Rising hope for Asia’s vultures?

May 31st, 2011

Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction from The RSPB on Vimeo.

Vultures may not get a lot of love, or respect for that matter, from the public, but they play a vital role in cleaning up and recycling nature’s waste, which also helps prevent diseases from spreading. Vultures were once abundant throughout Asia, but that was until veterinary drug diclofenac became common. Used on cattle and livestock, researchers discovered in 2003 that the drug was toxic to vultures, killing any bird that consumed the deceased livestock. Within years populations plummeted, putting several once-abundant species on the Critically Endangered list.

Rapid response from conservationists, including innovative and unique programs, have provided hope that vultures species may still survive.

Global tropical forest carbon map

May 31st, 2011

Global carbon map

Forest carbon stock from Saatchi et al. 2011. Click image to enlarge

New global carbon map for 2.5 billion ha of forests
(05/31/2011) Tropical forests across Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia stored 247 gigatons of carbon — more than 30 years’ worth of current emissions from fossil fuels use — in the early 2000s, according to a comprehensive assessment of the world’s carbon stocks. The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team of scientists, used data from 4,079 plot sites around the world and satellite-based measurements to estimate that forests store 193 billion tons of carbon in their vegetation and 54 billion tons in their roots structure. The study has produced a carbon map for 2.5 billion ha (6.2 billion acres) of forests.

Girl Scouts fighting palm oil receive wider media coverage (video)

May 24th, 2011

After five years of campaigning, two Girl Scouts fighting palm oil in Girl Scout cookies are receiving wider media coverage this week after meeting with heads of Girl Scouts of the US. The organization has now agreed to research different options, such as sustainably-grown palm oil or using another ingredient, reports the Wall Street Journal. Above, the Girl Scout activists are interviewed on the CBS Early Show.

For more information:

Girls Scouts censors Facebook page after coming under criticism for product linked to rainforest loss

(05/04/2011) Girls Scouts USA has censored its Facebook page after receiving comments criticizing the organization, according to Rainforest Action Network (RAN). RAN along with Change.org and two Girl Scout activists, Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, declared today a social media day of activism against the Girl Scouts for using palm oil in their popular cookies. The oil has been linked to rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Avon commits to greener palm oil

(04/15/2011) The beauty products giant Avon will purchase enough GreenPalm certificates to meet 100 percent of its palm oil use.

KFC dumps palm oil due to health, environmental concerns

(04/08/2011) KFC Corporation, the fast food giant, will stop using palm oil in its deep friers, reports The Independent.

Activism: vote for an Ocean Hero!

May 24th, 2011


Green anemone at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Ocean conservation organization, Oceana, is asking for votes for its 3rd Annual Ocean Heroes Contest.

According to their webstie:

“On World Oceans Day, Oceana honors those who have made a significant, ongoing contribution to ocean conservation. This year, hundreds were nominated, and a panel of experts selected the following finalists. Vote now for your favorite in both categories: adult and junior. ”

Congratulations to all nominees, including Carter and Olivia Ries, who mongabay.com recently interviewed: Kids found organization to save endangered species.

There’s no question that the ocean needs heroes. The world’s oceans, and its wildlife, face significant pressure from a wide variety of human-caused problems: overfishing, climate change, pollution, acidification among others. From coral reefs to sharks to sea turtles, many species are vanishing at unparalleled rates due to these and other issues.

To vote for an Ocean Hero: VOTE.

Happy world turtle day! (photos)

May 23rd, 2011

Baby marine turtle taking its first step out to sea in Costa Rica. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Baby marine turtle taking its first step out to sea in Costa Rica. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Yes, there is a World Turtle Day created by the American Tortoise Rescue! And today (May 23rd) is that day!

Ancient leopard tortoise in Uganda. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Ancient leopard tortoise in Uganda. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Sumatran freshwater turtle. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Sumatran freshwater turtle. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Leatherback sea turtle returning to the sea after laying eggs in Suriname. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.
Sumatran freshwater turtle. Photo by: Jeremy Hance.

Radiated tortoise in Madagascar. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Radiated tortoise in Madagascar. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

T-rex leech discovered in a person’s nose just one of the top ten new species of 2010 (photos)

May 23rd, 2011

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University has selected its top ten new species from 2010. While all the species are extraordinary, one was discovered in a most baffling--one may say painful--manner: taken from the nasal mucous membrane of a person in a Peruvian clinic. This 2-inch leech is named Tyrannobdella rex, which means 'tyrant leech king', because of a resemblance to the extinct T-Rex: both share a massive jaw and gigantic teeth. Imagine having that up your nose! The image above shows  the Tyrannobdella rex's anterior sucker exhibiting velar mouth and longitudinal slit through which the dorsal jaw protrudes when feeding. Scale bar is 1 mm.
The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University has selected its top ten new species from 2010. While all the species are extraordinary, one was discovered in a most baffling, manner: taken from the nasal mucous membrane of a person in a Peruvian clinic. This 2-inch leech is named Tyrannobdella rex, which means ‘tyrant leech king’, because of a resemblance to the extinct T-Rex: both share a massive jaw and gigantic teeth. Imagine having that up your nose! The image above shows the Tyrannobdella rex’s anterior sucker exhibiting velar mouth and longitudinal slit through which the dorsal jaw protrudes when feeding. Scale bar is 1 mm. .

The T-rex nose-embedding leech is not the only species though. There’s also the Mozart glowing mushroom, the fruit-eating giant lizard, the spider that weaves the strongest silk, the antediluvian cockroach, among other biological marvels!

To read more and see photos:

Photos: the top ten new species discovered in 2010

(05/23/2011) If we had to characterize our understanding of life on Earth as either ignorant or knowledgeable, the former would be most correct. In 250 years of rigorous taxonomic work researchers have cataloged nearly two million species, however scientists estimate the total number of species on Earth is at least five million and perhaps up to a hundred million. This means every year thousands of new species are discovered by researchers, and from these thousands, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University selects ten especially notable new species.

Cincinnati zoo turns on the solar (video)

May 22nd, 2011

With 6,400 solar cells producing 1.56 megawatts, the Cincinnati Zoo says its new solar parking lot the largest publicly accessible urban solar array in the US. The zoo says that on average the solar array with cover 1/5 of its total energy use and on some days will actually send clean energy back to the grid.

“Innovative projects like this solar canopy showcase the benefits of public and private investment working together to provide a powerful economic boost to communities that need it,” said Assistant Treasury Secretary for Management Dan Tangherlini in a press release. “New Market Tax Credits and a Treasury Recovery Act program that funds renewable energy development helped make this project possible, resulting in new jobs, reduced energy costs and less carbon dioxide being released into the air.”

For more recent news on solar energy:

Clean energy investments rise 630% in 7 years

(03/29/2011) According to a report by the US Pew Environment Group global clean energy investments, which do not include nuclear power, jumped 630% since 2004. The report detailing 2010 clean energy investments found that China remains the global leader in clean energy, while the US fell from 2nd to 3rd. This is the second year in a row that the US fell: in 2009 it lost first place to China. In all $243 billion were invested in clean energy in 2010.

Is Obama’s clean energy revolution possible?

(01/26/2011) Last night US President Barack Obama called for a massive green energy make-over of the world’s largest economy. Describing the challenge as ‘this generation’s Sputnik moment’ the US president set a goal of producing 80 percent of America’s energy by clean sources by 2035. While this may sound improbable, two recent analyses back the president up, arguing that a global clean energy revolution is entirely possible within a few decades using contemporary technology and without breaking the bank. “Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford said in a press release. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.”

U.S. Congress passes legislation to boost solar, wind, and geothermal energy

(09/24/2008) Tuesday the U.S. Senate passed a bill that will extend tax credits on solar power installations through 2016. The House approved the measure Wednesday.

Will food dominate 21 century geopolitics? (radio)

May 22nd, 2011

One billion people in the world are going hungry–more than any other time in history. Yet food security remains a pretty low concern in most industrialized countries. That may not last long according to renowned environmentalist, Lestor Brown, who says that climate change, population growth, rising consumption of meat and dairy, and water issues could soon make food a flashpoint worldwide. Already, high food prices this year played a role in the Arab Spring revolutions and has pushed a number of countries, such as China and South Korea, to begin buying up land in Africa under century-long leases that could create further crises.

Lester Brown is the founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute.

For more information:

Rising food prices threaten to push over 60 million Asians back into poverty

(04/27/2011) The Asian Development Bank has warned that high food prices on the continent could push 64 million people in developing countries into extreme poverty, reports the AFP.

Foreign big agriculture threatens world’s second largest wildlife migration

(03/07/2011) As the world’s largest migration in the Serengeti plains—including two million wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelles—has come under unprecedented threat due to plans for a road that would sever the migration route, a far lesser famous, but nearly as large migration, is being silently eroded just 1,370 miles (2,200 kilometers) north in Ethiopia’s Gambela National Park. The migration of over one million white-eared kob, tiang, and Mongalla gazelle starts in the southern Sudan but crosses the border into Ethiopia and Gambela where Fred Pearce at Yale360 reports it is running into the rapid expansion of big agribusiness. While providing habitat for the millions of migrants, Gambela National Park’s land is also incredibly fertile enticing foreign investment.

Food prices hit new record high—again

(03/03/2011) Food prices in February hit a new record, breaking the previous one set in January and continuing an eight-month streak of rising prices, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Experts fear that rising food prices could lead to another food crisis similar to that of 2007-2008.

Pictures: Primary forests included, secondary forests excluded in Indonesia’s moratorium

May 21st, 2011

This week Indonesia officially signed a moratorium on the granting of new logging and plantation permits in primary forests and peatlands. Secondary forests are excluded from the measure.



In recognition of the moratorium, below is a selection of photos from Indonesian rainforests. All photos have been taken by Rhett Butler since 2009.



Strangler fig in North Sulawesi

Strangler fig in North Sulawesi


Giant Dipterocarp in North Sumatra

Giant Dipterocarp in North Sumatra


Rainforest in West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), in Indonesian New Guinea

Rainforest in West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), in Indonesian New Guinea


Borneo rainforest

Borneo rainforest


North Sumatra

North Sumatra


Strangler fig in North Sulawesi

Strangler fig in North Sulawesi


Rainforest in West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo

Rainforest in West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo


Rainforest canopy seen from the base of a compass tree, Sumatra

Rainforest canopy seen from the base of a compass tree, Sumatra


Rain forest along the Bohorok River, Sumatra

Rain forest along the Bohorok River, Sumatra


Gunung Leuser rain forest, Sumatra

Gunung Leuser rain forest, Sumatra


Rainforest in West Kalimantan, Borneo

Rainforest in West Kalimantan, Borneo


Rainforest in West Kalimantan, Borneo

Rainforest in West Kalimantan, Borneo


Rainforest in Indonesian Borneo

Rainforest in Indonesian Borneo


Arfak cloud forest

Arfak cloud forest


Rainforest in Indonesian Borneo

Rainforest in Indonesian Borneo


Indonesian Borneo

Indonesian Borneo


North Sulawesi

North Sulawesi


West Kalimantan, Borneo

West Kalimantan, Borneo


West Kalimantan, Borneo

West Kalimantan, Borneo


West Kalimantan, Borneo

West Kalimantan, Borneo


Indonesian Borneo

Indonesian Borneo


Indonesian Borneo

Indonesian Borneo


Sumatra rain forest

Sumatra rain forest


River valley in the Arfak mountains, West Papua

River valley in the Arfak mountains, West Papua


West Kalimantan, Borneo

West Kalimantan, Borneo


Indonesian Borneo

Indonesian Borneo


Wild Geranium in Indonesian Borneo

Wild Geranium in Indonesian Borneo


Cloud forest in New Guinea

Cloud forest in New Guinea


Rainforest creek in Taman Hutan Raya, South Kalimantan, Borneo

Rainforest creek in Taman Hutan Raya, South Kalimantan, Borneo


Tangkoko, North Sulawesi

Tangkoko, North Sulawesi


Rainforest in West Kalimantan

Rainforest in West Kalimantan


Rainforest in Indonesian Borneo

Rainforest in Indonesian Borneo


Triangular buttress roots in Indonesian Borneo

Triangular buttress roots in Indonesian Borneo


Giant rain forest tree with a warning on the trunk, West Kalimantan

Giant rain forest tree with a warning on the trunk, West Kalimantan


Note: Nearly all the forests pictured above can be classified as “secondary forests” and therefore subject to logging under the moratorium

Making shrimp farming sustainable (video)

May 18th, 2011

An in-depth look at one figure in the shrimp farming industry, Linda Thorton, who is helping with efforts to create standards for environmentally sustainable shrimp production. Shrimp farming has been a target of environmentalists for links to mangrove destruction and pollution, among other impacts.