conservation news and environmental science news.
Indonesia could earn billions from well-designed deforestation-reduction program, finds study
(01/12/2012) Indonesia could have earned $5 billion in revenue and avoided 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2000 and 2005 had a reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) program been in place, reports an assessment published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Peruvian smugglers traffic illegal rainforest timber from Brazil to America
(01/11/2012) An investigation by Brazil's Federal Police has detailed a significant trade of illegally logged rainforest wood by Peruvian nationals making its way from northern Brazil to the U.S. and Mexico, reports O Globo.
Bycatch-reducing fish trap wins $20,000
(01/11/2012) An innovative fish trap that allows small non-target fish to escape won a new content by RARE Conservation and National Geographic to fund solutions to overfishing. Developed through studies in Curaçao and Kenya with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the trap has gaps for juvenile fish to swim out of reportedly reducing bycatch by 80 percent. The entry won a $20,000 grant.
Borneo's most elusive feline photographed at unexpected elevation
(01/11/2012) Although known to science for 138 years, almost nothing is actually known about the bay cat (Pardofelis badia). This reddish-brown wild feline, endemic to the island of Borneo, has entirely eluded researchers and conservationists. The first photo of the cat wasn't taken until 1998 and the first video was shot just two years ago, but basic information remains lacking. A new camera trap study, however, in the Kelabit Highlands of the Malaysian state of Sarawak has added to the little knowledge we have by photographing a bay cat at never before seen altitudes.
Seals, birds, and alpine plants suffer under climate change
(01/11/2012) The number of species identified by scientists as vulnerable to climate change continues to rise along with the Earth's temperature. Recent studies have found that a warmer world is leading to premature deaths of harp seal pups (Pagophilus groenlandicus) in the Arctic, a decline of some duck species in Canada, shrinking alpine meadows in Europe, and indirect pressure on mountain songbirds and plants in the U.S. Scientists have long known that climate change will upend ecosystems worldwide, creating climate winners and losers, and likely leading to waves of extinction. While the impacts of climate change on polar bears and coral reefs have been well-documented, every year scientists add new species to the list of those already threatened by anthropogenic climate change.
Happy rhino news: no rhinos poached in Nepal last year
(01/10/2012) As rhinos again fell to poachers in record numbers in 2011, there was one bright-spot: Nepal. Not a single rhino was killed by poachers in the Himalayan nation, home to an estimated 534 greater one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis), categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Conservationists celebrated at Chitwan National Park, which holds the vast majority of the country's rhinos.
Camera traps snap first ever photo of Myanmar snub-nosed monkey
(01/10/2012) In 2010 researchers described a new species of primate that reportedly sneezes when it rains. Unfortunately, the new species was only known from a carcass killed by a local hunter. Now, however, remote camera traps have taken the first ever photo of the elusive, and likely very rare, Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), known to locals as mey nwoah, or 'monkey with an upturned face'. Locals say the monkeys are easy to locate when it rains, because the rain catches on their upturned noses causing them to sneeze.
Photos: scientists find new species at world's deepest undersea vent
(01/10/2012) It sounds like a medieval vision of hell: in pitch darkness, amid blazing heat, rise spewing volcanic vents. But there are no demons and devils down here, instead the deep sea vent, located in the very non-hellish Caribbean sea, is home to a new species of pale shrimp. At 3.1 miles below (5 kilometers) the sea's surface, the Beebe Vent Field south of the Cayman islands, is the deepest yet discovered.
Industrial palm oil production expands at expense of rainforests in Peru
(01/10/2012) Intensive palm oil production is expanding at the expense of biolologically-rich lowland rainforests in the Peruvian Amazon, reports a study published in Environmental Research Letters. The research indicates that enthusiasm for oil palm — one of the world's most lucrative crops — is taking a toll on forests outside of Southeast Asia, where the vast majority of palm oil is produced.
Colonization program remains important driver of deforestation in Brazil
(01/10/2012) Government-subsidized colonization of the Amazon rainforest remains an important driver of forest loss in Brazil, but has mixed economic value, argues a paper published in Biological Conservation.
Extreme mouth-sewing protest in Indonesia leads to logging inquiry
(01/09/2012) A protest in which 28 Indonesian sewed their mouths shut has led to an inquiry into a logging concession on Padang Island. The Ministry of Forestry has formed a mediation team to look into the controversial concession, reports Kompas. Around a hundred natives of Padang Island rallied for weeks against the logging concession held by PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), which covers 37 percent of the island's total land.
As Amazon deforestation falls, food production rises
(01/09/2012) A sharp drop in deforestation has been accompanied by an increase in food production in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, reports a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The research argues that policy interventions, combined with pressure from environmental groups, have encouraged agricultural expansion in already-deforested areas, rather than driving new forest clearing.
Weird carnivorous flower devours worms underground
(01/09/2012) A worm measuring only a millimeter in length scoots its way through relatively massive grains of white sand. The worm, known as a nematode or roundworm, is seeking lunch in the form of bacteria. Suddenly, however, its journey is interrupted: it is caught on a large green surface. Unable to wiggle free the worm is slowly digested, becoming lunch itself for an innocuous purple flower called Philcoxia minensis.
Animal picture of the day: the pitch-black robin
(01/09/2012) A species of robin with a black head, aptly named the blackthroat (Luscinia obscura), had rarely been seen since its first description in 1891 until last year when researchers located some of the species' breeding grounds. They documented fourteen singing males in the Quingling mountains of its native China.
How lemurs fight climate change
(01/09/2012) Kara Moses may have never become a biologist if not for a coin toss. The coin, which came up heads and decided Moses' direction in college, has led her on a sinuous path from studying lemurs in captivity to environmental writing, and back to lemurs, only this time tracking them in their natural habitat. Her recent research on ruffed lemurs is attracting attention for documenting the seed dispersal capabilities of Critically Endangered ruffed lemurs as well as theorizing connections between Madagascar's lemurs and the carbon storage capacity of its forests. Focusing on the black-and-white ruffed lemur's (Varecia variegata) ecological role as a seed disperser—animals that play a major role in spreading a plant's seeds far-and-wide—Moses suggests that not only do the lemurs disperse key tree species, but they could be instrumental in dispersing big species that store large amounts of carbon.
Critically Endangered Hawaiian monk seals bludgeoned to death
(01/08/2012) To date three Hawaiian monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi), and possibly a fourth mortality under investigation, have been found bludgeoned to death by an as yet undiscovered assailant, reports the Associated Press. Authorities believe the seals may have been killed by local fishermen who fear new regulations meant to save the species from extinction. The seal is currently down to 1,100 individuals.
Photo: Tiny lemur discovered in Madagascar forest
(01/08/2012) A new species of mouse lemur has been discovered in eastern Madagascar, report researchers from Germany. The species is described in a recent issue of the journal Primates.
Climate change media coverage drops 20 percent in 2011
(01/05/2012) Global media reporting on climate change issues was down again last year, according to a new analysis from The Daily Climate. The news organization counted around 19,000 stories on climate issues during the year written by 7,140 journalists, falling 20 percent from 2010 levels.
Will Taiwan save its last pristine coastline?
(01/05/2012) Voters in the January 14 Taiwanese presidential election will decide the fate of the island’s last pristine wilderness known as the Alangyi Trail. Amongst the three candidates, only one (Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party) may support the conservation of Alangyi Trail and its coastline. One of the top domestic stories of 2011 were the efforts by the Pingtung County government, indigenous tribes, and NGOs to preserve the Alangyi Trail, according to the Taiwan Environmental Information Center. Alangyi is now a major issue reflecting steadily growing environmental concern amongst the Taiwanese, but its fate is sadly uncertain.
World's most expensive tuna
(01/05/2012) A 593 pound Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $735,000 (56.49 million yen) in Tokyo's Tsukiji market today. This beats the previous record price hit last year by over $260,000. Why so expensive? Bluefin tuna, considered the best sashimi and sushi in the world, have been fished to near extinction with the population of the Pacific bluefin the most stable to date.
Eco-toilets help save hippos and birds in Kenya
(01/04/2012) It may appear unintuitive that special toilets could benefit hippos and other wetland species, but the Center for Rural Empowerment and the Environment (CREE) has proven the unique benefits of new toilets in the Dunga Wetlands on Lake Victoria's Kenyan side. By building ecologically-sanitary (eco-san) toilets, CREE has managed to alleviate some of the conflict that has cropped up between hippos and humans for space.
Camera traps snap 35 Javan rhinos, including calves
(01/04/2012) Camera traps have successfully taken photos of 35 Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) in Ujung Kulon National Park. The small population, with an estimated 45 or so individuals, is the species' last stand against extinction. Late last year, a subspecies of the Javan rhino, the Vietnamese rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus), was declared extinct.
'Lost world' dominated by Yeti crabs discovered in the Antarctic deep
(01/03/2012) Scientists have discovered a deep sea ecosystem dominated by hairy pale crabs off of Antarctica. The new species of "Yeti crabs" survive alongside many other likely new species, including a seven-armed meat-eating starfish, off of hydrothermal vents, which spew heat and chemicals into the lightless, frigid waters. According to the paper published in PLoS ONE, this is the first discovery of a hydrothermal vent ecosystem in the Southern Ocean though many others have been recorded in warmer waters worldwide.
Frog plague found in India
(01/03/2012) The chytrid fungus, which is responsible for the collapse of numerous amphibian populations as well as the extinction of entire species, has been located for the first time in India, according to a paper in Herpetological Review. Researchers took swabs of frog in the genus Indirana in the Western Ghats and found the killer fungus known as chytridiomycosis.
Mouths are sewn shut in protest against deforestation in Indonesia
(01/03/2012) Twenty-eight Indonesians have taken the extreme measure of sewing their mouths shut in a protest turned hunger-strike against a forest concession on Padang Island, reports the Jakarta Globe. Around a hundred protesters, mostly natives of Padang Island, have camped outside the Indonesian Senate building since December 19th to protest a logging concession held by PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) on their island, which lies off the east coast of Sumatra.
Sarah Laskow: even renewable energy has a dark side
(01/03/2012) Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer who has covered environmental issues for Grist, GOOD, and Newsweek.com, among others. Raised in New Jersey and educated at Yale where she studied literature, Sarah now lives across the river in Manhattan with her partner. She’s done extensive traveling in West Africa, Europe, and Central America. Sarah can be found on twitter as @slaskow.
Animal picture of the day: dueling green iguanas
(01/03/2012) Found throughout Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean, the green iguana (Iguana iguana) is a large, mostly herbivorous lizard.
Small town rises up against deforestation in Pakistan
(01/02/2012) The town of Ayun, home to 16,000 people in the Chitral district of Pakistan, has been rocked by large-scale protests and mass arrests over the issue of corruption and deforestation in recent days. Villagers are protesting forest destruction in the Kalasha Valleys, the home of the indigenous Kalash people.
Ecuador makes $116 million to not drill for oil in Amazon
(01/02/2012) A possibly ground-breaking idea has been kept on life support after Ecuador revealed its Yasuni-ITT Initiative had raked in $116 million before the end of the year, breaking the $100 million mark that Ecuador said it needed to keep the program alive. Ecuador is proposing to not drill for an estimated 850 million barrels of oil in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) blocs of Yasuni National Park if the international community pledges $3.6 billion to a United Nations Development Fund (UNDF), or about half of what the oil is currently worth. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative would preserve arguably the most biodiverse region on Earth from oil exploitation, safeguard indigenous populations, and keep an estimated 410 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. However, the initiative is not without its detractors, some arguing the program is little more than blackmail; meanwhile proponents say it could prove an effective way to combat climate change, deforestation, and mass extinction.
The year in review for rainforests
(12/28/2011) 2011 was designated as "Year of the Forests" by the United Nations. While there was relatively little progress on intergovernmental forest protection programs during the year, a lot happened elsewhere. Below is a look at some of the biggest tropical forest-related news stories for 2011. We at mongabay readily acknowledge there were a number of important temperate and boreal forest developments, including Britain's decision not to privatize its forests and the severe drought in Texas, but this article will cover only tropical forest news.
Our top nature pictures of 2011
(12/27/2011) My reporting for mongabay.com took me to six continents in 2011 and I managed to take photos on many of the trips. Overall I added more than 10,000 new photos to the travel section of the site. Below are some of my favorite pictures from 2011. Thank you for reading mongabay.com in 2011 and I wish you the best for 2012!
The biggest new species discoveries in 2011
(12/26/2011) Every year scientists describe thousands of species for the first time. 2011 was no different, so here's a look at some of the significant new species discoveries for the year. New species discoveries are bound to continue as genetic analysis becomes more widespread and scientists conduct surveys of ever more habitats. But species loss also continues, and that is something considerably more difficult to quantify. Cataloging the disappearance of a species is extremely costly -- final proof can take years. Nonetheless in 2011 the book was closed on two particularly conspicuous creatures: neither the Vietnamese rhino nor the western black rhino roam the wilds any more.
Photos: Red-and-green animals for Christmas
(12/24/2011) For the holidays, a set of red-and-green animals.
'Christmas miracle' for endangered rhinos
(12/24/2011) Conservationists and wildlife officials in the Malaysian state of Sabah airlifted a young female Sumatran Rhinoceros — one of the world's most endangered animals — to an area of forest where she would encounter a potential partner, reports the Sabah Wildlife Department and Borneo Rhino Alliance. Sumatran Rhinoceros populations are so low, some individuals live in areas where they have no hope of ever finding another rhino.
CI refutes Cambodian logging story
(12/23/2011) Conservation International (CI) issued a sharp rebuke of a Phnom Pehn Post story that alleged involvement in illegal rosewood logging in Cambodia's Central Cardamom Protected Forest.
Giant monkey frog pic takes prize in photo contest
(12/23/2011) Gowri Varanashi has won mongabay.com's amphibian photo contest with her picture of a Giant Monkey Frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) taken along the Tambopata river in the Peruvian Amazon.
Kroger, America's largest grocery chain, stops carrying APP products due to deforestation concerns
(12/22/2011) Kroger, America's largest grocery store chain, will stop carrying products sourced by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) due to concerns about deforestation, according to a statement on the company's web site. The move comes after a Greenpeace campaign targeting Paseo, a fast-growing toilet paper brand owned by APP.
Animal picture of the day: pronghorn in the snow
(12/22/2011) Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) are the only surviving animal in the Antilocapridae family, and contrary to popular belief they are not antelopes.
Featured holiday video: Oh, what a wonderful world!
(12/22/2011) The celebrated David Attenborough introduces us, once again, to the wonders of the world. Happy holidays from mongabay.com to you and yours! And best wishes for 2012.
Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2011
(12/22/2011) Many of 2011's most dramatic stories on environmental issues came from people taking to the streets. With governments and corporations slow to tackle massive environmental problems, people have begun to assert themselves. Victories were seen on four continents: in Bolivia a draconian response to protestors embarrassed the government, causing them to drop plans to build a road through Tipnis, an indigenous Amazonian reserve; in Myanmar, a nation not known for bowing to public demands, large protests pushed the government to cancel a massive Chinese hydroelectric project; in Borneo a three-year struggle to stop the construction of a coal plant on the coast of the Coral Triangle ended in victory for activists; in Britain plans to privatize forests created such a public outcry that the government not only pulled back but also apologized; and in the U.S. civil disobedience and massive marches pressured the Obama Administration to delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands from Canada to a global market.
The dark side of new species discovery
(12/21/2011) Scientists and the public usually rejoice when a new species is discovered. But biologist Bryan Stuart has learned the hard way that the discovery of new species, especially when that species is commercially valuable, has a dark side-one that could potentially wipe out the new species before protections can be put in place. Stuart has discovered 27 species unknown previously to scientists - so far. That includes 22 species of frogs, three types of snakes, and two salamanders. His experience with one of these, a warty salamander from Laos with striking markings (Laotriton laoensis), opened his eyes to a dark side of scientific discovery: commercial overexploitation before protections are in place. Shortly after Stuart described the previously unknown species Paramesotriton laoensis in a scientific paper published in 2002, commercial dealers began collecting this Lao newt for sale into the pet trade. In essence, the dealers used Stuart's geographic description in the paper as a “roadmap” to find the rare newt.
Matt Miller: don't oversimplify issues in environmental debates
(12/21/2011) Matt Miller is director of communications for The Nature Conservancy in Idaho, a position he’s held for ten years. He is responsible for the chapter’s publications and digital media. He writes for the Conservancy’s blogs Cool Green Science and Idaho Nature Notes. He has also completed two conservation fellowships for the Conservancy’s programs in Colombia and Micronesia. In his spare time, he is editor of Backcountry Journal and a freelance writer with credits in Grist, Living Bird, Bugle, Sports Afield and many other publications. Matt is a board member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and a regular speaker on conservation topics. He has traveled to six continents in search of wildlife and stories. Most recently, he's written about the plight of Pacific Islanders caused by rising sea levels and economic hardships. Matt lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife Jennifer, who promotes sustainable agriculture for the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.
New analysis supports claim that paper giant cleared part of its tiger sanctuary in Indonesia
(12/21/2011) Asia Pulp & Paper (APP)'s supplier PT Ruas Utama Jaya has indeed cleared an area of forest it pledged to set aside as a tiger conservation reserve in Sumatra reports a legal analysis by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group. The Greenomics' analysis supports allegations originally set forth in a report published last week by Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of green groups, and seems to refute a press release issued by APP that called the deforestation allegations 'fiction'.
Animal picture of the day: rare photo of mother jaguar and cubs
(12/21/2011) A mother jaguar, named Kaaiyana by scientists, and cubs were recently photographed in Kaa Iya National Park in Bolivia. "Kaaiyana’s tolerance of observers is a testimony to the absence of hunters in this area, and her success as a mother means there is plenty of food for her and her cubs to eat," said John Polisar, coordinator of Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Jaguar Conservation Program. WCS released the photos.
Earth systems disruption: Does 2011 indicate the "new normal" of climate chaos and conflict?
(12/21/2011) The year 2011 has presented the world with a shocking increase in irregular weather and disasters linked to climate change. Just as the 2007 "big melt" of summer arctic sea ice sent scientists and environmentalists scrambling to re-evaluate the severity of climate change, so have recent events forced major revisions and updates in climate science.
Texas loses half a billion trees to epic drought
(12/21/2011) A punishing drought in Texas has not only damaged crops, killed cattle, and led to widespread fires, but has also killed off a significant portion of the state's trees: between 100 and 500 million trees have perished to drought stress according to preliminary analysis. The estimate does not include tree mortality caused by fires. The drought has been linked to La Niña conditions, which causes drying in the Southern U.S., and has likely been exacerbated by global climate change.
New NASA satellite captures Earth in its full daylight glory on a daily basis (image)
(12/21/2011) NASA has released the first images from its new NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite, which captures images from the entire planet on a daily basis.
Indonesia grants exemption from logging moratorium for 3.6m ha of forest
(12/21/2011) Indonesia exempted 3.6 million hectares of forests and peatlands from protected status under its two-year moratorium on forest concessions, according to a revised version of its moratorium map released near the end of climate talks in Durban. The new Indicative Map includes 10.7 million hectares of peatlands, down from 15.5 million hectares in the previous version of the map that defines areas off-limits for new concessions. Some 1.2 million hectares of previously unprotected "primary forest" has been added to the moratorium area, resulted in a net decline of 3.6 million hectares under the moratorium, according to analysis by Daemeter Consulting, an Indonesia-based forestry consultancy.
Camera trap videos capture stunning wildlife in Thailand
(12/20/2011) A year's worth of camera trap videos (see photos and video below) are proving that scaled-up anti-poaching efforts in Thailand's Western Forest Complex are working. Capturing rare glimpses of endangered, elusive animals—from clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) to banteng (Bos javanicus), a rarely seen wild cattle—the videos highlight the conservation importance of the Western Forest Complex, which includes 17 protected areas in Thailand and Myanmar.
Philippines disaster may have been worsened by climate change, deforestation
(12/20/2011) As the Philippines begins to bury more than a 1,000 disaster victims in mass graves, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered an investigation into last weekend's flash flood and landslide, including looking at the role of illegal logging. Officials have pointed to both climate change and vast deforestation as likely exacerbating the disaster.
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