10-second nature news digest

Conservation news digest for busy people from @Mongabay. Story summaries that can be read in about ten seconds per post.

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



Where the forest has no name [05/24/2019]
- North America’s temperate rainforest extends some 2,500 miles from California to the Gulf of Alaska, providing important habitat for many species and playing a big role in global carbon sequestration. However, despite its uniqueness, there is no officially recognized name for the whole of the forest.
- This forest has been beset by logging over the last century, with little unprotected old growth remaining. The Trump administration’s plans to allow logging in roadless areas in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest could ramp up its loss in the coming years.
- Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate, editors of Cascadia Times, argue an official name could help galvanize action to save this forest.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


New report examines drivers of rising Amazon deforestation on country-by-country basis [05/23/2019]
- A new report examines the “unchecked development” in the Amazon that has driven deforestation rates to near-record levels throughout the world’s largest tropical forest.
- The main drivers of deforestation vary from country to country, according to the report, a collaborative effort by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Andes Amazon Fund.
- While the causes of Amazonian forest destruction vary, one thing that is common throughout the region is a lack of adequate resources for oversight and enforcement of environmental regulations. And “signs suggest this problem is only growing,” according to the report.


Plants are working hard to keep pace with increasing carbon dioxide [05/23/2019]
- Global photosynthesis in terrestrial plants, or the amount of atmospheric carbon that plants are absorbing to create organic matter, has increased in nearly constant proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, a new study has found.
- Using computer models, researchers found that elevated carbon dioxide levels drive increase in leaf area of plants in the tropics. In higher latitudes, though, rising global temperatures appears to be what’s driving increases in both leaf area and growing seasons.
- This increase in global photosynthesis will likely slow in the future, the researchers say.
- Plants are providing a helping hand by slowing down the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and we should take advantage of that by reducing emissions and conserving forests, the researchers say.


Former Brazilian enviro ministers blast Bolsonaro environmental assaults [05/23/2019]
- A new manifesto by eight of Brazil’s past environment ministers has accused the rightist Bolsonaro administration of “a series of unprecedented actions that are destroying the capacity of the environment ministry to formulate and carry out public policies.”
- The ministers warn that Bolsonaro’s draconian environmental policies, including the weakening of environmental licensing, plus sweeping illegal deforestation amnesties, could cause great economic harm to Brazil, possibly endangering trade agreements with the European Union.
- Brazil this month threatened to overhaul rules used to select deforestation projects for the Amazon Fund, a pool of money provided to Brazil annually, mostly by Norway and Germany. Both nations deny being consulted about the rule change that could end many NGOs receiving grants from the fund.
- Environment Minister Riccardo Salles also announced a reassessment of every one of Brazil’s 334 conservation units. Some parks may be closed, including the Tamoios Ecological Station, where Bolsonaro was fined for illegal fishing in 2012 and which he’d like to turn into the “Brazilian Cancun.”


Documentary on world’s rarest ape generates film festival buzz [05/23/2019]
- The first documentary ever made about the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest and most threatened species of great apes, is racking up awards at film festivals around the world.
- U.K.-based filmmaker Matt Senior says his interest in the orangutan, which was only described as a new species in 2017, was piqued by a Mongabay article.
- Only 800 of the apes are believed to exist in the Batang Toru forest in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Their habitat is under threat from a massive Chinese-funded hydropower project being built in the area.
- Matt says he hopes the documentary will raise public awareness about this newest species of orangutan and the very real threats pushing it toward extinction.


For India’s imperiled apes, thinking locally matters [05/23/2019]
- Northeastern India is home to two ape species: eastern and western hoolock gibbons.
- Populations of hoolock gibbons in India are both protected and harmed by practices and beliefs specific to the human communities with whom they share their habitats.
- In several gibbon habitats, local indigenous people are leading conservation efforts that are deeply informed by local circumstances.
- The fortunes of different gibbon populations within India show that there is no one-size-fits-all conservation strategy for apes.


Indonesia calls on palm oil industry, obscured by secrecy, to remain opaque [05/21/2019]
- The Indonesian government has called on the country’s palm oil companies to refrain from releasing their plantation data, citing national security, privacy and competition reasons.
- The publication of the data is a necessary part of sustainability certification under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
- Activists say they fear that withholding the information will further damage the reputation of Indonesia’s palm oil industry, which is already beset by allegations of deforestation, land grabbing, and labor rights abuses.
- The government has for years sent out mixed messages about whether it will make available the plantation data, which activists say is crucial in helping resolve the hundreds of land disputes across Indonesia, most of them involving palm concessions.


Bauxite mining and Chinese dam push Guinea’s chimpanzees to the brink [05/21/2019]
- Guinea is home to about half of the world’s critically endangered western chimpanzees.
- A bauxite mining boom is driving the chimpanzees from their habitats in Guinea’s Boké region. To compensate, two mining firms agreed in 2017 to fund the establishment of Moyen-Bafing National Park, home to an estimated 5,300 chimpanzees.
- The national park is itself threatened by a bauxite mine and a proposed hydroelectric dam — projects that could kill as many as 2,800 of the great apes.


‘Resisting to exist’: Indigenous women unite against Brazil’s far-right president [05/20/2019]
- Brazil today is home to 900,000 indigenous people, speaking 274 languages and with widely differing cultural traditions. Indigenous rights were enshrined in Brazil’s 1988 constitution, including the demarcation and protection of indigenous ancestral lands.
- But indigenous people have felt seriously threatened since Jair Bolsonaro took office in January, as illegal invasions of indigenous territories have rapidly escalated, and as the administration threatens to put policies in place to limit further indigenous demarcations, eliminate indigenous comments on infrastructure projects, and cut back on health services.
- Many of the leaders in the fight against Bolsonaro’s policies are women; in this story, they give voice to their outrage at the danger to their homelands, communities and families.


Solomon Islanders imprisoned for trying to stop the logging of their forests [05/17/2019]
- A group of residents of Nende Island in the Solomon Islands claim corrupt government practices allowed a logging company to get a license to log the island’s primary forests, as well as cropland. Activists also allege the company, Malaysia-based Xiang Lin SI Ltd, logged outside of its concession area.
- The “Nende Five,” as they’ve become known, say they were never given an opportunity to object to the logging of their land, and Xiang Lin proceeded without obtaining the consent of the majority of residents.
- The protesters say they tried to stop the logging through legal processes. When heavy equipment was destroyed last year, the Nende Five were taken into custody. However, they say they’re innocent of the charges against them.
- Their trial has been adjourned 29 times for lack of evidence, and was recently vacated after two days in court due to allegations that the police had not followed due process in obtaining evidence from one of the defendants. The trial is expected to resume in June. Meanwhile, deforestation is ramping up on Nende as logging roads multiply and displace the island’s old growth rainforest.


A new election brings little hope for Solomon Islands’ vanishing forests [05/17/2019]
- Longstanding allegations of corruption plague forest governance in the Solomon Islands, with residents and NGOs claiming government officials are allowing logging to illegally penetrate primary forests on community and ancestral land.
- Satellite data show several surges in deforestation across the country since the beginning of the year.
- Many were hoping the Solomon Islands’ recent national election would bring needed change. However, Manasseh Sogavare was elected Prime Minster last month, a move observers say is, at best, an extension of the status quo.
- In the meantime, mining companies appear to be moving in to extract mineral resources from areas that have been logged.


Red colobus conservation in Zanzibar: A cautiously optimistic tale [05/17/2019]
- Jozani-Chwaka Bay National Park was established in 2004 to protect the endangered Zanzibar red colobus.
- Initially met with conflict and resistance, the conservation project has now been embraced by local communities because they directly share in half of all tourism revenues.
- This kind of community forest management could prove a successful model for other conservation sites in Tanzania and beyond.


In Indonesia, a flawed certification scheme lets illegal loggers raze away [05/16/2019]
- The seizure of more than 400 containers of illegally logged timber in a series of busts since last December has shone a spotlight on Indonesia’s mechanism for certifying legal timber.
- Some of the wood has been traced back to companies certified under the country’s SVLK scheme. That’s the same scheme that the EU relies on to ensure that its imports of Indonesian timber are legally harvested.
- The seizures and findings by activists highlight increased illegal logging in the relatively pristine eastern Indonesian regions of Maluku and Papua.
- Companies engaged in illegal logging exploit a variety of methods, from cutting in abandoned concessions to using farmers’ groups and indigenous communities as fronts for harvesting in areas that would otherwise be off-limits for commercial logging.


’Green’ bonds finance industrial tree plantations in Brazil [05/16/2019]
- The Environmental Paper Network (EPN), a group of some 140 NGOs with the goal of making the pulp and paper industry more sustainable, released a briefing contending that green or climate bonds issued by Fibria, a pulp and paper company, went to maintaining and expanding plantations of eucalyptus trees.
- The report suggests that the Brazilian company inflated the amount of carbon that new planting would store.
- The author of the briefing also questions the environmental benefits of maintaining industrial monocultures of eucalyptus, a tree that requires a lot of water along with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer that can impact local ecosystems and human communities.


At 2,624 years, a bald cypress is oldest known living tree in eastern North America [05/16/2019]
- One bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) growing along the Black River in the state of North Carolina in the United States is at least 2,624 years old as of 2018, a new study has found.
- This estimate, researchers say, makes it the oldest known living tree in eastern North America; the fifth oldest-known continuously living, sexually reproducing, non-clonal tree species; and the oldest known wetland tree species in the world.
- The trees’ growth rings serve as a valuable record of the region’s climate, including rainfall patterns.
- Large swaths of these ancient bald cypress stands still remain unprotected and need urgent conservation, researchers say.


Canopy-dwelling rainforest mammals most sensitive to human disturbance [05/15/2019]
- New research using arboreal camera traps finds that canopy-dwelling mammals are particularly sensitive to the impacts of human disturbance in rainforests and that these effects are easily missed by more traditional survey methods.
- Large-bodied arboreal species like the endangered Peruvian woolly monkey and the endangered black-faced spider monkey were found to be most impacted by forest disturbance, according to the study, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions last week.
- These larger primates are important seed dispersers for hardwood trees, which contribute disproportionately to the biomass of tropical forests. The loss of these species could thus lead to cascading ecosystems effects that might pose a significant threat to the carbon storage potential of degraded tropical forests.


An urban ‘butterfly experience’ in Sri Lanka [05/15/2019]
- A private sector initiative is setting up urban butterfly gardens in Sri Lanka, creating butterfly sanctuaries.
- The creator of the urban butterfly habitats is proposing the replication of his conservation model to support the survival of butterfly populations.
- Though there is high endemism, Sri Lanka’s butterflies are threatened by multiple causes including habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and increase in alien species.


The heat is on: Amazon tree loss could bring 1.45 degree C local rise [05/14/2019]
- A new modeling study finds that largely unrestricted “business-as-usual” Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado deforestation could result in the loss of an estimated 606,000 square kilometers of forest by 2050, leading to local temperature increases of up to 1.45 degrees Celsius, in addition to global rises in temperature.
- Under a Brazil Forest Code enforcement model, researchers predict deforestation would be limited to 79,000 square kilometers, with reforestation occurring over 110,000 square kilometers, leading to an average local increase of just 0.02 degrees Celsius.
- Researchers say loss of tree cover must be halted and reforestation program begun to protect people and wildlife, and curb regional warming.
- Reptiles and amphibians would be especially vulnerable to deforestation-triggered temperature rises and loss of humidity.


UK supermarkets implicated in Amazon deforestation supply chain: report [05/13/2019]
- Deforestation due to cattle ranching has increased in Brazil since 2014. With between 60 and 80 percent of deforested Amazon lands used for pasture, European retailers who source beef from Brazil risk amplifying Amazonian forest destruction unless international action is taken.
- A report from the UK organization Earthsight finds that UK supermarket chains — including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl — are still importing corned beef from Brazil’s largest beef producer, JBS, despite the company being implicated in a long string of corruption and illegal deforestation scandals over the last decade.
- JBS, one of the largest food companies in the world, has faced multiple corruption charges leading to the arrest of two of its former CEOs and was fined $8 million in 2017 for illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
- Many hope the forthcoming EU Communication on Stepping Up Action to Halt Deforestation will propose legislation to ensure EU companies and suppliers are not contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses. However, experts say such an agreement will only work if corporate standards are mandatory not voluntary.


Lions vs. porcupines: A thorny tale with a moral about man-eaters [05/10/2019]
- African lions do not usually feed on porcupines. However, in the absence of preferred prey like wildebeests, zebras and other ungulates, they can turn to the prickly rodents.
- Many of these encounters, according to a new study that documented 50 of them, don’t end well for the lions, which can be wounded or die from the quills.
- A lion wounded in a porcupine encounter, and thus impaired from hunting and feeding, may turn to hunting softer targets such as humans and cattle.
- The choice of porcupine as food also suggests the absence of other prey which may also lead a lion to prey on humans.


A Malagasy community races the timber mafia to save its forest [05/10/2019]
- The Vohibola forest is one of the last remaining primary forests along Madagascar’s eastern coast, supporting a large variety of endemic species found nowhere else on Earth.
- Under a renewed contract finalized this week the responsibility for its management was delegated to Razan’ny Vohibola, an association of volunteers from four surrounding villages.
- The task of protecting the forest, which is rapidly disappearing because of illegal logging, pits the local protectors against not just the timber mafia but also officials whom the villagers allege are complicit.
- Members of Razan’ny Vohibola were arrested in April on charges of aiding the illegal logging allegedly at the behest of corrupt officials, but released after the central environment ministry intervened.


Pressure mounts on EU to curb Brazilian deforestation, human rights abuses [05/09/2019]
- Concern is rising among Brazilian socioenvironmental NGOs and internationally over the new threats to indigenous people and rising deforestation seen under President Jair Bolsonaro — his administration completed its first 100 days in office in April.
- The EU is Brazil’s second largest trading partner, but currently lacks any binding trade regulations on agricultural goods linked to eliminating deforestation, reducing environmental degradation, and protecting against human rights violations.
- A new report by more than 20 NGOs — including FERN, Forest Peoples Programme, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Amazon Watch — is calling on the EU to include provisions in trade agreements now under negotiation, such as the EU/MERCOSOR agreement, that would fully protect forests and indigenous rights.


Dismantling of Brazilian environmental protections gains pace [05/08/2019]
- In his first 100 days in office, Jair Bolsonaro has moved fast to change personnel and reduce the authority of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, and ICMBio, which manages its conservation areas. His actions are seen as most benefiting ruralists — wealthy elite agribusiness and mining interests.
- Presidential Decree No. 9,760 creates “conciliation centers” to investigate environmental fines, and provides multiple new ways for appealing fines, while also preventing funds gathered via penalties from being distributed to NGOs for environmental projects.
- Some worry the government may use the new decree as a precedent for forgiving the hefty R$250 million (US$63.4 million) fine imposed by IBAMA on Brazil’s gigantic Vale mining company for environmental law infractions related to the Brumadinho tailings dam disaster, in which 235 people died.
- A large number of IBAMA staff have been fired, including 21 of its 27 regional superintendents, responsible for combating deforestation. Many of Bolsonaro’s replacements within the top ranks of the Environment Ministry, IBAMA and ICMBio are coming from the military.


‘To save a forest you have to destroy a nicer one’: U.S. Marines target forest in Guam [05/08/2019]
- The U.S. Marine Corps is building a base on Guam that will destroy 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of limestone forest, habitat for numerous endangered species.
- As mitigation, the military is funding forest “enhancement” to remove invasive species from fenced zones and restore seed dispersal by native birds.
- The fence’s success depends on maintenance into perpetuity, but biologists on Guam question how long funding will really last.


’Unprecedented’ loss of biodiversity threatens humanity, report finds [05/07/2019]
- The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a summary of far-reaching research on the threats to biodiversity on May 6.
- The findings are dire, indicating that around 1 million species of plants and animals face extinction.
- The full 1,500-page report, to be released later this year, raises concerns about the impacts of collapsing biodiversity on human well-being.


China, EU, US trading with Brazilian firms fined for Amazon deforestation: report [05/06/2019]
- Soy, cattle, timber and other commodity producers fined for Amazon illegal deforestation in Brazil continue to sell their products to companies in China, the European Union and United States according to a new report. The document names 23 importing companies, including giants Bunge, Cargill and Northwest Hardwoods.
- Large international investment firms, such as BlackRock, also continue to pump money into Brazilian firms, despite their being fined for illegal Amazon forest loss by the Brazilian government, according to the report. Many Brazilian producers deny the accuracy of the Amazon Watch document.
- Forest losses in the Brazilian Amazon jumped 54 percent in January 2019 compared to a year ago, and are expected to increase under the Bolsonaro administration which has announced plans for extensive environmental deregulation, and is making an aggressive push to develop the Amazon rainforest for agribusiness and mining.
- With Brazilian government checks on deforestation diminishing, many analysts feel that the only way to limit the loss of Amazon forests now will be to shed a bright light on global commodities supply chains in order to make consumers worldwide aware of the participation of international companies in deforestation.


Malaysia calls on Southeast Asia to back palm oil against ‘unfair’ claims [05/03/2019]
- The Malaysian government has called for support from fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to support the region’s palm oil industry in the wake of a European Union policy to stop recognizing the commodity as a biofuel.
- Malaysia and fellow ASEAN member Indonesia supply more than 80 percent of the world’s palm oil, while Singapore, another ASEAN state, is home to some of the world’s biggest palm oil companies and the banks that finance the industry.
- Malaysia’s minister of primary industries, Teresa Kok, says there’s a global campaign to portray the production of palm oil as exceptionally destructive, which she calls “extremely provocative and belittling.”
- While both the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have instated policies to curb the clearing of rainforest for palm plantations, there still remain challenges to ensuring sustainability across the wider industry, environmental activists say.


In Indonesia, bigger catches for a fishing village protecting its mangroves [05/03/2019]
- For years, weak law enforcement and low public awareness meant environmentally dangerous practices were commonly employed in countries like Indonesia.
- But local and national government reforms, combined with customary traditions and ambitious NGO programs, are beginning to address the problem.
- One village in western Borneo has seen a dramatic recovery in fish stocks after temporary fisheries closures were enacted.


Illegal logging poised to wipe Cambodian wildlife sanctuary off the map [05/02/2019]
- Beng Per Wildlife Sanctuary has lost more than 60 percent of its forest cover since it was established in 1993, with most of the loss occurring since 2010.
- A big driver behind the deforestation in Beng Per and in many other Cambodian protected areas was Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), which are areas of land – often in protected areas – allocated by the government to corporations aiming to invest in agriculture for short-term financial gains. Large areas of Beng Per were carved out for ELCs in 2011.
- While the Cambodian government stopped officially allocating ELCs in 2012, deforestation is still hitting the park hard as small-scale illegal logging gobbles up remaining forest outside ELC areas. And once the land is denuded, it’s considered fair game for new plantation development.
- Experts working on the ground say corruption is fuelling the widespread destruction of Cambodia’s forests, and is deeply entrenched in many different sectors including the federal government and local forest protection agencies.


Changing energy use in rural Africa with power from solar, clean stoves…and women [05/02/2019]
- Widespread use of fuelwood and charcoal for cooking and heating is a notable barrier to achieving development and conservation goals in sub-Saharan Africa, yet previous attempts at introducing better fuel technologies have largely failed.
- To address energy use at the source, recent efforts are underway that seek to improve adoption of new technologies, such as solar-powered equipment or efficient cookstoves, in rural communities.
- Rather than impose a new method or technology onto a community, encouraging behavior change by wrapping the technology in a collaborative or entrepreneurial envelope could encourage longer-lasting change.


It’s now or never for Madagascar’s biodiversity, experts say [05/02/2019]
- As Madagascar’s recently elected president completed his first 100 days in office, experts identify five priority areas for conservation.
- In a new comment piece in Nature Sustainability, the experts highlight the need for setting conservation goals that are aligned with the sustainable development of the country.
- Strengthening the rights of local people and the rule of law is key to successful conservation, the authors say.
- Urgent steps include tackling environmental crime, investing in protected areas, and mitigating environmental impacts from infrastructure development.


Huge rubber plantation in Cameroon halts deforestation following rebuke [05/01/2019]
- A massive rubber plantation operated by rubber supply group Halcyon Agri through its subsidiary Sudcam has come under fire in recent years for what many say are unsustainable environmental practices, lack of transparency, and negative impacts on local communities. Reports document the displacement of indigenous communities to make way for development, and felling has occurred right up against the intact rainforest of Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve.
- Initially silent about the rebuke of Sudcam, Halcyon unveiled a number of sustainability measures late last year and has actively sought to open a dialogue with NGOs. In response to criticisms, the company issued a “cease and desist” order on logging in Sudcam, developed a Sustainable Natural Rubber Supply Chain Policy, and created an independent Sustainability Council.
- Satellite imagery indicates no further clearing has happened since the deforestation ban was issued in Dec. 2018.
- Representatives of conservation NGOs that have been critical of the plantation in the past say they are pleased with Halcyon Agri’s response, and hope that the company will continue to improve conditions at its Sudcam plantation.


Controversial aquaculture projects threaten Myanmar’s remaining mangroves [05/01/2019]
- Business tycoons have illegally obtained land permits to develop aquaculture in Tanintharyi without consulting the forestry department for input.
- Villagers living nearby say the aquaculture facilities impact water quality and their ability to fish.
- Authorities are looking more closely at the development of aquaculture in Tanintharyi following a visit in March by the state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, who spoke with locals complaining about the impacts of the industry on their daily lives.


Western chimp numbers revised up to 53,000, but development threats loom [05/01/2019]
- A new survey of data from the IUCN’s Apes Database indicates that there are nearly 53,000 western chimpanzees in West Africa.
- The number is significantly higher than previous estimates, which placed the population closer to 35,000, but the subspecies remains categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The authors of the study say their findings can help governments in the region ensure that proposed infrastructure projects do as little harm to the remaining chimpanzee populations as possible.


Why Myanmar villagers still engage in illegal logging of mangroves [04/30/2019]
- The Irrawaddy Delta of Myanmar used to be rich in mangroves, but only 20 percent of the original coverage remains today.
- Although it’s illegal to log mangrove wood, people who live in villages without electricity still cut the increasingly fragmented mangrove forests of the delta for fuelwood for cooking.
- Logging isn’t just physically dangerous; it’s also legally risky.
- Fuel-efficient stoves, access to alternative fuels, and opportunities for employment could help reduce the amount of illegal logging of mangroves.


Amazon fish kill at Sinop spotlights risk from 80+ Tapajós basin dams [04/29/2019]
- Evidence shows that a 2019 fish kill in which 13 tons of dead fish were found in Brazil’s Teles Pires River was likely caused by anoxia (lack of oxygen) created by the filling of the Sinop dam’s reservoir by the Sinop HPP consortium (which includes French and Brazilian firms responsible for construction and operation).
- Scientists and environmentalists had warned of this and other ecological risks, but their calls for caution were ignored by regulators and resisted by the builder. Only 30 percent of vegetation was removed from the area of the reservoir, rather than the 100 percent required by law, which helped cause the die-off.
- The concern now is that similar incidents could occur elsewhere. There are at least 80 hydroelectric plants planned for the Juruena / Teles Pires basin alone — one of the Brazilian Amazon’s most important watersheds.
- Of immediate concern is the Castanheira dam on the Arinos River to be built by the federal Energy Research Company (EPE). Critics fear that, under the Jair Bolsonaro government, environmental licensing and construction will advance despite serious threats posed to indigenous reserves and the environment.


Meet the winners of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize [04/29/2019]
- This year is the 30th anniversary of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
- Also called the Green Nobel Prize, the annual award honors grassroots environmental heroes from six continental regions: Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and islands and island nations.
- This year’s winners are Alfred Brownell from Liberia, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren from Mongolia, Ana Colovic Lesoska from North Macedonia, Jacqueline Evans from the Cook Islands, Alberto Curamil from Chile, and Linda Garcia from the United States.


Brazil Supreme Court land demarcation decision sparks indigenous protest [04/26/2019]
- On January 1, the first day of his presidency, Jair Bolsonaro issued a provisional measure (MP 870) shifting decision-making power regarding indigenous reserve demarcations from Funai, Brazil’s indigenous agency, to the Ministry of Agriculture.
- MP 870 was quickly challenged as unconstitutional in Brazil’s Supreme Court, but on April 24 Supreme Court Justice Roberto Barroso rejected that challenge, though he did agree that if the Agriculture Ministry failed to carry through with indigenous demarcations in future, further legal action could go forward at that time.
- At their annual encampment in Brasilia from April 24-26, approximately 4,500 indigenous people from across Brazil protested Barroso’s demarcation decision by marching on the Supreme Court building. During the three-day encampment, indigenous groups also protested Bolsonaro’s plan to allow mining and agribusiness within indigenous reserves.
- Of special concern to indigenous people is the administration’s move toward adopting a policy of assimilation, which could result in the erosion of indigenous autonomy within ancestral reserves, and the absorption of indigenous cultures and traditions into Brazil’s predominant culture.


That Malagasy forest featured in Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’? It’s vanishing fast [04/26/2019]
- Parts of the Netflix series “Our Planet,” released this month, were shot in Kirindy Forest in the Menabe Antimena protected area in western Madagascar.
- It’s a biodiversity-rich area that supports plant and animal species found nowhere else, including baobabs, lemurs and fossas.
- Between the shooting for the series in 2016 and its release in 2019, a large patch of the forest was lost, including areas where filming took place.
- This reflects a larger trend of deforestation in the area and in Madagascar, which is experiencing massive deforestation pressure.


Stinging ants: Amazon indigenous group girds itself to hold ancestral lands [04/25/2019]
- The ancestral home of the Sateré-Mawé indigenous group is the Andirá-Marau Indigenous Reserve, an officially demarcated, heavily forested region covering 780,000 hectares (3,011 square miles) in Amazonas and Pará states, Brazil.
- The reserve itself — along with indigenous villages around it that were not included in the demarcated area — are increasingly under attack from illegal loggers and land grabbers.
- To steel themselves against the challenges posed by invading outsiders, and to create unity among their tribal groups, Sateré young men participate in a ritual known as Waumat, in which they endure the painful bites of stinging ants.
- They also renew their commitment to active resistance through dances and songs that celebrate myths, past wars, victories, losses, and terrible exploitation by the colonial Portuguese. The Sateré are feeling especially challenged today by the anti-indigenous rhetoric and policies of the rightist Bolsonaro administration.


The world lost a Belgium-size area of old growth rainforest in 2018 [04/25/2019]
- Newly released data indicate the tropics lost around 120,000 square kilometers (around 46,300 square miles) of tree cover last year – or an area of forest the size of Nicaragua.
- The data indicate 36,400 square kilometers of this loss – an area the size of Belgium – occurred in primary forest. This number is an increase over the annual average, and the third-highest amount since data collection began.
- Indonesia primary forest loss dropped to the lowest level recorded since 2002. Brazil’s numbers are also down compared to the last two years, but still higher than the 18-year average.
- Meanwhile, primary rainforest deforestation appears to be on the rise elsewhere. Colombia recorded the highest level since measurement began at the beginning of the century. Madagascar had the highest proportion of its tropical forest lost in 2018; Ghana experienced the biggest proportional change over 2017.


Bolsonaro draws battle lines in fight over Amazon indigenous lands [04/24/2019]
- Parintins, site of Brazil’s big annual indigenous festival, is typical of towns in the Brazilian Amazon. The Sateré, and other indigenous groups living or working there, often endure discrimination and work analogous to slavery. Civil rights are few and indigenous populations inhabit the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
- Now more than ever, indigenous groups fear the loss of their cultural heritage and land rights as guaranteed under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. New president Jair Bolsonaro wants to achieve indigenous societal “assimilation,” a process by which an ethnic minority group’s traditional way of life and livelihoods is erased.
- The strongest advocates of indigenous assimilation are the ruralistas, rural wealthy elites and agribusiness producers, who have the most to gain via access to the timber, land and mineral wealth found within indigenous territories. The bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby is strong in Congress, and it supports Bolsonaro.
- The Sateré, along with other indigenous groups, have endured a long history marked by extermination and exploitation. Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people are increasingly joining together to fight the anti-indigenous policies proposed by the Bolsonaro administration and supported by the ruralists.


Not in my backyard: Indonesian official fights corrupt palm concession [04/24/2019]
- A district chief in Indonesia is seeking to overturn a decision by the environment ministry to approve a request that would allow a palm oil company to clear forest for plantation in Buol district, on the island of Sulawesi.
- The case has been controversial since the start, with the company initially being awarded the concession after bribing the previous district chief for the permit.
- The recent approval also goes against a moratorium issued last year on the issuance of permits for new plantations.
- However, the environment minister exploited loopholes in a pair of regulations to push through the approval, despite the opposition of the Buol administration and residents.


Camera trap study finds a threatened high-elevation mammal community in Peru [04/23/2019]
- A new camera trap study, the results of which were published in the journal Oryx last week, seeks to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the Cerros del Sira’s mammalian inhabitants.
- An international team of scientists from Peru and the UK led by Ruthmery Pillco Huarcaya, a biologist at Peru’s National University of Cusco, deployed 45 camera traps from 2015 to 2016 in the Sira Communal Reserve, part of the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yánesha Biosphere Reserve.
- Aside from revealing the distribution of and threats to the Cerros del Sira’s mammal community, the results of the camera trap survey led to a number of other insights.


Peat protection rule may be a double-edged sword for Indonesia’s forests [04/22/2019]
- A government regulation issued in 2016 requires logging companies to restore peat with protected status in their concessions, mostly in Sumatra, and prohibits them from developing on it.
- But activists say this prohibition threatens a massive supply shortfall for two of the world’s biggest paper producers, which they warn could push the companies to source wood from unprotected forests in other parts of Indonesia.
- Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) face a supply crunch of up to 30 percent and 25 percent respectively, according to an analysis by NGOs.
- Both companies dispute this finding, saying their supplies remain secure even as they seek to boost their output.


Singapore acquits trader in world’s biggest rosewood bust, worth $50m [04/19/2019]
- On April 8, Singapore’s highest court acquitted a businessman who brought Malagasy rosewood valued at $50 million into the city-state in 2014, one of the largest wildlife seizures in the history of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
- The move reversed the ruling of a lower court that had sentenced the businessman to jail time and imposed $1 million in fines for importing protected wildlife.
- The court ordered Singapore authorities to return the rosewood to the businessman and his firm “as soon as practicable.”
- Environmental groups have been looking on anxiously as the case wound its way through Singapore’s courts for nearly five years, only to be disappointed by the final verdict.


Rise in crocodile sightings linked to habitat degradation in Indonesia [04/18/2019]
- The capture of a saltwater crocodile by Indonesian villagers last February was the latest in a series of increasingly frequent — and occasionally deadly — sightings of the reptiles near human settlements.
- The animal was eventually released by the local conservation agency into an unsettled area.
- Conservation officials say the destruction of the crocodiles’ habitat by blast fishing and conversion of coastal areas into farms may be driving the animals out of the wild and closer to villages.
- Officials have called on villagers not to harm the animals if they catch them, given that they’re a protected species under Indonesian law.


Shade or sun? Forest structure affects tree responses to Amazon drought [04/17/2019]
- Large-scale satellite data has shown that while large trees expand their crown during the dry season, small trees drop leaves – possibly due to limited light availability in the shaded understory. A new study finds that tree response to dry weather is far more complex, influenced by exposure to the sun and root depth.
- Detailed measurements of leaf growth and leaf loss during the annual dry season and extreme drought events shows that small trees respond differently to water deprivation depending on their surrounding environment – shaded trees gain leaves but exposed trees tend to lose them, a possible sign of dehydration stress.
- Two novel study approaches revealed a complex pattern of leaf growth and loss in response to dry weather: ground-based lidar imaging that produced high-resolution 2D image slices of forest structure, and statistical division of data based on an understory tree’s distance from the canopy top, rather than from the ground up.
- Losing leaves could spell death for individual trees, but these small-scale changes can also impact transpiration and have consequences for regional weather patterns and regional climate change. Also, importantly, degraded forests, with many open clearings, could be less resilient to worsening Amazon drought.


IUCN calls for moratorium on projects impacting rarest great ape species [04/17/2019]
- The IUCN has cited “ongoing and new threats” to the Tapanuli orangutan, found in a single forest ecosystem in northern Sumatra, to call for a suspension and reassessment of projects being undertaken within the ape’s habitat.
- With a population of no more than 800 individuals, the Tapanuli orangutan is the world’s rarest and most threatened great ape species.
- Roads through the Batang Toru ecosystem where it lives have fragmented the orangutan’s population.
- The most high-profile threat is a planned hydropower plant and dam in the ape’s habitat, which scientists and conservationists have increasingly called to be halted.


A park in Bolivia bears the brunt of a plan to export electricity [04/17/2019]
- A 290-megawatt hydroelectric dam is under construction in Bolivia’s highly biodiverse Carrasco National Park.
- The project is one of several intended to create energy for export, likely to Brazil and Argentina.
- Experts have questioned whether approval should have been given to build a dam in a protected area, especially given the fact that 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of land are due to be cleared.
- The area is home to as many as 700 bird and 3,000 plant species.


Amazon could be biggest casualty of US-China Trade war, researchers warn [04/16/2019]
- The US is the world’s largest soy producer and historically has exported the majority of its soybeans to China.
- But after President Donald Trump’s high China tariffs resulted in a Chinese retaliation of a 25 percent import tariff on US agricultural goods last year, United States soy exports to China dropped 50 percent, and Chinese imports of Brazilian soybeans increased significantly.
- Soy production has been linked to large-scale deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna — Brazil’s two largest and ecologically most important biomes.
- If the US/China trade war continues, new research suggests that the amount of land dedicated to soy production in Brazil could increase by up to 39 percent in order to fill Chinese demand, causing new deforestation by up to 13 million hectares (50,139 square miles) of forest, an area the size of Greece, researchers estimate.


Deforested habitats leave migratory birds ill-prepared for journey north [04/15/2019]
- Migratory birds are experiencing precipitous population declines due to land-use change in Central and South America.
- These birds rely on forested areas in their southern overwintering grounds for sustenance, but these have been widely replaced by less hospitable agricultural landscapes.
- Some vulnerable migratory birds use tropical hardwood plantations at the same rate as forests, making these for-profit agricultural lands an attractive prospect for conservation, especially in contrast with poorer habitats like cattle pasture.
- Agroforestry solutions, such as the retention of tall trees, can also provide habitat for at-risk species like the golden-winged warbler while providing ecosystem services to farmers.


Palm oil, logging firms the usual suspects as Indonesia fires flare anew [04/15/2019]
- Fires have flared up once again on concessions held by palm oil and logging companies in Riau province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
- For many of the companies involved, this isn’t the first time fires have sprung up on their land, prompting activists to question the government’s ability to enforce its own regulations against slash-and-burn forest clearing.
- Much of the affected area is peat forest, some of it being developed in violation of a ban on exploiting deep peatland, whose burning releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- A failure by the government to collect on fines levied against the few companies prosecuted for setting fires on their concessions means there’s little deterrent effect for other companies that see slash-and-burn as the cheapest way to raze forests for plantations.


Deforestation diminishes access to clean water, study finds [04/15/2019]
- A recent study compared deforestation data and information on household access to clean water in Malawi.
- The scientists found that the country lost 14 percent of its forest between 2000 and 2010, which had the same effect on access to safe drinking water as a 9 percent decrease in rainfall.
- With higher rainfall variability expected in today’s changing climate, the authors suggest that a larger area of forest in countries like Malawi could be a buffer against the impacts of climate change.


How a sheriff in Brazil is using satellites to stop deforestation [04/12/2019]
- When Leonardo Brito became chief of police at the Police Specialized in Crimes Against the Environment (DEMA) in Brazil’s Amapá stated, he noticed that the department hardly ever investigated environmental crimes. The reason: locating isolated illegal deforestation events in Amapá’s Nepal-size rainforest was like finding a needle in a haystack.
- So Brito started researching methods to make this easier. In the process, he discovered the online forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch and its mobile app, Forest Watcher. These tools visualize areas of tree cover loss detected by satellites.
- Using Forest Watcher, DEMA has been able to detect 5,000 areas of deforestation in Amapá and conduct more than 50 operations combatting illegal deforestation over the past eight months.
- Brito and his team are sharing their knowledge and techniques with environmental police and conservation officials in other states.


‘It’s getting worse’: National parks in Honduras hit hard by palm oil [04/11/2019]
- Production of oil palm has risen by nearly 560 percent in Honduras over the past two decades, making the country the eighth-largest producer worldwide and number three in the Americas.
- By 2010, Jeanette Kawas National Park, which sits along the coast in northern Honduras, had lost approximately 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) to oil palm plantations. Nearby Punta Izopo National Park and Cuero y Salado National Park lost more than 8 percent and 4 percent of their tree cover, respectively, between 2001 and 2017.
- Small-scale farmers, some living legally within park borders, are clearing deeper and deeper sections of forest. A growing number of residents are cultivating small-scale oil palm plantations and have become off-the-books suppliers for companies operating in the area, which has become a source of serious concern for conservation organizations.
- Local officials say that due to bureaucratic red tape, cutting down even illegally planted oil palm trees can put them at risk of legal repercussions, making it difficult to restore forest after it’s been converted to oil palm plantations.


Scientists urge overhaul of the world’s parks to protect biodiversity [04/11/2019]
- A team of scientists argues that we should evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas based on the outcomes for biodiversity, not simple the area of land or ocean they protect.
- In a paper published April 11 in the journal Science, they outline the weaknesses of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, which set goals of protecting 17 percent of the earth’s surface and 10 percent of its oceans by 2020.
- They propose monitoring the outcomes of protected areas that measure changes in biodiversity in comparison to agreed-upon “reference” levels and then using those figures to determine how well they are performing.


EU consumption drives ‘import’ of tropical deforestation [04/11/2019]
- A new study has calculated that one-sixth of the carbon footprint of the average diet in the EU can be directly linked to deforestation in tropical countries.
- Although many developed countries have achieved stable forest cover, researchers found that one-third of net forest gains in these “post-forest transition” countries were offset by imports of commodities causing deforestation elsewhere.
- In the face of growing criticism, the EU is preparing to launch a new initiative to tackle imported commodities directly linked to deforestation.


Indonesia’s threat to exit Paris accord over palm oil seen as cynical ploy [04/11/2019]
- A top Indonesian minister says the country may consider pulling out of the Paris climate agreement in retaliation for a European policy to phase out palm oil from biofuels by 2030.
- Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs, says Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, can follow in the footsteps of the United States, which has declared its withdrawal from the climate pact, and Brazil, which is considering doing the same.
- The threat is the latest escalation in a diplomatic spat that has also seen Indonesia and Malaysia, the No. 2 palm oil producer, threaten retaliatory trade measures against the European Union.
- The EU says its policy is driven by growing consumer concerns about the sustainability of palm oil, which in Indonesia is often grown on plantations for which vast swaths of rainforest have had to be cleared.


Madagascar: Rio Tinto mine breaches sensitive wetland [04/09/2019]
- A large mineral sands mine in southeastern Madagascar has trespassed into a “sensitive zone,” violating national law and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake that local people use for drinking water, two recent studies confirm.
- Rio Tinto, the London-based multinational that owns the mine, acknowledged the breach for the first time in a March 23 memo, more than five years after the breach initially occurred.
- Rio Tinto will hold its annual general meeting April 10 in London.
- The director of an NGO that commissioned one of the studies is a shareholder and said she hopes to speak about what’s happened at the lake.


Natural forests best bet for fighting climate change, analysis finds [04/09/2019]
- Natural forests store more carbon for longer compared to plantations and agroforestry.
- The carbon sequestration potential of natural forests is 40 times greater than that of plantations, a new analysis has found.
- But countries like Brazil, China and Indonesia are relying more on expanding plantations to meet their regreening goals.
- About 66 percent of forest restoration commitments in tropical and subtropical countries involve planting some kind of agricultural crop.


3 massacres in 12 days: Rural violence escalates in Brazilian Amazon [04/08/2019]
- The Amazon has seen 3 probable massacres in 12 days — likely a record for the region — as violence has exploded in areas of heavy deforestation where the building of large dams has brought a capital infusion, sent land prices soaring, and invited land speculation by land grabbers, loggers and ranchers.
- A Brazilian landless movement peasant leader and a leading dam activist are among those killed. The attacks have been concentrated in areas centered around the Belo Monte mega-dam; in the Madeira basin near the Jirau dam; and near the Tucuruí dam on the Tocantins River in Pará state.
- Investigations are ongoing, but early reports are that at least 9 people are dead, with some witnesses saying more have been killed, especially rural landless peasant workers. Before becoming president, Jair Bolsonaro expressed strong hostility against the landless peasant movement (Movimento dos Sem Terra, or MST).
- The Bolsonaro Administration has yet to condemn or comment significantly on the recent wave of killings. As of this article’s publication, the international community has taken little notice of the spike in violence.


Study concludes that nature benefits when more women make land management decisions [04/08/2019]
- A study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and published in the journal Nature Climate Change last month explored whether or not gender quotas for local governing bodies could help reduce deforestation while addressing local inequalities at the same time.
- For the study, researchers traveled to 31 villages near collectively managed forests in three developing countries — Indonesia, Peru, and Tanzania — and asked 440 forest users in those communities to play a tabletop simulation game in which they had to make decisions about how many trees to harvest from a shared forest. The participants were divided into groups of eight, and half the groups were required to have women as 50 percent of their members. The other half of the groups had no gender quotas.
- The authors write in the study that their results “show that gender quotas make interventions more effective and lead to more equal sharing of intervention benefits.”


Climb confirms that the world’s tallest tropical tree tops 100 meters [04/07/2019]
- A team of scientists has found and mapped the tallest tree on record in the tropics, standing at more than 100 meters (328 feet).
- Climber Unding Jami with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership scaled the tree and verified its height.
- The structure of the tree, determined from airborne lidar surveys as well as laser scans from the ground and drone photographs, provides insight into why these trees grow so high.


Brazil soy trade linked to widespread deforestation, carbon emissions [04/03/2019]
- Recent data released by the Brazilian government’s Prodes deforestation satellite monitoring system found that 220,000 square kilometers in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes were deforested between 2006 and 2017.
- Roughly 10 percent of that land was then used to grow soy, a native vegetation conversion of at least 21,000 square kilometres (with over 17,000 of that in the Cerrado), according to the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Global Canopy’s Trase platform, which analyze commodities supply chains.
- Clearing native vegetation releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, while crop plantations store less CO2 – a one-two punch hindering efforts to curb climate change. About 140,000 square kilometers of Cerrado were lost from 2006-2017, releasing 210 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e).
- The majority of Brazil’s soy is produced for export. So experts say the best way to protect the Cerrado under the Bolsonaro administration will be for commodities companies and NGOs to create market incentives. Plans now under consideration suggest momentum is building to protect Brazil’s most vulnerable ecoregion.


Video: Scientists surprised to discover tiny toadlets can glow [03/29/2019]
- Pumpkin toadlets (Brachycephalus ephippium) inhabit Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, where they crawl through the leaf litter in search of mates.
- However, researchers found that they can’t hear their own high-frequency mating calls.
- While investigating how they communicate to find mates, the researchers unexpectedly discovered that the frogs fluoresce when exposed to UV light.
- The researchers aren’t sure why they do this, but say it could be a way to avoid predation or attract mates.


Meet Mini mum, Mini ature, Mini scule: Tiny new frogs from Madagascar [03/28/2019]
- Researchers have named three previously undescribed, extremely small species of frogs from Madagascar Mini mum, Mini ature, and Mini scule. All of them belong to Mini, a genus that is entirely new to science.
- The new study describes two more species of tiny frogs, Rhombophryne proportionali, and Anodonthyla eximia, both smaller than thumbnails, just like the Minis.
- The newly described frogs from Madagascar are, however, known only from a handful of locations. While the researchers recommend placing three of the species in a threatened category of the IUCN Red List, two species are data deficient.


How land grabbers co-opt indigenous ritual traditions in Papua: Q&A with anthropologist Sophie Chao [03/28/2019]
- Industrial-scale agriculture poses considerable risk to the indigenous peoples of Papua, whose culture and livelihoods are closely linked to the region’s extensive rainforest.
- Last November, Mongabay and The Gecko Project published an investigative article exposing the murky dealings underpinning a mega-plantation project in Papua, as part of our series Indonesia for Sale.
- Anthropologist Sophie Chao has studied the often fraught relationship between Papuans and plantation firms, and the mechanisms through which indigenous people are compelled to give up their land.


New report lays out low-carbon development path for Indonesia [03/28/2019]
- The Indonesian government published a report showing how the country could reap tremendous economic benefits by transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
- According to the report, a low-carbon development path could deliver an average of 6 percent GDP growth per year until 2045, with continued gains in employment, income growth and poverty reduction.
- This strategy would also cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions nearly 43 percent by 2030, exceeding Indonesia’s international climate target.
- The low-carbon model would require Indonesia to cut its reliance on coal, whereas the government’s current plan is to build more coal-fired power plants.


Leading Amazon dam rights activist, spouse and friend murdered in Brazil [03/27/2019]
- Dilma Ferreira Silva, long time regional coordinator of the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) in the Tucuruí region of Pará state, was brutally murdered last Friday at her home, along with her husband, Claudionor Costa da Silva, and Hilton Lopes, a friend.
- Silva was one of 32,000 people displaced during the construction of the Tucuruí mega-dam. The internationally recognized activist has in recent years been pushing the Brazilian government to adopt legislation establishing the rights of those displaced by dams, providing them with compensation; the government has so far done little to create such laws.
- The killers of public officials, environmentalists, landless movement and indigenous activists in the Amazon are rarely found or brought to justice. However, in this case, Civil Police have arrested a large landowner, farmer and businessman, Fernando Ferreira Rosa Filho, known as Fernando Shalom.
- While the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and deputies in the Brazilian Congress, have condemned the killing of dam activist Silva, her husband and friend, the Bolsonaro administration has failed to issue a statement of any kind.


No more fires in Indonesia? Blazes on Sumatran peatland say otherwise [03/27/2019]
- Forest fires have flared up in Sumatra again this dry season, belying the government’s claims that it has brought the annual problem under control.
- All of the fires recorded so far have been on peat forests, a carbon-rich terrain that a slew of government policies have specifically targeted for restoration and protection since the disastrous fire season of 2015.
- Environmental activists say there’s no transparency to gauge how well peat restoration efforts are progressing, and little engagement with NGOs on the ground.
- They warn of a continuation of the “business-as-usual” approach that sees the government typically only respond to fires after they’ve broken out.


How digital technologies can transform nature conservation engagement (commentary) [03/26/2019]
- At this crucial time, a digital leap can provide an opportunity to drastically improve individuals’ engagement in nature conservation by addressing the gaps in the current customer experience preventing more people from getting involved.
- Our market research indicates that 82 percent of donors do not fully know where their money is going or whether is having an impact. Donors get frustrated by their inability to track the impact of their donation and select the specific location, project, or wildlife they would like to support. This limited user experience lags behind digital norms and makes it particularly challenging to compel more people to get involved.
- People should not have to sacrifice transparency and ease-of-use to reap the benefits of supporting nature conservation. With advanced consumer demands and technology trends, there is an opportunity for improved engagement models that address the current gaps.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Malaysian state chief: Highway construction must not destroy forest [03/26/2019]
- The chief minister of Sabah, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo, said that the Pan Borneo Highway project should expand existing roads where possible to minimize environmental impact.
- A coalition of local NGOs and scientific organizations applauded the announcement, saying that it could usher in a new era of collaboration between the government and civil society to look out for Sabah’s people and forests.
- These groups have raised concerns about the impacts on wildlife and communities of the proposed path of the highway, which will cover some 5,300 kilometers (3,300 miles) in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.


Sergio Rojas Ortiz, leader of Costa Rica’s indigenous Bribri, slain by gunmen [03/26/2019]
- Sergio Rojas Ortiz, leader of the Bribri indigenous people, was murdered at his home in the indigenous territory of Salitre in Costa Rica on the night of March 18.
- Rojas, who was a coordinator of the Frente Nacional de Pueblos Indígenas, or the National Front of Indigenous People (FRENAPI), was leading a movement to reclaim indigenous land from non-indigenous settlers — a fight that had resulted in numerous death threats to him and others in the past.
- In a statement, FRENAPI said it placed full responsibility for Rojas’s murder on the government of President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and demanded “an immediate explanation of this latest incident of blood and violence against the Indigenous people of Costa Rica.”


Brazil fails to give adequate public access to Amazon land title data, study finds [03/25/2019]
- Brazil possesses vast tracts of public lands, especially in the Amazon, which exist in the public domain. Traditional peoples, landless movements, quilombolas (communities established more than a century ago by Afro-Brazilian slave descendants), and other homesteaders have the legal right to lay claim to these lands.
- It is the job of state land tenure agencies to keep track of these public lands, regulating the allocation of land and property rights to secure protection for individuals and communities against forcible evictions, and to monitor against illegal deforestation, large illegal land grabs and other illicit activities.
- However, a recent study found that none of eight Amazonian states met all the mandated transparency criteria. Active transparency indicators (data accessible on the internet or via public documents) were missing 56 percent of the time. Passive transparency indicators (data available on request) fared poorly as well.
- The inefficiency of land tenure agencies in providing land titling information contributes to numerous land conflicts, and increases insecurity in the countryside. The lack of transparency also enhances the possibility of fraud. When the poor are deprived of rightful land title data, the wealthy often have the upper hand if land disputes go to court.


Hard news from the Soft Commodities Forum (commentary) [03/21/2019]
- Something very significant for conservation happened recently, but only a few media outlets picked up on it. You can kind of understand why: a commitment by a group of soy traders to “a common framework for reporting, monitoring and progress on transparent and traceable supply chains for soy in Brazil’s Cerrado region” doesn’t exactly set pulses racing.
- Somebody needs to have a word with the communications staff at the companies involved: they would have been better advised to frame it as “Major global soy traders go beyond deforestation commitments to cover all ecosystems for the first time, in a place that actually matters to their business.”
- The commitment in the Cerrado is a big deal, but there is still a lot to be done. Knowing how much a trader is sourcing from the Cerrado is only a first step. The next and more important step is knowing how much of that sourcing is conversion-free and driving that percentage up over time.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


‘Nothing was left’: Flash floods, landslides hit Indonesia’s Papua region [03/21/2019]
- Flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain hit Indonesia’s Cyclops Mountains in Papua province on March 17, killing nearly 90 people and displacing thousands.
- The country’s disaster mitigation agency has cited human-caused deforestation as contributing to the scale of the damage.
- Indonesia’s environment ministry has called for a review of zoning plans for the housing settlements around the Cyclops Mountains, but denies that massive logging has occurred in the area.


Companies to miss 2020 zero-deforestation deadline, report says [03/21/2019]
- Major companies around the world with a self-imposed deadline of ending tropical deforestation in their supply chains by 2020 won’t meet the target, a report released for International Forest Day says.
- The “Forest 500” report is an annual assessment of the zero-deforestation commitments made by 350 companies involved in four commodities — cattle, palm oil, soy and timber — and the 150 financial institutions bankrolling them.
- Those commodities are responsible for the bulk of agricultural expansion in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Agricultural expansion, in turn, is responsible for most of the deforestation in these regions.
- The report calls on the companies it assesses to do more to ensure their actions match their rhetoric on ending deforestation, regardless of the unlikelihood of meeting the 2020 deadline.


In Ethiopia, women and faith drive effort to restore biodiversity [03/20/2019]
- In Addis Ababa, approximately 35 percent of the household fuelwood – mainly eucalyptus – is systematically gathered from the Entoto Mountains just outside the city.
- Ethiopia historically planted large areas with fast-growing eucalyptus, a non-native species, to meet the demand for fuelwood. But the trees’ water-hogging nature has had a destructive impact on the land.
- There are efforts to reforest areas with native species, supported by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has a tradition of maintaining tree gardens throughout the country.


Mongabay’s top 5 forests stories of 2019 (so far) for International Forests Day [03/20/2019]
Rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.Forests have been at the core of Mongabay’s coverage since our founding 20 years ago. So for the International Day of Forests 2019, below are the top 5 most read stories about forests published so far this year at our site, in no particular order. You can also read all of our stories about forests […]

Tapirs could be key in helping degraded rainforests bounce back [03/20/2019]
- A new study has found that lowland tapirs spend more time in degraded forests than in pristine Amazon rainforest.
- They also defecate and deposit three times more seeds in these degraded areas.
- The results indicate that tapirs may help human-affected forests recover and grow back.


Bolsonaro on the move: International meetings push agribusiness agenda [03/20/2019]
- On his first trip outside Brazil to meet with a head of state, Jair Bolsonaro met with Donald Trump at the White House this week. Bolsonaro also visited the CIA and dined with Trump former strategist Steve Bannon, believed to have had a role in helping Bolsonaro get elected.
- Bolsonaro and Trump are known to have discussed trade, but their meeting was conducted in secret. Bolsonaro, dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” has long expressed his interest in stronger U.S. relations, though Brazil’s agriculture minister is also courting China (U.S./China trade relations remain frosty, and Brazil hopes to sell more of its soy to the Asian nation).
- In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bolsonaro stated that the Brazilian government wants more agreements with the United States in a number of areas, especially mining and agriculture. He added that there is much to be discovered in the Amazon, a likely reference to untapped resources and agribusiness possibilities there.
- During the visit, a letter of intent was signed between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) “to work toward the launch of the first-ever biodiversity-focused impact-investment fund for the Brazilian Amazon,” with the US$100 million fund to be financed largely by the private sector.


Brazil’s key deforestation drivers: Pasture, cropland, land speculation [03/19/2019]
- New research shows that the expansion of cropland (row crops) in Brazil nearly doubled between 2000 and 2014, from 26 million hectares (100,387 square miles) to 46.5 million hectares (179,538 square miles).
- 80 percent of new cropland in Brazil came as a result of the conversion of pastures, while only 20 percent resulted from the direct conversion of native vegetation to croplands, especially soy.
- However, while pastureland “absorbs” cropland expansion, and displaces it away from forests, studies show Brazilian deforestation to be most highly driven by land speculation, whereby land speculators deforest an area, possibly selling off the timber, then converting the land to pasture, and then again quickly selling the land to a soy producer at a much increased price.
- Study data also confirmed a strong correlation between the implementation of the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium and declines in forest-to-soy direct conversion. However, Amazon conversion to pasturelands remains high. Meanwhile, the Cerrado savannah has seen rapid deforestation due to both pasturelands and soy plantations.


Super variable California salamander is ‘an evolutionist’s dream’ [03/18/2019]
- The ensatina is a widespread salamander species that can be found in forests along the entire western coast of North America.
- It is one of only two species that broadly lives up to the “ring species” concept: the ensatina is considered to be a single species, but is characterized by a chain of interconnected populations around California’s Central Valley that can look strikingly different. While the intermediate populations can interbreed, the forms at the southern ends of the loop are so different that they can no longer mate successfully everywhere they meet.
- Ensatinas are among the key predators on the forest floors they occupy, and play a critical role in sequestering carbon.
- Researchers are now trying to figure out if ensatinas and other North American salamanders have any natural defenses against the deadly Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans fungus.


Investors warn soy giants of backlash over deforestation in South America [03/18/2019]
- Investors have called on the world’s biggest soy companies to make firm commitments to end deforestation in wildlife-rich areas of South America such as the Cerrado and Gran Chaco.
- Those that fail to do so risk being exposed by environmental activists to consumer boycotts, legal action and falling profits, experts warn.
- Investors are leading the way as companies fail to appreciate the scale of the crisis, campaigners say.


Latam Eco Review: Bolivia’s Batman and Peru’s birdy cave drawings [03/16/2019]
A biologist known as Bolivia’s Batman, ground zero for Amazon deforestation in Peru, and camera traps showing the bird species from ancient cave drawings were among the top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Bolivia’s Batman: “There are many more bat species here” “Colombia gets the gold medal” for having the highest number of […]

Europe, in bid to phase out palm biofuel, leaves fans and foes dismayed [03/15/2019]
- Both palm oil producers and environmental activists alike have expressed dismay with a move by European officials to phase out palm-oil based biofuel by 2030.
- Officials in Indonesia and Malaysia, which together produce 85 percent of global supply of the commodity, say the move is discriminatory and have vowed a vigorous response, including lobbying EU member states to oppose it, bringing the matter before the WTO, and imposing retaliatory measures on goods from the EU.
- Environmental activists say the policy doesn’t go far enough, leaving loopholes that will allow palm oil produced under certain circumstances to continue being treated as a renewable fuel, thereby allowing for the expansion of palm estates into peat forests.
- They have also criticized the policy’s failure to label soybean oil as high risk, in light of growing evidence that deforestation linked to the cultivation of soy may be just as bad as or worse than that of palm oil.


New maps show where humans are pushing species closer to extinction [03/15/2019]
- A new study maps out how disruptive human changes to the environment affect the individual ranges of more than 5,400 mammal, bird and amphibian species around the world.
- Almost a quarter of the species are threatened by human impacts in more than 90 percent of their range, and at least one human impact occurred in an average of 38 percent of the range of a given species.
- The study also identified “cool” spots, where concentrations of species aren’t negatively impacted by humans.
- The researchers say these “refugia” are good targets for conservation efforts.


Brazil to open indigenous reserves to mining without indigenous consent [03/14/2019]
- New Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced on 4 March that he plans to permit mining on indigenous lands in Brazil, including within the Amazon. He also said that he intends to allow mining right up to Brazil’s borders, abolishing the current ban along a 150-kilometer (93-mile)-wide swath at the frontier.
- The Bolsonaro administration’s indigenous mining plan is in direct opposition to indigenous land rights as guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. The indigenous mining initiative will likely be implemented via a presidential decree, which will almost surely be reviewed, and possibly be rejected, by Brazil’s Supreme Court.
- Mining companies stand ready to move into indigenous reserves, if the measure goes forward. Brazil’s mining ministry has received 4,073 requests from mining companies and individuals for mining-related activities on indigenous land. Indigenous groups are outraged and they plan to resist in the courts and by whatever means possible.
- Brazil’s mining industry has a very poor safety and environmental record. As recently as January, Brazil mega-mining company Vale saw a tailings dam collapse at Brumadinho which killed 193 and left another 115 missing. Public outcry is strong against the industry currently, but how the public will respond to the indigenous mining plan isn’t yet known.


Defending the Amazon’s uncontacted peoples: Q&A with Julio Cusurichi [03/13/2019]
- Julio Cusurichi, a Shipibo-Conibo leader, has been working to protect the peoples and forests of his native Madre de Dios region in southeastern Peru.
- Increasingly, illegal gold miners as well as illegal loggers and drug traffickers are proving to be an existential threat for the indigenous people of the region, which concentrates some of the Amazon’s greatest biodiversity.
- In recent years Cusurichi led a successful campaign to create a legally recognized indigenous territory and helped establish a network of indigenous forest monitors when the government abandoned the effort.
- Now, he is working to gain a greater role for indigenous peoples in governing their territories. “The goal is for indigenous people to be the protagonists,” he told Mongabay on a recent visit to Peru’s capital, Lima. “We have to administer the Amazon regions that are our ancestral territories and not just leave it to the government.”


Brazil to build long-resisted Amazon transmission line on indigenous land [03/13/2019]
- The Brazilian state of Roraima is currently dependent for 70 percent of its power on Venezuela’s Guri hydroelectric dam. But socioeconomic chaos in Venezuela, and deteriorating political relations between the two nations, have caused Brazil to fast-track a 750-kilometer transmission line to replace the imported energy.
- General Otávio Rêgo de Barros, using a national security justification, has announced that construction will begin at the end of June on a powerline running between the cities of Manaus and Boa Vista, connecting Roraima with Brazil’s national electrical power grid.
- 125 kilometers of the planned transmission line will run through the Waimiri Atroari reserve, and the indigenous group has long resisted its construction. The Waimiri Atroari are concerned about detrimental impacts on the environment and on wildlife, as hunting is a primary way for their communities to obtain food.
- Roraima state has done viability studies showing that wind and solar power offer cheaper alternatives to the transmission line. But the Bolsonaro administration has ignored those alternatives. “The Indians will be consulted, but national interest must prevail,” said the general.


Bank of China to review funding of dam in orangutan habitat in Sumatra [03/12/2019]
- A major Chinese state-owned bank has promised to evaluate a hydropower project that it’s helping fund in Sumatra, following criticism that it threatens the world’s rarest great ape species with extinction.
- Bank of China said it was “committed to supporting environmental protection globally,” but stopped short of saying what actions it would take in its review of the Batang Toru hydropower project.
- The project site is located in a forest that’s the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, a species only described last year. Conservationists estimate the population of the species at about 800.
- There has been a mixed response to BOC’s statement, with some conservationists welcoming it and others saying it rings hollow, while a senior Indonesian official has condemned foreign NGOs’ opposition to the project as a form of outside intervention.


European Parliament to vote on timber legality agreement with Vietnam [03/11/2019]
- The European Parliament begins debate March 11 on a resolution to consent to the recently signed Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with Vietnam on the trade of timber and timber products from the Southeast Asian country.
- The VPA is the result of nearly eight years of negotiations aimed at stopping the flow of illegally harvested timber into the EU.
- Members of parliament are expected to vote in favor of the resolution on March 12, though officials in the EU and outside observers have voiced concerns about the legality of the wood imported into Vietnam from other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Saving the Cerrado: Six commodities traders to disclose supply chain data [03/07/2019]
- The Brazilian Cerrado once covered two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), an area bigger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined, to the east and south of the Amazon. But today, more than half its native vegetation is gone largely due to a boom in soy production – with the valuable beans exported to the EU and other nations.
- The Amazon Soy Moratorium, a voluntary agreement, while reducing soy-caused deforestation In the Amazon biome, resulted in intensified deforestation in the neighboring Cerrado savannah biome. And until recently, transnational commodities firms have resisted a similar deforestation agreement in the Cerrado.
- Now 6 commodities companies and members of the Soft Commodities Forum – Cargill, Bunge, Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Glencore Agriculture, and COFCO International, a Chinese firm – have announced a new agreement to monitor soy supply chains in 25 Cerrado deforestation “high risk” municipalities.
- This new voluntary industry agreement, while a step forward, is seen as partial by critics. They say that more measures are needed to achieve zero forestation, stop farmworker exploitation, conserve land and water, and reduce over-usage of toxic pesticides.


Without indigenous leadership, zero-deforestation policies will fail (commentary) [03/05/2019]
- Importing countries and companies (such as traders, food processors, and retailers) committing to deforestation-free agriculture often assume that those commitments alone, if successfully realized, will protect forests and indigenous lands against illegal activities.
- But a new science-policy report supported by the Luc Hoffmann Institute argues that, for deforestation-free commitments to be successful at achieving their goal, indigenous groups, farmers, and other relevant stakeholders need to have a greater say throughout the process.
- Only a more inclusive deforestation-free policy can safeguard Brazil’s ecosystems.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Audio: Scott Wallace on the importance of protecting uncontacted indigenous groups in the Amazon [03/05/2019]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Scott Wallace, a journalism professor at the University of Connecticut, National Geographic writer, and author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes.
- The Unconquered tells the story of an expedition into remote Amazon rainforests undertaken by the head of Brazil’s Department of Isolated Indians in order to gather information about an uncontacted tribe known as “the Arrow People” and use that information to better protect the indigenous group from the ever-advancing arc of Amazonian deforestation.
- Wallace discusses his travels in the Amazon, the latest developments affecting the Arrow People, his reporting on the threats facing isolated and uncontacted indigenous tribes, and why allowing these uncontacted indigenous groups to go extinct would be a “great stain” on our humanity.


Activists fighting to save orangutan habitat from dam unfazed by legal setback [03/05/2019]
- An Indonesian court has ruled that construction of a hydroelectric dam in North Sumatra can proceed despite concerns it will harm the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan.
- Conservationists plan to appeal, citing “irregularities” in the decision and saying important issues raised during the hearing were not taken into account.
- The loss of even one or two orangutans per year due to impacts from the hydroelectric project could lead to eventual extinction, experts say.


The hidden costs of hydro: We need to reconsider world’s dam plans [03/05/2019]
- As thousands of hydroelectric dams are planned worldwide, including 147 in the Amazon, a new study finds that the true socio-environmental and cultural costs of dams are rarely evaluated before construction. Were such factors counted into the lifetime cost of the dams, many would not be built.
- Dam repairs and removal at the end of a project’s life are rarely figured into upfront costs. Nor are impacts on river flow reduction, loss of fisheries, and aquatic habitat connectivity, destruction of productive farmlands drowned by reservoirs, and the displacement of riverine peoples.
- Lack of transparency and corruption between government and dam construction companies is at the heart of the problem preventing change. Researchers recommend that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and social impact assessments (SIAs) be granted enough weight so that if they turn out negatively it will prevent a bad dam from being built.
- EIAs and SIAs should be done by third parties serving citizens, not the dam company. Better governance surrounding dams needs to be organized and implemented. There needs to be increased transparency about the true financial, social, cultural and environmental costs of dams to the public. Maintaining river flows and fish migrations is also critical.


Guatemala: Proposed new park on indigenous land treads fine ethical line [03/04/2019]
- Community leaders and environmental groups are working to expand protected areas around a mountain cloaked in rare cloud forest in central Guatemala that is home to several indigenous communities.
- There are many pitfalls to avoid: Conservation efforts have often historically overlooked the needs of local communities, excluding them from project planning and imposing disagreeable regulations on land use that threaten traditional ways of life.
- The NGO leading the effort is taking a two-pronged approach: One entails propping up local communities to reduce their dependence on the forest without altering their customs, and committing to getting their input into the protected area proposal.
- But the other entails buying up land in advance of lobbying congress for a new protected area. Because this part of their plan has all the earmarks of traditional “fortress conservation,” some outside experts are expressing concern.


Brazil’s New Forest Code puts vast areas of protected Amazon forest at risk [03/04/2019]
- A still controversial 2012 update to the Brazilian Forest Code that reduced the area required for legal reserves on rural private properties is endangering more than 15 million hectares (57,915 square miles) of Amazon forest, an area roughly the size of the U.S. state of Georgia, according to a recent study.
- Under the 2012 New Forest Code changes, Amazon states that have protected at least 65 percent of their territory as conservation units or indigenous reserves can reduce the percentage of native vegetation required to be conserved on private lands, which could lead to even larger increases in Amazon forest loss in those states.
- The updated 2012 code also pardoned illegal deforestation that occurred prior to 2008, leading to concerns among conservationists that such amnesties give private landowners a greenlight to clear native vegetation on their properties with impunity. Some analysts expect more deforestation pardons in the future.
- Rather than changing Brazil’s laws, say experts, what is needed to curb Amazon deforestation is a sea change in Brazilian culture – ceasing to prioritize industrial agribusiness above conservation and other socioeconomic goals. Such a shift seems unlikely under President Bolsonaro, except via international market forces.


In Nigeria, hunters turn into guardians of the rarest gorilla on Earth [03/04/2019]
- The Cross River gorilla was thought to be extinct by the 1980s, even though people living and hunting in remote areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border knew the apes were still present deep in the forest.
- After the ape was formally rediscovered in the late 1980s, conservation groups and the Nigerian government worked to protect its habitat.
- In one part of the Cross River gorilla landscape, the Mbe Mountains, traditional landowners organized themselves into a community conservation association, keeping the forest under their stewardship.
- The association faces ongoing challenges, but with the support of NGOs like the Wildlife Conservation Society, it works to protect gorillas while improving the livelihoods of local people.


Malaysia to ban oil palm expansion? [03/02/2019]
- Malaysia may ban further expansion of oil palm plantations in an effort to improve the oilseed’s reputation abroad, Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok told Bloomberg.
- Kok said the prime minister’s cabinet will weigh a proposal to cap Malaysia’s palm oil estate at 6 million hectares (14.8 million acres). Malaysia currently has 5.85 million hectares, so the cap provides allowances for about 150,000 hectares of expansion already underway.
- Kok said that Malaysia could continue to increase palm oil production despite the cap by improving yields of existing plantations.
- The proposed move comes in response to criticism over palm oil’s link to large-scale deforestation in Southeast Asia.


Norway divests from plantation companies linked to deforestation [03/01/2019]
- This week, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global – the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – released its 2018 holdings.
- Thirty companies were divested from on the basis that they “impose substantial costs on other companies and society as a whole and so are not long-term sustainable.” These “risk-based divestments” appear to include four plantation companies: Olam International, Halcyon Agri Corp, Sime Darby Plantation and Sipef.
- These companies are involved in the production of commodity crops in tropical areas in Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Oceania and have been criticized for destructive land use practices like deforestation.


Brazil to receive first-ever results-based REDD+ payment, but concerns remain [03/01/2019]
- The U.N.’s Green Climate Fund (GCF) has approved the first proposal for REDD+ emissions reductions payments, totaling $96 million for around 19 million tons of emissions reductions.
- However, GFC board members and observer NGOs expressed concern over how the emissions reductions are calculated.
- A study published last month sheds light on the difficulty of accurately calculating changes in forest cover and calls for a more standardized approach.


In the Congo Basin, a road cuts through once-untouched ape wilderness [03/01/2019]
- The TRIDOM landscape, encompassing forests in Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo, is home to more than 40,000 great apes as well as Central Africa’s largest elephant population.
- TRIDOM is in the path of a planned road link between Cameroon and Congo. Associated projects include a hydropower dam.
- While the project’s environmental impact assessment estimated only 750 hectares (1,850 acres) of woodland would be cleared for the road, on-the-ground observation of work in progress indicates the impact will be much greater.
- In addition to the direct impact of forest clearing, conservationists fear the road will increase habitat fragmentation, facilitate hunting and mining, and encourage human migration into the area — something that is already happening.


Protests flare as pressure mounts on dam project in orangutan habitat [03/01/2019]
- Activists in Jakarta and cities around the world staged protests outside Bank of China branches and Chinese diplomatic missions on March 1.
- They called on state-owned BOC to end its funding for a hydroelectric project in Sumatra that threatens the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s rarest great ape.
- A lawsuit is pending in an Indonesian court, and a verdict due on March 4 could see the developer’s environmental permit rescinded, essentially halting the project.
- The protests come amid a revelation, first reported by Mongabay, that the signature of a scientist involved in the environmental impact analysis was forged to obtain the permit.


For the famed chimps of Gombe, human encroachment takes a toll [02/28/2019]
- The chimpanzee population in Gombe National Park in Tanzania has declined significantly in recent years.
- Among other factors, loss of suitable habitats due to charcoal production and smallholder agriculture has contributed to this drop.
- The Jane Goodall Institute, domiciled in Gombe, is now working with the communities living near the park to address these issues.


Abandoned plantations in forested areas may not recover fully: Study [02/27/2019]
- In a eucalyptus plantation in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in southern India, abandoned for nearly 40 years and allowed to regenerate, researchers found that the number of tree species had increased since 2005, now making it similar that of the adjacent primary forest.
- But the kinds of trees growing in the plantation were very different from those in the primary forest, suggesting that the latter provide ecosystem benefits, like greater carbon storage, that the plantation forests do not.
- While plantation forests can provide benefits, such as serving as a corridor connecting primary forests, they are not a substitute for intact old-growth forests, the researchers conclude.


The odor side of otters: Tech reveals species’ adaptations to human activity [02/25/2019]
- Recent studies of an elusive otter species living in the highly modified mangroves and reclaimed lands on the coast of Goa, India offer new insights into otter behavior that could inform future conservation efforts.
- Researchers have studied these adaptable otters with camera traps, ground GPS surveys, and satellite images; they’re now testing drone photogrammetry to improve the accuracy of their habitat mapping.
- Using data gathered over a period of time, the researchers aim to pinpoint changes in the landscape and, in combination with the behavioral data gathered by the camera traps, understand how otters are reacting to these changes.


World’s largest bee filmed alive for the first time in Indonesia [02/25/2019]
- The world’s largest known bee, the Wallace’s giant bee, has been photographed and filmed in Indonesia’s North Maluku archipelago alive for the first time.
- Wallace’s giant bee is listed as data deficient on the IUCN Red List and researchers know very little about the species.
- But last year, researchers discovered listings of Wallace’s giant bee specimens up for auction on eBay. One specimen sold for $9,100, and another for $4,150.
- Given that collectors already know that the bee is out there, researchers hope that the publicity of the bee will renew both research efforts to understand the bee’s life history better, as well as government efforts to protect the species.


Stunting, loss of earning potential linked to Indonesia’s 1997 wildfires [02/22/2019]
- Fires raged out of control in Indonesia in 1997, spreading across 110,000 square kilometers (42,500 square miles) of forest.
- Researchers have found that people who were prenatal or 6 months old at the time did not grow to the expected average height by the time they were 17.
- Relative height has been found to have an impact on a person’s ability to earn an income, providing a new glimpse into the intergenerational cost of exposure to fire and haze.


Indonesian minister blasted over palm permit for graft-tainted concession [02/22/2019]
- Anti-corruption officials and environmental activists have criticized the Indonesian forestry ministry for allowing a company that obtained a forest concession through bribery to clear the land for a palm oil plantation.
- PT Hardaya Inti Plantations (HIP) was allowed to keep the concession even after its owner, politician Hartati Murdaya Poo, was arrested and jailed for bribing the chief of Buol district to grant her company the concession in 2012.
- The forestry minister has defended her decision, but in the wake of the controversy has sent investigators to review the concession.


What the Congo Basin can learn from Filipino community forestry laws (commentary) [02/21/2019]
- More than two-thirds of the Philippine’s forest cover has been lost to logging, agriculture, fuelwood extraction, mining and other human pressures. To tackle forest depletion, the Philippines has adopted a logging ban and promoted a system of community-run natural resource management. As of 2013, about 61 percent of the Philippines’ forests were managed under this scheme.
- Nonprofit environmental law organization ClientEarth says that despite some limitations, the legal frameworks establishing community management of forests help reduce deforestation by empowering local people to patrol their forests and carry out both conservation and revenue-generating activities. Another strength of the Filipino community forestry model is that it requires free, prior and informed consent of any indigenous group likely to be affected by the community forest plan.
- ClientEarth says lessons learned from the Philippines’ community forestry system can be applied to places that currently lack such legal frameworks, such as countries in the Congo Basin that are reviewing their forests laws.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Illegal corn farming menaces a Madagascar protected area [02/21/2019]
- Deforestation within Menabe Antimena Protected Area, a large swath of unique dry forest ecosystem on Madagascar’s west coast, has increased dramatically in recent years.
- Slash-and-burn agriculture is the primary driver. Unlike in most places in Madagascar, it isn’t done for subsistence farming but to plant corn, a cash crop traded by a powerful local elite.
- Conservation groups have teamed up to organize raids that have resulted in a number of arrests, and are making inroads into the corn distribution networks.
- So far, however, only impoverished laborers have been held to account, many of them new arrivals to the area who have fled drought in southern Madagascar; none of the well-connected backers of the deforestation have been touched.


Brazil wants to legalize agribusiness leasing of indigenous lands [02/21/2019]
- It is currently illegal under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution for outside agricultural producers to lease land within indigenous reserves from indigenous groups in order to grow commercial commodities crops there. It is also illegal for indigenous groups to convert forests within their reserves to commercial commodities crop production.
- However, the Bolsonaro government, utilizing public events and public statements, has made it clear that it condones such activities. Brazil currently knows of 22 indigenous reserves in violation of the law, with areas illegally leased to agricultural producers totaling 3.1 million hectares (11,969 square miles).
- Bolsonaro’s Agriculture Minister stated last week that she wants to see Congress move forward with new measures to make commercial commodities growing legal within indigenous reserves, provided the indigenous people living there agree to the crops and make land leasing agreements with producers.
- Up until now, indigenous groups have been renowned as the best protectors of the Amazon rainforest. However, the Bolsonaro administration’s moves seem aimed at dividing indigenous groups into two camps, one that favors agribusiness conversion, and one that wants to protect reserve forests and indigenous traditions.


Video: Cerrado farmer shot amid escalating conflict with agribusiness [02/21/2019]
- Mongabay video exclusive: Long simmering land disputes between traditional communities and large-scale agribusiness in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna biome appear to be intensifying. In January, cellphone video showed a geraizeiro, a small-scale farmer, wounded by security agents at the Agronegocio Estrondo plantation in Bahia, Brazil.
- The shooting occurred when the farmer tried to recover a small herd of cattle that the plantation was holding inside a corral on what it claimed was its property. In recent years, Estrondo and other large plantations have laid claim to largely undeeded Cerrado uplands where traditional settlements had long legally grazed their livestock.
- Even more recently, Estrondo and other plantations have laid claim to lowlands near rivers in order to tap the streams for irrigation, again taking advantage of the lack of land deeds, and this time encroaching on traditional rural settlements whose land rights are protected under Brazilian law.
- Outrage against Estrondo by locals heightened after the grower allegedly destroyed a village cell tower; erected fences staffed with armed guards blocking roads to the local market town; and constructed deep ditches, high berms and even a watchtower to defend the lands the firm has claimed. Legal action is ongoing to diffuse the situation.


In a predator-infested forest, survival for baby birds comes by the road [02/21/2019]
- Fledglings of a common bird, the white-rumped shama, in a tropical forest in Thailand were more likely to survive if they came from nests near a roadway than if they fledged deeper in the forest, researchers have found.
- The scientists believe that predators’ preference for the forest’s interior at this study site led to the difference in survival rates.
- Still, they caution that the apparent benefits of one road for a small subset of a single species don’t necessarily extend to the broader bird community, and say that planners should avoid building roads through areas of high conservation value.
- More research is necessary to determine if this effect is specific just to this study site.


Madre de Dios: Seven Brazil nut concessions investigated for illegal timber extraction [02/20/2019]
- A new report by environmental prosecutors in Peru alleges that loggers are using permits for Brazil nut concessions as cover for illegal timber harvesting.
- The Peruvian government has now taken action by seizing files on seven suspicious cases.


Bolsonaro government takes aim at Vatican over Amazon meeting [02/20/2019]
- The Catholic Church has scheduled a Synod for October, a meeting at which bishops and priests (and one nun) from the nine Latin American Amazon countries will discuss environmental, indigenous and climate change issues.
- Members of the new rightist Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro are eyeing the event with suspicion, seeing it as an attack on national sovereignty by a progressive church.
- To show its opposition to the Amazon Synod, the Brazilian government plans to sponsor a rival symposium in Rome, just a month before the Pope’s meeting, to present examples of “Brazil’s concern and care for the Amazon.”
- At issue are two opposing viewpoints: the Catholic Church under Pope Francis sees itself and all nations as stewards of the Earth and of less privileged indigenous and traditional people. Bolsonaro, however, and many of his ruralist and evangelical allies see the Amazon as a resource to be used and developed freely by humans.


Indonesia to get first payment from Norway under $1b REDD+ scheme [02/20/2019]
- Indonesia and Norway have agreed on a first payment from a $1 billion deal under which Indonesia preserves its rainforests to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
- The agreement comes nearly a decade since the deal was signed in 2010, with the delay attributed largely to the need for legislation and policy frameworks to be put in place, as well as a change in the Indonesian government since then.
- The amount of the first payment still needs to be negotiated by both sides, with Indonesia pushing for a higher valuation than the $5 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent that Norway paid Brazil under a similar deal.
- Indonesia still has work to do to ensure a consistent pace of progress and tackle the forest fires that account for much of the loss of its forests.


Brazil sees growing wave of anti-indigenous threats, reserve invasions [02/19/2019]
- At least 14 indigenous reserves have been invaded or threatened with invasion, according to Repórter Brasil, an online news service and Mongabay media partner. Threats and acts of violence against indigenous communities appear to have escalated significantly since President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office.
- Indigenous leaders say Bolsonaro’s incendiary language against indigenous people has helped incite that violence, though the government denies this, with one official saying the administration will “stop the illegality.” Indigenous leaders point out that, so far, the government has failed to provide significant law enforcement assistance in the crisis
- Among recent threats and attacks: a top indigenous leader, Rosivaldo Ferreira da Silva of the Tupinambá people, claims to have detected a plot by large-scale landowners and military and civilian police to murder him and his family. The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau and Karipuna reserves in Rondônia state have been invaded by land grabbers and illegal loggers.
- Another five indigenous territories near the city of Altamira in Pará state have also reportedly been invaded.


In the Solomon Islands, making amends in the name of conservation [02/19/2019]
- The Kwaio people of the Solomon Islands have been working with scientists to protect their homeland from resource extraction and development.
- But violent clashes in 1927 between the Kwaio and the colonial government created a rift between members of this tribe and the outside world.
- To heal those old wounds and continue with their conservation work, a trio of scientists joined the Kwaio in a sacred reconciliation ceremony in July 2018.
- Kwaio leaders say that the ceremony opened the door to a more peaceful future for their people.


The view from the bottleneck: Is nature poised for a big comeback? [02/18/2019]
- A new theory, from bottleneck to breakthrough, posits that urbanization, falling fertility and the end of extreme poverty could result in a much greener world than the one we inherited.
- The scientists behind the idea believe that conservation must continue to “hold on” to species and places as nations make their way through the tightening bottleneck.
- If trends today persist, the global population could urbanize and fall dramatically in the next couple of centuries, turning conservation into restoration.
- This post is part of “Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild,” a monthly column by Jeremy Hance, one of Mongabay’s original staff writers.


10 reasons U.S. must hold Peru to trade deal and protect Amazon (commentary) [02/15/2019]
- Peru’s pioneering forest inspection agency OSINFOR has taken the lead in exposing the rampant illegalities that have dominated Peru’s timber trade for decades, but it has done so only because it has been independent of other government ministries.
- In December 2018, Peru moved OSINFOR into the Ministry of Environment, effectively stripping it of its independence, a decision that could gravely compromise OSINFOR’s effectiveness in the future.
- This move also arguably violates the Trade Promotion Agreement between Peru and the United States, which entered into force 10 years ago and stipulates that OSINFOR must be “independent.”
- The U.S., a top importer of Peruvian timber, has a major responsibility for ensuring that it is produced legally and therefore must insist Peru respect the Trade Promotion Agreement by making OSINFOR independent again. – This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Sri Lanka gets its first data-based elephant distribution map [02/15/2019]
- Researchers have produced the first ever data-based distribution map of Asian elephants for Sri Lanka. This is also the first evidence-based distribution map of Asian elephants for any of the 13 range countries, the researchers say.
- The study found that elephants currently occur in 60 percent of Sri Lanka, a figure that’s higher than previous estimates based on expert opinions, and also higher than that for any other range state.
- The majority of the elephants occur outside protected areas, sharing space with humans, the study found. So trying to confine the animals to the limits of protected areas is not a sound conservation strategy, the researchers say.
- Instead, they recommend a “human–elephant coexistence model,” one that aims to reduce conflict by protecting villages and cultivations with barriers.


Few eco commitments and suspect funding for Indonesia presidential hopefuls [02/15/2019]
- The second debate in Indonesia’s presidential campaign, scheduled for Feb. 17, will address environmental issues.
- Activists say that both President Joko Widodo and his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, have shown little commitment to tackling pressing issues such as reining in oil palm expansion, ending deforestation, or fully recognizing indigenous rights.
- In addition, both campaigns are heavily funded by donations linked to the mining and palm oil industries, while top campaign officials also have business holdings in these sectors.


Invaded Uru-eu-wau-wau indigenous reserve awaits relief by Brazil’s new government [02/14/2019]
- On January 12, Brazil’s Uru-eu-wau-wau Indigenous Reserve in Rondônia state, which covers 1.8 million hectares (6,950 square miles) and includes significant intact rainforest, was invaded by 40 land grabbers, some of them armed, who began cutting down trees, cut 15.5 miles of trails, and started subdividing cleared land into lots.
- Detected, challenged and videotaped by indigenous men, the invaders said they came from “outside” and that 200 more invaders would be coming soon. Indigenous inhabitants made an immediate appeal to the new Bolsonaro administration for significant law enforcement assistance to repel the invaders.
- While federal police in high numbers have not been deployed as requested, the federal and state governments did send in a high level official delegation to investigate the situation including new FUNAI National Indian Foundation president General Franklimberg de Freitas.
- The government says the situation is being watched closely, but is under control for now, and that the administration will “stop illegality.” But indigenous leaders fear “the invaders believe they have support” from the Bolsonaro government. The incident is ongoing. There have been two arrests, but to date the invaders have not been completely expelled.


Tool innovation shows cultural evolution at work among chimpanzees [02/12/2019]
- Chimpanzees in the wild have long been known to use a balled-up wad of leaves as a sponge to soak up water to drink.
- In 2011, researchers in Uganda observed chimps using a fistful of moss instead of leaves — and noted that the practice of “moss-sponging” was spreading throughout the chimp community.
- The sudden emergence and then rapid spread of this new tool leads researchers to believe that chimpanzees are capable of cultural evolution.
- Deforestation and hunting threaten chimpanzees with extinction, and may make it more difficult for cultural innovations to spread.


Amazon at risk: Brazil plans rapid road and rail infrastructure expansion [02/12/2019]
- New Minister of Infrastructure Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas is considered one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s most capable ministers. The former army engineer wants to streamline Brazil’s infrastructure agencies, root out corruption, and is seeking foreign investors, especially China, to finance a rush of new transportation construction.
- Conservationists and indigenous groups worry that Tarcísio Freitas’ plans to push forward with new roads and railways – including Ferrogrâo (Grainrail) and FIOL (the Railway for the Integration of the Center-West) – could open the Amazon and Cerrado biomes to land grabbers, illegal loggers, illicit ranchers and industrial agribusiness.
- While Tarcísio Freitas says that new Amazon transportation routes can help industrial agribusiness grow without causing new deforestation, in a Mongabay interview last year, he failed to address how all of this new infrastructure could be accomplished without also degrading Amazon forests or impacting indigenous communities.


Six new catfish species, facial tentacles and all, described in Amazon [02/11/2019]
- Researchers have described six new species of catfish from the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America.
- All six species belong to the genus Ancistrus, and have tentacles sprouting from their faces, spines sticking out from their heads, and armor-like bony plates covering their bodies.
- The newly described fish were once plentiful but are now scarce, the researchers say, largely due to habitat destruction from agricultural expansion, deforestation and gold mining.


Sumatran tiger killed at London Zoo by potential mate [02/10/2019]
- Melati, a 10-year-old female Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), was killed Feb. 8 at ZSL London Zoo when she was introduced to a 7-year-old male called Asim.
- Asim had been transferred from Denmark as part of the European Endangered Species Programme, a captive-breeding program.
- The two tigers had been kept in separate but adjacent paddocks for 10 days before zookeepers opened the door between them on the morning of Feb. 8.
- Scientists believe that fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers live on their namesake Indonesian island.


Butterfly business: Insect farmers help conserve East African forests [02/08/2019]
- As many as 1,200 people living around the forests of coastal Kenya and Tanzania have turned to butterfly farming to make a living. Many of them were once loggers who now defend the forest.
- Three butterfly-farming initiatives aim to conserve forests while generating sustainable incomes for local communities by raising and selling pupae to research institutes and butterfly houses in Europe and Turkey.
- The most successful of the initiatives is helping to conserve the 420 square-kilometer (162 square-mile) Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve in Kilifi county, Kenya, the last large remnant of a forest that once stretched from southern Somalia to northern Mozambique.
- By contrast, the two Tanzanian projects are currently challenged by a government ban on wildlife exports.


EU action plan on tropical deforestation must be beefed up, or it will fail (commentary) [02/08/2019]
- Through its insatiable consumption of agro-commodities like soy, palm oil, and beef, the EU is contributing to a global deforestation crisis. After stalling for years while it carried out study after study, 2019 is crunch time.
- The first signs are far from good, suggesting a toothless, pro-corporate, ‘more of the same’ approach — which the available evidence indicates is doomed to failure — in marked contrast to the EU’s action on illegal timber.
- To have any chance of having an impact, the EU’s action plan on deforestation must be strengthened to include plans for legally binding regulation.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


What’s in a name? The role of defining ‘wilderness’ in conservation [02/07/2019]
- In a recent opinion piece published in the journal Nature, several ecologists question recent efforts to delineate areas of wilderness and intactness around the world to define conservation targets.
- They argue that it would be better to build broadly supported consensus that includes the perspectives of local and indigenous communities.
- But the leader of a team that recently mapped out the remaining wilderness on land and in the ocean said that identifying these areas and developing new targets that incorporate their conservation is critical because current international agreements do not prioritize their protection.


Audio: Good news from Mexico monarch reserve despite looming deforestation, mine threat [02/05/2019]
- On today’s episode, we talk with Mongabay contributor Martha Pskowski, who recently traveled to central Mexico to report on threats to monarch butterflies in their overwintering grounds.
- Tourists typically arrive in droves to see the butterflies at the reserves set up in their overwintering grounds, and right now is a particularly good time to see the butterflies, as Mexico’s national commissioner for protected natural areas has announced that, after years of declines, the number of monarchs spending their winter in Mexico is up 144 percent from last year.
- As Pskowski found on her recent reporting trip to two different monarch butterfly reserves in the Mexican states of Michoacán and the State of Mexico, the annual arrival of the monarchs is a major component of the local economy, but the butterflies still face a variety of threats to their survival once they reach their overwintering grounds.


China’s Belt and Road Initiative could increase alien species invasion [02/05/2019]
- China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative could introduce alien invasive species into several countries, threatening their native biodiversity, warns a new study.
- Researchers looked at the risk of invasion of more than 800 alien invasive vertebrate species and found that there were 14 invasion hotspots — areas that have both high introduction risk with the movement of people and goods, and conditions that would allow the invasive species to thrive.
- These hotspots include areas in North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
- Other researchers say the study doesn’t include many other kinds of invaders, such as insects and pathogens, which can have major financial impacts on ecosystems, agriculture and livestock.


New appointments, new policies don’t bode well for Brazilian Amazon [02/04/2019]
- Jair Bolsonaro took office on 1 January. Since then, he has made appointments to his government, and there have been statements by people in his administration, that are causing grave concern among environmentalists.
- New Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has come out strongly for an end to the demarcation of indigenous lands, and in support of entrepreneurs and companies being allowed to self-regulate the environmental licensing process for major infrastructure and development projects.
- Salles also wants to hire a satellite firm to monitor Brazil’s forest fires, drought and deforestation. Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), a governmental agency, released a response explaining that it is already doing this work. While Salles plan isn’t clear, it could be a means of privatizing deforestation monitoring.
- Franklimberg Ribeiro de Freitas has been chosen to head Funai, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency. However, some fear a major conflict of interest. Freitas was most recently a consulting advisor for indigenous, community, and environmental affairs with the Belo Sun mining company, where he sided against indigenous land rights.


Haiti’s first private nature reserve seeks to protect rare plants and animals [02/01/2019]
- On Grand Bois, an isolated mountain in southwestern Haiti, researchers and conservation groups have carved out the island nation’s first ever private nature reserve.
- The new reserve overlaps with the Grand Bois National Park declared by the Haiti government in 2015, and covers about 5 square kilometers (2 square miles) of mostly primary forest, offering protection to several rare species found nowhere else on Earth.
- With the first private reserve created on Grand Bois, which will be managed with the help of local communities, the conservationists now plan to both build a network of private nature reserves and assist the government in managing other protected areas.


Study finds palm oil industry mimics Big Tobacco on health issues [02/01/2019]
- A study published in the WHO Bulletin has likened the palm oil industry’s tactics to those of the tobacco and alcohol lobbies to obscure the direct and indirect health impacts of the commodity.
- The study found mixed messages in the scientific literature about the health impacts of palm oil, not least because several studies have been authored by an industry lobby group.
- The indirect health impacts were clearer, and included illnesses caused by smoke from the slash-and-burn clearing of forests for palm plantations.
- The researchers called for a multipronged approach to address these impacts, while acknowledging that replacing palm oil with other vegetable oils in the same volumes would require far more land.


Will President Bolsonaro withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement? (commentary) [01/31/2019]
- Early in his presidential campaign, candidate Jair Bolsonaro stated that he planned to pull Brazil out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Then, just before his election, the media reported that he was committed to keeping the nation in the accord.
- However, what Bolsonaro actually said was that he would keep Brazil in the agreement “for now,” but only if several conditions were met, allowances that would likely require alterations in the international accord.
- As there is no one who can make these assurances, Bolsonaro’s conditions cannot be met. Meanwhile, Amazon deforestation is rising, and the new government has announced massive plans for Amazon development. Brazil has also withdrawn its sponsorship of the 2019 United Nations Climate Conference (COP25).
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Current threats and future hopes for the greater Mekong’s mangroves [01/30/2019]
- Critical to the health of rivers, shorelines and forests globally, today only 150,000 square kilometers (57,900 square miles) of mangroves remain, down from 320,000 square kilometers (123,550 square miles) 50 years ago.
- Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar are home to the largest mangrove forests in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, but rapid economic growth and illegal logging for fuelwood collection have damaged these forests.
- Technical advancements such as floating mangroves, along with increased public awareness, do offer hope for the future of these trees in the region, as some are protected and recovering.


Borneo study explores links between farm expansion and deforestation [01/30/2019]
- A nearly two-decade study of land-cover change in Borneo has identified a positive correlation between the loss of forests and the expansion of plantations, primarily for oil palms.
- The findings undermine the long-held position of industry and government representatives that plantation expansion doesn’t contribute to deforestation and that it makes use of already cleared land.
- The study also highlighted a slowdown in rates of both deforestation and plantation expansion, which the researchers attributed to declining process of crude palm oil, more stringent regulations on forest clearing, and wetter weather in 2017.
- While the expansion of plantations hit a new low in 2017, activists say the possible illegal clearing of peat forests continues unabated in Indonesian Borneo, despite repeated calls to the government for action.


Viral video of endangered lemur made people want one as a pet: Study [01/29/2019]
- A viral video of a ring-tailed lemur released in 2016 triggered a common sentiment: hundreds of people tweeted about “wanting to own pet lemurs,” a new study has found.
- Researchers did not find any evidence of people buying or selling lemurs on Twitter. But viral videos like these can reinforce public interest in having wild animals as pets, they say.
- Searches of the phrase “pet lemur” on Google and YouTube also spiked in the weeks immediately after the video went viral, compared to other weeks between 2013 and 2018.


Bolsonaro government reveals plan to develop the ‘Unproductive Amazon’ [01/28/2019]
- Bolsonaro administration Chief of Strategic Affairs Maynard Santa Rosa last week announced new Brazilian mega-infrastructure projects that include a dam on the Trombetas River, a bridge over the Amazon River, and an extension of the BR-163 highway from the Amazon River through 300 miles of rainforest to the Surinam border.
- Santa Rosa, a retired general, said that these Amazon biome infrastructure projects had as their purpose the integration of what he called an “unproductive, desertlike” region into “the national productive system.”
- The Trombetas region contains 4 indigenous reserves, 8 quilombo communities and 5 conservation units.
- In his radio announcement the official provided few details on the projects, saying nothing about costs, where the money to build would come from, what the socio-environmental impacts might be, or the timeline for the construction.


Funds tripled and target slashed, but Indonesia still off pace for reforestation [01/25/2019]
- Indonesia’s efforts to reforest critically degraded land, left over from mining, logging and agricultural activities, have fallen far short of the government’s targets.
- The government initially sought to restore an area the size of the United Kingdom by 2030, before slashing its target to an area the size of England.
- Environmental activists have questioned how the government determines what constitutes land that needs to be restored, and say even an increased annual restoration goal combined with a tripling of funding is insufficient to meet the smaller overall target.
- Officials say lack of funding is the main impediment to the program’s success, and while an untapped pool of money is available, local officials are reluctant to touch it because of a history of mismanagement.


Of concrete and corruption: Resistance kills Andes Amazon dams [01/24/2019]
- In 2010, the presidents of Peru and Brazil made a deal to build 22 major Andes Amazon dams on the Marañón River – the Amazon River’s mainstem. The energy generated by those dams would go to vastly expand Peru’s Conga gold and copper mine, making it one of the biggest in the world.
- The Conga mine expansion would have dumped 85,000 tons of toxic, heavy metal-laden tailings into the Ucayali River watershed daily. The Marañón dams would have blocked vital nutrient and sediment flow, likely doing irreparable harm to Amazon River and Amazon basin ecology.
- Odebrecht, a Brazilian mega-construction firm, was picked to spearhead building. The projects were strongly opposed by the rural people they’d impact, and by an international alliance of environmental NGOs and river adventure tourists who see the Marañón as Latin America’s Grand Canyon.
- Nine years later, the Peruvian and Brazilian presidents and Odebrecht executives involved in the deal are in jail or charged with corruption. All but two of the dam projects have been abandoned. The result came about largely due to the astonishingly successful resistance of local rural people.


Bans on the bird trade in South America yield mixed results [01/24/2019]
- After decades of rampant exports, several South American countries banned the international trade of wild-caught birds.
- In some cases, in concert with conservation, the bans have helped bird populations recover, leading several countries to invest in birdwatching tourism.
- However, the bans have also led to a significant illegal trade on the continent and a shift of the economic benefits from the wild bird trade to other countries.


In PNG, a fallen bridge is testament to the chasm in rural development [01/24/2019]
- A year after the collapse of a bridge over the Banab River in northern Papua New Guinea, the crossing is finally on the verge of reopening.
- The bridge, a vital link between provincial capital Madang and agricultural areas to the north, has become a symbol of the central government’s neglect of rural areas.
- The state’s failure to provide infrastructure has led some communities to welcome extractive industries that promise to build roads, schools and hospitals.


New species of leaf-mimicking lizard could already be victim of pet trade [01/23/2019]
- From the forests of Marojejy National Park in Madagascar, researchers have described a new species of leaf-tailed gecko that has a somewhat compressed body, a small triangular head, and a leaf-shaped tail.
- So far, the gecko, named Uroplatus finaritra, is known only from within a small area at lower altitudes in Marojejy. Since forests in this area are rapidly disappearing due to illegal logging activity, both in and around the park, the researchers recommend that the gecko be listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The gecko may also have already appeared in the international pet trade under the label of the more common satanic leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus phantasticus.


Saving the forests of the Congo Basin: Q&A with author Meindert Brouwer [01/23/2019]
- Central African Forests Forever, first published in 2017, takes readers to the heart of the continent, introducing them to the people and wildlife of this region.
- Its author, independent communications consultant Meindert Brouwer, says the book also functions as a tool for sharing information about efforts to address poverty and environmental issues in the region.
- Mongabay spoke with Brouwer to learn more about his motivations and the reception of his work in Central Africa.




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