Site icon Conservation news

Our most popular nature and environment stories

The spider Pamphobeteus sp. (Theraphosidae) and Chiasmocleis royi. Photo by Emanuele Biggi.

The spider Pamphobeteus sp. (Theraphosidae) and Chiasmocleis royi. Photo by Emanuele Biggi.

  • In 2019, Mongabay celebrated its 20th year, publishing 4,871 articles, over 750 videos, and 26 podcast episodes.
  • Mongabay continued to see strong growth in terms of readership in 2019, with pageviews increasing 34% to 102 million and monthly active users climbing 50% to 4.3 million. Video views rose 50% to 39 million.
  • Below is a list of our most popular stories published in 2019.

In 2019, Mongabay celebrated its 20th year, including its 9th year as a non-profit media outlet. During the year we produced nearly 4,900 articles across English, Indonesian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Japanese, and Chinese as well as over 750 videos, ranging from short-form social media videos to mini-documentaries that were distributed via Facebook and YouTube. We released 26 episodes of our podcast too.

Mongabay continued to see strong growth in terms of readership in 2019, with pageviews increasing 34% to 102 million and monthly active users climbing 50% to 4.3 million. Video views rose 50% to 39 million. We added a number of new content distribution partners, from El Universo in Mexico to scores of outlets in India via our partnership with the Indo-Asian News Service, which greatly amplifies our reach beyond direct on-site readership.

Below is a list of our most popular stories published in 2019. Content about pangolins continued to consistently outperform other topics in 2019, but solutions-oriented stories also ranked well among our top 20.

Video: scientists capture giant spider eating an opossum

[1,416,771 pageviews]

The spider Pamphobeteus sp. (Theraphosidae) and Chiasmocleis royi. Photo by Emanuele Biggi.

[Rhett A. Butler on 2 March 2019] Writing in the February 28th issue of the journal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, a team of scientists describe several rarely observed cases of invertebrates eating various vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, snakes, and even a mammal — a mouse opossum. It was the first time, researchers have documented a giant spider eating an opossum in the Amazon rainforest.

The extinction clock ticks for the little-known Philippine pangolin

[675,449 pageviews]

A member of the pangolin field research team of the Katala Foundation conducts a ground survey in the Victoria-Anepahen Mountain Range in Palawan Province, an important habitat for biodiversity and endemic Palawan pangolins / Courtesy of the USAID Protect Wildlife project.

[Imelda Abano on 22 April 2019] With the Palawan pangolin’s population decimated by poaching and its habitat lost to urban expansion, scientists and conservationists are in a race against time to save and document everything about this forest dweller.

All that glitters: Cameras spot Asian golden cat in more than one shade

[304,912 pageviews]

Gray form of the Asiatic golden cat. Image courtesy of Sahil Nijhawan/Zoological Society of London.

[Shreya Dasgupta on 20 June 2019] Cameras placed across the Dibang Valley in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh have captured Asian golden cats with six different coat colors. These include five colors previously described from different parts of the cat’s distribution across Asia — golden, gray, cinnamon, melanistic (black) and ocelot (spotted) — as well as a previously unrecorded dark pattern of tightly spaced rosettes.

The wolf of Bangladesh: A true story

[297,673 pageviews]

Digging up the dead wolf for confirmation. Photo by: Akash Muntasir.

[Jeremy Hance on 7 August 2019] The last wolf in Bangladesh was seen in 1949 – until this year. The wolf, an adult male, was killed by local villagers in the Sundarbans, a suboptimal habitat for wolves. But could there be more wolves in the Sundarbans?

Women from the Xingu Territory unite against threats from Bolsonaro administration

[262,733 pageviews]

A woman from the Xingu watches a session during the event held in the village of Ilha Grande. Image by Maria Fernanda Ribeiro.

[Maria Fernanda Ribeiro on 18 December 2019] In May 2019, some 200 representatives from 16 different ethnicities gathered for the first women’s summit in the Xingu Indigenous Territory’s in the state of Mato Grosso. Feeling under threat from policies regarding native peoples under the Jair Bolsonaro administration and tired of their community roles being restricted to domestic tasks, the women met to discuss ways to occupy leadership roles alongside men and, in doing so, gain strength to protect their territory.

Can jaguar tourism save Bolivia’s fast dwindling forests?

[255,742 pageviews]

Camera trap image showing a jaguar on a road at San Miguelito. Courtesy of Duston Larsen.

[Rhett A. Butler on 7 March 2019] Few countries in the tropics have seen trees chopped down as quickly as Bolivia did between 2001 and 2017. Within Bolivia, nearly two-thirds of that loss occurred in just a single state—Santa Cruz—as agribusiness activity, namely cattle ranching and soy farming, ramped up. This loss has greatly reduced the extent of habitat for some of Bolivia’s best known species, including the largest land predator in the Americas, the jaguar. On top of habitat loss, jaguars in Santa Cruz are both persecuted by landowners who see them as a danger to livestock, and targeted in a lucrative new trade in their parts, including teeth and bones. Duston Larsen, the owner of San Miguelito Ranch, is working to reverse that trend by upending the perception that jaguars necessarily need be the enemy of ranchers.

Video: Pango-Cam offers amazing and unique view of pangolin behavior

[250,717 pageviews]

Pango-Cam installation.

[Erik Hoffner on 16 September 2019] The Pango-Cam is a first-of-its-kind camera setup attached to a black-bellied pangolin’s back to provide unique footage of the animal’s behavior. A collaboration between filmmaker Katie Schuler, pangolin biologist Matthew Shirley, and National Geographic’s Exploration Technology Lab, the team recently recorded excellent footage in Nigeria. Pangolins are poorly understood and are also under grave threat from the illegal wildlife trade, so it’s hoped the Pango-Cam can improve awareness and knowledge of the secretive animals.

New film reveals at-risk ‘uncontacted’ Awa tribe in Brazilian Amazon

[243,616 pageviews]

Screenshot of the documentary film “Ka’a Zar Ukyze Wà” — Forest Keepers in Danger — showing a member of the Awá Guajá ‘uncontacted’ tribe

[Karla Mendes on 1 August 2019] A documentary film released over the summer includes footage of an uncontacted indigenous group known as the Awá Guajá, hunter-gatherers described by NGO Survival International as the most threatened tribe on the planet. The indigenous group lives in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest in Northeast Maranhão state. The footage was captured by chance by cameraman Flay Guajajara, a member of the Mídia Índia (a collective of indigenous communicators of various ethnicities) when he and other Guajajara Indians were on a hunting trip in the Araribóia reserve, one of the country’s most threatened indigenous territories.

Why is Europe rewilding with water buffalo?

[214,089 pageviews]

A newly released water buffalo stands on Ermakov Island in the Ukraine. Photo by: Andrey Nekrasov / Rewilding Europe.

[Jeremy Hance on 21 October 2019] Conservationists have released 18 water buffalo onto Ermakov Island in the Danube, in the first ever such rewilding project in Ukraine. The water buffalo were gifted by a German-born naturalist-cum-farmer, Michel Jacobs, who has taken on a mission of saving the Carpathian’s distinct water buffalo. Researchers believe the water buffalo will bring new richness and diversity to the Danube by acting as ecosystem engineers.

In Ethiopia, women and faith drive effort to restore biodiversity

[161,871 pageviews]

Generations of women have carried wood from Entoto Mountain to fuel the stoves of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo by Christopher Lett/Mongabay.

[Christopher Lett on 20 March 2019] In Addis Ababa, approximately 35 percent of the household fuelwood – mainly eucalyptus – is systematically gathered from the Entoto Mountains just outside the city. Ethiopia historically planted large areas with fast-growing eucalyptus, a non-native species, to meet the demand for fuelwood. But the trees’ water-hogging nature has had a destructive impact on the land. There are efforts to reforest areas with native species, supported by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has a tradition of maintaining tree gardens throughout the country.

Madagascar: Opaque foreign fisheries deals leave empty nets at home

[148,179 pageviews]

A child inspects her father’s catch after he arrives home to the village of Andavadoaka in southwestern Madagascar. Image by Edward Carver for Mongabay.

[Edward Carver on 9 October 2019] Malagasy fishers blame shrimp trawlers that ply coastal waters for their declining catches. However, the bulk of industrial fishing in Madagascar’s waters takes place far from shore and out of view. It’s conducted by foreign fishing fleets working under agreements that critics say lack transparency. Conservationists argue that these foreign vessels are also depleting the country’s fish stocks and marine ecosystems.

Belize to protect critical wildlife corridor that’s home to jaguars and more

[147,104 pageviews]

A Baird’s tapir. Image by Nick Hawkins.

[Shreya Dasgupta on 24 June 2019] The government of Belize has approved a proposal to protect the Maya Forest Corridor, a key stretch of jungle linking some of the region’s largest wilderness areas. Once the corridor is secured, it will create the largest contiguous block of forest in Central America, experts say. The Maya Forest Corridor is home to iconic animals like the jaguar; the critically endangered Central American river turtle; the endangered Central American spider monkey or Geoffroy’s spider monkey; and the endangered Baird’s tapir. There is, however, a lot of work to be done before the Maya Forest Corridor gains official legal protection, including securing key privately owned patches of forest in the area.

Documentary seeks to tip the scales against illegal pangolin trafficking

[143,592 pageviews]

White-bellied pangolin. Photo: Darren Pietersen/African Pangolin Working Group

[Erna Curry on 27 June 2019] A film released over the summer aims to raise awareness and strengthen protection and conservation of pangolins. Hunting and trafficking of these animals in Africa has sharply intensified to meet demand from Asia in recent years. Pangolins have historically been used for traditional medicine, decoration and gift-giving across Africa.

These rare pigs can dig it. With a tool, that is. And moonwalk too

[142,666 pageviews]

A Visayan warty pig in Plackendael zoo in Belgium. Image by Ad Meskens [CC BY-SA 4.0]

[Leilani Chavez on 18 October 2019] A viral video shows a family of Visayan warty pigs (Sus cebifrons) using a piece of tree bark or branch to build a nest at a zoo in Paris. Tool use has been widely reported among vertebrates, particularly primates, but this is the first published study and first recorded video of pigs using tools. The study suggests that using a stick is a socially learned behavior, and expands the possibility of tool use and social learning among pig species.

Agriculture, mining, hunting push critically endangered gorillas to the brink

[140,594 pageviews]

Image courtesy of Flora and Fauna International.

[Rachel Fritts on 16 July 2019] Maiko National Park is one of the most logistically challenging parks in the DRC and one of the most biodiverse. It is one of just two national parks in the world known to contain Grauer’s gorilla, a highly endangered and poorly understood eastern gorilla subspecies, and is also home to the endemic okapi and Congo peafowl, as well as forest elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, and giant pangolins. The most major threat to gorillas and other wildlife in Maiko is the bushmeat trade, but this is significantly exacerbated by another threat: artisanal mining. The Second Congo War coincided with a demand spike for a mineral called coltan that forms an essential component of all phones, computers, solar panels, and other electronics. Outside of the park, however, there is another threat to wildlife: increasing pressure from rising populations.

Amid aquaculture boom, report guides investors toward sustainability

[139,108 pageviews]

Sanazy, from Beheloke Haut, says “hunger” pushed her to start farming seaweed three years ago: she earns about $20 from the crop during her best months. Photo by Rowan Moore Gerety for Mongabay.

[Max Radwin on 8 May 2019] More than half of all seafood now comes from farms, and that percentage is projected to rise. However, environmental problems currently bedevil the aquaculture industry, and a consensus on the most sustainable practices has yet to emerge. A report released May 8, 2019 aims to guide the private sector, NGOs and policymakers toward better aquaculture strategies. In place of business-as-usual practices, the report advocates for three alternatives: a land-based aquaculture strategy called recirculating aquaculture systems; offshore fish farms; and seaweed and shellfish farming.

A snapshot of camera traps reveals user frustrations and hopes

[131,521 pageviews]

A Malay porcupine in a . Image by Oliver Wearn.

[Sue Palminteri (1965-2019) on 14 February 2019] A team of camera trapping experts surveyed researchers and conservation professionals to identify limitations to their successful use of remote cameras, assess their wish list of technological developments, and predict what next-generation camera trapping will look like. Their study revealed that cost, theft, vulnerability of the cameras to environmental conditions, and several ongoing technical issues may be limiting the effectiveness of this popular technology in providing the utility the users seek. The survey respondents offered numerous predictions for next-generation camera trapping, including solar and lithium-ion power sources, a wider range of sensors, and software-driven automation.

Habitat loss, pigs, disease: U.S. salamanders face a ‘tough situation’

[128,134 pageviews]

The green salamander (Aneides aeneus) is a member of the Plethodontidae family of salamanders that scientists believe are particularly susceptible to Bsal. Like other plethodontids, green salamanders don’t have lungs, breathing instead through their skin and vascularized tissue in their mouths. Image by Todd W. Pierson.

[Morgan Erickson-Davis on 3 January 2019] A pandemic is on the horizon. A fungal pathogen called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) almost completely wiped out several fire salamander populations in Europe and biologists think it may be only a matter of time until it gets to North America. North America is the world’s hotspot of salamander diversity, with around half the world’s species.

The Pan Borneo Highway on a collision course with elephants

[119,088 pageviews]

Sabah’s remaining elephants are hemmed in by oil palm plantations, and scientists worry that stretches of the Pan Borneo Highway could further fragment the population. Image by John C. Cannon/Mongabay.

[John C. Cannon on 28 August 2019] Out of the controversy surrounding the Pan Borneo Highway and its potential impacts on the environment has arisen a movement to bring conservationists, scientists and planners together to develop a plan “to maximize benefits and reduce risks” to the environment from the road’s construction.

Meet the new species of venomous pit viper described from India

[111,009 pageviews]

The Arunachal pit viper camouflages well in leaf litter. Image by Rohan Pandit.

[Shreya Dasgupta on 9 May 2019] Wildlife researcher Rohan Pandit and his teammate Wangchu Phiang first stumbled upon the new-to-science pit viper species in May 2016 while surveying biodiversity in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India. Researchers have NOW described this species and named it Trimeresurus arunachalensis, or Arunachal pit viper.

The 100 most popular of 2019

Note: this only includes stories from news.mongabay.com, our global English news bureau.

  1. Video: scientists capture giant spider eating an opossum [3/2/19] 1,416,771 pageviews
  2. Drone used to confirm existence of uncontacted Amazon tribe (video) [8/24/18] 680,091
  3. The extinction clock ticks for the little-known Philippine pangolin [4/22/19] 675,449
  4. Epic battle between tiger and sloth bear caught on film [3/3/18] 540,528
  5. All that glitters: Cameras spot Asian golden cat in more than one shade [6/20/19] 304,912
  6. The wolf of Bangladesh: A true story [8/7/19] 297,673
  7. Women from the Xingu Territory unite against threats from Bolsonaro administration [12/18/19] 262,733
  8. Can jaguar tourism save Bolivia’s fast dwindling forests? [3/7/19] 255,742
  9. Video: Pango-Cam offers amazing and unique view of pangolin behavior [9/16/19] 250,717
  10. New film reveals at-risk ‘uncontacted’ Awa tribe in Brazilian Amazon [8/1/19] 243,616
  11. Agroforestry supports food security and conservation in Papua New Guinea [11/26/18] 237,805
  12. Why is Europe rewilding with water buffalo? [10/21/19] 214,089
  13. In Ethiopia, women and faith drive effort to restore biodiversity [3/21/19] 161,871
  14. Madagascar: Opaque foreign fisheries deals leave empty nets at home [10/9/19] 148,179
  15. Belize to protect critical wildlife corridor that’s home to jaguars and more [6/25/19] 147,104
  16. Snot otters’ threatened by disease and stress [12/22/18] 144,920
  17. Documentary seeks to tip the scales against illegal pangolin trafficking [6/27/19] 143,592
  18. These rare pigs can dig it. With a tool, that is. And moonwalk too [10/18/19] 142,666
  19. Agriculture, mining, hunting push critically endangered gorillas to the brink [7/17/19] 140,594
  20. Amid aquaculture boom, report guides investors toward sustainability [5/9/19] 139,108
  21. Scientists find ‘ground zero’ of deadly frog pandemic [5/11/18] 137,585
  22. A snapshot of camera traps reveals user frustrations and hopes [2/14/19] 131,521
  23. Habitat loss, pigs, disease: U.S. salamanders face a ‘tough situation’ [1/4/19] 128,134
  24. The Pan Borneo Highway on a collision course with elephants [8/28/19] 119,088
  25. Meet the new species of venomous pit viper described from India [5/9/19] 111,009
  26. Sri Lanka pushes for protection of sea cucumbers amid overexploitation [8/10/19] 110,633
  27. Bringing the tapir back to Borneo [1/14/19] 99,378
  28. Protecting the strange sea pangolin and other animals: Q&A with deep sea biologist Chong Chen [8/8/19] 97,953
  29. Extreme floods on the rise in the Amazon: study [12/5/18] 95,518
  30. Expansion of a famous elephant park holds out hope for Africa’s big tuskers [10/14/19] 93,697
  31. Deadly tsunami leaves Javan rhinos untouched, but peril persists [12/28/18] 90,120
  32. In Philippines’ bid to abandon plastic, incentives are needed, experts say [6/25/19] 89,363
  33. Judas’ snakes lead scientists on a high-tech Easter egg hunt for pythons [4/25/19] 87,623
  34. The challenges of campaigning against wildlife trafficking in Vietnam [8/1/19] 87,619
  35. Holy grail’: Nest of extremely rare bird captured on video in Russia [9/4/19] 87,561
  36. A green desert’: Mammals take a hit in Colombia’s oil palm plantations [9/16/19] 87,406
  37. Indonesian man jailed for smuggling 7,000 ‘living fossil’ horseshoe crabs [12/3/19] 85,606
  38. The world’s biggest reptile fair is also a hub for traffickers [5/30/19] 85,139
  39. In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 30, 2019 [8/30/19] 83,790
  40. Rainforests: storylines to watch in 2019 [1/2/19] 82,811
  41. Life on the Amazon oil frontier: From exploration to ecotourism [8/3/19] 82,523
  42. On one island, a microcosm of Vietnam’s environmental challenges [4/22/19] 82,104
  43. Camera trap study reveals Amazon ocelot’s survival strategies [9/10/19] 82,010
  44. Bouncing back: The recovery of the tenkile tree kangaroo [10/8/19] 81,688
  45. Global fisheries deprive local communities of key nutrients, study finds [9/26/19] 79,579
  46. Madagascar mine ignites protests, community division [7/2/19] 79,102
  47. Global trafficking threat catches up to Sri Lanka’s endangered pangolins [11/11/19] 77,284
  48. Cities may save some species from extinction, but they don’t save species’ ecological functions [4/19/19] 73,198
  49. An Indonesian forest community grapples with the arrival of the outside world [7/1/19] 72,665
  50. Javan rhino found dead in Indonesia, bringing global population down to 68 [4/30/19] 70,916
  51. The Pan Borneo Highway could divide threatened wildlife populations [8/26/19] 70,243
  52. The end of the road: The future of the Pan Borneo Highway [8/30/19] 70,164
  53. Malawi sentences pangolin smugglers, cracks down on wildlife crime [9/10/19] 70,031
  54. Top camera trapping stories of 2018 [12/31/18] 69,528
  55. Nepal reckons with the dark side of its rhino conservation success [3/25/19] 69,090
  56. Part of something bigger’: the social movement around New Zealand’s Predator-Free 2050 goal [6/21/19] 68,322
  57. The top 10 most biodiverse countries [5/22/16] 68,316
  58. Amazon rural development and conservation: a path to sustainability? [7/2/19] 68,208
  59. Octopus farming unsustainable, unethical, and unnecessary, scientists warn [1/31/19] 68,087
  60. Orangutan habitats being cleared in areas near palm oil mills, report finds [7/17/19] 67,907
  61. In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, September 6, 2019 [9/6/19] 67,901
  62. Mega-dam costs outweigh benefits, global building spree should end: experts [11/30/18] 67,425
  63. Pressure mounting for the home of wild coffee and Ethiopian wolves [12/18/18] 66,441
  64. Manila’s informal settlers face relocation in exchange for clean bay [10/2/19] 66,199
  65. China seizes totoaba swim bladders worth $26 million, arrests 16 [12/29/18] 64,955
  66. The great rhino U-turn [9/28/18] 63,768
  67. Study tracks first incursion of poachers into ‘pristine’ African forest [10/3/19] 62,193
  68. Search for a new home for Javan rhinos put on hold [7/2/19] 60,513
  69. Decoding the language of bats key to their conservation [10/8/18] 60,423
  70. India pushes for its largest ever hydropower project despite concerns [7/29/19] 60,256
  71. Calls for natural solution over man-made one in flood-ravaged rhino refuge [8/29/19] 59,073
  72. Wisdom, world’s oldest known wild bird, is a mother again at 68 [2/13/19] 58,931
  73. Audio: Traveling the Pan Borneo Highway with Mongabay’s John Cannon [10/1/19] 58,529
  74. As climate change disrupts the annual monsoon, India must prepare (Commentary) [9/19/19] 58,198
  75. The ambitious plan to recover and rewild the feisty, dwarf cow [7/19/19] 57,192
  76. Most communities not seeing promised oil palm payoff in Borneo, study finds [5/6/19] 55,838
  77. Death by a thousand holes’: Scientists race to avert a salamander crisis [12/20/18] 54,469
  78. Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [3/20/19] 53,272
  79. Sumatra survey looks to identify at-risk rhinos for captive breeding [10/4/19] 51,388
  80. Customary land map, a first for Indonesia, launches to mixed reception [6/26/19] 51,378
  81. Yanomami Amazon reserve invaded by 20,000 miners; Bolsonaro fails to act [7/12/19] 50,430
  82. Discovery of a metallic-blue tarantula bolsters case for trade protection [8/22/19] 49,759
  83. What is magic without ape parts? Inside the illicit trade devastating Nigeria’s apes [5/29/19] 49,559
  84. Restaurants provide lifeline for critically endangered vultures [9/27/19] 49,405
  85. The 10 most intriguing forest stories of 2018 [12/25/18] 49,234
  86. Social media, e-commerce sites facilitate illegal orchid trade [12/21/18] 48,753
  87. Education, compensation, and spiritual outreach protect threatened whale sharks [10/14/19] 48,661
  88. Chilean band Newen Afrobeat sings of a future it hopes to see [9/11/19] 48,489
  89. Indonesia confiscated some 200 pet cockatoos. What happened to them? [1/5/19] 48,339
  90. What’s killing Nepal’s rhinos? [10/31/18] 47,159
  91. Brazil land reform head fired amid push to legalize cleared Amazon land [10/3/19] 47,051
  92. China, EU, US trading with Brazilian firms fined for Amazon deforestation: report [5/6/19] 46,768
  93. Saving a Philippine tree last seen a century ago [12/2/19] 46,632
  94. Those kicks were fast as lightning: Kangaroo rats evade deadly snake strikes [4/4/19] 46,237
  95. We have cut them all’: Ghana struggles to protect its last old-growth forests [8/29/19] 46,147
  96. Devastating Laos dam collapse leads to deforestation of protected forests [12/29/18] 45,989
  97. Photos: Top 10 new species of 2018 [12/25/18] 45,670
  98. Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach? [3/22/17] 45,463
  99. Shocking news: There are actually three species of electric eel in the Amazon, not one [9/13/19] 45,199
  100. Orangutan found injured in apparent escape from site of hydropower project [9/20/19] 44,546