Nature news stories from Mongabay

Is intensification of beef production really a solution to Amazonian deforestation? by Mike Gaworecki [06/23/2017]
- Beef production has become a major driver of tropical deforestation, responsible for as much as 65 percent of rainforest destruction caused by the global agricultural commodities trade in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a 2015 study.
- One proposed means of slowing the rate at which forests are being destroyed to create pastureland for cattle in the Amazon and other tropical regions is intensification, or the adoption of technologies and practices that allow for the production of more beef on less land.
- “Based on a historical comparison between the US, a fully intensive system, and Brazil, one moving in that direction, we suggest that cattle ranching will intensify as a result of conservation investments (reductions in capital and land subsidies) rather than intensifying in order to produce conservation results,” the researchers write in the article.

Story-telling app and website help communities improve their ‘backyards’ by Danielle Bettermann [06/23/2017]
- The TIMBY reporting platform applies the wide range of knowledge and experience of journalists, scientists, technologists, designers and security experts.
- Originally developed in Liberia to curb some of the impacts of illegal logging, the design and function of the TIMBY platform has been customized to fit the needs of the people facing conservation issues other locations.
- TIMBY has been used across the globe to address a wide array of issues, including environmental conservation in Chile, women’s health in Kenya, and information dissemination in Liberia.

Footprints in the forest: The future of the Sumatran rhino by John C. Cannon [06/23/2017]
- Fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) remain in the wild, a number many biologists say is too low to ensure the survival of the species.
- Several organizations have begun to build momentum toward a single program that pools resources and know-how in Malaysia and Indonesia, the last places in Southeast Asia where captive and wild rhinos still live.
- Advocates for intensive efforts to breed animals in captivity fear that an emphasis on the protection of the remaining wild animals may divert attention and funding away from such projects.
- They worry that if they don’t act now, the Sumatran rhino may pass a point of no return from which it cannot recover.

Warnings and protests mark Brazilian President Temer’s trip to Norway by Mike Gaworecki [06/22/2017]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from 2015 to 2016 jumped 29 percent over the previous year, the highest rate of loss recorded since 2008.
- In a letter sent to Brazilian Minister of Environment Jose Sarney Filho, Norway's Environment Minister, Vidar Helgesen, noted the "worrying upward trend" in deforestation since 2015 and warned that "Even a fairly modest further increase" in deforestation would mean that no further payments from Norway to Brazil would be forthcoming.
- A number of Norwegian environmental and rights-based organizations, including Greenpeace, Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America, and Rainforest Foundation Norway, say they are planning a protest in front of the Prime Minister's residence in Oslo on Friday.

Unexamined synergies: dam building and mining go together in the Amazon by Zoe Sullivan [06/22/2017]
- 40 large hydroelectric dams are slated for the Amazon basin over the next 20 years, feeding the massive electricity needs of an energy-hungry mining industry — digging, processing and exporting iron, aluminum, manganese and gold.
- But mining’s energy needs are rarely linked to plans for new dams or their environmental impact assessments. Amazon mining and dam building have repeatedly in the past resulted in major harmful environmental and social impacts, including displacement of indigenous and traditional communities.
- Transnational mining companies and consortiums are major beneficiaries of government largesse through subsidies, tax breaks and the energy obtained from newly commissioned Amazon dams.
- Brazilian infrastructure development in the Amazon, including dam building and mining, could — if environmental and social issues are not properly addressed — turn the Amazon into a national sacrifice zone where biological and cultural diversity are drastically diminished.

Illegal logging and hunting threaten Yasuní isolated indigenous groups by Daniela Aguilar [06/22/2017]
- A preliminary report on illegal logging in the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone reveals a complete law enforcement abandonment of the eastern part of Yasuní National Park.
- People living inside Yasuní National Park have denounced the presence of Peruvian timber and bushmeat traffickers in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
- Experts fear the constant pressures to which the isolated indigenous groups are subjected in the Intangible Zone will trigger massacres and increase the likelihood of extinction of isolated populations.
- Multiple NGOs are preparing to file official complaints against the violation of environmental and human rights by illegal logging and hunting pressures.

Dried lizard penis being sold online as rare ‘magical’ plant root by Shreya Dasgupta [06/22/2017]
- The fake Hatha Jodi are not only being sold in stores in India, but also through major online retailers like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Snapdeal and Etsy to customers around the world.
- Laboratory tests have confirmed that the Hatha Jodi being sold online as plant roots are in fact dried penises of the Bengal monitor lizard and the Yellow monitor lizard, as well as their plastic replicas.
- The Bengal and Yellow monitor lizards are listed under Appendix I of CITES, which bans their global trade.

Restoration of shattered coral reef at Raja Ampat on hold by Basten Gokkon [06/22/2017]
- Indonesia has laid out its plan for restoring the damaged reef at Raja Ampat, struck by a cruise ship earlier this year.
- The plan cannot proceed until compensation talks with small ship cruise liner Noble Caledonia's insurer have concluded.
- The privately held tour operator has pledged to cooperate with Indonesia "towards a fair and realistic settlement."
- A scientist who assessed the damage said compensation should be higher than normal because of the area's extreme marine biodiversity, some of the world's richest.

New highway brings deforestation near two Colombian national parks by Taran Volckhausen [06/21/2017]
- The Marginal de la Selva is a $1 billion dollar highway project would connect Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador without having to enter the Andes mountains.
- The unfinished section that would complete the project cuts through a natural corridor between two national parks, which both contain exceptionally high levels of biodiversity — even by Colombia’s standards.
- Forest loss in the sensitive ecological area has shot up in anticipation of the highway and as illegal armed groups promote deforestation in the region.
- Critics say institutions lack territorial control in the area and are unable to coordinate effectively to ensure environmental laws are enforced.

Five new species in world’s largest tree genus found on Sulawesi by Mike Gaworecki [06/21/2017]
- Syzygium is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs in the myrtle family that contains more than 1,500 species.
- Only 14 of those were previously known to occur on Sulawesi, the world’s eleventh-largest island, however. By comparison, Borneo, Sulawesi’s larger neighbor to the west, is home to around 200 Syzygium species.
- Due to the rate of tropical forest destruction across Indonesia, according to the researchers who discovered the new Syzygium species, three of the five newly described species on Sulawesi qualify for an endangered listing on the IUCN Red List.

Brazil evicts 80 rural peasant families, awards land thieves parcel by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [06/21/2017]
- 80 families, hopeful of being granted land in the Amazon state of Pará, have instead been ordered by a Brazilian court to vacate their camp located on the parcel in just two weeks.
- The land will then be turned over to members of the Vilela family, notorious convicted land thieves, illegal forest fellers and members of the wealthy Brazilian rural elite.
- The judge’s decision has been called into question. Eliane Moreira, Justice Prosecutor in the Pará Public Ministry, has long criticized authorities for allowing land thieves to use the environmental register to legitimize land grabs, something the judge has now endorsed.
- It will be very difficult for the peasant families to appeal the decision, as they don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer and cover other legal expenses.

Creating corridors: researchers use GPS telemetry data to map elephants’ movements by Danielle Bettermann [06/21/2017]
- Elephant corridors in the Tarangire-Manyara Ecosystem are threatened by human development, which has fragmented habitat and intensified human-elephant conflict.
- With GPS telemetry data from three bull elephants, researchers mapped the elephants’ habitat use and connectivity from 2006-2008 and compared it to data from 1960 using new analysis techniques.
- The expansion of agriculture and villages decreased corridor connectivity and disrupted elephants’ movements, according to results of a circuit theory model.

When it comes to rhino conservation, Asia and Africa can learn a lot from each other by Alex Dudley [06/21/2017]
- Despite its proximity to Asian markets for trafficked rhino horn, Nepal has lost only four rhinos to poaching since 2011.
- Experts credit this success to a combination of top-down enforcement and efforts to involve the community in conservation.
- Protected areas in Africa that have collaborated with area residents have shown promising results, suggesting lessons from Nepal can be successfully applied elsewhere.
- In turn, conservationists say Nepal can benefit from African countries' expertise in promoting wildlife tourism, and alternate models of benefit sharing.

Research suggests less affluent countries more dedicated to wildlife conservation than rich countries by Mike Gaworecki [06/20/2017]
- A team of researchers with Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and non-profit conservation organization Panthera looked at 152 countries and compiled what they call a Megafauna Conservation Index in order to evaluate each country’s contributions to the conservation of the world’s biodiversity.
- African countries Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, together with South Asian nation Bhutan, were the top five megafauna conservation performers, the researchers found.
- Norway came in at sixth, the top-ranked developed country, followed by Canada, which came in at eighth. The United States ranked nineteenth, lower than countries like Malawi and Mozambique that are among the least-developed in the world.

Religious leaders: Rainforest protection a ‘moral imperative’ by [06/20/2017]
- The three-day event, held in Oslo, Norway, includes discussions between NGOs, government agencies, universities, indigenous groups and major religions.
- The event marks the launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, which seeks to build on the moral case for rainforest protection with tangible metrics and goals.
- Indigenous and religious leaders from 21 countries attended the event, organized by the UN Development Programme, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.

Indonesian coal mining firm gets its license reinstated despite a history of violations by Taufik Wijaya [06/19/2017]
- The governor of Indonesia's South Sumatra province revoked PT Batubara Lahat's coal mining license after the company was found to owe the government more than $2 million.
- On June 8, an administrative court overturned the governor's decision.
- Nationwide, more than 2,100 mining licenses have been revoked or not been renewed following investigations into their legality, resulting in multiple lawsuits.
- Activists fear this verdict could have wider repercussions.

Photos: India’s rarest crocodile, the gharial by Julie Larsen Maher [06/19/2017]
- Indian gharials are fish-eating crocodiles.
- These reptiles are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.
- WCS recently imported eight young gharials from the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust Center for Herpetology under a conservation partnership.
- These gharials are on display at the Bronx Zoo.

Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff by Rhett A. Butler [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we've laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity's demand for food, fuel, and fiber.
- The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo's staggering losses
- Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called "the greatest writer in America".

DNA analysis reveals a third species of flying squirrel in North America by Mike Gaworecki [06/19/2017]
- Researchers described the new species in a study published in the Journal of Mammalogy in May. Glaucomys oregonensis, or Humboldt’s flying squirrel, can be found all along the Pacific Coast, from southern British Columbia all the way down to the mountains of southern California.
- It is what’s known as a “cryptic species,” because coastal populations of the squirrel had previously been classified as northern flying squirrels (G. sabrinus) due to their similar appearance.
- A genetic analysis revealed the coastal populations belong to a distinct species all their own.

Ring-tailed lemurs down by 95 percent? Maybe not. by Matthew P. Reed [06/19/2017]
- Two studies published this winter claim that Madagascar’s iconic ring-tailed lemur has suffered a 95 percent decline in its population and that only some 2,400 animals remain alive.
- A new paper published in the International Journal of Primatology claims those studies exaggerate the severity of ring-tailed lemur declines.
- It contends that the other papers have methodological problems, including misinterpretation of existing literature, incomplete sampling of lemur populations, and restricted geographic coverage.

International action a must to stop irreversible harm of Amazon dams, say experts by Claire Salisbury [06/19/2017]
- A study, published in Nature and led by Edgardo Latrubesse of the University of Texas at Austin, went beyond local impacts of individual dams to assess cumulative, basin-wide impacts that planned dams are bringing to 19 major Amazon sub-basins.
- The team developed a new metric: the Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index (DEVI) which includes assessments of basin integrity (vulnerability to land use change and erosion, etc.); fluvial dynamics (influence of sediment fluxes and flood pulses); and the extent of the river affected by dams.
- A score for each sub-basin from 0-100 was assigned, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability. The Madeira, Ucayali, Marañon and Tapajós sub-basins were found to be most threatened; all had DEVI totals higher than 60.
- The researchers say that a collective, cooperative, multi-country Amazon region assessment of dams and their cumulative impacts is urgently needed to get a handle on the true magnitude of the threat to the Amazon, as well as means to a solution.

Whale entanglements skyrocket off the U.S. West Coast by Lillie Howell [06/19/2017]
- Whale entanglements are rising, leading to concerns that current regulations are inadequate.
- The most commonly entangled whale is the humpback.
- California’s Dungeness crab fishery is responsible for a third of last year’s whale entanglements.

Wildlife ecologist killed in Rwandan national park by recently translocated rhino by Mike Gaworecki [06/16/2017]
- "It is with utmost regret that I inform you that Krisztián Gyöngyi was killed this morning by a rhinoceros in Akagera National Park in Rwanda while out tracking animals in the park,” Peter Fearnhead, CEO of the non-profit conservation organization African Parks, announced in a statement.
- According to Fearnhead, Gyöngyi was a rhino specialist who had more than five years of experience monitoring and conserving rhinos in Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park, both in Malawi.
- In a joint initiative of the Rwandan government and African Parks, which employs more than 600 rangers and manages 10 national parks and protected areas in seven countries, 18 Eastern black rhinos were airlifted from South Africa to Akagera National Park.

If Brazil okays Terra Legal changes, land grabbers win, Amazon loses, say environmentalists by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [06/16/2017]
- Provisional Measure (MP) 759, now converted into a bill called the Conversion Law Project (PLC) 12/16, would significantly alter the successful Terra Legal program, introduced originally in 2009. President Temer has until 22 June to sign the bill or veto it.
- The original program enabled peasant families to gain ownership of their small land plots. The new version introduces multiple loopholes to allow big, wealthy land owners to use the program, threatening small land owners and the environment, especially the Amazon.
- Analysts say the new law, if passed, will allow another 20 million hectares (77,200 square miles) of the Amazon biome and 40 million hectares (154,440 square miles) of the Cerrado (savanna) to be legally cleared.
- The bill ups the acreage claimable via the Terra Legal program, ends a rule allowing peasant families to delay paying for plots until the land is supported by adequate infrastructure, allows one farmer to acquire multiple plots, and ends a rule allowing peasant families to pay far less for their land than big farmers.

Groundwater may play key role in forest fires by Sandhya Sekar [06/16/2017]
- Researchers compared groundwater dynamics to fire incidence in Borneo.
- During prolonged dry spells, groundwater levels can get so low that capillary action cannot take place, creating a condition called "hydrological drought."
- The researchers found that when a fire occurs, almost 10 times more land is burned in a hydrological drought year than in a non-drought year.
- They write that their findings may help better predict fire occurrence and extent during El Niño events, and may provide a tool to help plan and adapt to climate change.

Elusive seabird breeding grounds discovered in Chilean desert by Kim Smuga-Otto [06/16/2017]
- A Chilean expedition into the Atacama Desert has located the first known breeding grounds of the ringed storm-petrel, a seabird of unknown population size that is endemic to the western coast of South America.
- The nests, located in natural cavities in the desert’s rocks and salt pans, were found 70 miles from the Pacific coast, where the birds feed and spend most of their time.
- Chilean scientists see the discovery as critical to estimating the stability and size of the ringed storm-petrel population and determining the threat posed by mining and proposed wind farms in the region.

The ‘interval squeeze’: Climate change makes it less likely conifer forests will regenerate after wildfires by Mike Gaworecki [06/15/2017]
- The Klamath Region of the Western United States, which spans northern California and southwestern Oregon, is considered a richly biodiverse botanical hotspot boasting nearly 30 species of conifer.
- The shrublands of northern California could end up replacing forests composed of a mixture of broadleaf trees, evergreen hardwoods, and conifers across large swaths of the Klamath, a study by scientists with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Harvard Forest suggests.
- The findings are detailed in a study published in the journal Global Change Biology in April.

If we wish to save the Javan rhinoceros, we must work to know it (commentary) by Francesco Nardelli [06/15/2017]
- The Javan rhino survives in a single population of roughly 60 individuals in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park.
- Despite successful efforts to protect the park's rhinos from poachers, the species remains at risk due to multiple threats including lack of genetic diversity, disease and natural disasters.
- Designing effective conservation strategies requires filling crucial gaps in knowledge about the population's size, status and behavior.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Brazil on verge of legitimizing Amazon land theft on a grand scale, warn NGOs by Mauricio Torres and Isabel HarariSue Branford [06/15/2017]
- Brazil’s president has until 22 June to approve or veto two bills (PLC 4 and PLC 5) turning over more than 600,000 hectares (2,317 square miles) of federally protected Amazon forest to illegal loggers, illegal miners and land thieves.
- The measures, initiated by Temer and already approved by Congress, are seen as a reward to the bancada ruralista (rural lobby of agribusiness and mining) for its aid in bringing Temer to power through the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016.
- Large portions of the Jamanxim National Park and of the National Forest of Jamanxim would have their protections downgraded to an Area of Environmental Protection, where logging, mining and private property are allowed.
- Mongabay recently went to the region to observe conditions there: we found major illegal mining operations underway within federal conservation units and interviewed miners who have been exploited by mine “owners” under conditions analogous to slavery.

Mangrove loss threatens migratory shorebird route in North Sumatra by Ayat S. Karokaro [06/15/2017]
- A new study examines the impact of agricultural expansion on an important shorebird habitat in North Sumatra.
- Mangrove cover in the Indonesian province has dropped 85 percent in the last 14 years.
- The study's authors want the government to issue a regulation to protect shorebirds specifically.

Lobby groups drop lawsuit against Indonesian environment law by Lusia ArumingtyasSapariah Saturi [06/15/2017]
- Industry associations representing palm oil and timber companies had challenged four articles in the 2007 Environment Law and the 1999 Forestry Law.
- The lobby groups had taken issue with a rule making it easier for the government to sue firms for fires that occur on their land.
- The associations also wanted the Constitutional Court to ban slash-and-burn agriculture for everyone, small farmers included.
- This week, the groups announced they were withdrawing the suit but said they still intended to seek "improvement" of the laws.

‘Communities should be involved from the beginning’: Kalimantan villagers demand development plans respect their needs by Indra Nugraha [06/14/2017]
- The government in Central Kalimantan's West Kotawaringan Regency plans to construct a reservoir adjacent to Lake Gatal.
- Many in Rungun Village, a fishing community that relies on the lake, fear the project will leave them without a source of income.
- The project also threatens to flood fields, houses and sacred sites, community members say.

New ‘Elfin mountain toad’ discovered in Annamite Mountains of Vietnam by Mike Gaworecki [06/14/2017]
- A team of Russian and Vietnamese researchers described Ophryophryne elfina, the Elfin mountain toad, in the journal ZooKeys last month.
- The toad, one of the smallest species of horned mountain toads ever described to science, was given the name Ophryophryne elfina, which roughly translates to "elfish eyebrow toad” — and the researchers who made the discovery say that there is evidence to suggest that the species could already be considered endangered.
- The species name "elfina," of course, derives from the English word "elf," small, magical forest creatures found in German and Celtic folklore.

Trade just as important to ensure food security as healthy fisheries (commentary) by Michael Fabinyi / Wolfram Dressler / Michael Pido [06/14/2017]
- Food security in the international development community is now considered as a wider phenomenon composed of availability, access, and use. From this perspective, fish trade can be central to food security.
- Unlike many full-time farmers, full-time fishers do not grow their own staple food, and need to be able to sell their products.
- In our study from the coastal Philippines, recently published in the journal Human Ecology, we assessed the relationship between food security and fish trade.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests by John C. Cannon [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds.
- Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model.
- The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem.
- As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.

Papuan clan leader laments influx of migrants to sacred Cyclops Mountains by Christopel Paino [06/14/2017]
- Highlanders from remote parts of Papua are migrating to urban centers in the province.
- The Cyclops Mountains near the provincial capital Jayapura has seen a major influx of migrants.
- Local indigenous groups see the mountains as sacred and call on the government to do a better job of protecting them.

Norway bans government purchasing of palm oil biofuel by Morgan Erickson-Davis [06/13/2017]
- The growth of the palm oil industry has been blamed for a host of damaging environmental impacts, such as deforestation and carbon emissions.
- Research indicates that biofuel made with palm oil may be even worse for the climate than fossil fuels.
- The Norwegian parliament responded to these impacts by voting in a regulation to its Public Procurement Act to stop using biofuel palm oil-based biofuel. The resolution further stipulates that the "regulatory amendment shall enter into force as soon as possible."
- Conservationists laud the move, but say more countries need to follow suit. They recommend the EU's biofuel policy be updated to reflect concerns about palm oil.

Urban heat island effect could more than double climate costs for cities by Mike Gaworecki [06/13/2017]
- The higher climate toll that cities will pay is due to the urban heat island effect, which is caused by the replacement of vegetation and bodies of water by concrete, asphalt, and other materials that trap more heat. The effect is only further exacerbated by the abundance of things like cars and air conditioners in urban areas, which emit more heat and global warming pollution.
- An international team of researchers with the UK’s University of Sussex, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Vrije University Amsterdam looked at 1,692 cities around the world in order to determine just how much the urban heat island effect could compound the losses already expected to result from global warming.
- The researchers found that, on average, economic losses from higher temperatures could be 2.6 times higher in cities than they would be if heat island effects weren’t factored into the equation.

Audio: Activists determined to protect newly discovered Amazon Reef from oil drilling by Mike Gaworecki [06/13/2017]
- John talks about the discovery of the reef, what it’s like to be one of a few people on Earth who have ever seen it with their own eyes, and what the opposition to plans to drill for oil near the reef will look like should the plans move forward.
- We also welcome two staffers from Mongabay Latin America to the show: MariaIsabel Torres and Romi Castagnino.
- Mongabay LatAm just celebrated its one-year anniversary recently, so we wanted to take the chance to speak with MariaIsabel and Romi about what it’s like covering the environment in Latin America, what some of the site’s biggest successes are to date, and what we can expect from Mongabay LatAm in the future.

People of all faiths face climate change with hope, action, urgency by Justin Catanoso [06/13/2017]
- Pope Francis gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on global environmental protection during the president’s visit to Europe in May. A week later Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
- While the majority of U.S. Catholics voted for Trump, and polled less favorably toward the pope after publication of Laudato Si, his bold plea to save the earth continues to energize leaders of all faiths.
- Examples abound: in May, 55 “emerging faith leaders” from 17 countries met in Brazil to identify realistic renewable energy and sustainability projects for their nations. Also in May, nine large Catholic organizations from around the globe announced divestment from coal, oil and gas stocks.
- Hindu spiritual leaders are urging the jettisoning of coal for alternative energy, and reducing pollution around temples. Morocco committed to converting 15,000 mosques to renewable energy by 2019. Jordan spiritual leaders have committed to going solar. Change could be faster, many agree, but it is ongoing.

‘The ones we named are all dead now’: dolphins and fishers struggle to survive in Myanmar by Kayla Walsh [06/13/2017]
- Irrawaddy dolphins and traditional fishermen hunt cooperatively along the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar.
- Electro-fishermen are threatening this tradition by illegally overfishing the river.
- The government of Myanmar and the Wildlife Conservation Society have responded by working together to implement ecotourism programs and conservation policies.

30 years of protecting the mysterious Okapi by Shreya Dasgupta [06/13/2017]
- The discovery of the elusive okapi, once believed to be a mythical unicorn, was one of the most exciting taxonomic findings of the twentieth century.
- To protect this shy, giraffe-like animal, wildlife conservationist John Lukas founded the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) in 1987.
- During the past three decades, the project team has seen both successes and challenges, from political unrest to a brutal rebel attack in 2012 that killed 6 people and 14 okapis.

Tropical forest diversity and carbon richness not linked, study finds by Claire Salisbury [06/12/2017]
- Scientists theorize that increased forest biodiversity also increases productivity (growth), and therefore carbon sequestration. But, a new large-scale study found no consistent relationship in tropical forests studied in the Amazon, Congo and Borneo.
- Research by 100+ scientists combines data from 360 1-hectare plots in Amazon, Congo, and Borneo forests, resulting in one of the largest datasets yet to examine the relationship between tropical tree diversity and carbon storage.
- Tropical forests differ markedly between continents, researchers found: Borneo forests were a triple hotspot for biodiversity, carbon and threat, making a compelling global case for prioritizing their conservation. African plots tended toward higher carbon stocks and lower diversity; South American plots had lower carbon stocks.
- The researchers urge conservationists not to generalize forest attributes when setting conservation strategies, but instead to measure the diversity, productivity, and carbon storage capabilities of each forest in order to make informed conservation decisions. This approach could enhance the success of REDD+ and other programs.

Ethiopia’s first botanic garden aims to preserve country’s flora heritage by Elias Gebreselassie [06/12/2017]
- Though frequently visited by dignitaries and international visitors, Gullele is still relatively unknown to local residents.
- The garden is home to 780 plant species endemic to Ethiopia.
- Gullele's management hopes to collaborate with institutions of higher education to plant and research vegetation in their natural environments.

Long plagued by illegal logging, Cambodia faces accusations of corruption by Lauren Crothers [06/12/2017]
- Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation for logging, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report.
- The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic meters (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia.
- Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in kickbacks from Vietnamese timber traders.
- Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 was little more than theatrics.

Guatemala provides an example of community forest management for Indonesia by Carolina Gamazo [06/12/2017]
- In Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, 9 community forestry concessions have been managing over 350,000 hectares of forest for more than 15 years. The communities aim to manage the concessions sustainably, earning income from timber and non-timber forest products and tourism.
- Indigenous communities in Indonesia are currently in the process of mapping, titling and restoring their customary forests after Indonesian president Joko Widodo pledged to grant 12.7 million hectares for community concessions by 2019.
- Representatives travelled to Guatemala to learn how this has been done by communities in the Maya Biosphere Reserve.
- The Indonesian representatives hope to use the model of Guatemalan forest communities as a starting point for their own concession management.

Australian spider named for world champion surfer by Mike Gaworecki [06/09/2017]
- Pisauridae mickfanningi is a newly discovered species of water spider named in the surfer’s honor.
- The Queensland Museum actually let the public name the new species as part of the World Science Festival Brisbane, which took place in late March. The public was asked to submit names inspired by the science festival and its setting in Queensland.
- Brazilian arachnologist and surfing fan Hector Manuel Osório Gonzalez Filho submitted the name mickfanningi for the new water spider as a tribute to Fanning, whose favorite surfing spot is said to be Snapper Rocks in Queensland.

Soil research aided by citizen scientists, boots and all by Sue Palminteri [06/09/2017]
- Researchers in England tested a novel approach to detect pathogens in the environment, combining citizen science and lab analysis.
- They related the presence of Campylobacter bacteria, consistently detected through boot socks worn by volunteers walking outdoors, to environmental variables and probable sources.
- Their findings highlight the potential for using field data collected by citizen scientists to assess the presence and transmission of pathogens and other particles in the environment.

In rare move, Brazil’s Temer ups conserved lands by 282,000 hectares by Jenny Gonzales [06/09/2017]
- President Temer announced the expansion of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, Goiás; the Taim Ecological Station, Rio Grande do Sul; and the Biological Reservation Union, in Rio de Janeiro; along with the creation of Ferruginous Fields National Park, Pará — increasing conserved lands by more than 282,000 hectares.
- Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park sees the biggest expansion, increasing from 65,000 hectares (251 square miles) to 240,000 hectares (927 square miles). Its protection is seen as vital to the preservation of biodiversity in the Cerrado, where only 3 percent of land is federally protected.
- The protection of 282,000 hectares comes as Temer and Congress finalize plans to reduce the National Park of Jamanxim and National Forest of Jamanxim by 587,000 hectares (2,266 square miles) — an Amazon land deal criticized by conservationists and expected to benefit the agribusiness lobby that helped put Temer in power.

‘Give us back our land’: paper giants struggle to resolve conflicts with communities in Sumatra by Alice Cuddy [06/09/2017]
- Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a long history of land grabbing, often dating back to the New Order military dictatorship. More recently, they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains.
- Many of the conflicts remain unaddressed. The companies say they are working hard to resolve them.
- A new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still suffering the impacts of having their traditional forests and lands seized to make way for plantations.

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