The Pan Borneo Highway brings wildlife threats to nat’l park doorstep [08/21/2019]
- The southern terminus of the Pan Borneo Highway in Malaysia extends to the edge of Tanjung Datu National Park in Sarawak. - The highway’s proponents say the road is already bringing more tourists who are eager to see the park’s wildlife to the adjacent communities, helping to boost the local economy. - But one of the world’s rarest primates, the Bornean banded langur, resides in the park, raising concerns in the conservation community that increased access could bring poachers into the park.
Amazon rainforest fires leave São Paulo in the dark [08/21/2019]
- The number of forest fires in Brazil soared 85 percent between January 1 and August 20 compared to a year ago, according to data from the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE). Roughly half of fire occurrences of this year were registered in the last 20 days, INPE data showed. - * In a technical note released in the evening of August 20, the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia) said the occurrences are directly connected to deforestation as it didn’t find any evidence to argue that the fires could be a consequence of a lack of rain. - Fires in Brazil came to spotlight since the afternoon of August 19, when São Paulo’s skies suddenly turned black, spurring discussion about the linkage between the fires and the phenomenon. Since then, “Amazon Fires” are trending on Twitter under the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas. - Far-right President Bolsonaro reacted on August 21, raising suspicion that members of NGOs could be behind the fires in retaliation against the government for having caused the suspension of a $33.2 million payment from Norway to the Amazon Fund.
Wild orchid trade in China is huge, overlooked and ‘devastating,’ study finds [08/21/2019]
- In just one year of survey, researchers recorded more than 400 species of wild-caught orchids, involving 1.2 million individual plants worth potentially more than $14.6 million, being traded at markets in southern China. - At least some of the trade is illegal and in breach of CITES regulations, the study found. - Traders frequently sell non-native species of orchids. Moreover, native species that either have very small populations or have probably gone extinct in China also appear in the markets, suggesting they are likely being sourced from neighboring countries.
Japan builds coal plants abroad that wouldn’t be allowed at home: Report [08/21/2019]
- Japan is investing heavily in building coal-fired power plants overseas that would fall short of its own domestic emissions standards, according to a Greenpeace report. - Pollution from these plants, in places such as India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, could potentially lead to 410,000 premature deaths over the 30-year lifetime of the plants. - Japan is the only country in the G7 group of wealthiest nations still actively building coal-fired plants domestically and overseas, which threatens international efforts to reduce carbon emissions and stall global warning. - Activists say by building on its own renewable energy potential, Japan can set a positive example for the countries in which it’s investing in energy infrastructure.
Audio: The superb lyrebird’s song, dance and incredible vocal mimicry [08/20/2019]
- On this special show, we replay one of our favorite Field Notes episodes, featuring recordings of a songbird known for its own ability to replay sounds, including elaborate vocal displays and amazing mimicry of other species’ songs and even of trees blowing in the wind. - Male superb lyrebirds are extravagantly feathered creatures who clear patches of forest floor to prepare a stage on which they dance and sing their complex songs in order to attract a mate. - Female superb lyrebirds also sing plus they mimic other species as well as sounds from their environment, such as the creaking of trees in the wind. - Anastasia Dalziell discussed her study detailing findings on the vocal mimicry of male superb lyrebirds and the dances the birds use to accompany specific songs. She also discussed a previous study of hers looking at the mimetic vocal displays of female superb lyrebirds, which she said “highlights the hidden complexity of female vocalizations” in songbirds.
On Peru’s border, the Tikuna tribe takes on illegal coca growers [08/20/2019]
- Members of the Tikuna indigenous people in Peru’s border region with Colombia and Brazil have chosen to guard their forests against the rapid expansion of illegal coca crops, the plant from which cocaine is derived. - Equipped with GPS-enabled cellphones and satellite maps, they confront loggers and drug traffickers who have threatened them with death. - The community wants the government to do more to help them, including assisting in their transition to growing food crops from which they can make a legitimate living.
Philippine bill seeks to grant nature the same legal rights as humans [08/20/2019]
- A coalition in the Philippines is pushing for legislation of a “right of nature” bill, which would confer legal personhood on nature. - The bill, should it pass into law, will create a paradigm shift in existing human-centered environmental laws and make individuals, governments and corporations more responsible and accountable when dealing with nature. - The bill, currently in the drafting, adequately represents the connectedness between indigenous peoples and their ancestral domains, an indigenous women’s rights activist says. - The bill is part of a growing movement around the world to recognize ecosystems and species as legal entities, as a way of boosting their protection amid intensifying threats.
2019 in line for second lowest Arctic sea ice extent record [08/19/2019]
- 2019 has seen constant heat and melt conditioning of the Arctic sea ice, resulting in record, and near record, daily and monthly extent and volume stats over much of the melt season. The average volume for July, for example, fell to 8,800 cubic kilometers (2,111 cubic miles), a new record low. - Whether 2019 will set a new all-time extent or volume record at the September sea ice minimum remains to be seen, with ice extent shrinking less quickly since mid-August, possibly putting this year in second place, though certainly among the top five record lowest minimums. - The big news this year was the relentless heat in the Arctic, with record heat waves over Alaska, Scandinavia and Greenland, resulting in massive glacial runoff into the sea. Wildfires were rampant, with reindeer and fish including salmon possibly adversely impacted by very hot air and water temperatures. - Whether or not 2019 sets a new sea ice extent or volume low record this September is incidental. What this year dramatically showed is that the climate crisis has anchored itself firmly in the Arctic, and shows no signs of easing over the long-haul.
Colombia: Indigenous Yukpa besieged by deforestation and armed conflict [08/19/2019]
- Mongabay Latam and Semana Sostenible travelled to two of their reserves. The forests of the Serranía del Perijá Regional Nature Park are being burned and indigenous peoples are living in difficult health conditions. - They are asking for urgent attention from the state, and amid shortages are also having to deal with the arrival of indigenous Yukpa migrants from Venezuela. - This article is a collaboration between Mongabay Latam and Semana Sostenible from Colombia.
Mysterious plants that thrive in darkness, steal food: Q&A with botanist Kenji Suetsugu [08/19/2019]
- On Japan’s forest floors, there are plants that stay hidden and have given up on photosynthesis. These mycoheterotrophic plants are instead parasitic, drawing nutrition from the network of fungi running under the forest floor. - For the past 10 years, Kenji Suetsugu, a botanist and associate professor at Japan’s Kobe University, has been on a mission to identify and document mycoheterotrophic plants across the country’s. His surveys have uncovered 10 previously undescribed species of these elusive plants. - In a brief chat, Mongabay spoke with Suetsugu about the strange world of mycoheterotrophic plants, why it fascinates him, and why it’s an important indicator of ecosystem health.
Connecting an island: Traveling the Pan Borneo Highway [08/19/2019]
- The Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah are in the midst of building more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of the Pan Borneo Highway. - The goal is to boost the states’ economies and connect them with the Indonesian provinces on the island of Borneo as part of the Trans Borneo Highway. - Advocates of the highway, including many politicians, say the upgraded, widened and in some places entirely new stretches of highway will link markets and provide a jolt to the promising tourism sector in Malaysian Borneo. - But skeptics, including scientists and conservationists, argue that parts of the highway cut through ecologically sensitive areas and that planning prior to construction didn’t adequately account for the damage that construction could cause.
Philippine eco-warrior Gina Lopez, who battled mines, dies at 65 [08/19/2019]
- Gina Lopez, a former environment secretary of the Philippines and ardent activist against destructive mining practices, has died at the age of 65. - Working with civil society groups, Lopez led a grassroots movement that spurred an executive order from the president to ban new mining permits. - She continued this work during her brief time in office, leading a massive audit of all mining operations in the country, canceling scores of contracts and closing nearly two dozen mines. - A longtime chair of the ABS-CBN Foundation, she also established a helpline to rescue abused children and provided financial assistance and training to rural communities in developing ecotourism initiatives.
Travel: A charmed encounter with birds-of-paradise in Papua’s Arfak Mountains [08/19/2019]
- The provinces of West Papua and Papua have pinned their hopes for economic growth on ecotourism and sustainable development. - The Arfak Mountains in West Papua have become a hotspot for bird-watching, thanks to forests teeming with spectacular birds-of-paradise. - Mongabay Indonesia recently traveled to the village of Minggrei for a bird-watching trip to see what makes the experience so special that tours are booked out until 2021.
Deforestation, climate crisis could crash Amazon tree diversity: study [08/18/2019]
- New research finds that when climate change and deforestation impacts are taken together, up to 58 percent of Amazon tree species richness could be lost by 2050, of which 49 percent would have some degree of risk for extinction. - Under the deforestation/climate change scenario, half the Amazon (the north, central and west) could be reduced to 53 percent of the original forest. The other half (the east, south and southeast, where agribusiness occurs), could become extremely fragmented, with only 30 percent of forest remaining. - Studies rarely take both climate change and deforestation into account. But the new study’s results bolster the findings of other scientists who have modeled results showing that when the Amazon is 20-25 percent deforested, it could cross a rainforest to savanna conversion tipping point, a disaster for biodiversity. - Scientists warn that Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policies could result in a worst-case scenario, with severe damage to the Amazon rainforest and to its ecological services, including the loss of the sequestration of vast amounts of stored carbon, leading to a regional and global intensification of climate change.
CITES 2019: What’s Conservation Got To Do With It? (commentary) [08/16/2019]
- From August 17-28, the global community convenes in Geneva for the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). - Species whose very future on this planet will be debated include the African elephant, Southern white rhino, giraffe, tiger, jaguar, cheetah, and mako shark. - Susan Lieberman, Vice President for International Policy at WCS, argues governments must not let their decisions be swayed by the pressures of those more interested in trade than conservation. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Bid for greater protection of star tortoise, a trafficking mainstay [08/16/2019]
- The illegal trafficking of the Indian star tortoise, an IUCN-listed vulnerable species, is thriving despite its trade being restricted under CITES Appendix II and domestic legislation in all three range states. - To fight this, range states Sri Lanka and India, along with other countries, have submitted a proposal for the upcoming CITES summit to move the star tortoise from Appendix II to Appendix I. - The CITES Secretariat has recommended rejecting the proposal, saying that adding the star tortoise to Appendix I provides no clear benefit for its protection, but proponents say the alarming scale of the trade should be reason enough, and hope to convince the CITES parties of the value of uplisting the tortoise.
Madagascar: What’s good for the forest is good for the native silk industry [08/16/2019]
- People in the highlands of central Madagascar have long buried their loved ones in shrouds of thick wild silk, typically from the endemic silkworm known as landibe (Borocera cajani). - With support from NGOs, traditional silk workers have widened their offerings to include scarves made of wild silk for sale to tourists and the country’s elites. - In recent years, the price of raw materials has shot up as the forests the landibe grows in succumb to fire and other threats, making it difficult for silk workers to continue their craft. - However, where there are forest-management challenges, there is also opportunity: the silk business provides an incentive for local people to protect their trees. Some well-organized and well-supported community groups are cashing in on conservation, in spite of the broader silkworm recession.
Norway freezes support for Amazon Fund; EU/Brazil trade deal at risk? [08/16/2019]
- On Thursday, Norway announced a freeze on US$33.2 million, Amazon Fund donations slated for projects aimed at curbing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The REDD+ Amazon Fund was launched in 2008, and was expected to continue indefinitely. - However, the anti-environmental policies of Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro have put the Fund’s future in grave doubt. Norway’s freeze came as the direct result of the Bolsonaro administration’s unilateral action to drastically alter the rules for administering the fund, even as monthly deforestation rates shot up in Brazil. - Bolsonaro seems not to care about the loss of funding. However, some analysts warn that Norway’s decision could lead to a refusal by the European Union to ratify the recently concluded EU/Mercosur Latin American trading bloc agreement. Brazil’s troubled economy badly needs the pact to be activated. - Other Bolsonaro critics have raised the prospect that the Amazon Fund freeze could be a first step toward a global consumer boycott of Brazilian commodities. Meanwhile, state governments in Brazil are scrambling to step up and accept deforestation reduction funding from international donors.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 16, 2019 [08/16/2019]
- 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. - Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.
Asian elephant footprints serve as safe spaces for frog nurseries [08/16/2019]
- Researchers have discovered that Asian elephant footprints can create stable, safe breeding grounds for frogs in Myanmar. - The scientists believe these stable foot ponds can last for more than a year, and that a series of them provides connectivity for frog populations. - While the ecosystems services of African savanna and forest elephants have been widely studied, the scientists say more research should be spent on Asian elephants and how they impact their ecosystems.
Newly described giant extinct penguin and parrot once lived in New Zealand [08/16/2019]
- Paleontologists have found fossils of two extinct giant birds in New Zealand: an enormous penguin that would have been nearly as tall as an average adult human, and the largest parrot ever known to have existed. - The new species of extinct giant penguin, formally named Crossvallia waiparensis, was described from leg bones found at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in the North Canterbury region in 2018. - The extinct parrot, Heracles inexpectatus, was likely double the size of the previously largest known parrot species, the kakapo. The fossils of the parrot were first recovered from near St. Bathans in Central Otago in 2008.
Ekuri Initiative: Inside a Nigerian community’s battle to keep its forest [08/15/2019]
- The Ekuri Community in southeastern Nigeria started an initiative in the early 1990’s to manage their community forest adjacent to the Cross River National Park, home to the critically-endangered Cross River gorilla and a suite of other unique and threatened species. - Formalized through the Ekuri Initiative, planned community forest management has helped to drive local development, conservation, sustainable forest management and address poverty by improving access to sustainable livelihoods. - The Initiative has resisted threats from logging companies and more recently attempts by state authorities to build a 260-km superhighway that would have destroyed much of the community forest. - However, community leaders worry that if state and national governments continue to ignore their efforts, villagers might think conservation efforts do not respect their rights to survival.
Precision conservation: High tech to the rescue in the Peruvian Amazon [08/15/2019]
- Peru’s Los Amigos Biological Station stands on a dividing line between the devastation caused by a gold rush centered on La Pampa, and a vast swath of conserved lands that includes Manú National Park — likely the most biologically important protected area in Latin America — plus its conserved buffers. - Teaming up to defend these thriving forests and their biodiversity are conservationists and technologists — an innovative alliance that includes Conservación Amazónica (ACCA), Amazon Conservation (ACA), the Andes Amazon Fund, along with other organizations. - Among the precision conservation tools they use to patrol against invading artisanal miners and illegal loggers are drones, acoustic monitoring, machine learning, lidar and thermal imaging — all applied to protecting one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth. - Conservationists are hopeful not only that they’ll be able to protect Manú National Park and its buffers, but that they may be able to one day help remediate and restore the wrecked habitat of La Pampa. This integrative approach, they say, is vital to conserving the region’s biodiversity against the escalating climate crisis.
Nigeria finds itself at the heart of the illegal pangolin trade [08/15/2019]
- Pangolins have long been hunted for food and traditional medicine. They are traded openly in bushmeat markets in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon. - Strong demand from Asia has attracted organized criminal syndicates to set up trafficking networks in Nigeria, and the illegal trade in pangolin parts has gone deeper underground. - Hunters and traders tell Mongabay that the impact of increased trafficking on pangolin populations is becoming clear as they are increasingly difficult to find in the forest. - Chinese buyers will pay anywhere between $3 and $20 for a pangolin — a relative fortune for local bushmeat traders. Traffickers can then get as much as $250 for the scales from one pangolin in markets in Asia.
Europe-bred rhinos join South African cousins to repopulate Rwanda park [08/14/2019]
- Five critically endangered eastern black rhinos have been flown from Europe to Akagera National Park in Rwanda. - Eastern black rhino populations across the region are small and isolated, with the risk of inbreeding damaging long-term genetic viability. - The rhinos come from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) breeding program and will add vitally needed fresh genetics into Rwanda’s fledgling population, made up of rhinos bred in South Africa.
From science to reporting (Insider) [08/14/2019]
- Environmental journalist and Mongabay freelance contributor Ignacio Amigo started his career as a scientist. - After realizing that he was reading science features and studies outside his area of expertise, he realized that he really wanted to be a reporter. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
Indonesia forest-clearing ban is made permanent, but labeled ‘propaganda’ [08/14/2019]
- A temporary moratorium first issued in 2011 on granting permits to clear primary forests and peatlands for plantations or logging has been made permanent by Indonesia’s president. - The government says the policy has been effective in slowing deforestation, but environmental activists blast those claims as “propaganda,” saying that forest loss and fires have actually increased in areas that qualify for the moratorium. - They’ve highlighted several loopholes in the moratorium that allow developers to continue exploiting forest areas without consequence. - Activists are also skeptical that a newer moratorium, on granting permits for oil palm cultivation, will do much to help slow the rate of deforestation.
Rainforest destruction accelerates in Honduras UNESCO site [08/13/2019]
- Powerful drug-traffickers and landless farmers continue to push cattle ranching and illegal logging operations deeper into the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in eastern Honduras. - Satellite data show the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve lost more than 10 percent of its tree cover between 2001 and 2017, more than a third of which happened within the last three years of that time period. Preliminary data for 2019 indicate Río Plátano is experiencing another heavy round of forest loss this year, with UMD recording around 160,000 deforestation alerts in the reserve between January and August, which appears to be an uptick from the same period in 2018. - Local sources claim the government participates in drug trafficking, and those involved in the drug business are allegedly the same people who are involved in illegal exploitation of the land for cattle ranching and illegal logging of mahogany and cedar. - Deforestation in Río Plátano means a loss of habitat for wildlife and a loss of forest resources for indigenous communities that depend on them. But another threat is emerging: water resources are becoming increasingly scarce as forests are converted into grasslands.
Germany cuts $39.5 million in environmental funding to Brazil [08/13/2019]
- Germany has announced plans to withdraw some €35 million (US $39.5 million) to Brazil due to the country’s lack of commitment to curbing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest shown by the administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. - The funding loss will impact environmental projects in the Amazon, Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biomes. - The cut will not, however, impact the Amazon Fund — a pool of some $87 million provided to Brazil each year by developed nations, especially Norway and Germany — to finance a variety of programs aimed at halting deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. - Some experts have expressed concern that Germany’s $39.5 million cut could cause other developed nations to withdraw Brazil funding, and even threaten the Amazon Fund, or the ratification of the recently concluded EU/Mercosur Latin American trade agreement.
Sea Around Us: Global fisheries data and the goose that laid the golden egg (commentary) [08/13/2019]
- How did we get into a situation where fisheries are allowed to destroy the fish populations from which, given prudent management, high catches could be extracted on a sustainable basis? - Having more boats in the water doesn’t produce more fish, and neither do subsidies, which enable fishing operations to break even as they overexploit the populations upon which they depend. It is as if we encouraged hunters to kill more geese and replaced their golden eggs with a subsidy (a.k.a. tax money diverted from the funding of our schools and hospitals). - Many of the major trends in fisheries, notably the massive increase of their capacity and their geographic expansion, which for a long time compensated for the international, subsidy-driven competition for the fish that are left, can be seen only when fisheries are studied globally. With the Sea Around Us data set, it becomes possible for fisheries scientists working in developing countries to perform stock assessments of their major exploited species, and thus for fisheries departments throughout the world to meet the requirements that politicians have with regard to fisheries. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Big cat trade driven by demand for traditional Asian medicine, according to report [08/13/2019]
- Bones, blood, and other body parts of big cats are made into products such as balms, capsules, gels, and wines that practitioners of traditional Asian medicine believe to be able to cure ailments ranging from arthritis to meningitis, though in fact they’ve been found to have no provable health benefits. - Even before farmed big cats are killed to feed the demand for traditional Asian medicine, however, they’re treated more like products than living, breathing creatures, according to a report released last month by the London-based NGO World Animal Protection. - China and South Africa are the world’s biggest breeders of captive cats. China alone is estimated to have between 5,000 and 6,000 tigers in captive breeding facilities, while South African facilities are holding between 6,000 and 8,000 lions and another 300 tigers.
World’s largest frog moves heavy rocks to build nests, study finds [08/13/2019]
- The goliath frog, the world’s largest known frog species, sometimes moves large stones and rocks weighing more than half its weight to create dammed ponds on sandy riverbanks to serve as nesting sites, a new study has found. - Digging out a large nest that is more than a meter wide by moving large rocks requires a lot of physical strength, which could be a potential explanation for why goliath frogs are among the largest frogs in the world, researchers say. - The goliath frog is endangered, yet there’s still a lot that researchers do not understand about the frog’s behavior.
Campaigners push for reform of outdated CITES wildlife trade system [08/12/2019]
- CITES, the international treaty that regulates the trade in wildlife products, dates back to 1975, but some of the systems it uses have not changed in that time. - Campaigners say this lack of modernization has allowed the illegal wildlife trade to proliferate to the tune of more than $250 billion a year. - Better regulation would reduce the scale of the illegal wildlife trade and ensure legal commerce is truly sustainable, they say.
A family’s commitment: 30 years of the Goldman Environmental Prize (commentary) [08/12/2019]
- On Earth Day in 1990, the Goldman Environmental Prize was launched to honor grassroots environmental activists from each of the world’s six inhabited continents, celebrating sustained leadership, persistence, courage, and success in protecting our natural world. The grassroots nature of the work was critical to the concept and its uniqueness. - Some recipients have used the visibility of the Prize to launch political careers. Many more have leveraged the Prize as a springboard to continue and double down on their environmental work. One Prize winner even won the Nobel Peace Prize. - Today, as the Prize enters its fourth decade, the Goldman family is acutely aware that its ability to continue to make a meaningful impact may require some creative and hard thinking about its role in a world that is changing at a rapid pace. That includes evaluating how the Prize addresses major environmental issues head-on, especially when it comes to climate change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Bolsonaro administration approves 290 new pesticide products for use [08/12/2019]
- In just seven months, the Bolsonaro government has approved 290 new pesticide products for use, at the rate of nearly 1.4 per day. Some of the approved chemicals are banned in the EU, US, and elsewhere. Brazil is one of the largest users of pesticides in the world, with utilization on its vast soy crop especially intensive. - Most of the pesticides approved are not new individual chemicals, but toxic cocktails that combine a variety of pesticides blended for various uses. However, these combinations have rarely been tested to determine their interactions or impacts on human health or nature. - In addition to the new products, a new regulatory framework to assess pesticide health risks was established in July that will reduce restrictiveness of toxicological classifications. Under Bolsonaro, 1,942 registered pesticides were quickly reevaluated, with the number considered extremely toxic dropped from 702 to just 43. - Pesticide poisoning is common in Brazil, and on the rise. The full impacts of chemical toxins on wildlife, plants, waterways and ecosystems are not known. Agribusiness typically sprays from the air, a process that if not conducted properly can result in wind drift of toxins into natural areas and human communities.
Is the rhino horn trade a cartel? Economic analysis suggests it works like one [08/12/2019]
- Economist Adrian Lopes used data modeling to explore the links between rhino horn suppliers in India and South Africa. - His findings suggest a market model in which suppliers in the two countries collude rather than compete, setting a quantity and price that maximizes profits all around. - Lopes’s research also indicates that stricter conservation laws can reduce the number of rhinos being killed, but that corruption and institutional instability can erode those gains.
Sri Lanka pushes for protection of sea cucumbers amid overexploitation [08/10/2019]
- With fewer species of sea cucumbers being recorded in catches, Sri Lanka stands to benefit from a proposal that is calling for increased protection of threatened species under CITES Appendix II. - Experts say there’s good precedent for believing that the listing will raise awareness and spur action to protect the sea cucumbers, citing the example of various shark species that received greater attention after being listed.
Tests show multi-rotor UAVs can improve cetacean behavioral studies [08/09/2019]
- Researchers assessing the utility of small, multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey and study humpback whales found that video data collected from a UAV improved upon data recorded by an expert observer from a research vessel, a standard technique. - The observer mischaracterized certain behaviors, primarily socializing and nurturing, as other activities, such as traveling or resting, that the aerial viewpoint of the UAV captured clearly, even when the animals were below the surface. - The whales did not show changes in behavior when the UAV approached or remained present at 30 meters above them. - Their results suggest that small UAVs add value to cetacean behavioral research as a non-invasive research tool that can capture information that is otherwise difficult to detect from the angle and distance of a ship or shore observer.
Gov’t takedown of illegal gold mining in Peru shows promise, but at a cost [08/09/2019]
- Peru’s Madre de Dios region has become a global poster child for deforestation and environmental devastation from an unchecked gold rush. More than 1,000 square kilometers of lowland rainforest has been deforested since 1985, two-thirds of which — an area roughly the size of New York City — has been cleared since 2009. Much of that destruction and gold production has been centered in La Pampa, a makeshift city of more than 25,000 people. - On Feb. 19, hundreds of army commandos and 1,200 police officers raided La Pampa, expelled most of the miners, arrested suspected criminals, and established three military bases to ensure, for now, that the miners don’t return. That said, illegal gold mining elsewhere in Madre de Dios continues as usual. - Luis Hidalgo Okimura, the newly elected governor of Madre de Dios, has pledged his support to the continued battle against illegal gold mining in the region. His plan is to legalize and regulate mining to better control it, as well as incorporate its profits into the tax base. He said he also wants existing mining sites to be mined deeper for missed gold to reduce further tree loss. - However, others say that focusing on reducing mining in the region is just shifting the problem to other areas. Walter Quertehuari Dariquebe, a leader with the indigenous Huachipaire tribe that resides within the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve just west of La Pampa. He told Mongabay that new gold mining and deforestation “have now shown up on our doorstep. The government has simply kicked an ants’ nest. Now ants are running all over, making trouble elsewhere — especially for us.”
Indigenous-managed lands found to harbor more biodiversity than protected areas [08/09/2019]
- Researchers say they found that amphibian, bird, mammal, and reptile abundance in Australia, Brazil, and Canada is highest on lands managed or co-managed by indigenous communities — higher even than on protected areas like parks and wildlife reserves, which were found to have the second highest levels of biodiversity. - Both indigenous-managed lands and protected areas harbored more biodiversity than unprotected areas included in the study that the researchers selected at random. The researchers also determined that the size and geographical location of any particular area had no effect on levels of species diversity, suggesting that it’s the land-management practices of indigenous communities that are conserving biodiversity. - The researchers said their results demonstrate the importance of expanding the boundaries of traditional conservation strategies, which frequently rely on establishing protected areas to conserve critical habitat for biodiversity.
Peru: Invaders claim their first victim at the Macuya Forest Investigation Center [08/09/2019]
- On June 13, forest defender Julio Crisanto López was wounded by two gunshots as he was leaving the Macuya Forest, and died several days later. - Since 2017, deforestation in the protected area has destroyed more than 500 hectares of forest according to satellite images. - Though protected and dedicated to biological research, land traffickers have invaded portions of it, cutting trees and preparing the way for farmers to begin raising crops or cattle.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 9, 2019 [08/09/2019]
- 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. - Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.
Forests: A key piece of the land and climate puzzle (commentary) [08/08/2019]
- Scientists contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have published a new report examining the interactions between climate change and land use. Agriculture, forestry, and other land uses are responsible for nearly a quarter of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. But forests are also one of our planet’s biggest carbon sinks and can contribute to carbon removal, thus constituting a key piece of the land and climate puzzle. - The report provides a comprehensive look at the forest-related solutions we have, among other land-based responses, that could help us mitigate and adapt to climate change and the possible synergies and trade-offs with other critical land-related issues, including land degradation and desertification and food security. - We now need the political will and action from governments, the private sector, and consumers to change the way society values forests, to stimulate forest protection, and to embrace sustainable forest management and forest restoration while reversing the pressure on forests. And we need to do so without displacing that pressure to other ecosystems. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Forests and forest communities critical to climate change solutions [08/08/2019]
- A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the importance of land use in addressing climate change. - The restoration and protection of forests could be a critical component in strategies to mitigate climate change, say experts, but governments must halt deforestation and forest degradation to make way for farms and ranches. - The IPCC report also acknowledges the role that indigenous communities could play. - The forests under indigenous management often have lower deforestation and emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Indonesian flooding disaster bears the hallmarks of agriculture and mining impacts [08/07/2019]
- Last June, North Konawe, a land of hills and valleys on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, was struck by devastating floods, displacing thousands of people. - In the wake of the disaster, a public debate has ensued over the cause. Some government agencies have concluded that deforestation by plantation and mining companies exacerbated the floods. - Some villages, including the riverside community of Tapuwatu, were almost completely washed away.
Protecting the strange sea pangolin and other animals: Q&A with deep sea biologist Chong Chen [08/07/2019]
- Creatures living in deep-sea hydrothermal vents lead a unique life that researchers are only now beginning to understand. Yet these animals are at risk of disappearing because of deep-sea mining before we even learn about them. - A deep-sea hydrothermal vent mollusk, the scaly-foot snail (Chrysomallon squamiferum), for example, debuted as endangered on the IUCN Red List this year because of threats from mining. - Mongabay spoke with deep-sea biologist Chong Chen, who has been assessing deep-sea hydrothermal vent species for the IUCN Red List, about his work and why listing these species on the IUCN Red List matters.
Photo essay: Madagascar’s disappearing dry forests (insider) [08/07/2019]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his visit to the dry forests of western Madagascar last month. - The dry forest of western Madagascar is famous for its wildlife and baobab trees, including the tourist destinations of Baobab Alley, Tsingy de Bemaraha, and Kirindy Forest. - Rhett traveled to Madagascar for the annual Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting. Ahead of the conference, he used the opportunity to visit the Menabe region of western Madagascar to investigate some GPS points identified via Global Forest Watch’s GLAD alert system as potential recent deforestation. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
Bolsonaro can bully on deforestation, but he can’t hide from satellites (commentary) [08/07/2019]
- In response to rising international criticism over a surge in forest clearing since the beginning of the year, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and officials in his administration have recently stepped up attacks on scientists at the country’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) for continuing to report transparently on deforestation in the Amazon. - The expectation among civil society groups is that the Bolsonaro administration will soon stop releasing or start manipulating INPE’s deforestation data. But if Bolsonaro thinks that approach will pacify critics, he is gravely misleading himself: Bolsonaro will not be able to hide what’s happening in the Amazon from the rest of the world. - From Planet’s constellation of satellites to NASA’s Landsat to the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Sentinel-1, today there are many eyes in the sky looking down at the Amazon. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
The wolf of Bangladesh: A true story [08/07/2019]
- The last wolf in Bangladesh was seen in 1949 – until this year. - The wolf, an adult male, was killed by local villagers in the Sundarbans, a suboptimal habitat for wolves. - But could there be more wolves in the Sundarbans? Is there a breeding population? Time will tell.
‘The forest is our life’: Hope for change in Guyana’s forests (commentary) [08/06/2019]
- Forestry is big business in Guyana. The sector contributed 2.27 percent to Guyana’s GDP in 2016, with total forest products exports valued at $41.9 million. Approximately 20,000 people, mainly in the rural and hinterland areas, are employed in the sector. - Guyana’s laws provide for indigenous villages to obtain titles for the land they occupy and, currently, indigenous peoples own 14 percent of the country’s land. However, the process of granting legal ownership has been cumbersome and villages have complained of mining and forest concessions being granted on land they have customarily used for farming, hunting, and other activities, all without them being informed. - Guyana’s forests have sustained people for generations. For this commentary, Gaulbert Sutherland traveled deep into the country’s hinterland to hear of the pressures that locals face, and their hopes for change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.