Motion-activated cameras have been used to catch bad nannies and adulterers for years. But in the forest, a high-tech, heat-detecting nannycam has caught video not just of the rare tigers that were its intended targets, but also of some unexpected forest-dwellers: illegal loggers.
In the video to the right, you can see a rare Sumatran tiger (one of only 400 left in Indonesia) strolling up to the forest spy camera and saying hello in Indonesia’s Riau Province. Seven days later a beast of a very different kind awakens the camera: a bulldozer leveling the forest.
The next day, another tiger passes by the spot, across the front of the clear-cut forest. The forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations, according to the WWF:
“Because of its status, both as a protected area and limited production forest, the area cannot be developed as a palm oil plantation, therefore any forest clearance, including bulldozing activities to clear the path, strongly indicates this excavation was illegal,” said Ian Kosasih, director of WWF-Indonesia’s forest and species program.
The forest in this area, called Bukit Batabuh, is protected because it serves as a corridor between two wildlife parks. Continued bulldozing in this area is fragmenting the Sumatran tiger’s habitat, making it more difficult for the big cats to find food, mates, and shelter.
Across the world, researchers are trying another high-tech tactic to keep an eye on logging practices. A new study in Brazil has been radio tagging trees in the Amazon to monitor the sustainability of the logging operations occurring in the area.
Pandora on Earth
If you’re a big Avatar fan, then James Cameron’s Oscar loss may have left your eyes swollen and your popcorn soggy. But if Avatar grabbed your attention with its story of greedy humans ravaging the alien moon Pandora for a mineral that Earth needs, then here are a handful of real-life stories, from good ol’ planet Earth, that might make the plight of Pandora’s native Na’vi seem eerily familiar.
First we have members of the Dongria Kondh tribe from Orissa, India, talking to the tribal-rights group Survival International about their quest to save their sacred mountain from a large mining company. The company wants to raze a huge part of their lush, bountiful, holy mountain to mine not “unobtanium,” but bauxite. Wait, James… are you getting this down?
Survival International took out an ad in the film industry magazine Variety to appeal directly to Cameron for help. Says Survival International director Stephen Corry: “Just as the Na’vi describe the forest of Pandora as ‘their everything,’ for the Dongria Kondh, life and land have always been deeply connected. The fundamental story of Avatar – if you take away the multi-coloured lemurs, the long-trunked horses and warring androids – is being played out today in the hills of Niyamgiri in Orissa, India.”
Once again it appears that sometimes, trying to suppress large forest fires might be creating unintended negative consequences.
Last month we wrote that fighting fires in the pine forests of the American West could actually decrease the amount of carbon the forest could sequester by allowing smaller trees to survive, and thus compete with the larger trees that absorb most of the CO2. Now, a new study says that huge, raging fires can be the best weapon to get rid of pesky and damaging invasive species in California’s chaparral.