Illegally logged trees to start calling for help

January 28th, 2013

Illegal loggers beware: trees will soon be calling—literally—for backup. The Brazilian government has begun fixing trees with a wireless device known as Invisible Tracck, which will let trees “contact” authorities after being cut down and moved.

River and forest abuts vast soy field in the Brazilian Amazon. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Here’s how it works: Brazilian authorities fix the Invisible Tracck onto a tree. An illegal logger cuts down the tree unaware that they are carrying a tracking device. Once Invisible Tracck comes within 20 miles of a cellular network it will ‘wake up’ and send a signal to the Brazilian Institute of the Environment (IBAMA), who will track the tree in order to arrest the criminals.

Invisible Tracck was developed by Brazilian technology company Cargo Tracck. The device has a battery life of a year and is smaller than a deck of cards.

Authorities hopes Invisible Tracck will begun another powerful tool to deter illegal logging. From August 2011-July 2012, deforestation in the Amazon reached a record low in its near quarter century of monitoring. Still, even at a lower rate, the Amazon still lost an area larger than Rhode Island of forest in 12 months.

Back from the Brink: Elephant seals have a remarkable comeback

January 28th, 2013

The Northern Pacific Elephant Seal was thought to be extinct until a small population was discovered on an island of Baja California in 1892. Since then, the species has staged a remarkable comeback thanks to protective measures adopted by the U.S. and Mexican governments.

Male elephant seals. Photo courtesy of Christopher J. Gervais.

“Beachmaster,” a new film by Christopher J. Gervais and Stan Minasian, tells the conservation success story of their recovery. His first documentary film, Gervais teamed up with Stan Minasian, an award-winning filmmaker with over thrity years of experience. While “Beachmaster” is slated for completion in 2014, the trailer for the documentary will be shown for the first time on Friday, February 1st at the 3rd Annual New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival.

Although Gervais never formally studied filmmaking, after he founded and became president of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festivals, he told MongaBay that he began to see film as a way to, “make an impact to help preserve biodiversity.” He considers the most exciting part of his job is, “Being in the field to see, smell and hear these animals … I feel alive when I am in front of [them].”

“It is always my hope that my films and that of other wildlife documentary filmmakers will bring about change to protect endangered species and habitat, strengthen and enforce laws and change policy,” Gervais told to MongaBay. “I hope that public interest in conservation increases so the world does not have to wait until a habitat is nearly destroyed and a species nearly vanished to have protection.”

The 3rd Annual New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival ( runs from January 30 – February 2, 2013. Ahead of the event, is running a series of Q&As with filmmakers and presenters. For more interviews, please see our WCFF feed.

Forests in Kenya worth much more intact

January 28th, 2013

In a landmark report, the Kenyan Government and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) addressed the importance of forests to the well-being of the nation, putting Kenya among a ground-breaking group of countries that aim to center development plans around its natural landscape.

Loita hills forest in Kenya. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

“For the first time in history, the real value of just one element of Kenya’s natural capital has been captured in economic terms and in the language that the engineers of Kenya’s economic recovery can understand,” Paula Kahumbu, executive director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust, told MongaBay. “The study … is an enormous breath of fresh air.”

The report states that forests provides for the country not only in timber and other forest-based products but in water storage from the rainy season, and links to a decrease in malarial disease (which costs Kenya’s government millions per year in health costs).

The forests produce “direct economic value for citizens,” says the report. “The negative effect of deforestation to the economy [is] more than twice the cash revenue of deforestation.”

“Not only has the real and enormous value of forests been revealed”, says Kahumbu, who was not involved in drafting the report. “By mainstreaming forests as a significant contributor to the economic recovery of Kenya, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has been able to capture the attention of the President and Prime Minister of Kenya to justify enormous investment in the protection of Kenyan forests”

True to point, the UN report concludes with a list of recommendations for decision makers including: incorporating economics for sustainable forest management, stronger regulation of forest use, encouraging investment in the forestry sector in order to increase efficiency in production, and allowing for adequate regeneration after timber harvests.

Kahumbu calls it, “a win-win for environmentalists and economists. … a great moment not only for forests, but for all natural resources in Kenya, and the lessons from the study are relevant across ecosystems and Africa.”

The Black Macaques Stunning Recovery!

January 28th, 2013

Great news for primate lovers! The number of the critically endangered Sulawesi black macaques is on the mend. Where as fifteen years ago the declining numbers of these majestic animals led experts to believe in their imminent extinction their rebound in numbers serves as an example of the hope that we have for other conservation efforts.

  • The biggest cause for the original decline in black macaques was the vast levels of habitat destruction that were going on in their homes.
  • In twelve years the number of black macaques in a square kilometer of North Sulawesi’s Tangkok Nature Reserve went from 32.4 to 61.5!
  • The number of groups per square kilometer rose from 3.6 to 3.9 in just 6 years, and to 4.3 in just another 6 years!
  • “Somewhere over the last 10 years the trend has started to turn. We’re seeing the population in the balance now, but without the sustained efforts by local and international groups working in the reserve and the support and involvement of the local people, the macaques will likely face further decline.” –Randall Kyes, University of Washington.
  • A large part of this comeback is due to the tourists that come to see these adorable primates in their natural environment.
  • Even with this giant turn around though the number of black macaques are still radically less than what they were before, with nearly 238 less individuals per kilometer and six less groups per kilometer than what they were 33 years ago.
  • Remember to treat your environment with respect kids so that you to may be able to see these unique faces peeking back at you one day in the forest!

Black macaque in Tangkoko Nature Reserve. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Want to learn more? Read the full story here – Photos: Population of critically-endangered black macaque on rebound

The Vibrantly Blue, Vibrantly Illustrious Cassowary

January 28th, 2013

Have you ever head of the Cassowary? It’s a large flightless bird that hosts a colorful scheme of feathers. The cassowary is a large bird known for its elaborate head crest and vibrant blue colors that roams the rainforest of northern Australia and New Guinea.

Southern Cassowary. Photo courtesy of Bianca Keeley.

  • The Cassowary is know for both its charismatic and mysterious nature.
  • Recently the Cassowary is engaged in a bitter life and death struggle after a major cyclone destroyed a large portion of their rainforest home.
  • Their story is soon to be told though as the film “Cassowaries” makes its debut at the New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival.
  • “Cassowaries tells the action-packed, heart-warming stories of the cassowaries of North-Eastern Australia struggling to survive after a one in 50 year cyclone destroyed their rainforest homes, while revealing for the first time the natural history of the magnificent endangered southern cassowary.”- Bianca Keeley, Cassowaries Film Maker
  • The film includes highlights such as the viewing of a male Cassowary raising his children from two weeks to nine months.


Want to learn more? Read the full story here: Getting intimate with a giant, yet poorly known flightless bird: the cassowary