conservation news and environmental science news.
Picture of the day: Ocean in Focus photo contest winner
(11/22/2011) A photo of a shark with a rusting hook in its maw is the grand prize winner of the Ocean in Focus photo contest, which seeks to raise awareness for conservation issues in the oceans.
Forgoing bushmeat hunting has health toll in Madagascar, says study
(11/22/2011) Conservationists shouldn't overlook the detrimental health impacts of shifting local populations away from subsistence bushmeat hunting, says a new study.
One night only: new orchid species surprises scientists
(11/22/2011) A mysterious new orchid blooms for one night only, opening around 10 PM and closing at 10 AM. Discovered on the island of New Britain near Papua New Guinea, the new species is the world's first orchid that flowers only at night. Scientists found the new flower, named Bulbophyllum nocturnum, in a logging concession on the tropical island.
Extinct frog rediscovered in Israel
(11/21/2011) After its marshland was drained, researchers thought the Hula painted frog (Discoglossus nigriventer) had vanished for good. However a patrol at the Ha-Hula lake in Israel recently discovered a single female amphibian that turned out to be the long-lost, and long-sought, Hula painted frog.
Seahorses under stress
(11/21/2011) With about 25 million seahorses sold each year, global consumption of seahorses is massive. They’re used in traditional Asian medicine and also sold as curios and aquarium pets. Over the last decade, overexploitation and habitat degradation have prompted declines of between 15 to 70 percent in many seahorse populations. Marine biologist and author Helen Scales notes there is much still unknown about seahorses.
Dole abandons banana plantation in National Park
(11/21/2011) After a threat of lawsuit, Dole Inc. has abandoned a banana plantation in Somawathiya National Park in Sri Lanka. The US-based food giant had partnered with a local company, Letsgrow Ltd, to grow bananas for export markets at the bank of the Mahaweli River, but Dole ran into trouble when local conservation organizations pointed out they were illegally destroying forest and planting crops in Somawathiya National Park, home to elephants and many other imperiled species. Local group, Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), obtained past and current satellite images to prove that the company was operation within the park.
Palm oil giant misled the public on violent conflict with local communities
(11/21/2011) Palm oil giant Wilmar Corp misled the public over a conflict between local communities and one of its subsidiaries in Sumatra, according to a new report published by the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP).
Snake laundering rampant in the Indonesian reptile export market
(11/21/2011) Breeding farms in Indonesia are being used to launder illegally caught wildlife, finds a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation. The research is based on surveys of traders who supply the market for green pythons, a non-venomous snake popular in the pet trade for its many color forms. The authors tracked pythons from their point of capture in Indonesian New Guinea and Maluku to breeding farms in Jakarta where the snakes are exported for the pet trade as 'captive-bred'. They found that 80 percent of snakes exported annually from Indonesia are illegally wild-caught.
U.S. pledges $450 m to Indonesia for green economic growth
(11/19/2011) The U.S. government has pledged more than $450 million toward 'green growth' in Indonesia, reports the State Department.
Picture: Baby penguins get cozy
(11/18/2011) A picture of a pair of chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Central Park Zoo.
Discovery Channel cuts climate change episode from Planet Earth follow-up
(11/17/2011) The new series Frozen Planet, by the creators of the super-popular and universally-acclaimed Planet Earth, details the wildlife and changing nature of the world's poles: the Antarctic and the Arctic. But while the four-year production filmed seven episodes, American audiences will only be treated to six. Discovery Channel has dropped the last episode that deals specifically with climate change.
War of words between Greenpeace, Asia Pulp & Paper over deforestation allegations
(11/16/2011) Greenpeace and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a giant global paper supplier, are locked in a heated battle over the activist group's allegations that APP products contain fiber sourced from the destruction of forests in Indonesia. At stake is APP's access to some of the world's most lucrative markets. Until APP provides solid evidence refuting Greenpeace's accusation that its pulp and paper production isn't coming at the expense of natural forests in Indonesia, APP will have a difficult time winning over critics.
Photos: five wild cat species documented in Sumatran forest imperiled by logging
(11/16/2011) A single forest corridor in Sumatra has yielded camera trap photos of five wild cats species, including the Critically Endangered Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Photos were also taken of the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), the marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), the Asian golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii), and the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). The five species were all filmed by a WWF camera trap survey in a single forest corridor linking the forest of Bukit Tigapuluh and the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary in Riau Province. Unfortunately this forest remains unprotected.
Featured video: world's only video of extinct 2-foot-long imperial woodpecker
(11/16/2011) Newly-discovered video has brought the extinct imperial woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis) back to life—at least for a few seconds.
New app works to raise awareness of endangered species
(11/16/2011) Want to learn more about gorillas, whales, elephants, sharks, and penguins? A new mobile app hopes to raise awareness and conservation efforts for the world's endangered species. Dubbed 'Survival', the new app is a game that also raises knowledge about endangered species. Created by wildlife and media NGO, Wildscreen, the app is available free on the App store and Android Market.
Giant rat plays big ecological role in dispersing seeds
(11/16/2011) Rats are rarely thought of as heroes. In fact, in many parts of the world they are despised, while in others they serve largely as food. But, scientists are now discovering that many tropical forest rodents, including rats, serve as heroic seed dispersers, i.e. eating fruits and nuts, and carrying seeds far from the parent tree, giving a chance to a new sapling. While this has been documented with tropical rodents in South America like agoutis and acouchis, a new study in Biotropica documents the first successful seed dispersal by an African rodent: the Kivu giant pouched rat (Cricetomys kivuensis), one of four species of giant African rats.
PHOTO: Adorable penguin chicks score their own blog
(11/15/2011) A new blog, dubbed the Real Chicks of Central Park, is allowing visitors an intimate look at eight impossibly-cute penguin chicks. Including video, photos, and interviews the blog is an attempt to raise awareness about penguins. The highlighted chicks include four gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and four chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus).
Antarctic king crabs warming up to invade continental shelf, threatening unique marine community
(11/15/2011) Dangerous and disruptive king crabs lurk in a deep pocket of the Antarctic continental shelf, clamoring to escape their cold-water prison to reach and permanently change the shallower, prehistoric paradise above. A team led by University of Hawaii oceanographer Craig Smith spotted the meter-long monsters in February 2010. It was the first time researchers have seen king crabs on the continental shelf.
Animal picture of the day: tracking the world's smallest elephant
(11/15/2011) Researchers have fitted three Bornean elephants with satellite collars to track them across the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Malaysian state of Sabah, Borneo. The effort means currently five elephants are being tracked. The tracking is a part of a collaborative effort by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the NGO HUTAN, and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
10,000 dead songbirds headed to Italian restaurants confiscated
(11/15/2011) Bushmeat, referring to wild animals killed (often illegally) for consumption, is usually considered a conservation problem in developing nations in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America. However, a recent bust on the Hungarian-Romanian border proves that Europe is not immune: Hungarian officials seized around 10,000 dead songbirds. The birds were likely heading to restaurants in northern Italy according to wildlife trade monitoring group, TRAFFIC.
Civilization shifting: a new leaderless era
(11/15/2011) For well over a decade global change scientists have ushered calls for urgent alteration in what they refer to as the “Business-as-Usual (BAU) paradigm” to cope with the interlinking social, economic, and environmental issues of the 21st Century. In 2001, one of the world’s largest Earth Science collaborative organizations, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), published their "A Planet Under Pressure" summary report for policy makers.
US reduces catch limit of 'most important fish in the sea'
(11/15/2011) The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has slashed the allowable catch of a tiny fish named menhaden by 37 percent by 2013. Dubbed the 'most important fish in the sea' by author H. Bruce Franklin, the menhaden plays a critical role in marine ecosystems as a food source for larger fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, as well as helping to regulate the marine environment. However, due to overfishing the menhaden fish has dropped 92 percent from its historical population.
Covert Creatures: The Clandestine Lives of Seahorses
(11/15/2011) Seahorses are strange looking creatures, with a horse's head on top of a kangaroo’s pouched belly, bulging, swiveling chameleon eyes, a prehensile monkey tail, color-changing armor and a royal crown, all shrunk down to the size of a chess piece. To marine biologist Helen Scales, these elusive creatures are a perfect symbol of the ocean's biodiversity.
Cultural erosion among indigenous groups in Venezuela brings new risks for Caura rainforest
(11/14/2011) One of the planet's most beautiful landscapes is in danger. Deep in southern Venezuela, among ancient forested tabletop mountains known as tepuis, crystalline rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls, outside influences — malaria, the high price of gold, commercial hunting, and cultural erosion — are threatening one of world's largest remaining blocks of wilderness, one that is home to indigenous people and strikingly high levels of biological diversity.
Entertainment media skews public perception of chimpanzees in the wild
(11/14/2011) You've probably seen them: the TV ads showing chimpanzees wearing suits, driving cars, or smoking cigars. These ads may tickle our funny bone, but they warp our perceptions of how chimpanzees are faring in the wild, researchers at Duke University have found. The study, published October 12 in the journal PLoS ONE, examined whether watching commercials featuring chimpanzees influenced people's understanding of their endangered status.
800 nearly-extinct giant snails freeze to death in conservation center
(11/14/2011) Eight hundred large carnivorous snails, known as Powelliphanta snails (Powelliphanta augusta), died in a Department of Conservation (DOC) fridge in New Zealand over the weekend. A faulty temperature gauge caused the fridge to cool down to zero degrees Celsius, slowly killing all the molluscs but a lone survivor. The snails in question were taken from Mount Augustus into captivity before their habitat was mined for coal.
Tracking the coelacanth: Two decades of research confirms a viable population in Comoros
(11/14/2011) It took a custom-made submarine, billionaire Paul Allen, and a tenacious desire lasting well beyond two decades to unveil enigmatic details about the life of the coelacanth—the primitive fish that invariably hooks researchers. A study published earlier this year in the journal Marine Biology summarizes 21 years of coelacanth population research by one team, led by Hans Fricke of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany. Working in the Indian Ocean off the African island nation of Comoros, Fricke documented a stable population of Latimeria chalumnae. However, his study notes that deep-set fishing nets could threaten these unique animals.
Forest elephant populations cut in half in protected area
(11/14/2011) Warfare and poaching have decimated forest elephant populations across their range with even elephants in remote protected areas cut down finds a new study in PLoS ONE. Surveying forest elephant populations in the Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, researchers have found that the population has fallen by half—from 6,439 to 3,288—over the past decade in the park.
Orangutans in Indonesian Borneo doomed to extinction?
(11/14/2011) A new study finds orangutans in Indonesian Borneo in unprotected areas are being killed at a rate faster than what population viability analysis considers sustainable. Conflict between orangutans and humans is worst in areas that have been fragmented and converted for timber, wood-pulp, and palm oil production, but hunting is occurring in relatively intact forest zones away from industrial development.
Amazon rainforest named as one of seven nature wonders
(11/14/2011) The Amazon rainforest has been named one of the "New 7 Wonders of Nature of the World", according to the Swiss group that organized the competition.
Legal organization backs Greenpeace in fighting eviction for alleged zoning violation
(11/14/2011) The Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and other local NGOs are supporting Greenpeace as it battles eviction from its office in Jakarta over an alleged zoning violation, reports the Jakarta Globe.
Picture of the day: quiet river in the woods
(11/13/2011) A river and forest in Gooseberry Falls State Park in the US state of Minnesota. The forest here is made up primarily of evergreens, aspen, and birch.
IEA warns: five years to slash emissions or face dangerous climate change
(11/13/2011) Not known for alarmism and sometimes criticized for being too optimistic, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that without bold action in the next five years the world will lock itself into high-emissions energy sources that will push climate change beyond the 2 degrees Celsius considered relatively 'safe' by many scientists and officials.
Critically Endangered lemurs disperse seeds, store carbon
(11/13/2011) Many tropical plants depend on other species to carry their progeny far-and-wide. Scientists are just beginning to unravel this phenomenon, known as seed dispersal, which is instrumental in supporting the diversity and richness of tropical forests. Researchers have identified a number of animal seed dispersers including birds, rodents, monkeys, elephants, and even fish. Now a new study in the Journal of Tropical Ecology adds another seed disperser to that list: the Critically Endangered black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata). Capable of dispersing big tree species, the black-and-white ruffed lemur may even play a big role in carbon sequestration.
A final farewell: the Western Black Rhino goes extinct
(11/12/2011) The western black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) roams the woodlands of Africa no more. The rhino, one of four sub-species of black rhino, was declared extinct this week by the IUCN, five years after the last extensive survey of its habitat in Cameroon. The rhino becomes the second declared extinct this year. All rhinos are threatened by the rhino horn trade.
For 11/11/11, a photo of something repetitive
(11/11/2011) Given that today is 11/11/11, the photo of the day is equally repetitive: a line of gray-winged trumpeters in Suriname.
Monarch butterflies decline at wintering grounds in Mexico, Texas drought adds to stress to migration
(11/10/2011) Every fall, millions of monarch butterflies travel south to Mexico and take refuge in twelve mountain sanctuaries of oyamel fir forests. Now, declining numbers of the overwintering butterflies expose the migration’s vulnerability and raise questions about threats throughout the monarch’s lifecycle. A study published online last spring in Insect Conservation and Diversity shows a decrease in Mexico’s overwintering monarch butterflies between 1994 and 2011. The butterflies face loss of wintering habitat in Mexico and breeding habitat in the United States. Extreme weather, like winter storms in Mexico and the ongoing drought in Texas, adds yet another challenge.
Obama Administration bows to pressure, delays tar sands pipeline
(11/10/2011) In what can only be described as a major victory for green activists, the Obama Administration has announced it will delay a decision on TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline for 12-18 months. Notably, putting the decision off until after the last election. The delay comes less than a week after about 12,000 people encircled the White House in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which they argue threatens one of the most important water supplies in America's heartland and will worsen climate change.
Photos: 40% of Madagascar's reptiles at risk of extinction
(11/10/2011) 40 percent of Madagascar's terrestrial reptiles are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its latest update of the Red List of Threatened Species.
Chemotherapy tree facing extinction
(11/10/2011) A yew tree in the Himalayas that produces the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, is in danger of extinction. An update to the IUCN Red List, has moved the tree, named Taxus contorta, from Vulnerable to Endangered. Overharvesting for medicine and fuelwood have placed the species in serious danger.
First ever survey shows Sumatran tiger hanging on as forests continue to vanish
(11/10/2011) The first-ever Sumatran-wide survey of the island's top predator, the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), proves that the great cat is holding on even as forests continue to vanish. The study, carried out by eight NGOs and the Indonesian government, shows that the tiger is still present in 70 percent of the forests surveyed, providing hope for the long-term survival of the subspecies if remaining forests are protected.
Photos: bizarre shell of new snail baffles researchers
(11/10/2011) A new species of snail with a bizarre shell has surprised scientists. Discovered near massive waterfalls in pristine lowland rainforest in New Guinea, the tiny new species' shell is shaped like a cornucopia, spirals flying freely instead of fused together like most shells. Latvian malacologist (one who study molluscs) Kristine Greke, who described the new species, named it Ditropopsis mirabilis, meaning miraculous or extraordinary. To date, scientists are uncertain why the super small snail—2 to 6 millimeters (0.07 to 0.23 inches)—would have evolved such a strange shell.
Indigenous do not have right to free, prior and informed consultation on Amazon dam, rules Brazilian court
(11/09/2011) Indigenous communities do not have the right to free, prior and informed consultation on the Belo Monte dam because its infrastructure and reservoirs would not be physically located on tribal lands, ruled a Brazilian court.
Shamans and indigenous spiritual leaders unite in Malibu
(11/09/2011) Just north of Los Angeles on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean is a special piece of ancient tribal land. Prehistoric artifacts and burials indicate that occupation occurred there as early as 6000 BC. It was this primeval site on a crisp October night recently where the Wishtoyo Foundation and the Chumash people, in cooperation with the Amazon Conservation Team, held 'A Summit of Indigenous Spiritual Leaders.'
Indigenous technicians scour Amazonia to help researchers track wildlife populations
(11/09/2011) Scientists only have so many hands and eyes. That’s why ecologists enlisted hundreds of Makushi and Wapishana villagers to record the sights and signs of animals across 48,000 square kilometers of the Amazon basin near the Brazil-Guyana border. In the ongoing project, scientists seek to describe the interactions between indigenous peoples, their environment and the native fauna.
Madagascar interim president: sell rosewood stocks
(11/09/2011) Madagascar should sell its stocks of illegally logged rainforest timber, Madagascar's interim leader Andry Rajoelina told the BBC in an interview.
Malaysia to spend $7.7M to defend palm oil from criticism
(11/09/2011) The Malaysian government will spend 24 million ringgit ($7.7 million) in 2011 and 2012 to counter criticism over the social and environmental impact of palm oil, reports ANTARA.
First global assessment finds highest-grossing tunas and billfishes most vulnerable to extinction
(11/09/2011) Sleek, powerful tunas and billfishes that ply the open ocean garner some of the highest prices of any fish. In January, a single bluefin tuna fetched a record $396,000 at a Tokyo auction. Yet wild fish populations pay a still higher price for such exorbitant demand: the threat of extinction. The first assessment of an entire group of commercially valuable marine species found that the most threatened fish are generally the ones reeling in the most money, including bluefin tuna and bigeye tuna.
Researchers challenge idea that marine reserves promote coral recovery
(11/09/2011) Fleshy whorls of thick brown algae blanket the once-vibrant corals in Glover’s Reef, Belize. According to a controversial study published August 14 in the journal Coral Reefs, a decade of marine reserve protection has failed to help these damaged Caribbean corals recover.
Unanimous agreement among scientists: Earth to suffer major loss in species
(11/09/2011) The thylacine, the dodo, the great auk, the passenger pigeon, the golden toad: these species have become symbols of extinction. But they are only the tip of the recent extinction crisis, and according to a survey of 583 conservation scientists, they are only the beginning. In a new survey in Conservation Biology, 99.5 percent of conservation scientists said a serious loss in biodiversity was either 'likely', 'very likely', or 'virtually certain'. The prediction of a significant loss of species is not surprising—scientists have been warning for decades that if global society continues with business as usual the world will suffer from mass extinction—what is perhaps surprising is the practically unanimous expectation that a global biodiversity decline will occur.
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