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Pope Francis celebrates an opening Mass for the Amazon synod, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Massimo Valicchia / NurPhoto / Getty Images

by Justin Catanoso

Pope Francis, in an effort to reignite his influence as a global environmental leader, released an impassioned document Feb. 12 entitled Dear Amazon — a response to the historic Vatican meeting last autumn regarding the fate of the Amazon biome and its indigenous people.

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Uncontacted indigenous group in the Brazilian Amazon. © G. Miranda / FUNAI / Survival / Mongabay

By Jan Rocha

President Jair Bolsonaro pressed forward with a "dream" initiative sending a bill to the Brazilian Congress on Wednesday that would open indigenous reserves in the Amazon and elsewhere to development, including commercial mining, oil and gas exploration, cattle ranching and agribusiness, new hydroelectric dam projects, and tourism — projects that have been legally blocked under the country's 1988 Constitution.

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The black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor), a rare, large waterbird classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List. spaceaero2 via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

A new airport under construction in a key wetland habitat just north of the Philippine capital is poised to impact dozens of migratory bird species, many of them already threatened, observers say.

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A new study raises concerns about the decline of platypus populations. UNSW Science

The devastating wildfires in Australia that have claimed the lives of more than a billion animals, by some estimates, are just one of the effects of global climate change the country's wildlife is grappling with. Australia is also currently in the grips of an extreme drought, and the nationwide average daily temperature recently hit nearly 106 degrees Fahrenheit, shattering the previous record.

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Greening the barren mountain has helped recharge groundwater levels in the villages. Photo by Gurvinder Singh. Mongabay India

By Gurvinder Singh

Jamini Mohan Mahanty is out for a morning walk every day. At 91, he is hale and hearty. A resident of Jharbagda village in Purulia district, West Bengal, Mahanty thanks the "green mountain" in his village for having added some extra years to his life.

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Participants at the tree-planting event in Ankazobe district, Madagascar, on Jan. 19. Valisoa Rasolofomboahangy / Mongabay

By Malavika Vyawahare, Valisoa Rasolofomboahangy

Madagascar has embarked on its most ambitious tree-planting drive yet, aiming to plant 60 million trees in the coming months. The island nation celebrates 60 years of independence this year, and the start of the planting campaign on Jan. 19 marked one year since the inauguration of President Andry Rajoelina, who has promised to restore Madagascar's lost forests.

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The Pteris melanocaulon thrives in abandoned areas after an open pit copper mining operation. Mary Jean Apuan / Mongabay

Filipino scientists have discovered what might be the next big indigenous plant material for rehabilitating a mining site teeming with copper and arsenic — and it's a largely ignored local fern.

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Residents of La Chiquita say they don't have adequate access to safe drinking water. David Silva

By Alejandro Pérez, translated by Romina Castagnino

Fifteen years ago, Martha Valencia relied on the nearby river for water and for food. But then oil palm crops arrived in the area and polluted the river, say Martha and her neighbors. The community took the oil palm grower to court, which ultimately resulted in a ruling in their favor.

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Rangers said burning poisoned vulture carcasses removes the poison from the ecosystem. Wildlife ACT / Mongabay

By Fred Kockott

Another mass vulture poisoning incident has ended the year on a sour note for Wildlife ACT rangers in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal.

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A ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) in Zimbabawe. Pangolins are one of the world's most endangered species. Adrian Steirn / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The pangolin's future looks gloomy, according to the latest update by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which assesses the conservation status of species.

Of the eight known species of the pangolin, one of the world's most trafficked mammals, two African species, the while-bellied (Phataginus tricuspis) and the giant ground pangolin (Smutsia gigantea), have been moved from "vulnerable" to "endangered" on the IUCN Red List. One Asian species, the Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis), has been uplisted from "endangered" to "critically endangered." No species improved in status in the assessment.

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An infant mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Gorilla Doctors / Mongabay

By John C. Cannon

The outlook for eastern Africa's mountain gorillas is growing brighter, as a recent census released on Dec. 16 shows that the subspecies' numbers have risen since 2011. Scientists believe there are now at least 1,063 mountain gorillas living in the wild.

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