Rhett Ayers Butler

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Rhett Ayers Butler
Rhett Ayers Butler in Nov 2023
Born1978 (age 45–46)
United States
Alma materUniversity of California, San Diego (BSc)
Known forConservation science, Environmental journalism
AwardsParker-Gentry Award, Heinz 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, the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award in 2021,[6] and the Heinz Award for the Environment in 2022.[7]

Education and career[edit]

Butler studied Management Science and Economics University of California, San Diego, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.[8]

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.[9] Mongabay.org was established in 2012 as the non-profit arm of Mongabay[10] and its first project with Mongabay-Indonesia, an Indonesian-language environmental news service.[11] Butler has served as CEO since inception.[12]

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,[13] Malaysia, Borneo, the Amazon rainforest, and Madagascar.

In 2011 Butler published Rainforests, a book geared toward kids.[14]


Butler has co-authored more than 20 academic papers in publications ranging from Science[15] to Trends in Ecology & Evolution.[16] These papers have usually focused on trends in deforestation and tropical forest conservation,[17] public interest in conservation,[18] conservation practice,[19] palm oil,[20] and conservation technology.[21]

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.[22] Jacobson was released without charge on 31 January 2020.[23]



  1. ^ Guynn, Jessica. "A site of inspiration". SFGATE. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  2. ^ Meehan, Emily (6 September 2006). "Not Letting Success Get to Your Head". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 14 February 2022.
  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. ^ "2014 Rhett Butler | Parker/Gentry Award". 21 February 2020. Archived from the original on 21 February 2020. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  6. ^ Harney, Matt (17 February 2021). "2020 Environmental Journalism Award Winners Announced". SEAL Awards. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  7. ^ "Heinz Awards – Rhett Ayers Butler".
  8. ^ "Rhett Ayers Butler Bio – Rhett Ayers Butler". www.butlernature.com. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  9. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  10. ^ Butler, Rhett Ayers (29 October 2013). "Shifting to a non-profit model for environmental news reporting". Mongabay.
  11. ^ Sagita, Dessy. "Environmental Portal Launches in Indonesia". Jakarta Globe. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Satellites Help Save Indonesian Forests". Voice of America. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  14. ^ "About Mongabay.com". data.mongabay.com. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  15. ^ Burivalova, Zuzana; Game, Eddie; Butler, Rhett (4 January 2019). "The sound of a tropical forest". Science. 363 (6422): 28–29. Bibcode:2019Sci...363...28B. doi:10.1126/science.aav1902. PMID 30606831. S2CID 57600432.
  16. ^ Butler, Rhett; Laurance, William (24 July 2008). "New strategies for conserving tropical forests". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 23 (9): 469–472. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2008.05.006. PMID 18656280.
  17. ^ 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): 396–402. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2010.03.005. PMID 20417579.
  18. ^ 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. 16 (9): 509–514. doi:10.1002/fee.1962. S2CID 91865977.
  19. ^ 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. PMID 21824677.
  20. ^ Butler, Rhett; Laurance, William F. (1 March 2009). "Is oil palm the next emerging threat to the Amazon?". Tropical Conservation Science. 2 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1177/194008290900200102.
  21. ^ "Mongabay.com". Mongabay.com. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  22. ^ Paddock, Richard (22 January 2020). "American Journalist Is Arrested in Indonesia Over Visa Issue". The New York Times.
  23. ^ Paddock, Richard (1 February 2020). "Indonesia Deports U.S. Journalist Jailed Over Visa Issue". The New York Times.
  24. ^ Field Museum "Parker/Gentry Award", Retrieved on 14 January 2021
  25. ^ Harney, Matt (17 February 2021). "2020 Environmental Journalism Award Winners Announced". SEAL Awards. Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  26. ^ "Heinz Awards – Rhett Ayers Butler".