conservation news and environmental science news.
How to fight organized wildlife crime in East Asia
(07/27/2011) Organized criminal syndicates are wiping out some of the world's most charismatic wildlife to feed a growing appetite for animal parts in East Asia#8212;and so far governments and law enforcement are dropping the ball. This is the conclusion from a new paper in Oryx, which warns unless officials start taking wildlife crime seriously a number of important species could vanish from the Earth.
Palm oil, paper drive large-scale destruction of Indonesia's forests, but account for diminishing role in economy, says report
(07/27/2011) Indonesia's forests were cleared at a rate of 1.5 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2009, reports a new satellite-based assessment by Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), an NGO. Expansion of oil palm and wood-pulp plantations were the biggest drivers of deforestation, yet account for a declining share of the national economy. The study, which compared year 2000 data with 2009 Landsat images from NASA, found that Indonesia's forest cover declined from 103.32 million hectares to 88.17 million hectares in ten years. Since 1950 Indonesia lost more than 46 percent of its forests.
Australian 'green' buildings used illegally logged wood from rainforests allege activists
(07/27/2011) A 'green' building development being built by Frasers Property Australia in Sydney has been accused of using illegally-sourced plywood from Malaysian state of Sarawak in Borneo, according to a new Greenpeace report. The wood in question comes from a subsidiary of Samling, a company that has been connected to illegal logging and abusing the rights of indigenous groups in the past. After the revelations came to light, Frasers Property Australia said they would conduct an audit of the wood which was provided to them by Australian Wood Panels (AWP).
Climate activist sentenced to 2 years in jail for civil disobedience
(07/27/2011) Yesterday a federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah convicted climate activist Tim DeChristopher of defrauding the US government, sentencing him to two years in jail and a fine of $10,000, reports the Associated Press. In December 2008, Tim DeChristopher, won the mineral rights for 22,500 acres of US Interior Department land at a Bureau of Land Management auction with a $1.8 million bid. The only problem was: DeChristopher did not have the money to pay for his bid nor did he ever intend to pay for his drilling rights. Instead, he was committing civil disobedience in order to draw attention to the oil industry and government's complacence on global climate change; in his words, DeChristopher meant to 'expose, embarrass, and hold accountable the oil industry to the point that it cut into their $100 billion profits'. However, his actions have now landed him in jail.
Animal picture of the day: baby Nile crocodile
(07/26/2011) One day this baby Nile crocodile could reach 20 feet (6 meters) long. Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) range throughout sub-Saharan Africa and even make their home on the island of Madagascar.
Saving (and studying) one of Nigeria's last montane forests
(07/26/2011) Between 2000 and 2010, Nigeria lost nearly a third (31 percent) of its forest cover, while its primary forests suffered even worse: in just five years (2000 to 2005) over half of the nation's primary forests were destroyed, the highest rate in the world during that time. Yet, Nigeria's dwindling forests have never received the same attention as many other country's, such as Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia, or Peru, even though in many ways Nigeria struggles with even deeper problems than other developing nations. Despite vast oil business, the nation is plagued by poverty and destitution, a prime example of what economists call the 'resource curse'. Environmentally, it has been named one of the worst in the world. Yet, not all forest news out of Nigeria is bleak: the success of the Nigerian Montane Forest Project in one of the country's remaining forests is one such beacon of hope, and one example of how the country could move forward.
Video: Tiger trapped in Asia Pulp and Paper logging concession dies a gruesome death
(07/25/2011) Caught in a snare and left for days without access to food and water, a wild Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) perished from its wounds hours after forest officers reached it. As reported by Greenpeace—which photographed and filmed the rescue attempt—the tiger was trapped at the edge of a acacia plantation and remaining forest area actively being logged by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) in Riau Province. Sumatran tigers are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List; the subspecies, restricted to the Indonesian island, is in decline due to large-scale habitat loss and poaching.
US House Republicans propose to eliminate migratory bird conservation act
(07/25/2011) The US House of Representatives has proposed an environmental spending bill that strips funds from many environmental agencies, including eliminating altogether the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. The vote has been denounced by House Democrats.
Yellowstone burning: big fires to hit world's first national park annually by 2050
(07/25/2011) An icon of conservation and wilderness worldwide, Yellowstone National Park could see its ecosystem flip due to increased big fires from climate change warn experts in a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). A sudden increase in large fires—defined as over 200 hectares (500 acres)—by mid-century could shift the Yellowstone ecosystem from largely mature conifer forests to younger forests with open shrub and grasslands.
Pictures of the day: pink animals
(07/25/2011) As a follow up to last week's popular "Unusually Blue Animals" post, here are some animals that are pretty in pink.
WWF partnering with companies that destroy rainforests, threaten endangered species
(07/25/2011) Arguably the globe's most well-known conservation organization, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), has been facilitating illegal logging, vast deforestation, and human rights abuses by pairing up with notorious logging companies in a flagging effort to convert them to greener practices, alleges a new report by Global Witness. Through its program, the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), WWF—known as World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada—has become entangled with some dubious companies, including one that is imperiling orangutans in Borneo and another which has been accused of human rights abuses in the Congo rainforest. Even with such infractions, these companies are still able to tout connections to WWF and use its popular panda logo. The Global Witness report, entitled Pandering to the Loggers, calls for WWF to make large-scale changes in order to save the credibility of its corporate program.
U.S. park to reopen after massive peat forest fires
(07/24/2011) Authorities are reopening Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia five weeks after the 402,000-acre swamp was closed due to a massive forest fire sparked by a lightning strike during the state's severe drought.
Pictures: Researchers to track proboscis monkey in Borneo by satellite
(07/24/2011) Researchers with the Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Center in Malaysia have become the first to fit a proboscis monkey with a satellite tag.
Animal picture of the day: African wild dog travels 250 miles
(07/22/2011) Scientists have found a male African wild dog that has undergone an epic trip. In April 2010 the male dog was photographed in Save the Valley in eastern Zimbabwe then recently the same animal was photographed in Northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana some 250 miles (400 kilometers) apart. This is one of the longest distances ever recorded for an African wild dog.
Amazon tribes win support to protect 46 million ha of Amazon forest
(07/21/2011) Indigenous communities working to protect the Amazon rainforest got a boost last week with the launch of a "biocultural conservation corridor" initiative in two regions of Brazil.
Picture of the day: unusually blue animals
(07/21/2011) Following up on yesterday's post on the spectacular blue anole from the Colombian island of Gorgona, here is a small collection of pure blue animals I've photographed. Birds and fish are excluded from the list since there are many blue species.
Suspects named for assassination of husband and wife activists in Brazil
(07/21/2011) Brazilian authorities have fingered three men for the killing of environmental activist, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva, and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, in May. The grisly murders received international attention, since José da Silva was a well known activist against illegal logging in Pará, a state in Brazil that is rife with deforestation and violence.
'Heatwave' in Arctic decimating sea ice
(07/21/2011) Arctic sea ice could hit a record low by the end of the summer due to temperatures in the North Pole that are an astounding 11 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (6 to 8 degrees Celsius) above average in the first half of July, reports the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Already the sea ice extent is tracking below this time in 2007, which remains the record year for the lowest sea ice extent. The sea ice hits its nadir in September before rebounding during the Arctic winter.
A message to poachers: Kenya burns elephant ivory stockpile
(07/21/2011) Yesterday the president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, sent a fiery signal to illegal wildlife traffickers worldwide. Kibaki lit up five tons of elephant ivory, worth $16 million on the black market, to show the continent's resolve to undercut illegal poaching. This was the second time Kenya has set fire to millions of dollars worth of ivory.
Animal picture of the day: the world's most blue lizard?
(07/20/2011) The blue anole is one of the world's most spectacular reptiles. Found only on the island of Gorgona, the blue anole is so elusive and rare that scientists have been unable to give an estimate of its population. However it is considered threatened due to its dependence on its small island habitat.
Tens of thousands starving to death in East Africa
(07/20/2011) As the US media is focused like a laser on theatric debt talks and the UK media is agog at the heinous Rupert Murdoch scandal, millions of people are undergoing a starvation crisis in East Africa. The UN has upgraded the disaster—driven by high food prices, conflict, and prolonged drought linked by some to climate change—to famine in parts of Somalia today. Mark Bowden, UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, has said that tens of thousands Somalis have died from malnutrition recently, "the majority of whom were children."
NASA image shows it snowing in driest place on earth
(07/20/2011) A snowstorm engulfed parts of the driest place on earth this month: the Atacama desert in South America. Images captured by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on Terra Satellite show parts of the landscape covered in white.
How to Save the Tiger
(07/19/2011) We are losing the tiger. Two hundred years ago, Asia’s great cat numbered in the hundreds of thousands and inhabited virtually the entire continent, from Siberia to Turkey, and Afghanistan to Bali. Today there are, at best, around 3,200 wild tigers left. The tiger is extinct in at least 14 countries and hangs on in only 7% of the habitat it once occupied - tiny, mostly isolated fragments in what was once an ocean of forest. Three sub-species, from Bali, Java and Central Asia are lost forever, and a fourth, the South China tiger has not been recorded in the wild for over a decade.
Animal picture of the day: world's biggest land animal from the air
(07/19/2011) Even the African elephant, the world's largest terrestrial animal, looks small from the air. African elephants (Loxodonta africana) range throughout southern, central, and western Africa, as far north as Mali. A highly social and intelligent species, African elephants live in herds headed by matriarchs. Adult males, however, are usually loners.
Photo: six new mini-moths discovered
(07/19/2011) Researchers have discovered six new species of moth from Central America, according to a new paper in Zoo Keys. The moths belong to the primitive Yponomeutidae family, which are commonly known as ermine moths, since some of the species' markings resemble the coat of the ermine.
Amazon drought and forest fire prediction system devised
(07/18/2011) Researchers have devised a model to anticipate drought and forest fires in the Amazon rainforest.
Blue iguana back from the dead
(07/18/2011) The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman's reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve.
5,000 Muslim imams to battle haze, deforestation in Indonesia
(07/18/2011) The Indonesian government plans to recruit and dispatch 5,000 Muslim imams across the archipelago to discourage forest destruction and open burning that contributes to the choking haze now spreading across Singapore and Malaysia, reports the Jakarta Post.
Animal picture of the day: the adorable scale-crested pygmy tyrant
(07/18/2011) The scale-crested pygmy tyrant is a species of flycatcher that belongs to the passerine order of birds. It is found in tropical forests, including lowland areas and montane forests, and ranges from Costa Rica to Peru and Venezuela.
Hundreds of Critically Endangered apes found in remote Vietnam
(07/18/2011) A new population—hundreds strong—of northern white-cheeked crested gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys) has been found in Vietnam by researchers with Conservation International (CI). The group estimates that around 130 gibbon groups—455 individuals—survive in Pu Mat National Park, making it the only known viable population of this species in the world and effectively tripling the global populations. Unfortunately, these newly-discovered gibbons are imperiled by road-building through the park.
Fish use tools
(07/17/2011) A blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) has been photographed picking up a clam in its mouth, swimming over to a rock, and then using the rock as an anvil by smashing the clam against it until it breaks open. In the journal Coral Reefs scientists argue this is the first conclusive evidence of a fish using tools. Once thought only the domain of humans, biologists have found that tool use is actually present all over the animal kingdom, from elephants to chimps, and crows to capuchins. Such tool use is often considered evidence of higher intelligence.
Animal picture of the day: radio collaring a slow loris
(07/17/2011) Researchers in the Malaysian state of Sabah recently radio-collared a Bornean slow loris (Nycticebus menagensis) in order to study the little known species. A small, but big-eyed, primates slow loris spend the days sleeping and the night tracking prey, such as insects and lizards, with its large flashlight-like eyes.
Environmental protection agency chief: Brazil will do the same to indigenous as 'Australians did to the Aborigines'
(07/17/2011) Curt Trennepohl, president of Brazil's environmental protection agency (IBAMA), caused an uproar last week when he told an Australian TV crew that his agency's role "is not caring for the environment, but to minimize the impact". Later when Trennepohl believed the cameras were off he went on to say Brazilian indigenous tribes would suffer the same fate as Australia's Aborigines, reports Folha de S.Paulo.
Picture of the day: 4x4 driving down a giant sand dune in Namibia
(07/17/2011) 4x4 driving down a giant sand dune in Namibia.
Animal photo of the day: the brilliant Red-eyed Tree Frog
(07/16/2011) The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is one of the most colorful and best-known tree frogs.
Despite moratorium, soy still contributes indirectly to Amazon deforestation
(07/15/2011) Soy expansion in areas neighboring the Amazon rainforest is contributing to loss of rainforest itself, reports a new study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Animal picture of the day: spectacular blue and turquoise beetle in New Guinea
(07/15/2011) Eupholus schoenherri weevil near Manokwari in West Papua.
Global forests offset 16% of fossil fuel emissions
(07/14/2011) Between 1990 and 2007 global forests absorbed nearly one-sixth of all carbon released by fossil fuel emissions, reports a new study published in Science. The results suggest forests play an even bigger role in fighting climate change than previously believed.
Decline in top predators and megafauna 'humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature'
(07/14/2011) Worldwide wolf populations have dropped around 99 percent from historic populations. Lion populations have fallen from 450,000 to 20,000 in 50 years. Three subspecies of tiger went extinct in the 20th Century. Overfishing and finning has cut some shark populations down by 90 percent in just a few decades. Though humpback whales have rebounded since whaling was banned, they are still far from historic numbers. While some humans have mourned such statistics as an aesthetic loss, scientists now say these declines have a far greater impact on humans than just the vanishing of iconic animals. The almost wholesale destruction of top predators—such as sharks, wolves, and big cats—has drastically altered the world's ecosystems, according to a new review study in Science. Although researchers have long known that the decline of animals at the top of food chain, including big herbivores and omnivores, affects ecosystems through what is known as 'trophic cascade', studies over the past few decades are only beginning to reveal the extent to which these animals maintain healthy environments, preserve biodiversity, and improve nature's productivity.
Animal picture of the day: snow leopard spotted in Afghanistan
(07/14/2011) Snow leopard in the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan caught on camera trap.
'Trophy' cell phone pictures lead to arrests of tiger poachers
(07/14/2011) Two poachers were arrested in Thailand after a cell phone they left behind in the forest provided evidence of tiger poaching, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
First ever picture of long lost rainbow toad
(07/13/2011) Scientists are elated after the surprise rediscovery of a wildly-colored frog not seen for 87 years and never before photographed—until now. The Bornean rainbow toad, also known as the Sambas Stream toad (Ansonia latidisca) was rediscovered on Borneo in the Malaysian state of Sarawak by local scientists inspired by a 2010 search for the world's missing amphibians by Conservation International (CI). Leading up to its search CI released the World's Top 10 Most Wanted Lost Frogs (out of a hundred being searched for): the Bornean rainbow toad was listed as number 10.
Oil company hires indigenous people to clean up its Amazon spill with rags and buckets
(07/13/2011) On Sunday morning children swimming in the Mashiria River in the Peruvian Amazon noticed oil floating on the water. A pipeline owned by Maple Energy had ruptured in Block 31-E, polluting the Mashiria River which is used by the Shipibo indigenous community in Nuevo Sucre for fishing and drinking water. In response to the spill, Maple Energy's local operator—Dublin incorporate transnational—hired 32 Shipibo community members to clean up the spills using only rags and buckets.
Viable population of snow leopards still roam Afghanistan (pictures)
(07/13/2011) Decades of war and poverty has not exterminated snow leopards (Panthera uncia) in Afghanistan according to a new paper in the International Journal of Environmental Studies, written by researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Instead the researchers report a healthy population of the world's most elusive big cat in Afghanistan's remote and peaceful Wakhan Corridor region. Monitored by camera trap in the region, WCS researchers were able to identify 30 snow leopards in 16 different locations.
Indonesia's new forest moratorium map improved, say experts
(07/13/2011) The latest version of Indonesia's forest moratorium map is much improved over its predecessor, say forestry analysts from Daemeter Consulting.
Proposed changes to Brazil's Forest Code could hurt economy
(07/13/2011) Proposed changes to Brazil's Forest Code will hurt Brazilian agriculture, argues a leading conservationist. Carlos Alberto de Mattos Scaramuzza, WWF-Brazil's director for conservation, says the reform bill currently being evaluated by Brazil's Senate could have unexpected economic implications for Brazilian ranchers and farmers. Scaramuzza says a bill that grant amnesty for illegal deforesters and sanctions expanded destruction of the Amazon rainforest would make Brazilian agricultural products less attractive in foreign markets.
Plantation fires in Indonesia trigger haze-related health warnings in Malaysia
(07/13/2011) Smoke from plantation fires in Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra are casting a pall over cities in Malaysia, triggering health warnings from officials, reports The Straits Times.
NASA image: hotter lows and hotter highs in the US
(07/13/2011) New images show just how much US temperatures in July and January have changed recently as the nation feels the impact of global climate change. Dubbed the 'new normals' of US climate, the maps focus on July maximums – typically the hottest month of the year – and January minimums – typically the coldest month. While both July highs and January lows warmed recently, January lows saw the biggest jump.
REDD calculator and mapping tool for Indonesia launched
(07/13/2011) Researchers have launched a new tool to help policy-makers, NGOs, and landowners evaluate the potential benefits and costs of Indonesia's reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD+) program at provincial and district levels.
Brainy lizards rival birds in intelligence
(07/13/2011) Reptiles have long been thought to be dim-witted, but a new study in Biology Letters finds that the Puerto Rican anole, a type of lizard, can match birds in smarts. Using cognitive tests that have been previously used on birds, researchers with Duke University found that the lizards were capable of solving a problem they've never encountered before, remembering the solution in future trials, and even changing techniques when presented with new challenges. In fact, the tiny anoles solved the test with fewer tries than birds. Given reptiles' reputation of being slow-on-the uptake the head author, Manuel Leal, said the findings are 'completely unexpected'.
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