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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Web Site Brings Attention to Wildlife and Wild Places

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Twelve years ago, a young traveler named Rhett Butler from San Francisco, California, visited the Sabah rainforest on Malaysian Borneo. In one area of the rainforest, he watched as an orangutan moved through the trees. It was a sight to remember, in a place to remember.

But weeks later, back home, Rhett Butler got the news that trees had been cut down for their wood in the area he visited.

Interview with biologist Rodney Jackson about snow leopards
Interview with biologist Rodney Jackson about snow leopards

That experience led Rhett Butler to begin writing a book about rainforests and threats to their existence. But he did not publish the book. Instead, in nineteen ninety-nine, he used his research for the book to create a Web site. The site is Mongabay.com. The name is spelled m-o-n-g-a-b-a-y.

Rhett Butler named the site for Nosy Mangabe, an island off Madagascar. His purpose was to inform the public about tropical rainforests. But the subject widened. A former businessman, he became a respected writer of science and environmental stories.

The popularity of Mongabay.com attracted advertisers. Small ads on the site pay for its operations. Mongabay has grown and led to other sites. For example, there is a site for children, kids.mongabay.com. Another one, WildMadagascar.org, is all about the island nation that Rhett Butler calls his favorite place.

He travels the world on several major trips each year. His working tools are a laptop computer, cameras and sometimes diving equipment.

He often calls on experts for information for stories. For example, he interviewed Alison Jolly, a top expert on ringtailed lemurs. And last week he wrote about another animal, the rare snow leopard. He interviewed Rodney Jackson, a biologist who established the Snow Leopard Conservancy.

Stories like these have made Mongabay a favorite place on the Internet for researchers, students and teachers. In April, Time.com named it one of the fifteen top climate and environment Web sites.

Rhett Butler says he is concerned about how the current economic crisis in the world might affect environmental conservation efforts. For example, he says the falling price of oil could reduce interest in developing solar power. But he also points to a recent United Nations report on "green jobs." The report said efforts to fight climate change might lead to millions of jobs in biofuels by two thousand thirty.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jerilyn Watson.

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