Rhett Ayers Butler

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Rhett Ayers Butler
Born1978 (age 43–44)
United States
Alma materUniversity of California, San Diego (B.Sc.)
Known forConservation science, Environmental journalism
AwardsParker-Gentry Award

Rhett Ayers Butler (born 1978[1]) is an American journalist, author and entrepreneur who founded Mongabay, a conservation and environmental science news platform, in 1999.[2]

Butler founded Mongabay out of his interest in nature and wildlife.[3] The name "mongabay" originated from an anglicized spelling and pronunciation of Nosy Mangabe, an island off the coast of Madagascar.[4]

Butler has received multiple conservation, environmental, and journalism awards including the Parker-Gentry Award from the Field Museum of Natural History[5] in 2014 and the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award in 2021.[6]

Education and career[edit]

Butler studied Management Science and Economics University of California, San Diego, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.[7]

In 2012 Butler founded Mongabayorg Corporation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization headquartered in Menlo Park, California that raises awareness about social and environmental issues relating to forests and other ecosystems.[8] Mongabay.org was established in 2012 as the non-profit arm of Mongabay[9] and its first project with Mongabay-Indonesia, an Indonesian-language environmental news service.[10] Butler has served as CEO since inception.[11]

Reporting focus[edit]

Butler's reporting has focused on environmental issues in the tropics, especially topics related to forests, like biodiversity, conservation, and deforestation. He's done extensive reporting in Indonesia,[12] Malaysia, Borneo, the Amazon rainforest, and Madagascar.

In 2011 Butler published Rainforests, a book geared toward kids.[13]


Butler has co-authored more than 20 academic papers in publications ranging from Science[14] to Trends in Ecology & Evolution.[15] These papers have usually focused on trends in deforestation and tropical forest conservation,[16] public interest in conservation,[17] conservation practice,[18] palm oil,[19] and conservation technology.[20]

Philip Jacobson arrest[edit]

Butler played a prominent role in the effort to free American journalist Philip Jacobson after his detention on 17 December 2019 on an alleged visa violation.[21] Jacobson was released without charge on 31 January 2020.[22]


  1. ^ Guynn, Jessica. "A site of inspiration", San Francisco Chronicle, 5 July 2006. Retrieved on 17 February 2021.
  2. ^ Meehan, Emily. "Not Letting Success Get to Your Head", The Wall Street Journal, 8 September 2006. Retrieved on 23 February 2021.
  3. ^ Butler, Rhett (18 November 2018). "A lucky child: Mongabay's origin story". Mongabay News.
  4. ^ Wood, Barbara (8 November 2017). "How a curious kid from Atherton started and grew a global environmental news site". Almanac News.
  5. ^ Field Museum "Parker/Gentry Award", Retrieved on 14 January 2021
  6. ^ sealawards.com "2020 SEAL Environmental Journalism Award", Retrieved on 19 February 2021
  7. ^ butlernature.com "Rhett Ayers Butler". Retrieved on 19 February 2021
  8. ^ Guidestar "MONGABAYORG CORPORATION-GuideStar Nonprofit Profile Charting Impact Report", 17 November 2013. Retrieved on 17 February 2021
  9. ^ Butler, Rhett. "Shifting to a non-profit model for environmental news reporting", Mongabay.com, 29 October 2013. Retrieved on 11 November 2015
  10. ^ Sagita, Dessy. "Environmental portal launches in Indonesia", Jakarta Globe, 22 May 2012. Retrieved on 17 November 2015.
  11. ^ Butler, Rhett. "How Mongabay grew from a guy in his pajamas to a multinational media organization", Mongabay.com, 1 January 2019. Retrieved on 17 February 2021.
  12. ^ Schonhardt, Sara. "New Satellites to Help Save Indonesian Forests", Voice of America, 12 June 2012. Retrieved on 17 November 2015.
  13. ^ About Mongabay.com. Who is mongabay.com?
  14. ^ Burivalova, Zuzana; Game, Eddie; Butler, Rhett (4 January 2019). "The sound of a tropical forest". Science. 363 (6422): 28–29. doi:10.1126/science.aav1902.
  15. ^ Butler, Rhett; Laurance, William (24 July 2008). "New strategies for conserving tropical forests". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2008.05.006.
  16. ^ Ghazoul, J; Butler, R; Mateo-Vega, J; Koh, L.P. (22 April 2010). "REDD: a reckoning of environment and development implications". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 25 (7). doi:10.1016/j.tree.2010.03.005.
  17. ^ Burivalova, Zuzana; Butler, Rhett; Wilcove, David (9 October 2018). "Analyzing Google search data to debunk myths about the public's interest in conservation". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. doi:10.1002/fee.1962.
  18. ^ Sodhi, Navjot; Butler, Rhettt; Laurance, William; Gibson, Luke (1 November 2011). "Conservation successes at micro, meso and macro scales". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 26 (11): 585–594. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2011.07.002.
  19. ^ Butler, Rhett; Laurance, William F. (1 March 2009). "Is oil palm the next emerging threat to the Amazon?". Tropical Conservation Science. 2 (1). doi:10.1177/194008290900200102.
  20. ^ mongabay.com "Rhett Butler". Retrieved on 19 February 2021
  21. ^ Paddock, Richard (22 January 2020). "American Journalist Is Arrested in Indonesia Over Visa Issue". The New York Times.
  22. ^ Paddock, Richard (1 February 2020). "Indonesia Deports U.S. Journalist Jailed Over Visa Issue". The New York Times.