Camera traps capture snapshots of conservation success in Sumatra

Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. sumatrae). (© BTNBG and CI)

This post was co-authored by Agnes Batuara.

Sumatra’s biodiversity is at a critical juncture — widespread forest clearing, wildlife poaching and land-use intensification has put much of the island’s astonishing flora and fauna under considerable threat.

Batang Gadis National Park sits in the heart of the Island. This 72,803-hectare national park is a critical refuge for biodiversity, being identified both as an Endemic Bird Area and Key Biodiversity Area. These recognize it as the highest priority for global conservation efforts. The national park also forms part of a larger block of connected forest that extends some 400,000 hectares. Conservation International through its Sustainable Landscapes Partnership initiative is collaborating with the national park’s management authority to conduct wildlife monitoring and introduce a range of practical conservation tools. As a result of this partnership, Batang Gadis National Park has now become one of the most effective protected areas in the country.

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The Bonn climate talks are over — what now?

Woman on Kiribati

For this woman and her family living on the island of Kiribati, on the coast of a former freshwater pond that is now flooded with sea water, high tides pose a serious problem. The impact of climate change on island nations was a key topic addressed at COP23. (© Ciril Jazbec)

Editor’s note: The U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, concluded last week, to make progress on the implementation of the Paris Agreement to confront climate change. Conservation International climate experts Maggie Comstock and Shyla Raghav, who were part of the negotiations, share their observations on the challenges and outcomes you need to know about.

Question: How was this COP different from previous years?

Maggie Comstock (MC): This is the first time that a Pacific Island nation — in this case, Fiji — has led the UN climate negotiations. This provided a critical opportunity to highlight the connections between oceans and climate change, the unique climate challenges faced by the countries in this region, as well as the leadership and innovation to drive solutions appropriate for islands and coastal communities.

This COP also marked the halfway mark of the two-year process to develop the details needed to make the Paris Agreement fully operational. Countries have been developing these details into a comprehensive “Paris Rulebook.” While countries have made moderate progress on key agenda items, a great deal of work remains before the implementation guidelines are to be finalized by December 2018.

Q: What were some of the major hurdles during negotiations?

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The price of a dead elephant

African elephants

Herd of elephants in African savanna at sunset. (© Mohamed Muha)

Editor’s note: The following op-ed appeared in Scientific American in response to the Trump Administration’s recent announcements on the import of elephant trophies. Click here to view the original post.

U.S. President Trump is questioning whether to maintain a ban on importing elephant trophies into the United States. Maun, a small, dusty town at the gateway to the world’s largest population of elephants, may hold the answers he seeks.

Maun sits within the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where elephants thrive. Huge elephant guns have been banned for years, and research shows that even elephants know the area is safe: Populations from nearby countries with high poaching rates have been fleeing to Botswana.

For Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan, being in Maun drives home the value of keeping elephants alive — and the inherent fallacy of conflating trophy hunting with conservation and economic value.

Today, there are only 350,000 African savanna elephants left in the wild, marking a decline of 30 percent in less than a decade. To help combat this, Botswana is leading the Elephant Protection Initiative, a coalition of 15 African nations committed to closing their ivory markets and eliminating or placing their ivory stockpiles out of commercial use. The Initiative is, Sanjayan writes, an African stand for Africa’s elephants.

“At this crucial moment in time, when the world is finally a hair’s breadth away from ending the trade in ivory, the Trump Administration can set this right. And together, we can stop the scourge of poaching, and the use of ivory as fuel for criminal gangs and terror networks.”

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To save nature, we can’t be scared of the deep end

water, Madagascar

Girl plays in the water in Madagascar. (© Cristina Mittermeier)

Turning away from nature isn’t going to save it.

For Conservation International’s CEO, M. Sanjayan, saving nature means diving into the deep end — in his case, literally. After a palm reading as a young child foretold death by drowning, Sanjayan’s family kept him far away from the water. Until one day, his mother took a bold step: She taught him how to swim.

“She wanted to give me a fighting chance,” Sanjayan writes. “I, for one, want to be like my mother: I want to give Earth a fighting chance.” But loving nature isn’t enough, he explains. Neither is ignoring it. If we want to make a difference, we need to show nature’s value— to people.

In this piece, Sanjayan takes you to CI projects around the world that are helping to boost livelihoods and protect resources. From sustainably catching crabs in Brazil to revolutionizing cattle herding in South Africa, these projects are critical to helping save nature — and the communities that rely on it for survival.

We’ve been told the natural world is dying, and we’re the cause of it. What are we going to do?

“I say, we all learn to swim.”

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The hidden cost of online shopping — and what you can do about it

Online shopping

This holiday season, many shoppers will choose the online option. © Animated Heaven/Flickr Creative Commons)

Holiday season is online shopping season. And with online sales expected to surpass US$ 100 billion this year, that equates to a lot of fast and free shipping.

But there is a hidden cost to all this shipping: its carbon footprint.

In the newest installment of the Climate Lab video series — produced by the University of California in partnership with Vox Media — Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan takes you inside the world of online shipping and its impacts on the planet.

Spoiler alert: You DON’T have to stop shopping online.

The video debuts today on Vox; watch below or on

It might just change the way you shop online.

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U.S. lifts ban on some elephant trophy imports

An elephant near the Mara North Conservancy in Kenya. A new U.S. move to allow the import of some legally hunted elephants as trophies has raised concerns among many conservation groups. (© Jon McCormack/Conservation International)


Editor’s note: An update to this story: On Nov. 17, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump reversed the government’s decision to permit the import of some elephant trophies. The decision is on hold pending a review, news outlets reported.

On Wednesday, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the remains of legally hunted elephants in two African countries can be imported into the United States.

The move, which reverses a ban established in 2014 under the Obama administration, pertains to elephants killed in Zambia and neighboring Zimbabwe in southern Africa. In an informal statement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that the money paid for permits to hunt the animals — listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act — could put “much-needed revenue back into conservation,” The Washington Post reported.

Some conservation groups painted a different picture, expressing grave concerns about the effect of the move on the global effort to stem the ivory trade, which has fueled organized crime networks around the world and caused populations of the iconic animals to plummet across the continent.

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COP23 update: Forests making news in Bonn

Tree frog, Suriname

A tree frog clings to a branch in the lowland forest near Kasikasima, Suriname. (© Trond Larsen)

Editor’s note: The UN climate conference wraps up at the end of this week in Bonn, Germany, where Conservation International is advising negotiators on the role of nature in curbing climate change. For those seeking to protect forests, the weekend brought some good news.

Suriname announces bid to stay green

It is often called “the greenest country on Earth.” Now, Suriname says it wants to stay that way.

About 94 percent of the tiny South American country’s land area is covered in tropical forests. Winston Lackin, a member of Suriname’s delegation to the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany, announced Monday that the country would seek to maintain that level of forest cover.

It can’t do it alone: Suriname is seeking technical and financial assistance to avoid deforestation and help fulfill its commitments to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Given its extensive forest cover and its small population — 558,000 people — Suriname is a “carbon-negative” country. Yet the country is highly vulnerable to climate change, with its low-lying Caribbean coast — where 80 percent of the population lives — at risk from sea-level rise.

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At midpoint of UN talks, words of wisdom from 3 climate luminaries


A flooded road in Tebikenikoora, also known as Golden Beach, on South Tarawa in Kiribati. The island nation, once led by Anote Tong, is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. (© Ciril Jazbec)

Editor’s note: The world’s leaders are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the UN climate conference. On the docket: What global climate progress looks like a year after the Paris Agreement was ratified  and only months after the U.S. announced its intention to pull out of the agreement. As the first week of discussion wraps up, Human Nature revisits interviews with three leaders who are tackling the most pressing climate change issues of today as Lui-Walton Distinguished Fellows with Conservation International. 

Christiana Figueres Christiana Figueres: Nature’s new ambassador

Seven years ago, Christiana Figueres was asked to do the impossible. Months after the failure of the 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen, she took the reins of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change with a mandate to rebuild the global diplomatic process on climate change. Five short years later, the world agreed to the first-ever binding global agreement on climate change in Paris, a stunning achievement for climate action. Now, Figueres is working to ensure that nature plays its part in making the Paris Agreement real. In this interview, Figueres talks cities, women and the climate change actions that must come next.

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In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

© Pete Oxford/iLCP

Aerial shot of Essequibo River and surrounding tropical forest, Guyana. A new study found that protecting tropical forests between 2000 and 2012 reduced the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as a 29 percent cut in global deforestation rates. (© Pete Oxford/iLCP)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In this feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about. 

Trump administration releases report finding ‘no convincing alternative explanation’ for climate change

On Friday, the Trump administration released the U.S. National Climate Assessment. Its findings are concrete and dire, Chris Mooney (@chriscmooney), Juliet Eilperin (@eilperin) and Brady Dennis (@brady_dennis) reported in The Washington Post. Read more here.

The story: The report, which is mandated by law every years, affirmed “that climate change is driven almost entirely by human action, warns of potential sea level rise as high as 8 feet by the year 2100, and enumerates myriad climate-related damages across the United States that are already occurring,” according to the Post.

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The Bonn climate talks: Here’s what you need to know


Savusavu marina and Nawi islet, Vanua Levu island, Fiji. The Government of Fiji is presiding over COP23 in Bonn with the support of the government of Germany. (© Donyanedomam/istockphoto)

This year’s UN climate change conference, the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), starts Monday in Bonn, Germany.

You may be forgiven if you hadn’t heard about it.

Two years after the 2015 climate talks culminated in the Paris Agreement, the 2017 talks have seen far less pre-conference hype, but they are no less important, observers say.

In this interview, Conservation International climate experts Maggie Comstock and Shyla Raghav break down what is being talked about in Bonn and why you should care.

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