Mongabay’s 10 most popular posts of 2021

  • Mongabay will end up publishing about 5,000 posts in 2021.
  • These are the 10 most popular posts on, plus summaries of the top stories from Mongabay’s international bureaus.
  • Readers spent more time on Mongabay than ever before, with 16.4 million hours on the site in 2021, even as traffic fell to 96 million pageviews, down from 140 million in 2020.

Mongabay will end up publishing about 5,000 posts in 2021, with original content in English, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Portuguese and Spanish, as well as translations across Chinese, German, Italian and Japanese.

Mongabay’s on-site traffic amounted to 96 million pageviews, down from 142 million in 2020, but readers spent more time with Mongabay stories than ever before. The total time spent on in 2021 amounted to 16.4 million hours, up 125% from 7.3 million hours in 2020.

Here is a look at 10 of the most popular posts on, as well as a summary of the top news from our global bureaus.

Sunrise over the Amazon rainforest
Sunrise over the Amazon rainforest. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

1. It’s not too late — yet — to save the Philippine pangolin, study finds

Like all pangolin species, the Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis) is highly trafficked, with nearly 7,000 seized from traffickers between 2018 and 2019. But the news isn’t all bad, as Mongabay’s most popular story of 2021 explains. A recent study, covered by Leilani Chavez, concluded that with the appropriate conservation measures, the Philippines’ endemic pangolin still has a shot at bouncing back. The study relied on the knowledge of people living in the species’ habitat, who reported seeing pangolins, albeit rarely, in a wide range of areas. “Compared to similar studies on pangolin species elsewhere, these results suggest that Philippine pangolin populations may not have reached the critical levels shown by Chinese pangolins in China and Vietnam, or by giant pangolins in Benin,” lead author Lucy Archer, from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), told Mongabay. “This provides some hope for the species.”

2. Indonesia’s five most consequential environmental stories of 2020

Loren Bell‘s roundup of key environment news from Indonesia was Mongabay’s second-most-read story of 2021. The top trends identified by Mongabay contributors and staff included the country’s massive deregulation bill, compiled largely in secret, which among other things limited public participation in environmental assessment processes for mines and plantations. In November 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the process by which the bill was passed was defective, and ordered the government to make amendments. Also in the news in 2020 were the impacts of COVID-19 on conservation efforts as well as on planned development projects; changes in leadership and a corruption scandal in the fisheries ministry; and new funding and new deforestation in the country’s rainforests. The 2021 roundup of Indonesia news can be found here.

3. Rare black jaguars caught on camera in Panama

Originally published in Spanish by Mongabay’s Latin America bureau, this story by Yvette Sierra Praeli looked at new research on melanistic jaguars (“black panthers”) in Panama. The study concluded that melanism — a recessive genetic variation in which the bodies of some individuals of certain species have more melanin, giving them a black color — is strongly associated with particular environmental factors, including humidity, forest density, and temperature. Also on offer in the post: a selection of camera trap videos of jaguars, with and without melanism, in Panama’s forests.

4. How the pandemic impacted rainforests in 2020: A year in review

Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler‘s annual review of rainforest news was our fourth-most-read story. From deforestation of primary forests to consumer action initiatives, this article surveyed developments during a tumultuous year in which the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on virtually every corner of the globe. While full-year data was not yet available, preliminary information suggested that 2019’s worst trends for forests mostly continued through the pandemic: fires, suppression of dissent, and weaponization of social media. On the other hand, lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the pandemic brought a glimpse of what a world with lower emissions could look like, protest movements gained strength, and a change in leadership in the U.S. brought some hope for conservationists. Mongabay’s 2021 rainforest year-in-review can be found here.

5. Sighting of super rare Chacoan fairy armadillo in Bolivia ‘a dream come true’

With huge claws, a pink body, a soft shell and a haunting cry likened to “the sadness-filled wail of a toddler,” the elusive Chacoan fairy armadillo (Calyptophractus retusus), also known as the greater fairy armadillo, is one of the world’s least-sighted mammals. This analysis by Milan Sime Martinic recounts an expedition made to officially confirm and register a live sighting of the species, after a farmer in eastern Bolivia captured a strange creature on his land. Also included: video of the captive Chacoan fairy armadillo burrowing in sand.

6. Study suggests the Tasmanian tiger survived into the 21st century

Provoking controversy both in the halls of science and in the comment section of Mongabay, a recent study, covered by James Fair, suggests the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus), or thylacine, most likely died out in the late 1990s or even early 2000s — decades later than has been assumed. The iconic marsupial predator was officially declared extinct in 1982, while the last known individual died at Hobart Zoo in 1936. But reports of sightings by trained biologists and rangers as well as “Average Joes” continued to abound into the 21st century.

7. Top 15 species discoveries from 2020 (Photos)

Compiled by Liz Kimbrough, this article compiles photos and descriptions of 15 animals newly described by science in 2020. On the list are: the Jonah’s mouse lemur (Microcebus jonahi), found in a single national park in Madagascar; the aptly named lilliputian frog (Noblella sp. nov.) found in Boliva, which at around 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) is one of the smallest in the world; the Popa langur (Trachypithecus popa), a primate found in Myanmar whose population is believed not to exceed 260 individuals; and 12 more fascinating plants and animals. The 2021 edition of our new species list can be found here.

Salazar’s pit viper (Trimeresurus Salazar), described in 2020. Photo courtesy of Zeeshan A. Mirza

8. ‘Dark’ ships off Argentina ring alarms over possible illegal fishing

Each year, hundreds of foreign-owned vessels travel to Argentina’s coast to fish for species like Argentine shortfin squid (Illex argentinus) and Argentine red shrimp (Pleoticus muelleri). A report by the NGO Oceana, analyzed by Elizabeth Claire Alberts, found that many of these ships turned off their satellite tracking systems for extended periods of time, likely to avoid detection while fishing illegally within Argentina’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Oceana found that 800 vessels from China, Taiwan, South Korea and Spain conducted 900,000 hours of visible fishing near Argentina’s EEZ, but that there were an additional 600,000 hours in which the fishing vessels went “dark.”

9. Hunger, disorientation blamed for pilot whale mass stranding in Indonesia

Originally published in Indonesian by Mongabay’s Indonesian site, this article by Luh De Suriyani examines the factors that led a pod of 52 pilot whales to a mass stranding and death on the Indonesian island of Madura in February 2021. Following necropsies on 35 of the 52 short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) that died in the incident, officials cited inflammation in the alpha whale’s echolocation organ as the cause of the stranding, and hunger and lung damage as the causes of death.

10. Cerrado’s maned wolves, squeezed by humans, may be picking up mange from dogs

In an article originally published in Portuguese by Mongabay’s Brazil team, Dimas Marques/Fauna News reports on what appears to be a growing trend of maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) losing their fur in Brazil’s São Paulo and Minas Gerais states. The animals have been diagnosed with sarcoptic mange, or canine scabies, caused by a burrowing mite that also infects domestic dogs. Researchers suspect the infestation of maned wolves is due to increasing contact with domestic animals as human settlements encroach into the wolves’ habitat.

Curious about what captured the interests of Mongabay’s readers from around the world? Here are the stories readers spent the most time with across Mongabay’s global bureaus.

Mongabay Brazil

Belo Monte boondoggle: Brazil’s biggest, costliest dam may be unviable

Originally written in English by Tiffany Higgins, this article on the controversial Belo Monte mega dam in Brazil’s Pará state was translated into Brazilian Portuguese in February 2020, and remained popular in 2021. The story outlines how the firms that built the dam made huge profits even though the hydroelectric complex, which went into operation on the Xingu River in 2016, has fallen short of expected energy production largely due to seasonal variability in the river’s flow, plus reduced river volume due to deforestation and climate change — factors critics of the dam had warned about in advance. With the Xingu River’s reduced flow causing major social and environmental problems, and an ongoing legal battle over diversion of the river, the story remains timely.

Mongabay Latin America

Camera snaps first ever glimpse of a troop of the world’s rarest gorilla

Translated into Spanish from the English-language original in November 2020, this story by Elizabeth Claire Alberts about Cross River gorillas in Nigeria captured the attention of Mongabay’s Spanish-language readers in 2021. The article features some of the first ever footage of a troop of the rarest gorilla subspecies, including multiple juveniles, which has been cited by conservationists as a sign that efforts to protect this species are paying off.

Cross River gorilla group including adults and young of different ages. Photo © WCS Nigeria.
Cross River gorilla group including adults and young of different ages. Photo © WCS Nigeria.

Mongabay Hindi

Rainwater harvesting helps thousands of families escape age-old water crisis

Groundwater in the vicinity of the Sambhar salt lake in Rajahstan, India, is so full of salt and other minerals that water pumps and pipes would disintegrate within a few years. The health effects on local people, who lacked alternative water sources, could be just as severe: diseases of the digestive system, bones, joints and skin were rampant in the region. This story by Madhav Sharma, Mongabay’s most popular article in Hindi for 2021, explores a simple solution that has yielded immense results: harvesting rainwater in ponds for agriculture and, particularly, via rooftop systems that help households collect and store drinking water.

Mongabay India

Panna: The dark underbelly of India’s diamond hub

Mines in India’s Panna region, in Madya Pradesh state, have been supplying the world with diamonds for thousands of years. In the top story for Mongabay’s English-language India bureau, Manish Chandra Mishra reports on how poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and migration afflict people in Panna, as mines are yielding fewer diamonds and water shortages close off alternative means of livelihood.

Mongabay Indonesia

Get to know Papua’s giant endemic banana

Soaring as high as 25 meters (82 feet) in gardens, and 15 m (49 ft) in the wild, Papua’s Pisang raksasa or “giant banana” tree (Musa ingens) lives up to its name, as the photos in this story by Natalia Laurensia Carmelia Yewen illustrate. At 10-15 cm (4-6 in) long, the fruit of these towering plants is neither particularly large, nor considered by locals to be particularly tasty, though the extra-large leaves are used as building materials and matting, and the meter-wide (3-ft) midrib as storage containers. Experts say the banana tree, which is found only in a few pockets in the Indonesian province of Papua, could be threatened as deforestation ramps up across the region.

Banner image: Pangolins in the Philippines. Image by Gregg Yan / ACB via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Mongabay covers the latest news from nature’s frontline. Find our latest articles and more in our newsletter. Click the image to subscribe. Image by Maria Angeles Salazar/@masaru_arts.