FEATURED ARTICLES [Latest news updates]
Mining and biodiversity offsets in Madagascar: Conservation or 'Conservation Opportunities?'
(08/30/2009) Rio Tinto's ilmenite mine in southeastern Madagascar is among the largest on the planet. At peak capacity, its owners say, it could produce as much as 2 million tons of the stuff—worth roughly $100 a ton—each year, to be shipped off and smelted abroad. What's left of it refining—some 60 percent of the ore that arrives from Madagascar—will be sold for $2000 a ton as titanium dioxide, a pigment used in everything from white paint and tennis court lines to sunscreen and toothpaste. At current levels of demand, the Fort Dauphin mine will provide 9 percent of the world supply over the next 40 years, amounting to more than $60 billion of titanium dioxide. Even that is a conservative estimate: demand for ilmenite has been growing at 3-5 percent annually, with major mines slated to close in coming years and few untapped sources known worldwide.
The mysterious, fascinating, and lightning-quick mantis shrimp: An Interview with Maya deVries
(08/26/2009) If you have never heard of the mantis shrimp, don’t feel bad. Berkeley graduate student Maya deVries, who is becoming an expert on these small crustaceans (related neither to shrimp or preying mantis) admits that until she began her graduate studies mantis shrimp were also unknown to her.
Solar powered conservation
(08/25/2009) Electricity can be a difficult commodity to procure in the remote areas where conservationists often work. Typically field researchers and wildlife rangers rely on gas-powered generators, which require imported fuel, often produce noxious fames and disruptive noise, and can be costly to maintain. A better option, especially in sun-drenched parts of the world, is solar. Clean and silent, with no need for supplemental fuel, solar seems like an ideal fit for conservation work except for one major drawback: cost. But Stephen Gold – Solar and Technology Manager for Wildlife Conservation Network has been working to overcome that obstacle.
Gold mining threatens world's most infamous reptile, the Komodo dragon
(08/24/2009) A row has taken off in Indonesia over whether or not to allow gold mining near Komodo National Park, home to the infamous, venomous, and largest of all lizards, the Komodo dragon. Eight mines have currently been proposed, several have already begun exploratory work. Critics of the gold mines contend that the mining threatens the ecology of the park and the Komodo dragon, listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
World's rarest camel survived nuclear tests but today threatened by hunger for its meat
(08/24/2009) Camels are among the most recognizable animals on the planet, yet few realize that wild populations are at a high risk of extinction. Of the world's two camel species, the Dromedary camel, characterized by a single hump, has already gone extinct in the wild. The second species, the two-humped Bactrian camel, was on a similar trajectory until very recently, but still less than 1,000 of the world's 1.4 million Bactrians are wild. The abundance of domesticated Bactrian camels relative to wild camels doesn’t address the question of whether it matters if another species of camels goes extinct. John Hare, founder and director of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, argues that it does. Hare says the world will be a poorer place if wild Bactrian camels are allowed to follow their cousins into the sunset.
Appalling photos reveal lemur carnage in Madagascar [warning: graphic images]
(08/20/2009) New pictures released by Conservation International depict a troubling development in Madagascar: the emergence of a commercial bushmeat market for lemurs. In the aftermath of a March coup that saw Madagascar's president replaced at gunpoint by the capital city's mayor, Madagascar's reserves — especially in the northern part of the country — were ravaged by illegal loggers. Armed bands, financed by foreign timber traders, went into Marojejy and Masoala national parks, harvesting valuable hardwoods including rosewood and ebonies. Without support from the central government — or international agencies that pulled aid following the coup — there was no one to stop the carnage. But now it emerges that timber wasn't the only target.
Rehabilitation not enough to save orangutans in Indonesia
(08/20/2009) A baby orangutan ambles across the grass at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation's Nyaru Menteng rehabilitation center in Central Kalimantan, in the heart of Indonesian Borneo. The ape pauses, picks up a stick and makes his way over to a plastic log, lined with small holes. Breaking the stick in two, he pokes one end into a hole in an effort to extract honey that has been deposited by a conservation worker. His expression shows the tool’s use has been fruitful. But he is not alone. To his right another orangutan has turned half a coconut shell into a helmet, two others wrestle on the lawn, and another youngster scales a papaya tree. There are dozens of orangutans, all of which are about the same age. Just outside the compound, dozens of younger orangutans are getting climbing lessons from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS) staff, while still younger orangutans are being fed milk from bottles in a nearby nursery. Still more orangutans—teenagers and adults—can be found on "Orangutan Island" beyond the center's main grounds. Meanwhile several recently wild orangutans sit in cages. This is a waiting game. BOS hopes to eventually release all of these orangutans back into their natural habitat—the majestic rainforests and swampy peatlands of Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo. But for many, this is a fate that may never be realized.
Camping in the Okavango Delta in Botswana
(08/19/2009) The first animal we saw in the Okavango was unmistakable. Although far away, we could easily make it out with its telltale trunk: an African elephant—the world’s largest land animal—was striding peaceably through the delta’s calm waters. We watched, entranced, from the mokoro, a small boat powered and steered by a local wielding a long pole to push the craft along.
Economic crisis threatens conservation programs and endangered species, an interview with Paula Kahumbu of WildlifeDirect
(08/17/2009) Founded in 2004 by legendary conservationist Richard Leakey, WildlifeDirect is an innovative member of the conservation community. WildlifeDirect is really a meta-organization: it gathers together hundreds of conservation initiatives who blog regularly about the trials and joys of practicing on-the-ground conservation. From stories of gorillas reintroduced in the wild to tracking elephants in the Okavango Delta to saving sea turtles in Sumatra, WildlifeDirect provides the unique experience of actually hearing directly from scientists and conservationists worldwide.
World's rarest tree kangaroo gets help from those who once hunted it
(08/17/2009) The world's rarest tree kangaroo is in the midst of a comeback in a remote part of New Guinea. On the brink of extinction in 2001 with a population estimated at fewer than 100 individuals, Scott's Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus scottae), or the tenkile, is recovering, thanks to the efforts of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance to motivate local communities to reduce hunting and respect critical forest habitat. The tenkile Conservation Alliance, led by Australians Jim and Jean Thomas, works to provide alternative sources of protein and raise environmental awareness among local communities.
Lessons from the crisis in Madagascar, an interview with Erik Patel
(08/11/2009) On March 17th of this year the President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, resigned his post. This made way for Andry Rajoelina, mayor of Madagascar’s capital, to install himself as president with help from the military. The unrest and confusion that usually accompanies such a coup brought disaster on many of Madagascar's biological treasures. Within days of Ravalomanana's resignation, armed gangs, allegedly funded by Chinese traders, entered two of Madagascar’s world-renowned national parks, Marojejy and Masoala parks, and began to log rosewood, ebonies, and other valuable hardwoods. The pillaging lasted months but the situation began to calm down over the summer. Now that the crisis in Madagascar has abated—at least for the time being—it’s time to take stock. In order to do so, Mongabay spoke to Erik Patel, an expert on the Critically Endangered Silky Sifaka and frequent visitor to Madagascar, to find out what the damage looks like firsthand and to see what lessons might be learned.
Controlling the Ranching Boom That Threatens the Amazon [for Yale e360]
(08/10/2009) Environmental groups have warned for years that cattle production is gobbling up huge chunks of the world's largest rainforest, but their campaigns have had no discernible impact on deforestation. But in catering to conglomerates serving an international market — part of a broader trend over the past 20 years in which industrial corporations have replaced poor farmers as the primary agents of deforestation — producers have left themselves exposed to consumer backlash. It's tough for an environmental group to target a subsistence farmer who's clearing land to feed his family; it's much easier to go after a multinational enterprise. So ironically, in its strength, the multibillion-dollar Brazilian cattle industry developed an Achilles' heel. In June, Greenpeace leveraged this vulnerability. The green group issued "Slaughtering the Amazon," a report linking prominent global corporations — including Wal-Mart, Nike, and the French-based Carrefour grocery store chain — to cattle operations that are illegally clearing the Amazon rainforest. The fallout was immediate and substantial, and now a number of important players are moving to build on the report's momentum by enlisting retailing giants to purchase Amazon beef and leather derived from more sustainable sources.
Tropical Conservation Science - August 2009
(08/10/2009) The latest issue of mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science is now online. This edition includes papers on coffee farmers' understanding of the role wildlife plays in protecting crops the role of golden lion tamarins in seed dispersal in Brazil's Mata Atlantica, misplaced priorities in global bird conservation, species distribution modeling for biodiversity in the tropics, poaching of endangered soft-shell turtles in South India, and Earthworm biodiversity in Vietnam. Now in its second year, Tropical Conservation Science is an academic journal that aims to provide opportunities for scientists in — developed and developing countries — to publish their research in their native languages.
Weeks after bloodshed, American oil moves into Peruvian Amazon, putting rainforest, possible archeological site at risk
(08/03/2009) Barely six weeks after a dozen Amazon natives were gunned down by the Peruvian Army in the oil town of Bagua for protesting the cozy relationship between Big Oil and the government of President Alan Garcia, I find myself on the banks of the Mother of God River in Salvacion, Peru, wondering if all those folks died in vain. Any day now, the bulldozers will be moving in as Texas-based Hunt Oil Company – with the full go-ahead of the Peruvian government -- fires its first salvo in its assault against the million-acre pristine rainforest wilderness of the little-known and largely unexplored Amarakaeri Communal Reserve.
Summer sea ice likely to disappear in the Arctic by 2015
(08/31/2009) If current melting trends continue, the Arctic Ocean is likely to be free of summer sea ice by 2015, according to research presented at a conference organized by the National Space Institute at Technical University of Denmark, the Danish Meteorological Institute and the Greenland Climate Center.
Air pollution in China reduces rainfall
(08/31/2009) Air pollution in eastern China over the past half century has reduced rainfall and exacerbated the risk of drought and crop failures, reports a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Greenhouse gas emissions drop in the EU for the fourth year in a row
(08/31/2009) In 2008 greenhouse gas emissions in the EU fell 1.3 percent, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said today. This figure measures only the emissions in the 15 EU countries that have commitments to reduce emissions, however when all 27 members of the EU are included, greenhouse gas emissions actually fell further: 1.5 percent.
Mongabay's Hindi site relaunches
(08/31/2009) Mongabay's Hindi site for children has relaunched thanks to Kaurwakki Gautam. The site for children is available in more than two dozen languages.
Destructive farming practices of early civilization may have altered climate long before industrial era
(08/31/2009) William Ruddiman has become well known for his theory that human-induced climate change started long before the Industrial Age. In 2003 he first brought forth the theory that the Neolithic Revolution-when some humans turned from hunter-gathering to large-scale farming-caused a shift in the global climate 7,000 years ago.
Amid price cuts, companies struggle to make bottled-water profitable
(08/31/2009) Bottled-water makers have cut prices to win back consumers who have switched to tap water as a way to save money and reduce waste, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Photos: snow leopard in Afghanistan
(08/31/2009) Using camera traps, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has captured the elusive and rare snow leopard on film in Afghanistan for a second time. The feline was caught on film in the Sast Valley in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor. The snow leopard is currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN. The cat is also listed as protected under Afghanistan's new endangered species list, which outlaws hunting it. The IUCN estimates that only 100-200 snow leopards still survive in Afghanistan.
Oil spill off Australia potential 'disaster' for marine wildlife
(08/30/2009) Oil is leaking from an offshore drilling rig in the Timor Sea near Australia's Northwest coast. Authorities say it will be weeks before the leak is plugged: they are awaiting the arrival of a drilling rig from Singapore to plug the leak.
New Amazonian reserve saves over a million acres in Peru
(08/30/2009) On August 27th Peru's Ministry of the Environment approved the creation of the Matses National Reserve to protect the region's biodiversity, ensure its natural resources, and preserve the home of the Matses indigenous peoples (known as the Mayorunas in Brazil). The park is 1,039,390 acres (or 420,626 hectares) of lowland Amazonian rainforest in eastern Peru. The park is the culmination of over a decade of work by the local non-profit CEDIA (the Center for the Development of the Indigenous Amazonians) funded in part by the Worldland Trust.
World's rarest duck falls closer to extinction's edge
(08/27/2009) The Madagascar pochard, the world's rarest duck, was already thought to be extinct once. After a last sighting in 1991 the species was thought to have vanished until nine adults and four hatchlings were discovered in 2006. However, conservationists have begun to fear that the species will never recover after a survey this year found only six females.
Retailers Costco and Amazon.com flunk sustainable paper use, WalMart and Target fare little better
(08/27/2009) Every year forests are destroyed for the production of paper: habitat is lost, greenhouse gases are released, species are impacted, and fresh water sources damaged. Some companies have begun to move towards more sustainable paper production, seeking paper sources stamped by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and increasing the use of recycled paper, however other companies in the industry have yet to change their way. The 3rd annual report card conducted by Dogwood Alliance and Forest Ethics focuses both on the companies who continue to make progress toward sustainable paper production—and those who don't.
Cost of climate change adaptation to be 2-3 times higher than current estimates
(08/27/2009) The cost of adapting to climate change will be significantly higher than estimated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) warns a new report published by the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.
The Pope: "creation is under threat"
(08/26/2009) Pope Benedict XVI spoke today on environmental issues, singling out the importance of a September U.N. summit in New York to work on negotiations for an international framework to tackle climate change, preparing for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December.
Snails learn from fear
(08/26/2009) We all know that frightening experiences give us powerful memories. Now, researchers at the University of Calgary have demonstrated that an invertebrate is also capable of learning from fear. They published their findings in The Journal of Experimental Biology earlier this month.
Trees sprout across farmland worldwide
(08/26/2009) Half the planet's farmed landscapes have significant tree cover, reports a new satellite-based study. The research, conducted by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research's World Agroforestry Centre found that tree cover exceeds 10 percent on more than 1 billion hectares of farmland, indicating that agroforestry is a "vital part" of worldwide agricultural production. 320 million hectares of forested agricultural land are found in Latin America, 190 million hectares in sub-Saharan Africa and 130 million hectares in Southeast Asia.
Start your engines with watermelon juice
(08/25/2009) Rejected watermelons that are currently plowed back into the field due to blemishes or misshapenness—and therefore deemed unsalable—could be used to drive your car. Results published in the open access journal Biotechnology for Biofuels show that the juice from these culled watermelons can either be efficiently turned into ethanol or used as a diluent for other biofuel crops.
World's largest bat threatened with extinction due to legal hunting
(08/25/2009) Under the current legal hunting rate scientists predict that the world's largest bat, the aptly-named large flying fox or Pteropus vampyrus, faces extinction in six to 81 years. Increasing the urgency to save the large flying fox is the vital role it plays as an ecosystem engineer (a species whose behavior can shape an ecosystem); the species sustains Southeast Asian forests by dispersing a wide variety of seeds over distances farther than most birds and other mammals.
Tiger brutally killed in zoo, body parts taken to sell for Chinese medicines
(08/25/2009) Poachers broke into the Jambi Zoo on Saturday morning in Indonesia. Using meat they drugged a female Sumatran tiger named Sheila and then skinned her in the cage. They left behind very little of the great cat: just her intestines and a few ribs. Authorities suspect that the tiger's body parts will be sold in the thriving black market for Chinese medicines where bones are used as pain killers and aphrodisiacs.
Unique acacia tree could play vital role in turning around Africa's food crisis
(08/24/2009) Scientists have discovered that an acacia tree, long used by farmers in parts of Africa, could dramatically raise food yields in Africa. The acacia tree Faidherbia albida, also known as Mgunga in Swahili, possesses the unique ability to provide much-needed nitrogen to soil.
20,000 orangutans killed or poached in 10 years without a single prosecution
(08/24/2009) At least 20,000 orangutans have been killed or captured for the illegal pet trade in the past ten years in Indonesia without a single prosecution, according to a report published by Nature Alert and the Centre for Orangutan Protection, groups that campaign on behalf of orangutans.
Conservation group calls on birders to look for extinct species
(08/24/2009) The conservation group, Birdlife International, has called on birders around the world to keep an eye out for birds classified—some centuries ago—as extinct.
A new effort to save global biodiversity? Just ask E.O. Wilson
(08/24/2009) In a short interview with New Scientist, world renowned entomologist, conservationist, and author, E.O. Wilson speaks about his latest idea to save the world’s biodiversity.
Environmental disappointments under Obama
(08/24/2009) While the President has been bogged down for the last couple months in an increasingly histrionic health-care debate—which has devolved so far into ridiculousness that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry—environmental decisions, mostly from the President’s appointees have still been coming fast and furious. However, while the administration started out pouring sunshine on the environment (after years of obfuscated drudgery under the Bush administration), they soon began to move away from truly progressive decisions on the environment and into the recognizable territory of playing it safe—and sometimes even stupid.
Militarization of scientific research could spawn deadlier weapons
(08/24/2009) The prestigious international science journal Nature recently exposed the issue of the militarization of scientific research. While research into chemical and biological compounds and weapons has been supported by many governments for decades, advances in modern technology could lead to weapons with much greater potential for harm.
Little hydroelectric dams become all the rage, but do they harm the environment?
(08/23/2009) Looking for a way to create energy that doesn’t contribute to climate change and avoid the usual opposition that comes with building large hydroelectric dams, many energy companies are now pursuing constructing small hydroelectric dams in the wilderness, reports the Wall Street Journal.
New Zealand dairy industry contributing to rainforest destruction, says Greenpeace
(08/22/2009) Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter is contributing to destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia through its consumption of palm kernal as animal feed, alleges Greenpeace.
Interview with John Carter
(08/22/2009) The New York Times featured a story about efforts to persuade farmers in Mato Grosso, a state in the Brazilian Amazon, to conserve forests. Two people who figure prominently in the article are regularly covered on mongabay.com: John Cain Carter, a rancher developing a certification standard for beef in the Amazon, and Dan Nepstad, a researcher at the Woods Hole Research Institute and the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia.
Destruction worsens in Madagascar
(08/20/2009) Armed bands are decimating rainforest reserves in northeastern Madagascar, killing lemurs and intimidating conservation workers, despite widespread condemnation by international environmental groups.
Lion population in Kenya could disappear in 10 to 20 years
(08/20/2009) The Kenyan Wildlife Service recently announced that massive declines in lion population may lead to their disappearance from the region within less than 2 decades. Kenya currently has an estimated 2000 lions, but is losing the large cats at a rate of around 100 each year.
Hardly indestructible, plastics begin decomposing in ocean within a year, spreading harmful chemicals
(08/20/2009) Scientists had assumed that plastics were basically indestructible. While floating plastic in the ocean was dangerous to particular species of marine life which consumed them or got snared by them, the scientists thought that the threat didn’t extend beyond this. However, a new study shows that plastic in the ocean may be quite insidious. Researchers found that so-called indestructible plastics actually decompose in the ocean, releasing potentially toxic substances throughout the seas. Second article Plastic Vortexes Leaching Chemicals into World's Oceans
No escape from mercury for US fish
(08/20/2009) Between 1998 and 2005, the US Geological Survey conducted tests on fish from 291 rivers and streams across the United States for mercury. Not one fish had escaped mercury contamination. One-quarter of the fish tested contained levels of mercury higher than those deemed safe for humans, and over two-thirds of the fish tested had mercury levels that exceeding those that safe for fish-eating mammals according the Environmental Protection Agency.
Newly discovered deep sea worms throw bioluminescent 'bombs'
(08/20/2009) Researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have announced in Science the discovery of seven new species of deep sea worms, five of which drop orb-like parts of their body which cause a brilliant green display of bioluminescence. For this reason researchers have nicknamed them the ‘green bombers’. The worms are not just new species, but a clade of animals entirely unknown to science until now.
New mongabay shirts from Zazzle
(08/20/2009) Nearly 100 new shirt designs have been added to the mongabay store at Zazzle, which allows advanced customization, including a wide range of styles, colors, and materials (including value t-shirts and organics). Zazzle is offering a $3-per-shirt discount through August 23. Mongabay will be adding more shirts in the future. While mongabay prefers not to promote consumption, calendars, canvas bags, and other items are currently available at the mongabay store.
Weak forest definition may undermine REDD efforts
(08/20/2009) The weak definition of what constitutes forest under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) puts the effectiveness of a proposed mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) at risk, argue researchers writing in the journal Conservation Letters.
Brazil's 'Obama' weighs presidential bid
(08/20/2009) Marina Silva, the charismatic rubber tapper who went on to become senator and Environment Minister, is weighing a presidential bid in Brazil's 2010 election, according to multiple reports. Political observers say that while her chances are long, Silva's entrance and focus on the environment could spur interest among Brazilians disenchanted by the Workers' Party, the dominant part which has been tarnished lately by corruption scandals.
Idaho to allow 25 percent of its wolf population to be killed in one season
(08/19/2009) The state of Idaho has set a quota of 220 individuals for the wolf hunting season which begins on September 1st. If the quota a quarter of Idaho’s estimated 880 wolves will be killed.
Record global ocean temperature in July
(08/19/2009) The world's ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for July, breaking the previous record set in 1998, reports NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. At 62.56°F (16.99°C), ocean temperatures were 1.06°F (0.59°C) above the 20th century average.
50 of the world’s most endangered crocodiles released into the wild in the Philippines
(08/18/2009) The wild population of the Critically Endangered Philippine crocodile Crocodylus mindorensis has just received a very welcome boost. Fifty crocodiles have been released into Dicatian Lake, Isabela Province on Luzon Island.
Biofuel company eyes dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico for creating fish-powered fuel
(08/18/2009) 'Dead zones' in the ocean are called such for a reason. Every year agricultural run-off, especially fertilizer, floods the oceans with an abundance of nutrients leading to algae blooms, i.e. massive explosions of phytoplankton. The demise of these blooms, and the rise of bacteria feeding on them, eventually starves the entire area of oxygen creating a 'dead zone' where the vast majority marine life can't survive. Considered by most to be an environmental catastrophe, a new company is looking at dead zones in a different light: fuel and profit.
New center for studying temperate rainforests announced in Alaska
(08/18/2009) Temperate rainforests will soon have a new center in Juneau, Alaska. It is hoped that the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center (ACRC) will instigate new research and educational opportunities.
Guyana uses aggressive deforestation baseline in its plan to seek carbon payments
(08/17/2009) Guyana's deforestation projections under its proposal for seeking carbon payments for conserving its forests are raising questions, according to commentary published in Stabroek News.
China moves forward on global warming: top scientists recommend emissions peak in 2030
(08/17/2009) In a move that many have seen as a step forward for China in terms of its willingness to combat climate change, the nation’s top climatologists have released a report recommending that China begin drawing down greenhouse gas emissions after 2030. The report comes just four months before a widely anticipated global meeting to set up a new international framework to combat climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Sears catalogue continues to harm boreal forest and caribou
(08/17/2009) Sears Holding Company, most known for their ubiquitous catalogues, continues to stall on releasing a more environmental paper policy, according to the nonprofit environmental organization ForestEthics. Sears’ long delay to implement a more forest-friendly policy is adding pressure to already threatened caribou populations and deforesting forests in Canada, where the company sources much of its paper.
Oil companies in the UK are big users of palm oil biodiesel
(08/17/2009) British motorists are unwittingly big consumers of palm oil produced on rainforest lands in southeast Asia, reports The Times.
Cadbury dumps palm oil after consumer protests
(08/17/2009) Cadbury New Zealand, responding to widespread consumer protests, will stop adding palm oil to its milk chocolate products, reports the New Zealand Herald. The candy-maker substituted palm oil and other vegetable fat for cocoa butter earlier this year. The company cited cost savings for the decision, but the move triggered outcry from environmental groups who blame palm oil production for destruction of rainforests across Indonesia and Malaysia, key habitat for orangutans and other endangered species. Concerns that Cadbury chocolate could be imperiling orangutans led the Auckland Zoo and others to ban Cadbury products. Meanwhile consumers swamped the company with letters and petitions protesting its use of palm oil.
Forest fires set by Borneo dam developer contributes to haze in Malaysia, Singapore
(08/17/2009) The developer of a massive hydroelectric project in Borneo plans to set fire to thousands hectares of logged over rainforest in the dam area, contributing to polluting haze already blanketing the region and raising the risk of forest fires in adjacent areas, reports a local environmental group. The Sarawak Conservation Action Network has learned that Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, the operator of the Bakun Hydroelectric Power Dam project, is in the process of clear-cuting 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of rainforest set to be flooded by the dam. The remnants are being torched, in direct violation of Malaysia's laws against open burning.
Saving the tsingy forests in Madagascar
(08/17/2009) After the success of their Sahafina Forest project, Biodiversity Conservation Madagascar is now branching out to the tsingy forest of Beanka, a project set to launch in October this year. Biodiversity Conservation Madagascar (BCM) has been granted a 25-year lease on a 14,000-hectare area of dry hardwood forest, the Beanka tsingy, situated 75 km east of Maintirano in western Madagascar. ‘Tsingy’ are spectacular razor-sharp limestone pinnacles found on the west and north of the island, formed by acidic rain erosion. The deciduous forests that inhabit them are characterized by high plant and animal endemism. The Malagasy organization plans to apply the same principles here – protection of the forest, socio-economic development and forest restoration – that brought them success with their last project, the 2,500-hectare forest block of Sahafina on Madagascar’s east coast.
Photos reveal illegal logging near uncontacted natives in Peru
(08/17/2009) Ariel photos show proof of illegal logging for mahogany occurring in a Peruvian reserve set aside for uncontacted natives. The photos, taken by Chris Fagan from Round River Conservation Studies, show logging camps set-up inside the Murunahua Reserve, meant to protect the uncontacted indigenous group, known as the Murunahua Indians, in the Peruvian Amazon.
Primate archaeology: old science gets new members
(08/17/2009) Archaeology, the study of ancient cultures and their artifacts, has always been confined to the technology of humans and direct human ancestors. However, a new study recently published in the journal Nature examines the benefits of expanding the field of archaeology to include non-human primates.
Da Vinci’s lion comes back to life
(08/17/2009) In 1515 Leonardo Da Vinci, artist and engineer, invented a mechanical lion that was given as a gift to Francois I, then King of France. The original was lost, but a new model has been crafted in Amboise, France by Renato Boaretto.
Police face murder charges in killing of indigenous protesters in Peru
(08/16/2009) A federal prosecutor in Peru filed murder charges against two police generals and 15 other officers over the deaths of indigenous protesters at a roadblock in June, reports the Associated Press. The Indians were protesting new rules that would have made it easier for foreign developers to exploit oil and gas, timber, and minerals in Peru's Amazon rainforest. The skirmish left 23 police and at least ten protesters dead.
Borneo ablaze: forest fires threaten world’s largest remaining population of orangutans
(08/16/2009) Raging fires have broken out in the peat-swamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, threatening the largest population of orangutans in the world. The fires were started by people but have spread uncontrollably due to the extreme drought that Borneo is currently experiencing as a result of El Niño conditions.
The Tipping Point in Civilizational Collapse
(08/14/2009) Just as biological systems exhibit tipping points which once passed catalyze irreversible and often unpredictable patterns of change, so do civilizations and social structures. In past civilizational collapses, these tipping points were generally catalyzed by soil depletion, resource shortages, environmental degradation, and social upheaval.
Climate Activists Push the Limits
(08/14/2009) As major polluters and industrial countries continually postpone commitments to reduce carbon emissions, climate change activists are stepping up their efforts.
World population set to reach 7 billion in two years
(08/13/2009) Despite declining birth rates in some developed countries, the world population is still growing—and fast. A new study by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) finds that the human population will hit a new milestone of seven billion people by 2011.
Largely unexplored rainforest slated to be leveled for gold mining in Colombia
(08/13/2009) Serrania de San Luca is a rainforest-covered massif rising to 2,300 meters (7,500 feet) in northern Colombia. Despite being little-explored and containing several endangered species, the forest is threatened by industrial gold mining operations, according to the local conservation group ProAves. Already the forest has been reduced to 10 percent of its original 2.5 million acres due to agriculture, small-scale mining, and other human impacts. Now, the Colombian government has granted large concessions to AngloGold Ashanti, a gold mining company out of South Africa which has been criticized by the Human Rights Watch for allegedly aligning itself with locally armed gangs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Will hydrocarbon biofuels replace gasoline and ethanol?
(08/13/2009) In a Perspectives piece in Science, John R. Regalbuto argues that the world will soon see a revolution in biofuels, but not those made from corn. Instead Regalbuto, program director of Catalysis and Biocatalysis at the National Science Foundation, says that the future of biofuels is in substances that can be converted into hydrocarbons, such as switch grass, woody biomass, corn stover, and even algae.
Tropical plant expert Stephen P. Hubbell wins this year's Eminent Ecologist Award
(08/13/2009) Stephen P. Hubbell has won the 2009 Eminent Ecologist Award. Hubbell is a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA.
Brazilian beef giant announces moratorium on rainforest beef
(08/13/2009) Brazil's second-largest beef exporter, Bertin, announced it would establish a moratorium on buying cattle from farms involved in Amazon deforestation, reports Greenpeace. The move comes after the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) withdrew a $90 million loan to Bertin following revelations in a Greenpeace report that the company was buying beef produced on illegally deforested lands. The report, which linked some of the world's most prominent brands to rainforest destruction in the Amazon, had an immediate impact, triggering a cascade of events.
Pesticide use linked to dying frogs in California
(08/13/2009) Pesticides used by farmers in California's Central Valley could be killing frogs in the Sierra mountains, report researchers.
Greenpeace gets called out by activist group on logging agreement
(08/13/2009) A forest activist group has called out Greenpeace on its support of Kimberly-Clark's new fiber-sourcing policy.
Amazon stores 10 billion tons of carbon in 'dead wood'
(08/12/2009) Old growth forests in the Amazon store nearly 10 billion tons of carbon in dead trees and branches, a total greater than global annual emissions from fossil fuel combustion, according to scientists who have conducted the first pan-Amazon analysis of "necromass."
Boreal forests in wealthy countries being rapidly destroyed
(08/12/2009) Boreal forests in some of the world's wealthiest countries are being rapidly destroyed by human activities — including mining, logging, and purposely-set fires — report researchers writing in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
Historical deforestation in Madagascar may not be as bad as commonly believed
(08/12/2009) The long-held assumption that Madagascar has lost 90 percent of its forest cover due to fire and slash-and-burn agriculture may be overstated, argues new research published in Conservation Letters. Analyzing 6000-year pollen records in four sites, Malika Virah-Sawmy of Oxford University found evidence that vegetation in southeast Madagascar has for millennia been a mosaic of forests, woodlands and savannas, rather than continuous forests as generally believed. Virah-Sawmy says the findings demonstrate the importance of conserving Madagascar's remaining ecosystems as a buffer against climate change.
Issues around palm oil development prove complex, controversial
(08/12/2009) A new report from published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) highlights the benefits — and controversies — of large-scale expansion of oil palm agriculture in Southeast Asia. The review, titled "The impacts and opportunities of oil palm in Southeast Asia: What do we know and what do we need to know?", notes that while oil palm is a highly productive and profitable crop, there are serious concerns about its environmental and social impact when established on disputed land or in place of tropical forests and peatlands.
Northern India’s water is vanishing due to agriculture, human consumption
(08/12/2009) It’s a disaster in the making: a new study by NASA and UC Irvine has found that the groundwater beneath northern India has been vanishing at a rate of a foot per year during the last decade. In total 109 cubic kilometers (26 cubic miles) has been lost in six years time—three times the size of Lake Mead in the United States.
After a hundred years, salmon swim by the Eiffel tower again
(08/12/2009) Atlantic salmon have returned to the Seine river reports the AFP. Absent for nearly a century, the salmon have returned entirely of their own volition: no reintroduction efforts were undertaken.
India surpasses Japan in CO2 emissions
(08/12/2009) India accounts for about five percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, roughly a quarter of the emissions of China and the United States, according to an Indian government study reported by Reuters.
Incinerators in China put health of Americans at risk
(08/12/2009) Toxic pollutants from China's trash incinerators are spreading far and wide, putting the health of Chinese citizens in China and Americans in the United States at risk, reports the New York Times.
Loss of Great Barrier Reef due to global warming would cost Australia $37.7 billion
(08/12/2009) A recent study reports that the loss of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef due to climate change poses a catastrophe not just for marine life, but would cost $37.7 billion during the next century.
Climate change will challenge US military
(08/11/2009) US military intelligence analysts claim that climate change will present significant strategic issues around the world. The increased occurrences and severity of storms, droughts, resource shortages, and the spread of disease are all linked to climate change.
New carnivorous plant big enough to swallow a rat
(08/11/2009) A newly discovered carnivorous plant in the central Philippines is large enough to catch a rat, according to a story by the BBC. Nepenthes attenboroughii, named after naturalist and broadcast David Attenborough, is a member of the pitcher plant family, so-called because it is shaped like a large pitcher. The plant preys on insects and animals that fall into its gaping maw.
LUSH cosmetics launches campaign against palm oil
(08/10/2009) LUSH Cosmetics, a leading cosmetics-maker, will no longer use palm oil due to environmental concerns over its production. LUSH, which is now selling a palm oil-free soap, has launched a two-pronged campaign to make consumers aware of the impacts of palm cultivation on tropical forests and encourage other consumer-products companies, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Nestle, to reformulate their products using alternatives to palm oil.
Greenpeace drops boulders in Swedish waters to protect marine life from bottom trawling
(08/10/2009) Activists with Greenpeace have begun placing massive granite rocks in Swedish waters to prevent fishing boats from bottom trawling in sensitive areas.
Photos: hundreds of new species discovered in Himalayan region
(08/10/2009) Scientists from a variety of organizations have found over 350 new species in the Eastern Himalayas, including a flying frog, the world’s smallest deer, and a gecko which has walked the earth for 100-million-years, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The report, entitled Where World’s Collide, warns that these rare biological treasures, as well as numerous other species, are threatened in the Eastern Himalayas by climate change.
Brazil's environment minister Minc to step down
(08/11/2009) Brazil's environment minister Carlos Minc will step down in March to run for deputy in the Rio de Janeiro state legislature in general elections next October, reports Reuters.
Air quality worsens in Malaysia due to forest fires
(08/10/2009) Air quality in Malaysian Borneo is worsening as large numbers of fires rage near the Sarawak-Brunei border, reports the Star newspaper.
Gorillas orphaned by bushmeat trade set free on island
(08/10/2009) The Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project has set free six young gorillas on an island outside of Loango National Park in Gabon. The release marks a new stage in the rehabilitation of the gorillas. The six western lowland gorillas, ranging from two to seven years of age, were orphaned when their respective parents were killed for bushmeat. The island provides a refuge from poachers and other predators where the gorillas are able to acclimate to the wild in safety.
Ban Ki-Moon: climate change 'greatest collective challenge we face'
(08/10/2009) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke on Monday of the challenges facing the world and singled out climate change as the greatest.
Farmers have poor understanding of role of wildlife in protecting crops
(08/10/2009) Environmental conservation depends, to a large degree, on public acceptance. Understanding people's opinions on ecosystems and wildlife can be very helpful in designing programs that aim to benefit both the environment and society. A new study, published in Tropical Conservation Science, interviewed organic shade-coffee farmers in Cuetzalan, Mexico, to understand how they perceive the wild animals that live in their fields, as well as their knowledge of the ecological roles these species play in maintaining ecosystem services.
Golden lion tamarins play key role in seed dispersal in Brazil's Mata Atlantica
(08/10/2009) Golden lion tamarins play an important role in seed dispersal in Brazil's Mata Atlantica, report researchers writing in the the journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Priorities in global bird conservation 'misplaced'
(08/10/2009) Bird conservation is misplacing its priorities by focusing on non-threatened bird species in developed countries, rather than threatened species from tropical nations, report researchers writing in Tropical Conservation Science.
Better species distribution modeling needed for the tropics
(08/10/2009) In order to conserve the world's biodiversity we need to know where species are found. We also need to predict where they might be found if the climate changes or human activity alters habitats. One way of gaining such knowledge is through field studies. Such work on the ground produces lists of species and adds to museum collections. However many tropical areas have not yet been visited by scientists. Even the most detailed studies from the best known areas of the tropics are far from exhaustive. This means that accurate distribution maps are not available for many tropical species. In order to address the problem increasingly sophisticated computer models have been designed that aim to predict where species might occur based on current knowledge. These models can often add a great deal of value to the limited information available. However, models are only as good as the data from which they are built.
Despite legal protection, Indian turtles are poached for restaurant trade
(08/10/2009) Despite being accorded the highest level of protection under Indian law, soft shell turtles are regularly trafficked in Kerala for the restaurant trade, report researchers writing in in the journal Tropical Conservation Science.
New website consolidates national red lists for endangered species
(08/09/2009) The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has brought together national red lists from around the world for the first time in one location. From the cliff tiger beetle in the United Kingdom (classified as ‘rare') to the Asian elephant in Sir Lanka (considered ‘vulnerable') the website (www.nationalredlists.org) brings together data on over 50,000 species from 40 countries.
Peru to proceed with oil and gas auctions in the Amazon despite indigenous protests
(08/07/2009) Despite violent protests by indigenous groups over plans to expand oil and gas exploration in the Peru's Amazon rainforest, energy investments in the South American country are expected to increase to $1.5 billion in both 2009 and 2010, reports Reuters.
Limit palm oil development to lands that store less than 40 tons of carbon/ha - study
(08/06/2009) A new study finds oil palm plantations store less carbon than previously believed, suggesting that palm oil produced through the conversion of tropical forests carries a substantial carbon debt.
Kimberly-Clark announces greener wood fiber sourcing, sparking debate between environmentalists
(08/06/2009) Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the maker of Kleenex, Scott and Cottonelle brands, has announced stronger fiber sourcing standards that will reduce the company's impact on forests worldwide. The move comes in response to a long campaign by Greenpeace, an environmental group that is now advising Kimberly-Clark on its forest policy.
Rainforest site for kids now in Malagasy
(08/05/2009) The rainforest site for children is now available in Malagasy, the language of Madagascar, thanks to Benja Ramanandoria. The kids site can be seen in 30 languages.
Amazon deforestation falls in June
(08/05/2009) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon during June dropped at least 4.4 percent to the year earlier period, keeping Brazil on pace for the lowest forest loss since annual record-keeping began in 1988.
Millenium Project's “State of the Future” Report Cites 21st Century Threats
(08/05/2009) The United Nations Millenium Project has recently published its 2009 “State of the Future” report. The publication states that 50% of the global population is at risk of social conflict and violence due to unemployment from the recent recession, as well as pervasive threats such as lack of water, food, and energy resources. The report also cites the cumulative effects of climate change and poor environmental and economic conditions as contributing, problematic issues.
Imbalance in Earth's Biogeochemical Cycles
(08/05/2009) Scientists are currently meeting at the 94th annual Ecological Society of America (ESA) symposium in New Mexico to discuss, among other topics, the massive upset of the natural biogeochemical cycles of the Earth System.
Chinese factory closes following cadmium pollution protest
(08/05/2009) The Xianghe Chemical Factory in China was closed after protests from local residents in the central Human Province. The plant had recently been the target of several widely-covered “mass-incidents” of violent protest. Nearly 1,000 protestors called for immediate closure of the plant last week.
Did malaria come from chimps?
(08/03/2009) Malaria may have jumped from chimpanzees to humans much like AIDS did, report researchers writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Madagascar issues fines for timber stolen from national parks during political crisis
(08/03/2009) Authorities in Madagascar have blocked shipment of 176 containers of rosewood and other valuable timber from Vohémar port, pending payment of 72 million Malagasy ariary ($37,500) in fines reports Noro Niaina of Les Nouvelles. The wood was illegally harvested from Marojejy and Masoala National Parks during the chaos that followed a March military coup on the Indian Ocean island nation.
Peru to raise payment to indigenous communities for Amazon forest conservation
(08/03/2009) Peru's environment minister now says the government will pay indigenous communities 10 sols ($3.30) for every hectare of rainforest they help to preserve, reports the Latin American Herald. Previously Antonio Brack said that communities would see about half that amount. The $3.30-per-hectare figure is low by international standards. Under a proposed mechanism that compensates countries for reducing deforestation (REDD), forest land could be worth $800 or more per hectare for its carbon (225 tons of carbon/ha), depending on its level of threat. Forests in areas of high deforestation would be compensated at a higher rate than inaccessible forests at low-risk of development. But Brack left open the possibility that communities could receive higher payment if parties agree to include REDD compensation in a future climate framework.
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