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.
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.
Gran Chaco: South America’s second-largest forest at risk of collapsing [09/17/2019]
- Distributed between Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, the Gran Chaco is a collection of more than 50 different ecosystems typified by dry forest. - The Gran Chaco is one of the most deforested areas on the planet. Every month, an area twice the size of Buenos Aires is cut down. - Chaco deforestation is driven by the expansion of the agricultural frontier and hunting, as well as climate change.
‘We’ve been negligent,’ Indonesia’s president says as fire crisis deepens [09/17/2019]
- Indonesia’s government has been negligent in anticipating and preparing for this year’s fire season, the country’s president says. - The fires, set mostly to clear land for planting, have razed huge swaths of forest and generated toxic haze that has spread as far as Malaysia and Singapore. - The president’s acknowledgement of the government’s lack of preparation comes in the wake of his own ministers apportioning blame for the fires to other parties. - Activists say the government has little moral standing to go after the companies that have set their concessions ablaze, noting that the government itself has refused to take responsibility for failing to do enough to tackle similar fires in 2015.
Indigenous communities, wildlife under threat as farms invade Nicaraguan reserve [09/17/2019]
- Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve straddles the country’s border with Honduras and was declared a UNESCO site in 1997. It comprises one of the largest contiguous rainforest regions in Latin America north of the Amazon Basin and includes 21 ecosystems and six types of forest that are home to a multitude of species, several of which are threatened with extinction. - According to a report by the Nicaraguan environmental agency MARENA, a little more than 15 percent of the Bosawás reserve had been cleared and converted for agricultural use in 2000. But today, that number stands at nearly 31 percent. Satellite data show deforestation reached the heart of the reserve’s core zone earlier this year. - Deforestation in Bosawás stems mainly from migration, as people in other parts of the country move to the region looking for fertile land and space to raise cattle and grow crops. - Indigenous communities are allowed to own land within Bosawás. But sources say land traffickers are selling plots of land to non-indigenous farmers and ranchers, creating conflicts that have caused death on both sides.
Mexican officials battle a tide of fire eating away at a protected reserve [09/16/2019]
- Fires raged in the Mexican state of Campeche this summer, with NASA satellites picking up nearly 10,000 fire alerts the state so far this year — around twice the number recorded in 2018. This puts 2019 in third place (behind 2003 and barely behind 2013) for the highest incidence of fires in the state since data collection began in 2001. - Of these fires, 15 percent occurred in protected areas. Several afflicted Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, one of which burned through 3,087 hectares (7,628 acres) before being extinguished. - Stretching across the central Yucatan Peninsula to the Guatemalan border, the Calakmul Reserve, as well as the Balamku and Balamkin state reserves that sit contiguous with it, comprise more than 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) of jungle. The reserves are home to some of the country’s most impressive biodiversity and provide vital habitat to threatened animals and plants. - The main driver of fires in Campeche is slash-and-burn agriculture. Officials worry that fire seasons will only intensify as more people set up farms in the region, and as state funding to fight fires continues to dwindle.
Why I support the California Tropical Forest Standard (commentary) [09/16/2019]
- Simply put, we cannot address climate change without stopping deforestation. If we don’t address climate change, and we don’t slow the destruction of Earth’s tropical forests, we will put much of the world’s species and ourselves in danger. - How do we support the indigenous communities in their fight to protect the forest — their home and a system that we all need? California provides one possible answer. This week, California’s Air Resources Board, or CARB, will vote on whether or not to endorse the Tropical Forest Standard. - The Standard would be a key step to allow funding to flow to regions and states partnering with indigenous communities of the Amazon and other rainforests to reduce deforestation pressures on indigenous lands and develop sustainable economic alternatives across their jurisdictions. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
A Papuan village finds its forest caught in a web of corporate secrecy [09/16/2019]
- Indonesian companies were given until March this year to disclose their “beneficial owners” under a 2018 presidential regulation, but less than 1 percent have complied. - In the easternmost corner of the country, investors hidden by layers of corporate secrecy continue to bulldoze an intact rainforest and have nearly finished building a giant sawmill. - The government is drafting new regulations to close loopholes in the rules governing anonymous companies, which could yet open a new front in the fight against deforestation and land grabs.
Facing a possible Climate Apocalypse: How should we live? (commentary) [09/15/2019]
- We live today under threat of Climate Apocalypse. But two world wars, genocides, the Bomb and untold suffering around the globe reported daily have all perhaps dulled our senses and our resolve; resulted in elders – especially our leaders – failing to face humanity’s ultimate existential crisis. - More than 30 years after the Climate Emergency was publicly declared by climatologist James Hansen, disasters multiply – record heat, drought, deluge, rising seas. But climate change deniers hold sway in the U.S. and abroad, with almost no nations on Earth on target to achieve their deeply inadequate Paris Agreement goals. - Now an even higher imperative has emerged, as new studies point not just to escalating risk, but toward potential doom. Understandingly, young people are angry and openly rebelling against their elders. The young point to a failure to act, and declare: there is no time for politics and business as usual. They’re right. - Humanity’s only way out – the path to saving civilization, and much of life on Earth – is to act as though our lives, and our children’s lives, depend on it. Because they do. And one more thing: we mustn’t give up hope. This post is a commentary. Views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Expand or Intensify? Balancing biodiversity and rising food needs: study [09/13/2019]
- A recent study shows that for a given rise in food production, the impact of cropland expansion on biodiversity is many times greater than that for cropland intensification. This is because expansion can be expected to occur in those regions with the highest existing levels of biodiversity, mainly in Central and South America, a new study finds. - Researchers estimated crop expansion and intensification potential for 17 major agricultural crops using socio-economic data as well as data on biophysical constraints. This information was overlaid with spatial data on biodiversity, specifically endemism richness to determine how each strategy would impact biodiversity in different locales. - Worldwide, there is a major gap between the amount farms are producing and potential yields that could be achieved if plants were grown in an optimal way on minimal land. Closing this yield gap by 28 percent through land use intensification would increase production equal to expanding cropland area by 730 million hectares. - In the future, we need to not only protect biodiversity on uncultivated wildlands, but also make the very most economically and ecologically of our existing croplands, encouraging biodiversity there as well, while maximizing food production.
Worldwide deforestation rising despite bold commitments, report finds [09/13/2019]
- In 2014, the New York Declaration on Forests set out bold commitments to stem deforestation, cutting it in half by 2020 and ending it entirely by 2030, along with global forest restoration targets. - But a new assessment finds that, globally, the loss of forests is on the rise, at rates that are around 40 percent higher than five years ago when the agreement was signed. - The report’s authors say that, despite the “sobering” findings, the assessment should serve as a call to action that more needs to be done to address deforestation and forest degradation.
Indonesian minister draws fire for denial of transboundary haze problem [09/12/2019]
- Indonesia’s environment minister continues to deny that fires in the country are sending toxic haze to neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. - An environmental activist warns that this stance, which goes against the data presented by Malaysia, risks undermining Indonesia’s credibility. - The haze is an annual irritant in diplomatic ties between Indonesia and its neighbors, with much of the burning taking place to clear land for oil palm and pulpwood plantations. - Malaysia has offered to help Indonesia fight the fires, which have sickened tens of thousands of people in Sumatra and Borneo, threatened an elephant reserve, and churned more than 100 millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
REDD+ more competitive than critics believe, study finds [09/12/2019]
- Critics have argued that the strategy known as REDD+, or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, hasn’t adequately slowed emissions from forest loss in developing countries in the way it was intended. - Introduced in 2007, REDD+ is meant to help individual countries earn money for development when they lower the amount of released carbon from clearing and degrading forests. - In a recent paper focused on the South American country of Guyana, a team of researchers argues that the problems with REDD+ stem from its implementation at the project level. - REDD+ implementation across the jurisdiction of an entire country would address nearly all of the problems with individual REDD+ projects, and societies would benefit more financially than they currently do from commercial forest uses such as gold mining and logging, the researchers say.
Brazilian Amazon fires scientifically linked to 2019 deforestation: report [09/11/2019]
- A scientific report released today by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) reveals critical overlap between deforestation and fire alerts. Mongabay had exclusive access to the report ahead of release. - At least 52,500 hectares (130,000 acres) of the Brazilian Amazon — the equivalent to 72,000 soccer fields — were cleared through 2019 and then burned in August. The findings offer a base map overlapping 2019 deforestation and fire hotspots, and include 16 high-resolution time lapse videos unveiling newly cleared agricultural lands linked to fire occurrences. - MAAP’s findings show that the dramatic photos that garnered worldwide attention of smoky fires sweeping the Brazilian Amazon in August do not correspond with burning rainforest, but instead coincide with areas intentionally deforested this year, with the cleared land then set ablaze to finish the agricultural conversion process. - Although the report didn’t detect major forest fires in Brazil to date, the risk still exists, as the dry season deepens, given that many fire occurrences were detected on agriculture-forest boundaries. The study doesn’t say how much of the 52,500 hectares cleared in the first 8 months of 2019 were illegally deforested.
Photos: Forest fires rage on Sumatra oil palm concessions [09/11/2019]
- As Indonesia’s annual fire season gets underway, swaths of carbon-rich peat forests are being razed, and the subsequent toxic smoke has blanketed parts of Jambi province on the island of Sumatra. - Dozens of hotspots have been detected on farmland, oi palm concessions, and even inside a protected peat forest in the province, according to the local disaster management agency. - Mongabay visited one of the burning concessions, where minimally equipped workers are fighting to put out fires that have been burning for days without end. - The workers deny that the oil palm company set the fire on the concession, claiming it started in a neighboring village. In 2015, three company employees were charged with setting fires on the same concession, though none were ever convicted.
Camera trap study reveals Amazon ocelot’s survival strategies [09/10/2019]
- Ocelots suffered severe declines in the 1960s and 70s due to hunting, but populations have rebounded since the international fur trade was banned. Now, heavy deforestation and increasing human activity across their range threaten to put this elegant creature back on the endangered list. - Researchers collected images from hundreds of camera traps set across the Amazon basin and analyzed the effect of different habitat characteristics on the presence of ocelots. Statistical modeling revealed the cat’s preference for dense forests and a dislike of roads and human settlements. - Experts say ocelots may also be responding to human activity and forest degradation in ways that camera traps cannot easily detect, such as changing how and when they use a particular habitat. The study looked at ocelot behavior in protected and forested habitat, not in degraded landscapes. - Ocelots are considered ambassador species for their forest ecosystem, and studies like this give support to maintaining protected areas, which are increasingly under threat from agricultural expansion and other human activities.
Pro-deforestation policies could be ruinous for farmers (commentary) [09/10/2019]
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro claims to be a champion of farmers and ranchers, but his policies in the Amazon could be ruinous for them in the long-run, argues Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler. - While large-scale deforestation in Earth’s largest rainforest may offer short-term opportunities for ranchers and farmers to expand their holdings, scientists say the approach is a risky proposition in the long-term given the role the Amazon plays in sustaining Brazilian agribusiness through the rainfall it affords. - Note: this commentary was originally written August 27, 2019. Minor modifications have been made to reflect the discrepancy between time of writing and publishing. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Private sector could play outsized role in Cerrado conservation: study [09/09/2019]
- A recent study estimates the impacts of implementing a soy moratorium in the Cerrado savanna, Brazil’s second largest biome, which has already lost half of its native vegetation to agribusiness, much of it due to soy and cattle expansion. - The Amazon Soy Moratorium, seen as one of the most successful voluntary corporate conservation agreements ever, was implemented in the Amazon biome in 2006, and helped greatly reduce deforestation from soy there. - Now environmental NGOs and international retailers have called for a similar moratorium in the Cerrado, the biodiverse tropical savanna that borders the Amazon on its south and east. - Full participation by the private sector in a Cerrado Soy Moratorium starting in 2021 — including resistant companies such a Cargill — could prevent 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres) of native vegetation being lost due to soy expansion, an area larger than Belgium, researchers found.
Diplomatic row heats up as haze from Indonesian fires threatens Malaysia [09/09/2019]
- The number of fire hotspots in Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra has increased nearly sevenfold in a four-day period in early September. - The surge has prompted calls from Malaysia, which has historically been affected by haze from fires in Indonesia, for its Southeast Asian neighbor to get the burning under control. - The Indonesian government has refuted complaints that the recent increase in hotspots has resulted in transboundary haze. - Indonesia faces what could be the worst fire season since 2015, fanned by an El Niño weather pattern.
Loss of Madagascar’s biodiversity is a loss for Earth, Pope says [09/09/2019]
- On a visit to Madagascar this weekend, Pope Francis denounced the “excessive” forest loss in the country. - He was speaking at the presidential palace, during a courtesy call to President Andry Rajoelina. - The pope also visited Mozambique before arriving in Madagascar, where he addressed the ecological disaster faced by the African nation after it was hit by two back-to-back cyclones this year. - His seven-day tour which includes a day trip to Mauritius on Monday comes to a close on Tuesday.
State governors support Bolsonaro’s Amazon mining, agribusiness plans [09/09/2019]
- In a meeting with nine Amazon state governors called by Jair Bolsonaro to discuss the region’s wildfires, the president pushed the states to back his policies which seek to bring major mining and agribusiness operations onto indigenous lands. Doing so would be a direct violation of the 1988 Constitution. - Backing Bolsonaro were the governors of Acre, Roraima, Tocantins, Rondônia, Amazonas, Mato Grosso and Amapá states. Only the Pará and Maranhão governors opposed opening more forest areas to development and favored upholding current indigenous land use rights. - Most of the state governors agreed with Bolsonaro that indigenous groups hold control over too much Brazilian land that could be mined or turned over to agribusiness, greatly profiting the nation, while also bringing indigenous people into mainstream Brazilian society. - The federal Congress is presently crafting legislation that could open indigenous lands to mining and industrial agribusiness. It is also preparing to vote on a bill that seems likely to pass and would allocate R$ 1 billion (US$ 240 million) to combat deforestation and fires in the Amazon and carry out land regularization.
Disaster strikes in Bolivia as fires lay waste to unique forests [09/06/2019]
- Fires are raging in Bolivia, hitting particularly hard the Chiquitano dry forests of the country’s southern Santa Cruz region. - Officials say the fires are largely the result of intentional burning to convert forest to farmland. Sources say this practice has recently intensified after Bolivian president Evo Morales signed a decree in July expanding land demarcated for livestock production and the agribusiness sector to include Permanent Forest Production Lands in the regions of Beni and Santa Cruz. - Satellite data indicate 2019 may be a banner year for forest loss, with tree cover loss alerts spiking in late August to levels more than double the average of previous years. Most of these alerts are occurring in areas with high fire activity, with data from NASA showing August fire activity in Santa Cruz was around three times higher than in years past. - Human communities are suffering due to the fires, with reports of smoke-caused illnesses and drinking water shortages. Meanwhile, biologists are worried about the plants and animals of the Chiquitano dry forests, many of which are unique, isolated and found nowhere else in the world.
Amazon deforestation and development heighten Amazon fire risk: study [09/06/2019]
- The current fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon are helping confirm the findings of a new study published this July which shows a major connection between land use and fire incidence — with deforestation and development contributing more to fire occurrence than climate change. - New research shows that unrestrained deforestation, along with the construction of new highways, could expand wildfire risk in the Amazon by more than 70 percent by 2100, even inside protected areas and indigenous reserves that have relatively intact forests. - Scientist suggest that efforts to improve sustainable land management and reduce future deforestation and development could offer the best defenses against the escalating threat wildfires pose due to the increased heat and drought brought by escalating climate change.
Fires in Brazil’s Amazon have devastating consequences [09/06/2019]
- According to Brazil’s space agency, INPE, the number of fires between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 of this year is up 85 percent from the same period last year. - It will take from decades to centuries for the forests to recover, and the impact on wildlife specifically is uncertain. - What’s clear, though, is that the region’s hydrological and climatic status will change drastically if the situation continues to worsen.
New monkey species found in Amazon forest area that’s fast disappearing [09/05/2019]
- From a stretch of the Amazon forest lying between the Tapajós and Jamanxim rivers in the Brazilian state of Pará, researchers have described a new-to-science species of marmoset. - The marmoset, with its distinct white tail, white forearms with a beige-yellowish spot on the elbow, and white feet and hands, has been named Mico munduruku after the Munduruku, an indigenous group of people who live in the Tapajós–Jamanxim interfluve. - At the moment, given the scarcity of information on M. munduruku, the researchers recommend listing the marmoset as data deficient on the IUCN Red List. - However, the Amazon forest that’s home to the newly described species is being rapidly cut for agricultural expansion, logging, mining, and infrastructure development.
New report reveals northern Ecuadorian region has lost 61 percent of forests [09/04/2019]
- The Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve maintains only 61 percent of its original plant cover. The area’s ecological significance is partly due to its sitting in a transition zone between humid tropical forests and seasonally dry forests. - In Cotacachi-Cayapas Park, a high level of conservation success represents a source of hope. Now the challenge is to connect the park to private reserves to guarantee protection of the most-threatened lowland forests.
Giant Norway pension fund weighs Brazil divestment over Amazon deforestation [09/03/2019]
- KLP, Norway’s largest pension fund, with over US$80 billion in assets, is saying it may divest from transnational commodities traders operating in Brazil such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill, if they work with producers who contribute to deforestation. KLP has $50 million in shares and loans with the firms. - KLP is also reaching out to other investors to lobby them to use their financial influence to curb Amazon deforestation via supply chains. On August 28, Nordea, the largest asset management group in the Nordic region announced a temporary quarantine on Brazilian government bonds in response to this year’s Amazon fires. - International investment firms play a pivotal role in preserving or deforesting the Amazon. A new report found that mega-investment house BlackRock ranks among the top three shareholders in 25 of the largest public “deforestation-risk” companies, firms dealing in soy, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber. - The Amazon deforestation process is complex. But it often proceeds by the following steps: land speculators invade the rainforest, illegally cut down and sell the most valuable timber, then set fire to the rest; they then can sell the land for 100-200 times its previous worth to cattle ranchers, who may eventually sell it to soy growers.
Brazil’s satellite agency resumes releasing deforestation data [09/01/2019]
- Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE resumed releasing deforestation data after nearly a month-long hiatus that followed the firing of the agency’s director. - The newly released data estimates that more than 1,400 square kilometers of forest were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between August 1 and August 26, 2019. That rate is running well ahead of last August. - Year-to-date, INPE data puts forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon at 5,884 square kilometers through August 26, up more than 75 percent over last year. - INPE reported an increase in burn scars in the Amazon, rising from 794 square kilometers last August to 1,259 square kilometers for the first 26 days of last month. For the year, INPE has recorded 46,825 hotspots in Amazonia, more than twice the number of a year ago.
A tiger refuge in Sumatra gets a reprieve from road building [08/31/2019]
- Sumatra’s Kerinci Seblat National Park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), which has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger since 2011. - UNESCO has noted particular concern about a spate of road projects planned for Kerinci Seblat and other protected areas within the TRHS. - According to park officials, Indonesia’s forestry ministry has refused permits for all new roads within the park; the sole project to receive permission is the upgrade of an existing road. - The park still faces immense pressure from encroachment for agriculture, logging, mining and poaching.
The end of the road: The future of the Pan Borneo Highway [08/30/2019]
- The construction of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of road for the Pan Borneo Highway across Malaysian Borneo holds the promise of spurring local economies for its proponents. - But from the outset, conservationists and scientists voiced concerns that the road would displace people, harm sensitive environments, and threaten Borneo’s splendid diversity of wildlife. - As construction moves forward, these groups are working with planners to find a way for the highway’s construction to avoid the worst environmental damage.
Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires grows [08/30/2019]
- As a result of international concern and media attention, along with pressure from within his own nation, Jair Bolsonaro decreed a 60-day ban on the setting of fires in the Brazilian Amazon on Wednesday, 28 August. The order came as experts warned that the worst fires this year may be yet to come. - To avoid international attention, Brazil’s House of Deputies put on hold a plan to pass sweeping legislation that would abolish significant existing environmental protections for 1,514 quilombolas (communities of runaway slave descendants), 163 as yet un-demarcated indigenous territories, and 543 protected areas. - Both the House and Senate proposed inquiries into the Amazon fires. Also, 400 IBAMA personnel signed an open letter demanding qualified professionals run the environmental agency, that past budget and staffing levels be restored, and that security squads again be deployed with IBAMA teams fighting deforestation. - Even as South American nations organized a meeting to combat deforestation, Bolsonaro moved ahead with a plan to privatize deforestation satellite monitoring in Brazil. The new system, experts warn, could end real time monthly monitoring, needed to apprehend illegal deforesters.
Humans have been transforming Earth for thousands of years, study says [08/30/2019]
- Some 3,000 years ago, our human ancestors were already substantially transforming Earth’s surface by farming and grazing livestock, according to a new study that crowdsourced the expert knowledge of more than 250 archaeologists from the around the world. - This massive collaboration, termed the ArchaeGLOBE project, has helped build the first ever global picture of how human activities were altering the planet’s surface from 10,000 years ago right up to 1850. - These estimates of the spread of agriculture and pastoralism suggest that humans were significantly transforming the planet earlier than what some recent studies and databases show, the researchers say. - The ArchaeoGLOBE project dataset, however, has several data gaps and presents only part of our planet’s history.
‘Not a pretty picture’: South China’s forests vanish as tree farms move in [08/29/2019]
- Forests in South China have been increasingly replaced by monoculture ecalyptus plantations grown for wood fiber for the pulp and paper industry. Even forests under official protection haven’t been spared. Xidamingshan Forest Reserve is one of these, losing so much of its native forest over the past decade that it was delisted by the World Database of Protected Areas in 2018. - Central government-led environmental inspections in 2016 found that the Guangxi region lost 6.9 percent of its nature reserve areas over a five year period between 2011 and 2015, with the loss primarily due to unclear borders and the ensuing environmental damage from economic activities such as plantation agriculture and mining. - The Guangxi government set about trying to determine the borders of the Xidamingshan Nature Reserve in 2016, with the final determination coming on Jan. 31, 2019. However, where those borders will actually be depends on the outcomes of negotiations between Guangxi and local governments, and their implementation is at the mercy of a protracted bureaucratic process. - Meanwhile, forests continue to be lost at a fast pace, with satellite data showing large areas of tree cover loss in 2019.
A remote Indonesian district juggles road building with nature conservation [08/29/2019]
- The Indonesian government plans to build or upgrade thousands of kilometers of roads in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo Island. - Proponents of the project say infrastructure upgrades are necessary to support a growing population, will boost economic growth, and will provide better access to services. - But conservationists are concerned these roads will fragment and degrade some of the island’s last remaining intact ecosystems. - This summer, Mongabay traveled the length of one such project in East Kalimantan province, into a remote region already undergoing changes as a result of current and planned road upgrades.
‘We have cut them all’: Ghana struggles to protect its last old-growth forests [08/28/2019]
- Deforestation of Ghana’s primary forests jumped 60 percent between 2017 and 2018 – the biggest jump of any tropical country. Most of this occurred in the country’s protected areas, including its forest reserves. - A Mongabay investigation revealed that illegal logging in forest reserves is commonplace, with sources claiming officers from Ghana’s Forestry Commission often turn a blind eye and even participate in the activity. - The technical director of forestry at Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said attempts at intervention have met with limited success, and are often thwarted by loggers who know how to game the system. - A representative of a conservation NGO operating in the country says a community-based monitoring project has helped curtail illegal logging in some reserves, but additional buy-in from other communities is needed to scale up its results. Meanwhile, the Ghanaian government is reportedly starting its own public outreach program, as well as coordinating with the EU on an agreement that would allow only legal wood from Ghana to enter the EU market.
Misinformation and blame spread concerning sources of Amazon fires [08/28/2019]
- With the global spotlight on Brazil’s Amazon fires, those in and out of government are playing a blame game, pointing fingers and often using unsubstantiated claims to target those they say set the blazes. - Pres. Jair Bolsonaro, without evidence, has blamed NGOs disgruntled at losing international Amazon funding. He also accused state governors for not fighting the fires. One ruralist even blamed ICMBio (Brazil’s national park service) for setting the blazes, though she has since been charged with setting fires in a protected area. - Conservationists put the blame squarely on Bolsonaro and his deregulation and defunding of government institutions, including IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency, which used to regularly fight fires and arrest perpetrators. - IBAMA claims that, though warned days in advance of “A Day of Fire” in Pará state, it received no law enforcement backup from federal or state authorities. This allowed ruralists (radical agricultural advocates) in Altamira and Novo Progresso to set hundreds of fires on August 10-11, with little fear of fines or prosecution.
The Pan Borneo Highway on a collision course with elephants [08/28/2019]
- Out of the controversy surrounding the Pan Borneo Highway and its potential impacts on the environment has arisen a movement to bring conservationists, scientists and planners together to develop a plan “to maximize benefits and reduce risks” to the environment from the road’s construction. - The chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo has called for the highway to avoid cutting through forests. - But a planned stretch would slice through a protected forest reserve with a dense concentration of elephants. - A coalition of scientific and civil society organizations has offered an alternative route that its members say would still provide the desired connection while lowering the risk of potentially deadly human-wildlife conflict.
A healthy and productive Amazon is the foundation of Brazil’s sovereignty (commentary) [08/27/2019]
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro likes to assert that foreigners deserve no say over the fate of the Amazon because it is a national sovereignty issue. In making the argument, Bolsonaro at times lays out a grand conspiracy under which a body like the U.N. tries to “internationalize” the Amazon, claiming it as the domain of the world. - As fires rage, some on social media are raising the idea of the Amazon being the domain of the world. But this discussion plays directly into Bolsonaro’s narrative, strengthening his hand. - Instead, concerned people of the world should talk about how a healthy and productive Amazon actually underpins Brazil’s sovereignty by strengthening food, water, and energy security, while supporting good relations with its neighbors. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indonesia bans food labeled ‘palm oil-free,’ in move welcomed by industry [08/27/2019]
- The Indonesian food regulatory agency says there’s an implication that products labeled “palm oil-free” are healthier, which would constitute false advertising. - But the agency has also adopted a talking point of the palm oil industry: that the labeling is a ploy by critics and competitors to undermine Indonesian palm oil. - Authorities have already begun inspections at supermarkets to remove food products labeled palm oil-free, but an economist warns that the move could trigger a dispute at the World Trade Organization. - The actual question of whether or not palm oil is less healthy than other vegetable oils remains murky, in part because much of the research on the issue was authored by an industry lobby group.
Michael Shellenberger’s sloppy Forbes diatribe deceives on Amazon fires (commentary) [08/27/2019]
- Forbes columnist Michael Shellenberger gets a few things right about the Amazon fires, but he also spreads misinformation not founded in fact or science. - What Shellenberger gets right: The Amazon is being mischaracterized by the media as “the lungs of the planet”, the number of fires have been higher in the past, and there is a need to engage Brazilian ranchers and farmers to help curb deforestation and burning. - What Shellenberger gets wrong: According to scientists, the big issue is that the Brazilian Amazon stores a vast amount of carbon. Increased deforestation combined with climate change is pushing the Amazon ever closer to a forest-to-savanna tipping point, triggering a large release of carbon and worsening global warming. - Also downplayed: the role Jair Bolsonaro is playing in the crisis. Since January, he has dismantled environmental enforcement agencies and used incendiary language to incite ranchers and farmers to illegally clear forest. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Companies sourcing beef, leather from China exposed to Brazil deforestation risk, researchers say [08/27/2019]
- An analysis of trade data reveals retailers and manufacturers using cattle products sourced from Brazil may be buying beef and leather linked to deforestation. - The research by NGO Global Canopy linked Brazilian and Chinese companies to major brands including Adidas, Nike, DFS, Ikea, BMW, Daimler, General Motors and Volkswagen. - Of the 15 importers in Europe and the United States included in the data, only three purchased products from Chinese companies that had made deforestation commitments.
DiCaprio joins $5M effort to combat Amazon fires [08/26/2019]
- In response to rising deforestation and fires in the Amazon, on Sunday actor Leonardo DiCaprio and philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth announced the establishment of a $5 million fund to support indigenous communities and other first responders working to protect the Amazon. - The Amazon Forest Fund is the first major initiative of the Earth Alliance, which Global Wildlife Conservation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and the Emerson Collective formed in July. - The fund’s initial grants went to five Brazilian organizations: Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida, the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, Instituto Kabu, Instituto Raoni, and Instituto Socioambiental. - The establishment of the fund comes amid global outcry over rising deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. After years of declining deforestation in the region, forest clearing spiked in July. Then last week, smoke from land-clearing fires blackened the skies above Sao Paulo, acting as a catalyst for worldwide awareness of the issue.
The Pan Borneo Highway could divide threatened wildlife populations [08/26/2019]
- Crews are set to begin construction on a stretch of Malaysia’s Pan Borneo Highway in eastern Sabah state, involving the widening of the road from two lanes to four. - The new divided highway will cross the Kinabatangan River and pass through a critical wildlife sanctuary that’s home to orangutans, elephants and proboscis monkeys, along with other wildlife species already hemmed in by the region’s oil palm plantations. - Planners and politicians hope the road will stimulate local economies and bring in more tourists. - Conservationists and scientists, however, are concerned that the highway could further section off animal populations and damage the current tourism infrastructure, unless certain mitigation measures are introduced.
Bolsonaro expresses ‘love’ for Amazon as it burns, offers no policy shift [08/26/2019]
- The number of fires in the Amazon biome topped 41,858 in 2019 as of August 24 (up from 22,000 this time last year). Scientists are especially concerned about wildfires raging inside protected areas, such as Jamanxim National Forest in Pará state and Mato Grosso’s Serra de Ricardo Franco Park. - While the Bolsonaro government blames hot weather for the Amazon blazes, others disagree. They point to the link between fires and their use to illegally clear rainforest by land speculators, who — emboldened by Bolsonaro’s lax enforcement policies —sell cleared land for 100-200 times more money than it would sell for with trees covering it. - Preliminary data shows deforestation rising under Bolsonaro. The rate in June 2019 was 88 percent higher than in June 2018; deforestation soared by 278 percent in July 2019 as compared with July 2018. The rise, analysts say, is due in part to the dismantling of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency. - Bolsonaro has pledged to bring in the army to fight the Amazon blazes and deployed the first units over the weekend, while on Monday the G7 nations promised an emergency $20 million in aid to help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.
Sumatran elephant sanctuary under threat from bridge, port projects [08/26/2019]
- Both the planned bridge and private port in southern Sumatra would be built in an area that includes a key wildlife sanctuary that’s home to 152 critically endangered Sumatran elephants. - The bridge would link to an island being developed for tourism, while the port would serve a pulpwood mill operated by Asia Pulp & Paper. - Environmentalists have called for minimal disruption to the habitat if the projects go ahead, including elevated roads and strict zoning to ensure the elephants can co-exist alongside the anticipated influx of people. - An attempt was made in 1982 to relocate the elephants from the area to make way for a migrant colony, but the elephants moved back and the area was subsequently designated as a sanctuary.
81% of Indonesia’s oil palm plantations flouting regulations, audit finds [08/25/2019]
- An Indonesian government audit has found the vast majority of oil palm plantations operating in the country are in breach of a range of regulations. - These include a lack of permits, encroachment into protected areas, and non-compliance with national sustainability standards. - The findings echo the results of a 2016 audit by the anti-corruption commission that concluded Indonesia lacked a credible and accountable system to prevent violations and corruption in the palm oil industry. - Activists say the government needs to be serious about cracking down on plantation companies, some of which are owned by top government officials, and about boosting transparency in the industry.
Greenpeace releases dramatic photos of Amazon fires [08/25/2019]
- Today Greenpeace Brazil released dramatic photos of fires currently burning through rainforests and agricultural land in the Brazilian Amazon. - Some of the fires appear to be burning forests with well-developed canopy structure, suggesting that carbon-dense and biodiverse forests are being directly impacted by the fires. - Greenpeace says its own spatial analysis indicates that 15,749 of the 23,006 hotspots it recorded in the Amazon in the first 20 days of the month were in areas that were forest in 2017. - Those conclusions provide further evidence that the fires were set intentionally for forest-clearing purposes.
How many fires are burning in the Amazon? [08/25/2019]
- The fires raging in the Amazon are nearly double over last year, but remain moderate in the historical context. - The 41,858 fires recorded in the Amazon as of Aug. 24 this year are the highest number since 2010, when 58,476 were recorded by the end of August. But 2019 is well below the mid-2000s, when deforestation rates were very much higher. - However, this year’s numbers come with an important caveat: the satellites used for hotspot tracking in Brazil have limited capacity to detect sub-canopy fires. - The hazy, dark skies over São Paulo have focused worldwide attention on the soaring deforestation rates in the Amazon as well as the pro-deforestation policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Amazon fires trigger protests worldwide [08/24/2019]
- Tens of thousands of active fires are ravaging the Brazilian Amazon in recent weeks, sparking protests in cities across Brazil and around the world, urging effective action from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to contain fires in the world’s largest rainforest. - On August 23, demonstrators blocked off roads, shouting slogans and holding placards reading: “Stop killing our Amazon” in cities that included São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, London, Geneva, Paris, Berlin and Toronto. Protesters also demanded Bolsonaro and Environment Minister Ricardo Salles to resign. - An online petition in the UK asked the European Union to sanction Brazil for its increased deforestation. Within a day, it collected over 65,000 signatures. If it reaches the 100,000 signatures mark, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament. - French President Emmanuel Macron also have called for emergency talks at the G7 summit in Biarritz to discuss the record number of fires, calling the situation an international crisis and gaining the support of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Aimed at linking communities, Malaysian highway may damage forests [08/23/2019]
- Leaders hope that the construction of a road linking the Pan Borneo Highway between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak will connect remote communities to markets and to each other. - But conservationists warn that the highway will cut through some of the last remaining dense forest in Sarawak. - In addition to the challenges of building in a rainy tropical environment, the mountainous terrain will make construction and maintenance difficult, skeptics of the road say.
Indonesia eyes palm oil export boost to China amid mounting U.S. trade war [08/23/2019]
- Indonesia has welcomed a move by China to remove palm oil from its import tariff quota management. - That would allow Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, to increase its exports to China, its No. 3 market. - A senior Indonesian official said there would be no forest-clearing to support any anticipated increase in exports, with higher yields expected to come from better technology and seeds. - The move presents a respite for Indonesia, which faces a biofuel phase-out in the EU and a likely increase in duties in India, its top two export markets.
Satellite images from Planet reveal devastating Amazon fires in near real-time [08/22/2019]
- While many of the images currently being shared on social media and by news outlets are from past fires, satellites can provide a near real-time view of what’s unfolding in the Amazon. - With near-daily overflights and high-resolution imagery, Planet’s constellation of satellites is providing a clear look at some of the fires now burning in the Brazilian Amazon. - Beyond dramatic snapshots, those images also provide data that can be mined for critical insights on what’s happening in the Amazon on a basin-wide scale.
The Pan Borneo Highway brings wildlife threats to nat’l park doorstep [08/21/2019]
- The southern terminus of the Pan Borneo Highway in Malaysia extends to the edge of Tanjung Datu National Park in Sarawak. - The highway’s proponents say the road is already bringing more tourists who are eager to see the park’s wildlife to the adjacent communities, helping to boost the local economy. - But one of the world’s rarest primates, the Bornean banded langur, resides in the park, raising concerns in the conservation community that increased access could bring poachers into the park.
Amazon rainforest fires leave São Paulo in the dark [08/21/2019]
- The number of forest fires in Brazil soared 85 percent between January 1 and August 20 compared to a year ago, according to data from the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE). Roughly half of fire occurrences of this year were registered in the last 20 days, INPE data showed. - In a technical note released in the evening of August 20, the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia) said the occurrences are directly connected to deforestation as it didn’t find any evidence to argue that the fires could be a consequence of a lack of rain. - Fires in Brazil came to spotlight since the afternoon of August 19, when São Paulo’s skies suddenly turned black, spurring discussion about the linkage between the fires and the phenomenon. Since then, “Amazon Fires” are trending on Twitter under the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas. - Far-right President Bolsonaro reacted on August 21, raising suspicion that members of NGOs could be behind the fires in retaliation against the government for having caused the suspension of a $33.2 million payment from Norway to the Amazon Fund.
On Peru’s border, the Tikuna tribe takes on illegal coca growers [08/20/2019]
- Members of the Tikuna indigenous people in Peru’s border region with Colombia and Brazil have chosen to guard their forests against the rapid expansion of illegal coca crops, the plant from which cocaine is derived. - Equipped with GPS-enabled cellphones and satellite maps, they confront loggers and drug traffickers who have threatened them with death. - The community wants the government to do more to help them, including assisting in their transition to growing food crops from which they can make a legitimate living.
Connecting an island: Traveling the Pan Borneo Highway [08/19/2019]
- The Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah are in the midst of building more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of the Pan Borneo Highway. - The goal is to boost the states’ economies and connect them with the Indonesian provinces on the island of Borneo as part of the Trans Borneo Highway. - Advocates of the highway, including many politicians, say the upgraded, widened and in some places entirely new stretches of highway will link markets and provide a jolt to the promising tourism sector in Malaysian Borneo. - But skeptics, including scientists and conservationists, argue that parts of the highway cut through ecologically sensitive areas and that planning prior to construction didn’t adequately account for the damage that construction could cause.
Deforestation, climate crisis could crash Amazon tree diversity: study [08/18/2019]
- New research finds that when climate change and deforestation impacts are taken together, up to 58 percent of Amazon tree species richness could be lost by 2050, of which 49 percent would have some degree of risk for extinction. - Under the deforestation/climate change scenario, half the Amazon (the north, central and west) could be reduced to 53 percent of the original forest. The other half (the east, south and southeast, where agribusiness occurs), could become extremely fragmented, with only 30 percent of forest remaining. - Studies rarely take both climate change and deforestation into account. But the new study’s results bolster the findings of other scientists who have modeled results showing that when the Amazon is 20-25 percent deforested, it could cross a rainforest to savanna conversion tipping point, a disaster for biodiversity. - Scientists warn that Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policies could result in a worst-case scenario, with severe damage to the Amazon rainforest and to its ecological services, including the loss of the sequestration of vast amounts of stored carbon, leading to a regional and global intensification of climate change.
Norway freezes support for Amazon Fund; EU/Brazil trade deal at risk? [08/16/2019]
- On Thursday, Norway announced a freeze on US$33.2 million, Amazon Fund donations slated for projects aimed at curbing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The REDD+ Amazon Fund was launched in 2008, and was expected to continue indefinitely. - However, the anti-environmental policies of Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro have put the Fund’s future in grave doubt. Norway’s freeze came as the direct result of the Bolsonaro administration’s unilateral action to drastically alter the rules for administering the fund, even as monthly deforestation rates shot up in Brazil. - Bolsonaro seems not to care about the loss of funding. However, some analysts warn that Norway’s decision could lead to a refusal by the European Union to ratify the recently concluded EU/Mercosur Latin American trading bloc agreement. Brazil’s troubled economy badly needs the pact to be activated. - Other Bolsonaro critics have raised the prospect that the Amazon Fund freeze could be a first step toward a global consumer boycott of Brazilian commodities. Meanwhile, state governments in Brazil are scrambling to step up and accept deforestation reduction funding from international donors.
Ekuri Initiative: Inside a Nigerian community’s battle to keep its forest [08/15/2019]
- The Ekuri Community in southeastern Nigeria started an initiative in the early 1990’s to manage their community forest adjacent to the Cross River National Park, home to the critically-endangered Cross River gorilla and a suite of other unique and threatened species. - Formalized through the Ekuri Initiative, planned community forest management has helped to drive local development, conservation, sustainable forest management and address poverty by improving access to sustainable livelihoods. - The Initiative has resisted threats from logging companies and more recently attempts by state authorities to build a 260-km superhighway that would have destroyed much of the community forest. - However, community leaders worry that if state and national governments continue to ignore their efforts, villagers might think conservation efforts do not respect their rights to survival.
Precision conservation: High tech to the rescue in the Peruvian Amazon [08/15/2019]
- Peru’s Los Amigos Biological Station stands on a dividing line between the devastation caused by a gold rush centered on La Pampa, and a vast swath of conserved lands that includes Manú National Park — likely the most biologically important protected area in Latin America — plus its conserved buffers. - Teaming up to defend these thriving forests and their biodiversity are conservationists and technologists — an innovative alliance that includes Conservación Amazónica (ACCA), Amazon Conservation (ACA), the Andes Amazon Fund, along with other organizations. - Among the precision conservation tools they use to patrol against invading artisanal miners and illegal loggers are drones, acoustic monitoring, machine learning, lidar and thermal imaging — all applied to protecting one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth. - Conservationists are hopeful not only that they’ll be able to protect Manú National Park and its buffers, but that they may be able to one day help remediate and restore the wrecked habitat of La Pampa. This integrative approach, they say, is vital to conserving the region’s biodiversity against the escalating climate crisis.
Indonesia forest-clearing ban is made permanent, but labeled ‘propaganda’ [08/14/2019]
- A temporary moratorium first issued in 2011 on granting permits to clear primary forests and peatlands for plantations or logging has been made permanent by Indonesia’s president. - The government says the policy has been effective in slowing deforestation, but environmental activists blast those claims as “propaganda,” saying that forest loss and fires have actually increased in areas that qualify for the moratorium. - They’ve highlighted several loopholes in the moratorium that allow developers to continue exploiting forest areas without consequence. - Activists are also skeptical that a newer moratorium, on granting permits for oil palm cultivation, will do much to help slow the rate of deforestation.
Rainforest destruction accelerates in Honduras UNESCO site [08/13/2019]
- Powerful drug-traffickers and landless farmers continue to push cattle ranching and illegal logging operations deeper into the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in eastern Honduras. - Satellite data show the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve lost more than 10 percent of its tree cover between 2001 and 2017, more than a third of which happened within the last three years of that time period. Preliminary data for 2019 indicate Río Plátano is experiencing another heavy round of forest loss this year, with UMD recording around 160,000 deforestation alerts in the reserve between January and August, which appears to be an uptick from the same period in 2018. - Local sources claim the government participates in drug trafficking, and those involved in the drug business are allegedly the same people who are involved in illegal exploitation of the land for cattle ranching and illegal logging of mahogany and cedar. - Deforestation in Río Plátano means a loss of habitat for wildlife and a loss of forest resources for indigenous communities that depend on them. But another threat is emerging: water resources are becoming increasingly scarce as forests are converted into grasslands.
Germany cuts $39.5 million in environmental funding to Brazil [08/13/2019]
- Germany has announced plans to withdraw some €35 million (US $39.5 million) to Brazil due to the country’s lack of commitment to curbing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest shown by the administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. - The funding loss will impact environmental projects in the Amazon, Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biomes. - The cut will not, however, impact the Amazon Fund — a pool of some $87 million provided to Brazil each year by developed nations, especially Norway and Germany — to finance a variety of programs aimed at halting deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. - Some experts have expressed concern that Germany’s $39.5 million cut could cause other developed nations to withdraw Brazil funding, and even threaten the Amazon Fund, or the ratification of the recently concluded EU/Mercosur Latin American trade agreement.
Gov’t takedown of illegal gold mining in Peru shows promise, but at a cost [08/09/2019]
- Peru’s Madre de Dios region has become a global poster child for deforestation and environmental devastation from an unchecked gold rush. More than 1,000 square kilometers of lowland rainforest has been deforested since 1985, two-thirds of which — an area roughly the size of New York City — has been cleared since 2009. Much of that destruction and gold production has been centered in La Pampa, a makeshift city of more than 25,000 people. - On Feb. 19, hundreds of army commandos and 1,200 police officers raided La Pampa, expelled most of the miners, arrested suspected criminals, and established three military bases to ensure, for now, that the miners don’t return. That said, illegal gold mining elsewhere in Madre de Dios continues as usual. - Luis Hidalgo Okimura, the newly elected governor of Madre de Dios, has pledged his support to the continued battle against illegal gold mining in the region. His plan is to legalize and regulate mining to better control it, as well as incorporate its profits into the tax base. He said he also wants existing mining sites to be mined deeper for missed gold to reduce further tree loss. - However, others say that focusing on reducing mining in the region is just shifting the problem to other areas. Walter Quertehuari Dariquebe, a leader with the indigenous Huachipaire tribe that resides within the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve just west of La Pampa. He told Mongabay that new gold mining and deforestation “have now shown up on our doorstep. The government has simply kicked an ants’ nest. Now ants are running all over, making trouble elsewhere — especially for us.”
Peru: Invaders claim their first victim at the Macuya Forest Investigation Center [08/09/2019]
- On June 13, forest defender Julio Crisanto López was wounded by two gunshots as he was leaving the Macuya Forest, and died several days later. - Since 2017, deforestation in the protected area has destroyed more than 500 hectares of forest according to satellite images. - Though protected and dedicated to biological research, land traffickers have invaded portions of it, cutting trees and preparing the way for farmers to begin raising crops or cattle.
Forests and forest communities critical to climate change solutions [08/08/2019]
- A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the importance of land use in addressing climate change. - The restoration and protection of forests could be a critical component in strategies to mitigate climate change, say experts, but governments must halt deforestation and forest degradation to make way for farms and ranches. - The IPCC report also acknowledges the role that indigenous communities could play. - The forests under indigenous management often have lower deforestation and emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Indonesian flooding disaster bears the hallmarks of agriculture and mining impacts [08/07/2019]
- Last June, North Konawe, a land of hills and valleys on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, was struck by devastating floods, displacing thousands of people. - In the wake of the disaster, a public debate has ensued over the cause. Some government agencies have concluded that deforestation by plantation and mining companies exacerbated the floods. - Some villages, including the riverside community of Tapuwatu, were almost completely washed away.
Photo essay: Madagascar’s disappearing dry forests (insider) [08/07/2019]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his visit to the dry forests of western Madagascar last month. - The dry forest of western Madagascar is famous for its wildlife and baobab trees, including the tourist destinations of Baobab Alley, Tsingy de Bemaraha, and Kirindy Forest. - Rhett traveled to Madagascar for the annual Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting. Ahead of the conference, he used the opportunity to visit the Menabe region of western Madagascar to investigate some GPS points identified via Global Forest Watch’s GLAD alert system as potential recent deforestation. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
Bolsonaro can bully on deforestation, but he can’t hide from satellites (commentary) [08/07/2019]
- In response to rising international criticism over a surge in forest clearing since the beginning of the year, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and officials in his administration have recently stepped up attacks on scientists at the country’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) for continuing to report transparently on deforestation in the Amazon. - The expectation among civil society groups is that the Bolsonaro administration will soon stop releasing or start manipulating INPE’s deforestation data. But if Bolsonaro thinks that approach will pacify critics, he is gravely misleading himself: Bolsonaro will not be able to hide what’s happening in the Amazon from the rest of the world. - From Planet’s constellation of satellites to NASA’s Landsat to the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Sentinel-1, today there are many eyes in the sky looking down at the Amazon. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘The forest is our life’: Hope for change in Guyana’s forests (commentary) [08/06/2019]
- Forestry is big business in Guyana. The sector contributed 2.27 percent to Guyana’s GDP in 2016, with total forest products exports valued at $41.9 million. Approximately 20,000 people, mainly in the rural and hinterland areas, are employed in the sector. - Guyana’s laws provide for indigenous villages to obtain titles for the land they occupy and, currently, indigenous peoples own 14 percent of the country’s land. However, the process of granting legal ownership has been cumbersome and villages have complained of mining and forest concessions being granted on land they have customarily used for farming, hunting, and other activities, all without them being informed. - Guyana’s forests have sustained people for generations. For this commentary, Gaulbert Sutherland traveled deep into the country’s hinterland to hear of the pressures that locals face, and their hopes for change. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Haze from fires, Indonesia’s national ‘embarrassment,’ are back [08/06/2019]
- Indonesia is experiencing its worst annual fire season since 2015, with the cross-border spread of haze once again threatening to spark a diplomatic row with neighbors Malaysia and Singapore. - The government has acknowledged that measures adopted in the wake of the 2015 fires to prevent a repeat of that disaster may have fallen short, including efforts to restore drained peatlands and drill wells to provide water for firefighters. - President Joko Widodo, scheduled to visit Malaysia and Singapore later this week, says he feels embarrassed by the return of the fires and haze, and has ordered the firing of officials found to have failed to tackle the problem. - At the local level, however, governors of the affected provinces appear to be taking the matter lightly: saying the haze isn’t at a worrying level, offering a reward for shamans who can summon rain, and proposing questionable theories about the causes of the fires.
New orchid species from Japan lives on dark forest floor, never blooms [08/05/2019]
- Researcher Kenji Suetsugu of Kobe University has found flowering plants of a new species of orchid on Japan’s Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima islands, now named Gastrodia amamiana. - G. amamiana belongs to a group of mycoheterotrophic orchids that live on dark forest floors, do not use photosynthesis to get their nutrients, and steal nutrition from fungi instead. G. amamiana’s flowers likely never open up or bloom. - Researchers have already found evidence of tree thinning close to where G. amamiana was discovered, and they worry that logging could dry the soil and consequently the fungi that the orchid depends on.
Future of Amazon deforestation data in doubt as research head sacked [08/05/2019]
- The Brazilian government and the world have relied on the INPE (Brazilian National Institute of Space Research) satellite monitoring system to track deforestation since 1988, without controversy. INPE’s data gathering program has been hailed as one of the best such operations in the tropics. - However, after INPE reported a major uptick in the rate of Brazilian Amazon deforestation in June and July 2019, as compared with the same months in 2018, the Bolsonaro administration responded angrily by accusing the agency of manipulating data, of lying, and of being in conspiracy with international NGOs. - On August 2, the president fired Ricardo Magnus Osório Galvão, the head of INPE, leaving officials inside the institution concerned for the future of the satellite monitoring program. The government has repeatedly said it plans to develop a costly, privatized deforestation tracking system which would replace INPE. - Galvão’s removal triggered an outcry from scientists, NGOs and Brazilian federal prosecutors who are concerned over the threat to the future accuracy of Amazon deforestation monitoring. The Bolsonaro administration plans to announce a replacement shortly.
As Amazon deforestation in Brazil rises, Bolsonaro administration attacks the messenger (commentary) [08/03/2019]
- Officials in the Bolsonaro administration have attacked the credibility of the National Institute for Space Research’s system for tracking deforestation. - But an analysis indicates their criticism of INPE is flawed. - Nonetheless, the Bolsonaro administration is taking measures against the agency, including firing INPE’s director Ricardo Galvão on Friday. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New film reveals at-risk ‘uncontacted’ Awá tribe in Brazilian Amazon [08/01/2019]
- A just released documentary film includes footage of an uncontacted indigenous group known as the Awá Guajá, hunter-gatherers described by NGO Survival International as the most threatened tribe on the planet. The indigenous group lives in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest in Northeast Maranhão state. - The footage was captured by chance by cameraman Flay Guajajara, a member of the Mídia Índia (a collective of indigenous communicators of various ethnicities) when he and other Guajajara Indians were on a hunting trip in the Araribóia reserve, one of the country’s most threatened indigenous territories.
* - The Awá share the Araribóia reserve with their Guajajara relatives. In late 2012, the Guajajara set up a group who call themselves “Guardians of the Forest” and risk their lives combatting illegal logging to protect the reserve and the Awá’s lives.
Logging, mining companies lock eyes on a biodiverse island like no other [07/31/2019]
- Woodlark Island sits far off the coast of Papua New Guinea and is swathed in old growth forests home to animals found nowhere else on the planet. However, the island and its unique inhabitants have an uncertain future. Lured by high-value timber, a logging company is planning to clear 40 percent of Woodlark’s forests. Researchers say this could drive many species to extinction. - The company says logging will be followed by the planting of tree and cocoa plantations, and it has submitted to the government a permit application to clear forests as an agricultural development project. However, an independent investigation found this application process “riddled with errors, inconsistencies and false information” and that the company did not properly obtain the consent of landowners who have lived on the island for generations. - It is unclear if the application has been approved, but there are signs that the company may be moving forward with its plans. - Meanwhile, a mining company is pushing forward with its own plans to develop an open-pit gold mine on the island. The mine is expected to result in increased road construction and discharge nearly 13 metric tons of mining waste into a nearby bay.
Forest loss threatens territorial gibbons in southern Borneo [07/31/2019]
- Bornean southern gibbons have the largest territories of any species in their genus, a new study has found. - These large home ranges, combined with the species’ intense territoriality, puts it at particular risk of habitat loss as a result of deforestation and fire. - The findings of this research demonstrate that this endangered species needs large areas of unbroken forest.
Study shows how to protect more species for less money in western Amazon [07/31/2019]
- A new study identifies nearly 300 areas for proposed protection in the western Amazon that would give the most bang for the buck in terms of the number of species conserved in this biodiversity hotspot. - The researchers considered management and lost-opportunity costs in their analyses, and found that the presence of indigenous communities in protected areas can actually bring down the costs of conservation. - While the estimated cost for protecting these proposed areas is just $100 million a year — less than a hundredth of the GDP of the countries in the western Amazon — the researchers say there needs to be clear political will to implement such a solution.
Deforestation drops in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, but risks remain: experts [07/31/2019]
- A joint report from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and NGO Fundação SOS Mata Atlântica based on satellite imaging shows an annual reduction of 9.3 percent in deforested areas in the Mata Atlântica, the country’s most endangered biome. - The cleared area in 17 Atlantic Forest states between October 2017 and April 2018 totaled 11,399 hectares (28,167 acres), which is 1,163 hectares (2,874 acres) less than over the same period a year earlier. - However, intense pressure from agribusiness and the real estate market continues placing the Mata Atlântica’s ecosystems under threat, risks that include ongoing deforestation, losses in biodiversity, and potential extinction of species, experts warn.
Peru’s crackdown on coca pushes illegal growers toward protected areas [07/30/2019]
- In the last two years, the cultivation of coca has deforested more than 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) and invaded the buffer zones of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park and Tambopata National Reserve. - Clandestine cocaine laboratories have been found in both areas. - The director of Corah, a project in charge of the eradication of illicit crops, indicates that they will continue with interventions. Local authorities, however, demand the presence of the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs to provide alternative sources of livelihood.
Malagasy president considers backing declaration on conservation goals [07/30/2019]
- Madagascar’s president, Andry Rajoelina, is considering sponsoring a petition launched by the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) that outlines conservation priorities for the country. - Almost 90 percent of Madagascar’s flora and fauna is endemic to the island nation, but is severely threatened by forest loss and trafficking. - If the petition garners a sufficient number of signatures by August 2 it will be instated as the ‘Declaration of Ivato.’
Authorities investigate murder of indigenous leader in Brazilian Amazon [07/30/2019]
- A task force is investigating the murder of indigenous leader Emyra Wajãpi, who was found dead on July 23, stabbed close to the Waseity indigenous village where he lived, in the northern state of Amapá, according to the Wajãpi Village Council (Apina). - On the night of July 26, a group of 50 gold miners — some reportedly armed with rifles and machine guns — allegedly invaded the neighboring Yvytotõ indigenous village and threatened residents, forcing them to flee, Apina reported. Authorities are investigating the alleged incursion. - The violence in Amapá came as far-right president Jair Bolsonaro continues pressing for legalization of mining and agribusiness operations within protected indigenous reserves. Indigenous groups argue that the president’s rhetoric encourages invasions of indigenous lands, escalating violence against native people. - The indigenous villages where the alleged crimes took place are part of the Wajãpi indigenous reserve, an area of about 6,000 square kilometers (2,317 square miles), rich in gold and other minerals.
Brazilian Amazon deforestation surge is real despite Bolsonaro’s denial (commentary) [07/29/2019]
- June 2019 saw an 88 percent increase in Amazon deforestation over the same month in 2018. In the first half of July 2019, deforestation was 68 percent above that for the entire month of July 2018, according to INPE, Brazil’s federal monitoring agency. - However, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, is denying the accuracy of his own government statistics, calling INPE’s data “lies.” - Like US President Trump, Bolsonaro has a history of denying scientific data and facts when they conflict with his ideology and policies, including the need for action to combat the escalating climate crisis. - The conservation outlook for the rest of Bolsonaro’s four-year term is grim; he has in just six months dismantled Brazil’s environmental agencies, deforestation program and environmental licensing system. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
To regulate or not to regulate? EU climate commitments face key test over global deforestation (commentary) [07/26/2019]
- European citizens overwhelmingly support government action to address deforestation. But it has been painfully slow in coming. Eleven years have passed since the EU first promised to act. - Meanwhile, EU imports of high-risk commodities like palm oil, beef, and soy from tropical countries have continued to rise, and deforestation to feed them has accelerated. - Europe’s new plan to address its role in driving rampant, often illegal deforestation through its consumption of commodities is finally ready. It has taken over 10 years to write. It runs to 21 pages. But just one short sentence really matters — and the future of the planet may hinge on how it is interpreted. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Gabonese timber linked to illegal logging seized in Antwerp [07/25/2019]
- Belgian authorities have blocked a shipment of tropical timber from Gabon after a tip-off by Greenpeace. - Under the EU Timber Regulation, European companies have an obligation to conduct proper due diligence on the source of the timber they import. - Greenpeace says this due diligence requirement was not met in this case, as the wood was exported by a Chinese logging firm with previous allegations of illegal logging.
FSC to keep Korindo in the fold, for now [07/25/2019]
- Palm oil giant Korindo must “commit to reparations for past [land] conversion practices” in Indonesia or else face expulsion from the Forest Stewardship Council, the certification body announced this week. - The precise conditions for Korindo to retain its FSC membership were not elaborated on. But the FSC said that if Korindo fails to meet them, it could be expelled from the FSC. - Campaign group Mighty Earth called on Korindo to return customary lands to indigenous communities, restore damaged ecosystems, and more.
Small-scale farming is a big threat to biodiversity in the western Amazon: Study [07/24/2019]
- Smallholder farming poses a significant threat to biodiversity in the western Amazonian forests of northeastern Peru, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, a study led by researchers at Princeton University has found. - Small-scale agricultural operations are generally considered to be much less harmful to wildlife than the wholesale clearance and conversion of forests to pasture or cropland, but the study, published in the journal Conservation Biology in May, shows that small-scale farmers’ activities are having a substantially negative impact on wildlife and plant life all the same. - Plans to build more roads in the northern Peru could exacerbate the situation, but the researchers say their findings have important implications for conservation policy in the western Amazon region and could help point a way towards mitigating the impact of future development.
New roads in Papua New Guinea may cause ‘quantum leap’ in forest loss [07/24/2019]
- Papua New Guinea intends to nearly double its existing network of roads between now and 2022. - A new study raises concerns about the impacts of building these roads through tropical forest environments on local communities, sensitive habitats and vulnerable species. - The authors of the paper, published July 24 in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that the country would reap more benefits and avoid future debt by investing in existing roads, many of which are largely unusable because of flagging maintenance.
Top court holds Indonesian government liable over 2015 forest fires [07/23/2019]
- Indonesia’s Supreme Court has ordered that the government carry out measures to mitigate forest fires in the country, following a citizen lawsuit filed in the wake of devastating blazes in 2015. - The decision upholds earlier rulings by lower courts, but the government says it will still challenge it, claiming that the circumstances that led to the 2015 fires were due to mismanagement by previous administrations. - The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they just want the government to implement common-sense measures to prevent the fires from recurring, and which existing laws already require it to carry out. - The fire season is already underway again this year, as companies and smallholder farmers set forests ablaze in preparation for planting.
Fears over Indonesian president’s demand for unfettered investment [07/22/2019]
- President Joko Widodo has threatened to “chase” and “beat” anyone hampering investment in the country — a statement that activists say raises the prospect of increased exploitation of Indonesia’s forests. - The statement marks the latest move by the president to consolidate a policy platform that relies on economic growth driven by resource exploitation. - The president has also ordered the environment minister to “close your eyes” to prevailing regulations when issuing permits for forest concessions. - Environmental activists say the country is headed down the same path as Brazil under the presidency of Jair Bolsonbaro, who has moved quickly to push policies permitting greater deforestation of the Amazon in pursuit of economic interests.
Cocoa and gunshots: The struggle to save a threatened forest in Nigeria [07/19/2019]
- Nigeria’s Omo Forest Reserve provides important habitat for animals such as forest elephants, as well as drinking water for the city of Lagos. - But the reserve has been severely deforested, losing more than 7 percent of its tree cover over the past two decades. Satellite data indicate 2019 may be a particularly bad year for the reserve’s remaining primary forest. - The primary cause of deforestation in Omo is cocoa farming. Seeking fertile soil and a respite from poverty, the reserve has attracted thousands of small farmers. They’re living in the reserve illegally, but the government is hesitant to evict them as doing so would disrupt their livelihoods and require a significant amount of funding. - Instead, the focus is on preventing more farmers from invading Omo. This is the goal of rangers who patrol Omo’s remaining forests looking for footprints and listening for chainsaws and gunshots. While they’ve been successful at preventing some encroachment, the reserve is too big for the relatively small team to effectively monitor in its entirety.
New initiative aims to jump-start stalled drive toward zero deforestation [07/19/2019]
- Over the past decade there has been a rise in corporate zero-deforestation commitments, but very few companies have shown progress in meeting their goals of reducing deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. - The Accountability Framework Initiative, launched by a group of 14 civil society organizations, is the latest tool to help companies make progress, and hold them accountable, on their zero-deforestation commitments. - The Accountability Framework Initiative is expected to be especially important for markets like Europe, where demand for crops like soy has been linked to rising deforestation in places like the Brazilian Cerrado.
Congo government opens Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to oil exploration [07/18/2019]
- In 2018, the government of the Republic of Congo opened up several blocks of land for oil exploration overlapping with important peatlands and a celebrated national park. - According to a government website, the French oil company Total holds the exploration rights for those blocks. - Conservationists were alarmed that the government would consider opening up parks and peatlands of international importance for oil exploration, while also trying to garner funds for their protection on the world stage.
From over 100,000 species assessments in IUCN update, zero improvements [07/18/2019]
- The latest IUCN Red List update, which includes assessments of 105,732 species, lists more than 28,000 species as threatened with extinction. - The declines of many of these species can be attributed to human overexploitation, according to the IUCN. The red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus), for example, has moved from vulnerable to endangered in 2019, largely because of threats from illegal hunting for bushmeat and conversion of much of the monkey’s Atlantic coast forest habitat in West Africa to agriculture. - More than 5,000 trees from 180 countries, and 500 deep-sea bony fish species like the bioluminescent lanternfishes, were also added to the Red List this year. - No species was assessed as having genuinely improved in status enough to earn it a place in a lower threat category, according to the IUCN.
The frog and the university: Meet the niche new species from Sri Lanka [07/18/2019]
- The recent discovery of a new frog species in a niche habitat in Sri Lanka’s cloud forest has highlighted the need for conserving the Indian Ocean island’s dwindling montane habitats. - The frog, Lankanectes pera, is named after the University of Peradeniya, the country’s oldest, and dwells only in pristine streams flowing through canopy-covered montane forests in the highest reaches of the Knuckles Mountain Range. - Researchers are calling for extensive studies to inform conservation actions for the species, which they’ve recommended be classified as critically endangered, given its small range and population.
We are planting trees everywhere: Q&A with Madagascar’s environment minister [07/17/2019]
- Alexandre Georget, a founder of Madagascar’s first green party in 2008, is the country’s new environment minister. - In an interview with Mongabay, Georget discussed the government’s reforestation plans and outlined how he expected to approach its 2019 goal of reforesting 40,000 hectares. - He also described the government’s new position on the sale of confiscated illegally harvested precious timber, in advance of the upcoming CITES meeting in August.
Orangutan habitats being cleared in areas near palm oil mills, report finds [07/17/2019]
- A new study identifies the palm oil mills in Indonesia with the most clearance of orangutan habitat happening around them. - The top 10 mills are all on the island of Borneo and are producing palm oil that makes its way into the supply chains of consumer goods giants such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Avon, Mars, Mondelēz and more — companies that promised long ago to stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation. - Just because deforestation is happening around a palm oil mill does not mean it is being done by an entity supplying that mill with palm fruits. But it is a strong red flag that this may be the case. - Several of the consumer goods giants contacted by Mongabay said they were either actively investigating the deforestation or suspending trading with the mills. Others were more vague in their responses.
Newly described tree species from Tanzania is likely endangered [07/17/2019]
- Researchers have described a new species of tree from the Usambara mountains of northeastern Tanzania. - The tree, which grows up to 20 meters (66 feet) in height, has been named Mischogyne iddii after Iddi Rajabu, a resident botanist at the Amani Nature Reserve, where some individuals of the tree can be found. - The newly described species is known from only two locations in the Usambara mountains, and the researchers estimate that fewer than 50 individuals remain, suggesting a threat category of endangered on the IUCN Red List for the species.
Agriculture, mining, hunting push critically endangered gorillas to the brink [07/16/2019]
- Maiko National Park is one of the most logistically challenging parks in the DRC and one of the most biodiverse. It is one of just two national parks in the world known to contain Grauer’s gorilla, a highly endangered and poorly understood eastern gorilla subspecies, and is also home to the endemic okapi and Congo peafowl, as well as forest elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, and giant pangolins. - The most major threat to gorillas and other wildlife in Maiko is the bushmeat trade, but this is significantly exacerbated by another threat: artisanal mining. The Second Congo War coincided with a demand spike for a mineral called coltan that forms an essential component of all phones, computers, solar panels, and other electronics. - Outside of the park, however, there is another threat to wildlife: increasing pressure from rising populations. As villages expand, they require more resources and begin to cut into primary forest to make way for subsistence crops. Satellite imagery show that trees are being cut down near Maiko. As the population expands, such habitat degradation will edge closer to the park itself—bringing even more pressure from the bushmeat trade. - Villages can be a major threat to wildlife, but they also serve as essential allies to conservation work in the DRC. NGOs working to protect wildlife near Maiko are working closely with local communities to help achieve local buy-in and ensure the long-term sustainable development of the region.
Experts deny alleged manipulation of Amazon satellite deforestation data [07/16/2019]
- The Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE) issues annual Amazon deforestation reports via its PRODES satellite monitoring system (which relies on NASA Landsat satellite imaging), while the DETER system issues monthly deforestation/degradation alerts (which rely on Sino-Brazilian satellites). - While experts consider INPE’s monitoring systems among the best in the tropics, ministers in the Bolsonaro administration have insinuated that the deforestation data may be manipulated. Experts have denied this, and note that INPE findings align well with those collected by NGOs Imazon and ISA, and Global Forest Watch (GFW). - All of the data collected so far from various sources show an upswing in deforestation since Jair Bolsonaro’s election win. However, definitive and precise statistics require year-to-year comparisons, not monthly ones, and won’t be available until later in 2019. - In March, Brazil’s environment minister pressed for a new but costly private deforestation tracking system. In June, the open-access platform MapBiomas — a network of NGOs, universities and tech firms, along with Google — launched a system to compile data from INPE, ISA, Imazon and GFW to produce definitive deforestation data.
Colombia registers first drop in deforestation since 2016 FARC peace deal [07/15/2019]
- Colombia lost 198,000 hectares (489,269 acres) of forest in 2018, according to a report released by the country’s meteorological institute IDEAM. This reduction represents a 10 percent drop compared to 2017 when 220,000 hectares (543,632 acres) were lost. - Despite slight annual progress, rates of deforestation in Colombia remain stubbornly high, with a sustained increase compared to the low rates the country boasted five years ago. - While the landmark 2016 FARC peace agreement has opened up parts of Colombia’s remote areas formerly off limits to science, exploration and tourism, it also created a power vacuum exploited by illegal armed groups and wealthy landowners. - The report points to extensive cattle ranching, coca cultivation related to cocaine production, illegal mining and timber harvesting, unpermitted road construction, burns and extension of the agricultural frontier as the greatest contributors to tropical forest loss in the South American country.
Study finds lemurs in degraded Madagascar forest skinny and stunted [07/15/2019]
- In Madagascar’s Tsinjoarivo rainforest, adults of the critically endangered diademed sifakas living in the most degraded of forest fragments tend to be skinnier, and young individuals show stunting, compared to individuals living in more intact parts of the forest, according to a new study. - Skinny bodies in adults could mean that their nutritional intake is compromised in the disturbed areas, researchers say, while young sifakas could be growing more slowly in the most disturbed areas in response to reduced nutrition in the diet. - Sifakas living in less-disturbed forest fragments, however, don’t appear to be in poorer health than those in continuous, intact forests. This could be because the long-lived sifakas are likely resilient to moderate habitat changes, the researchers say. - But threats could add up and cause local populations to disappear, the researchers add.
Yanomami Amazon reserve invaded by 20,000 miners; Bolsonaro fails to act [07/12/2019]
- An estimated 20,000 illegal goldminers (garimpeiros) have entered Yanomami Park, one of Brazil’s biggest indigenous reserves, located in Roraima and Amazonas states, near the border with Venezuela. - The miners are well funded, likely by entrepreneurs, who pay workers and provide them with earthmoving equipment, supplies and airplanes. Three illegal air strips and three open-pit goldmines are in operation within the Yanomami indigenous territory. - Indigenous leaders blame President Bolsonaro, with his incendiary anti-indigenous language, and his administration, with its policies that have defunded and gutted agencies responsible for law enforcement in the Amazon. - Bolsonaro claims indigenous people want mining and industrial agribusiness on their lands, but the Yanomami vehemently deny such desires. They say they want self-determination over the types of businesses on their lands. One such new, sustainable business is a chocolate concession that would preserve the rainforest and offer income.
Can jurisdictional certification curb palm oil deforestation in Indonesia? (commentary) [07/10/2019]
- In this commentary, Dan Nepstad of Earth Innovation Institute and John Watts and Silvia Irawan of Inovasi Bumi argue that the surge in oil palm expansion in Indonesia since the early 2000s has caused deforestation, environmental degradation and social conflicts; strategies to reduce these negative impacts have seen only modest success. - The authors say the jurisdictional certification pilots of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) represent a promising new approach to these issues. The RSPO pilot in Seruyan — a district that has experienced many of these problems — has led to several innovations, including an agricultural facility that provides technical support to smallholders while managing funds received from companies, implementation of the “jurisdiction-wide environmental protection plan” regulation, a mechanism for resolving land conflicts, and a method for mapping and registering independent smallholders. - Deforestation may be on the decline in Seruyan, with the exception of the El Niño related fires of 2015 and 2016. Through jurisdictional certification, there is the potential to protect 480 thousand hectares of standing forests and restore 420 thousand hectares of forests. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Cargill rejects Cerrado soy moratorium, pledges $30 million search for ideas [07/10/2019]
- The 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium — a voluntary agreement credited with stemming deforestation in the Amazon due to soy growing over the last decade— is the model put forth in the 2017 Cerrado Manifesto, intended to catalyze action to stop rampant clearing of forests and native vegetation in the savanna biome. - But now Cargill, a trading firm active in the Cerrado, has published an open letter to its Brazilian soy producers avowing that it will not support a soy moratorium in the savanna biome. Bunge, Archer Daniels Midland, Amaggi and other commodities firms have been resistant to the Manifesto’s call to action as well, which could doom it. - Cargill’s nixing of a Cerrado soy moratorium came after the firm announced its sustainable soy action plan, along with a $30 million fund to limit Cerrado forest loss, and amid international pleas to curb Brazilian deforestation prompted by the new EU / Mercosur (Latin American economic bloc) trade agreement. - One possible reason Cargill and other commodities firms and producers are resisting the Cerrado Manifesto: under the Amazon Soy Moratorium producers simply moved their operations out of the Amazon and into the Cerrado. But the Cerrado Manifesto would prevent further deforestation for soy in the biome, potentially curbing rapid production expansion there.
Chimps in Sierra Leone adapt to human-impacted habitats, but threats remain [07/10/2019]
- Western chimpanzees are adapting to survive in severely degraded habitat, a new study says. - However, the study also finds the abundance of western chimpanzees in Sierra Leone is impacted by even secondary roads. - Ensuring the long-term survival of western chimps calls for changes in agriculture, roads and other development, researchers say.
In Nigeria, a highway threatens community and conservation interests [07/09/2019]
- Activists and affected communities in Nigeria’s Cross River state continue to protest plans to build a major highway cutting through farmland and forest that’s home to threatened species such as the Cross River gorilla. - The federal government ordered a slew of measures to minimize the impact of the project, but two years later it remains unclear whether the developers have complied, even as they resume work. - Environmentalists warn of a “Pandora’s box” of problems ushered in by the construction of the highway, including illegal deforestation, poaching, land grabs, micro-climate change, erosion, biodiversity loss and encroachment into protected areas. - They’ve called on the state government to pursue alternatives to the new highway, including investing in upgrading existing road networks.
As Amazon deforestation rises, sensational headlines play into Bolsonaro’s agenda (commentary) [07/08/2019]
- Deforestation appears to be on the rise in the Brazilian Amazon, but sensational headlines are playing into the Bolsonaro administration’s campaign to undermine science-based monitoring of the Amazon. - For example, administration officials are actively calling into question Brazilian space agency INPE’s data, according to BBC News, which last week quoted General Augusto Heleno Pereira as saying that data on deforestation rates in the Amazon are “manipulated.” Pereira’s claim is completely unsubstantiated, but is nonetheless consistent with a reported push by the Bolsonaro administration to privatize deforestation monitoring. - It is critically important that deforestation data is reported accurately by the media. The damage being wrought right now is certainly real and significant. There is no need to embellish or misrepresent the data. Doing so only furnishes the Bolsonaro administration with more ammunition for its war on journalism, science, and the environment. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Peru: Madre de Dios land defenders face trouble whether they report crimes or not [07/05/2019]
- In the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, men and women have resisted the threats of mining and illegal logging for 12 years. - Operation Mercury 2019, launched to eradicate illegal gold mining, also increased harassment of these environmental defenders. For this report, Mongabay Latam recorded their stories. - No matter what land defenders do, they still lose: if they report illegal activities on their concessions they are threatened by those who are caught; and when they don’t alert anyone out of fear, the authorities sometimes fine them for not reporting the transgressions.
Land thieves ramp up deforestation in Brazil’s Jamanxim National Forest [07/04/2019]
- Deforestation appears to be rising dramatically in Brazil, with satellite data showing the country’s Amazonian region lost more forest in May than during any other month in the past decade. - Jamanxim National Forest, in the state of Pará, has been particularly hard hit, losing more than 3 percent of its forest cover in May. Another surge was detected during the last week of June. - Residents say the pressure facing Jamanxim comes from outsiders who are looking to make a profit by logging trees and then selling the newly cleared land to ranchers. - Many of those living in protected areas believe that the political climate under President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration is encouraging the invasions by loggers into Brazil’s protected areas.
Study: Vast swaths of lost tropical forest can still be brought back to life [07/03/2019]
- A new study has once again emphasized the importance of restoring degraded tropical forests in the fight against climate change. - Using high-resolution satellite imagery, the study identifies more than a million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of lost tropical rainforest across the Americas, Africa and Southeast Asia as having high potential for restoration. - The researchers say there’s no time to waste on reforestation efforts, but caution that the type of reforestation undertaken must be carefully considered. - Countries such as China have increased their forest cover through the extensive planting of a single tree species, but studies have shown that monoculture tree plantations are inferior to natural forests when it comes to capturing carbon, hosting wildlife, and providing other ecosystem services.
Lost in translation: Green regulations backfire without local context [07/03/2019]
- Strong green regulations modeled on those in industrialized countries don’t always have the intended effects of reducing conflict and environmental degradation, new research shows. - These rules can place onerous burdens on small-scale producers that ultimately force them to go around the regulations, at times leading to more conflict and harm to the environment. - The study’s author argues that regulations should be flexible enough to accommodate small-scale producers and the unique challenges they face.
Amazon REDD+ scheme side-steps land rights to reward small forest producers [07/03/2019]
- To safeguard the almost 90 percent of its land still covered with forest, the small Brazilian state of Acre implemented a carbon credit scheme that assigns monetary value to stored carbon in the standing trees and rewards local “ecosystem service providers” for their role protecting it. - Acre’s System of Incentives for Environmental Services (SISA) rewards sustainable harvesting of rubber, nuts and other commodities from the forests. Crucially, it doesn’t make land tenure a prerequisite to qualify for incentives such as subsidies and agricultural supplies. - But a new study criticizes the program for giving state officials the power to determine what counts as “green labor.” The program already promotes intensive agricultural practices and artificial fishponds, and experts warn more damaging practices may be permitted under the control of new state officials. - There’s also no definitive evidence that the program works to conserve forests, with the rate of deforestation in Acre holding relatively steady since SISA came into effect.
Travelogue: Ground-truthing satellite data in Borneo (Insider) [07/03/2019]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his visit to Indonesian Borneo last month. - The goal of the Kalimantan trip was to ground-truth some GPS points that satellite data via Global Forest Watch suggested could be areas of recent deforestation. - This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
Madagascar mine ignites protests, community division [07/02/2019]
- An Australian mining company, Base Resources, plans to break ground soon on a mineral sands mining project in southwestern Madagascar. - Base Resources says the project represents a development opportunity for the region. It has the support of most government officials and local mayors. - But local opposition groups have called for an end to the project, citing the negative environmental impact it could have and insisting that it’s been made possible only through corrupt land deals. - The battle over the project has played out in the Malagasy media for several years and is reaching a fever pitch as the project nears fruition. In the latest development, a Madagascar court released nine community members held for six weeks on accusations of participating in the destruction of Base Resources’ exploration campsite.
Amazon rural development and conservation: a path to sustainability? [07/02/2019]
- Oil palm production in Brazil continues to be conducted on a small scale as compared to the nation’s vast soy plantations. Total oil palm cultivation was just 50,000 hectares in 2010. Today, that total has risen to 236,000 hectares, 85 percent of which is in Pará state. - While environmentalists fear escalated oil palm production could lead to greater deforestation, Brazil possesses 200 million hectares (772,204 square miles) of deforested, degraded lands, three quarters of which is utilized as pasture, most of it with low productivity that could be converted to oil palm. - The Rurality Project offers an example of sustainable oil palm production through its recruitment of small-scale growers to boost local economies. But, the bulk of Amazon palm oil is produced on large plantations managed by big firms, like Biopalma, many of which have poor socioenvironmental records. - If oil palm is to become a large-scale reality in Brazil, without major deforestation, growth will need to be backed by strong regulation and enforcement. But critics say the Bolsonaro government is backing weak regulation that encourages land speculation and deforestation.
Casualty of peace? Study shows rise in deforestation after conflicts [07/02/2019]
- A new study records a dramatic increase in the deforestation rate in four countries emerging from years of conflict. - One of the countries studied, Sri Lanka, saw its deforestation rate in the five years after the end of its quarter-century civil war jump by 31.5 percent compared to the last five years of the conflict. - Similar surges were seen in the three other countries: Peru, Ivory Coast and Nepal. The four countries saw an average spike in the five-year post-war period of 68 percent, against the world mean rate of 7.2 percent. - Corruption at different scales, lack of funding for the entities in charge of forest and environmental management, inadequate policies, poor implementation are identified as key drivers of deforestation in these biodiversity hotspots.
An Indonesian forest community grapples with the arrival of the outside world [07/01/2019]
- Siberut Island, part of the Mentawai archipelago in western Indonesia, is recognized as a U.N. Biosphere Reserve due to its outstanding cultural and ecological value. - The traditions of the indigenous Mentawai people, including agroforestry and customary land tenure, have allowed the people of the island live off the forest without depleting it. - Roughly half of the island is protected as a national park. The rest, however, has been parceled out for timber and biomass plantations, road building, and the development of a special economic zone including a yacht marina and luxury resort.
Amazon infrastructure puts 68% of indigenous lands / protected areas at risk: report [06/28/2019]
- 68 percent of the indigenous lands and protected natural areas in the nine nations encompassing the Amazon region are under pressure from roads, mining, dams, oil drilling, forest fires and deforestation, according to a new report by RAISG, the Amazonian Geo-referenced Socio-Environmental Information Network. - Of the 6,345 indigenous territories located within the nine Amazonian countries surveyed, 2,042 (32 percent) are threatened or pressured by two types of infrastructure activities, while 2,584 (41 percent) are threatened or pressured by at least one. Only 8 percent of the total are not threatened or pressured at all. - In the case of the 692 protected natural areas in the Amazon region, 193 (28 percent) suffer three kinds of threat or pressure, and 188 (27 percent) suffer threats or pressure from two activities. - “These are alarming numbers: 43 percent of the protected natural areas and 19 percent of the indigenous lands are under three or more types of pressure or threat,” said Júlia Jacomini, a researcher with the ISA, Instituto Socioambiental, an NGO and RAISG partner.
Saving Guatemala’s vanishing macaws: Q&A with veterinarian Luis Fernando Guerra [06/27/2019]
- The northern subspecies of the scarlet macaw (Ara macao cyanoptera) has disappeared from much of its former range in Mexico and Central America due to habitat loss and wildlife trafficking. Researchers estimate there are between 150 and 200 scarlet macaws remaining in Guatemala. - Fire, used to clear land for agriculture, is the biggest driver of habitat loss in Guatemala. So far this year, NASA satellites have detected more than 40,000 fires in Guatemala, many occurring in scarlet macaw habitat. - The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is trying to protect Guatemala’s macaws through a program that monitors nest sites and places lab-hatched chicks in adoptive nests. - Mongabay caught up with WCS Lead Medical Veterinarian Luis Fernando Guerra as he was working in the field in Laguna del Tigre National Park to chat about his work and the outlook for scarlet macaws.
Food choice leaves some lemurs more vulnerable to loss of forest habitat [06/26/2019]
- The gut microbes of some lemur species are specialized to help in digesting food found in their habitats, a new study has found. - Lemurs are only found in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, and are one of the most threatened primate groups in the world. - The study suggests the mostly leaf-eating group of lemurs known as sifakas, in the genus Propithecus, host gut microbes that are specialized for their diets and therefore less adaptable to food sources found in other habitats. - Madagascar reports alarming rates of deforestation, losing 2 percent of its primary rainforest just last year, the highest rate of any country.
Satellite data suggests deforestation on the rise in Brazil [06/25/2019]
- Newly released data based on analysis of satellite imagery suggests that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen relative to last year. - On June 21, the Brazil-based research NGO Imazon published its May 2019 deforestation report, showing the area of forest cleared in the Brazilian Amazon over the past 12-months is 43 percent higher than a year ago, according to short-term alert data. - However, data from Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE shows a much-smaller increase of 1 percent for the period. - Brazil is now entering the peak deforestation season so environmentalists are closely watching to see whether the recent trend continues or accelerates.
Brazil’s Roraima state at mercy of 2019 wildfires as federal funds dry up [06/25/2019]
- Brazil, and particularly the Amazonian state of Roraima, have seen large numbers of forest fires so far this year. From January through May, Brazil recorded 17,913 blazes nationwide, with 11,804 occurring in the nine Amazonian states. Only 2016 saw more harm in the Brazilian Amazon, when 13,663 wildfires burned over the same period. - From January to May, Roraima registered 4,600 fires, the most numerous of any state for that period (Roraima saw just 1,970 fires during all of last year). The previous annual record for a Brazilian state was set by Mato Grosso, which suffered 4,927 forest fires in all of 2016. - The uptick in fires is being blamed on a number of factors, including worsening Amazon drought brought by climate change, land theft and illegal deforestation (fire is typically used as a tool to clear rainforest in preparation for use by cattle ranchers and large-scale agribusiness). - Another contributing factor: federal deforestation and firefighting policies. Since March, the Bolsonaro government has cut $7.3 million slated for fire prevention and environmental inspections to Ibama and ICMBio, Brazil’s two federal environmental agencies.
Belize to protect critical wildlife corridor that’s home to jaguars and more [06/24/2019]
- The government of Belize has approved a proposal to protect the Maya Forest Corridor, a key stretch of jungle linking some of the region’s largest wilderness areas. - Once the corridor is secured, it will create the largest contiguous block of forest in Central America, experts say. - The Maya Forest Corridor is home to iconic animals like the jaguar; the critically endangered Central American river turtle; the endangered Central American spider monkey or Geoffroy’s spider monkey; and the endangered Baird’s tapir. - There is, however, a lot of work to be done before the Maya Forest Corridor gains official legal protection, including securing key privately owned patches of forest in the area.
Logging road construction has surged in the Congo Basin since 2003 [06/24/2019]
- Logging road networks have expanded widely in the Congo Basin since 2003, according to a new study. - The authors calculated that the length of logging roads doubled within concessions and rose by 40 percent outside of concessions in that time period, growing by 87,000 kilometers (54,000 miles). - Combined with rising deforestation in the region since 2000, the increase in roads is concerning because road building is often followed by a pulse of settlement leading to deforestation, hunting and mining in forest ecosystems.
Mongabay investigative series helps confirm global insect decline [06/24/2019]
- In a newly published four-part series, Mongabay takes a deep dive into the science behind the so-called “Insect Apocalypse,” recently reported in the mainstream media. - To create the series, Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and other scientists on six continents and working in 12 nations, producing what is possibly the most in-depth reporting published to date by any news media outlet on the looming insect abundance crisis. - While major peer-reviewed studies are few (with evidence resting primarily so far on findings in Germany and Puerto Rico), there is near consensus among the two dozen researchers surveyed: Insects are likely in serious global decline. - The series is in four parts: an introduction and critical review of existing peer-reviewed data; a look at temperate insect declines; a survey of tropical declines; and solutions to the problem. Researchers agree: Conserving insects — imperative to preserving the world’s ecosystem services — is vital to humanity.
Science community rallies support to save Madagascar’s natural riches [06/24/2019]
- Madagascar is set to host the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s 56th annual meeting in July. - The organizers have launched a petition to garner support for urgent actions that must be taken to preserve the island nation’s unique biodiversity. - The petition will be presented to the country’s president, who has been invited to sign it and recognize it as the Declaration of Ivato, after the site where the meeting will take place. - The document, available in four languages, can be accessed online until Aug. 2.
Fire, cattle, cocaine: Deforestation spikes in Guatemalan national park [06/21/2019]
- Laguna del Tigre, Guatemala’s largest national park, provides habitat for an estimated 219 bird species, 97 butterflies, 38 reptiles and 120 mammals, and is also home to ancient Mayan ruins. But conservationists and archeologists say this biological and cultural wealth is threatened by high levels of deforestation in the park. - Between 2001 and 2018, Laguna del Tigre lost nearly 30 percent of its tree cover, and preliminary data for 2019 indicate the rate of loss is set to rise dramatically this year. Fire is the dominant driver of deforestation in the park, and is used to clear the land of forest and make it more farmable. Satellite imagery shows vast swaths of recently burned land where old growth rainforest stood less than 20 years ago. - Authorities blame residents within the park for much of the destruction, as well as industrial cattle operations and cocaine traffickers who set up airstrips on cleared land within the park. But community members have defended what they say is their right to live on the land and to use its resources, in some cases even resorting to violence. - Wildlife Conservation Society, along with the National Council for Protected Areas, have begun working on peace-building initiatives for the area with international agencies and organizations in the hopes of bridging the gap between environmental protection and human rights. But a lot of work remains.
The mine that promised to protect the environment: A cautionary tale [06/21/2019]
- In 2004, mining behemoth Rio Tinto made a bold commitment not just to protect but to “improve” the environment at its mining sites in ecologically sensitive areas around the world, through a strategy it called “net positive impact.” - A site in southeastern Madagascar where it was opening an ilmenite mine amid a gravely threatened coastal forest that’s home to unique species found nowhere else on the planet seemed like a good place to start. - A little more than a decade later, however, the initiative was dead: facing financial headwinds and falling behind on its pledges, Rio Tinto abandoned the NPI strategy in 2016. - In an article in the July issue of Scientific American, Mongabay contributor Rowan Moore Gerety tells how Rio Tinto came to make that promise and then to renege on it — and describes the result for Madagascar’s coastal forest and the people who live there.
A four-year ox-cart ride around Madagascar: Q&A with Alexandre Poussin [06/20/2019]
- Alexandre Poussin and his family recently completed a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) oxcart ride around Madagascar, visiting sanctuaries for the island’s unique biodiversity that are off the beaten path. - Poussin witnessed firsthand the destruction of Madagascar’s forests and the threat faced by endemic species found there. - The French traveler and writer is encouraging tourists to the island to help protect its natural heritage.
’Livestock revolution’ triggered decline in global pasture: Report [06/19/2019]
- Since 2000, the area of land dedicated for livestock pasture around the world has declined by 1.4 million square kilometers (540,500 square miles) — an area about the size of Peru. - A new report attributes the contraction to more productive breeds, better animal health and higher densities of animals on similar amounts of land. - The report’s authors say that technological solutions could help meet rising demand for meat and milk in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, without reversing the downward trend.
New tool helps monitor forest change within commodities supply chains [06/18/2019]
- With commercial agriculture driving some 40 percent of tropical deforestation, more than 300 major companies involved in the commodities trade have pledged to avoid deforestation in their supply chains. - To help the companies and financial institutions adhere to these commitments, Global Forest Watch (GFW) has launched a new forest monitoring tool called GFW Pro. - Using tree cover change information from GFW’s interactive maps, the new desktop application enables users to observe and monitor deforestation and fires within individual farms and supply sheds or across portfolios of properties and political jurisdictions. - To encourage use by businesses, the new tool presents the information in graphs and charts to companies for easy and regular monitoring, as they might monitor daily changes in stock prices.
As Cambodia swelters, climate-change suspicion falls on deforestation [06/17/2019]
- Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, with key drivers including demand for timber products, land-use conversion, and urbanization. - Extreme temperatures have led to public criticism linking deforestation to unusually hot weather. - The Cambodian government has denied this connection, but emerging science provides compelling links between the two issues.
Deforested areas bleed heat to nearby forests, drive local extinctions [06/17/2019]
- Forests play an important role in cooling the Earth. - Deforestation doesn’t just contribute to temperature increases where it occurs but also in adjacent forests, according to a new study. - This leaking of heat into adjacent forests puts species living there at risk by pushing up temperatures that are already rising due to climate change. - This is bad news for countries like Madagascar, which not only hosts many endemic species with limited habitat, but also has alarming rates of deforestation.
Nearly 600 plant species have gone extinct in last 250 years [06/17/2019]
- At least 571 species of seed-bearing plants have gone extinct around the world in the last two and a half centuries. - This number is nearly four times higher than the previous known estimate and more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians that are known to have gone extinct, researchers say. - The study estimates that plants are now becoming extinct nearly 500 times faster than the background extinction rate for plants. - The geographical pattern of modern plant extinctions resembles that for animals: most plant extinctions occur on islands, in the tropics, and in areas with a Mediterranean climate that are rich in biodiversity.
Despite a decade of zero-deforestation vows, forest loss continues: Greenpeace [06/13/2019]
- Nearly a decade after the Board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) passed a resolution to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020 when sourcing commodities such as soya, palm oil, beef, and paper products, these commodities continue to drive widespread deforestation, a new report from Greenpeace says. - Greenpeace contacted 66 companies, asking them to demonstrate their progress in ending deforestation by disclosing their cattle, cocoa, dairy, palm oil, pulp and paper and soya suppliers. Of the companies that did respond, most came back with only partial information. - The report concludes that not a single company could demonstrate “meaningful effort to eradicate deforestation from its supply chain.” - Other experts say that transparency in supply chains is improving, and that measuring compliance to zero-deforestation goals requires more nuanced research.
The Great Insect Dying: How to save insects and ourselves [06/13/2019]
- The entomologists interviewed for this Mongabay series agreed on three major causes for the ongoing and escalating collapse of global insect populations: habitat loss (especially due to agribusiness expansion), climate change and pesticide use. Some added a fourth cause: human overpopulation. - Solutions to these problems exist, most agreed, but political commitment, major institutional funding and a large-scale vision are lacking. To combat habitat loss, researchers urge preservation of biodiversity hotspots such as primary rainforest, regeneration of damaged ecosystems, and nature-friendly agriculture. - Combatting climate change, scientists agree, requires deep carbon emission cuts along with the establishment of secure, very large conserved areas and corridors encompassing a wide variety of temperate and tropical ecosystems, sometimes designed with preserving specific insect populations in mind. - Pesticide use solutions include bans of some toxins and pesticide seed coatings, the education of farmers by scientists rather than by pesticide companies, and importantly, a rethinking of agribusiness practices. The Netherlands’ Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery includes some of these elements.
Out on a limb: Unlikely collaboration boosts orangutans in Borneo [06/12/2019]
- Logging and hunting have decimated a population of Bornean orangutans in Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in Indonesia. - Help has recently come from a pair of unlikely allies: an animal welfare group and a human health care nonprofit. - Cross-disciplinary collaboration to meet the needs of ecosystems and humans is becoming an important tool for overcoming seemingly intractable obstacles in conservation.
For the Philippine eagle, a shot at survival means going abroad [06/11/2019]
- The Philippines has loaned off two Philippine eagles (Pithecophaga jefferyi) to Singapore for a 10-year breeding agreement, part of wider efforts to protect the species against disease outbreaks and natural calamities. - Prior to the agreement, the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) managed the only sanctuary of its kind in the world for this critically endangered species. - Despite rigorous community-oriented programs to protect the eagles, human activity, including hunting and habitat destruction, remains the biggest threat to the Philippine eagles.
Inside an ambitious project to rewild trafficked bonobos in the Congo Basin [06/11/2019]
- A decade ago, a troop of formerly captive bonobos was for the first time reintroduced to the wild in the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Following that successful reintroduction, a new troop of 14 bonobos is now in the process of being released and is anticipated to be fully in the wild by September. - Congolese conservation group Amis des Bonobos du Congo (ABC) is working to make sure the communities surrounding the release site feel invested in the project.
Dam in Ethiopia has wiped out indigenous livelihoods, report finds [06/11/2019]
- A dam in southern Ethiopia built to supply electricity to cities and control the flow of water for irrigating industrial agriculture has led to the displacement and loss of livelihoods of indigenous groups, the Oakland Institute has found. - On June 10, the policy think tank published a report of its research, demonstrating that the effects of the Gibe III dam on the Lower Omo River continue to ripple through communities, forcing them onto sedentary farms and leading to hunger, conflict and human rights abuses. - The Oakland Institute applauds the stated desire of the new government, which came to power in April 2018, to look out for indigenous rights. - But the report’s authors caution that continued development aimed at increasing economic productivity and attracting international investors could further marginalize indigenous communities in Ethiopia.
Bumpy ride for conservation in PNG as lack of roads hinders activities [06/10/2019]
- Much of Papua New Guinea remains inaccessible by road and the existing roads are often in poor condition. - While lack of road access has historically helped to keep ecosystems intact, it comes with both social and environmental downsides. - Some communities are negotiating with resource extraction companies who promise to provide roads and other needed services. Lack of infrastructure also hampers efforts to monitor and protect the environment. - Some NGOs, whose work suffers from difficult and expensive travel to project areas, call for carefully planned expansion of the road network.
Brazil guts environmental agencies, clears way for unchecked deforestation [06/10/2019]
- The Bolsonaro administration has launched policies that undermine IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and ICMBio (The Chico Mendes Institute) which protects the nation’s federal conservation units, by effectively dismantling environmental law enforcement and allowing deforestation to proceed unchecked. - Fines imposed for illegal deforestation between Jan. 1 and May 15 this year were down 34 percent from the same period in 2018, the largest percentage drop ever recorded. It was also smallest number of fines ever imposed (850), compared to 1,290 in the same period last year. - Government seizures of illegally harvested timber fell even more precipitously, with just 40 cubic meters (1,410 cubic feet), equal to 10 large trees, confiscated in the first four months of 2019. By contrast, 25,000 cubic meters (883,000 cubic feet) of illegal timber were seized in 2018. IBAMA is now required to announce in advance the time and location of all its planned raids on illegal loggers. - Bolsonaro has defanged deforestation enforcement further by firing or not replacing top environmental officials. This includes 21 out of 27 IBAMA state superintendents responsible for imposing most of the deforestation fines. Also, 47 of Brazil’s conservation units now lack directors, leaving a combined area greater than the size of England without conservation leadership.
The Great Insect Dying: The tropics in trouble and some hope [06/10/2019]
- Insect species are most diverse in the tropics, but are largely unresearched, with many species not described by science. But entomologists believe abundance is being impacted by climate change, habitat destruction and the introduction of industrial agribusiness with its heavy pesticide use. - A 2018 repeat of a 1976 study in Puerto Rico, which measured the total biomass of a rainforest’s arthropods, found that in the intervening decades populations collapsed. Sticky traps caught up to 60-fold fewer insects than 37 years prior, while ground netting caught 8 times fewer insects than in 1976. - The same researchers also looked at insect abundance in a tropical forest in Western Mexico. There, biomass abundance fell eightfold in sticky traps from 1981 to 2014. Researchers from Southeast Asia, Australia, Oceania and Africa all expressed concern to Mongabay over possible insect abundance declines. - In response to feared tropical declines, new insect surveys are being launched, including the Arthropod Initiative and Global Malaise Trap Program. But all of these new initiatives suffer the same dire problem: a dearth of funding and lack of interest from foundations, conservation groups and governments.
Indonesian ban on clearing new swaths of forest to be made permanent [06/10/2019]
- A temporary moratorium that prohibits the issuance of new permits to clear primary and peat forests is set to be made permanent later this year. - Though largely ineffective in stemming deforestation in the first few years after its introduction in 2011, the moratorium has since 2016 been shored up by peat-protection regulations that have helped slow the loss of forest cover. - Environmental activists have welcomed the move to make the moratorium permanent, but say there’s room to strengthen it, such as by extending it to include secondary forests. - They’ve also called for the closing of a loophole that allows primary and peat forests to be razed for plantations of rice, sugarcane and other crops deemed important to national food security.
The Great Insect Dying: Vanishing act in Europe and North America [06/06/2019]
- Though arthropods make up most of the species on Earth, and much of the planet’s biomass, they are significantly understudied compared to mammals, plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish. Lack of baseline data makes insect abundance decline difficult to assess. - Insects in the temperate EU and U.S. are the world’s best studied, so it is here that scientists expect to detect precipitous declines first. A groundbreaking study published in October 2017 found that flying insects in 63 protected areas in Germany had declined by 75 percent in just 25 years. - The UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme has a 43-year butterfly record, and over that time two-thirds of the nations’ species have decreased. Another recent paper found an 84 percent decline in butterflies in the Netherlands from 1890 to 2017. Still, EU researchers say far more data points are needed. - Neither the U.S. or Canada have conducted an in-depth study similar to that in Germany. But entomologists agree that major abundance declines are likely underway, and many are planning studies to detect population drops. Contributors to decline are climate change, pesticides and ecosystem destruction.
Brazil’s Congress reverses Bolsonaro, restores Funai’s land demarcation powers [06/05/2019]
- On May 22, 2019, the lower house of Congress voted to maintain Funai, Brazil’s indigenous agency, under the Ministry of Justice, as well as affirm Funai’s land demarcation powers. The decision was endorsed by the Senate on May 28 and now the text has to be endorsed by President Jair Bolsonaro by June 14. According to rights groups and politicians, Bolsonaro is not likely to make changes regarding Funai - Funai existed within the Ministry of Justice from 1967, but was placed under the new Ministry of Human Rights, Family and Women created by President Bolsonaro through a provisional measure, MP 870, on the first day of his presidency. Such measures must be approved within 120 days by Congress to become law or they become null. - MP 870 transferred decision-making power over the demarcation of indigenous reserves from Funai to the Ministry of Agriculture. - Changes to Funai’s decision-making authorities and position triggered outcry from rights groups and justices, who claimed conflicts of interest and said it was a strategy to weaken Funai.
Climate change threatens to water down Cerrado’s rich biodiversity: Study [06/04/2019]
- The new study by researchers in Brazil shows that climate change will lead to local extinctions of several mammal species throughout the Cerrado, the vast tropical savanna biome. - Immigration of species from other biomes, including the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest, will be higher than regional extinctions. But because these species are commonly found, it will still lead to an overall loss in biodiversity in most regions of the Cerrado. - The widespread erosion of differences between ecological communities is one of the main drivers of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. - Future distributions of species based on climate change must be considered in conservation decisions and the development of protected areas in the Cerrado, the researchers say.
The Sateré-Mawé move to reclaim Amazon ancestral lands from invaders [06/04/2019]
- The Andirá-Marau Indigenous Reserve in Brazil’s Amazonas state — in a remote part of the Amazon basin — covers 7,885 square kilometers (3,044 square miles), and is occupied by 13,350 Sateré-Mawé indigenous people who live sustainably off the rainforest. - However, an area of Sateré-Mawé ancestral land along the Mariaquã River lies outside the demarcated reserve. It was abandoned by the Sateré-Mawé due to an epidemic. The Indians have renewed their claim to the territory since 2002 but FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, has not yet sorted the situation out. - But the Mariaquã lands are now in dispute, as illegal loggers and land grabbers invade and threaten the indigenous people living in the area around the village of Campo Branco. Dozens of outsiders have made land claims to CAR, Brazil’s Rural Environmental Registry, and allegedly threatened the Indians if they don’t vacate. - Mongabay’s reporting team joined a small group of Sateré-Mawé as they travelled to Campo Branco to strengthen their indigenous land claim. The Sateré fear that President Bolsonaro’s pledge to pass a law allowing Brazilians with “official” land claims to use arms to evict indigenous “invaders” could be used against them.
The Great Insect Dying: A global look at a deepening crisis [06/03/2019]
- Recent studies from Germany and Puerto Rico, and a global meta-study, all point to a serious, dramatic decline in insect abundance. Plummeting insect populations could deeply impact ecosystems and human civilization, as these tiny creatures form the base of the food chain, pollinate, dispose of waste, and enliven soils. - However, limited baseline data makes it difficult for scientists to say with certainty just how deep the crisis may be, though anecdotal evidence is strong. To that end, Mongabay is launching a four-part series — likely the most in-depth, nuanced look at insect decline yet published by any media outlet. - Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and researchers on six continents working in over a dozen nations to determine what we know regarding the “great insect dying,” including an overview article, and an in-depth story looking at temperate insects in the U.S. and the European Union — the best studied for their abundance. - We also utilize Mongabay’s position as a leader in tropical reporting to focus solely on insect declines in the tropics and subtropics, where lack of baseline data is causing scientists to rush to create new, urgently needed survey study projects. The final story looks at what we can do to curb and reverse the loss of insect abundance.