/24/2012) Documents under investigation show that around $90 million may have been laundered from logging companies in Sabah to UBS bank accounts linked to high-ranking Malaysian officials, according to the Sarawak Report. Critics of the government say the money is likely kickbacks from logging companies to government officials for the right to log in the state's declining rainforests. Such transactions are alleged to occur typically in the run up to elections.
BP Deepwater Horizon deformities: eyeless shrimp, clawless crabs
(04/24/2012) Two years after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven and causing an oil spill that lasted three months, scientists say the impacts on the Gulf ecosystem are only beginning to come to light and the discoveries aren't pretty.
Doing good and staying sane amidst the global environmental crisis
(04/23/2012) Several years ago while teaching a course in environmental science a student raised her hand during our discussion of the circumstances of modern ecological collapse and posed the question, "what happens when there is no more environment?" At the time I had no response and stumbled to formulate some sort of reply based on the typical aseptic, apathetic logic with which we are programmed through education in the scientific tradition: that there will always be some sort of environment, that life has prospered through the five previous mass extinctions and that something will survive. While this may be the case, the time has come for more of us to consider the broader spectrum of what global humanity is facing as the planet’s ecology is decimated.
Animal picture of the day: the spotless cheetah
(04/23/2012) A strange cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) has been photographed in Kenya by wildlife artist Guy Combes. The "golden" cheetah's telltale spots are bizarrely diluted.
Eye-popping purple crabs discovered in the Philippines
(04/23/2012) Scientists have discovered four new species of brilliantly-colored freshwater crabs on the Philippine island of Palawan. Described in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, the new species expands the genus, Insulamon, from one known crab species to five. Although its ecosystems are threatened by widespread mining and deforestation, the Philippines is a mega-diverse country, meaning that it belongs to a select group of 17 countries that contain the bulk of the world's species.
Mexico passes aggressive climate bill
(04/23/2012) Last week, Mexico's Senate passed an aggressive and comprehensive climate change bill, making it the first developing nation and only the second country to do so, after the UK. The bill, which far outshines anything achieved by its far wealthier northern neighbors, sets ambitious targets for cutting emissions while creating new incentive programs for clean energy. Largely dependent on fossil fuels, Mexico is approximately the 11th highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.
100 pictures for Earth Day
(04/22/2012) One of the things that makes my job enjoyable despite the hours are the opportunities for getting out in the field. Reporting on tropical forests and other environmental issues frequently takes me to some places of amazing natural beauty. Along the way, I take pictures when I can.
Earth Day to do list
(04/22/2012) Earth Day To Do List. 1. Solve climate change. 2. Conserve our wild places. 3. Save the world's species from extinction. 4. Learn from the wisdom of the world's indigenous peoples ...
Featured video: How to save the Amazon
(04/22/2012) The past ten years have seen unprecedented progress in fighting deforestation in the Amazon. Indigenous rights, payments for ecosystem services, government enforcement, satellite imagery, and a spirit of cooperation amongst old foes has resulted in a decline of 80 percent in Brazil's deforestation rates.
For Earth Day, 17 celebrated scientists on how to make a better world
(04/22/2012) Seventeen top scientists and four acclaimed conservation organizations have called for radical action to create a better world for this and future generations. Compiled by 21 past winners of the prestigious Blue Planet Prize, a new paper recommends solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems including climate change, poverty, and mass extinction. The paper, entitled Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act, was recently presented at the UN Environment Program governing council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.
Malaysia to restrict trade in big-eyed sugar gliders
(04/20/2012) Malaysia will tighten controls on the trade in sugar gliders, a big-eyed gliding possum increasingly popular in the pet trade in Southeast Asia and the United States, according to the country's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan).
Protesters hit Brazilian mining giant Vale over involvement in Belo Monte
(04/20/2012) More than 150 demonstrators protested outside Vale's headquarters in Rio de Janeiro during the Brazilian mining giant's annual shareholder meeting over the company's social and environmental record, reports Amazon Watch, a group that is fighting the massive Belo Monte dam.
Pretty in pink: the strawberry leopard (Photo)
(04/20/2012) This photo of the day features a “strawberry” leopard walking in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve taken by wildlife photographer and safari guide, Deon De Villiers.
Mad frog bonanza: up to 36 new frogs discovered in tiny Madagascar forest
(04/19/2012) A forest less than half the size of Manhattan sports an astounding number of frogs, according to a new paper in Biodiversity Conservation. Two surveys of Madagascar's Betampona Nature Reserve, which covers 2,228 hectares, has uncovered 76 unique frogs, 36 of which may be new to science. To put this in perspective: the U.S. and Canada combined contain just 88 frog species, but cover an area nearly a million times larger than Betampona.
Photos: Uncontacted Amazon tribes documented for first time in Colombia
(04/19/2012) Aerial surveys of a remote area of rainforest along the Colombia-Brazil border have produced the first photographic evidence of uncontacted tribes, according to a conservation group that works to safeguard indigenous territories and culture. The photos, released by the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), show five long houses or malokas thought to belong to two indigenous groups, the Yuri or Carabayo and Passé, some of the last isolated tribes in the Colombian Amazon. The images provide confirmation that uncontacted communities still exist within the Rio Puré National Park, which protects a million hectares (2.47 million acres) of mostly pristine rainforest between the Caquetá and Putumayo River basins along the Brazilian border.
Indigenous groups oppose priest pushing for road through uncontacted tribes' land
(04/19/2012) A grassroots indigenous organization in Peru is calling for the removal of an Italian Catholic priest from the remote Amazon in response to his lobbying to build a highway through the country’s biggest national park.
Two new frogs discovered in Philippines spur calls for more conservation efforts
(04/19/2012) Two new frogs have been discovered on the Philippine island of Leyte during a biological survey last year by Fauna and Flora International, which also recorded a wealth of other species. Discovered in November on the island's Nacolod mountain range, the frogs have yet to be named. The Philippines is one of the world's global biodiversity hotspots, yet suffers from widespread deforestation and degradation.
Will mega-dams destroy the Amazon?
(04/18/2012) More than 150 new dams planned across the Amazon basin could significantly disrupt the ecological connectivity of the Amazon River to the Andes with substantial impacts for fish populations, nutrient cycling, and the health of Earth's largest rainforest, warns a comprehensive study published in the journal PLoS ONE. Scouring public data and submitting information requests to governments, researchers Matt Finer of Save America’s Forests and Clinton Jenkins of North Carolina State University documented plans for new dams in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Photo: New 'bumblebee' gecko discovered in New Guinea
(04/18/2012) Researchers from the Papua New Guinea National Museum and the U.S. Geological Survey have discovered a new species of gecko on an island off the coast of New Guinea.
Now on Google Earth: NASA updates global forest height map
(04/18/2012) NASA researchers have released a Google Earth version of a map showing the height of the world's forests.
Pictures: Destruction of the Amazon's Xingu River begins for Belo Monte Dam
(04/18/2012) The Xingu River will never be the same. Construction of Belo Monte Dam has begun in the Brazilian Amazon, as shown by these photos taken by Greenpeace, some of the first images of the hugely controversial project. Indigenous groups have opposed the dam vigorously for decades, fearing that it will upend their way of life. Environmentalists warn that the impacts of the dam—deforestation, methane emissions, and an irreparable changes to the Xingu River's ecosystem—far outweigh any benefits. The dam, which would be the world's third largest, is expected to displace 16,000 people according to the government, though some NGOs put the number at 40,000. The dam will flood over 40,000 hectares of pristine rainforest, an area nearly seven times the size of Manhattan.
Picture: Orangutan rescued from peat forest endangered by palm oil, fires
(04/18/2012) Conservationists today rescued an adult male orangutan from a pocket of forest in Tripa, an area of deep peat that is at the center of battle over Indonesia's commitment to reducing deforestation.
Featured video: Google Earth highlights imperiled coral reefs around the world
(04/18/2012) A new video by Google Earth and the World Resources Institute (WRI) highlights the world's many endangered coral reefs. A part of the WRI's Reefs at Risk program, the video highlights regional and global threats to the oceans' most biodiverse ecosystem. According to the WRI, a stunning 75 percent of the world's reefs are currently threatened.
Cinderella animals: endangered species that could be conservation stars
(04/18/2012) A cursory look at big conservation NGOs might convince the public that the only species in peril are tigers, elephants, and pandas when nothing could be further from the truth. So, why do conservation groups roll out the same flagship species over-and-over again? Simple: it is believed these species bring in donations. A new paper in Conservation Letters examines the success of using flagship species in raising money for larger conservation needs, while also pointing out that conservation groups may be overlooking an important fundraising source: "Cinderella animals."
Animal picture of the day: the gray zorro
(04/18/2012) This canine has many names: the gray zorro, the chilla, and the South American gray fox. Despite its moniker as a fox, however, the species is more closely related to wolves and coyotes than actual foxes.
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