conservation news and environmental science news.
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'.
Cargill adopts 'greener' palm oil policy
(07/12/2011) Agribusiness giant Cargill will ensure all palm oil supplied to customers in Europe, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand is certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an environmental standard, or originated from smallholder growers by 2015, according to a statement issued by the company. Cargill says it will extend the commitment to 100 percent of its products and customers globally – including China and India, the largest consumers of palm oil – by 2020.
Animal picture of the day: humpback whale breaching
(07/12/2011) The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a conservation success story. Decimated by centuries of whaling, most populations have risen since a moratorium was placed on commercial whaling in the 1966. Today, over 60,000 humpback whales migrate through the world's oceans, though this is still considerably less than the historic population.
Indonesia to recognize rights of forest communities, indigenous peoples
(07/12/2011) Indonesia will 'recognize, respect and protect' the rights of traditional forest users, including indigenous people, as it works to slow deforestation, reports the Rights and Resources Initiative, a coalition of NGOs.
Forgotten species: the rebellious spotted handfish
(07/12/2011) Evolution is a bizarre mistress. In her adaptation workshop she has crafted parrots that don't fly, amphibians with lifelong gills, poison-injecting rodents, and tusked whales. In an evolutionary hodge-podge that is reminiscent of such mythical beasts as chimeras and griffins, she has from time-to-time given some species' attributes of others, such as the marine iguana who is as happy underwater as a seal, the duck-billed platypus that lays eggs like a reptile, and the purple frog that has a lifestyle reminiscent of a mole. Then there's one of her least-known hodge-podges: the fish who 'walks' with hands instead of swimming.
Another rosewood bust in Madagascar
(07/12/2011) Authorities in Madagascar confiscated six containers of rosewood logs worth $360,000 - $600,000 at a port in the northwestern part of the country, reports AFP.
Australia launches limited carbon tax
(07/11/2011) Australia's 500 largest polluters will pay AU$23 ($24.60) per ton of carbon dioxide emitted beginning July 2012 under a plan announced by Australian prime minister Julia Gilliard.
South Sudan's choice: resource curse or wild wonder?
(07/11/2011) After the people of South Sudan have voted overwhelmingly for independence, the work of building a nation begins. Set to become the world's newest country on July 9th of this year, one of many tasks facing the nation's nascent leaders is the conservation of its stunning wildlife. In 2007, following two decades of brutal civil war, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) surveyed South Sudan. What they found surprised everyone: 1.3 million white-eared kob, tiang (or topi) antelope and Mongalla gazelle still roamed the plains, making up the world's second largest migration after the Serengeti. The civil war had not, as expected, largely diminished the Sudan's great wildernesses, which are also inhabited by buffalo, giraffe, lion, bongo, chimpanzee, and some 8,000 elephants. However, with new nationhood comes tough decisions and new pressures. Multi-national companies seeking to exploit the nation's vast natural resources are expected to arrive in South Sudan, tempting them with promises of development and economic growth, promises that have proven uneven at best across Africa.
Climate change to push over 10 percent of the world's species to extinction by 2100
(07/11/2011) Scientists have predicted for decades that climate change could have a grave impact on life on Earth, which is already facing numerous threats from habitat loss, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive species, and other impacts. However, empirical proof of extinctions--and even endangerment--due to climate change have been difficult to come by. A new study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science has found that by the time today's infants are 90 years old (i.e. the year 2100) climate change could have pushed over 11 percent of the world's species to extinction.
Picture of the day: waterfall on the endangered Xingu river
(07/11/2011) Characterized by crystal-clear waters and surrounding by tropical rainforest, the Xingu is considered one of the most beautiful rivers in the Amazon basin. Yet the Xingu is on the brink of destruction due Belo Monte, an $18.5 billion hydroelectric project backed by Brazilian government energy companies; Vale, mining giant; Bertin, one of the largest meat processing firms; and nearly a dozen other companies. The vast majority of Belo Monte's funding comes from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES).
Newest country boasts one of the world's greatest wildlife spectacles, but protection needed
(07/10/2011) At midnight local time on Friday, South Sudan became the world's newest nation. As celebrations continue in the new capital of Juba and congratulations come from every corner of the globe, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is urging the newborn nation to protect its ecosystems and rich wildlife in order to build a sustainable and forward-looking economy. Home to the world's second largest land migration, South Sudan boasts an abundance of African megafauna that is becoming increasingly rare throughout much of the continent.
Animal picture of the day: a cicada (like the one used in ice cream) in Oregon
(07/10/2011) Cicadas are insects found worldwide, including the United States. There are more than 2,500 species globally.
Photo: four new jewel beetles uncovered in Thailand and Indonesia
(07/10/2011) Researchers have discovered four new species of jewel beetles, one from Thailand and three from Indonesia. Jewel beetles, in the beetle family Bupretidae, are known for their iridescent colors.
Animal picture of the day: the knobbed hornbill of Sulawesi
(07/09/2011) The knobbed hornbill (Aceros cassidix) is found on Sulawesi and surrounding islands.
Europe to require listing of palm oil on product labels
(07/08/2011) Members of the European Parliament have voted in favor of listing specific vegetable oils — including palm oil — on product labels, reports the Clear Labels, Not Forests initiative which pushed for the measure.
Rhino poaching on record pace
(07/08/2011) Nearly 200 rhinos have been killed in South Africa through the first six months of 2011, reports TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Lego banishes Asia Pulp & Paper due to deforestation link
(07/07/2011) In response to a campaign by Greenpeace asserting that packaging used for its iconic toy building blocks is contributing to deforestation in Indonesia, the LEGO Group on Thursday announced it is taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of packaging materials and paper used in its products.
Indonesia reduces area of forest protected under moratorium
(07/07/2011) Indonesia reduced the extent of areas protected under the country's moratorium on new logging concessions, reports the Jakarta Globe.
BNDES paradox: bank funds both destruction and conservation of indigenous lands
(07/07/2011) At the same time it is funding a dam that will devastate indigenous lands and block the Xingu River, Brazil's National Development Bank (BNDES) may allocate some $14.3 million (BRL 22.3 million) in grants for projects developed within the Kayapo indigenous lands, reports Conservation International.
Community control, rather than govt control, helps forests recover, says study
(07/07/2011) A new study says that giving local communities control over forest resources can help slow and even reverse deforestation. The research, published by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) on the eve of a forestry workshop in Lombok, Indonesia, analyzed trends in countries that have either maintained or expanded forest cover since 1990.
Endangered species trafficking: What did Gibson Guitar know?
(07/07/2011) A motion filed last month by the U.S. Department of Justice alleges Gibson Guitar knew it was trafficking in endangered timber when it was busted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in November 2009, reports the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
Prominent scientists condemn proposed changes to Brazil's Forest Code
(07/07/2011) A group of prominent scientists has condemned a bill that will potentially weaken Brazil's environmental laws.
Sarawak reiterates goal to convert 1 million ha of forest to oil palm plantations
(07/06/2011) Despite rising criticism over deforestation and human rights abuses, Sarawak is maintaining its target of 2 million hectares of oil palm plantations by 2020, reports Malaysian state press.
Photo: New mouse species discovered in Brazil
(07/06/2011) Researchers discovered a new species of mouse in Brazil, reports the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio).
Ranchers using Agent Orange to deforest the Amazon
(07/06/2011) 180 hectares (450 acres) of rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon were defoliated using a potent mix of herbicides dropped by airplane, reports IBAMA, Brazil's environmental law enforcement agency.
Forest Code bill could undermine sustainable growth in the Amazon
(07/06/2011) In May Brazil's House of Representatives passed a bill that will reform the country's Forest Code, which requires farmers and ranchers in the Amazon to maintain a legal forest reserve amounting to 80 percent of total landholdings. Environmentalists say the bill, which is undergoing revision before heading to the Senate next month, would weaken the forest code, granting amnesty for illegal deforestation of up to 400 hectares per property and allowing clearing of forests along waterways and on hillsides — restrictions meant to limit erosion and damage to watersheds.
Brazilian senator: Forest Code reform necessary to grow farm sector
(07/06/2011) Over the past twenty years Brazil has emerged as an agricultural superpower: today it is the largest exporter beef, sugar, coffee, and orange juice, and the second largest producer of soybeans. While much of this growth has been fueled by a sharp increase in productivity resulting from improved breeding stock and technological innovation, Brazil has benefited from large expanses of available land in the Amazon and the cerrado, a grassland ecosystem. But agricultural growth in Brazil has always been limited — at least on paper — by its environmental laws. Under the country's Forest Code, landowners in the Amazon must keep 80 percent of their land forested.
June in review: Amazon deforestation, giant dam moves forward, Barbie faces protests
(07/02/2011) Brazil, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Google Earth dominated the list of popular mongabay.com stories for the month of June.
Richard Leakey: 'selfish' critics choose wrong fight in Serengeti road
(07/02/2011) The controversial Serengeti road is going ahead, but with conditions. According to the Tanzanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige, the road will not be paved and it will be run by the Tanzanian park authority who will have the power to monitor traffic to 'ensure no harm comes to the wildlife population'. Critics argue that even an unpaved road would eventually cripple the largest land migration in the world. However, famed Kenyan conservationist, ex-politician, and anthropologist, Richard Leakey, told mongabay.com that critics of the road are focusing on the wrong fight while failing to respect Tanzania's right to develop. Leakey says that instead of attempting to stop the road from being built, which he believes is inevitable, critics should instead focus on funding a truly wildlife-friendly road.
Unpaved road through Serengeti to progress
(07/02/2011) After a week of confusion, the Tanzanian government has finally clarified its position on the hugely-controversial Serengeti road. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ezekiel Maige, confirmed that a paved highway will not be built through the northern Serengeti National Park, however the government is still planning to construct a gravel road through the park. Yet critics have long warned that even an unpaved road would open Pandora's box: eventually commercial and population pressure would push the road to be paved, widened, and fenced leading to a collapse of the world's largest remaining-and most famous-land migration. Two million wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson's gazelle pass along this route in annual migration from Tanzania to Kenya.
New rosewood scandal in Madagascar
(07/01/2011) Customs officials in Madagascar threatened to go on strike Monday if the country's Transition Authority does not reveal the owner of a shipment of six containers of rosewood seized in Mauritius.
Brazilian government: Amazon deforestation rising
(06/30/2011) Satellite data released today by the Brazilian government confirmed a rise in Amazon deforestation over this time last year.
Eating rhino horn sends woman to hospital
(06/30/2011) A Vietnamese woman ended up in the hospital after consuming rhino horn, reports savingrhinos.org. Used for a rash around her mouth, the rhino horn instead caused a serious allergic reaction, including reddening skin, itching, and fever. Listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), rhino horn is illegal to purchase or sell worldwide.
Worst drought in 60 years brings starvation fears to East Africa
(06/30/2011) A prolonged drought in East Africa is bringing many of the region's impoverished to their knees: the World Food Program (WFP) is warning that 10 million people in the region are facing severe shortages. While not dubbed a famine yet, experts say it could become one. Meanwhile, a recent study by FEWS NET/USGS has revealed that the current drought is the worst in 11 of 15 East African regions since 1950-51. Worsening droughts are one of the predictions for the region as the world grows warmer.
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