- Mongabay’s traffic has continued to grow despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, with readership surpassing 12 million monthly pageviews for the first time.
- Below are the 20 news.mongabay.com stories that attracted the most traffic during March 2020.
- This list does not include stories from our Indonesia, Latam, India, or Brazil bureaus.
Mongabay’s traffic has continued to grow despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, with readership surpassing 12 million monthly pageviews for the first time.
While COVID-19 stories have performed well for Mongabay over the past several weeks, other topics also rank among the most read on the English-language news section of the site.
Below are the 20 news.mongabay.com stories that attracted the most traffic during March 2020.
Video: scientists capture giant spider eating an opossum
(03/02/2019) Written by Mongabay.com – 276,062 pageviews
- For the first time, researchers have documented a giant spider eating an opossum in the Amazon rainforest.
- 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.
- The mouse opossum incident occurred in 2016 in the Peruvian Amazon and was captured on film by biology students.
- The sighting was the first of a mygalomorph spider — a group of large spiders that includes tarantulas — preying on an opossum.
Making a thriller out of Belo Monte hydro dam: Q&A with Sabrina McCormick
(02/18/2020) Written by Débora Pinto – 245,791 pageviews
- The construction of the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian Amazon is the narrative engine that drives Sequestrada, the first full-length film by U.S. cinematographer and sociologist Sabrina McCormick.
- The film, which came out in December on various streaming platforms, tells the story of Kamudjara, an indigenous girl, amid the expectations about the profound social and environmental changes that the construction will bring.
- In this interview with Mongabay, the director speaks about her creative process, her experience filming in the Amazon and perceptions about the social and cultural aspects, as well as the indigenous people’s sense of belonging to the forest.
- A former climate and environmental adviser to the Obama administration, McCormick also stresses the importance of blocking the advance of power generation models based on projects like Belo Monte.
$85 million initiative to scale up agroforestry in Africa announced
(10/24/2019) Written by Erik Hoffner – 196,579 pageviews
- A coalition of NGOs recently announced “the biggest land restoration project ever seen,” starting with an $85 million project to scale up agroforestry in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
- Agroforestry is the practice of growing trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables together in a group mimicking a forest, and is credited as a way to sequester climate-warming carbon while feeding people and providing habitat for biodiversity.
- “This may be the largest individual investment ever made in agroforestry,” one expert told Mongabay of the project.
Conservationists set the record straight on COVID-19’s wildlife links
(03/13/2020) Written by Liz Kimbrough – 172,350 pageviews
- The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been characterized by the World Health Organization as a pandemic. As the virus spreads, so too does misinformation about its origins.
- Rumors that COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab or that we know with full certainty which animal host passed the disease to humans are unfounded.
- Given the clear risks to animals as well as to human health, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Global Wildlife Conservation are calling for a permanent ban on wildlife trafficking and live animal markets.
Turning the tide for an endangered crab species in the Philippines
(03/12/2020) Written by Jen Chan – 168,041 pageviews
- The tourism boom that swept through the province of Batanes, a group of islands at the northernmost tip of the Philippines, from 2014 has driven a decline in coconut crabs there.
- Coconut crabs are hunted by locals to serve for tourists, the majority of whom come to the province to sample the rare delicacy.
- Overharvesting of coconut crabs has become the norm in the province, even after the species was placed on the IUCN Red List and despite measures to preserve the remaining population in the wild.
- Slow to mature, coconut crabs can live up to 60 years and propagate in very specific environments.
In Chile, scientists seek the cause of blue whales’ mystery skin lesions
(03/02/2020) Written by Michelle Carrere – 160,809 pageviews
- Blue whales in Chile have been plagued with serious skin lesions, blister-like sores that can cover their whole bodies.
- Following a study that confirmed the presence of persistent organic pollutants in the bodies of blue whales in southern Chile, a second study is underway to determine the cause of the lesions.
- Although the results of the second study have yet to be released, scientists believe the lesions could be linked to commercial salmon farming.
Past and future tropical dams devastating to fish the world over: study
(02/21/2020) Written by Asher Elbein – 149,855 pageviews
- Most research on the ecological impacts of tropical dams does so one dam project at a time. But a new landmark study attempts to connect the dots globally by analyzing tropical dam impacts on freshwater river fish around the world.
- The research assembled data on the geographic range of 10,000 fish species, and checked those tropical species against the location of 40,000 existing dams and 3,700 dams that are either being built or planned for the near future.
- Scientists found that biodiversity hotspots including the Amazon, Congo, Salween and Mekong watersheds are likely to be hard hit, with river fragmentation potentially averaging between 25% and 40% due to hydropower expansion underway in the tropics.
- Dams harm fish ecology via river fragmentation, species migration prevention, reservoir and downstream deoxygenation, seasonal flow disruption, and blockage of nurturing sediments. Drastic sudden fish losses due to dams can also destroy the commercial and subsistence livelihoods of indigenous and traditional peoples.
For Sri Lanka’s pangolins, forests are ideal ‚Äî but rubber farms will do too
(02/15/2020) Written by Dilrukshi Handunnetti – 136,038 pageviews
- Identifying the feeding habits and foraging preferences of pangolins is key to informing Sri Lanka’s pangolin conservation efforts, a new study says.
- It shows that forests are the preferred foraging sites for the island’s endangered Indian pangolins, and that rubber plantations come second.
- With forests shrinking, policymakers should consider maintaining rubber plantations and similar preferred foraging habitats for long-term pangolin conservation, the study’s authors say.
- The study also identifies termites rather than ants as pangolins’ favorite food — a finding with lessons for rescue and captive-breeding centers that currently serve pangolins an artificial diet short on natural feeds.
For Indonesia’s Javan deer, non-protected areas play key conservation role
(02/20/2020) Written by Basten Gokkon – 135,411 pageviews
- Nearly a quarter of the native population of Javan deer, and two-fifths of introduced populations, occur outside protected areas in Indonesia, according to a recent study.
- These non-protected areas include pulpwood and oil palm plantations and logging concessions, and are therefore at much higher risk of being deforested than protected zones.
- The study’s authors have called for have called for those non-protected areas to be be considered in conservation policymaking for the Javan deer.
Bringing Christ and coronavirus: Evangelicals to contact Amazon indigenous
(03/18/2020) Written by Sue Branford – 120,258 pageviews
- As the coronavirus spreads around the globe, with more than 300 known cases already in Brazil, and members of Pres. Jair Bolsonaro’s staff infected, an evangelical Christian organization has purchased a helicopter with plans to contact and convert isolated indigenous groups in the remote Western Amazon.
- Ethnos360, formerly known as the New Tribes Mission, is notorious for past attempts to contact and convert isolated Indians, having spread disease among the Zo’é living in northern Pará state. Once contacted, the Zo’é, lacking resistance, began dying from malaria and influenza, losing over a third of their population.
- Ethnos360 is planning its Christian conversion mission despite the fact that FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, has a longstanding policy against contact with isolated groups. Their so-called “missionary aviation” contact plan may also violate Brazil’s 1988 Constitution and international treaties.
- Analysts worry Brazil may be about to overturn its “no contact” FUNAI policy. In February, Bolsonaro put Ricardo Lopez Dias in charge of The Coordination of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indians (CGIIRC), a FUNAI department. Dias was a missionary for New Tribes Mission for over a decade, doing conversion work.
In Nigeria, hunters turn into guardians of the rarest gorilla on Earth
(03/04/2019) Written by Linus Unah – 114,134 pageviews
- The Cross River gorilla was thought to be extinct by the 1980s, even though people living and hunting in remote areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border knew the apes were still present deep in the forest.
- After the ape was formally rediscovered in the late 1980s, conservation groups and the Nigerian government worked to protect its habitat.
- In one part of the Cross River gorilla landscape, the Mbe Mountains, traditional landowners organized themselves into a community conservation association, keeping the forest under their stewardship.
- The association faces ongoing challenges, but with the support of NGOs like the Wildlife Conservation Society, it works to protect gorillas while improving the livelihoods of local people.
In Sumatra, authorities fight a resurgence of illegal gold mining
(02/10/2020) Written by Een Irawan Putra – 96,631 pageviews
- Authorities say they’re boosting efforts to crack down on illegal gold mining in West Sumatra province, after having declared the practice over in 2014.
- The illegal mines are scattered throughout the province, including inside ostensibly protected areas, where miners claim to have the backing of corrupt officials.
- The country’s disaster mitigation agency warns that floods and landslides in downstream areas will get worse if the mining upstream, and its attendant environmental destruction, isn’t stopped.
Can jaguar tourism save Bolivia’s fast dwindling forests?
(03/07/2019) Written by Rhett A. Butler – 96,531 pageviews
- 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.
Plastic trash kills half a million hermit crabs on remote islands each year
(02/28/2020) Written by Grace Dungey – 90,992 pageviews
- An estimated 570,000 hermit crabs become trapped and die in plastic containers on the remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Henderson Island each year, according to a new study.
- Accumulated plastics on beaches could cause a serious decline in hermit crab populations, the study’s authors say.
- Hermit crabs are at risk on beaches globally where crabs and plastic pollution overlap.
Bid to get ‘aquatic wild meat’ off the menu and under protection
(02/28/2020) Written by Edward Carver – 85,441 pageviews
- The term “aquatic wild meat,” or “marine bushmeat,” refers to the hunting of marine mammals, reptiles, seabirds and now some sharks and rays.
- The hunting takes place all over the world and has increased in recent years as small-scale fishers have lost access to fish and other marine resources.
- Last week, delegates representing more than 80 countries took steps to address the issue of aquatic wild meat at the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals conference in Gandhinagar, India.
- Other outcomes of the conference included adding 10 new species to the convention’s protected lists, including the jaguar and Asian elephant, recognizing the culture of wild animals, and calling for migratory species to be considered in national climate and energy policies.
Why did Ecuador’s tallest waterfall suddenly disappear?
(03/18/2020) Written by Antonio José Paz Cardona – 78,179 pageviews
- The iconic San Rafael waterfall near the Chinese-built Coca Codo Sinclair dam stopped flowing on February 2, what happened?
- Experts hypothesize that the hydroelectric plant located upstream is indirectly related to the waterfall’s demise.
- The plant was constructed by Sinohydro and financed by China EximBank, and has had problems with cost overruns, worker strikes, and accidents such as the 2014 collapse of a pressure well that claimed the lives of 14 workers.
- The discussion about what happened with this celebrated waterfall on February 2 promises to occupy scientists for a long time.
Unsung Species: One of Earth’s rarest land mammals clings to a hopeful future (commentary)
(02/28/2020) Written by Cristobal Briceño, Joel Berger with Alejandro Vila – 72,154 pageviews
- South America’s huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) is the Western Hemisphere’s most endangered large land mammal, a fleet-footed Patagonian deer. The species once enjoyed broad distribution, but its numbers have been fractured into roughly 100 small disconnected populations, with huemul totals likely less than 1500 individuals.
- Historically, the huemul was diminished by habitat destruction, poachers, livestock competition and alien predators (especially dogs). More recently climate change may be playing a role, hammering Patagonian coastal fisheries, so possibly causing local villagers to increase hunting pressure on the Andean mountain deer.
- The huemul also suffers from being an unsung species. Unlike the polar bear or rhino, it lacks a broad constituency. If it is to be saved, the species requires broad recognition and support beyond the scientific community. This story is the first in a series by biologist Joel Berger in an effort to make such animals far better known.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indonesian activists denounce a road being built illegally in leopard habitat
(03/21/2020) Written by Basten Gokkon – 68,470 pageviews
- Environmental activists and residents have demanded a road project in Indonesia’s West Java province be scrapped because it lacks the required permits and could exacerbate floods and landslides.
- The road will cut through a protected forest on Mount Cikuray, home to Javan leopards and other threatened wildlife.
- District authorities have admitted they began clearing forest for the project before obtaining the necessary permits from the central government.
- The national parliament and the environment ministry have also weighed in on the issue, with the latter saying it will investigate and may order the project stopped.
Study finds new population of rare deer ‚Äî but in Brazil’s Arc of Deforestation
(02/19/2020) Written by Aimee Gabay – 66,706 pageviews
- Scientists have discovered new populations of Pampas deer in the savanna region along the southern edge of the Brazilian Amazon, hundreds of miles away from the species’ historical range.
- The findings illustrate the need for more detailed studies to assess the deer’s conservation status and that of other unrecorded species.
- While finding new populations is good news, it’s tempered by the fact that the largest of those groups is in an area known as Brazil’s Arc of Deforestation, where the land is fast being taken over for agriculture.
From vegetable plots in a Sri Lankan swamp, a forgotten eel emerges
(03/24/2020) Written by Dilrukshi Handunnetti – 56,226 pageviews
- New specimens of Sri Lanka’s only endemic swamp eel, locally known as vel anda (Monopterus desilvai), from vegetable plots in the island’s west highlight the need for further study of the coastal floodplains.
- The endemic brown eel is able to breathe air, which it stores in a pair of primitive lung-like pouches, live in oxygen-poor environments and survive outside of water, as long as its skin remains moist.
- Researchers have called for the urgent conservation of the species’ habitat and identified landfilling as the main threat to its conservation.