|As nesting season begins, Sri Lanka’s olive ridley turtles face myriad threats|
- With the main nesting season for olive ridley sea turtles getting underway, the species faces a range of threats in the waters and beaches of Sri Lanka.
- The country’s navy recently rescued 32 turtles trapped in shrimp fishing nets in the island’s north.
- Marine turtles in Sri Lankan waters often end up entangled in nets, posing a serious threat to their survival.
- Sea turtles worldwide are seriously affected by the fisheries industry, with millions killed every year.
|World is fast losing its cool: Polar regions in deep trouble, say scientists|
- As representatives of the world’s nations gather in Madrid at COP 25 this week to discuss global warming policy, a comprehensive new report shows how climate change is disproportionately affecting the Arctic and Antarctic — the Arctic especially is warming tremendously faster than the rest of the world.
- If the planet sees a rise in average temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius, the polar regions will be the hardest hit ecosystems on earth, according to researchers, bringing drastic changes to the region. By the time the lower latitudes hit that mark, it’s projected the Arctic will see temperature increases of 4 degrees Celsius.
- In fact, polar regions are already seeing quickening sea ice melt, permafrost thaws, record wildfires, ice shelves calving, and impacts on cold-adapted species — ranging from Arctic polar bears to Antarctic penguins. What starts in cold areas doesn’t stay there: sea level rise and temperate extreme weather are both linked to polar events.
- The only way out of the trends escalating toward a climate catastrophe at the poles, say scientists, is for nations to begin aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions now and embracing sustainable green energy technologies and policies. It remains to be seen whether the negotiators at COP 25 will embrace such solutions.
|Amazon primates face barriers in responding to climate change|
- Climate change will make the current ranges of most Amazon primates uninhabitable in the coming decades, forcing them to move.
- But primates face barriers to dispersal, such as rivers and deforestation, which can limit their ability to migrate.
- If species aren’t able to find new habitats, the populations, as well as the habitat they support, will suffer.
|Extinct in the wild, a Brazilian bird makes a tentative return to the jungle|
- Three pairs of Alagoas curassows (Pauxi mitu) were reintroduced in September in a 980-hectare (2,400-acre) area of the Atlantic Forest in the Brazilian state of Alagoas, more than three decades after being declared extinct in the wild due to hunting and habitat loss.
- The feat is the culmination of a project started in 1979, when a businessman rescued five of the remaining individuals of the species from a forest area that was about to be cleared.
- Kept in captivity, these birds and their offspring went on to spawn the nearly 100 Alagoas curassows that exist in Brazil today.
- The six birds released in the wild will be monitored with GPS tags to see how well they adapt to finding food and shelter, breeding, and evading predators in the wild; if they succeed, the plan is to introduce three more pairs a year into the wild until 2024.
|Moon and Earth’s magnetic field guide European eels on their epic migration|
- European eels use an electromagnetic “sixth sense” to navigate during their long migration, two new studies propose.
- The electrical “shadow” of a new moon may help eels cross the continental shelf of Europe to shore. Then, in the brackish waters of an estuary, young eels can imprint on the unique magnetic signature to navigate upstream.
- Piecing together the eels’ directional cues could help fisheries managers create more effective conservation plans for this critically endangered species.
|Heat stress is causing desert bird populations to collapse|
- Sites in the Mojave Desert in the western U.S. surveyed by ecologists a century ago have lost an average of 43 percent of their breeding bird species.
- New research suggests higher temperatures have increased the daily water needs of birds, which could decimate their populations if climate change worsens.
- The most vulnerable birds are larger, carnivorous species such as turkey vultures and prairie falcons that get most of their water from prey.
|Lift-off for first African vulture safe zones|
- Africa’s vulture populations face the prospect of collapsing in much the same way as vulture species in Asia, experts warn, having already declined by an average 62 percent over the past three decades.
- Key threats include poisoning by ranchers and poachers and for belief-based use, as well as accidental drowning in farm water reservoirs and ingestion of lead ammunition.
- To address the threats, managers of conservation areas and private game reserves in South Africa have agreed to create “vulture safe zones” that will do away with these practices to provide safe havens for existing vulture populations.
- Conservationists say it’s also important for managers in South Africa to work with their counterparts in neighboring countries that are part of the vultures’ range, and to tackle the trade in vulture parts used in traditional medicine practices.
|Nearly extinct vaquita mothers with calves spotted in recent expeditions|
- The latest expeditions in the Gulf of California, Mexico, to survey the vaquita, the world’s smallest cetacean, have yielded sightings of both vaquita mothers and calves. This, researchers say, indicates that the mammals are still reproducing despite threats.
- In a survey carried out between August and September, researchers spotted what they say were likely six distinct individual vaquitas.
- During a subsequent expedition in October, researchers say they spotted vaquitas several times, including six different vaquitas in two groups, and three pairs of mothers and calves.
- This news is hopeful, but the mammal’s future is still perilous due to the continued use of illegal fishing nets in its habitat, experts say.
|In Indonesia, a project meant to boost livelihoods has left locals behind|
- In Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province, work is underway to develop a special economic zone (SEZ) that will connect this remote region to the global economy.
- Plans for the SEZ include a highway linking the port of Bitung to the provincial capital, Manado; a seaport expansion to rival Jakarta’s; an industrial zone; and an airport.
- The development risks fragmenting the habitat of endangered and endemic species like the black macaque. Hundreds of families have also been relocated without compensation to make way for the project.
|Audio: How listening to individual gibbons can benefit conservation|
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we speak with Dena Clink, a scientist studying individuality and variation within Bornean gibbon calls. She’s here to play us some of the recordings of gibbons that she’s made in the course of her research.
- We’ve heard a wide variety of bioacoustic recordings here on the Mongabay Newscast, but they’re usually used to study wildlife at the population level, or even to study whole ecosystems. It turns out that studying how calls vary from gibbon to gibbon can not only help us learn about their behaviors but also to better protect them in the wild.
- On today’s episode, Dena Clink, a post-doctoral researcher with the Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, tells us why it’s important to study the calls of individual gibbons, how she’s going about studying individuality and variation in gibbon calls, and how that can help inform conservation strategies for the primates.
|Guyana refutes findings that deforestation skyrocketed after REDD+ payments stopped|
- The South American country of Guyana is one of a handful of high-forest/low-deforestation countries, with around 85 percent of its biodiverse rainforest still intact.
- In 2010, Guyana entered into a partnership with Norway, which agreed to pay the heavily forested country $250 million if it kept deforestation low for five years. The project was part of a scheme called “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” (REDD+), which aims to curtail global warming by channeling funds from wealthy countries to tropical forest countries in exchange for lowering their deforestation rates.
- Guyana’s REDD+ project has been lauded as a success, with rates of forest loss between 2011 and 2015 registering below a 2010 benchmark. However, a new study analyzed satellite data between 2000 and 2017, finding tree cover loss more than doubled after Norway’s payments ended in 2015. The study’s authors say their findings point to a need for continuous forest protection payments.
- But Guyana’s government says the country’s higher levels of tree cover loss in 2016 and 2017 revealed in the study were likely due to tree death from El Nino climate events and not active deforestation. When the Guyana Forestry Commission conducted its own analysis using another, higher-resolution satellite dataset, it found instead that deforestation remained low in 2016 and 2017. Both datasets agree that deforestation stayed low in 2018.
|Why you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)|
- The extinction crisis we are witnessing is only the beginning of a wave of mass ecocide of non-human life on Earth, a process that could wipe out a million species of plants and ani-mals from our planet in the short term (read: decades). About 15 thousand scientific studies (!) support this terrifying conclusion, as it can be read in the assessment report produced by the independent UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosy-stem Services (IPBES).
- Certainly this is not what I dreamed of as a child in love with nature and wildlife. But how could I have ever imagined back then, in the 1970s, that during my first 50 years of life the global human population would literally double? That the global economy would increase four-fold, and that in parallel — and not by coincidence — wildlife populations would drop by a staggering 60 percent globally? How could I have ever imagined back then that I would personally witness and document, as a field conservationist, actual extinctions on the ground?
- In order to create a critical mass of awareness globally, there is still an important question to answer: Why should we care to conserve what is left of wild ecosystems and species of our planet? This is a question we should be ready to answer clearly, especially considering that most of the world population currently lives in urban centers, remains quite unaware of eco-logical matters, and is disconnected from nature — and therefore can’t fully appreciate how much our survival as a species is still deeply dependent on ecosystems and nature.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
|Female gorillas recognize and respond to contagious disease|
- An infectious skin disease causing bright red facial lesions affects how female gorillas decide to change social groups, researchers have shown.
- Decade-long observations of nearly 600 gorillas in the Republic of the Congo revealed females are more likely to leave groups with severely diseased females or an infected silverback male.
- By reducing contact with sick individuals, females can decrease the risk of being contaminated and prevent further spread of the infection in the population.
|Rapid genetic test traces spread of fungus that kills frogs, reveals new strain in Southeast Asia|
- The chytrid fungus has devastated frog populations worldwide, but some variants are especially dangerous.
- Researchers collected 222 frog skin swabs from six continents to map the global distribution of these strains.
- A new and targeted genetic screen uncovered an unknown lineage in Southeast Asia and regions where co-existing variants could combine into deadly hybrids.
- Rapid skin swabs could help scientists unravel how the fungus became so deadly in recent decades, leading to tighter laws restricting the international transport of frogs.
|Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino dies, leaving Indonesia as the final refuge|
- Iman, the last Sumatran rhino left in Malaysia, died over the weekend after a long battle with uterine tumors.
- Her death has sparked an outpouring of grief among wildlife conservationists, as it meant the species is now fully extinct in Malaysia, after being declared extinct in the wild in 2015.
- Named after a river near where she was captured in 2014 for a captive-breeding program, Iman was believed to be 25 years old when she died.
- The fate of this critically endangered species now lies with a tiny population of no more than 80 individuals in Indonesia, where captive breeding has yielded some success in recent years.
|Rare fish-eating crocodile confirmed nesting in southwest Nepal after 37 years|
- In Nepal, fewer than 100 mature adult gharials are estimated to remain, with only one population in the Narayani and Rapti Rivers of Chitwan National Park known to be breeding until recently.
- Now, researchers have recorded nesting sites and more than 100 gharial babies in yet another site, in Bardia National Park in southwest Nepal.
- The last time gharials were recorded breeding in Bardia was in 1982.
|Researchers urge sustainability as palm oil tightens its grip on Latin America|
- Hindered by deforestation restrictions in Southeast Asia, palm oil producers are looking farther afield to West and Central Africa, and Latin America, where conditions are conducive to oil palm cultivation and land is easier to come by.
- Four Latin American countries already fill out the list of the world’s top 10 palm oil producers, with Colombia coming in at number four, and Ecuador, Brazil and Honduras placing seventh, ninth and tenth, respectively. Mexico may soon join the list, with a plan to cultivate an additional 100,000 hectares of the crop in the coming years.
- While these countries have vast areas of land that have previously been deforested for agriculture and are suitable for growing oil palm, plantation expansion is still coming at the expense of rainforest. Researchers and the residents of areas that have been turned into plantations also allege human rights violations at the hands of palm oil producers.
- Researchers and conservationists call for tighter regulation of the industry and more study of how oil palm production may impact the surrounding environment.
|In Indonesian waters, filter feeders can ingest dozens to hundreds of microplastic particles every hour|
- Researchers looked at plastic pollution in three coastal feeding grounds in Indonesia that are frequented by manta rays (Mobula alfredi) and whale sharks (Rhincodon typus): Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area, Komodo National Park, and Pantai Bentar, East Java.
- After estimating the amount of microplastic particles that are present in the waters of their three study areas, the researchers were then able to determine how much of that plastic might find its way into the digestive tracts of reef manta rays and whale sharks.
- They found that reef manta rays may eat up to 63 pieces of plastic per hour when feeding in Nusa Penida and Komodo National Park, while whale sharks could be consuming up to 137 pieces per hour during seasonal aggregations in Java.
|China’s wénwan drives a deadly mix-and-match of endangered wildlife|
- A wide range of illegal wildlife products, from tiger claws to hornbill casques, are used to make baubles known as wénwan that are prized as status symbols among China’s burgeoning middle class.
- Domestic bans on the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn have not slowed the growing and underregulated online market for wénwan products, with traders increasingly targeting other species to meet demand for exotic materials.
- Without understanding the dynamics of the wénwan trade, including the cultural aspect, government and NGO efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade risk remaining ineffective.
|Rabbit-sized, deer-like species of fanged ungulate rediscovered in Vietnam|
- The silver-backed chevrotain is about the size of a rabbit and was first described to science in 1910 based on four specimens. A joint Vietnamese-Russian expedition to central Vietnam undertaken in 1990 collected a fifth specimen, which had been killed by a hunter. That was the last any scientist saw of the species.
- However, local villagers and government forest rangers reported seeing a gray chevrotain in the vicinity of Nha Trang, a city in southern Vietnam. The gray coloring was the key, because that’s what distinguishes the silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor), also known as the Vietnamese mouse-deer, from the far more common lesser chevrotain (T. kanchil).
- Based on those survey results, a team of researchers set up three camera traps in the most promising locations and ended up recording the first evidence that a species not seen in nearly 30 years is still very much in existence.
|Conserving wildlife is key to tropical forests’ carbon storage, study finds|
- A new study shows that a decrease in the fruit-eating animals that disperse tree seeds leads to a reduction in carbon storage in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
- The complete defaunation, or loss of these species, from a forest can result in the area’s carbon storage capacity dropping by up to 3 percent.
- It was previously believed that the carbon deficit from defaunation in Southeast Asia’s tropical forests wouldn’t be as significant as in the Amazon or the Congo Basin, but the study suggests otherwise.
- Wildlife is being hammered in the region by overhunting and a massive snaring crisis for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the illegal pet trade, and conservationists have called for more action and enforcement to combat poaching.
|Feral horses gallop to the rescue of butterflies in distress|
- A new study suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Czech Republic could increase populations of some threatened butterfly species.
- The research shows that the horses’ grazing creates and maintains short grasslands that some butterfly species thrive in.
- The research points to the importance of considering the impacts of species introductions on the restoration of natural ecosystems.
|‘Timebomb’: Fires devastate tiger and elephant habitat in Sumatra|
- Another heavy fire season in Indonesia has taken a toll on the country’s remaining forest. In Sembilang National Park, on the island of Sumatra, fires raged into primary forest that provides vital habitat for critically endangered Sumatran tigers and elephants.
- Satellite data and imagery indicate the fires may have had a big impact on tigers in the park. In total, around 30 percent of tiger habitat in Sembilang burned between August and September. The fires also encroached into the park’s elephant habitat.
- Fires have also reportedly ravaged elephant habitat in Padang Sugihan Sebokor Wildlife Reserve, which lies southeast of Sembilang and serves as a corridor for wild elephants in South Sumatra. One report estimates that half of the reserve has suffered fire damage.
- Researchers say slash-and-burn clearing techniques likely started most of fires in the area, which were then exacerbated by drier-than-usual conditions and underground peat stores left unprotected by policy rollbacks.s
|Last of the belugas from Russia’s ‘whale jail’ released|
- Late last year, drone footage revealed 87 belugas and 11 orcas packed in cramped, icy pens at Srednyaya Bay in Russia’s Far East.
- Following international outrage, Russian authorities began an investigation and started releasing the whales to the Sea of Okhotsk, the place the mammals had been originally captured from.
- On Nov. 10, Russian authorities announced that the last of the 50 beluga whales had been released to Uspeniya Bay, in the Primorsky Region, about 62 miles away from the holding facility. But it’s not the whales’ native habitat, conservationists say.
- Activists and conservationists have criticized the lack of transparency in the release effort and the manner in which the whales have been moved to the sea without a proper rehabilitation process in place.
|Mexico plans huge increase in palm oil production in sensitive ecosystems|
- The government seeks to plant an additional 100,000 hectares (almost 250,000 acres) in the state of Campeche, half of which is under conservation protection.
- Scientists, conservationists, and residents say existing oil palm plantations have already damaged important wildlife habitat and water sources, and worry what may come from an influx of many more.
- Local organizations have filed a complaint before the Latin American Water Tribunal, saying the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food is promoting the program to plant 100,000 hectares of oil palm, “without consideration for the researchers, academics, environmentalists, indigenous people, and communities who live in the area where they intend to impose this crop as a development alternative.”
|Mussel species that invaded Southeast Asian waters now appears in India|
- Indian marine researchers have confirmed the presence of the invasive American brackish water mussel (Mytella strigata) in the backwaters of Kochi, a port city in the southern state of Kerala in India.
- The species is native to Central and South America but in recent years has been found invading waters around Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.
- The latest study presents the first formal report of this invasive species from the Indian subcontinent and the fourth record from the Indo-Pacific, the researchers say.
- The researchers worry that the American brackish water mussel could soon outcompete the local green mussel and displace it completely, affecting livelihoods, since the green mussel fishery is a very lucrative industry along the Kochi coast.
|Audio: Damian Aspinall on why he’s calling for zoos to be phased out within the next three decades|
- On today’s episode, we speak with Damian Aspinall, chairman of the Aspinall Foundation, a UK charity that works to conserve endangered animals and return them to the wild.
- Back in June of this year we welcomed Jim Breheny onto the Mongabay Newscast. Breheny is director of the Bronx Zoo in New York City, and he told me that zoos not only preserve species for the future but support field work to protect species in the wild, as well, and for that reason are vital to wildlife conservation today.
- Aspinall does not agree that zoos are important for conservation of wild species. In fact, he argues that keeping animals in captivity in zoos is cruel, inhumane — and unnecessary. He appears on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast to discuss why he is calling for all zoos around the world to be closed down within the next 30 years, and how he says the work of preserving rare and endangered species could be better accomplished by in situ conservation interventions.
|India’s Ganga River dolphins are being shouted down by noisy boats|
- India’s Ganga River is getting noisier with increased ship traffic and dredging, and that’s stressing the river’s iconic dolphins and changing how they communicate, a new study has found.
- When fewer than five vessels moving on the river per hour, the dolphins seem to enhance their vocal activities to compensate for the high-frequency noise generated by the propellers.
- But as vessel traffic increases and water levels fall during the dry season, leading to more intense and sustained noise pollution, the dolphins don’t seem to alter their clicks much compared to baseline levels, the researchers found.
- This is likely because having to continuously emit clicks in a persistently noisy world can be physically taxing, forcing the endangered mammals to “either call at baseline levels or shut up,” according to the researchers.
|New honeyeater species described from Indonesia’s Alor Island|
- Scientists have described a new bird species found only on the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia.
- The Alor myzomela is easily distinguished from other known members of the Myzomela genus of honeyeater birds thanks to its unique call and paler upper wings.
- A growing human population on the island is already fragmenting the species’ only known habitat, prompting the researchers to recommend it be considered endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The bird’s scientific name, Myzomela prawiradilagae, is a tribute to prominent ornithologist Dewi Malia Prawiradilaga from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
|Global trafficking threat catches up to Sri Lanka’s endangered pangolins|
- Hunting for domestic meat consumption has long been the main threat to the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in Sri Lanka, but a new study identifies a growing threat from hunting for scales to feed demand from China.
- The researchers note an “established smuggling pathway” to India via fishing boat, which they say could explain why Sri Lanka isn’t highlighted as a trading or source country, as these stockpiles technically reach the global market through India.
- The new study also identifies an emerging trend of increasing pangolin rescues, but links this to the growing human presence in pangolin habitats.
- But the researchers also recorded pangolin sightings in areas and elevations they were previously not known to frequent, suggesting their ability to adapt to human and climate threats.
|Scientists rediscover mammalian oddity in remote Vietnam|
- Last seen in 1990, researchers have found a population of silver-backed chevrotains, a species of mouse-deer, surviving in Vietnam.
- This lost species is threatened by hunting, snaring and habitat destruction, and scientists don’t yet know how many survive.
- Mongabay columnist Jeremy Hance travels to Vietnam to attempt to see the animal himself and learn about its chances for a future.
|Can a national management plan halt Madagascar’s shark decline?|
- Sharks once were plentiful in Madagascar’s waters, but a spike in demand for shark fins dating to the 1980s has led to heavy exploitation and a reduction in the fishes’ abundance and size.
- Madagascar has no national laws that specifically protect sharks. In June, though, the country released a new national plan for the sustainable management of sharks and rays.
- The plan calls for a shark trade surveillance program, a crackdown on illegal industrial fishing, more “no-take” zones, and a concerted effort to collect better data.
- Conservationists welcomed the plan as an important step — provided the country can enforce its provisions.
|Emperor penguins could disappear by 2100 if nations don’t cap emissions|
- Researchers have combined a global climate model that projects where and when sea ice forms and a model of penguin populations to predict how penguin colonies would react to changing sea ice under future climate scenarios.
- The models found that under the business-as-usual scenario, where countries fail to halt climate change, emperor penguin numbers will decline by around 86 percent by 2100.
- However, if countries meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, limiting the global increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, then emperor penguin numbers would decline by about 31 percent, giving them a fighting chance at survival.
|Colombian town faces earthquakes, pollution, water shortage as industry expands|
- Residents of the town of Puerto Gaitán say their water sources are being used for the cultivation of oil palm plantations and the extraction of crude oil.
- Studies have found water quality near the town qualifies as “poor” and water reserves have dropped off for many areas, forcing residents to import water from elsewhere.
- Locals say seismic tremors induced for oil extraction have damaged houses and soil.
- Researchers say wildlife populations have been harmed by agricultural chemicals used for palm oil production and habitat loss caused by expanding plantations.
|Mischaracterizing the conservation benefits of trade (commentary)|
- The authors of a Science paper on global wildlife trade respond to an editorial published on Mongabay that criticized their methodology.
- Brett R. Scheffers of the University of Florida/IFAS; Brunno F. Oliveira of the University of Florida/IFAS and Auburn University at Montgomery; and Leuan Lamb and David P. Edwards of the University of Sheffield say their paper ‘uses a rigorously assembled database to make the first global assessment of traded species—both legal and illegal, and from national to international scales—and to identify the global hotspots of trade diversity.’
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
|Facebook and Instagram posts help locate pygmy seahorses in Taiwan|
- By contacting underwater photographers and divers and searching for photos and posts on Facebook and Instagram, researchers have confirmed the presence of five species of pygmy seahorses in Taiwan.
- This makes Taiwan one of the world’s pygmy seahorse diversity hotspots, the researchers say.
- Green Island and Orchid Island, in particular, were hotspots for pygmy seahorse diversity, the researchers found, and they hope that these discoveries will help inform conservation planning.
|New toads named from a Sumatran biodiversity trove that’s under threat|
- Researchers have recently described three new species of toads belonging to the Sigalegalephrynus genus of puppet toads living in the highlands of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.
- The genus was first proposed in 2017 with the description of two species. Researchers believe there may be even more puppet toads left to discover.
- The discovery highlights the vast diversity of Sumatra’s herpetofauna, but also the immense threats the island’s wildlife faces, primarily from loss of habitat to deforestation and agriculture.
- The researchers say all of the newly described species should be listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
|Saving the Gran Chaco: Conservationists demand protection before it’s too late|
- The Gran Chaco is South America’s second-largest forest biome, and is home to thousands of species.
- The Chaco has lost around 20 percent of its forest cover since 1985 as land is cleared for agriculture. The Argentine portion has lost 30 percent.
- In response, a project called the Argentine Gran Chaco 2030 Commitment was created to demand more be done to protect the Chaco. As of Nov. 7, 80 organizations and institutions around the world had signed on in support.
|Indonesia plans IVF for recently captured Sumatran rhino|
- In a bid to save the nearly extinct Sumatran rhino, Indonesia will attempt to harvest and fertilize an egg cell from a lone female at a captive-breeding center in Borneo.
- The sperm for the in vitro fertilization attempt will come from a male at a captive-breeding center in Sumatra; combining the Sumatran and Bornean lineages is expected to help boost the gene pool for an animal whose global population may be as low as 40.
- Conservationists anticipate obstacles, however: Pahu, the female, is quite old at about 25, and is possibly too small to be able to carry a regular-sized offspring to term.
- The planned attempt by Indonesia comes after conservationists in Malaysia tried and failed to carry out an IVF treatment there, with both the age of the female rhino and lack of access to quality sperm cited for the failure.
|‘Fantastic grandmothers’ snorkel, help uncover large sea snake population|
- A group of seven women in their 60s and 70s, who call themselves the “fantastic grandmothers,” have helped uncover a surprisingly large population of the venomous greater sea snake in the waters surrounding Nouméa, the capital of the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.
- By November 2018, the women, all Nouméa residents and expert swimmers and snorkelers, and the researchers had collectively taken nearly 300 photographs of more than 140 individual greater sea snakes — much more than researchers had long believed to occur in the area.
- The citizen science project isn’t just revealing numbers, it’s also helping uncover detailed information on the ecology of greater sea snakes, such as their breeding patterns and changes in population structure over seasons.
|There’s a new fin whale subspecies in the North Pacific|
- The northern fin whale subspecies was previously believed to include populations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans, but a recent genetic analysis of more than 150 fin whale samples from both ocean basins and the Southern Hemisphere showed that the two populations actually qualify as two separate subspecies.
- By comparing DNA from fin whales in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic, researchers determined that the populations have been genetically distinct for hundreds of thousands of years.
- Improving our understanding of fin whale taxonomy can have important implications for the conservation of the species, which is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
|Less force, more kindness as Sri Lanka tries to defuse human-elephant conflict|
- Several different methods attempted over the past 70 years to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka have proved ineffective, experts say.
- With more than 300 elephants and 70 people killed in 2018 alone, and a third of the island effectively elephant country, Sri Lanka is mired in an escalating crisis trying to balance its developmental and conservation needs.
- Conservationists have called for designing development programs that account for elephant impact assessments, and abandoning translocations and other control methods in favor of electric fencing that has proven more effective.
|New species of shrimp-like creature found in a whale shark’s mouth|
- Japanese scientists found a new-to-science species of shrimp-like creature from the gills of a female whale shark that lived in a fish preserve off the island of Okinawa.
- The newly described species is a type of amphipod, a group of shell-less crustaceans that usually feed on decaying plant and animal matter and can be found in a wide variety of environments, from freshwater to some of the deepest parts of the ocean.
- The researchers have named the amphipod Podocerus jinbe, after the Japanese word jinbe for whale sharks.
- It unlikely that the amphipods were feeding directly on the whale shark, the researchers say, and may have been inhabiting the whale shark’s mouth because it provided a good habitat with fresh seawater and food and shelter from predators.
|Finding hope in ‘extreme conservation’ (Insider)|
- A Mongabay staff writer shares an account of his trek to see mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- From a low of 250 individuals in the 1980s, the mountain gorilla subspecies now numbers more than 1,000, making it the only great ape whose population is growing.
- Those gains have come thanks to the “extreme conservation” practiced by a dedicated group of people who have worked to ensure the survival of one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
|Ayahuasca tourism an overlooked driver of trade in jaguar body parts, researchers say|
- According to research published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice earlier this month, the booming ayahuasca tourism industry may be an overlooked threat facing jaguars, a most iconic species that is listed as Nearly Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
- Through discussions with street vendors, shamans, and individuals working in the tourism industry, researchers found that jaguar canine pendants, jaguar skin bracelets, and other jaguar products are being sold to tourists under the pretense that they somehow enhance the ayahuasca experience.
- The researchers suggest that one way to effectively halt this growing illicit trade is to more formally regulate ayahuasca tourism and educate both tourists and tour operators.
|Can camera traps diagnose the severity of a mystery giraffe skin disease?|
- Giraffe skin disease, a mystery condition that inflicts crusty lesions on the world’s tallest animal, has been recorded in 13 giraffe populations in seven African countries. It is particularly widespread in Tanzania.
- Researchers used camera trap images to quantify how severe the disease was among giraffe populations in Tanzania’s Serengeti and Ruaha national parks.
- They found that most cases of the infections that the camera traps detected were “mild” or “moderate” according to a scale they devised, suggesting that the disease, although widespread, is likely not life-threatening at the moment.
- The researchers have, however, observed that giraffes with more severe infections tend to move with difficulty, which could make them more vulnerable to lion predation — a hypothesis they are now investigating with data from Ruaha National Park.
|’Rampant’ fishing continues as vaquita numbers dwindle|
- An expedition surveying the Gulf of California for the critically endangered vaquita porpoise has reported seeing more than 70 fishing boats in a protected refuge.
- Vaquita numbers have been decimated in the past decade as a result of gillnet fishing for another critically endgangered species, the totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder can fetch more than $20,000 per kilogram ($9,000 per pound) in Asian markets.
- Local fishing organizations in the region say that the government has stopped compensating them after a gillnet ban, aimed at protecting the vaquita from extinction, went into effect in 2015.
|Indigenous communities ‘robbed’ as land grabbers lay waste to Brazilian rainforest|
- Terra Indígena Ituna/Itatá in northern Brazil is home to several groups of uncontacted peoples who are dependent on the surrounding forest for survival.
- But outsiders have been increasingly moving in and clearing land for agriculture and mining. Brazilian authorities estimate that about 10 percent of the territory has been illegally invaded and destroyed this year alone, and satellite data show deforestation is still ramping up. Because of the scale of these incursions, Ituna/Itatá is now believed to be the most deforested indigenous territory in Brazil.
- While assaults on indigenous territories in Brazil have been happening for decades, activists say the sharp rise in deforestation and land-grabbing in Ituna/Itatá this year has been closely linked to the country’s controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has also launched an open attack on Funai, the government agency tasked with protecting indigenous interests in Brazil. The president signed a decree curbing Funai’s powers earlier this year, dealing a further blow to an agency already weakened by the previous government’s move to slash its funding in half.
- Ibama, Brazil’s environment agency, has responded to the assault on Ituna/Itatá with at least five operations in the area in 2018 and 2019. Yet the long-term impact appears to be limited: just weeks after the latest crackdown, activists and local sources report that land-grabbers have gone back to clearing the forest.
|10 takeaways from Indonesia’s grassroots #SaveAru success|
- The Save Aru campaign is one of Indonesia’s most successful grassroots movements in recent years.
- The people of Indonesia’s Aru Islands managed to defeat a plan to turn more than half of their archipelago into a massive sugar plantation.
- This month, The Gecko Project and Mongabay published a narrative article about the movement. Here are 10 takeaways from how they did it.
|How Laos lost its tigers|
- A new camera trap study finds that tigers vanished from Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area by 2014, their last stand in Laos.
- Leopards were killed off 10 years prior, making these big cats also extinct in Laos.
- Scientists believe it’s most likely that the last tigers and leopards of Laos succumbed to snares, which are proliferating in astounding numbers across Southeast Asian protected areas.
- The Indochinese tiger now only survives in Thailand and Myanmar, and may be on the edge of extinction.
|Holding social media companies accountable for facilitating illegal wildlife trade (commentary)|
- For traffickers engaging in some of the world’s biggest black-market trades, Facebook Inc. is the enabler. The company serves as a vehicle for thousands of traffickers who sell illegal goods using Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to market their goods, connect with and negotiate sales with buyers, and even receive payments.
- Facebook, and other social media firms, mainly rely on algorithms and artificial intelligence to moderate harmful content. But investigations by the Alliance to Counter Crime Online (ACCO) show time and again how these algorithms actually connect traffickers faster than moderators can remove them. They suggest friends and recommend groups, putting illicit actors in touch with one another, continually expanding networks of users engaging in similar illegal activities.
- When it comes to crime on social media, the enabler always walks free. It’s time for regulators to take steps to hold online platforms accountable for facilitating the illegal trafficking of wildlife.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
|New species of orange-red praying mantis mimics a wasp|
- From the Peruvian Amazon, researchers have described a new-to-science species of bright orange-red praying mantis that conspicuously mimics a wasp.
- The mantis mimics not only the bright coloration of many wasps, but also a wasp’s short, jerky movements. Such conspicuous mimicry of wasps is rare among mantises, which usually tend to resemble leaves or tree trunks, the researchers say in a new study.
- The researchers have named the praying mantis Vespamantoida wherleyi.
|As birds winter in Sri Lanka, one enthusiast makes sure their memory stays|
- As migratory birds of all shapes and shades start flocking to Sri Lanka for the northern hemisphere winter, prominent local environmental lawyer and naturalist Jagath Gunawardena prepares to once again go bird-watching and sketching.
- Sri Lanka is home to 439 bird species, 33 of them found nowhere else on Earth, including breeding residents and migratory species.
- The island offers varying microclimates and habitats that provide a temporary refuge for the roughly 200 visiting species, though over the years, declining forest cover has impacted the distribution pattern of both resident and migratory species.
- Gunawardena, who has been recognized by the state for his contributions to wildlife conservation and even had a new frog species named after him, has called for greater research and conservation efforts for some of the migratory birds that call Sri Lanka home.
|Bonobo conservation stymied by deforestation, human rights abuses|
- The bonobo is a relative of the chimpanzee, and is found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) south of the Congo River. They are endangered, with habitat loss and the bushmeat trade their primary threats. The Sankuru Nature Reserve is the DRC’s largest nature reserve that is focused on bonobo conservation. However, deforestation rates have only increased in Sankuru since it was created in 2007. Meanwhile nearby Lomami National Park is experiencing almost no deforestation.
- Researchers attribute the disparity in deforestation rates between Sankuru Nature Reserve and Lomami National Park to the lack of human settlements and clearer managerial strategy in the latter. They claim that Sankuru lacked buy-in from the local communities, and that conflicting land claims made conservation efforts more difficult to achieve.
- However, there may be a dark side to Lomami’s success. Sources claim that the military, which is tasked with protecting DRC’s national parks, have engaged in torture of people suspected of poaching. There are also reports that a community within Lomami was displaced without proper consultation or a suitable alternative location.
- Researchers say that to ensure effective engagement, indigenous forest-dwelling communities should be granted proper security of tenure over their lands, and community-managed forests should be set up and funded around the perimeter of the park.
|This toad from central Africa impersonates a deadly viper to avoid predators|
- The Congolese giant toad (Sclerophrys channingi) is the first toad found to mimic a harmful snake, in this case the highly venomous Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica), which has longer fangs and produces more venom than any other known snake species.
- A team of researchers who spent ten years in the field observing the Congolese giant toad and its mimicry behavior published their findings in the Journal of Natural History this week.
- The triangular shape of the toad’s body, its particularly smooth skin for a toad, and its patterns of colors cause the amphibian to look like the viper’s head. In other words, the two are visually similar enough that any predators looking for a meal might certainly be wise to skip right past the Congolese giant toad rather than risk a lethal bite from a Gaboon viper. But just for a little extra insurance, the Congolese giant toad goes even further than mere visual mimicry.
|New grouper species discovered in Australian fish market|
- A newly discovered species of grouper almost became someone’s dinner before it could be described to science.
- Jeff Johnson, an ichthyologist with Australia’s Queensland Museum, had been asked about the fish before, 15 years ago. Over the intervening years, he would occasionally be sent pictures of the same type of grouper, one lacking distinctive features that struck him as a potential new species, but had never found a specimen to examine.
- Johnson’s big break came in 2017 when a fisherman got in touch and sent along a photo of a grouper, also known as rockcod, that the fisherman was hoping the fish expert could identify. Johnson recognized the fish in the photo as his mystery grouper and asked for the specimens so he could study them, only to be told that the fisherman had already sent the fish to be sold at a local market. But that didn’t stop Johnson from at last getting his hands on a specimen to prove this was an entirely new species.
|For one Indonesian fisher, saving caught turtles is a moral challenge|
- Sea turtles are protected species under Indonesian law, but continue to be caught and killed for food and ornaments in many parts of the country.
- Official wildlife conservation agencies are typically underfunded, and large-scale conservation programs run by NGOs are far from effective, a conservationist says.
- But in a fishing village on the island of Sulawesi, a lone fisherman is playing his part by buying live turtles accidentally caught by other fishers and usually injured, and caring for them until they heal and can be released back into the ocean.
- Conservationists have welcomed his initiative and intent, but raised questions about his expertise, with some of the more than 20 turtles he has cared for so far dying.
|Amazon’s male white bellbird has the loudest recorded call|
- The call of the male white bellbird (Procnias albus) is the loudest bird call recorded in the world.
- The bellbird’s call can reach 125 decibels, almost as loud as a very loud rock concert, and more than 9 decibels higher than the loudest recorded call of the screaming piha (Lipaugus vociferans), which held the previous record of being the world’s loudest bird.
- The male could be producing its chainsaw-like calls to attract a potential mate, the researchers say, but why the female sits so close to the male when it screams, risking hearing damage, is unclear.
|A ‘sly’ species of leaf-tailed gecko uncovered from Madagascar|
- Scientists have described a new species of leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus fetsy, believed to be found only in Madagascar’s Ankarana Special Reserve.
- All Uroplatus species are endemic to Madagascar and are best known for their leaf-like tails and coloration that allow them to blend into the foliage.
- Though newly described, U. fetsy may already be at risk: the dry deciduous forests of the reserve are severely threatened by illegal logging, cattle grazing, fires, and artisanal mining.
- The authors of the paper describing the new species say it could warrant endangered status on the IUCN Red List because of these threats to its habitat.