By Rhett A. Butler  Last updated Aug 14, 2020

The Tropical Rainforest - information on tropical forests, deforestation, and biodiversity




The Latest News on Rainforests

Protected areas bear the brunt as forest loss continues across Cambodia (Apr 17 2024)
- In 2023, Cambodia lost forest cover the size of the city of Los Angeles, or 121,000 hectares (300,000 acres), according to new data published by the University of Maryland.
- The majority of this loss occurred inside protected areas, with the beleaguered Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary recording the highest rate of forest loss in what was one of its worst years on record.
- A leading conservation activist says illegal logging inside protected areas is driven in part by demand for luxury timber exports, “but the authorities don’t seem to care about protecting these forests.”
- Despite the worrying trend highlighted by the data, the Cambodian government has set an ambitious target of increasing the country’s forest cover to 60% by 2050.

On the trail of Borneo’s bay cat, one of the world’s most mysterious felines (Apr 15 2024)
- The bay cat, named for its brownish-red coat, is arguably the most elusive of all the world’s wildcats. And among the most endangered.
- The bay cat is the only feline endemic to Borneo. Researchers — some of whom have never seen the cat in the wild — say it is potentially threatened by habitat loss and killings by locals, with accidental snaring another possible major cause of loss.
- But the biggest threat may be ignorance. In order to better protect this species, researchers urgently need to figure out: Why is it so rare? And why is it vanishing?
- Jim Sanderson, the world’s leading expert on wildcats, suggests research on the bay cat should focus on why it’s so uncommon, what is causing its decline, and how to reduce those threats. Then conservationists can make a viable plan to protect it.

Conservationists welcome new PNG Protected Areas Act — but questions remain (Apr 12 2024)
- In February 2024, Papua New Guinea’s parliament passed the Protected Areas Bill, first introduced two decades ago, into an act, which aims to establish a national system of protected areas to achieve the conservation target of protecting 30% of PNG’s territory by 2030.
- The act lays out a legal framework for working with customary landowners in the country to earmark protected areas, establishes regulations to manage these areas and provides provisions for alternative livelihoods to forest-dependent communities.
- The act also mandates the establishment of a long-term Biodiversity and Climate Task Fund, which communities can access to implement their management plans and conservation objectives.
- While conservationists say the act is a good step toward protecting biodiversity, they raise concerns about its implementation and whether the promised benefits of protected areas will reach landowning communities.

Traceability is no silver bullet for reducing deforestation (commentary) (Apr 12 2024)
- The European Union, UK and US have passed, or are in the process of passing, legislation which places a duty on companies to prove that products they import do not come from recently deforested land.
- Businesses and governments are ramping up efforts to address emissions and deforestation in their supply chains, but the scale at which these initiatives are being implemented limits their effectiveness in tackling deforestation.
- Investments by companies and governments in farm-level traceability must be backed up by landscape approaches that address the systemic drivers of deforestation, climate change and biodiversity loss, a new op-ed argues.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

New technologies to map environmental crime in the Amazon Basin (commentary) (Apr 12 2024)
- Environmental crimes like land grabbing, illegal deforestation, and poaching hinder climate action, deter investment in sustainable practices, and threaten biodiversity across major biomes worldwide.
- Despite challenges such as vast territories difficult to police and weak rule of law, new technologies like geospatial and predictive analytics are being leveraged to enhance the detection and disruption of these activities.
- Innovative approaches, including public-private partnerships and AI tools, show promise in improving real-time monitoring and enforcement, although they require increased investment and training to be truly effective, argue Robert Muggah and Peter Smith of Instituto Igarapé, a “think and do tank” in Brazil.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Unseen and unregulated: ‘Ghost’ roads carve up Asia-Pacific tropical forests (Apr 11 2024)
- A new study indicates that significant networks of informal, unmapped and unregulated roads sprawl into forest-rich regions of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
- Slipping beneath the purview of environmental governance, construction of these “ghost roads” typically precede sharp spikes in deforestation and represent blind spots in zoning and law enforcement, the study says.
- The authors underscore that the relentless proliferation of ghost roads ranks among the gravest of threats facing the world’s remaining tropical forests.
- The findings bolster a growing momentum toward the development of AI-based road-mapping systems to help conservation biologists and resource managers better keep track of informal and illegal road networks and curb associated deforestation rates.

A short walk through Amazon time: Interview with archaeologist Anna Roosevelt (Apr 10 2024)
- Anna Roosevelt has been working in the Amazon for four decades and her pivotal research has changed the knowledge of the rainforest’s occupation.
- In an interview with Mongabay, she explains how her research led to evidence of much older Amazon settlements than previously thought, challenging a decades-long scientific consensus about how Indigenous people related to the forest.
- “One reason I was able to make some great discoveries is because of how opinionated archaeologists in the mid-20th century were. I only benefited from their mistakes,” she said.
- Roosevelt said the recent hype regarding the “garden cities” in Ecuador is “annoying”, as it is not a new discovery and it ignores older research from Latin American archaeologists.

Brazil’s cattle industry could suffer major losses without climate policies, report says (Apr 10 2024)
- Domestic beef production in Brazil could drop by 25% by 2050 as governments and the private sector look to step up climate change and forest conservation strategies, according to a new report from Orbitas, an initiative from Climate Advisers.
- Deforestation from cattle ranching could lead to hotter, drier conditions that worsen cattle health. It could also reduce soil productivity needed for growing animal feed, the report said.
- The industry has to invest in new technological and management techniques in order to prevent major losses.

As fires ravaged Indonesia in 2023, some positive trends emerged, data show (Apr 9 2024)
- Indonesia’s 2023 fire season saw 1.16 million hectares (2.87 million acres) of land and forest go up in flames, and while this was five times higher than in 2022, experts highlight a positive trend.
- The fires were exacerbated by an intense El Niño weather system, unlike in 2022; the last time similar conditions prevailed, in 2019, the area affected by fires was much larger, suggesting fire mitigation efforts may be working.
- Most of the burning occurred in scrubland and areas of degraded forest rather than in intact forests, meaning greenhouse gas emissions from the burning were also much lower than in 2023.
- But a worrying trend highlighted by the numbers is that severe fires are now occurring in four-year cycles, intensified and exacerbated by the impacts of a changing climate.

How to ‘stop mining before it starts’: Interview with community organizer Carlos Zorrilla (Apr 4 2024)
- Over nearly 30 years, Carlos Zorrilla and the organizations he co-founded helped stop six companies from developing open-pit copper mining operations in the Intag Valley in Ecuador.
- As a leader and public figure, Zorrilla is often for advice from communities facing similar struggles, so in 2009 he published a guide on how to protect one’s community from mining and other extractive operations.
- The 60-page guide shares wisdom and resources, including mines’ environmental and health risks, key early warning signs a company is moving in, and advice on mitigating damage if a mine does go ahead.
- The most important point, Zorrilla says in an interview with Mongabay, is to stop mining before it starts.

What’s really at stake in the Venezuela-Guyana land dispute? (commentary) (Apr 3 2024)
- Venezuela recently deployed military forces to the Guyanese border in what may be an attempt to annex part of the smaller country’s national territory.
- Media coverage has generally focused on the rich natural resources of the area which Venezuela may be interested in– including oil, gold, and diamonds–but others including the region’s Indigenous peoples say its ecological role is just as important for Guyana to protect.
- “If we truly value this land – not only for its natural resources but for its unique beauty, its cultural and biological diversity, and its outsized role in combating climate change – then we must defend it from foreign interests and extractive industries in equal measure,” argues a Goldman Prize-winning Indigenous leader from the region in a new op-ed.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Previously logged forests struggle to thrive, even with restoration, study finds (Mar 27 2024)
- A newly published study has found that seedlings in previously logged forests in Borneo struggle to survive compared to those in intact forests, even with restoration efforts.
- Researchers monitored more than 5,000 seedlings for 18 months in three types of landscapes — unlogged forest, naturally regenerating logged forest, and actively restored logged forest — and found the benefits of restoration efforts diminished over time.
- The study suggests that changes in canopy structure, microclimate, soil, low genetic diversity of planted trees, excessive herbivory, and failure to restore soil conditions may contribute to the stress experienced by seedlings in logged forests.
- The low survival rates of seedlings, even 30 years after selective logging, raise concerns about the long-term recovery of biodiversity and the ability of future tree generations to thrive in human-modified tropical forests worldwide.

‘Mind-blowing’ new orchid species found in Madagascar forest canopy (Mar 22 2024)
- Scientists from Madagascar, the U.S. and Europe have described a new orchid species from the forests of central Madagascar, which has a record-breaking long nectar spur relative to its small flower size.
- The orchid is pollinated by a species of hawkmoth with a very long tongue, similar to Darwin’s orchid, which was predicted to exist by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in the 1800s.
- Habitat of the newly described orchid species is threatened deforestation and mining activities, especially from the Ambatovy nickel and cobalt mine nearby, though Ambatovy is funding conservation actions to protect the species.
- Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, including many species found nowhere else on Earth, is under serious threat from rapid deforestation driven by agriculture, fires and mining.

PalmWatch platform pushes for farm-to-fork traceability of palm oil (Mar 22 2024)
- PalmWatch, an online, open-source tool, is seeking to bring greater transparency to the global palm oil supply web, to better help consumers trace the impact of the commodity.
- A key hurdle to transparency has long been the fact that batches of palm oil and their derivatives sourced by consumer brands like Nestlé and PepsiCo potentially contain product from hundreds of mills processing palm fruit from thousands of plantations.
- By scraping various websites with mill disclosure data and standardizing the information in one place, PalmWatch can come up with a supply chain map that can link specific mills, suppliers and consumer brands to harms associated with palm oil.
- Advocacy groups have welcomed the launch of the tool, saying it will allow for improved targeting of campaigns to get brands to push for more sustainable practices in their supply chains.

Deforestation from soy shows no sign of stopping in Cerrado, report says (Mar 21 2024)
- A recent report from Mighty Earth shows that approximately 26,901 hectares (66,473 acre) suffered deforestation and forest degradation in the Cerrado between last September and December, while 30,031 hectares (74,208 acres) were affected in the Amazon.
- Mighty Earth, in partnership with AidEnvironment and Repórter Brasil, are monitoring short-term soy and cattle ranching activities contributing to deforestation, aiming to highlight recent forest loss cases every three months.
- The report called for improved regulations that protect savanna biomes like the Cerrado, not just the Amazon Rainforest.

Mineral commodities: the wealth that generates most impacts in the Pan Amazon | Chapter 5 of “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” (Mar 21 2024)
- Mongabay is publishing a new edition of the book, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” in short installments and in three languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese.
- The paradox of minerals is that thousands of families depend on their exploitation and the economic activities generated, but at the same time suffer the impacts on their ecosystems, livelihoods and health.
- According to Killeen, governments know that the promotion of mineral development generates an unfavorable balance of payments in the long term. Thus, the overall cost-benefit equation may require a different development strategy.
- In the meantime, people living in the surrounding of projects are often torn between the desire for employment (however temporary) and the fear of environmental impacts that persist for decades.

Ancient giant river dolphin species found in the Peruvian Amazon (Mar 20 2024)
- Paleontologists discovered a fossilized skull of a newly described species of giant freshwater dolphin in the Peruvian Amazon, which lived around 16 million years ago and is considered the largest-known river dolphin ever found.
- The ancient creature, measuring 3-3.5 meters (9.8-11.5 feet), was surprisingly related to South Asian river dolphins rather than the local, living Amazon river pink dolphin and shared highly developed facial crests used for echolocation.
- The discovery comes at a time when the six existing species of modern river dolphins face unprecedented threats, with their combined populations decreasing by 73% since the 1980s due to unsustainable fishing practices, climate change, pollution, illegal mining and infrastructure development.
- Conservation efforts are underway, including the signing of the Global Declaration for River Dolphins by nine countries and successful initiatives in China and Indonesia, highlighting the importance of protecting these critical species that serve as indicators of river ecosystem health.

Suriname cancels controversial Mennonite pilot program, but bigger problems loom (Mar 20 2024)
- Suriname President Chan Santokhi confirmed to local media this week that he shuttered a pilot program setting aside 30,000 hectares (74,131 acres) for 50 Mennonite families, easing some fears that the country was on the verge of destroying large parts of the Amazon Rainforest.
- Mennonite colonies have a history of contributing to widespread deforestation in other parts of Latin America, including Belize, Mexico and Bolivia.
- But many conservation groups said there are bigger challenges than the Mennonites, including the development of around 467,000 hectares (1,153,982 acres) of land for agricultural activity.

Culture of harassment persists for women in Southeast Asia’s conservation space (Mar 19 2024)
- Recent years have seen an increase in regulations addressing sexual harassment in Southeast Asia, including amendments to Vietnam’s labor code in 2019 and a 2022 anti-sexual harassment bill in Malaysia.
- However, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community say harassment remains widespread, enforcement on the ground is lacking, and the culture in many conservation organizations discourages speaking out.
- While victims of harassment say they’re often left to come up their own coping measures, experts call for women-to-women mentorship, participation of male allies, and deeper transformational change in the conservation sector.

Soraida Chindoy: the Indigenous guardian defending the sacred Putumayo mountains (Mar 19 2024)
- An Indigenous woman from the Inga community in the Condagua reservation in Putumayo, Colombia, is leading the struggle against a Canadian mining company that plans to mine the community’s sacred mountains for copper and molybdenum.
- Within Soraida Chindoy’s territory is the Doña Juana-Chimayoy páramo, where eight rivers have their source and where there are 56 lagoons. The site, where the Amazon rainforest and the Andes meet, is sacred to the Indigenous population.
- Her campaign against mining was borne of tragedy. In 2017, she and her family were among the almost 22,000 people affected by the landslide in Mocoa, when Mother Earth provided a stark warning as to why it is so important to take care of her.

Road paving in a Peruvian bird paradise threatens wildlife and ecotourism (Mar 19 2024)
- In the Manu Biosphere Reserve of Southeastern Peru, one of the world’s most biodiverse protected areas, a winding dirt road has historically been the only route from the Andes into the Amazon. Now that road has been paved from top to bottom.
- The resulting increase in vehicle speed is causing concerns among conservationists about road-killed wildlife and damage to eco-tourism, while raising the specter of expanding extractive industries in the region.
- However, poor construction may have ensured that any impacts are short-lived; the thin asphalt is expected to erode quickly and may leave the road worse than it was before.
- Critics say such shoddy construction is a consequence of endemic corruption in the Peruvian road-building sector, which fuels an unsustainable development model that fails to meet local people’s needs.

UN probes controversial forest carbon agreement in Malaysian Borneo (Mar 18 2024)
- The government of Sabah state in Malaysian Borneo will continue to move forward with an opaque nature conservation agreement despite concerns raised by the United Nations.
- In a letter, the U.N. calls in question the transparency of the agreement and the state’s approach to the human rights law principle of free, prior and informed consent.
- The agreement was signed by state officials and a representative of a Singaporean company in 2021. Shortly after news of the deal became public, some Indigenous groups in the state said they hadn’t been consulted or informed about the deal covering 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) of the state’s forests.
- The U.N. letter was written by a group of “special procedures experts” with mandates established by the U.N. Human Rights Council, including the special rapporteurs on the rights of Indigenous peoples, on human rights and the environment, and on the right to development.

Chocó land deal shows flaws in Ecuador’s forestry incentive program (Mar 18 2024)
- A conflict over thousands of hectares of the Andean Chocó bioregion of northwestern Ecuador — now enmeshed in a decade-long legal battle — shows that the country’s Socio Bosque program is susceptible to potential corruption and political dealmaking, activists in the area claim.
- Over 9,000 hectares (22,239 acres) were stolen from local communities through an illegal land sale that was then used to benefit from the Socio Bosque program, critics say.
- Complaints filed to the Ministry of Environment have led to multiple inspections of the land, and the person who collected Socio Bosque payments was ordered to return $152,364.

Fenced in by Sulawesi national park, Indigenous women make forestry breakout (Mar 18 2024)
- The Moa Indigenous community live in a remote region of Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, on the fringe of a national park established in the 1990s.
- The society’s customary rules and norms mandate matrilineal aspects, including that women in the community have responsibility for a type of subsistence farming known as pampa.
- Forestry economics professor Syukur Umar says a crucial boundary change made by the government has led to sudden shifts in the community’s forestry.

Fires surge in the Amazon, but deforestation continues to fall (Mar 17 2024)
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has continued on a downward trajectory despite a sharp increase in fires associated with the severe drought in the region.
- According to data published by Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) earlier this month, forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon amounted to 5,010 square kilometers over the past twelve months, the lowest level recorded since May 2019.
- Despite the declining rate of forest loss, fires in the Amazon are on the rise, driven by the severe drought gripping the region.
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has fallen precipitously since Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva replaced Jair Bolsonaro as president last year.