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Ana Rodriguez-Prieto extracts DNA from wildlife samples using the GENE Expeditionlab at her team's remote field site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Anna Sustersic

10 Top Conservation Tech Innovations From 2017

By Sue Palminteri

Technology is changing how we investigate and protect planet Earth.

The increased portability and reduced cost of data collection and synthesis tools, for instance—from visual and acoustic sensors to DNA sequencers, online mapping platforms and apps for sharing photos—have rapidly transformed how we research and conserve the natural world.

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A Kenyan ranger guards poached elephant tusks in preparation for the destruction of 105 tons of ivory and a ton of rhino horn in April. Mwangi Kirubi / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Ivory Trade in China Is Now Banned

China's ivory trade ban is now in effect, making it illegal to sell and buy ivory in the country.

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Starboard, a female right whale, died this summer after getting wrapped up in fishing gear. "Ropeless" crab and lobster traps could end entanglement deaths, experts say. NOAA / NEFSC / Peter Duley

17 Critically Endangered Right Whales Died in 2017—The Time for Systemic Change Is Now

By Allison Guy

Centuries ago, naturalists believed that the animals of the sea mirrored the animals of the land. Elephants were matched by sea-elephants, chickens by sea-chickens. The clergy even got paired with sea-bishops and sea-monks. In 2017, land and sea mirrored each other in a less literal way. As humanity reeled from hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and shootings, a rare whale endured its own year of horrors.

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Alan Schmierer

These Butterflies Have Lawyers

By John R. Platt

Don't mess with Texas butterflies. They have lawyers.

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Cheetahs have disappeared from across 91 percent of their range. Udayan Dasgupta / Mongabay

Scientists Call for Cheetahs to Be Listed as Endangered

A year ago, scientists reported that cheetahs had disappeared from across 91 percent of their historic range.

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), the researchers recommended in their study, should be up-listed from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Doing this could afford the imperiled species greater attention and support, they said.

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Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Steven dosRemedios / Flickr

Trump Administration Reverses Ban on Elephant Trophy Imports

The Trump administration has agreed to allow the remains of elephants killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia to be brought back to the U.S., a reversal of an Obama-era ban.

In 2014, the President Obama's administration banned the imports of elephant trophies to protect the species. "Additional killing of elephants in these countries, even if legal, is not sustainable and is not currently supporting conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species," they said at the time.

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Floating sea pen designed to hold captured vaquitas. Kerry Coughlin / National Marine Mammal Foundation

Endangered Mexican Vaquita Dies After Rescue Effort

By Mike Gaworecki

Last month, the government of Mexico launched a last-ditch effort to save the critically endangered vaquita, a small porpoise known to reside only in the Gulf of California.

A team of marine mammal experts assembled by the Mexican government created a project called Vaquita Conservation, Protection and Recovery (VaquitaCPR) that aims to capture the remaining 30 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) and keep them safe in specially built floating "sea pens" until the species' survival is no longer threatened by the illegal trade and fishing activities that have driven them to the brink of extinction.

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Meet the 'Pangolin Men' Saving the World's Most Trafficked Mammal

At the Tikki Hywood Trust in Harare, Zimbabwe, a group of charity workers known as the "Pangolin Men" dedicate their lives to saving a prehistoric-looking animal from an increasing threat of extinction.

The pangolin is the only mammal in the world with scales. Sadly, it's this unique feature that gives the pangolin the unfortunate title of the world's most trafficked mammal, with more than a million illegally hunted and killed in just the last decade. All eight species in Africa and Asia are hunted for their scales, meat and use in traditional Asian medicine.

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Maxime Aliaga

Scientists Discover a New—and Endangered—Orangutan Species

By Jason Bittel

Scientists have discovered a new orangutan species in the mountainous forests of northern Sumatra. Of course, the Tapanuli orangutan has been here for quite a while—but it's new to us!

"Discovering a new species of great ape in this day and age just shows how little we know about the world around us and how much there still is to learn," said Erik Meijaard, a conservation scientist at the Australian National University and one of the authors of the new paper about the discovery, published online today in the journal Current Biology.

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