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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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Two Javan rhinos deep in the forests of Ujung Kulon National Park, the species' last habitat on Earth. Sugeng Hendratno / WWF

By Basten Gokkon

The global population of the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros has increased to 72 after four new calves were spotted in the past several months.

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An Alagoas curassow in captivity. Luís Fábio Silveira / Agência Alagoas / Mongabay

By Pedro Biondi

Extinct in its habitat for at least three decades, the Alagoas curassow (Pauxi mitu) is now back in the jungle and facing a test of survival, thanks to the joint efforts of more than a dozen institutions to pull this pheasant-like bird back from the brink.

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Drone image of the Mata Atlantica tropical rainforest in Brazil. FG Trade / E+ / Getty Images

Efforts to catalog the fast-declining biodiversity of tropical rainforests just got a $10 million boost via a new competition from XPRIZE, an organization that has more than a dozen competitions on topics ranging from spaceflight to oil cleanup over the past 25 years.

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Eight conservationists affiliated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation were recently convicted of spying in Iran. Top row, from left: Niloufar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian, Houman Jowkar and Sepideh Kashani. Bottom row, from left: Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, Sam Radjabi and Morad Tahbaz. AnyHopeForNature / Mongabay

By Kayleigh Long

A court in Tehran last week delivered a guilty verdict in the case of eight Iranian conservationists accused of spying, with sentences ranging from four to 10 years. The eight were all affiliated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), a Tehran-based conservation organization that works to save the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) and other species.

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Coccoloba gigantifolia leaves can reach 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length. Rogério Gribel

By Shreya Dasgupta

At the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil, a framed exhibit of a massive dried leaf has been a local attraction for decades. But the complete identity of the tree it belongs to remained unresolved — until now.

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Wild Exmoor ponies graze on a meadow in the Czech Republic. rapier / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Nanticha Ocharoenchai

In the Czech Republic, horses have become the knights in shining armor. A study published in the Journal for Nature Conservation suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Podyjí National Park could help boost the numbers of several threatened butterfly species.

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