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New Dam Could Be 'Ecological Armageddon' for Rare Orangutan
Less than a year ago, scientists announced an exciting discovery—a new species of orangutan, called the Tapanuli orangutan, living in Batang Toru in Sumatra, Indonesia, The Conversation reported.
"This is just the seventh species of Great Ape ever discovered, and it could go extinct right before our eyes," study co-author and University of Indonesia Prof. Jatna Supriatna said in a James Cook University press release about the new study.
There are fewer than 800 of the rare apes squeezed into a habitat less than a tenth the size of Sydney, the release noted.
"In forty years of research, I don't think I've ever seen anything this dramatic," James Cook University professor and research team leader William Laurance said in the press release.
The Tapanuli orangutan is under threat for many reasons, including deforestation, poaching and road-building, but researchers said the most immediate threat is a large dam being built by China called the Batang Toru project, which will flood large parts of their habitat and disrupt others with roads and powerlines.
"This is a critical test for China and Indonesia. They say they want sustainable development—but words are cheap," Laurance said in the press release.
"Without urgent action, this could be ecological Armageddon for one of our closest living relatives," he continued.
In another article for The Conversation, Laurance explained the dam was part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that seeks to build roads, ports, railways and energy projects in 70 countries. Laurance said that, while the BRI projects were reviewed by China's National Development and Reform Commission until 2015, that body really only had direct control over projects funded by the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China. But most projects will have multiple, international funding sources.
"It will bring sizeable economic gains for some, but in nearly 40 years of working internationally, I have never seen a program that raises more red flags," Laurance wrote.
He mentioned working with Chinese colleagues who had withdrawn their authorship of scientific papers that criticized the BRI.
There is currently a debate in Beijing about environmental standards for the BRI, with larger corporations that face more liability demanding tougher standards and smaller companies lobbying for looser ones.
The Tapanuli orangutans threatened by the project are one of three orangutan species. Compared to the Bornean and Sumatran orangutans, they have larger canines and smaller skulls, scientists reported in the 2017 Conversation article.
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Tropical forests globally are being lost at a rate of 61,000 square miles a year. And despite conservation efforts, the global rate of loss is accelerating. In 2016 it reached a 15-year high, with 114,000 square miles cleared.
At the same time, many countries are pledging to restore large swaths of forests. The Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched in 2011, calls for national commitments to restore 580,000 square miles of the world's deforested and degraded land by 2020. In 2014 the New York Declaration on Forests increased this goal to 1.35 million square miles, an area about twice the size of Alaska, by 2030.
By Cheryl Leahy
Do you think almond milk comes from a cow named Almond? Or that almonds lactate? The dairy industry thinks you do, and that's what it's telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
For years, the dairy industry has been flexing its lobbying muscle, pressuring states and the federal government to restrict plant-based companies from using terms like "milk" on their labels, citing consumer confusion.
By Jeremy Deaton
A driver planning to make the trek from Denver to Salt Lake City can look forward to an eight-hour trip across some of the most beautiful parts of the country, long stretches with nary a town in sight. The fastest route would take her along I-80 through southern Wyoming. For 300 miles between Laramie and Evanston, she would see, according to a rough estimate, no fewer than 40 gas stations where she could fuel up her car. But if she were driving an electric vehicle, she would see just four charging stations where she could recharge her battery.
Fire Continues at Texas Petrochemical Plant as Company's History of Violations Gets Renewed Scrutiny
By Andrea Germanos
A petrochemical plant near Houston continued to burn for a second day on Monday, raising questions about the quality and safety of the air.
The Deer Park facility is owned by Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), which said the fire broke out at roughly 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Seven tanks are involved, the company said, and they contain naptha, xylene, "gas blend stocks" and "base oil."
"It's going to have to burn out at the tank," Ray Russell, communications officer for Channel Industries Mutual Aid, which is aiding the response effort, said at a news conference. It could take "probably two days" for that to happen, he added.
The hillsides dyed orange with poppies may look like something out of a dream, but for the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare.
The town of 66,000 people was inundated with around 50,000 tourists coming to snap pictures of the golden poppies growing in Walker Canyon as part of a superbloom of wildfires caused by an unusually wet winter, BBC News reported. The visitors trampled flowers and caused hours of traffic, The Guardian reported.
A controversial pesticide test that would have resulted in the deaths of 36 beagles has been stopped, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the company behind the test announced Monday. The announcement comes less than a week after HSUS made the test public when it released the results of an investigation into animal testing at Charles River Laboratories in Michigan.
"We have immediately ended the study that was the subject of attention last week and will make every effort to rehome the animals that were part of the study," Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDupont, said in a statement announcing its decision.