Anthropologist and author of ‘In the Shadow of the Palms’ Dr Sophie Chao: In Her Own Words

Dr Sophie Chao is an environmental anthropologist and environmental humanities scholar interested in the intersections of capitalism, ecology, Indigeneity, health, and justice in the Pacific.

Palm Oil Detectives is honoured to interview to Dr Sophie Chao about her research into the impacts of palm oil on the daily lives of Marind people and other sentient beings in West Papua.

​I wrote In the Shadow of the Palms because I wanted the world to understand how deforestation and industrial oil palm expansion are undermining Indigenous ways of being in West Papua.

Indigenous and local communities key to successful nature conservation

Indigenous and local communities are key to successful nature conservation and for protecting animals from extinction. Story via Eureka Alert and the University of East Anglia. Indigenous Peoples and local communities provide the best long-term outcomes for conservation, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and partners in France. Lead author,Continue reading “Indigenous and local communities key to successful nature conservation”

What elephants’ unique brain structures suggest about their mental abilities

Bob Jacobs, Colorado College Conservationists have designated August 12 as World Elephant Day to raise awareness about conserving these majestic animals. Elephants have many engaging features, from their incredibly dexterous trunks to their memory abilities and complex social lives. But there is much less discussion of their brains, even though it stands to reason thatContinue reading “What elephants’ unique brain structures suggest about their mental abilities”

Back from extinction: a world first effort to return threatened pangolins to the wild

The reintroduction of pangolins has not been easy. But it’s vital to prevent this shy, mysterious creature from being lost forever. Pangolins are one of the most illegally trafficked animals on the planet and are suspected to be linked to the current coronavirus pandemic. Pangolins are also one of the world’s most threatened species butContinue reading “Back from extinction: a world first effort to return threatened pangolins to the wild”

Chimpanzees once helped African rainforests recover from a major collapse

Most people probably think that the rainforest of central and west Africa, the second largest in the world, has been around for millions of years. However recent research suggests that it is mostly just 2,000 or so years old. The forest reached roughly its modern state following five centuries of regeneration after it was massivelyContinue reading “Chimpanzees once helped African rainforests recover from a major collapse”

The people versus Feronia: Fighting palm oil agrocolonialism in the Congo

This incredible comic was created by Didier Kassai with research by Judith Verweijen and Dieudonne Botoko Kendewa of the University of Sussex and the University of Sheffield. The comic was originally posted by Cartoon Movement. The comic is based on field research conducted around the Feronia palm oil plantation in Tshopo province in north-east DR Congo.Continue reading “The people versus Feronia: Fighting palm oil agrocolonialism in the Congo”

Want to avoid palm oil? You need a ‘palm oil free’ label

The most important factor determining whether consumers avoid purchasing a product containing palm oil is not how they feel about orangutans, the environment, or anything else for that matter. It’s whether they know what’s in the product. Melbourne Business School Research reveals that consumers’ ability to diagnose whether a product is made with palm oilContinue reading “Want to avoid palm oil? You need a ‘palm oil free’ label”

How do we protect the rapidly disappearing Javan Rhino?

With only 74 individuals left, the remarkable and beautiful Javan Rhino is on the brink of extinction and can be found on one of the most densely populated islands in the world – Java. Boycotting palm oil is how you can help them. Sunarto, Universitas Indonesia The Javan rhino was once found throughout many partsContinue reading “How do we protect the rapidly disappearing Javan Rhino?”

Ecocide: why establishing a new international crime would be a step towards interspecies justice

A movement of activists and legal scholars is seeking to make “ecocide” an international crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Stop Ecocide Foundation has put together a prestigious international panel of experts that has just proposed a new definition of the term. Heather Alberro, Nottingham Trent University and Luigi Daniele,Continue reading “Ecocide: why establishing a new international crime would be a step towards interspecies justice”

The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit

From Roman classics to British tabloids, humans have long celebrated the curious and remarkable ability of birds to imitate the sounds of humans and other animals. A recent surge of research is revealing how and why birds use vocal mimicry to further their own interests, as we discuss in Biological Reviews. Anastasia Dalziell, Cornell UniversityContinue reading “The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit”

A fascinating history of warrior turtles: from ancient myths, warships and teenage mutants

Ask anyone the identity of the world’s most famed turtles, and the answer is likely to be those legendary heroes in a half-shell, the Teenage Mutant Ninjas. Since first appearing in comic book form in 1984, the pizza-eating, nunchuk-wielding characters have shown the world the tougher side of turtles. Louise Pryke, University of Sydney PartContinue reading “A fascinating history of warrior turtles: from ancient myths, warships and teenage mutants”

More protein and good for the planet: 9 reasons we should be eating microalgae

Martina Doblin, University of Technology Sydney; Donna Sutherland, University of Technology Sydney, and Peter Ralph, University of Technology Sydney As the climate warms and deforestation continues at pace, the land we use for growing energy-intensive crops such as wheat corn, soy palm oil is becoming less productive. We need to find ways to feed theContinue reading “More protein and good for the planet: 9 reasons we should be eating microalgae”

Conservation activists suing Indonesian zoo could inspire global action on endangered species trade

In a court in rural Indonesia, an environmental group recently filed a lawsuit of global importance. Their case is against a zoo in North Sumatra that it’s alleged illegally exhibited threatened species, including Komodo dragons and critically endangered Sumatran orangutans. Images by Craig Jones Wildlife Photography. Jacob Phelps, Lancaster University The illegal wildlife trade isContinue reading “Conservation activists suing Indonesian zoo could inspire global action on endangered species trade”

Bonobo mothers meddle in their sons’ sex lives – making them three times more likely to father children

New research shows that for bonobos, sex really is often a family affair. What’s more, rather than being an embarrassing hindrance, motherly presence greatly benefits bonobo sons during the deed. Ben Garrod, University of East Anglia Along with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus) are our closest living relatives. Restricted to a 500,000 km² thickly-forestedContinue reading “Bonobo mothers meddle in their sons’ sex lives – making them three times more likely to father children”

Do chimpanzees and orangutans really have midlife crises?

Knowing that chimpanzees and orangutans have personalities, feel emotions and are “almost human” comes as no surprise to most people. However, linking the term “midlife crisis” to chimpanzees and orangutans seems to be somewhat shocking and controversial as we’ve seen from the flurry of interest produced by a paper published this week. Carla Litchfield, UniversityContinue reading “Do chimpanzees and orangutans really have midlife crises?”

Boycotts are a crucial weapon to fight environment-harming firms

Bill Laurance, James Cook University Campaigns and boycotts get the attention of large corporations, because they hit them where it hurts: their reputation and market share. In October 2000, I was driving through downtown Boise, Idaho, and nearly careered off the road. Just in front of me was a giant inflatable Godzilla-like dinosaur, well overContinue reading “Boycotts are a crucial weapon to fight environment-harming firms”

Bonobos can inspire us to make our democracies more peaceful

Bonobos, sometimes called the “forgotten ape” due to their recent discovery and small numbers, titillate the democrat’s imagination. Before the 1970s, certain primatologists thought bonobos were strange chimpanzees because females govern in this primate society. Frans de Waal, the primatologist and popular writer, has done much to explain the fascinating lives of these “peace-loving apes”Continue reading “Bonobos can inspire us to make our democracies more peaceful”

Contagious yawns show social ties in humans and bonobos

Penny Orbell, The Conversation Most of us have experienced the overwhelming urge to yawn in response to another person yawning – but we’re not the only species to do this. Research published in PeerJ today shows bonobos – our closest evolutionary cousins – also experience “yawn contagion”, and, as in humans, the effect is influencedContinue reading “Contagious yawns show social ties in humans and bonobos”

How forest elephants move depends on water, humans, and also their personality

African forest elephants roam the dense rainforests of West and Central Africa where they subsist largely on a diet of fruit. They shape forests by dispersing fruit and seeds, browsing, and creating an extensive trail network. John Poulsen, Duke University and Christopher Beirne, University of British Columbia But because it’s difficult to track animals inContinue reading “How forest elephants move depends on water, humans, and also their personality”

How do we stop the world’s ecosystems from going into a death spiral? A #SteadyState Economy

What is a Steady State Economy? A Steady State Economy is a mildly fluctuating economy that does not exceed ecological and planetary limits. A Steady State Economy is not an alternative economic ideology that is centred on endless GDP growth. It is neither capitalism nor communism. Economic growth, with all of its downsides, is clearlyContinue reading “How do we stop the world’s ecosystems from going into a death spiral? A #SteadyState Economy”