10-second nature news digest

Conservation news digest for busy people from @Mongabay. Story summaries that can be read in about ten seconds per post.

Popular topics:: Amazon | Animals | Brazil | Congo | Conservation | Deforestation | Featured | Indonesia | Logging | Malaysia | Oceans | Palm oil | Rainforests | Wildlife



The Japan pig is a tiny colorful pygmy seahorse smaller than a fingernail [08/17/2018]
- Scientists have described a new species of pygmy seahorse that’s colorful and smaller than the average fingernail.
- The researchers have officially named the tiny seahorse Japan pig, or Hippocampus japapigu, because local people believe the animal resembles a “tiny baby pig.”
- Unlike other pygmy seahorses, the newly described species has an elevated ridge on its upper back made of triangular bones, the purpose of which is still unclear.
- The Japan pig is now the fifth pygmy seahorse species to be recorded in Japan.


Protected landscape across India-Bhutan border a refuge for wildlife during armed conflict [08/17/2018]
- From the late 1980s until 2003, ethno-political violence rocked Manas National Park (MNP), home to Bengal tigers and Indian rhinos, in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.
- But a shared border between the park and Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) helped the wildlife find refuge from the human presence. Since the end of the unrest, MNP has managed to preserve its overall animal diversity, according to a new study.
- Extensive camera-trapping exercise across the three ranges of the park have confirmed the presence of 25 mammalian species, including threatened species such as clouded leopards, Asian elephants, Indian hog deer, and swamp deer.


Record-high supply and demand on voluntary carbon markets in 2017: report [08/16/2018]
- According to a new report released by Ecosystem Marketplace, an initiative of the NGO Forest Trends, the supply of carbon credits on voluntary markets hit an all-time-high in 2017 of 62.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), while 42.8-MtCO2e-worth of offsets were purchased and retired — also a record.
- The number of offsets that have been generated is generally considered to be the best way to estimate the environmental impact of voluntary carbon markets. According to the report: “Since 2005, projects have helped to reduce, sequester, or avoid over 437.1 MtCO2e. That is more than all of Australia’s energy-related emissions in 2016.”
- But Kelley Hamrick, lead author of the report, warns that much of the future growth of the world’s voluntary carbon markets depends on the degree to which compliance markets recognize offsets generated under voluntary systems.


New Caledonia votes to protect coral reefs [08/16/2018]
- The government of New Caledonia voted on Tuesday to establish marine protected areas across 28,000 square kilometers of waters around the French overseas territory.
- The move safeguards coral reefs, marine habitats, and critical bird nesting areas.
- New Caledonia is known for its rich marine life, including nesting grounds for turtles, humpback whales, and sea birds.


Amid corruption scandal, Malaysia switches track on future of rail network [08/16/2018]
- Before he was voted out of office and slapped with criminal charges, former prime minister Najib Razak presided over a hugely ambitious rail expansion plan.
- Newly elected prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has suspended several key projects, citing cost overruns and concerns about China’s involvement.
- Public transit programs in the Kuala Lumpur region made significant gains under Najib, but revelations about the nexus of infrastructure projects and corruption leave the future of rail development in question.
- This is the fourth in a six-part series of articles on infrastructure projects in Peninsular Malaysia.


Colombia: Agencies rush to save national park from rampant deforestation [08/16/2018]
- Reports find more than 3 percent of Tinigua’s forest cover was cleared between February and April 2018. Officials worry the situation will worsen in the near future.
- The Secretary of Environment of the Colombian region of Meta says that the government and other entities are preparing combat deforestation.
- Tinigua Park is the only place in Colombia that connects the Orinoquía, the Andes and the Amazon. The park serves as a corridor for animals such as jaguars, mountain lions and brown woolly monkeys.


Tracking tools identify regional hubs of whale shark activity [08/16/2018]
- Researchers tracked 17 juvenile whale sharks tagged at three sites in the Philippines to understand how their movements related to food sources and fishing grounds in Southeast Asia.
- They found that juvenile sharks moved quickly and widely through the Bohol and Sulu seas but remained near their feeding sites within Philippine waters.
- In combination with other studies, these findings suggest that locally focused whale shark conservation efforts are critical and must consider the movements juvenile whale sharks make within zones of several hundred square kilometers.


Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago [08/15/2018]
- Tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature.
- The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016.
- The research found that tree cover loss on the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions.
- However all the tree cover data comes with an important caveat: tree cover is not necessarily forest cover.


Scientists say endangered whale sharks can live up to 130 years [08/15/2018]
- Scientists at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in the United States led a team of researchers who used minimally invasive methods for examining the growth patterns of whale sharks in the South Ari Atoll of the Maldives. The team repeatedly took measurements of free-swimming sharks over a 10-year period using three different approaches: visual, laser, and tape measures.
- The team built models of whale shark growth patterns based on the measurements they had taken from 186 encounters with 44 sharks and determined that male whale sharks reach maturity at about 25 years of age, can grow to nearly 62 feet in length, and can live as long as 130 years.
- Approximately 75 percent of the global whale shark population lives in the Indo-Pacific region of Earth’s oceans, with the other 25 percent occurring in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the IUCN Red List, combined data from both regions shows that the global whale shark population has likely declined by more than 50 percent over the past 75 years.


South American soy fed to EU livestock drives Gran Chaco deforestation [08/15/2018]
- European fast food firms and supermarkets often obtain the meat they sell from chickens, pigs, and cows raised in Europe. However, the feed, especially soy, consumed by the livestock often comes from South America, where the Cerrado biome and Gran Chaco ecosystem are rapidly being deforested by soy producers.
- The Gran Chaco is a unique biodiverse region covering 1.28 million square kilometers and encompasses parts of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and a tiny portion of Brazil. It is home to an estimated 3,400 plant species, 500 birds, 150 mammals and 220 reptiles and amphibians.
- While many large fast food companies and supermarkets have vowed to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, these companies still buy soy grown with large amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and often grown on South American land recently converted from forest and native vegetation.
- The soy grown in the Gran Chaco and Cerrado is purchased by Bunge, ADM, Cargill and other transnational and Brazilian commodities traders who then sell most of it to the EU and China. While the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium largely eliminated new deforestation due to soy in the Amazon, no such agreement protects the Gran Chaco.


‘Not doing anything is no longer acceptable’: Q&A with Alice Thomas, climate refugee expert [08/15/2018]
- Mongabay spoke with Alice Thomas, an expert on climate refugees, about the growing impact of climate change on the refugee crisis worldwide.
- To date, no one has been able to claim asylum due to climate change because the official definition of a refugee does not allow for climate-induced migration.
- One of the least-understood aspects of climate migration, however, is that most migrants won’t be leaving their country, but will be moving within their national borders.
- Smarter, better policies could not only mitigate such migrations, but allow communities to adapt to ongoing changes due to climate change, Thomas says.


‘Biological passports’ show whale sharks travel less than we thought [08/15/2018]
- A study looking at chemical signatures in whale shark tissue and using photographic identification has revealed that young sharks in three countries along the western rim of the Indian Ocean don’t typically stray more than a few hundred kilometers from their feeding sites.
- Of the more than 1,200 sharks photographed, only two traveled between different feeding sites — in this case, about 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) between Mozambique and Tanzania.
- The authors of the study say their findings demonstrate that local conservation of these populations is important because if whale sharks are wiped out in an area, they’re unlikely to repopulate it later on.


Recovering conservationist: Q&A with orangutan ecologist June Mary Rubis [08/15/2018]
- The rainforest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak is one of last remaining habitats of the nearly extinct Bornean orangutan.
- Orangutan conservation efforts have made the region a top priority for protecting the iconic species, but Malaysian conservationist June Mary Rubis says these efforts often sideline the indigenous peoples who live along with the great apes.
- Mongabay spoke with Rubis after she gave the keynote speech at the recent conference of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, in which she reflected on mainstream conservation narratives, politics, and power relations around orangutan conservation in Sarawak and elsewhere in Borneo.
- Rubis says she believes indigenous knowledge is crucial for the success of conservation and community development in orangutan landscapes.


When it comes to carbon storage, not all mangroves are equal [08/14/2018]
- Where a mangrove forest grows determines how much carbon gets stored in its soil, a new study has found.
- The study found that past research underestimated the amount of carbon stored in forests growing on limestone or carbonate soils by up to 50 percent, and overestimated blue carbon stored in deltaic settings by up to 86 percent.
- These differences in carbon density among the various mangrove ecosystems come down to the soils in which they grow, researchers say.


Technological breakthroughs are changing how researchers observe the world’s fishing fleet [08/14/2018]
- Three new scientific papers describe methodologies for working with automatic identification system, or AIS, signal data, and what the information reveals about global fishing activities.
- Two of the studies analyze how AIS data can be used to observe transshipment, which is when a fishing vessel transfers catch onto another vessel instead of bringing it into port itself.
- A third paper uses AIS data to shine new light on which countries dominate industrial fishing and in what areas they’re particularly active.


Industrial fishing is dominated by just a few of the world’s wealthiest nations [08/14/2018]
- A study led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the United States shows that wealthy countries’ industrial fishing fleets don’t just dominate Earth’s oceans, they have a virtual monopoly on them, especially on the high seas.
- The researchers found that vessels registered to wealthy countries are responsible for 78 percent of trackable industrial fishing in the waters of less-wealthy countries and a whopping 97 percent on the high seas, international waters that are outside of any one country’s jurisdiction.
- Five higher-income countries are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the industrial fishing effort on the high seas: China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain (in order of dominance).


The tropics are in trouble, warn scientists [08/14/2018]
- Plants and animals in the tropics are threatened by a range of issues, warn researchers writing in the journal Nature.
- The tropics are facing a mélange of well-documented human-driven threats: destruction of forests and marine ecosystems, overexploitation by the likes of industrial fishing fleets and commercial hunters, the spread of diseases and invasive species, and the growing impacts of climate change, which stress both ecosystems and their inhabitants.
- These threats aren’t likely to diminish soon. Human population continues to rise, but growing affluence means that it is increasingly outpaced by resource consumption, which acts a multiplier in terms of humanity’s planetary footprint.
- To stave off this bleak future, the researchers call for “major improvements in local and global governance capacity and a step-change in how environmental objectives are integrated into broader development goals.”


Brazil austerity policies devastating to rural communities: analysis [08/14/2018]
- Since taking power in 2016, Michel Temer has drastically cut Brazil’s social programs, especially impacting poor rural families. These austerity measures also adversely affect the natural world, with one social program linked to sustainability eliminated, and with struggling rural families less likely to protect, and more likely to exploit, natural resources to meet minimal economic needs.
- In 2013, the Bolsa Familia benefit program benefited 14 million Brazilian families, with its success recognized internationally. In 2016, President Temer committed to reducing the number of people receiving Bolsa Família aid by 10 percent. By July 2017, 1.5 million fewer people received the benefit than in July 2014.
- Launched in 2011, the Bolsa Verde program’s goal was to give financial incentives to people in poverty who were behaving in an environmentally conscientious way. Traditional river-dwellers, indigenous populations, Quilombos (communities of runaway slave descendants) and other rural communities benefited. The Temer administration has zeroed out the program’s budget.
- Other social programs seeing draconian funding cuts are the Food Acquisition Program (PAA), a federal initiative that buys produce from small-scale family farmers and then offers it to public institutions such as schools and hospitals; and the National Cisterns Program, which brings cutting edge rainwater management and storage technologies to poor communities in need.


Bornean villagers who fought off a mine prepare to do battle again [08/14/2018]
- In 2010, the government of West Kutai district in Indonesian Borneo granted a mining permit to PT Kencana Wilsa. Local Dayak villagers say they did not give their permission.
- After demanding the mining company pay a customary fine, locals believed the company had abandoned its plans to mine. But company officials told the government they had reached an agreement with the villagers.
- In June, workers returned to map the area, raising fears among villagers that their customary forest and their water source will be destroyed by mining.


Ruralists in Brazilian congress put nation’s protected areas at risk [08/14/2018]
- Bill PL 3,751 / 2015, moving through the Brazilian congress, would set a five-year deadline for the resolution of land issues and disputes, such as land ownership conflicts, in protected areas. If issues were not resolved within that timeframe, a protected area could have its protected status removed.
- There are currently more than 100 protected areas that have not had their permanent status implemented, and they would all be at risk. If this bill was applied retroactively to these areas, over 17 million hectares (roughly 66,000 square miles) — over half of all currently protected areas in Brazil — would be threatened.
- In a letter published in Science, Brazilian scientists denounced the bill, calling it an attack on the networks of conserved lands that support biodiversity and arguing that the legislation conflicts with the Brazilian constitution.
- The bill has passed in the Brazilian Environment Committee and awaits a vote in the Finance and Taxation Committee. Though presidential elections could delay the process, it is likely the committee vote will occur in 2018. Analysts think passage is likely, which could threaten preserved areas in the Amazon, Cerrado, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, and Caatinga.


Predatory coral bring down jellyfish by working together [08/14/2018]
- For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that corals can work cooperatively to capture jellyfish.
- The team observed the bright orange Astroides calycularis, which lives on sea walls and caves in the Mediterranean Sea, snagging mauve stinger jellyfish that became trapped by ocean currents.
- Coral polyps first grab onto a jellyfish’s bell, and then others will begin ingesting the jellyfish’s arms in a process that takes just a few minutes.


In protecting songbirds, Indonesia ruffles owners & breeders’ feathers [08/13/2018]
- Songbird owners and breeders have denounced the Indonesian government’s recent decision to add hundreds of bird species to the national list of protected species.
- Birdkeeping has long been a popular and highly lucrative pastime in the country, with deep cultural roots.
- The government has sought to accommodate the owners’ concerns by insisting that enforcement of bans on capturing and trading in the newly protected species will not be applied retroactively.
- It has also given owners and breeders a generous window in which to register their birds — an opportunity that conservation activists say could be exploited by people looking to stock up on wild-caught birds.


RSPO should ban deforestation, say investors representing $6.7t in assets [08/13/2018]
- Institutional investors want to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to strengthen its standards.
- At present, the RSPO allows its member companies to clear certain kinds of forest. The investors want the roundtable to ban all deforestation.
- The investors also want the RSPO improve its policies on peatland, workers rights and pesticides.


Ecology monks in Thailand seek to end environmental suffering [08/13/2018]
- At a time when Pope Francis is calling upon religious leaders to step up as environmental advocates, Thai Buddhist monks are answering the call. Through rituals like tree ordinations, monks are integrating Buddhist principles into the environmental movement in order to garner support from their followers and encourage sustainable practices.
- Although Buddhism is typically a religion famed for its detachment from society, ecology monks believe that their religion is inherently tied to nature.
- With such an immense amount of influence in villages throughout Thailand, Buddhist monks are utilizing their position to add a unique moral dimension to the environmental movement. However, rituals alone are not enough.


Trase.earth tracks commodities, links supply chains to deforestation risk [08/13/2018]
- Launched in 2016, Trase is an innovative Internet tool, available to anyone, which tracks commodities supply chains in detail from source to market, and can also connect those chains to environmental harm, including deforestation. Until the advent of Trase, knowledge of supply chains was sketchy and difficult to obtain.
- The Trase Yearbook 2018 is the first in an annual series of reports on countries and companies trading in such commodities as soy, sugarcane and maize, which also assesses the deforestation risk associated with those crops, making it a vital tool for environmentalists, governments, investors and other interested parties.
- The Yearbook shows that in 2016 the Brazilian soy supply chain was dominated by just six key players – Bunge, Cargill, ADM, COFCO, Louis Dreyfus and Amaggi – accounting for 57 percent of soy exported. In the past ten years, these six firms were also associated with more than 65 percent of the total deforestation in Brazil.
- Trase shows that zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) have so far not resulted in greatly reduced deforestation risk for the commodities companies and countries making them. Between 2006 and 2016, soy traders with ZDCs, as compared to non-committed firms, were associated with similar levels of deforestation risk.


Millipedes might soothe itchy lemurs, research finds [08/13/2018]
- Scientists have observed red-fronted lemurs in Madagascar biting millipedes and then rubbing themselves with the secretions.
- A team of researchers published their observations in the journal Primates, along with their hypothesis that the lemurs were using the millipede secretions to treat worm infections.
- The study’s lead author also observed lemurs eating the millipedes, which may slow the growth of parasites living in the primates’ intestines.


Lao government says it will suspend new hydro projects after dam collapse kills 31 [08/13/2018]
- After a dam failure in southern Laos left at least 31 dead, the government announced it will suspend all new dam projects and carry out safety inspections of all existing dams.
- A commission of inquiry will investigate the cause of the dam failure, while a separate committee will look into official responsibility.
- The prior consultation process for the proposed Pak Lay hydropower project appears not to have been postponed.


Earless African pygmy toad discovered on remote mountain in Angola [08/13/2018]
- Researchers have found a new species of African pygmy toad in Serra da Neve Inselberg, an isolated mountain and Angola’s second-highest peak.
- The new species, formally named Poyntonophrynus pachnodes, or the Serra da Neve pygmy toad, lacks both external and internal parts of the ear that help frogs hear.
- While earless toads aren’t rare, this is the first time a Poyntonophrynus species has been reported without ears.


Top forestry official out in Malaysia [08/11/2018]
- According to press reports, Datuk Sam Mannan will be removed from his role as head of the Sabah Forestry Department.
- Mannan’s reign as Sabah’s top forestry official was not without controversy.
- Often blunt and outspoken toward critics, he aggravated timber companies — and won accolades from conservationists — by converting hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforest in forestry concessions into permanent forest reserves, making them off-limits from logging.
- It’s unclear where Mannan will end up — reached by Mongabay, Mannan did not offer comment about his departure or plans — but it’s not the first time he has left the directorship.


Forest elephant DNA diverse, consistent, and distinct, study says [08/10/2018]
- The loss of more than 60 percent of the world’s forest elephants to poaching has led to calls for its official recognition as a separate species worthy of international conservation support.
- Scientists examined the nuclear DNA of forest elephants across their range to assess the species’ genetic diversity. They found that the elephants’ nuclear DNA, as opposed to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), is diverse but consistent among populations across Central Africa.
- Adult male elephants that wander great distances in search of females promote gene flow among populations and maintain the species’ genetic diversity. The authors suggest conservation measures that retain three major forest elephant populations representing existing genetic variation.
- The importance of forest elephants for dispersing the seeds of most large trees in the Congo Basin makes their conservation critical to maintaining the health of Central African rainforests.


Can Ecuador do palm oil right? Jurisdictional RSPO commitment stirs hope [08/10/2018]
- Ecuador is the sixth largest palm oil producing country in the world and the second largest in Latin America. While most of its oil palm plantations have been developed on degraded land, an estimated 6 percent of cultivated area has come at the expense of natural forest. Conservationists worry this will increase as the country’s palm oil sector continues to grow.
- In attempts to reign in harmful palm oil industry practices, Ecuador’s Ministry of Agriculture reactivated its Jurisdictional RSPO Certification plan in March 2018. The RSPO stands for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and is the world’s leading palm oil certification body.
- Ecuador’s jurisdictional plan aims to certify entire provinces rather than focus certification efforts on individual companies and plantations, which has tended to be the norm in other parts of the world. Jurisdictional RSPO is also seen as a way to help the country’s palm oil sector gain better access to world markets, which are increasingly requiring sustainability certification for their products.
- The plan has been lauded by organizations such as the United Nations REDD program. But some worry it may not be applicable in some parts of Ecuador, such as its Amazonian region, and that a large-scale jurisdictional approach may be vulnerable to political turnover.


Death foretold? A courageous Amazon peasant couple resists illegal loggers [08/10/2018]
- The Terra do Meio (Land in the Middle) is a continuous mosaic of protected areas, 20 indigenous territories and 10 conservation units covering 28 million hectares in the heart of the Amazon and intended as a buffer against illegal deforestation and land theft. As big as Colorado, it represents one of the world’s largest areas of conserved tropical rainforest.
- Today, this vast conserved area in Pará state is under great pressure from organized crime and illegal loggers, with the Riozinho do Anfrísio Extractivist Reserve one of the most assaulted by illicit timber harvesters in all of Amazonia. The Areia settlement, created by the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in 1988, lies adjacent to the reserve.
- Areia’s residents have suffered for decades from threats of violence and murder from the illegal loggers, with many locals abandoning their land or giving in to the criminals. Organic farmers Osvalinda Maria Marcelino Pereira and Daniel Pereira have resisted, holding onto their plot, with Osvalinda founding the Association of the Women of Areia.
- Hounded by hired gunmen and threatened with death, the two have become isolated and are now seeking outside support for their cause. Federal agencies have offered little help, and there are allegations that the illegal loggers are being shielded from prosecution. Similarly desperate situations are occurring among peasant farmers across Amazonia.


Indonesia’s ‘one-map’ database blasted for excluding indigenous lands [08/10/2018]
- The Indonesian government has decided to not include maps of indigenous territory in its unified land-use map database when it is launched this month, despite the fact that some of the maps have been formally recognized by local governments.
- The exclusion has drawn criticism from indigenous rights activists, who say it defeats the purpose of the so-called one-map policy, which is to resolve land conflicts, much of which involve disputes over indigenous lands.
- The activists say the exclusion of the customary maps effectively signals the government’s denial of the existence of indigenous lands.
- For its part, the government says the customary maps will be included once all of them have been formally recognized by local governments — a tedious and time-consuming process that requires the passage of a bylaw in each of the hundreds of jurisdictions in which indigenous lands occur.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 10, 2018 [08/10/2018]
- There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
- Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
- If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.


Latam Eco Review: Turtles at risk, jungle fracking, and a mafia land grab [08/10/2018]
The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, last week followed what is causing an 80 percent decline in some sea turtle populations in Peru, mafias and deforestation in Colombia, and fracking in Bolivia. Banner image: The hook in the photo above can cause internal damage that is fatal for sea turtles. Image courtesy of […]

Rare mountain-dwelling Nilgiri tahr could lose 60% of habitat as climate warms [08/10/2018]
- The shy, elusive Nilgiri tahr once occurred over a large area in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot in India, but its distribution has shrunk considerably since the 1950s.
- Currently, about 3,000 individuals are known to occur in isolated groups that are restricted to the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, covering less than 10 percent of their former range.
- Extreme global warming could slash by 60 percent the amount of available habitat that’s suitable for the tahr, a new study has found.


Forest fires threaten Asian Games as hotspots flare up in Sumatra [08/10/2018]
- Fires have started to flare up in Indonesia’s South Sumatra province, which will co-host thousands of athletes, officials and visitors for the Asian Games, the continent’s biggest sporting event, later this month.
- Officials are worried about a repeat of the devastating 2015 fires that burned up an area three times the size of the state of Delaware, and that generated haze that sickened half a million people.
- After relatively mild fire seasons in 2016 and 2017, thanks to longer rainy spells, dry conditions are expected to intensify this year, at least through September, raising the risk of more fires and possibly haze.


In protecting the Javan rhino, locals gain a ‘more meaningful life’ [08/10/2018]
- Working in Javan rhino protection programs is no mean feat, according to locals who have dedicated decades of their lives to the endeavor.
- From getting chased by rhinos to meeting face-to-face with armed hunters, their experiences speak to the often grueling reality of on-the-ground conservation work, highlighted by rare encounters with the elusive animals.
- Yet despite the challenges, the workers say they have found worth in their daily duties, and have come to value the rhinos even more as a result.


Community vs. company: A tiny town in Ecuador battles a palm oil giant [08/09/2018]
- In 2000, palm oil company Energy & Palma bought some land in the district of Esmeraldas in northern Ecuador. This land is home to the Afro-Ecuadorian community of Wimbi, a town of some 400 people settled in the 19th century.
- The situation came to a head in 2015 when judges in the provincial court of Esmeraldas ruled in favor of the company and ordered the evacuation of Wimbi residents. In 2016, Energy & Palmas began clearing the land for an oil palm plantation.
- Wimbi community members refused to leave, forcing the company to vacate the area and agree to not develop it. Residents say that the land sale, although legal in the eyes of the court, is invalid as only one person in the community agreed to it. Energy & Palmas retains its land rights.
- Researchers say Afro-Ecuadorian communities have lost over 30,000 hectares of ancestral land since the 1990s. They found palm oil companies have used several tactics in order to acquire land, including buying it through intermediaries, buying from the community directly, invasion, and using pressure and threats.


Camera trap videos help protect biodiversity of Bigal River Biological Reserve in Ecuador [08/09/2018]
- Bigal River Biological Reserve is located in the southern buffer zone of Ecuador’s Sumaco Napo-Galeras National Park, a less-explored national park that the biological reserve helps to protect, according to Thierry Garcia of the Sumac Muyu Foundation, which founded and manages the reserve.
- As part of its Bigal River Conservation Project, the Sumac Muyu Foundation has maintained camera traps in the reserve since 2014 and has collected hundreds of hours of footage showing big mammals like jaguars and tapirs as well as rare birds and other species going about their business in the foothill forests.
- The main goals of the camera trap program run by the Sumac Muyu Foundation include documenting the mammals present in the reserve and which parts of the reserve they tend to roam, as well as monitoring those mammal populations and studying variations in their behavior due to natural forest dynamics or human pressures.


‘High risk’ that China’s timber from PNG is illegal: New report [08/09/2018]
- China, as the main destination for Papua New Guinea’s timber, could help tackle illegality in PNG’s forestry sector with stricter enforcement, according to a new report from the watchdog NGO Global Witness.
- The report contends that companies operating in Papua New Guinea continue to harvest timber unsustainably, often in violation of the laws of a country that is 70 percent forest.
- Global Witness calls for a moratorium on logging operations and a review of permits to harvest timber.
- The organization also argues that Chinese companies should increase their own due diligence to avoid purchasing illegally sourced timber.


In Ecuador, a pipeline cuts a trail of misery through indigenous land [08/09/2018]
- The construction of an oil pipeline without the necessary permits has led to the destruction of the ancestral forests of the Siona indigenous community in San José de Wisuyá on the shores of the Putumayo River between Ecuador and Colombia.
- The project has had far-reaching effects on the community’s long-held cultural traditions and practices, including the loss of medicinal plants and pollution of water sources.
- For more than two years, the community has sought reparations from the companies that constructed the oil pipeline, but the state ombudsman and the Ministry of Environment have yet to provide a definitive resolution.


‘I can’t get out’: Farmers feel the pressure as Ecuador’s palm oil sector grows [08/08/2018]
- The first commercial oil palm trees were planted in 1953. Since then, Ecuador has become Latin America’s second largest producer of oil palm, and the world’s sixth largest.
- The region comprising the canton of La Concordia is one of the country’s primary centers of production. Here, oil palm plantations were cultivated on land already degraded as small farmers sought a more profitable crop.
- But a volatile market and a deadly disease are cutting deep into the pockets of oil palm farmers in La Concordia who, because of oil palm’s long harvest cycle, worry they’re locked into a doomed investment.
- Meanwhile, conservationists are racing to protect rainforest as oil palm plantations expand in other parts of Ecuador.


Industrial fishing fleets traveling farther to reel in fewer fish [08/08/2018]
- According to a recent study in the journal Science Advances, the average distance industrial fishing fleets travel from their home ports to fishing grounds is twice what it was in the 1950s, expanding the total area of the world’s oceans that are fished from 60 to 90 percent.
- Despite ranging farther afield and fishing in new waters, however, the fleets of the top 20 fishing countries — collectively responsible for 80 percent of the global industrial fishing catch — are hauling in far smaller amounts of fish.
- Today, about 7 metric tons of fish are caught per 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles) traveled by those 20 countries’ fleets, less than a third of the more than 25 metric tons they caught per 1,000 kilometers traveled in the 1950s.


A river restored breathes new life into Kuala Lumpur [08/08/2018]
- Inspired by a global trend of urban river restorations, then-prime minister Najib Razak in 2012 launched a megaproject to clean up the Kuala Lumpur’s rivers and beautify riverfront areas.
- Ridiculed at first, the River of Life project has made notable strides towards its goals, and officials say it is on track to be completed on time and below budget.
- The initiative is part of a complex legacy left by Najib, who was swept out of power amid a corruption scandal and is currently awaiting trial for breach of trust and abuse of power.
- This is the third article in a six-part series about infrastructure projects in Peninsular Malaysia.


Madagascar proposes paying illegal loggers to audit or buy their rosewood [08/08/2018]
- In June, the World Bank facilitated a workshop to discuss what Madagascar should do with its stockpiles of illegally logged rosewood.
- Madagascar has been grappling with the question for years, but has been unable to make a proper inventory of the stockpiled wood or control illegal exports.
- The rosewood could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the international market, but the country cannot sell it until it shows progress in enforcing its own environmental laws.
- At the workshop, Madagascar’s government proposed a radical solution: paying loggers for access to their illicit stockpiles in order to keep tabs on the wood, or even buying the wood back from them directly.


On an island in the sun, coal power is king over abundant solar [08/08/2018]
- Locals and environmentalists have opposed a plan to expand a coal-fired power plan in northern Bali, Indonesia.
- They are worried that the expansion will exacerbate the existing impact of the plant on the environment and locals’ health and livelihoods.
- A particular concern focuses on the survival of dolphins and endemic species living in close proximity to the plant, with Greenpeace saying the dolphins have particularly been affected since the plant came on line in 2015.
- Another major worry is air pollution, with many locals complaining of respiratory ailments as a result of the fumes and coal dust emitted from the plant.


Africa’s biggest cobra is five species, not one, study finds [08/08/2018]
- Africa’s largest true cobra is not one, but five separate species, a new study has confirmed.
- Two of these species, the black forest cobra (N. guineensis) and the West African banded cobra (N. savannula), are new to science.
- As a single species, forest cobras were not considered threatened. But with the splitting of the cobra into five species, some species could be more vulnerable to forest loss and bushmeat hunting than others.
- The occurrence of five forest cobra species also has implications for the development of antivenom to treat forest cobra bites, researchers say.


Heavy rains preceded the Laos dam collapse. Was climate change a factor? [08/07/2018]
- Some observers have blamed the collapse of a dam in southern Laos last month, which killed dozens of people and displaced many more, on faulty construction.
- The companies building the dam say it is too early to tell why the accident happened, and have emphasized the monsoon rains that inundated the structure in the days leading up to its collapse.
- The question remains: To what extent was the heavier-than-usual rainfall that pushed the dam past its breaking point a result of climate change?


Myanmar’s milling industry devastated by new logging policies [08/07/2018]
- According to domestic media reports in Myanmar, about 80 percent of Burmese logging mills have shut down amid stricter logging policies.
- Myanmar recently ended a one-year ban on domestic logging for export on anything other than certified and stockpiled wood.
- The government logging oversight entity, Myanmar Timber Enterprise (MTE), claims a drastic reduction in the illegal harvest and export of both teak and non-teak wood, which is part of why mills are now shutting down.




Copyright © 2015 Mongabay.com