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



In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 22, 2019 [11/22/2019]
- 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.


Amazon trees may absorb far less carbon than previously thought: study [11/21/2019]
- The capacity of the Amazon rainforest to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is predicted to increase with climate change, but now computer modelling suggests that these increases may be far smaller than expected.
- So far, global photosynthesis rates have risen in line with increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but whether this pattern will hold true for the Amazon, one of the oldest ecosystems on Earth, is still unclear.
- Depending on how key nutrient cycles are represented, researchers found that models predict the Amazon carbon sink could be 46 to 52 percent smaller than predicted based on current trends, a finding that has serious implications for carbon sequestration forecasts and future climate change.
- The researchers plan to test the model predictions against the results from proposed field experiments that will artificially elevate CO2 levels in real sections of the Amazon forest — a study for which the team is currently raising funds.


Rare fish-eating crocodile confirmed nesting in southwest Nepal after 37 years [11/21/2019]
- In Nepal, fewer than 100 mature adult gharials are estimated to remain, with only one population in the Narayani and Rapti Rivers of Chitwan National Park known to be breeding until recently.
- Now, researchers have recorded nesting sites and more than 100 gharial babies in yet another site, in Bardia National Park in southwest Nepal.
- The last time gharials were recorded breeding in Bardia was in 1982.


New assessment method finds close to one-third of tropical Africa’s plants are potentially facing extinction [11/20/2019]
- A new study, published today in the journal Science Advances, uses a novel methodology based on key components of the IUCN Red List’s assessment process to discern the potential conservation status of tropical flora at the continental scale.
- Researchers tested the new assessment method using the recently developed RAINBIO database, which consists of over 600,000 geo-referenced occurrence records of more than 20,000 vascular plant species in tropical Africa.
- The research team found that 17.3 percent of the 22,036 vascular plant species included in the study are likely threatened, while 14.4 percent are potentially threatened. That means that nearly one-third — 31.7 percent — of tropical Africa’s vascular plant species might be at risk of going extinct.


Brazil’s new deforestation numbers confirm the “Bolsonaro Effect” despite denials (commentary) [11/20/2019]
- Just released preliminary figures for “2019” Brazilian Amazon deforestation (covering the August 2018-July 2019 period) show a 29.5 percent increase over the previous year, with 9,762 square kilometers (3,769 square miles) cleared, more than double the rate when Brazil’s famous deforestation decline ended in 2012.
- Despite this deforestation surge, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro government claims the increase is not unusual and equivalent to high deforestation rates seen several times since 2012. However, critics point to the administration’s rhetoric and environmental deregulation as part of the “Bolsonaro Effect,” leading to rampant deforestation.
- The government’s assertion of innocence fails to note that the new data only covers through July. In August 2019 the deforestation rate was 222 percent above the 2018 value; in September it ran 96 percent higher. The full “Bolsonaro effect” on deforestation won’t be on view until the complete “2020” numbers are released next November.
- To date, the administration has done nothing to change its inflammatory rhetoric or its anti-environmental polices, so there is every reason to expect that Brazilian deforestation levels will continue to soar. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Illegal logging persists in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary: Report [11/20/2019]
- Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 2016, but illegal land clearing within the protected area continues, a new report has found.
- Members of the Cambodian Youth Network (CYN), who recently patrolled 1,761 hectares (4,352 acres) of forest in Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, found that several hundred hectares of dense, evergreen forest had been cleared, and hundreds of trees had been marked for logging in the near future.
- CYN worries that if the clearing continues, the government could grant economic land concessions on those lands in the future.
- CYN has called on the Cambodian government to crack down on the illegal encroachment and stop any more forest from being cleared.


China’s wénwan drives a deadly mix-and-match of endangered wildlife [11/20/2019]
- A wide range of illegal wildlife products, from tiger claws to hornbill casques, are used to make baubles known as wénwan that are prized as status symbols among China’s burgeoning middle class.
- Domestic bans on the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn have not slowed the growing and underregulated online market for wénwan products, with traders increasingly targeting other species to meet demand for exotic materials.
- Without understanding the dynamics of the wénwan trade, including the cultural aspect, government and NGO efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade risk remaining ineffective.


Madagascar regulator under scrutiny in breach at Rio Tinto-controlled mine [11/20/2019]
- A breach at an ilmenite mine in Madagascar that came to light earlier this year is drawing attention to possible lapses on the part of the country’s environmental regulator.
- A group of civil society organizations has asked the Malagasy government to intervene in the matter and to hold consultations to strengthen regulatory oversight of the extractive industries.
- In response, the Malagasy government said it will look into the actions of the National Office for the Environment (ONE), the agency responsible for overseeing the mine, which is owned by London-based mining giant Rio Tinto.
- However, two months on, the government has shared no updates about its inquiry with the civil society groups that requested its intervention.


Rabbit-sized, deer-like species of fanged ungulate rediscovered in Vietnam [11/18/2019]
- The silver-backed chevrotain is about the size of a rabbit and was first described to science in 1910 based on four specimens. A joint Vietnamese-Russian expedition to central Vietnam undertaken in 1990 collected a fifth specimen, which had been killed by a hunter. That was the last any scientist saw of the species.
- However, local villagers and government forest rangers reported seeing a gray chevrotain in the vicinity of Nha Trang, a city in southern Vietnam. The gray coloring was the key, because that’s what distinguishes the silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor), also known as the Vietnamese mouse-deer, from the far more common lesser chevrotain (T. kanchil).
- Based on those survey results, a team of researchers set up three camera traps in the most promising locations and ended up recording the first evidence that a species not seen in nearly 30 years is still very much in existence.


Amazon deforestation rises to 11 year high in Brazil [11/18/2019]
- Official data published today by Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE shows deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between August 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019 amounted to 9,762 square kilometers, an increase of 30 percent over last year.
- The increase in deforestation was expected given global attention to large-scale fires that blackened the skies above Brazil’s largest city this past August. Deforestation tracking systems had been showing increased forest clearing throughout 2019.
- Deforestation in 2019 was the highest since 2008 and represents a doubling in forest loss over 2012.
- Environmentalists fear that deforestation could continue to accelerate given Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to open the Amazon to more logging, large-scale mining, and industrial agriculture.


Sugarcane threatens Amazon forest and world climate; Brazilian ethanol is not clean (commentary) [11/18/2019]
- On November 6, 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed an administrative decree abolishing the environmental zoning of sugarcane which has until now restrained the advance of this crop — largely used to produce ethanol — into the Amazon rainforest and Pantanal wetlands.
- Sugarcane expansion into these two ecologically sensitive biomes will generate unprecedented impacts — including deforestation and carbon emissions adding to climate change — meaning that Brazilian biofuels can no longer be claimed to be environmentally “clean.”
- In 2018, the European Union imported more than 43 million liters of Brazilian cane ethanol. As with all commodities, importing countries need to assess the environmental impact that the production of these commodities have on the global climate via the destruction of Amazon and Pantanal native vegetation.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Conserving wildlife is key to tropical forests’ carbon storage, study finds [11/18/2019]
- A new study shows that a decrease in the fruit-eating animals that disperse tree seeds leads to a reduction in carbon storage in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
- The complete defaunation, or loss of these species, from a forest can result in the area’s carbon storage capacity dropping by up to 3 percent.
- It was previously believed that the carbon deficit from defaunation in Southeast Asia’s tropical forests wouldn’t be as significant as in the Amazon or the Congo Basin, but the study suggests otherwise.
- Wildlife is being hammered in the region by overhunting and a massive snaring crisis for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the illegal pet trade, and conservationists have called for more action and enforcement to combat poaching.


Indigenous-wildlife ranger collaboration conserves rare Australian rainforests [11/18/2019]
- A collaboration between Indigenous ranger groups and ecologists is working to conserve a rainforest system in northwestern Australia.
- Monsoon vine thickets are remnant, scarcely distributed rainforests located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and are susceptible to wildfire, land clearing and weed infestation if not properly maintained.
- Yawuru, Nyul Nyul and Bardi Jawi Indigenous ranger groups have partnered with Environs Kimberley’s Kimberley Nature Project for over a decade to conserve monsoon vine thickets through revegetation and fire management.
- Due chiefly to this collaboration’s efforts in maintaining, documenting and promoting the importance of these forests, monsoon vine thickets have been granted ‘Nationally Endangered Ecosystem’ status in Australia. The rangers and ecologists continue to maintain these unique forests.


Feral horses gallop to the rescue of butterflies in distress [11/18/2019]
- A new study suggests that returning feral horses to grasslands in Czech Republic could increase populations of some threatened butterfly species.
- The research shows that the horses’ grazing creates and maintains short grasslands that some butterfly species thrive in.
- The research points to the importance of considering the impacts of species introductions on the restoration of natural ecosystems.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 15, 2019 [11/15/2019]
- 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.


Last of the belugas from Russia’s ‘whale jail’ released [11/15/2019]
- Late last year, drone footage revealed 87 belugas and 11 orcas packed in cramped, icy pens at Srednyaya Bay in Russia’s Far East.
- Following international outrage, Russian authorities began an investigation and started releasing the whales to the Sea of Okhotsk, the place the mammals had been originally captured from.
- On Nov. 10, Russian authorities announced that the last of the 50 beluga whales had been released to Uspeniya Bay, in the Primorsky Region, about 62 miles away from the holding facility. But it’s not the whales’ native habitat, conservationists say.
- Activists and conservationists have criticized the lack of transparency in the release effort and the manner in which the whales have been moved to the sea without a proper rehabilitation process in place.


Mongabay at 20: Two decades of news and inspiration from nature’s frontline (commentary) [11/14/2019]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about the experience that led him to start Mongabay more than 20 years ago.
- Since then Mongabay has transitioned from “a guy sitting in his pajamas in his apartment” to a nonprofit media platform that has 500 contributors in 70 countries, produces original reporting in five languages, and is read by millions of people a month.
- Rhett lays out Mongabay’s vision for the next 20 years.


Rapid expansion of protected areas around the world failing to reduce human pressures on land [11/14/2019]
- A little over 20 million square kilometers, or about 15 percent, of Earth’s terrestrial surface is currently protected. It is likely the world will achieve the goal set out in Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2010-2020 to set aside “at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas” by 2020.
- But a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last month finds that the emphasis on rapidly scaling up protected area coverage to meet Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 has led to the establishment of many PAs that are not successfully reducing anthropogenic pressures on the land.
- Most strikingly, in South America, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, average pressures from human activities inside PAs, especially conversion of land to agriculture, was found to be significantly higher than in unprotected areas.


Brazil adds deforestation monitoring for all biomes, so long as money lasts [11/14/2019]
- Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has long monitored the Amazon rainforest biome for deforestation; in 2014 the agency gained funding from the World Bank to pay for similar monitoring in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna biome, which is fast seeing its native vegetation converted to crop and pasture by industrial agribusiness.
- However, the government and others sources failed to fund monitoring in Brazil’s other four biomes — the Pantanal, Atlantic Forest, Caatinga and Pampa. Then, in 2018, the Amazon Fund (which is largely backed financially by Norway), allotted R$ 49.8 million (US$ 12.1 million) to perform deforestation monitoring in all Brazil’s biomes.
- That appropriation is expected to last until 2022. After that, funding again becomes uncertain, because at present Norway has frozen all Amazon Fund financing for future projects in protest over Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policies.
- The first data sets for the four additional biomes (tracking forest loss between 2016 and 2019), are due to be released in December 2019. Annual reports will be published from 2020 forward.


Mussel species that invaded Southeast Asian waters now appears in India [11/14/2019]
- Indian marine researchers have confirmed the presence of the invasive American brackish water mussel (Mytella strigata) in the backwaters of Kochi, a port city in the southern state of Kerala in India.
- The species is native to Central and South America but in recent years has been found invading waters around Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.
- The latest study presents the first formal report of this invasive species from the Indian subcontinent and the fourth record from the Indo-Pacific, the researchers say.
- The researchers worry that the American brackish water mussel could soon outcompete the local green mussel and displace it completely, affecting livelihoods, since the green mussel fishery is a very lucrative industry along the Kochi coast.


Deforestation preceded fires in ‘massive’ area of Amazon in 2019 [11/14/2019]
- Deforestation watchdog Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project found that 4,500 square kilometers (1,740 square miles) of the Brazilian Amazon was deforested between 2017 and 2019 and then burned.
- The team’s analysis revealed that 65 percent of that deforestation occurred in 2019 alone.
- The research points to the need for policymakers to address deforestation as well as fires.


Audio: Damian Aspinall on why he’s calling for zoos to be phased out within the next three decades [11/13/2019]
- On today’s episode, we speak with Damian Aspinall, chairman of the Aspinall Foundation, a UK charity that works to conserve endangered animals and return them to the wild.
- Back in June of this year we welcomed Jim Breheny onto the Mongabay Newscast. Breheny is director of the Bronx Zoo in New York City, and he told me that zoos not only preserve species for the future but support field work to protect species in the wild, as well, and for that reason are vital to wildlife conservation today.
- Aspinall does not agree that zoos are important for conservation of wild species. In fact, he argues that keeping animals in captivity in zoos is cruel, inhumane — and unnecessary. He appears on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast to discuss why he is calling for all zoos around the world to be closed down within the next 30 years, and how he says the work of preserving rare and endangered species could be better accomplished by in situ conservation interventions.


In surprise move, Brazil has removed restrictions on Amazon sugarcane production [11/13/2019]
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has signed a decree revoking a zoning regulation for the sugarcane industry, effectively allowing for cultivation of the crop in the Amazon and other areas of primary forest.
- The measure is controversial because it wasn’t requested by the industry, which, under the previous regulation, was permitted to expand onto degraded land and cattle pasture covering six times the area currently planted with sugarcane.
- The government has justified the move as necessary to boost the ethanol industry in Amazonian states, but experts warn the end of the zoning restriction could present an obstacle to ethanol exports to the European Union, damaging the biofuel sector.
- To date, the sugarcane industry has remained dissociated from the deforestation linked to the cattle and soy industries. Environmentalists say this new decree could end that exception, while also sending the message that the government sees no value in protecting standing forests.


Failure Factors: Sometimes the most important thing to know is what did not go as planned (commentary) [11/13/2019]
- The problem with focusing so much on unearthing positive or affirmative evidence is that we humans often learn more from our failures than from our successes, write David Wilkie of WCS, Kara Stevens of the Walton Family Foundation, and Richard Margoluis of the Moore Foundation.
- People working to conserve nature and improve people’s lives may not report failures because they may worry about compromising their own and their organization’s reputations and jeopardizing future support.
- To address those concerns, the Failure Factors Initiative has been established to identify ways that individuals, teams and their organizations can grow to value failure, learn from it, and improve their decisions and actions.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Myanmar risks losing forests to oil palm, but there’s time to pivot [11/13/2019]
- The Myanmar government has to date handed out more than 400,000 hectares (nearly a million acres) of oil palm concessions to 44 companies, some of it overlapping with proposed national parks.
- But almost 60 percent of the concessions have not been developed, and remain either forested or occupied by non-rubber tree crops, a new study finds.
- The study’s authors say Myanmar could be headed down the same path as Indonesia and Malaysia, two other Southeast Asian countries that sacrificed large swaths of natural forest for oil palm plantations.
- Given the change from a military junta to a democratic government since the concessions were handed out, conservationists say there may an opening now for forest conservation policies.


India’s Ganga River dolphins are being shouted down by noisy boats [11/12/2019]
- India’s Ganga River is getting noisier with increased ship traffic and dredging, and that’s stressing the river’s iconic dolphins and changing how they communicate, a new study has found.
- When fewer than five vessels moving on the river per hour, the dolphins seem to enhance their vocal activities to compensate for the high-frequency noise generated by the propellers.
- But as vessel traffic increases and water levels fall during the dry season, leading to more intense and sustained noise pollution, the dolphins don’t seem to alter their clicks much compared to baseline levels, the researchers found.
- This is likely because having to continuously emit clicks in a persistently noisy world can be physically taxing, forcing the endangered mammals to “either call at baseline levels or shut up,” according to the researchers.


Brazil’s ‘coconut breakers’ feel the squeeze of Cerrado development [11/12/2019]
- These coconut breakers rely on the babassu palm and its harvest of oil-rich nuts for their traditional sustainable livelihood.
- Many of these women live on the edge of the Matopiba region, dubbed by some as “the world’s last agricultural frontier” which has seen an almost 300 percent increase in soy expansion over the last two decades, most of which came at the expense of native forests and vegetation.
- In recent years, industrial agribusiness has moved in fast, privatizing and fencing the commons, converting the babassu palm groves to soy and eucalyptus plantations and cattle ranches, and making it harder for the coconut breakers to access the palm from which they derive their living, and their social and cultural identity.
- In addition, the women say they have been increasingly exposed to threats, intimidation, and physical and sexual violence by farmers and other male agribusiness workers. But the coconut breakers are determined to defend their palm groves at any cost, and to resist the enclosure of the commons.


New honeyeater species described from Indonesia’s Alor Island [11/12/2019]
- Scientists have described a new bird species found only on the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia.
- The Alor myzomela is easily distinguished from other known members of the Myzomela genus of honeyeater birds thanks to its unique call and paler upper wings.
- A growing human population on the island is already fragmenting the species’ only known habitat, prompting the researchers to recommend it be considered endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The bird’s scientific name, Myzomela prawiradilagae, is a tribute to prominent ornithologist Dewi Malia Prawiradilaga from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).


LIDAR technology leads Brazilian team to 30 story tall Amazon tree [11/11/2019]
- A research team using cutting edge LIDAR technology is mapping the Brazilian Amazon to create a detailed biomass map in order to track the impacts of land use change on forest carbon emissions — data collection required under the Paris Climate Agreement and paid for by the Amazon Fund.
- While conducting their LIDAR survey by aircraft, the study team detected several groves of immense trees on the border between Pará and Amapá states. One individual, a red angelim (Dinizia excelsa Ducke) was recorded as being 88.5 meters (just over 290 feet) tall.
- A team of 30 researchers, guided by riverine community guides, made the arduous journey to the giant tree groves. They found some of the trees growing atop a hill, which is unusual because big tropical trees generally thrive in low places safe from wind. Further research is needed to learn why they grow there.
- The giant trees are more than a source of wonder: each can sequester up to 40 tons of carbon, nearly as much as a hectare (2.4 acres) of typical forest. So, when managing a forest and deciding which trees to cut, it is important to consider tree size. In this particular case, the loss of one giant red angelim’s carbon footprint would be huge.


Global trafficking threat catches up to Sri Lanka’s endangered pangolins [11/11/2019]
- Hunting for domestic meat consumption has long been the main threat to the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in Sri Lanka, but a new study identifies a growing threat from hunting for scales to feed demand from China.
- The researchers note an “established smuggling pathway” to India via fishing boat, which they say could explain why Sri Lanka isn’t highlighted as a trading or source country, as these stockpiles technically reach the global market through India.
- The new study also identifies an emerging trend of increasing pangolin rescues, but links this to the growing human presence in pangolin habitats.
- But the researchers also recorded pangolin sightings in areas and elevations they were previously not known to frequent, suggesting their ability to adapt to human and climate threats.


Fires and greenhouse gases fuel drying of the Amazon [11/11/2019]
- New research reveals that fires in the Amazon rainforest, used primarily to clear land for agriculture and ranching, are contributing to drier conditions caused by the emissions of climate-warming gases into the atmosphere.
- Fires release “black carbon,” which absorbs energy and causes temperatures to rise, as well as blocking the formation of clouds, creating drier conditions.
- The researchers caution that the rising demand for water combined with scarcer supplies could threaten the forest’s survival.


Scientists rediscover mammalian oddity in remote Vietnam [11/11/2019]
- Last seen in 1990, researchers have found a population of silver-backed chevrotains, a species of mouse-deer, surviving in Vietnam.
- This lost species is threatened by hunting, snaring and habitat destruction, and scientists don’t yet know how many survive.
- Mongabay columnist Jeremy Hance travels to Vietnam to attempt to see the animal himself and learn about its chances for a future.


Can a national management plan halt Madagascar’s shark decline? [11/11/2019]
- Sharks once were plentiful in Madagascar’s waters, but a spike in demand for shark fins dating to the 1980s has led to heavy exploitation and a reduction in the fishes’ abundance and size.
- Madagascar has no national laws that specifically protect sharks. In June, though, the country released a new national plan for the sustainable management of sharks and rays.
- The plan calls for a shark trade surveillance program, a crackdown on illegal industrial fishing, more “no-take” zones, and a concerted effort to collect better data.
- Conservationists welcomed the plan as an important step — provided the country can enforce its provisions.


Emperor penguins could disappear by 2100 if nations don’t cap emissions [11/08/2019]
- Researchers have combined a global climate model that projects where and when sea ice forms and a model of penguin populations to predict how penguin colonies would react to changing sea ice under future climate scenarios.
- The models found that under the business-as-usual scenario, where countries fail to halt climate change, emperor penguin numbers will decline by around 86 percent by 2100.
- However, if countries meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, limiting the global increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, then emperor penguin numbers would decline by about 31 percent, giving them a fighting chance at survival.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 8, 2019 [11/08/2019]
- 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.


Mischaracterizing the conservation benefits of trade (commentary) [11/08/2019]
- The authors of a Science paper on global wildlife trade respond to an editorial published on Mongabay that criticized their methodology.
- Brett R. Scheffers of the University of Florida/IFAS; Brunno F. Oliveira of the University of Florida/IFAS and Auburn University at Montgomery; and Leuan Lamb and David P. Edwards of the University of Sheffield say their paper ‘uses a rigorously assembled database to make the first global assessment of traded species—both legal and illegal, and from national to international scales—and to identify the global hotspots of trade diversity.’
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Indonesia re-exporting illegal waste to other countries, report finds [11/07/2019]
- A report by environmental groups says the Indonesian government is shipping containers of imported plastic waste from the U.S. to other countries instead of sending them back to the source as it claimed it would.
- The report said 38 containers ended up arriving in India, while the others were sent to countries including Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Canada.
- The Indonesian government has rebuffed the allegation, saying the re-export documents list the U.S. and Germany as the final destinations.
- The groups behind the report have called on Indonesia to work together with the source countries and to prosecute those involved in the trafficking of waste.


Healthy ecosystems, healthy humans: ‘One Health’ broadens its scope [11/07/2019]
- At an Oct. 25 conference in Berlin, conservation and public health leaders issued 10 principles aimed at encouraging cross-disciplinary research and efforts to address both human health and environmental problems.
- The principles, part of the One Health movement, grew out of the Manhattan Principles introduced in 2004.
- The declaration acknowledges that the world’s poor often suffer the most as a result of environmental degradation.
- However, the conference organizers point out that climate change has global reach and must be addressed from both the environmental and health perspectives.


Democratic values that protected Indonesian rainforests now need saving, too [11/06/2019]
- The people of Indonesia’s Aru Islands fended off a land grab that would have led to the destruction of a vast area of rainforest, through a sophisticated grassroots campaign that held power to account.
- The campaign holds lessons for rural communities facing similar threats, but their prospects have been diminished by new legislation that strengthens the hand of the powerful and corrupt.
- The legislation has provoked mass street protests in the capital city, Jakarta. As in Aru, it now comes down to civil society to ensure that democracy prevails.


Facebook and Instagram posts help locate pygmy seahorses in Taiwan [11/06/2019]
- By contacting underwater photographers and divers and searching for photos and posts on Facebook and Instagram, researchers have confirmed the presence of five species of pygmy seahorses in Taiwan.
- This makes Taiwan one of the world’s pygmy seahorse diversity hotspots, the researchers say.
- Green Island and Orchid Island, in particular, were hotspots for pygmy seahorse diversity, the researchers found, and they hope that these discoveries will help inform conservation planning.


New toads named from a Sumatran biodiversity trove that’s under threat [11/06/2019]
- Researchers have recently described three new species of toads belonging to the Sigalegalephrynus genus of puppet toads living in the highlands of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.
- The genus was first proposed in 2017 with the description of two species. Researchers believe there may be even more puppet toads left to discover.
- The discovery highlights the vast diversity of Sumatra’s herpetofauna, but also the immense threats the island’s wildlife faces, primarily from loss of habitat to deforestation and agriculture.
- The researchers say all of the newly described species should be listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.


Their lawsuit against a coal firm in limbo, Bornean villagers take their fight online [11/05/2019]
- In Indonesian Borneo’s Central Hulu Sungai district, indigenous people, farmers and fishers have been joined by the local government in their opposition to a planned coal mine.
- With support from conservation NGO Walhi, the district’s residents have launched a lawsuit alleging that the central government illegally issued a permit to PT Mantimin Coal Mining a subsidiary of Indian firm Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS).
- The lawsuit has twice been rejected on technicalities by lower courts. While activists await news on whether the Supreme Court will hear the case, they have intensified a protest campaign under the banner “Save Meratus.”


Indonesia plans IVF for recently captured Sumatran rhino [11/05/2019]
- In a bid to save the nearly extinct Sumatran rhino, Indonesia will attempt to harvest and fertilize an egg cell from a lone female at a captive-breeding center in Borneo.
- The sperm for the in vitro fertilization attempt will come from a male at a captive-breeding center in Sumatra; combining the Sumatran and Bornean lineages is expected to help boost the gene pool for an animal whose global population may be as low as 40.
- Conservationists anticipate obstacles, however: Pahu, the female, is quite old at about 25, and is possibly too small to be able to carry a regular-sized offspring to term.
- The planned attempt by Indonesia comes after conservationists in Malaysia tried and failed to carry out an IVF treatment there, with both the age of the female rhino and lack of access to quality sperm cited for the failure.


Enforce Brazilian laws to curb criminal Amazon deforestation: study [11/04/2019]
- Recent research finds that a failure to track environmental infractions and to enforce environmental laws and regulations is aiding and abetting ever escalating rates of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado.
- Researchers studied the failings of three environmental initiatives: the TAC da Carne, blocking cattle sales raised in deforestation embargoed areas; the Amazon Soy Moratorium, stopping sales of soy grown on deforested lands; and DOF timber permitting, which allows logging only in approved areas.
- The study found that timber, soy and cattle producers often subvert Brazil’s environmental laws by illegally “laundering” harvested logs, beef and soy to conceal illegal deforestation. These practices have been largely helped by the weak governance of the Jair Bolsonaro administration.
- The scientists recommend the closing of illegal soy, cattle and logging laundering loopholes via the strengthening of Brazilian environmental agencies, the improvement of monitoring technologies, better integration of policies and systems, and putting market pressure on producers.


‘Fantastic grandmothers’ snorkel, help uncover large sea snake population [11/04/2019]
- A group of seven women in their 60s and 70s, who call themselves the “fantastic grandmothers,” have helped uncover a surprisingly large population of the venomous greater sea snake in the waters surrounding Nouméa, the capital of the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.
- By November 2018, the women, all Nouméa residents and expert swimmers and snorkelers, and the researchers had collectively taken nearly 300 photographs of more than 140 individual greater sea snakes — much more than researchers had long believed to occur in the area.
- The citizen science project isn’t just revealing numbers, it’s also helping uncover detailed information on the ecology of greater sea snakes, such as their breeding patterns and changes in population structure over seasons.


Research points to low forensic capacity to tackle timber fraud in U.S. [11/04/2019]
- New research has found that more than 60 percent of a sample of 73 wood products in the U.S. had misrepresented or fraudulent species labels.
- While not “statistically representative,” the findings do indicate that improperly labeled wood is a concern in the U.S.
- The study also found that the U.S. does not have the capacity for forensic wood anatomy identification to address this issue.


Debate rages over intensive oil palm farming in Gabon [11/01/2019]
- Nearly 88 percent of Gabon is covered in forests, but NGOs fear that the development of oil palm plantations threatens this viable resource.
- Local communities accuse SOTRADER, a public-private partnership between the government and the multinational Olam, of land grabbing.
- Its defenders say that the project respects the environment and community social commitments.
- In September, the government of Gabon signed an agreement allowing the sustainable management of its high carbon stock forests.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 1, 2019 [11/01/2019]
- 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.


What’s at stake after Chile cancels its hosting of COP25? [11/01/2019]
- Massive protests triggered by social unrest over economic, justice and environmental issues have forced Chile to cancel its hosting of this year’s U.N. climate change summit in December.
- As the organizer of the 25th Conference of Parties, Chile was to have led the effort to bolster ambitions in the fight against climate change aimed at ensuring that global temperatures don’t increase by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
- On Oct. 31, a day after Chile’s president announced the cancellation, Spain offered to hold the conference on the scheduled dates, Dec. 2-13, in Madrid.


Less force, more kindness as Sri Lanka tries to defuse human-elephant conflict [10/31/2019]
- Several different methods attempted over the past 70 years to mitigate human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka have proved ineffective, experts say.
- With more than 300 elephants and 70 people killed in 2018 alone, and a third of the island effectively elephant country, Sri Lanka is mired in an escalating crisis trying to balance its developmental and conservation needs.
- Conservationists have called for designing development programs that account for elephant impact assessments, and abandoning translocations and other control methods in favor of electric fencing that has proven more effective.


Carbon emissions from loss of intact tropical forest a ‘ticking time bomb’ [10/31/2019]
- When undisturbed tropical forests are lost the long-term impact on carbon emissions is dramatically higher than earlier estimates suggest, according to a new study.
- Between 2000 and 2013, about 7 percent of the world’s intact tropical forests were destroyed, leading not just to direct carbon emissions but also “hidden” emissions from logging, fragmentation and wildlife loss.
- Another key difference between the old and new estimates is that the latter take into account the diminished carbon sequestration potential of these forests.
- The authors write that the indigenous communities who live in and protect about 35 percent of these forests will have a bigger role to play in the fight against climate change.


Finding hope in ‘extreme conservation’ (Insider) [10/31/2019]
- A Mongabay staff writer shares an account of his trek to see mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- From a low of 250 individuals in the 1980s, the mountain gorilla subspecies now numbers more than 1,000, making it the only great ape whose population is growing.
- Those gains have come thanks to the “extreme conservation” practiced by a dedicated group of people who have worked to ensure the survival of one of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.


Can camera traps diagnose the severity of a mystery giraffe skin disease? [10/30/2019]
- Giraffe skin disease, a mystery condition that inflicts crusty lesions on the world’s tallest animal, has been recorded in 13 giraffe populations in seven African countries. It is particularly widespread in Tanzania.
- Researchers used camera trap images to quantify how severe the disease was among giraffe populations in Tanzania’s Serengeti and Ruaha national parks.
- They found that most cases of the infections that the camera traps detected were “mild” or “moderate” according to a scale they devised, suggesting that the disease, although widespread, is likely not life-threatening at the moment.
- The researchers have, however, observed that giraffes with more severe infections tend to move with difficulty, which could make them more vulnerable to lion predation — a hypothesis they are now investigating with data from Ruaha National Park.


Controversial dam gets green light to flood a Philippine protected area [10/30/2019]
- The environment department has issued an environmental compliance certificate that allows the contested Kaliwa Dam project in the Sierra Madre mountain range to go ahead, part of a wider push to secure water supplies for Manila and surrounding areas.
- The certificate is one of the last sets of documents required by the developers for the project being funded by a $238.3 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.
- Yet its issuance comes despite a government-conducted environmental impact assessment showing that the dam’s reservoir alone will endanger endemic wildlife and plants, drive massive species migration, and pose risks to lowland agricultural and fishing communities with a history of flash flooding.
- The site of the planned dam falls within the Kaliwa watershed forest reserve, which has been designated a natural wildlife park sanctuary and game refuge, and an IUCN Category V Protected Landscape/Seascape.


Audio: Reporter Katie Baker details Buzzfeed’s explosive investigation of WWF [10/29/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Katie Baker, a reporter for Buzzfeed News investigating allegations of human rights violations and other abuses committed against local indigenous communities by park rangers in Asia and Africa who receive funding from conservation organization WWF.
- Baker and her colleague Tom Warren have written a series of articles detailing the allegations and WWF’s response. In the latest installment, the journalists report that the director and board of WWF were made aware of the abuses by one of their own internal reports more than a year before Buzzfeed broke the story.
- In this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, Baker discusses the findings of her investigative reports, what it took to chase this story down, and the impacts she’s seen so far from her reporting.


The tragedy of the fishermen of Ventanas, ‘the Chilean Chernobyl’ [10/29/2019]
- The sea near Ventanas, Chile, was generous in the 1980s. There were urchins, limpets, clams and fish. Tourists summered there and fishermen thrived.
- That all changed as the local industrial park grew. In 2000 the National Health Service discovered serious heavy-metal and fecal-bacteria contamination of local shellfish, and prohibited their sale, effectively shuttering the local seafood industry.
- Fishermen attempted to revive their aquaculture operations, despite a series of oil spills. But poisoning episodes in 2018 quashed that initiative.
- “Could they have seen us as a dumpsite? Like their backyard? … I don’t know how the government saw us,” said Carlos Vega, a longtime Ventanas fisherman.


’Rampant’ fishing continues as vaquita numbers dwindle [10/29/2019]
- An expedition surveying the Gulf of California for the critically endangered vaquita porpoise has reported seeing more than 70 fishing boats in a protected refuge.
- Vaquita numbers have been decimated in the past decade as a result of gillnet fishing for another critically endgangered species, the totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder can fetch more than $20,000 per kilogram ($9,000 per pound) in Asian markets.
- Local fishing organizations in the region say that the government has stopped compensating them after a gillnet ban, aimed at protecting the vaquita from extinction, went into effect in 2015.


Indigenous and riverine communities unite to fight Amazon invaders [10/29/2019]
- The Brazilian Amazon basin, now under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, is increasingly a place of conflict, as loggers and land grabbers — many inspired by the government’s incendiary rhetoric — step up their invasions of indigenous and traditional lands.
- One example can be found along the Mamuru River in Pará state. There the Sateré indigenous group (now living mostly inside the Andirá Marau Indigenous Reserve), and non-indigenous traditional riverine communities (living in the Mamuru State Agro-extractivist Project, known as PEAEX Mamuru), are resisting incursions.
- Loggers and outsiders making dubious land claims are moving in on the disputed government-held common lands that lie between the indigenous reserve and PEAEX Mamuru, a cluster of 18 settlements. The Sateré say this land is part of their ancestral territory, but was mistakenly excluded from the Andirá Marau Reserve.
- Another threat to indigenous and traditional land claims: a new Pará state law that no longer requires that outsiders live currently on the lands they claim, making it far easier for land grabbers to legitimize those claims. In response, indigenous and traditional riverine communities are now forming a unified resistance.


Commitments worth $63 billion pledged for ocean protection [10/28/2019]
- The sixth annual Our Ocean conference took place in Oslo, Norway, on Oct. 23 and 24.
- Governments, businesses, organizations and research institutions made 370 commitments toward improving marine health and productivity that were worth more than $63 billion.
- The commitments, a considerable boost from the $10 billion committed last year, reflect a new level of urgency around ocean protection as its role in mitigating climate change becomes ever clearer.
- Focus areas of the conference included building the sustainability of the global fishing industry and reducing plastic pollution.


10 takeaways from Indonesia’s grassroots #SaveAru success [10/28/2019]
- The Save Aru campaign is one of Indonesia’s most successful grassroots movements in recent years.
- The people of Indonesia’s Aru Islands managed to defeat a plan to turn more than half of their archipelago into a massive sugar plantation.
- This month, The Gecko Project and Mongabay published a narrative article about the movement. Here are 10 takeaways from how they did it.


As Bolsonaro meets with Xi, China silent on Brazil environmental crisis [10/28/2019]
- China is Brazil’s biggest trading partner, so it is uniquely positioned to influence the Brazilian agribusiness sector and to help limit the drastic reductions in environmental protections being carried out by the Jair Bolsonaro administration.
- However, when Brazil’s Bolsonaro visited with China General Secretary Xi Jinping last week, the environment appeared to hold no place in their high-level talks which centered on trade and commerce agreements.
- Bolsonaro has caused international concern over his anti-environmental policies with the EU and with international investors. Germany and Norway, in particular, have slashed their aid to Brazil for its deforestation programs.
- Some conservationists hope that China, which has recently become vocal on the topics of sustainability and climate change, will move to brake Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policy excesses, but other analysts believe China will maintain its primary focus on Brazilian trade.


New species of orange-red praying mantis mimics a wasp [10/25/2019]
- From the Peruvian Amazon, researchers have described a new-to-science species of bright orange-red praying mantis that conspicuously mimics a wasp.
- The mantis mimics not only the bright coloration of many wasps, but also a wasp’s short, jerky movements. Such conspicuous mimicry of wasps is rare among mantises, which usually tend to resemble leaves or tree trunks, the researchers say in a new study.
- The researchers have named the praying mantis Vespamantoida wherleyi.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, October 25, 2019 [10/25/2019]
- 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.


What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, location [10/25/2019]
- For the past two decades, donors and international NGOs have worked with the Malagasy government to create thousands of local associations to manage and conserve parcels of forest.
- Ecotourism ventures, along with farming support, are often presented as an important way to overcome the loss of income that usually accompanies new restrictions on how local people can use their land.
- Successful ecotourism ventures are few and far between, but a common factor is also something that’s hard to replicate: proximity to highways and other tourist destinations.


As birds winter in Sri Lanka, one enthusiast makes sure their memory stays [10/25/2019]
- As migratory birds of all shapes and shades start flocking to Sri Lanka for the northern hemisphere winter, prominent local environmental lawyer and naturalist Jagath Gunawardena prepares to once again go bird-watching and sketching.
- Sri Lanka is home to 439 bird species, 33 of them found nowhere else on Earth, including breeding residents and migratory species.
- The island offers varying microclimates and habitats that provide a temporary refuge for the roughly 200 visiting species, though over the years, declining forest cover has impacted the distribution pattern of both resident and migratory species.
- Gunawardena, who has been recognized by the state for his contributions to wildlife conservation and even had a new frog species named after him, has called for greater research and conservation efforts for some of the migratory birds that call Sri Lanka home.


Indonesia’s ex-fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti leaves big shoes to fill [10/24/2019]
- Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s popular and highly regarded fisheries minister, has been replaced in the new cabinet unveiled by President Joko Widodo for his second and final term in office.
- Maritime and fisheries observers have criticized the move to drop Susi, who has a proven track record in the sector, in favor of a transparently political appointee with only tangential exposure to fisheries.
- The move signals a loosening of protections for coastal and marine ecosystems and fishing communities as the president seeks to ramp up investments and development projects, the observers warn.
- Susi has called on her successor, Edhy Prabowo, to maintain the pace of reforms already achieved and to ensure the protection of the environment and coastal communities from extractive industries.


Research outlines ‘roadmap’ for land use to slow climate change [10/24/2019]
- A new study finds that the land sector could account for nearly one-third of the climate mitigation necessary to keep global temperatures below a 1.5-degree-Celsius (2.7-degree-Fahrenheit) rise over pre-industrial levels as referenced in the 2015 Paris climate accords.
- The research, drawing on other studies looking at the potential for various reforms, puts forth a roadmap for carbon neutrality in the land sector by 2040.
- In addition to measures such as forest protection and restoration, the paper’s authors also call for human behavior change and investment in carbon capture technologies.


As 2019 Amazon fires die down, Brazilian deforestation roars ahead [10/23/2019]
- This year’s August Amazon fires grabbed headlines around the world. In response, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration accused the media of lying and exaggerating the disaster, then finally sent in the army to combat the blazes. As of October, many of the fires were under control.
- But experts note that the fires are only a symptom of a far greater problem: rampant and rising deforestation. Altogether, 7,604 square kilometers (2,970 square miles) of rainforest were felled during the first nine months of this year, an 85 percent increase over the same period last year.
- Unscrupulous land speculators are growing rich, say experts, as they mine, log and clear rainforest — operations often conducted illegally on protected lands. Typically, the speculators cut valuable trees, burn the remainder, and sell the cleared land at a heavily marked up price to cattle ranchers or agribusiness.
- So far, Bolsonaro has done little to inhibit these activities, while doing and saying much to encourage deforestation, mining and agribusiness. The government has de-toothed the nation’s environmental agencies and slashed their budgets, while hampering officials from enforcing environmental laws.


For one Indonesian fisher, saving caught turtles is a moral challenge [10/23/2019]
- Sea turtles are protected species under Indonesian law, but continue to be caught and killed for food and ornaments in many parts of the country.
- Official wildlife conservation agencies are typically underfunded, and large-scale conservation programs run by NGOs are far from effective, a conservationist says.
- But in a fishing village on the island of Sulawesi, a lone fisherman is playing his part by buying live turtles accidentally caught by other fishers and usually injured, and caring for them until they heal and can be released back into the ocean.
- Conservationists have welcomed his initiative and intent, but raised questions about his expertise, with some of the more than 20 turtles he has cared for so far dying.


Malaria surges in deforested parts of the Amazon, study finds [10/23/2019]
- A recent study found that deforestation significantly increases the transmission of malaria, about three times more than previously thought.
- The analysis showed that a 10 percent increase in deforestation caused a 3.3 percent rise in malaria cases.
- The study’s authors analyzed more than a decade of data showing the occurrences of malaria in nearly 800 villages, towns and cities across the Brazilian Amazon.
- They also controlled for the “feedback” from malaria, by which a rise in the incidence of the disease actually slows deforestation down.


Indonesia’s new cabinet a ‘marriage of oligarchs,’ environmentalists say [10/23/2019]
- Environmental activists have expressed disappointment with the new cabinet unveiled by President Joko Widodo for his second and final term in office.
- Among those staying on are the environment minister, widely criticized for failing to crack down on companies violating environmental laws, and the coordinating minister for maritime affairs, who has extensive business interests in the mining industry.
- The popular and effective fisheries minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, was replaced in favor of an aide to Widodo’s election rival, while the new energy minister has a record of championing fossil fuel and palm biodiesel projects.
- Activists warn that the new cabinet consolidates power in the hands of oligarchs, political elites, and military and police generals, making it likely that environmental protections will be unraveled and violations more common in the name of investment and growth.


A ‘sly’ species of leaf-tailed gecko uncovered from Madagascar [10/23/2019]
- Scientists have described a new species of leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus fetsy, believed to be found only in Madagascar’s Ankarana Special Reserve.
- All Uroplatus species are endemic to Madagascar and are best known for their leaf-like tails and coloration that allow them to blend into the foliage.
- Though newly described, U. fetsy may already be at risk: the dry deciduous forests of the reserve are severely threatened by illegal logging, cattle grazing, fires, and artisanal mining.
- The authors of the paper describing the new species say it could warrant endangered status on the IUCN Red List because of these threats to its habitat.


Combining negotiation, legal backing and orchids to create ecotourism reserve [10/22/2019]
- In Ecuador, the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation has worked with local landowners to create conservation agreements and sustainable ecotourism ventures in areas otherwise fragmented by intensive human activity.
- After nearly 20 years, the impacts of two small, family-based initiatives are rippling outwards into the rest of the Andean cloud forest and coastal dry forest.
- Negotiation, relationship-building, and transparency helped Ceiba earn the landowners’ trust and enable the success of the initiatives.


Indonesian villagers fighting planned mine garner national support [10/22/2019]
- Indonesia’s national human rights commission and the national ombudsman have weighed in on a dispute over plans to mine nickel on the remote island of Wawonii.
- Residents have protested over the plans, which they say threaten their fishing grounds and freshwater sources.
- Local authorities have sent out mixed messages on whether the project will proceed, while the company involved has continued clearing villagers’ land.
- The rights commission has called for a halt to criminal investigations of the land defenders, while the ombudsman has called for all the permits to be scrapped.


New maps show where giraffes live — mostly outside protected areas [10/22/2019]
- By combining the latest data from on ground and aerial surveys, following movements of GPS-tagged animals, consultation with experts, and reviewing the scientific literature, researchers have produced a series of maps that they say represent the most comprehensive and accurate picture of where giraffes live in Africa.
- While the IUCN recognizes only one species of giraffe and nine subspecies, the study’s authors decided to use the taxonomy suggested by recent studies that recognize the giraffe as not one but four distinct species — northern, southern, reticulated, and Masai giraffe — and five subspecies.
- The new range maps will serve as a baseline from which conservationists can now start monitoring changes in giraffe distribution in the future, the researchers say.
- The range maps show that around 70 percent of the giraffe’s range occurs outside government-managed protected areas.


Study finds massive reorganization of life across Earth’s ecosystems [10/21/2019]
- A new study pulls together data from 239 studies that looked at more than 50,000 biodiversity time series.
- The research reveals that almost 30 percent of all species are being swapped out for other species every 10 years.
- The scientists found that the reorganization and loss of species are happening much more quickly in some environments than in others, a finding that could help inform future conservation.


DRC’s Okapi Wildlife Reserve gets new management partner in WCS [10/21/2019]
- The Okapi Wildlife Reserve in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will now be run under a new management partnership agreement between the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the DRC government’s Nature Conservation Agency (ICCN).
- Through the new management partnership agreement, WCS and ICCN hope to restore stability in the reserve and surrounding forests, improve the welfare and operations of its rangers, and enhance the social well-being of its resident communities.
- The local communities are not part of the official agreement structure, but they will be consulted as management details become clearer, John Lukas of the Okapi Conservation Project said.


Activists call for stronger environmental laws in Widodo’s second term [10/21/2019]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has kicked off his second and final term in office with a pledge to boost investment and economic growth, largely through deregulation.
- Environmental activists say they fear this focus on investment at all costs will strip away the already scant environmental protections in the country.
- They say that, if anything, the government must strengthen regulations protecting the environment and vulnerable groups.
- Doing so will ultimately also benefit the economy, they argue, by ensuring that the country attracts high-quality investments.


Why is Europe rewilding with water buffalo? [10/21/2019]
- Conservationists have released 18 water buffalo onto Ermakov Island in the Danube, in the first ever such rewilding project in Ukraine.
- The water buffalo were gifted by a German-born naturalist-cum-farmer, Michel Jacobs, who has taken on a mission of saving the Carpathian’s distinct water buffalo.
- Researchers believe the water buffalo will bring new richness and diversity to the Danube by acting as ecosystem engineers.


Photos: Meet the surprisingly diverse day geckos of Sri Lanka [10/18/2019]
- The number of geckos in the genus Cnemaspis has grown rapidly as new species are described, with Sri Lanka the epicenter of new discoveries.
- The island is today home to 33 known species of day geckos, none of them occurring anywhere else on Earth, and it’s possible there may be 44 by 2020, a leading herpetologist says.
- As new species continue to emerge, researchers are calling for urgent conservation efforts and ecological studies to ensure that the remaining microhabitats are not lost and that these unique species are not driven toward extinction.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, October 18, 2019 [10/18/2019]
- 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.


These rare pigs can dig it. With a tool, that is. And moonwalk too [10/18/2019]
- A viral video shows a family of Visayan warty pigs (Sus cebifrons) using a piece of tree bark or branch to build a nest at a zoo in Paris.
- Tool use has been widely reported among vertebrates, particularly primates, but this is the first published study and first recorded video of pigs using tools.
- The study suggests that using a stick is a socially learned behavior, and expands the possibility of tool use and social learning among pig species.
- There are limited studies on the Visayan warty pig, a critically endangered species in its native Philippines, due to its dwindling population in the wild.


Reforesting a village in Indonesia, one batch of gourmet beans at a time [10/17/2019]
- Deforestation in the village of Cibulao on the outskirts of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, left it prone to droughts in the dry season and landslides in the rainy season.
- That changed in the early 2000s when a local tea plantation worker named Kiryono began replanting the slopes with seeds foraged from the nearby forest.
- Among those seeds were coffee seeds taken from wild coffee trees, and with training and the help of his family, Kiryono today produces some of the most prized coffee in Indonesia.
- The village is also greener now, thanks to Kiryono’s replanting efforts, and the local farmers’ cooperative hopes to expand on that work by applying for the right to manage a larger area of land.


Failure in conservation projects: Everyone experiences it, few record it [10/17/2019]
- Analysis of failures of conservation projects are rarely published, a new study has found.
- Researchers who reviewed the available scientific literature found only 59 peer-reviewed articles that had analyzed failures of conservation projects.
- Some of the leading causes of project failures, according to the papers reviewed, were problematic interactions between people, lack of trust, negative experiences with past conservation initiatives, and inefficient communication.
- The finding that interpersonal relations, and not external factors like politics, was the largest cause of project failures, is hopeful, the researchers say, because it tells us that we need to work on things we can actually influence.


Biodiversity ‘not just an environmental issue’: Q&A with IPBES ex-chair Robert Watson [10/17/2019]
- The World Bank and IMF meetings from Oct. 14-20 will include discussions on protecting biodiversity and the importance of investing in nature.
- A recent U.N. report found that more than 1 million species of plants and animals face extinction.
- In a conversation with Mongabay, Robert Watson, who chaired the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that produced the report, discusses the economic value of biodiversity.


Violence against indigenous peoples explodes in Brazil [10/17/2019]
- Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) has published its annual report on violence against indigenous peoples, showing a sharp rise in murders and land grabs.
- According to the report, 135 indigenous peoples were killed in 2018 — an increase of 23 percent from the previous year. There were also a large number of deaths that occurred as a result of state negligence, including suicide (101 cases) and infant mortality (519 cases).
- Preliminary data for 2019 indicate that, in the first nine months of the Bolsonaro government, there have already been reports of 160 cases of land invasion, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and damage to property in 153 indigenous territories — twice as many compared to the previous year.


Venezuelan crisis: Government censors environmental and scientific data [10/16/2019]
- Venezuela is among the most biodiverse nations in the world. But it has become increasingly difficult to measure, assess and protect the nation’s environment as the federal government spreads a dense cloak of secrecy over environmental and scientific statistics — concealing invaluable baseline, annual and long-term data.
- When the country was experiencing prosperity in the first decade of the 21st century, data was readily available on the Internet. But from roughly 2011 onward, as the nation spiraled into economic and social chaos, statistics began disappearing from the Web, and being unavailable to the public, scientific researchers and activists.
- Many important government environmental and social indices have been hidden from public view, including updated data on inflation, unemployment, crime, deforestation, ecosystem and wildlife endangerment, mining, water and air quality, pollution, climate change, energy, national fisheries production and more.
- Compounding governmental restrictions on transparency are difficulties in collecting scientific data in a nation suffering economic and social freefall. For example, 70 percent of Venezuelan weather stations are inoperative, meaning that regional temperature and rainfall patterns are no longer being measured.


Extreme snowfall led to reproductive collapse in some Arctic wildlife in 2018 [10/16/2019]
- In 2018, while the Arctic continued to see warmer summers and retreating snow cover in general because of rising global temperatures, there was also very heavy snowfall that kept several areas covered in “unusually large amounts of snow” even in late summer, when much of it should have melted.
- In northeast Greenland, one of the regions affected by the excessive snowfall, most animals and plants, including Arctic foxes and migratory shorebirds, failed to reproduce, researchers found.
- While one non-breeding year may not spell doom for Arctic wildlife, frequent extreme weather events like the one in 2018 could make it harder for Arctic species to bounce back and survive, the researchers warn.


Biodiversity boosts crop pollinators and pest controllers, study finds [10/16/2019]
- A new study looks at the reliance on biodiversity of ecosystem services provided by pollinating and pest-controlling insects.
- Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the “landscape simplification” that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects.
- The scientists found that the reduction in ecosystem services provided by these insects tended to lead to lower crop yields.


Malaysian attempt at Sumatran rhino IVF fails on low quality of sperm [10/16/2019]
- A recent effort to produce a Sumatran rhino embryo from egg and sperm samples taken from the last of the species in Malaysia has failed, officials said.
- The low quality of the sperm, extracted in 2015 and 2016 from an aging rhino that has since died, was cited as the main cause of the failure to fertilize the egg.
- Malaysian officials say they will continue to improve and attempt their in vitro fertilization attempts, and have called on Indonesia to send sperm samples from younger rhinos held in Sumatra.
- Indonesia has refused to send any samples, citing the need for a formal agreement, but conservationists say that captive-breeding of Sumatran rhinos is the only feasible solution to protect the species from extinction.


At India’s Assam Zoo, decades of experience lead to rhino-breeding success [10/16/2019]
- Assam State Zoo in northeastern India has been breeding greater one-horned rhinos in captivity since the 1960s.
- However, until 2011 the country lacked a formal, nationally coordinated program dedicated to maintaining a viable captive population of the species, which is considered by the IUCN to be vulnerable to extinction due to poaching.
- India launched an official captive-breeding initiative in 2011. One calf has already been born at the Assam Zoo as part of the program, and another is on the way. An additional six have been born in the Patna Zoo in India’s Bihar state.


Cook Islands MPA leader fired after supporting seabed mining freeze [10/15/2019]
- Last month the Cook Islands government dismissed the director of the world’s biggest mixed-use marine protected area (MPA), which is called Marae Moana.
- Jacqueline Evans, a marine scientist, had played a key leadership role in the seven-year campaign to establish Marae Moana and served as its director since the MPA was enshrined into law in 2017.
- Her firing came after she expressed support for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining across the Pacific Ocean. Seabed mining has been a sticking point throughout the history of Marae Moana, with some environmentalists hoping to prohibit it outright and other parties wanting to explore it as a potential source of revenue.
- Evans was a 2019 winner of the prestigious international Goldman Prize for grassroots environmentalists in recognition of her work to make Marae Moana a reality.


$65 million deal to protect Congo’s forests raises concerns [10/14/2019]
- The Central African Forest Initiative negotiated a deal with the Republic of Congo for $65 million in funding.
- The aim of the initiative is to protect forest while encouraging economic development.
- But environmental organizations criticized the timing and the wording of the agreement, which they argue still allows for oil drilling and exploration that could harm peatlands and forest.
- Two companies in the Republic of Congo recently found oil beneath the peatlands that could nearly triple the Central African country’s daily production.


British armed forces supplied by Brazilian meat firm linked to Amazon deforestation, corruption: Report [10/14/2019]
- The British military sourced beef for ration packs from Brazilian meatpacker JBS despite its history of corruption, poor environmental record and links to human rights abuses.
- Ration packs supplied to the UK armed forces between 2009 and 2016 were found to be manufactured by JBS and supplied by Vestey Foods.
- The sources of JBS beef imported by Vestey into the UK could not be confirmed and may not have come from illegally deforested lands or suspect supply chains.
- Cattle ranching is the largest single driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and a significant contributor to tropical carbon emissions. A recent wave of forest fires in the region prompted a global outcry and calls for tougher action to curb environmental destruction.


Expansion of a famous elephant park holds out hope for Africa’s big tuskers [10/14/2019]
- Eight of Africa’s remaining 30 “big tuskers” live in South Africa’s Tembe Elephant Park.
- The park is set to be expanded by up to 26,000 hectares, allowing its herd of 200 to grow.
- The park is owned and managed by local communities.


Rare songbird recovers, moves off endangered species list [10/11/2019]
- The Kirtland’s warbler, a species that was close to extinction five decades ago, is now thriving and has been removed from the U.S. federal list of endangered species.
- Where there were fewer than 200 breeding pairs of the warbler in the 1970s and 1980s, today there are more than 2,300.
- However, the warbler’s continued survival is conservation-reliant, which means it will still depend heavily on continued conservation efforts.
- Conservationists say the bird’s comeback is testament that the Endangered Species Act works, and warn that current attempts by the Trump administration to roll back conservation policies could lead to other protected species going extinct.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, October 11, 2019 [10/11/2019]
- 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.


Madagascar calls for assistance as fires imperil its protected areas [10/11/2019]
- Between August and September 1,300 hectares (3212 acres) of forest land in Ankarafantsika National Park in northwestern Madagascar was burnt.
- Bush fires from slash-and-burn cultivation, in which forestland is burnt and cleared to plant crops, caused the most damage.
- The fires impacted forests not just in the buffer zone of the park but also the core area.
- The Malagasy government has called on the international community to aid its fire-fighting efforts.


Food is biggest stumbling block on zero-waste nature tour [10/10/2019]
- A week-long zero-waste trip led by Natural Habitat Adventures through Yellowstone National Park diverted 50.9 pounds of waste — 99% of all the on-trip waste.
- More than 100 million pounds of garbage is generated in the U.S. national parks every year; in 2018, Yellowstone sent 48% of its waste to a landfill.
- Food waste accounted for more than half of the trip’s collected waste, a particular problem in the travel industry.
- The tour company is now creating a best practices document to share with other tour operators so they can cut unnecessary waste from their operations as well.


Toxic river: Mining, mercury and murder continue to plague Colombia’s Atrato [10/10/2019]
- Decades of internal conflict have fueled an unprecedented surge in illegal mining in Colombia’s Choco region, decimating the Atrato River basin and provoking an environmental and humanitarian crisis.
- In a landmark ruling in 2016, Colombia’s Constitutional Court granted the Atrato environmental personhood rights just as the country signed historic peace accords, but three years on a new era of conflict is plaguing the Choco region.
- Choco is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, with an estimated 54,850 animal species living in its dense jungle. But open-pit mining operations and large-scale deforestation are a constant threat.
- Mercury and cyanide contamination from industrial mining activities make it the most polluted river in Colombia and a clean-up operation promised back in 2016 has yet to materialize.


Seven elephants found dead as Sri Lanka’s human-wildlife conflict escalates [10/10/2019]
- Authorities have launched an investigation into the suspected poisoning deaths of seven elephants last month in Sri Lanka.
- Human-elephant conflict caused by habitat loss has long been a problem on the country, with both the elephant and human death tolls climbing in recent years.
- Investigations into previous elephant deaths have failed to hold anyone liable, and conservationists say they fear the recent spate of deaths will also go unpunished.
- Conservationists say the root causes for human-elephant conflict need to be removed or mitigated, including through community-based electric fencing, increased manpower for the wildlife department, and conservation of elephant habitat.


Madagascar: Opaque foreign fisheries deals leave empty nets at home [10/09/2019]
- Malagasy fishers blame shrimp trawlers that ply coastal waters for their declining catches.
- However, the bulk of industrial fishing in Madagascar’s waters takes place far from shore and out of view. It’s conducted by foreign fishing fleets working under agreements that critics say lack transparency.
- Conservationists argue that these foreign vessels are also depleting the country’s fish stocks and marine ecosystems.
- With negotiations to renew a fisheries deal with the European Union having flopped late last month and uncertainty lingering over an enormous and controversial fisheries deal with a Chinese company, much is at stake for Madagascar’s small-scale fishers.


Saving Aru: The epic battle to save the islands that inspired the theory of evolution [10/09/2019]
- In the mid-1800s, the extraordinary biodiversity of the Aru Islands helped inspire the theory of evolution by natural selection.
- Several years ago, however, a corrupt politician granted a single company permission to convert most of the islands’ rainforests into a vast sugar plantation.
- The people of Aru fought back. Today, the story of their grassroots campaign resonates across the world as a growing global movement seeks to force governments to act on climate change.


For India’s flood-hit rhinos, refuge depends increasingly on humans [10/09/2019]
- Kaziranga National Park in India’s Assam state is home to almost 70 percent of the world’s 3,500 greater one-horned rhinos.
- The park regularly floods during monsoon season. This natural phenomenon is essential to the ecosystem, but can be deadly for animals: 400 animals died in the 2017 floods, including more than 30 rhinos. This year, around 200 animals have died so far, including around a dozen rhinos.
- With increased infrastructure and tourism development around the park, animals’ natural paths to higher ground are often blocked.
- Authorities have responded by building artificial highlands within the park. Some criticize this approach, but park officials credit the highlands for reducing the death toll of this year’s floods.


Companies’ solutions to global plastic crisis miss the mark: Report [10/09/2019]
- A new report from Greenpeace contends that multinational consumer goods companies are addressing the global plastics crisis with “false solutions.”
- Some of those solutions, the group says, harm the environment, such as the replacement of plastic straws with paper ones.
- Others, such as bioplastics, amount to little more than greenwashing, the report’s author writes, as they don’t provide the purported benefits compared to conventional plastics.
- Greenpeace argues for the phaseout of single-use packaging and investments in developing reusable containers that would substantially cut down on plastic waste.


Philippines races to save its increasingly endangered hornbills [10/08/2019]
- The Philippines has 11 endemic hornbill species and nine are threatened, according to the country’s red list of threatened species, which was updated this year.
- The Visayan hornbill is the latest species to be identified as critically endangered, joining the rufous-headed hornbill and the Sulu hornbill.
- While conservation programs have strengthened the protection of the rufous-headed hornbill, the population of the Sulu hornbill continues to decline, with only 27 recorded individuals in the wild.
- The Philippines is working on a national hornbill conservation action plan, which will place all hornbill species under a stricter mantle of protection.


For Indonesia’s newest tarsier, a debut a quarter century in the making [10/08/2019]
- Scientists first spotted a previously unknown type of tarsier on the Togean Islands off Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 1993, and it’s taken 25 years of further studies to describe the diminutive primate species as new to science.
- Niemitz’s tarsier (Tarsius niemitzi) is named after Carsten Niemitz, one of the scientists on that initial visit to the Togean islands, whom the authors of the new paper call “the father of tarsier field biology.”
- There are now 12 known tarsier species found in Sulawesi and surrounding islands, but the paper’s authors say the region could be home to at least 16, with more research needed.
- They warn that loss of habitat makes it “quite plausible” that some tarsier species may go extinct before scientists have a chance to identify them.


Bouncing back: The recovery of the tenkile tree kangaroo [10/08/2019]
- The tenkile tree kangaroo population in Papua New Guinea’s Torricelli mountains has tripled since 1996 to more than 300 animals.
- The Tenkile Conservation Alliance has improved conditions for both the critically endangered species and the local communities.
- The tenkile is still imperiled by deforestation, illegal logging and climate change.


CITES appeals to countries to watch out for trafficked Malagasy rosewood [10/07/2019]
- International wildlife trade regulator CITES has issued an advisory warning that $50 million in Madagascar rosewood logs being held in Singapore could find its way back into the black market.
- The timber was seized in 2014 in Singapore, but a local court earlier this year acquitted the trader responsible for it on charges of trafficking, and ordered the release of the 30,000 logs.
- Trade in rosewood from Madagascar has been banned by CITES since 2013 and under Malagasy law since 2010, but enforcing the embargo has proved difficult.
- The Singapore case highlights the pitfalls in implementing the ban, with observers faulting the Malagasy government’s flip-flop during court proceedings as to whether the seized precious wood was legal.


International wildlife trade sweeps across ‘tree of life,’ study finds [10/07/2019]
- About one in five land animals are caught up in the global wildlife trade, a new study has found.
- The research identified species traded as pets or for products they provide, and then mapped the animals’ home ranges, identifying “hotspots” around the world.
- The team also found that nearly 3,200 other species may be affected by the wildlife trade in the future.
- The study’s authors say they believe their work could help authorities protect species before trade drives their numbers down.


EU market a factor as Sri Lanka pulls its punches on protection for lizards [10/06/2019]
- Conservationists say they suspect Sri Lanka came under pressure from the European Union to water down its proposals for increased protection for several rare and endemic lizards from the international pet trade.
- Sri Lanka had proposed the measures to protect 10 lizard species ahead of the CITES wildlife trade summit in August, but at the last moment amended some of the proposals and withdrew one.
- Europe is already a major marketplace for exotic lizards smuggled out of Sri Lanka, where specimens identified as having been bred in captivity are more likely to have been caught in the wild, experts say.
- They warn that the protections afforded to the Sri Lankan lizards following the CITES summit could leave them susceptible to this trafficking mechanism.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, October 4, 2019 [10/04/2019]
- 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.


Sumatra survey looks to identify at-risk rhinos for captive breeding [10/04/2019]
- The Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra is home to as many as 50 Sumatran rhinos, out of no more than 80 believed to survive in the wild.
- Surveys in the area have identified some subpopulations large enough to breed naturally, as well as isolated individuals or small groups unlikely to find mates.
- Indonesia’s current plan calls for larger groups to be protected in situ, while more isolated rhinos are to be gathered into sanctuaries for a captive-breeding program.
- Both national and local officials back a plan to create a new sanctuary in the northern Sumatran province of Aceh.


Study tracks first incursion of poachers into ‘pristine’ African forest [10/03/2019]
- Researchers logged the first evidence of elephant poaching in a remote, pristine section of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the northern Republic of Congo.
- The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, also revealed unique behavior changes between gorillas and chimpanzees as a result of selective logging.
- The research highlights the need to incorporate the results of biodiversity surveys into plotting out the locations of areas set aside for conservation.


As wildfires roil Sumatra, some villages have abandoned the burning [10/03/2019]
- Devastating fires and haze in 2015, as well as the threat of arrest, have prompted some villages in Sumatra to end the tradition of burning the land for planting.
- The villages of Upang Ceria and Gelebak Dalam also been fire-free since then, even as large swaths of forest elsewhere in Sumatra continue to burn.
- Village officials have plans to develop ecotourism as another source of revenue, as well as restore mangroves and invest in agricultural equipment that makes the farmers’ work easier.


Bid to breed Sumatran rhino is handicapped by bureaucratic ‘quibbling’ [10/02/2019]
- A group of international scientists working in Malaysia have successfully extracted an egg cell from the country’s last Sumatran rhino and injected sperm into it, in a last-ditch attempt at breeding the world’s most threatened rhino species.
- However, the scientists say the prospects of a successful fertilization are “not bright,” given the poor quality of the genetic samples they had to work with.
- They blame a bureaucratic impasse between Malaysia and Indonesia for depriving them of high-quality sperm from rhinos held in captivity in Indonesia, which they say would have given a better chance of fertilization.
- An Indonesian official says no exchange of genetic material, including sperm and eggs, can proceed until the requisite paperwork is signed, but conservationists say this is “quibbling” at a time when the species faces extinction.


Manila’s informal settlers face relocation in exchange for clean bay [10/02/2019]
- The Philippine government has begun the process of relocating more than 200,000 families living along waterways to restore Manila Bay, the main body of water in the capital.
- Some residents worry about their impending displacement, citing a lack of jobs in resettlement sites.
- Relocating informal settlers is part of a seven-year program to rehabilitate Manila Bay, one of the most polluted bodies of the water in Metro Manila.
- Increased rainfall due to extreme weather events poses threats to informal settlers in the area as it could cause landslides and flooding.


The climate crisis and the pain of losing what we love (commentary) [09/30/2019]
- World leaders came to the UN last week to decisively tackle climate change again. “This is not a negotiation summit because we don’t negotiate with nature. This is a Climate Action Summit!” declared the UN Secretary-General. But again, global leaders failed and committed to carbon cuts that fall far short of curbing catastrophe.
- In doing so, our leaders committed us to an escalating global environmental crisis that is already unleashing vast changes across Earth’s ecosystems — with many sweeping alterations charted by our scientists, but many other local shifts and absences only noted by those who observe and cherish wild things.
- The loss of familiar weather patterns, plants and animals (from monarchs to native bees) and an invasion of opportunistic living things (Japanese knotweed to Asian longhorned ticks) can foster feelings of vertigo — of being a stranger in a strange land — emotions, so personal and rubbing so raw, they can be hard to describe.
- So I’ve tried to express my own feelings for one place, Vermont, my home, that is today seeing rapid change. At the end of this piece, Mongabay invites you to tally your own natural losses. We’ll share your responses in a later story. This post is a commentary. Views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Cheetahs, CITES, and illegal trade: Are consumer countries doing enough? (commentary) [09/30/2019]
- The capacity of CITES to fairly balance the voices of countries that harbor source populations of endangered species subject to international trafficking with the voices of consumer countries is vital.
- Cheetahs are a case in point: Confined to less than 10 percent of their former distributional range with only 7,000 individuals left, the species is facing a significant threat from illegal trade in parts of its range. A demand for live animals as pets, primarily as cubs, is fueled by social media that glamorizes the keeping of these animals, with the Gulf States identified as a key market for this trade. All international trade in wild-caught cheetah cubs violates CITES and is illegal, and the trade in cubs is thought to be a key driver of decline in the cheetah population in the Horn of Africa.
- Yet at the recent CITES CoP, countries chose to ignore these threats and downgraded efforts to combat illegal trade in cheetahs despite concerns raised by many African range states and conservation organizations.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


New app tracks down forest fires in Bolivia [09/30/2019]
- A new app uses aerosol data and recent satellite images to find fires in the forests of Bolivia in real time.
- The application’s creators, from the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, say the novel use of the aerosol data, originally intended to monitor air quality, represents a significant advance over traditional, temperature-related alerts.
- According to the NGO Friends of Nature Foundation, more than 41,000 square kilometers (15,800 square miles) of Bolivia has burned in 2019.


Restoring Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, one small farm at a time [09/30/2019]
- An initiative in Indonesia’s Aceh province is engaging local farmers in restoring parts of the biodiverse Leuser Ecosystem by allowing them to farm and reforest tracts of land previously used for illegal oil palm plantations.
- The forest is the last place on Earth where critically endangered elephants, orangutans, rhinos and tigers all still exist in the wild, but is being lost to encroachment for illegal plantations.
- Under the initiative, farmers are trained to plant tropical hardwoods as well as fruit and vegetable crops from which they can make a sustainable living.
- Only long-degraded land from past encroachment qualifies, removing any incentive for someone to damage land then apply for a management license.


Give it back to the gods: Reviving Māori tradition to protect marine life [09/27/2019]
- Ra’ui is an ancient Polynesian form of resource management in which traditional leaders close designated areas to the harvest of key species.
- While the power of ra’ui remains strong in the outer Cook Islands, where local tradition often trumps national decree, the system fell into disuse on the largest and most populous island of Rarotonga half a century ago.
- There, traditional leaders briefly and successfully revived the ra’ui system two decades ago, only for it to falter again in recent years.
- Today, traditional leaders in the Cook Islands are cautiously optimistic that the country’s 2017 decision to designate its entire marine territory as a mixed-use protected area will help reinvigorate ra’ui across Rarotonga.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, September 27, 2019 [09/27/2019]
- 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.


Top Madagascar beer maker supports investigation into its corn supply chain [09/27/2019]
- Madagascar brewer STAR, owned by the French Castel group, is under pressure for allegedly sourcing maize from a rapidly deforesting area in the country’s west.
- It has agreed to support an independent study led by Malagasy NGO Association Fanamby to investigate whether the maize in its supply chain is linked to deforestation in the Menabe Antimena protected area.
- The protected area hosts endangered and endemic species like the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae) and the Malagasy giant rat (Hypogeomys antimena).
- More than one-fifth of the dry deciduous forest in Menabe Antimena was lost between 2006 and 2016, and there are no signs of the deforestation abating.


Wilderness cuts the risk of extinction for species in half [09/26/2019]
- Wilderness areas buffer species against the risk of extinction, reducing it by more than half, a new study shows.
- Places with lots of unique species and wilderness with the last remaining sections of good habitat for certain species had a more pronounced impact on extinction risk.
- The authors contend that safeguarding the last wild places should be a conservation priority alongside the protection and restoration of heavily impacted “hotspots.”


The sink and the safeguard: Benefits of protecting and restoring intact forests for people and planet (commentary) [09/25/2019]
- The need for protecting intact forests is pressing, and not just in the hotspots for rapid land use change like the Amazon or the Congo Basin.
- Forests in countries and regions experiencing relatively lower rates of deforestation, such as Suriname and Gabon, are also at risk of future degradation. Yet these High Forest Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries receive a relatively small portion of climate finance, challenging the ability to conserve and maintain many of the last intact forests.
- When it comes to climate action, we tend to think of adaptation and mitigation as distinct strategies: efforts either to cope with the impacts or to curtail them. But in fact, research indicates that a significant percentage of initiatives aimed at mitigation also have adaptation outcomes. This is particularly evident in the forest and agricultural sectors. The same holds true for intact forests. Including these forests in the country-level targets of the Paris Agreement is a win-win on both fronts.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Notes from the road: 5 revelations from traveling the Pan Borneo Highway [09/25/2019]
- Construction of the Pan Borneo Highway will add or expand more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of roadway in Malaysian Borneo.
- Mongabay staff writer John Cannon spent several weeks traveling the proposed route in July 2019 to understand the effects, both positive and negative, the road could have on communities, wildlife and ecosystems.
- The project is designed to energize the economies of the region, and though officials have responded to entreaties from NGOs to minimize the harmful impacts of the road, they remain singularly focused on the economic benefits that proponents say the highway will bring.


Panthera: At least 500 jaguars lost their lives or habitat in Amazon fires [09/25/2019]
- The fires in the Amazon forest in Brazil and Bolivia this year have burned key habitats of at least 500 adult, resident jaguars as of September 17, experts at Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, estimate. The numbers will continue to increase until the rains come, researchers say.
- In Bolivia in particular, the fires have so far destroyed over 2 million hectares of forest in one of South America’s key “catscape”, a region that Panthera has identified as having the highest predicted density of cat species on the continent.
- Panthera researchers also predict that many more jaguars will also likely starve or turn to killing livestock in neighboring ranches as a consequence of the fires, likely increasing conflict with the ranchers.


The thinning fabric of Earth’s forest cover (commentary) [09/24/2019]
- The ever-smaller number of forests that remain truly intact and free from degradation are a precious resource, pivotal in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss as well as offering many other benefits to people. But are we taking good care of them? Not yet.
- More and more of the world’s remaining forests are switching from healthy core to degraded, carbon-emitting edges, or isolated patches as intensive human use drives fragmentation, logging, over-hunting, fires, and a host of other pressures large and small.
- Decision makers mistakenly perceive that forest intactness is not as important or urgent as deforestation, or that it is too difficult to measure and monitor. We must lift these constraints, put better policies in place, and expend far more effort into halting the degradation of forests on the ground, in particular in those 20-30 countries where the most-intact forests are concentrated.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


From threat to solution: Rethinking the role of communities in nature conservation (commentary) [09/24/2019]
- We need to fully embrace that nature conservation, at its core, is a social process. The entire premise of conservation rests on people changing their lives in ways both great and small in order to sustain nature — thus conservation cannot succeed without community support. However, the role that frontline communities play in conservation planning and decision-making remains bewilderingly murky.
- New research highlights the contradictory roles within which frontline communities are framed: on one hand, they are seen as essential leaders and drivers of conservation; on the other hand, communities are often portrayed as posing threats to biodiversity. Confronting this tension is necessary if conservation aims to minimize trade-offs for both people and nature and ensure that the costs of conservation are equitably distributed.
- Shifting the paradigm that dominates nature conservation today — our expectations, approaches, models, and tools — to one that brings frontline communities into the planning, delivery, learning, and adaptive processes is essential if we are to keep our natural world thriving.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Nine new Fijian bees described, some restricted to a single mountaintop [09/24/2019]
- From the island country of Fiji, researchers have described nine new, and four previously known, species of bees belong to the genus Homalictus, a group that’s not been taxonomically reviewed in Fiji for 40 years.
- Many Homalictus bee species either have very restricted distributions or are known only from single mountaintops, the researchers say, and could soon become extinct due to changes in climate and other environmental risks.
- The researchers underscore the need for repeated field surveys to document and describe species from Fiji before they are lost.
- One of the four previously described bee species may have already gone extinct, having not been recorded since 2010, despite extensive surveys in the area.


For one Indonesian village, mangrove restoration has been all upside [09/24/2019]
- Demand for firewood in recent years led to the depletion of the mangrove forest in the Indonesian village of Paremas.
- But the local government and NGOs worked with the community to emphasize the importance of restoring the mangrove, with surprising results.
- Today, the tidal pools on the coast provide food that can both sustain the locals and provide an income, allowing families to be less dependent on the remittances sent home by mothers and fathers working arduous jobs overseas.
- In addition to protecting biodiversity, the mangroves also absorb energy from large ocean swells and stop garbage from piling up in foul-smelling sumps on the beach.


Call for scientists to engage in environmental movements strikes chord [09/24/2019]
- Scientists have a “moral duty” to partake in environmental movements such as the Extinction Rebellion and the Global Climate Strike, a pair of ecologists argues.
- The engagement of scientists could spark a deeper interest in — and action to address — these issues, they write.
- The participation of scientists will also lend credibility to the urgency of such movements, the scientists say.


Paradise, polluted: Cook Islands tries to clean up its tourism sector [09/23/2019]
- Tourism accounts for almost 70 percent of the Cook Islands’ economy, but the industry is proving extremely damaging to its delicately balanced island ecosystem, and is contributing to islanders’ detachment from traditional ways of life.
- Now, though, some tourism players, activists and government officials are pushing the industry to change tack in hopes it can start to sustain the island’s people and culture while protecting its ecology, too.
- Tourism operators are being asked to live up to the sustainability street cred that the country’s 2017 decision to designate its entire exclusive economic zone as a multiple-use marine protected area has granted it on the international stage.


Sri Lanka eyes lucrative charismatic species to save lesser-known ones [09/23/2019]
- Though a global biodiversity hotspot with high endemism, Sri Lanka’s wildlife tourism is driven by a select group of “charismatic” species, including the Asian elephant, leopard, sloth bear, blue whale and sperm whale, none of which are endemic to the island.
- Sri Lanka still relies on conservation paradigms set decades ago, aimed at protecting these high-profile animals, but experts call for the adoption of new conservation strategies to protect the island’s biodiversity, moving beyond the charismatic species.
- A group of tropical biologists have called for the establishment of ecological corridors linking fragmented biodiversity-rich habitats in Sri Lanka’s wet zone to ensure the protection of unique endemic species not included among the charismatic species.
- Often lost in the shadow cast by the charismatic species are a wealth of amphibians and reptiles, found nowhere else on Earth, with new species continuing to be discovered on an almost regular basis.


Sri Lanka wields mangroves, its tsunami shield, against climate change [09/22/2019]
- Fifteen years after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Sri Lanka’s government intends to keep expanding the island’s coastal green belt — the chain of mangrove swamps credited with limiting the damage and destruction of the deadly waves.
- The government plans to add 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of rehabilitated mangrove swamps to the island’s current mangrove cover of 15,670 hectares (38,700 acres), largely by reclaiming fish farms and salt-drying pools.
- Coastal towns in the tourism-dependent southern district of Galle are leading the way in those efforts, with their community-led mangrove regeneration programs considered among the most successful.
- There’s also wide recognition of the importance of engaging more women in these efforts and expanding awareness about environmental sustainability.


On World Rhino Day, looking back on an eventful year [09/22/2019]
- September 22 marks World Rhino Day, a global event established to celebrate the world’s five rhinoceros species, and to reflect on the challenges facing them.
- The year that has elapsed since World Rhino Day 2018 has been a eventful one for rhino conservation.
- Here, we look back at Mongabay’s coverage of some of the biggest stories from both Africa and Asia.


In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, September 20, 2019 [09/20/2019]
- 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.


‘Full-blown crisis’: North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970 [09/20/2019]
- Since 1970, bird populations in the continental U.S. and Canada have suffered a net loss of 29 percent, or 2.9 billion birds.
- Grassland birds seem to have been hit the hardest: there’s been a 53 percent reduction in grassland-bird populations since 1970; more than 700 million breeding individuals have been lost, and three-quarters of all examined grassland bird species are declining.
- The study did not look into the causes of the bird declines, but the researchers say the patterns of loss in North America are similar to those observed elsewhere in the world, and the causes, including habitat loss, are likely to be similar.


New lease on life beckons for Arroceros, Manila’s hidden jungle [09/20/2019]
- Arroceros Forest Park in the heart of Manila is one of the few green spaces left in the bustling Philippines capital.
- Successive governments have tried to get rid of it for new developments, but the city’s newly elected mayor has announced plans to retain and rehabilitate it as part of his “green city” proposal.
- The park is home to more than 3,000 trees, including 60 native species, and serves as a rest stop for migratory birds.
- Often dubbed the “lung” of Manila, Arroceros has been shown to mitigate the city’s notorious air pollution, and plays a key role in minimizing flooding, another of the capital’s litany of problems.


World’s biggest meatpackers buying cattle from deforesters in Amazon [09/19/2019]
- JBS, Marfrig and Frigol, among the world’s biggest meat producers, have been buying cattle from ranches associated with illegal deforestation and slave labor, an investigation by Repórter Brasil has found.
- The ranches in question are located in southern Pará state, the epicenter of the fires currently ravaging the Amazon, providing further evidence of the link between deforestation for cattle pasture and forest fires.
- The three companies say the information that would have flagged the ranches as problematic were not publicly available at the time they made their purchase, and point to their commitments to not source from ranches linked to environmental crimes.
- But a lack of animal traceability allows ranchers to use legalized farms to conceal sales of cattle raised in illegal areas through false declarations of origin, in a practice known as “cattle washing.”


Will a massive marine protected area safeguard Cook Islands’ ocean? [09/19/2019]
- In 2017, the Cook Islands government passed the Marae Moana Act, which designated the country’s entire exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a multiple-use marine protected area (MPA).
- Spanning almost 2 million square kilometers (772,000 square miles) — an area roughly the size of Mexico — the MPA is the biggest of its kind in the world.
- Now, as bureaucrats, NGOs and traditional leaders get to grips with implementing Marae Moana, many stakeholders are wondering what the act will mean in practice and whether it can meaningfully change the way the ocean is managed.


Palm oil giant Korindo silences critical report with cease-and-desist letter [09/19/2019]
- Korindo, a major palm oil operator in Indonesia’s Papua region, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to delay the publication of a report highlighting its various violations there.
- The report was to have been published Sept. 5 by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), but the organization says it’s had to postpone publication indefinitely.
- Mighty Earth, the campaign group whose focus on Korindo’s operations prompted the two-year FSC investigation, says Korindo effectively robbed local communities of hundreds of millions of dollars in land, natural resources and livelihoods.
- Korindo says it issued the letter to seek more time to address some points, and denies that it’s threatening litigation over the report. It also says it’s working to address the findings of violations.


Climate change threatens some island conifers with extinction [09/19/2019]
- A quarter of 55 conifer species native to islands are likely to go extinct by 2070 due to climate change, researchers from Brown University write in a new study.
- The researchers looked at where these species are living and thriving outside their native climatic ranges, to study their climatic tolerance in a more comprehensive way.
- Island conifers are keystone species, playing a vital part in maintaining the ecosystem and ensuring the survival of other species that depend on them.
- If the conifers in an ecosystem go extinct, the entire nature and composition of species found in that place could change dramatically.


Massive protected area around ‘Atlantic Galapagos’ one step closer to becoming reality [09/18/2019]
- Bringing the protection of the “Atlantic Galapagos” one step closer to becoming a reality, the Governor of St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha, Philip Rushbrook, designated a large-sale Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the waters around Ascension Island last month.
- The MPA will cover the entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Ascension Island, a UK Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic. That means that an area of more than 440,000 square kilometers or 170,000 square miles will be included in the Ascension Island MPA, making it one of the largest in the world.
- While legislation and a management plan won’t be finalized until long-term funding has been secured for the MPA, it has been proposed that commercial fishing and mineral extraction be prohibited altogether within the waters around Ascension Island, which has been described as a “miniature Galapagos Islands” because of its rich biodiversity.


Pan Borneo Highway development endangers the Heart of Borneo [09/18/2019]
- The construction of the Pan Borneo Highway in the Malaysian state of Sabah could disrupt the connections between wildlife populations and appears to run counter to the state’s conservation commitments, according to a new study.
- Passages under the highway and the rehabilitation of key forest corridors could lessen the impacts of the road, but the authors of the study caution that these interventions are expensive and may not be effective.
- They argue that planners should consider canceling certain sections of the road with the greatest potential for damaging the surrounding forest.


Audio: Humpback whales across the Pacific Ocean are singing the same song [09/17/2019]
- On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Jim Darling, a marine biologist who is here to play us some recordings of remarkably similar humpback whale songs from around the world.
- Darling and colleagues found that North Pacific humpback whale songs can be incredibly similar to each other — nearly identical, in fact. That means that our view of the whales as living in distinct groups might very well be wrong. And that view dictates a lot of the conservation measures we’ve designed to protect imperiled populations of humpbacks.
- Darling joins us today to talk about his humpback research and play us some of those recordings so you can hear the similarity for yourself.


Newly described Chinese giant salamander may be world’s largest amphibian [09/17/2019]
- The critically endangered Chinese giant salamander is not just one, but three distinct species, researchers have now confirmed in a new study.
- One of the newly recognized species, the South China giant salamander (Andrias sligoi), could be largest amphibian on the planet, the researchers say.
- The researchers say they hope the recognition of the Chinese giant salamanders as three species will help the amphibians’ conservation by triggering separate management plans for the species.


Popular pesticide linked to weight loss and delayed migration in songbird [09/16/2019]
- In a new study, wild white-crowned sparrows that were exposed to seeds treated with imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid insecticide, suffered considerable weight loss and delayed the timing of their migration.
- The delayed migration could in turn be affecting the birds’ survival and reproduction, the researchers say.
- The findings suggest that neonicotinoids could have partly contributed to the decline of several farmland-dependent bird species in North America as seen in the past few decades, the researchers add.


‘A green desert’: Mammals take a hit in Colombia’s oil palm plantations [09/16/2019]
- Researchers studying oil palm plantations in Colombia found that mammal diversity dropped compared to nearby savanna.
- Some mammals used plantations for hunting and foraging, but none stayed permanently.
- With the Colombian government’s pledge to drastically increase its cropland, scientists fear savannas and wetlands could be at threat.




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