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



Could Brazil be on verge of one of world’s biggest conservation agreements? (commentary) [11/19/2018]
- The Brazilian Cerrado is a biodiverse mixed ecosystem – a mosaic of forests, savanna and grasslands. It is huge, almost three times bigger than Texas, but half of its natural habitat has been lost as it is converted to croplands and cattle pasture, and especially soy plantations.
- in 2016, Brazil’s soy industry (via its trade association ABIOVE), joined with Brazilian NGOs to create the Cerrado Work Group. In 2017, the NGOs published a Cerrado Manifesto, stressing the need for a biome-wide conservation agreement. Many companies in the soy supply chain, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, McDonalds and Unilever signed on.
- But a roadblock to the Brazil biome-wide agreement loomed: who would pay for zero deforestation incentives with Cerrado farmers? A breakthrough may be near: a shared incentive fund created by the dozens of companies that have signed the Cerrado Manifesto, a coalition that could include ABIOVE members, and all major global soy traders, plus impact investors.
- This sweeping Cerrado Agreement, which could be negotiated before the end of the year, would be revolutionary in that it eliminates agricultural conversion for all habitats, not just forests. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Pod-cast: New app streams whale songs for web users in real time [11/19/2018]
- Researchers have developed a web application to enable citizen scientists to listen for the sounds of a population of killer whales off the northeast Pacific coast in real time.
- A network of underwater microphones will stream underwater sounds from the area to citizen scientists, who can then report any unusual noises and help decode orca language.
- The researchers have found that human listeners can readily detect unusual sounds amid a stream of underwater noise, and their participation can complement machine-learning algorithms being developed.


Bolsonaro pledges government shakeup, deregulation, Amazon development [11/19/2018]
- Events are unfolding rapidly in Brazil, as president elect Jair Bolsonaro selects members of his administration and continues to propose what many analysts see as sweeping and draconian changes to the Brazilian government and environmental regulations.
- Bolsonaro, while stepping back from plans for a merger of the Environment Ministry with the Agriculture Ministry, still plans major government reorganization. Paulo Guedes, his chief economic advisor, for example, could lead a super ministry merging duties of the Finance, Planning, Industry and Foreign Trade ministries.
- During the presidential campaign, Amazon deforestation rates rose by nearly 50 percent, possibly as Bolsonaro supporters and land grabbers anticipate government retreat from environmental protections. Analysts worry Bolsonaro will criminalize social movements and end the demarcation of indigenous reserves assured by the 1988 Constitution.
- Bolsonaro also chose Tereza Cristina as Agriculture Minister. She is known for her intense support of pesticide deregulation, and for backing a bill to fast track socio-environmental licensing of large infrastructure projects such as dams, railways, roads, industrial waterways, and mines – a position Bolsonaro also supports.


Jaw-dropping footage: conservationists catch Javan rhino in mud wallow [11/19/2018]
- With just 68 individuals surviving in a single site, the Javan rhino is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered animals.
- The species is so elusive that conservationists have studied it for years without meeting one in the flesh. Even images are rare.
- Now, newly released video and photos from a recent expedition by Global Wildlife Conservation and WWF show a Javan rhino wallowing in a mud bath.


Deforested, degraded land restoration a top priority for African leaders [11/19/2018]
- African leaders met at a summit to discuss land restoration across the continent on Nov. 13, ahead of the U.N. Biodiversity Conference in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt.
- Representatives from several African countries shared their countries’ pledges to restore hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of degraded and deforested land in the coming decades.
- The summit’s leaders said they hoped the deliberations during the day-long summit would help African countries in both their contributions to international targets and to the improvement of their natural ecosystems for the benefit of their citizens.


Panama, Namibia plan to reveal fishing fleet data via online map [11/19/2018]
- Panama and Namibia have planned to publicly share information on their fishing fleet in their waters via the open-access mapping tool by Global Fishing Watch (GFW).
- Both nations say such a move would be crucial in improving transparency in fisheries management and protecting their oceans.
- GFW’s mapping platform provides both general data for the public and more detailed information seen only by authorities.
- The tool helps identify if a boat is fishing during the closed season of a particular species; if it enters an unauthorized area; or if it sails into a protected area.


California’s misguided plan to ‘save’ tropical forests (commentary) [11/16/2018]
- Indigenous leaders, environmental justice campaigners, academics, and left-leaning green groups have raised vocal opposition to an updated version of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) now known in California policy circles as the Tropical Forest Standard.
- The argument behind the TFS is that jurisdiction-wide policies to reduce deforestation implemented by state and provincial authorities will be different from scattershot private-sector-led REDD projects. But proponents leave out a key fact: the failures of REDD+ have often been driven by weak governance — that is to say, corruption, graft, neglect, and abuse of power — in tropical states.
- Intractable problems like these are why no state or country in the world accepts tropical forest carbon offsets into their cap and trade systems. Building long-term political infrastructure to lock in contracts in tropical forested countries puts Indigenous and forest dwelling peoples’ livelihoods at risk, while guaranteeing continued pollution that impacts communities of color in California.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Brazil could lose Nepal-size area of rainforest due to policy revision [11/16/2018]
- Brazil’s Forest Act requires landowners living in the country’s Amazon region set aside 80 percent of their private land for native vegetation. But when the law was revised in 2012, a paragraph was added that says this 80 percent requirement can be relaxed to 50 percent if a state protects more than 65 percent of its public land.
- A new study finds that this revision means that an area of the Brazilian Amazon between 65,000 and 154,000 square kilometers in size could lose its protected status.
- Most of the area under threat is comprised of primary forest with high levels of biodiversity and massive stores of carbon. Researchers warn the legal deforestation of these private forest reserves could stand in the way of the country’s emissions reduction targets.
- The study’s authors recommend the paragraph be revised, adjusted or removed before it has a chance to take effect and result in deforestation.


RSPO adopts total ban on deforestation under sweeping new standards [11/16/2018]
- The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has adopted new standards that will prohibit its member companies from clearing any type of forest for palm plantations.
- RSPO-certified companies were previously permitted to clear secondary forests and peat forests with a peat layer no deeper than 3 meters (10 feet).
- The move comes amid a growing consumer backlash that has prompted companies to make zero-deforestation commitments.
- Environmental activists have welcomed the RSPO’s deforestation ban with cautious optimism, noting that enforcement of the certification body’s standards has historically been lax.


Peru shares its fisheries surveillance data with the world [11/16/2018]
- Late last month, the Peruvian government made public its satellite surveillance data on 1,300 commercial fishing vessels plying Peru’s waters via the open-access platform Global Fishing Watch.
- Only the Peruvian government and companies in the fishing sector had access to the data previously.
- With this move, Peru became the second country in the world, following Indonesia, to make public data from fishing vessels’ Vessel Monitoring Systems, a method of satellite surveillance.
- The country aims to use GFW as a tool to fight illegal fishing and overfishing.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 16, 2018 [11/16/2018]
- 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: Rampant roadkill and shrinking seaweed stocks [11/16/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, investigated Colombia’s roadkill rates; Chile’s marine forests; and Chinese energy projects in Ecuador. Mammals pay highest toll on Colombia’s highways Plans to double Colombia’s highway network by 2035 represent a major threat to wildlife conservation. A roadkill app and research have documented some 11,000 roadkill incidents, […]

Plan to ship gorillas from DRC to Zimbabwe raises alarm [11/16/2018]
- The head of Zimbabwe’s wildlife authority says the agency plans to receive a donation of gorillas and okapis from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), part of a wildlife exchange program that recently saw 10 white rhinos sent to the DRC from Zimbabwe.
- The plan, officials say, is still being worked out. But the prospect has raised alarm over the welfare of the animals, the impact on the local ecosystem, and the possibility that animals from the DRC could be infected with Ebola.
- Zimbabwe has previously sold wild animals for display in China, leading some activists to fear the gorillas and okapis could ultimately end up in that country — an allegation Zimbabwean authorities strongly deny.


For APEC’s poorest member, flashy cars point to another boondoggle [11/16/2018]
- Papua New Guinea will host the 2018 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit this week.
- The PNG government says the summit will catalyze economic growth and development, but opposition leaders have criticized what they say is extravagant spending even as infrastructure and public services remain severely underfunded.
- The experience of the 2015 Pacific Games, the last time PNG hosted a major international event, could hint at the long-term legacy the APEC summit will leave behind.


Activists urge end to South Korean funding of Indonesia coal plants [11/16/2018]
- Activists in Indonesia have called on three South Korean financial institutions to withdraw their funding for new coal-fired power plants to be built in Java.
- The plants will be part of a complex that is already the biggest polluter in Southeast Asia, whose proximity to the metropolis of Jakarta could put the health of 30 million people at risk.
- The funding bucks a rising trend worldwide by governments and financial institutions to divest from coal projects and put their money in renewables instead.
- Building the new plants also makes little economic sense in light of dire warnings that the world must completely end coal-fired power generation by 2050 to avoid a global temperature rise of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).


Google searches reveal public interest in conservation is rising [11/15/2018]
- The number of Google searches for conservation-related topics has been increasing since 2004, a new study has found.
- In fact, interest in both conservation and climate change-related topics seem to be tightly linked and rising similarly.
- While the rise in Google searches for conservation-related terms doesn’t necessarily translate to increased support for conservation, what it does suggest is that conservationists must continue to communicate their results to reach all the people interested in conservation and environmental issues, researchers say.
- The study’s co-author, Rhett A. Butler, is Mongabay’s founder and CEO, while lead author Zuzana Burivalova was also the lead researcher on Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series published in 2017-18.


More than one-third of critically endangered plants cannot be conserved in seed banks [11/15/2018]
- New research finds that seed banking alone is not sufficient to conserve the world’s threatened plant and tree species.
- According to a paper published in the journal Nature Plants this month, researchers at the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew found that 36 percent of critically endangered species produce “recalcitrant seeds,” which means that they cannot tolerate being dried out and thus can’t be frozen at -20°C, the process required for them to be preserved in a seed bank.
- On the other hand, very few wild relatives of crop species and medicinal plants were found to be unsuitable for conventional seed banking.


Palm oil supplier to PepsiCo, Mars, and Hershey resumes deforesting in Indonesia [11/15/2018]
- A palm oil producer that supplies major companies including Nestlé, Mars, Hershey and Johnson & Johnson has been found to have cleared 4.5 square kilometers (1.7 square miles) of intact forest in Indonesia since May.
- While the clearing by the subsidiary of Jakarta-listed PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJ) is likely legal, it violates the well-publicized no-deforestation commitments of many of its customers.
- Satellite monitoring by initiatives like the Word Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch are making it harder for companies to deny knowledge of forest clearing by suppliers.
- But how aggressively each company responds is ultimately up to them, and is often directly linked to how much pressure they receive. Only Nestlé has confirmed it is actively working to remove ANJ from its supply chain.


Radar helps Kenya map mangroves and other cloud-covered forests [11/15/2018]
- Using Sentinel-1 radar imagery from the European Space Agency, the Forest2020 project has mapped a part of Kenya’s previously hard-to-assess coastal forests.
- The project’s findings show that 45 percent of the 83.5 square kilometers (32 square miles) of mangrove forest in a pilot county is highly degraded and in need of rehabilitation.
- These initial micro-scale maps of Kenya’s mangrove forests will help local forest officers and communities in areas with receding or recovering mangroves to take necessary coastal protection measures.


Saving the Amazon has come at the cost of Cerrado deforestation: study [11/15/2018]
- In the early 21st century, Amazon biome deforestation decreased, as native vegetation loss began rising dramatically in the Cerrado savanna biome in Brazil. Now, scientists using a new research methodology known as telecoupling, have found that the Amazon deforestation decline and Cerrado increase are linked.
- The effect, known as spillover, resulted as two zero deforestation conservation agreements – the 2006 Soy Moratorium and 2009 Brazilian Federal Prosecutors’ Terms of Adjustment of Conduct (TACs) – prompted commodities traders and ranchers to stop buying soy and cattle raised on newly deforested Amazon land.
- However, a portion of this agribusiness activity simply relocated to the Cerrado. The research team notes that this deforestation spillover effect – resulting from regionalized conservation initiatives – had been neglected by conservationists in the past because the underlying mechanisms are difficult to identify.
- The researchers suggest that telecoupling can be used in future research to understand the influences of conservation policies and supply chain agreements, whose impacts are displaced between biomes, countries and even continents. Telecoupling as a tool is especially important in a globalized, interconnected world.


For the two Congos, lessons in a peatland partnership with Indonesia [11/15/2018]
- Officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo visited Indonesia recently to see firsthand the country’s experience with managing tropical peatlands.
- The three countries have committed to joint efforts to study and conserve peat forests, particularly in the Congo Basin.
- Protecting peat is seen as a crucial move in the fight against climate change, given the huge amounts of greenhouse gases locked in peat soils.


High sea levels thousands of years ago aided island formation [11/15/2018]
- A recent study has found that high sea levels were critical to the formation of coral reef islands in the Indian Ocean thousands of years ago.
- The findings suggest that rising sea levels driven by climate change might not destroy all coral reef islands.
- However, the authors caution that the same higher-energy waves that help build these islands could also destroy the infrastructure on them that humans depend on.
- They also say that, for coral reef island formation to occur, the reef must be healthy to begin with — something that risks being negated by rising water acidity and temperature, both the result of climate change.


A lucky child: Mongabay’s origin story (insider) [11/14/2018]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler tells the origin story of Mongabay.
- Inspired by his love for nature and motivated by real-world losses, the groundwork for Mongabay was laid at a very early age.
- Rhett launched Mongabay in his early 20s to raise interest in the natural world and awareness about what is happening in wild places like tropical rainforests.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.


California’s Tropical Forest Standard could be the state’s most important climate action (commentary) [11/14/2018]
- This week, the California Air Resources Board will meet to decide if it will adopt a set of comprehensive requirements for large-scale programs to reduce tropical deforestation emissions, known as the Tropical Forest Standard.
- Approving this Standard, with its robust social and environmental safeguards, is the most important thing California can do right now for the climate (including its own climate), for the Amazon and other tropical forests, and for the people who live in them.
- Adopting California’s Tropical Forest Standard, which doubles down on the most rigorous best practices for social and environmental safeguards, would send exactly the message that governments, farmers, and indigenous and local communities now most need to hear.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


‘Not all hope is lost’ as outlook for mountain gorillas brightens [11/14/2018]
- The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of mountain gorillas from Critically Endangered to Endangered today.
- The new assessment cites the subspecies’ growing numbers, now at around 1,000 individuals, and the conservation efforts on its behalf.
- Scientists say that, while this is an important milestone, mountain gorillas’ survival depends on continued conservation.


Oreo maker linked to destruction of orangutan habitat in Indonesia [11/14/2018]
- Mondelēz International, the company behind Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, continues to source palm oil linked to deforestation in Indonesia, according to a Greenpeace report.
- The report said the company’s suppliers had cleared an area of rainforest greater than the city of San Francisco from 2015 to 2017, of which more than a third was orangutan habitat.
- Greenpeace says Mondelēz’s supply chain continues to be tainted with palm oil produced on deforested land because it uses the weakest certification model for its supply.
- Mondelēz, which has committed to a zero deforestation goal by 2020, says it hasn’t yet been able to achieve 100 percent sustainable palm oil in its supply chain, and pledged to keep working to that end with its suppliers.


Republic of Congo names new national park, home to gorillas, elephants [11/14/2018]
- The new Ogooué-Leketi National Park is the Republic of Congo’s fifth national park.
- It borders Batéké Plateau National Park in neighboring Gabon, and together the two parks form a transboundary protected area covering more than 5,500 square kilometers (2,120 square miles).
- The official designation of Ogooué-Leketi National Park comes after three logging concessions that overlapped with the proposed park area were finally closed down.
- All of the rights-holding communities that live close to the Ogooué-Leketi National Park were involved in the process of creating the protected area, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Congo program.


‘No one is helping us’: Venezuelan conservation crippled by crisis [11/14/2018]
- Many conservationists have fled Venezuela since an economic crisis began in 2014.
- Those who have chosen to remain behind complain of a lack of funding and resources, and say they feel abandoned by the international community.
- Despite incredible difficulties, some conservationists are still able to take action, including rediscovering a long-lost bird.


Speed trap: Cameras help defuse human-cheetah conflict in Botswana [11/13/2018]
- Increases in human-wildlife conflict could undermine Botswana’s conservation efforts, with farmers in some areas shooting carnivores preventatively to protect their livestock.
- Camera traps have helped researchers in Botswanan farmland to monitor cheetahs and other elusive or low-density predators without habituating them to human presence, a key feature in areas where farmers believe they will kill livestock.
- Communicating with local farmers and sharing camera-trap data on cheetahs’ territorial behavior and long-distance travel can help show farmers there may be far fewer individuals than they realize — “the cheetah seen today on one farm may be the same one seen [earlier] several farms away.”


Agroforestry saves soil and boosts livelihoods in Tajikistan [11/13/2018]
- Tajikistan is a dry and mountainous country where agroforestry is increasingly stabilizing soils degraded by decades of overgrazing, while growing food and providing cover for wildlife.
- “Alley cropping” is the main agroforestry technique used in the area of Faizobod, in which crops or grains are grown between rows of fruit or nut trees that shield the tender annuals from incessant wind and sun.
- Farm sizes are generally small, but farmers whom Mongabay visited enjoy multiple harvests annually, including 4 to 5 tons of apples a year in some cases.
- Agroforestry also sequesters carbon from the atmosphere in the woody trunks and limbs of trees and vines: it’s estimated that there are currently 45 gigatons of carbon sequestered by these agricultural systems worldwide.


Audio: A Half-Earth progress report from E.O. Wilson [11/13/2018]
- On this episode, a progress report on the Half-Earth Project direct from legendary conservation biologist E.O. Wilson.
- When Mongabay contributor Jeremy Hance spoke with Dr. Wilson back in January of 2017, Wilson said he’d found the goal of Half-Earth was energizing for people — and he tells us on this episode of the podcast that this continues to be true, as the conservation community has responded eagerly to the Half-Earth goal.
- Wilson also discusses why he sees Half-Earth as a “moonshot” and how close we currently are to protecting half of Earth’s lands and waters.


PNG to create 7,500 square kilometers of new marine protected areas in Bismarck Sea [11/13/2018]
- Papua New Guinea has announced its commitment to creating 7,500 square kilometers of marine protected areas in the Bismarck Sea by 2021.
- The new MPA network will encompass 2,500 square kilometers of coastal areas around Tikana and Lavongai islands including key coral reef systems in the Bismarck Sea, as well as 5,000 square kilometers of offshore areas identified as high priorities for marine conservation in New Ireland Province.
- The PNG government has pledged to triple the coverage of its current MPA network, and this new 7,500-square-kilometer (nearly 2,900-square-mile) commitment will achieve that goal. According to WCS president and CEO Cristián Samper, the new MPAs will also help the country meet its Aichi Target goal of protecting 10 percent of its territorial waters and coastline by the year 2025.


Chile: Mining waste continues to be expelled into the sea [11/13/2018]
- A major mining company is dumping its waste into the sea off the Chilean city of Huasco without authorization from environmental authorities.
- The waste suffocates marine life, destroys habitat and contaminates the water column with toxic heavy metals.
- Despite sanctions against the company for violating regulations, it continues to dump mining waste into the sea as it has for 40 years.


Vietnam-EU legal timber agreement signed, but much work remains [11/13/2018]
HO CHI MINH CITY — The European Union has signed an agreement to support Vietnam’s forest governance improvement goals, aimed at ensuring that the timber it imports from the Southeast Asian country is legally sourced. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) was signed Oct. 19 in Brussels by […]

China restores ban on rhino and tiger parts, for now [11/13/2018]
- In an announcement on Oct. 29, the Chinese government said it would permit the controlled use of rhino horn and tiger bone, obtained from farmed rhinos and tigers, for medical purposes.
- China has since walked back the decision, postponing the implementation of the new regulations temporarily.
- Even with the ban restored for now, activists are concerned that the message about the acceptability of animal parts in traditional Chinese medicine lacks clarity, and say they hope the ban will be reinstated permanently.


Honduras aims to save vital wildlife corridor from deforestation [11/13/2018]
- Honduras has pledged to remove livestock from the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to jaguars, tapirs and macaws.
- The reserve is found in the Moskitia region’s rainforests, around 30 percent of which have been cleared in the past 15 years, largely due to cattle and livestock ranching.
- Conservation groups hailed the move as one that would benefit both Honduras and the world because of the region’s biodiversity and carbon stocks.


Merger of Brazil’s agriculture and environment ministries in limbo [11/12/2018]
- During his campaign, presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro repeatedly called for the merger of Brazil’s Ministry of Environment (MMA) and Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA). Bolsonaro strongly backs agribusiness, while seeing the work of environmentalists as undermining the Brazilian economy.
- However, the president elect was met in recent days by a firestorm of resistance against the merger from environmentalists, NGOs, scientists, academics, the environmental ministry itself, and from eight former environmental ministers.
- Even the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby has come out against the proposal, calling it unworkable, noting that the two ministries have different, incompatible missions and agendas that would be compromised by a merger. Others note that a spirited dialogue between the two ministries is politically healthy for the nation.
- Bolsonaro, in response to criticism, said he will reconsider his plan, making a final decision on the merger known after taking office in January. Despite being close during the campaign to extreme right ruralists (mostly cattle ranchers), Bolsonaro has selected Tereza Cristina, a somewhat less radical ruralist, as new agriculture minister.


The last trees of the Amazon [11/12/2018]
- Illegally-sourced timber from Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia are incorporated into the international market with falsified official documents that are almost never verified.
- Timber traffickers are now pursuing new species of trees, but the countries’ governments do very little to protect the species.


Indonesia leans on businesses to do more about plastic waste [11/12/2018]
- The Indonesian government will issue a policy this year requiring producers and retailers to take greater responsibility for the waste generated by their products.
- Under the extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy, producers will have to boost the percentage of recyclable content in their products and packaging, as well as provide post-retail recycling solutions.
- The country is the second-biggest contributor, after China, to the plastic trash crisis in the ocean.


Satellite technology unites Kenyans against bush fires [11/09/2018]
- The Eastern and Southern Africa Fire Information System (ESAFIS), an online application developed in Kenya, uses MODIS satellite information to detect bush fires in eastern Africa.
- The freely available app maps and categorizes bush fires in near-real time and shows details of each fire , including the time it was detected, its location with respect to towns and protected areas, and its relative intensity.
- By providing an early fire warning system, the system helps forest management authorities respond to fires in their early stages and prioritize limited resources to fire hotspots.


Haiti may lose all primary forest by 2035, mass extinction underway [11/09/2018]
- Analysis of satellite imagery and aerial photographs indicate that all of Haiti’s remaining primary forest will disappear in less than two decades if current deforestation rates continue. Results indicate primary forest cover in Haiti shrank from 4.4 percent in 1988 to just 0.32 percent in 2016, and that 42 of Haiti’s 50 largest mountains have lost all of their primary forest cover.
- These forests are home to endangered animals found nowhere else in the world; researchers say the country is already experiencing a mass extinction event due to habitat loss.
- Deforestation-intensified flooding has also been implicated in thousands of human deaths.
- Researchers say Haiti’s forest loss is driven largely by charcoal production and agriculture.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 9, 2018 [11/09/2018]
- 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.


Novel research method reveals small-scale gold mining’s impact on Peruvian Amazon [11/09/2018]
- According to research released yesterday, small-scale gold mining has led to the destruction of more than 170,000 acres of primary rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon over the past five years.
- Scientists based in Peru’s Madre de Dios region at Wake Forest University’s Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA) say they’ve developed a new method for detecting artisanal-scale mining that is 20-25 percent more accurate than the tools used in the past.
- The researchers combined the CLASlite forest monitoring technology with Global Forest Change datasets on forest loss, both of which use lightwaves to identify changes in the landscape, to arrive at their estimate of rainforest destruction driven by small gold mining operations in Peru, which they say is 30 percent higher than previous estimates.


End of funding dims hopes for a Sumatran forest targeted by palm oil growers [11/09/2018]
- The Harapan lowland rainforest in Sumatra, one of only 36 global biodiversity hotspots, could be lost to oil palm plantations within the next five years.
- The Danish government, which since 2011 has funded efforts to restore the forest and keep out encroaching farmers, will cease its funding at the end of this year. No other sources of funding are in sight to fill the gap.
- The Danish ambassador to Indonesia says local authorities need to take on more of the responsibility of protecting the forest.
- He says relying on donor funding is unsustainable over the long term, and has called for greater emphasis on developing ecotourism and trade in non-timber forest products.


Peru cracks down after environmental defenders’ murders [11/09/2018]
- Peruvian police have arrested 12 members of a gang believed to be involved in the murder of four environmental defenders in the Chaparrí ecological reserve.
- The community-run reserve has in recent years been the target of a sustained campaign of land grabs, deforestation and arson.
- The land grabbers appear to be counting on a planned reservoir in the area to boost the value of the land for agricultural use.
- The Peruvian Congress has established a committee to look into the problems there, as threats and attacks against the community persist.


Latam Eco Review: Hungry manatees and grand theft tortoise [11/09/2018]
The recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, concerned hungry manatees in Venezuelan zoos; giant tortoises stolen from the Galápagos Islands; and a ban on free, prior and informed consent in Colombian extractive projects. Venezuelan zoos struggle to feed their animals Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis is affecting the ability of researchers and zoo […]

In West Papua’s Arfak Mountains, local leaders plot ecotourism boom [11/09/2018]
- The governors of Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces recently signed a pledge to conserve 70 percent of the land in their jurisdictions, home to some of the best forest left in the country.
- In the newly established district of Pegunungan Arfak, local leaders believe ecoutourism can boost the economy while also protecting the environment.
- They hope to follow the example set by Costa Rica, an ecotourism success story that generates almost $3 billion in annual revenue for that country.


China increasingly involved in Brazil’s ambitious Amazon rail network [11/08/2018]
- Brazilian commodities producers have long dreamed of a railroad network crisscrossing Amazonia and the Cerrado, able to cheaply move crops and minerals from the nation’s interior to South America’s coasts. But factors, including lack of investment, political instability and difficult terrain, have foiled those hopes – until now.
- In recent years, Brazil and China have developed mutual interests: Brazil produces soy and other food crops that China needs to feed its 1.3 billion population. As a result, China has increasingly gotten involved in potentially investing in and helping build a number of Brazilian railroads. And Brazil is actively seeking that help.
- Today, China has moved actively toward including Brazil in its global Belt and Road initiative, a plan to improve worldwide transportation and other infrastructure, in order to provide the Chinese with needed commodities.
- However, railroad construction has so far been slow to get underway. How last month’s election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro will impact Brazil-China relations is yet to be seen. While Bolsonaro has at times come out strongly against Chinese influence in Brazil, others within his administration may seek to actively court the Chinese.


Timor-Leste: With sacrifice and ceremony, tribe sets eco rules [11/08/2018]
- On an August morning in 2012, about 150 men, women and children gathered at a sacred spot in the village of Biacou, in northern Timor-Leste. With sacrifices of a goat and a pig and the blessing of the land and sea spirits, the community inaugurated the village’s tara bandu, a customary law of the indigenous Maubere that governs how people interact with the environment.
- Tara bandu was outlawed under the Indonesian occupation that lasted from 1975 until 1999. Since then, Maubere communities across the country have been bringing tara bandu back to life as a way to guide more sustainable use of their local natural resources.
- In Biacou, at least, the tradition appears to be resonating with residents as there has been just one violation of the tara bandu in the six years since its inauguration.
- This is the third story in Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Maubere’s revival of tara bandu.


Four of six black rhinos translocated to Chad are now dead [11/08/2018]
- Four of the six black rhinos reintroduced to Chad’s Zakouma National Park from South Africa in May are now dead, authorities say.
- Two of the rhinos were found dead recently, following from the deaths of two other rhinos in October.
- Authorities say the rhinos were not poached, and suggest they may have been having trouble adapting to their new habitat. More tests will be needed to determine the cause of death.
- The deaths in Zakouma come just months after 11 black rhinos died within days of being reintroduced into Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park in July.




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