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Favorite nature and wildlife photos from 2014

(12/24/2014) During the course of my reporting in 2014, I had the opportunity to travel to several countries and take some pictures in the field. Below are some of my favorite images from the year. Most of these photos are from Sumatra (Indonesia), Sabah (Malaysia), and Queensland (Australia), although there are a few from the United States.

Ecuador sends aid money back to Germany over planned rainforest visit

(12/23/2014) A visit to a rainforest slated for oil drilling has blown up into a diplomatic row between Ecuador and Germany. Ecuador has said it will no longer partner with Germany on environmental issues and will return aid money, after the South American government discovered that German legislators were attempting to visit the much-embattled Yasuni National Park.

Palawan palm oil presence likely to grow, industry rep denies harmful impact

(12/23/2014) Plans to convert eight million hectares of land for palm oil production on Palawan island in the Philippines have been met with opposition from environmental and social advocacy groups, with a petition to cease development sent to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by an anti-palm oil expansion group. But an industry representative denies claims that all eight million hectares will be cultivated to the detriment of wildlife and human communities, maintaining palm oil expansion will be beneficial to the people of Palawan.

Advocacy group lashes out against palm oil expansion on Philippine island

(12/23/2014) In the first week of November, an anti-oil palm expansion group sent a copy of their petition to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous People for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights hoping to elevate their concerns over land-grabbing issues faced by tribes in Palawan, Philippines, due to planned palm oil expansion in the province.

How a frog with a strange name is helping improve conservation in Brazil

(12/23/2014) Protecting the biodiversity of the Amazon basin is an immense undertaking, and to its credit the Brazilian government has a set procedure for doing so. However, there are gaps in the process that may prevent the authorities from fully protecting the species that call this place home. To investigate this, a recent study uses as an example the brilliant-thighed frog, a species that is found across the Amazon Basin—including the area surrounding the soon-to-be dammed Xingu River.

Conservation conflicting with local ways of life in Mexican reserve

(12/23/2014) Although conservation has good intentions, it can give rise to conflicts when the interests of conservationists put local peoples’ livelihoods at stake. A recent study has uncovered an unhappy symbiosis between Mayan subsistence hunters and authorities in Yucatán, Mexico. A lack of understanding and communication about hunting regulations are forcing Mayan hunter societies to alter their traditional ways of living.

Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014

(12/23/2014) In 2014, the unimaginable happened: companies representing the majority of palm oil production and trade agreed to stop cutting down rainforests and draining peatlands for new oil palm plantations. After years of intense campaigning by environmentalists and dire warnings from scientists, nearly two dozen major producers, traders, and buyers established zero deforestation policies.

Child labor and palm oil in Indonesia

(12/23/2014) Meet Bimo Kencana Arief. At 13 years old, this Indonesian middle school student is not spending his afternoons doing homework, helping around the house, or getting into trouble with the neighborhood children. Instead, Bimo is working up a sweat, hauling heavy oil palm fruits from the trees to a waiting truck. If he moves quickly, he can help his father earn up to $2 between 3:00 pm and dark.

Greenpeace: zero deforestation pioneer makes progress, but still has work to do

(12/22/2014) Half a decade ago, Golden-Agri Resources (GAR) was losing customers right and left in the midst of a Greenpeace campaign that blamed the Singapore-based palm oil giant for destroying forests in Indonesia. Then in February 2011, GAR surprised the world when it announced it would no longer clear rainforests or peatlands for new plantations. The company also committed to resolving social conflicts and respecting the right of local communities to reject plantation development on their traditional lands. Observers thought it could be mark the beginning a transformation in how palm oil was produced.

Shifting attitudes may help endangered wild dogs in Thailand

(12/22/2014) Once found throughout much of Asia, the dhole—a wild dog species that looks something like a jackal—has been displaced by humans from much of its range. But a new study published in mongabay.org's open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science, offers hope that the two species may be able to coexist, with people living next to protected forest areas in southeastern Thailand showing a favorable attitude towards increasing awareness and conservation efforts for the endangered canids.

The biggest new species discoveries in 2014 (photos)

(12/22/2014) Biologists describe upwards of 15,000 previously undocumented species every year. Some of these species are complete surprises, sometimes representing new genera. Others may be identified after genetic analysis distinguishes them from closely-related species. Some — especially conspicuous birds and mammals — are already known to local populations, but hadn't been formally described by scientists.

Genetics study sheds light on Chile’s most endangered bird

(12/22/2014) A member of the Furnariidae family, the small brown and beige bird possesses rusty “spine-like” tail feathers and inhabits densely vegetated areas. Scientists estimate the total population to range from 140 to 500 individuals. In 2012 the IUCN declared the Masafuera Rayadito to be a Critically Endangered species.

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