Conservation tech prize with invasive species focus announces finalists [07/19/2019]
- The Con X Tech Prize announced its second round will fund 20 finalists, selected from 150 applications, each with $3,500 to create their first prototypes of designs that use technology to address a conservation challenge. - Seven of the 20 teams focused their designs on reducing impacts from invasive species, while the others addressed a range of conservation issues, from wildlife trafficking to acoustic monitoring to capturing freshwater plastic waste in locally-built bamboo traps. - Conservation X Labs (CXL), which offers the prize, says the process provides winners with very early-stage funding, a rare commodity, and recognition of external approval, each of which has potential to motivate finalists and translate into further funding. - Finalists can also compete for a grand prize of $20,000 and product support from CXL.
New initiative aims to jump-start stalled drive toward zero deforestation [07/19/2019]
- Over the past decade there has been a rise in corporate zero-deforestation commitments, but very few companies have shown progress in meeting their goals of reducing deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. - The Accountability Framework Initiative, launched by a group of 14 civil society organizations, is the latest tool to help companies make progress, and hold them accountable, on their zero-deforestation commitments. - The Accountability Framework Initiative is expected to be especially important for markets like Europe, where demand for crops like soy has been linked to rising deforestation in places like the Brazilian Cerrado.
June 2019 was the hottest on record: NOAA [07/19/2019]
- June 2019 was the hottest month recorded in the 140 years since the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began collecting global temperature data, the agency announced yesterday. - On land, June’s global average surface temperature was 2.41 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average of 55.9°F, the highest June land temperature on record, beating the previous record set in 2015. At sea, average surface temperatures were 1.46 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century monthly average of 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit, tying June 2016 as the highest global average ocean temperature on record for June. - 2019 also saw the second-smallest Arctic sea ice extent for the month of June in the 41-year record, according to an analysis of NOAA and NASA data by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. For the fourth consecutive June, Antarctic sea ice extent was also lower than average, reaching a mark 425,000 square miles, or 8.5 percent, below the 1981-2010 average.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 19, 2019 [07/19/2019]
- 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.
Corrupt police caught in bust of Peruvian Amazon drug gang [07/19/2019]
- Three policemen were arrested after a year-long investigation into narco-trafficking in Peru’s Manú Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and top global biodiversity hotspot. - The operation in late June seized over $38,000, more than 290 kilogramss (about 640 pounds) of cocaine, a small airplane, and two firearms. A total of 15 people have been arrested for their involvement. - Within the Kosñipata district of Manú, production of coca increased from 338 hectares (835 acres) in 2010 to 1,322 hectares (3,267 acres) in 2014. Coca production throughout this Amazon region has increased by 52 percent.
The ambitious plan to recover and rewild the feisty, dwarf cow [07/19/2019]
- Although critically endangered, the population of tamaraw has stabilized and grown over the last two decades. - Conservationists along with indigenous people are now planning on using the core population to rebuild and rewild other populations across the island of Mindoro. - Conservationists say none of this would be possible without the active supoort of Mindoro’s indigenous tribal groups, who are leading efforts to restore the tamaraw.
Congo government opens Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to oil exploration [07/18/2019]
- In 2018, the government of the Republic of Congo opened up several blocks of land for oil exploration overlapping with important peatlands and a celebrated national park. - According to a government website, the French oil company Total holds the exploration rights for those blocks. - Conservationists were alarmed that the government would consider opening up parks and peatlands of international importance for oil exploration, while also trying to garner funds for their protection on the world stage.
Colombian investors push Pacific port project, threatening biodiversity hotspot [07/18/2019]
- Colombian President Iván Duque has pushed the construction of Tribugá Port in the Pacific department of Chocó as an economic priority for the country’s coffee-growing heartland, to increase exports to international markets. - But the plan to build the port has provoked a fierce outcry from environmental and human rights activists, as well as local tourism operators, pushing 70 organizations to sign a declaration against its construction. - Endangered species such as hammerhead sharks, nesting sea turtles and humpback whales visit the area on an annual basis to mate, raise their young, and migrate through.
Complicating the narrative about indigenous communities and their struggles (insider) [07/18/2019]
- Often in articles about indigenous struggles or resistance, there is a need to write about communities as being victims of the extractive sector, or warriors fighting to defend their territory. I’ve been writing about indigenous resistance in Ecuador for about three years, and I’ve often fallen into the same dynamic. - In my case, I seek out the warriors. But what if the news media allowed indigenous people to be whole and multifaceted? - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
Indonesian officials foil attempt to smuggle hornbill casques to Hong Kong [07/18/2019]
- Indonesian authorities have arrested a woman for allegedly attempting to smuggle 72 helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) casques to Hong Kong. - The distinctive-looking bird is critically endangered, its precipitous decline driven by poaching for its casque — a solid, ivory-like protuberance on its head that’s highly prized in East Asia for use as ornamental carvings. - Tackling the hornbill trade will be on the agenda at next month’s CITES wildlife trade summit in Geneva.
Information is key – but lacking for sharks and rays in the Western Indian Ocean (commentary) [07/18/2019]
- Due to overexploitation, at least 27 percent of the 222 different shark and ray species found in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) are considered threatened, meaning that they are classified as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. These species face a high risk of extinction and need urgent conservation intervention. - Although the majority of sharks and rays pose no threat to humans, we pose a major threat to them, primarily through fisheries. Shark fisheries have existed for many decades, although historically they were primarily caught as unwanted bycatch. However, they are now increasingly being targeted due to the high demand for meat for local consumption and export, and for their fins for the global shark (and ray) fin trade. - Ensuring that sharks and rays are sustainably managed is important not only because they provide an important source of food and income for many coastal communities, but also because they serve an important function in maintaining balanced and healthy ecosystems through their roles as apex and meso predators, and as food for other, larger marine species. However, information needed to sustainably manage shark and ray populations is sorely lacking in the WIO. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
In Madagascar, villagers oppose plans for a dam that would inundate their land [07/18/2019]
- A dam project in Madagascar’s central highlands, still in its planning stages, would submerge several villages, forcing hundreds or thousands of people out of their ancestral homes. - Residents at risk of being displaced oppose the dam, and civil society groups argue that its potentially large size and social impact are not justified by the relatively small amount of power it would produce. - The Italian company behind the project insists it’s not yet clear if the project is feasible and has made no definitive plans to build the dam.
From over 100,000 species assessments in IUCN update, zero improvements [07/18/2019]
- The latest IUCN Red List update, which includes assessments of 105,732 species, lists more than 28,000 species as threatened with extinction. - The declines of many of these species can be attributed to human overexploitation, according to the IUCN. The red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus), for example, has moved from vulnerable to endangered in 2019, largely because of threats from illegal hunting for bushmeat and conversion of much of the monkey’s Atlantic coast forest habitat in West Africa to agriculture. - More than 5,000 trees from 180 countries, and 500 deep-sea bony fish species like the bioluminescent lanternfishes, were also added to the Red List this year. - No species was assessed as having genuinely improved in status enough to earn it a place in a lower threat category, according to the IUCN.
The frog and the university: Meet the niche new species from Sri Lanka [07/18/2019]
- The recent discovery of a new frog species in a niche habitat in Sri Lanka’s cloud forest has highlighted the need for conserving the Indian Ocean island’s dwindling montane habitats. - The frog, Lankanectes pera, is named after the University of Peradeniya, the country’s oldest, and dwells only in pristine streams flowing through canopy-covered montane forests in the highest reaches of the Knuckles Mountain Range. - Researchers are calling for extensive studies to inform conservation actions for the species, which they’ve recommended be classified as critically endangered, given its small range and population.
U.S. Virgin Islands bans coral-damaging sunscreens [07/17/2019]
- On June 25, lawmakers in the U.S. Virgin Islands voted to ban common chemical sunscreen ingredients that can damage coral reefs. - With the ban, the U.S. Virgin Islands joins a handful of other jurisdictions around the world pioneering action on harmful sunscreens. - It will be the first such ban to take effect in the United States, followed by Hawaii and Key West, Florida, and among the first internationally.
We are planting trees everywhere: Q&A with Madagascar’s environment minister [07/17/2019]
- Alexandre Georget, a founder of Madagascar’s first green party in 2008, is the country’s new environment minister. - In an interview with Mongabay, Georget discussed the government’s reforestation plans and outlined how he expected to approach its 2019 goal of reforesting 40,000 hectares. - He also described the government’s new position on the sale of confiscated illegally harvested precious timber, in advance of the upcoming CITES meeting in August.
Orangutan habitats being cleared in areas near palm oil mills, report finds [07/17/2019]
- A new study identifies the palm oil mills in Indonesia with the most clearance of orangutan habitat happening around them. - The top 10 mills are all on the island of Borneo and are producing palm oil that makes its way into the supply chains of consumer goods giants such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Avon, Mars, Mondelēz and more — companies that promised long ago to stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation. - Just because deforestation is happening around a palm oil mill does not mean it is being done by an entity supplying that mill with palm fruits. But it is a strong red flag that this may be the case. - Several of the consumer goods giants contacted by Mongabay said they were either actively investigating the deforestation or suspending trading with the mills. Others were more vague in their responses.
Newly described tree species from Tanzania is likely endangered [07/17/2019]
- Researchers have described a new species of tree from the Usambara mountains of northeastern Tanzania. - The tree, which grows up to 20 meters (66 feet) in height, has been named Mischogyne iddii after Iddi Rajabu, a resident botanist at the Amani Nature Reserve, where some individuals of the tree can be found. - The newly described species is known from only two locations in the Usambara mountains, and the researchers estimate that fewer than 50 individuals remain, suggesting a threat category of endangered on the IUCN Red List for the species.
Agriculture, mining, hunting push critically endangered gorillas to the brink [07/16/2019]
- Maiko National Park is one of the most logistically challenging parks in the DRC and one of the most biodiverse. It is one of just two national parks in the world known to contain Grauer’s gorilla, a highly endangered and poorly understood eastern gorilla subspecies, and is also home to the endemic okapi and Congo peafowl, as well as forest elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, and giant pangolins. - The most major threat to gorillas and other wildlife in Maiko is the bushmeat trade, but this is significantly exacerbated by another threat: artisanal mining. The Second Congo War coincided with a demand spike for a mineral called coltan that forms an essential component of all phones, computers, solar panels, and other electronics. - Outside of the park, however, there is another threat to wildlife: increasing pressure from rising populations. As villages expand, they require more resources and begin to cut into primary forest to make way for subsistence crops. Satellite imagery show that trees are being cut down near Maiko. As the population expands, such habitat degradation will edge closer to the park itself—bringing even more pressure from the bushmeat trade. - Villages can be a major threat to wildlife, but they also serve as essential allies to conservation work in the DRC. NGOs working to protect wildlife near Maiko are working closely with local communities to help achieve local buy-in and ensure the long-term sustainable development of the region.
Thousands of sharks and rays are likely entangled in plastic polluting Earth’s oceans [07/16/2019]
- Scientists at the UK’s University of Exeter examined existing scientific literature and took to Twitter to find documented instances of shark and ray entanglements. - They ended up finding reports of more than 1,000 entangled animals — and they say the actual number of sharks and rays snarled in plastic is likely to be far higher, as few studies have focused specifically on the issue. - “Entanglement in marine debris is symptomatic of a degraded marine environment and is a clear animal welfare issue,” the authors write in the study. But they add that entanglement is “likely a far lesser threat” to shark and ray populations than the threat posed by commercial fishing.
Experts deny alleged manipulation of Amazon satellite deforestation data [07/16/2019]
- The Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE) issues annual Amazon deforestation reports via its PRODES satellite monitoring system (which relies on NASA Landsat satellite imaging), while the DETER system issues monthly deforestation/degradation alerts (which rely on Sino-Brazilian satellites). - While experts consider INPE’s monitoring systems among the best in the tropics, ministers in the Bolsonaro administration have insinuated that the deforestation data may be manipulated. Experts have denied this, and note that INPE findings align well with those collected by NGOs Imazon and ISA, and Global Forest Watch (GFW). - All of the data collected so far from various sources show an upswing in deforestation since Jair Bolsonaro’s election win. However, definitive and precise statistics require year-to-year comparisons, not monthly ones, and won’t be available until later in 2019. - In March, Brazil’s environment minister pressed for a new but costly private deforestation tracking system. In June, the open-access platform MapBiomas — a network of NGOs, universities and tech firms, along with Google — launched a system to compile data from INPE, ISA, Imazon and GFW to produce definitive deforestation data.
Indonesia’s president signals a transition away from coal power [07/16/2019]
- Indonesia’s president has reportedly signaled a major shift in energy policy, saying he wants to “start reducing the use of coal.” - Such a policy would run counter to the administration’s previously stated long-term plans of fueling the country’s growing energy demand with coal, with 39 coal-fired plants under construction and 68 more announced. - Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and while the main culprit is deforestation and land-use change, the energy sector is poised to overtake it. - Energy policy analysts have welcomed the reported change in stance from the government, noting that Indonesia has long lagged other countries in developing clean power, despite having an abundance of renewable energy sources.
Colombia registers first drop in deforestation since 2016 FARC peace deal [07/15/2019]
- Colombia lost 198,000 hectares (489,269 acres) of forest in 2018, according to a report released by the country’s meteorological institute IDEAM. This reduction represents a 10 percent drop compared to 2017 when 220,000 hectares (543,632 acres) were lost. - Despite slight annual progress, rates of deforestation in Colombia remain stubbornly high, with a sustained increase compared to the low rates the country boasted five years ago. - While the landmark 2016 FARC peace agreement has opened up parts of Colombia’s remote areas formerly off limits to science, exploration and tourism, it also created a power vacuum exploited by illegal armed groups and wealthy landowners. - The report points to extensive cattle ranching, coca cultivation related to cocaine production, illegal mining and timber harvesting, unpermitted road construction, burns and extension of the agricultural frontier as the greatest contributors to tropical forest loss in the South American country.
Agroforestry: An ancient ‘indigenous technology’ with wide modern appeal (commentary) [07/15/2019]
- The highly climate- and biodiversity-friendly agricultural practice of agroforestry is now practiced widely around the world, but its roots are deeply indigenous. - Agroforestry is the practice of growing of trees, shrubs, herbs, and vegetables together in a group mimicking a forest, and its originators were indigenous peoples who realized that growing useful plants together created a system where each species benefited the others. - Agroforestry is now estimated to cover one billion hectares globally and sequester over 45 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere, a figure that grows annually. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Bringing back the fish: Q&A with a repentant blast fisherman [07/15/2019]
- For years local NGOs and government officials attempted to convince the fishermen of El Salvador’s Jiquilisco Bay to stop fishing with explosives, a practice that not only risks life and limb but also harms marine populations and habitats. - Ultimately, however, it was a fisherman named Eleuterio Lara, now 69, who conjured up a convincing alternative. - By dropping tree branches, rocks and bicycle parts into the bay, he was able to create an artificial reef that could support enough life to make line-and-pole fishing a viable option. Soon, officials were investing in more advanced cement structures that could create even better reefs and Lara was convincing his fellow fishermen to ditch blast fishing. - Mongabay hailed Lara as he was peddling down a dirt road on his bicycle for a conversation about his experience with blast fishing, his inspiration for artificial reefs, and what the future holds for Jiquilisco Bay.
On public interest in conservation and internet data (commentary) [07/15/2019]
- Conservationists can capture data and use it to generate useful insights for conservation on the relationship between humans and nature. Research in this area falls within the scope of the field of conservation culturomics, the study of human culture through the quantitative analysis of digital data. - Several studies have used internet search-engine data to evaluate public interest in conservation. These studies were subjected to a few criticisms, however, including the fact that raw data are unavailable due to proprietary constraints. In response to these criticisms, a recent study proposed a methodological work-around — an important contribution that merits praise but should be interpreted with caution. - Does this mean we should forfeit any hopes that internet data and digital methods can provide useful insights for conservation? Certainly not! The application of digital methods to conservation has immense potential, but also faces challenges inherent to any new development. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Study finds lemurs in degraded Madagascar forest skinny and stunted [07/15/2019]
- In Madagascar’s Tsinjoarivo rainforest, adults of the critically endangered diademed sifakas living in the most degraded of forest fragments tend to be skinnier, and young individuals show stunting, compared to individuals living in more intact parts of the forest, according to a new study. - Skinny bodies in adults could mean that their nutritional intake is compromised in the disturbed areas, researchers say, while young sifakas could be growing more slowly in the most disturbed areas in response to reduced nutrition in the diet. - Sifakas living in less-disturbed forest fragments, however, don’t appear to be in poorer health than those in continuous, intact forests. This could be because the long-lived sifakas are likely resilient to moderate habitat changes, the researchers say. - But threats could add up and cause local populations to disappear, the researchers add.
Indonesian governor latest official busted for bribes in environmental case [07/12/2019]
- Three local officials, including a governor, have been arrested and charged for allegedly taking bribes in a land reclamation project. - The businessman behind the project in Sumatra’s Riau Islands, who has also been arrested, planned to build a resort and tourism site on reclaimed land in a bay designated as protected. - Observers say that projects involving land reclamation activities are prone to corruption.
Study examines how the Atlantic surfclam is successfully adapting to climate change [07/12/2019]
- Global climate change poses a severe threat to marine life, but scientists have found at least one species that appears to be successfully adapting to warmer ocean waters. - A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that, even without factoring in the impacts of fishing, global animal biomass in Earth’s oceans is expected to decrease by as much as 17 percent by 2100 under a “high emissions” scenario that leads to 3-4 degrees Celsius of warming. - However, a new study published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, shows that, as ocean temperatures rise, Atlantic surfclams, a large saltwater clam found mostly in the western Atlantic Ocean, are capably shifting their range into waters that would have previously been inhospitable to their survival.
More than 10,000 animals and plants seized in massive global operation [07/12/2019]
- A 26-day worldwide effort in June termed Operation Thunderball, coordinated by Interpol and the World Customs Organization (WCO), led to seizures of thousands of protected animals and plants. - Confiscated items included more than 2,600 plants, nearly 10,000 live turtles and tortoises, more than 4,300 birds, 23 live primates, 30 big cats, 440 pieces of elephant tusks, nearly 10,000 marine wildlife animals and their products, and 74 truckloads of timber. - Based on intelligence gathered before the operation was launched, the authorities identified wildlife trafficking routes and smuggling hotspots, which then led to seizures and almost 600 people being identified as suspects.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 12, 2019 [07/12/2019]
- 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.
Let there be lights, to help migratory cranes avoid power lines [07/12/2019]
- A test of a new system deploying ultraviolet (UV) lights on power lines greatly reduced potentially deadly collisions with the lines by migrating sandhill cranes. - Developers of the Avian Collision Avoidance System, or ACAS, randomly assigned the system to be on or off each night of a four-month testing period. - Turning on the lighting system reduced crane collisions by 98 percent and enabled crane flocks to more quickly and calmly avoid the power lines while in flight. - Many birds can detect UV light, though humans cannot, so the system has potential to reduce a major threat to a range of migratory species without affecting the visibility of structures to humans.
Yanomami Amazon reserve invaded by 20,000 miners; Bolsonaro fails to act [07/12/2019]
- An estimated 20,000 illegal goldminers (garimpeiros) have entered Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s biggest indigenous reserves, located in Roraima and Amazonas states, near the border with Venezuela. - The miners are well funded, likely by entrepreneurs, who pay workers and provide them with earthmoving equipment, supplies and airplanes. Three illegal air strips and three open-pit goldmines are in operation within the Yanomami indigenous territory. - Indigenous leaders blame President Bolsonaro, with his incendiary anti-indigenous language, and his administration, with its policies that have defunded and gutted agencies responsible for law enforcement in the Amazon. - Bolsonaro claims indigenous people want mining and industrial agribusiness on their lands, but the Yanomami vehemently deny such desires. They say they want self-determination over the types of businesses on their lands. One such new, sustainable business is a chocolate concession that would preserve the rainforest and offer income.
‘Dangerous’ new regulation puts Indonesia’s carbon-rich peatlands at risk [07/12/2019]
- The Indonesian government has effectively rescinded protection for much of its carbon-rich peatlands by issuing a new regulation that limits protection to the area of a peatland ecosystem where the peat is the thickest. - Concession holders will now be allowed to exploit areas outside these “peat domes,” as long as they maintain the water table, in a mechanism seemingly borrowed straight out of the pulpwood industry playbook. - Under previous regulations, areas with a layer of peat 3 meters (10 feet) or deeper were off-limits for exploitation, and any companies with such areas in their concessions were obliged to restore and protect them. These areas are now open to exploitation, as long as they’re not considered part of the peat dome. - Activists warn the new regulation will encourage greater exploitation of Indonesia’s fast-diminishing peatlands, increasing the risks of fire, carbon emissions, and failure to meet the government’s own emissions reduction and peat restoration goals.
On a Philippine island, indigenous groups take the fight to big palm oil [07/11/2019]
- Many Palawan indigenous communities say they have suffered unfair land acquisition or lease arrangements for oil palm plantations. The situation hit a peak around 2007, when palm oil company Agumil Philippines promoted palm oil around the island as a miracle get-rich-quick crop. - Many tribal landowners leased or sold parcels of land to Agumil. Those who leased said they were provided loans from the government-run Land Bank of the Philippines, negotiated by Agumil, to clear the land and plant oil palm saplings. Title deeds to the leased land were lodged with the bank as collateral against the loans, where they remain. - Today the plantations are producing plentiful bunches of oil palm fruit. Still, landowners say they have yet to see any financial returns on their leased land. The problem all cite is that the loans came with crippling 14 percent annual interest rates, which left the original loan amounts inflating out of control. The terms of the lease contracts also stipulate that ongoing operational and managements costs be subtracted from the loan and harvest income. - Now tribal groups are fighting back on multiple fronts. A tribal representative in the municipality of Rizal recently won a mayoral election. The re-elected mayor of neighboring Brooke’s Point has also pledged a halt to more oil palm plantations. Three of the seven municipalities in southern Palawan have now placed limitations on oil palm cultivation.
Eat the insects, spare the lemurs [07/11/2019]
- To solve the twin challenges of malnutrition and biodiversity loss in Madagascar, new efforts are promoting edible insects as a way to take pressure off wildlife that people hunt for meat when food is scarce. - Insects are widely eaten in Madagascar. They are also incredibly nutritious and one of the “greenest” forms of animal proteins in terms of their land, water and food requirements and their greenhouse gas emissions. - One program is testing the farming of sakondry, a little-known hopping insect that tastes a lot like bacon. Another is setting up a network of cricket farms. - Other attempts to reduce reliance on forest protein include improving chicken husbandry in rural areas.
Arctic in free fall: 2019 sea ice volume sinks to near record for June [07/11/2019]
- High temperatures and relentless sun caused Arctic sea ice volume and extent to plummet this June. - The June 2019 monthly average for Arctic sea ice volume was 15,900 cubic kilometers (3,814 cubic miles), just short of the monthly average record set in 2017. But by the end of the month this year, a new daily record occurred as volume loss advanced rapidly, leaving just 12,047 cubic kilometers (2,890 cubic square miles) of sea ice on June 30 — that’s 106 cubic kilometers (25 cubic miles) lower than the previous record for this time of year. - On July 10, Arctic sea ice extent for 2019 fell to 8.338 million square kilometers (3.219 million square miles), surpassing 2012’s record low of 8.359 million square kilometers (3.227 million square miles) for this time of year. - While changing weather always dictates sea ice minimum extent and volume in September, scientists say that if conditions remain favorable for melt and ice export to the North Atlantic, then 2019 could beat all records. And because what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there, that could mean trouble for the world’s weather.
Rattled by sardine stock crash, India begins regulating its fisheries [07/11/2019]
- In India, fishing has transformed over the decades from a small-scale artisanal practice into an increasingly industrialized sector, and catches have grown apace. - The industry has largely gone unregulated, and yields have slowed in the past decade, including an unexpected and disruptive crash in the sardine catch. - In response, India’s coastal states and central government have begun to take measures to make fishing more sustainable. - The latest, and potentially the most important move, is the creation of the first ministry for fisheries just last month.
‘Let us trade’: Debate over ivory sales rages ahead of CITES summit [07/11/2019]
- Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe want to sell off their ivory stocks to raise money for conservation. - Growing human and elephant populations in these southern African countries have provoked increased human-wildlife conflict, and the governments see legal ivory sales as a way to generate revenue for conservation and development funding. - Other countries, most notably Kenya, oppose the proposal, on the grounds that previous legal sales stimulated demand for ivory and coincided with a sharp increase in poaching.
Asian elephants gang up in a bid to survive an increasingly human world [07/11/2019]
- Adolescent elephants in south India are adapting to human-dominated landscapes, probably to learn from older bulls how not to get killed by people. - These unusual associations, which can last for several years, were not recorded 20 years ago. - Researchers say it’s important to use this information to mitigate human-elephant conflict, including by not removing old bulls that don’t raid crops, which can pass down this behavior to young elephants.
Can jurisdictional certification curb palm oil deforestation in Indonesia? (commentary) [07/10/2019]
- In this commentary, Dan Nepstad of Earth Innovation Institute and John Watts and Silvia Irawan of Inovasi Bumi argue that the surge in oil palm expansion in Indonesia since the early 2000s has caused deforestation, environmental degradation and social conflicts; strategies to reduce these negative impacts have seen only modest success. - The authors say the jurisdictional certification pilots of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) represent a promising new approach to these issues. The RSPO pilot in Seruyan — a district that has experienced many of these problems — has led to several innovations, including an agricultural facility that provides technical support to smallholders while managing funds received from companies, implementation of the “jurisdiction-wide environmental protection plan” regulation, a mechanism for resolving land conflicts, and a method for mapping and registering independent smallholders. - Deforestation may be on the decline in Seruyan, with the exception of the El Niño related fires of 2015 and 2016. Through jurisdictional certification, there is the potential to protect 480 thousand hectares of standing forests and restore 420 thousand hectares of forests. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Cargill rejects Cerrado soy moratorium, pledges $30 million search for ideas [07/10/2019]
- The 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium — a voluntary agreement credited with stemming deforestation in the Amazon due to soy growing over the last decade— is the model put forth in the 2017 Cerrado Manifesto, intended to catalyze action to stop rampant clearing of forests and native vegetation in the savanna biome. - But now Cargill, a trading firm active in the Cerrado, has published an open letter to its Brazilian soy producers avowing that it will not support a soy moratorium in the savanna biome. Bunge, Archer Daniels Midland, Amaggi and other commodities firms have been resistant to the Manifesto’s call to action as well, which could doom it. - Cargill’s nixing of a Cerrado soy moratorium came after the firm announced its sustainable soy action plan, along with a $30 million fund to limit Cerrado forest loss, and amid international pleas to curb Brazilian deforestation prompted by the new EU / Mercosur (Latin American economic bloc) trade agreement. - One possible reason Cargill and other commodities firms and producers are resisting the Cerrado Manifesto: under the Amazon Soy Moratorium producers simply moved their operations out of the Amazon and into the Cerrado. But the Cerrado Manifesto would prevent further deforestation for soy in the biome, potentially curbing rapid production expansion there.
Snowy owl summer: Raptor rehabilitation center releases Arctic visitor [07/10/2019]
- A snowy owl injured on its Massachusetts wintering grounds was brought to Tufts Wildlife Clinic this spring. - In nature, wildlife must heal fast or perish if they can’t find food or defend themselves from predators, but the lucky ones are brought to a clinic specializing in injured animals. - Tufts Wildlife Clinic at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University is one such place. - Mongabay interviewed the clinic’s assistant director about the healing path of “snowy 397” before his eventual successful release.
Salvadoran fishermen ditch blast fishing for artificial reefs [07/10/2019]
- Blast fishing has taken a toll on both the fishermen and marine life of El Salvador’s Jiquilisco Bay Biosphere Reserve. - Some residents have lost limbs or eyes or suffered bad burns. And populations of mangroves, fish, and critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles have declined. - Over the last decade, officials have made rooting out the practice a top priority, placing their bets on a creative alternative that a local fisherman suggested in 2009: the creation of artificial reefs to replenish marine life. - Today blast fishing has declined by 90 percent and the communities are trying to market their seafood as “clean fish” at a premium price.
Vaquita habitat now listed as ‘World Heritage in Danger’ [07/10/2019]
- The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has decided to list the Sea of Cortez and its islands in Mexico’s Gulf of California, the only place where the critically endangered vaquita is known to occur, on the List of World Heritage in Danger. - The porpoise’s numbers have dropped drastically, from around 300 in the mid-2000s to just 10 individuals, according to the latest estimate, mostly as a result of getting entangled in gillnets used in the poaching of totoaba fish. - The continuing illegal totoaba trade poses a threat to the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site, the World Heritage Committee said, recommending that the site be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Chimps in Sierra Leone adapt to human-impacted habitats, but threats remain [07/10/2019]
- Western chimpanzees are adapting to survive in severely degraded habitat, a new study says. - However, the study also finds the abundance of western chimpanzees in Sierra Leone is impacted by even secondary roads. - Ensuring the long-term survival of western chimps calls for changes in agriculture, roads and other development, researchers say.
Jakarta residents sue government over ‘world’s filthiest’ air quality [07/10/2019]
- A group of citizens is suing the Indonesian government, including the president, over the poor air quality in Jakarta, which in recent weeks has ranked as the worst in the world. - The plaintiffs say the government has failed to take meaningful action to address the many sources of air pollution, and want it to update its safe threshold for pollutant exposure to be in line with global standards. - The government, however, has deflected, claiming variously that the air quality data is inaccurate, that the public is to blame for not taking mass transit, and that the problem isn’t as severe as it’s made out to be. - While studies show vehicle emissions account for up to 70 percent of Jakarta’s air pollution, the number of days per year with unhealthy air has actually doubled since an award-winning improvement of the public transit system, indicating other sources play a greater role.
After a lengthy delay, still no green light for Sri Lanka’s red list [07/09/2019]
- The rediscovery in recent years of species long thought to be extinct has sparked calls by scientists for an update of Sri Lanka’s red list of threatened species. - The current list is based on assessments from 2012, and a scheduled update in 2017 was missed because of procedural delays and resource constraints. - Conservationists have also called for the red-listing criteria used in Sri Lanka to be consistent with the global guidelines set out by the IUCN, in order to ensure consistency in conservation efforts. - They also want more species recovery initiatives based on the national red list, to make better use of the data to optimize conservation efforts.
Audio: Listen to the first-ever recordings of right whales breaking into song [07/09/2019]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Jessica Crance, a research biologist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who recently discovered right whales singing for the first time ever. - Gunshot calls made by right whales are exactly what their name suggests they are — loud, concussive bursts of noise. Perhaps that doesn’t sound terribly musical, but the critically endangered eastern population of North Pacific right whales appears to use gunshot calls in a repeating pattern — the first instance ever recorded of a right whale population breaking into song. - Jessica Crance led the research team at NOAA that documented North Pacific right whales breaking into song in the Bering Sea. On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, Crance will play recordings of two different right whale song types and discuss what we know about why the critically endangered whales might be singing in the first place.