Banana plantation threatens rainforest valley (video)

June 21st, 2011

Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains were recently spared a titanium mine, however now the region faces a new peril: bananas. The Australian firm Indochina Gateway Capital Limited has proposed a banana plantation in the Southern Cardamom Mountains. The plantation would likely destroy an elephant corridor for one of Cambodia’s last wild elephant populations. In addition, pesticides used in the plantation could pollute local waters, threatening nearly-extinct species, such as the royal turtle, and local people.

According to Wildlife Alliance: [we] recently proposed an alternate plantation location to Indochina Gateway as a win-win solution: Move the proposed location of the plantation to the nearby province of Kampot, where the same beneficial conditions exist (i.e. excellent water supply and good soil). Beyond that our proposed plantation area is actually closer to a harbor and labor sources, and it is located in truly degraded forest inside a low priority ecosystem.

For more information: Learn About the Threat to Key Tropical Forest Corridor Presented by Banana Plantation

For more on the conservation organization Wildlife Alliance:

Cambodia’s wildlife pioneer: saving species and places in Southeast Asia’s last forest

(05/11/2011) Suwanna Gauntlett has dedicated her life to protecting rainforests and wildlife in some of the world’s most hostile and rugged environments and has set the trend of a new generation of direct action conservationists. She has designed, implemented, and supported bold, front-line conservation programs to save endangered wildlife populations from the brink of extinction, including saving the Amur Tiger (also known as the Siberian Tiger) from extinction in the 1990s in the Russian Far East, when only about 80 individuals remained and reversing the drastic decline of Olive Ridley sea turtles along the coast of Orissa, India in the 1990s, when annual nestings had declined from 600,000 to a mere 8,130. When she first arrived in Cambodia in the late 1990s, its forests were silent. ‘You couldn’t hear any birds, you couldn’t hear any wildlife and you could hardly see any signs of wildlife because of the destruction,’ Gauntlett said. Wildlife was being sold everywhere, in restaurants, on the street, and even her local beauty parlor had a bear.

Activism: save Southeast Asia’s last major primary lowland rainforest

June 2nd, 2011

Note: as a news organization, does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue further.

Villagers from Prey Lang forest area rally in Cambodia’s capital against continuing destruction of their forest. Protestors dressed as ‘avatars’ to gain more attention to their plight. Photo courtesy of: Prey Lang Network.

Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest is one of Southeast Asia’s most important rainforests. Much of the forest has never been logged even though as as a lowland rainforest it should have been one of the first to see the axe. It sustains startling biodiversity including popular animals such as tigers and elephants, and provides vital resources to the surrounding communities. Yet, the Prey Lang forest remains unprotected and the forest is being handed over to corporations for clearcutting piece-by-piece. Locals are working to stop the destruction, but they face an uphill battle, including threats to arrest and intimidation for protesting. For Prey Lang to be protected, pressure may need to come from abroad as well as locally.

According to the petition: “Prey Lang is the last large primary forest of its kind on the Indochinese peninsula. Inclusive of seven distinct ecosystems including unique primordial forest, Prey Lang’s biodiversity is exceptionally high, including almost 40 endangered plant and animal species. As a primary watershed, regulating water and sediment flow to the Tonle Sap Basin, and as an important spawning area for fish, Prey Lang is vital for Cambodia’s long-term environmental sustainability and people’s food and water security. With among the highest carbon sequestration values in the region, it is a powerhouse for fighting global warming. About 200,000 people, mostly indigenous Kuy, live around the forest and our dependent on it for their livelihoods and culture.”

Prey Lang Forest petition: Help Save Cambodia’s Prey Lang Forest.

For more information on Prey Lang:

Photos: Cambodians rally as ‘Avatars’ to save one of the region’s last great rainforests

(05/31/2011) Two hundred Cambodians rallied in Phnom Penh last week to protest the widespread destruction of one of Southeast Asia’s last intact lowland rainforests, known as Prey Lang. In an effort to gain wider media attention, protestors donned dress and make-up inspired by the James Cameron film, Avatar, which depicts the destruction of a forest and its inhabitants on an alien world. The idea worked as the rally received international attention from Reuters, CNN (i-report), MSNBC, and NPR, among other media outlets.

Cambodians prevented from protesting destruction of their forest

(03/10/2011) Cambodian villagers fighting to save their forest from rubber companies have been rebuked by the local government. Two days in a row local authorities prevented some 400 Cambodian villagers from protesting at the offices of the Vietnam-based CRCK Company, which the villagers contend are destroying their livelihoods by bulldozing large swaths of primary forests. Authorities said they feared the villagers would have grown violent while protesting.

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 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.

Researcher brings home new species of Malaysian gecko (video)

April 14th, 2011

Herpetologist Lee Grismer discovers a new species of gecko sporting lovely colors and lines.

Dr. Lee Grismer from the La Sierra University in Riverside, California, shows off the world’s newest gecko, captured in a cave in Malaysia.

Young sun bear takes to the trees (video)

April 11th, 2011

A five-month old orphaned sun bear, Natalie, at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center explores the trees.

The sun bear (Ursus malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. It is threatened by deforestation, the illegal pet trade, poaching, and the trade for traditional Chinese medicine.

Photos: Bornean gliding leopard tree frog

March 29th, 2011

The Bornean gliding leopard tree frog (Rhacophorus pardalis). Shots taken from a recent visit to Gunung Palung National Park in Kalimantan. Photos by Rhett A. Butler, 2011.

Girl Scouts question palm oil in their cookies

March 23rd, 2011

Forest clearing in Sumatra for palm oil plantation. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Two Girl Scouts are asking their organization why palm oil is an ingredient in pervasive and popular Girl Scout Cookies. Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, after their concerns about the environmental and social impact of palm oil have long been ignored by the heads of the Girl Scout organization, have joined with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) to widen the campaign and have their voices heard.

“After learning of the disastrous effects that palm oil has on the people, rainforests, and orangutans of Indonesia, we were shocked to learn that palm oil is an ingredient in Girl Scout cookies,” Rhiannon Tomtishen says in a video produced for the campaign.

The two scouts and RAN are asking the Girl Scout Organization to stop using palm oil altogether.

Palm oil is the world’s most productive oil seed (far outstripping soy, which has been linked to deforestation in the Amazon), but is responsible for a significant percentage of deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. For example, a study in Conservation Letters found that 55-59 percent of palm oil plantations in Malaysia built between 1990 and 2009 occurred on forested land. Such aggressive deforestation has contributed to an environmental crisis in the region: biodiversity loss in some of the world richest habitats, conflict with indigenous groups who depend on the forests for their livelihood, and substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information on the scout’s campaign: Rainforest Heroes: Make Girl Scout Cookies Rainforest Safe.

Activism: dams on the Mekong River

March 17th, 2011

Note: does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue in comments.

Fishing on the Mekong. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

A coalition of NGOs, lacademics, journalists, artists and local people have started a petition against a series of dams planned by Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. According to the organization, the massive dams will upend the river’s biodiversity and undercut the livelihoods of local people.

According to the organization: “The Mekong River is under threat. The governments of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand are considering plans to build 11 big hydropower dams on the river’s mainstream. If built, these dams would block major fish migrations and dramatically change the Mekong forever, placing at risk the food security and income of millions of people.”

Save the Mekong ‘s petition: Save the Mekong: Our River Feeds Millions.

Photos: some of our best rainforest shots

March 8th, 2011

Sunset over Borneo rainforest . Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Fast-flowing creek forming the border of Bwindi park in Uganda. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Kapok tree towering over the forest in Costa Rica. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Giant dipterocarp tree on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Brownsberg reserve in Surianme. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Rainforest waterfall in Malaysian Borneo . Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Strangler fig in Sulawesi, Indonesia . Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Tree at dusk in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia . Photo by Jeremy Hance.

Rainforest and Essequibo River in Guyana. Photo by Tiffany Roufs.

Jungle lowland rainforest reaching the coast of New Guinea . Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

More photos of rainforests.

Activism: titanium mine approved in Cambodia

February 17th, 2011

Note: does not endorse the action below, but believes its readers may be interested in taking action or discussing the issue in comments.

Asian elephants in Cambodia. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Alliance.

Cambodia has approved a controversial titanium mine in the heart of the Cardamom Mountain forests. Home to many endangered species, critics say the open-pit mine will pollute waterways, destroy over 20,000 hectares of forest, threaten biodiversity, and cut through a migration route for the largest population of Asian elephants in Cambodia. Locals are largely opposed to the mine as they have spent years building up infrastructure for eco-tourism.

German NGO Rainforest Rescue has started a petition against the mine: Save Cambodia’s Elephant from New Titanium Mine.

To read more about the mine:

Cambodia approves titanium mine in world’s ‘most threatened forest’

(02/15/2011) The Cambodian government has approved a mine that environmentalists and locals fear will harm wildlife, pollute rivers, and put an end to a burgeoning ecotourism in one of the last pristine areas of what Conservation International (CI) recently dubbed ‘the world’s most threatened forest’. Prime Minister, Hun Sen, approved the mine concession to the United Khmer Group, granting them 20,400 hectares for strip mining in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains. The biodiverse, relatively intact forests of the Cardamom Mountains are a part of the Indo-Burma forest hotspot of Southeast Asia, which CI put at the top of their list of the world’s most threatened forests. With only 5% of habitat remaining, the forest was found to be more imperiled than the Amazon, the Congo, and even the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Secret titanium mine threatens Cambodia’s most untouched forest

(09/01/2010) Although the mining consortium, United Khmer Group, has been drawing up plans to build a massive titanium mine in a Cambodian protected forest for three years, the development did not become public knowledge until rural villagers came face-to-face with bulldozers and trucks building access roads. Reaction against the secret mine was swift as environmentalists feared for the impacts on wildlife and the rivers, local villagers saw a looming threat to their burgeoning eco-tourism trade, and Cambodian newspapers began to question statements by the mining corporation. While the government has suspended the roadwork to look more closely at the mining plans, Cambodians wait in uncertainty over the fate of one of most isolated and intact ecosystems in Southeast Asia: the Cardamom Mountains.