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



Palm oil certification? No silver bullet, but essential for sustainability (commentary) [05/25/2018]
- We need a global standard on what constitutes sustainable palm oil and a common system to implement it. Arriving at this consensus requires a convening body to connect every link in the palm oil supply chain, across different countries and jurisdictions.
- A recent report from Changing Markets Foundation, released with additional comments by NGOs such as FERN, the Environmental Investigation Agency, Mighty Earth, and Friends of the Earth Netherlands, criticizes the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and proposes that certification standards are — as stated by the same NGOs — ‘holding back the progressive reform of the sector’ and may even be causing ‘active damage.’
- This report disregards some of the important realities in the industry and on the ground, and fails to offer practical solutions. Simply bashing certification because of its imperfections puts the advances made at risk, instead of helping develop standards and synergies that facilitate compliance across the global palm oil supply chain.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Illegal loggers ‘cook the books’ to harvest Amazon’s most valuable tree [05/24/2018]
- A new study finds that illegal logging, coupled with weak state-run timber licensing systems, has led to massive timber harvesting fraud in Brazil, resulting in huge illicit harvests of Ipê trees. This process is doing major damage to the Amazon, as loggers build roads deep into forests, causing fragmentation and creating greater access.
- To reduce document fraud, the Brazilian federal government this month required that all states register or integrate their timber licensing systems within a national timber inventory and tracking system known as Sinaflor. While this should reduce fraudulent paperwork, onsite illicit timber harvesting practices remain a major problem.
- Better oversight of forest management plans and more onsite inspections of timber operations are needed to curb illegal logging practices and to prevent harvesting on public lands and in indigenous reserves. The high value of Ipê wood — selling for up to $2,500 per cubic meter at export — makes it very profitable for illegal loggers.
- Ipê wood is largely shipped to the U.S. and Europe. Analysts say that buyers all along the timber supply chain turn a blind eye toward fraud, with sawmills, exporters, and importers trusting the paperwork they receive, rather than questioning whether the lower prices they pay for Ipê and other timber may be due to timber laundering.


Hunters are wiping out hornbills in Ghana’s forests [05/23/2018]
- According to a new study, Ghana is losing hornbill species to “uncontrolled” hunting, mostly for meat, from its forested parks and reserves.
- The researchers found that the five largest species of hornbills in the Bia Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have disappeared in recent decades.
- The authors of the paper suggest that increased enforcement will help protect threatened hornbills, as well as other wildlife species, in areas under intense pressure from humans.


Trio of studies challenges Indian government claim of increasing forest cover [05/23/2018]
- Three studies published over the past seven months show that forest cover in India is declining, contrary to findings from the latest Forest Survey of India report.
- One study found 16 to 30 percent forest loss in the eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim, while another study found that the Eastern Ghats lost nearly 16 percent of their forest area between 1920 and 2015.
- The third study, which analyzed patterns of forest cover across India from 2001 to 2014, found “significant negative changes” in the seasonal green cover, with the highest decline recorded in tropical moist deciduous forests.


Roads might pose even bigger threat to Southeast Asian forests, biodiversity than previously understood [05/22/2018]
- According to Alice Hughes, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Centre for Integrative Conservation, global analyses often underestimate levels of deforestation driven by road-building in the Indo-Malaysia region. This is because many of those analyses rely on a widely used global map of roads compiled by Open Street Maps (OSM) that misses as much as 99 percent of roads in parts of the region.
- According to Hughes, this level of inaccuracy can have serious consequences: “Not only does it mean that any analysis based on global roads datasets will underestimate the level of fragmentation and overestimate the forest coverage of a region, but most forms of exploitation also occur within close proximity to a road.”
- Increasing deforestation is not the only threat posed by opening new areas to roads. “These growing road networks provide accessibility for other forms of resource exploitation,” Hughes notes in the study. “Most notably this includes selective logging, and hunting, which in the Indo-Malay region also targets a vast suite of species as pets, medicine and meat.”


Tiny marsupials that practice ‘suicidal’ mating declared endangered [05/21/2018]
- On May 11, the Australian government officially declared two species of recently described antechinuses, a mouse-like marsupial, as endangered.
- The species are famed for their marathon mating sessions that leave the males so exhausted that they die.
- Both species occur only in high-altitude forests, and are threatened by climate change, habitat loss and threats from feral cats, cattle and horses.


Brazil has the tools to end Amazon deforestation now: report [05/18/2018]
- A coalition of environmental NGOs known as the Zero Deforestation Working Group has developed a practical plan called “A Pathway to Zero Deforestation in the Amazon.” First proposed at the COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany, last November, the NGOs propose workable strategies for ending deforestation quickly in Brazil, while also yielding significant economic and social benefits.
- Deforestation continues, the report says, because cleared land is worth more than forested land in the Amazon, so there is a strong economic incentive to buy up large amounts of forestland and clear it. Also, enforcement of Brazilian forestry laws remains weak. Finally, markets have been slow to make, and implement, commitments to remove deforestation from their supply chains.
- Deforestation solutions require a new development vision for the Brazilian Amazon, say analysts, with policies that promote the sustainable use of forest products, and policies that end the expansion of agro-commodities into native forests, and promote agribusiness growth on the nation’s surplus of 15-20 million hectares of already deforested and degraded land.
- Law enforcement to curb illegal land grabbing also needs to happen, especially on the 70 million hectares of public land in Amazonia not allocated for specific uses. Also, government must start tracking cattle from point of origin with indirect suppliers, where deforestation occurs, to slaughterhouses. A key step to a solution: open talks between agribusiness and environmentalists.


Latam Eco review: Coca threatens world’s best organic coffees [05/18/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of May 7 -13. Among the top articles: the assassination of two activists who opposed the Hidroituango hydroelectric project revives the debate around megaprojects in Colombia. In other news, centuries-old trees cut for parquet floors in Peru, […]

Humans are leaving their mark on the world’s protected areas, study finds [05/17/2018]
- About one-third of the world’s total protected area — around 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles) — bears the scars of substantial degradation at the hands of humans, according to research published in the journal Science.
- The researchers found that large parks and reserves held to the toughest standards are doing significantly better than those with laxer controls.
- The authors argue that assessments of the effectiveness of protected areas should be considered, especially as governments try to meet one of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets calling for protecting 17 percent of the Earth’s land area by 2020.


Brazilian Amazon oil palm deforestation under control, for now [05/17/2018]
- Brazil’s Sustainable Palm Oil Production Program (SPOPP), launched in 2010, aims to prevent primary and secondary forest clearing for new oil palm plantations in Legal Amazonia. As part of the plan, a bio-physical suitability zoning map excluded legally protected parks, indigenous reserves and intact forest areas from those areas available for oil palm cultivation.
- With 31.2 million hectares (120,463 square miles) of degraded land existing in Legal Amazonia that could be put into oil palm production without severe ecological consequences, it was thought at the time that there would be no need for deforestation by the industry. A recent study gauges SPOPP’s success from 2006 to 2014.
- The study surveyed oil palm cultivation over a 50,000 square kilometer area in Pará state, finding that 90 percent of production expansion over that time occurred on former pasture, not forest. In fact, direct conversion of intact forest to oil palm declined 4 percent from 2006-2010, to less than 1 percent from 2010-2014 in the study area.
- Researchers fear that major deforestation due to an oil palm production boom could occur in the near future if transportation infrastructure is markedly improved, and if Brazil’s economy, political and institutional stability increases. The study didn’t address escalating conflicts between Amazon oil palm plantations and traditional communities.


Greenpeace disowns paper giant over deforestation allegations [05/16/2018]
- Environmental NGO Greenpeace will end its engagement with the Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas Group and its pulp and paper arm, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP).
- A new mapping analysis by the NGO showed 80 square kilometers of forests and peatlands has been cleared since 2013 in two concessions that are linked to the paper giant.
- Greenpeace said this finding put APP’s commitment to end deforestation in jeopardy.


‘Rainbow’ chameleon among three new species described from Madagascar [05/16/2018]
- Researchers discovered the brilliantly colored rainbow chameleon, now named Calumma uetzi, during an expedition to the remote Sorata massif in northern Madagascar in 2012.
- Over surveys between 2015 and 2016, the researchers found another new species of chameleon, now dubbed Calumma juliae, in a 15-square-kilometer patch of forest. The researchers were unable to find any males of this species.
- They also found only a single male specimen of the third new chameleon species, Calumma lefona, spotted in Andrevorevo in northern Madagascar.


The destruction of nature in S. Sumatra has given rise to a criminal generation (commentary) [05/16/2018]
- Reports of criminal activity have increasingly trickled out of Indonesia’s South Sumatra province.
- Could these incidents of violence, lawbreaking and general lack of respect for order be related to diminishing natural resources and destruction of the landscape? This article explores this idea.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author alone.


Study links malaria to deforestation in the Amazon [05/15/2018]
- A study published recently adds evidence to the argument that deforestation aids the spread of malaria.
- Researchers compared deforestation patterns to malaria rates in nine states in the Brazilian Amazon. They found that places with the highest incidences of malaria were impacted forest patches between 0.1 and 5 square kilometers in size.
- The researchers write that these forest patches contain the shaded, watery, forest-edge habitat preferred by the mosquitos that transmit malaria.
- To keep malaria from becoming an even bigger threat, the authors call for better monitoring of mosquito populations, land planning, and income generation schemes for forest-dwelling communities.


Attack of the turtles: ruralists assault environmental laws, Amazon [05/15/2018]
- With the Brazilian public focused on the October elections, and many members of congress gone home to organize runs for office, the bancada ruralista, rural lobby, has launched a raft of amendments, attached to unrelated bills, that would undo many of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections. There is a strong chance of passage.
- These stealth measures are known as “jabutis” or “turtles.” Two jabutis, attached to an energy bill, could lead to the privatization of Brazil’s electricity sector, and to allowing the ownership of land by foreigners, currently forbidden in Brazil, for the purpose of building dams, transmission lines, and other energy facilities. Passage could greatly benefit China.
- Another rider, attached to a bill giving emergency humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan refugees, would abolish a legal requirement to consult with indigenous communities about new energy projects to be built beside roads and railways that already cross their lands. The rider would immediately impact the Waimiri-Atroari Indians in Roraima state.
- Another jabuti would benefit Cerrado agribusiness by classifying all proposed irrigation projects as “projects of public interest,” making them easier to approve, with less rigorous environmental impact studies. Another jabuti would simplify the environmental licensing process for small hydroelectric dams, potentially harming both the Amazon and Pantanal.


Sifaka lemurs listed as “critically endangered” amid mysterious die-off [05/15/2018]
- In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in Berenty Reserve near Madagascar’s southern tip.
- It’s one of the largest lemur die-offs scientists can remember.
- Experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown.
- At a large IUCN meeting held last week in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, primate specialists decided to uplist all nine sifaka species from endangered to critically endangered.


Typo derails landmark ruling against Indonesian palm oil firm guilty of burning peatland [05/15/2018]
- A district court in Indonesia has shielded an oil palm company from a Supreme Court ruling ordering it to pay $26.5 million in fines for burning peatlands in a high-biodiversity area, citing a typo in the original prosecution.
- The verdict has stunned activists, who had hoped that the original guilty verdict would set a strong precedent for the judicial fight against environmental crimes.
- The government is appealing the latest ruling, which, ironically, is fraught with typos that — under the same legal logic — would render it just as invalid as the original guilty verdict.


Audio: Sylvia Earle on why we must act now to save the oceans [05/15/2018]
- On today’s episode, renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle joins us for an in-depth conversation about marine conservation.
- Legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle, sometimes known as “Her Deepness” or “The Sturgeon General,” is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and former chief scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A documentary film about her work called Mission Blue won a 2015 News & Documentary Emmy.
- She joins us today to discuss how effective marine protected areas are at conserving the oceans and their inhabitants, her Hope Spots program that is identifying some of the most valuable marine environments on the planet, and the latest advances in marine conservation that she is most hopeful about.


Higher incomes, not higher carbon dioxide levels, drive forest gains, study finds [05/15/2018]
- New research indicates that higher levels of economic development, rather than carbon dioxide, are responsible for some countries’ gains in forest cover.
- The findings contradict several climate change models that point to the role that higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere can play as a “fertilizer” for plants.
- Policy decisions should account for the role that development plays in the health of forests, the authors say.


Damming the Amazon unfettered after Brazilian purge (commentary) [05/14/2018]
- In January 2018, two key Brazilian officials, Paulo Pedrosa, executive secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), and Luiz Augusto Barroso, the head of Energy Research Enterprise, an MME agency responsible for energy planning, announced a shift away from destructive Amazon mega-dam construction.
- They said the reason for the shift was the heavy environmental and social impacts of such dams.
- After the appointment of Moreira Franco, the new Minister of Mines and Energy, both MME officials were replaced. Franco is under investigation in the lava jato (car wash) corruption probe. Amazon dams are particularly prone to corruption.
- There has been no mention since January that any planned Amazonian dams listed for construction by 2026 will be cancelled. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Sumatran habitat for tigers, orangutans gets a partial reprieve from development [05/10/2018]
- The Aceh provincial government has vowed to protect Gunung Leuser National Park, the core part of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, by canceling infrastructure projects in the park.
- However, questions linger over the future of the remaining part of the wider ecosystem, where planned infrastructure projects remain unaffected by the latest pledge.
- Activists have called on the provincial government to recognize the wider Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh’s spatial plans so that the region is excluded from any infrastructure development that could threaten the habitat of the many endangered species living there.


Debate ensues over British supermarket chain’s decision to ban palm oil [05/10/2018]
- Iceland Foods recently decided to remove palm oil from its own-label products. The move follows a vote by the European Parliament to ban the use of palm oil in European biofuels.
- An aggressive lobbying campaign spearheaded by actors from Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top palm oil producers, have framed the ban as an attack on small farmers, although the industry is dominated by large companies. But Iceland’s move has also spurred debate among scientists and conservationists, some of whom say Iceland would do better to source palm oil that has been produced “sustainably.”
- Iceland says it doesn’t believe there is enough “truly sustainable palm oil…currently available on the mass market” for that to be a practical solution. The credibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the world’s largest association for ethical production of the commodity, for example, is widely seen as questionable, as it has repeatedly failed to enforce its standards.
- Greenpeace described Iceland’s move as a “warning shot from a tiny UK company, that could start to grow bigger if palm oil producers and governments don’t tackle the scourge of deforestation.”


Indonesian activists protest China-funded dam in orangutan habitat [05/09/2018]
- The Chinese government plans to fund a massive hydroelectric power dam in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra, Indonesia, where the newly described Tapanuli orangutan lives.
- Activists staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta on May 8, coinciding with a state visit by Premier Li Keqiang, to condemn Beijing’s involvement in the project.
- In a letter submitted by the demonstrators to the embassy, they demanded China withdraw its support for the project due to the massive environmental threats posed by the endeavor.


Pleistocene climates help scientists pick out targets for conservation in Brazil’s forests [05/08/2018]
- A team of scientists looked for places in the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest that have had stable weather patterns for a long time — going back to the Pleistocene Epoch — but that don’t fall within the boundaries of existing parks or reserves.
- They measured the efficiency of the current network of protected areas in these areas, and they also came up with a prioritization scale for conservation efforts that incorporated the locations of intact forest landscapes.
- The team reports that protected areas in the Amazon are four times as efficient at safeguarding these “climatically stable areas” as protected areas in the Atlantic Forest.


Pangolins on the brink as Africa-China trafficking persists unabated [05/08/2018]
- Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, with more than a million snatched from the wild in the past decade, according to IUCN estimates. The four Asian species have been hunted nearly to extinction, while the four African species are being poached in record numbers.
- The illegal trade largely goes to China and other East Asian nations, where pangolin meat is an expensive delicacy served to flaunt wealth and influence. Pangolin is also a preferred ingredient in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa. Traditional healers in Sierra Leone use pangolin to treat 59 medical conditions, though there is no evidence of efficacy.
- In 2016, pangolins were given the highest level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty signed by 183 nations. But laws and enforcement in African nations, along illegal trade routes, and in Asia continue to be weak, with conservationists working hard to strengthen them.
- Pangolins don’t thrive in captivity, but the Tikki Hywood Foundation in Zimbabwe and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife have succeeded in rescuing confiscated pangolins and restoring them to the wild. Six U.S. zoos are trying to raise pangolins as part of the controversial Pangolin Consortium project — only 29 of 45 imported individuals remain alive.


Colombia’s supreme court orders government to stop Amazon deforestation [05/07/2018]
- Colombia’s supreme court granted protections, filed by 25 children and other young people, that affirm that deforestation in the Colombian Amazon violates their rights to health and life.
- In the ruling, the supreme court ordered the president of Colombia and environmental authorities to create an action plan to protect this important natural area.
- This article is a journalistic collaboration between Mongabay Latam and Semana Sostenible of Colombia.


Crisis in Venezuela: Caparo Experimental Station invaded by 200 farmers [05/07/2018]
- The Caparo Forest Reserve in Barinas state, Venezuela, created in 1961, covers almost 175,000 hectares (432,000 acres). The Caparo Experimental Station, located within the reserve, encompasses 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) and has been under the administration of the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) since 1982 for scientific research and education.
- The reserve has been heavily degraded in past decades, as farmers intruded and burned forest to make way for crops. But the Experimental Station’s forest has remained mostly intact. In January, 200 members of the 777 Christ Ambassadors Cooperative (Cooperativa Embajadores de Cristo 777) invaded the Experimental Station. Mongabay reports from the scene.
- The intruders claim to have a legitimate permit for the tract. But the courts have nullified that permit and ordered an eviction. The National Guard failed to remove the invaders, so in April on a visit to the site, the Ecosocialism minister promised the settlers new land elsewhere. At the start of May, the squatters remained in place in an apparent standoff.
- The ULA is concerned about the threat the invasion poses to one of the last major surviving tracts of Colombian-Venezuelan lowland forest. The ULA continues seeking the community’s eviction, with a series of protests by academics and NGOs scheduled for May in Caracas. The groups are asking that the Caparo Reserve and Experimental Station are given national park status.


Deforestation leads to big hikes in local temperature, study finds [05/04/2018]
- Researchers have discovered a correlation between deforestation and local temperature changes in many temperate mid-latitude locations around the world.
- These increases were particularly high in North America. The study found that deforestation in heavily cleared regions of the central U.S. contributed as much as 1 degree Celsius to local maximum temperatures.
- Overall, the study indicates that deforestation contributes around one-third to average hottest-day temperature increases in places that lost at least 15 percent of their forest cover.


‘Rarest’ ape’s path to survival blocked by roads, dams and agriculture [05/03/2018]
- According to a new study, the Tapanuli orangutan, one of only seven species of non-human great ape alive today, faces serious threats to its survival as infrastructure development and agriculture threaten more than one-quarter of its habitat.
- In November, a team of scientists reported that a new species of orangutan living on the Indonesian island of Sumatra was distinct from Sumatran and Bornean orangutans.
- They believe that fewer than 800 Tapanuli orangutans survive.
- Conservationists and scientists warn that a proposed 510-megawatt hydroelectric dam could push the new species closer to extinction.


Failed rice fields may get new lease of life under Indonesian peat restoration project [05/03/2018]
- The Peatland Restoration Agency is looking at possibilities to develop agriculture on abandoned peat swamps from the failed Mega Rice Project in the mid-1990s.
- The agency has identified 1,250 square kilometers of peat areas with agricultural potential.
- The search is a part of the agency’s pilot project to test methods of developing agriculture without using fires.


New study finds mangroves may store way more carbon than we thought [05/02/2018]
- A new study finds mangrove soil held around 6.4 billion metric tons of carbon in 2000.
- Between 2000 and 2015, up to 122 million tons of this carbon was released due to mangrove forest loss – roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of Brazil. More than 75 percent of these soil carbon emissions came from mangrove deforestation in just three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar.
- Mangroves provide a slew of benefits in addition to storing carbon, reducing flooding and erosion from storms, acting as nurseries for fish, and filtering pollutants from water.
- Research indicates at least 35 percent of the world’s mangrove forests may have been lost between 1980 and 2000. Mangroves are deforested for many reasons, including to make room for shrimp farms and other forms of aquaculture, as well as for their wood. Mangroves also depend on the presence of freshwater and can die when dams and other developments stem the flow of rivers. Scientists also believe they’re at risk of mass drowning as global warming raises sea levels.


New film shines light on cattle industry link to Amazon deforestation [05/01/2018]
- Approximately one fifth of the Amazon rainforest has already been cut down, and nearly 80 percent of this deforestation is attributable to the cattle industry, says a new nearly hour-long documentary, “Grazing the Amazon.”
- Many ranchers are outspoken in their justification for deforestation, possibly because they feel safe from prosecution under Brazilian law because of the bancada ruralista, the powerful agribusiness lobby that has a huge influence in congress and on the Temer administration.
- One of the major problems driving deforestation is “cattle washing,” illicit techniques for raising cattle on newly deforested land by falsifying records, or shifting the cattle from illegal pasture to legal pasture, before sending them to slaughterhouses. Better recordkeeping could help to illuminate and limit this practice.
- Government and/or banking sanctions and incentives are also badly needed to motivate cattle ranchers to move away from deforestation, and to support already proven techniques for sustainable livestock production in the Brazilian Amazon.


Major Islamic financier singled out for deforestation in Indonesia [05/01/2018]
- Lembaga Tabung Haji is a Malaysian Islamic financial institution whose listed palm oil arm, TH Plantations, owns dozens of estates in Malaysia and Indonesia.
- The firm was the subject of a recent report by Chain Reaction Research that alleges it cleared hundreds of hectares of carbon-rich forest and peatland for oil palm expansion in 2017.
- The firm supplies major refiners and users of palm oil, such as Wilmar, ADM, Nestlé and Unilever, some of which have promised to stop sourcing palm oil linked to environmental destruction.


Palm oil supplier to food giants clears forest, peatland in Indonesia, Greenpeace says [04/30/2018]
- The Yemen-based Hayel Saeed Anam Group, which sells palm oil to Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever through subsidiaries, is responsible for clearing 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) of rainforest and peatland in Indonesia’s Papua province between 2015 and 2017, according to Greenpeace.
- Staff from the environmental organization shot video revealing the extent of the destruction.
- Greenpeace campaigners have raised concerns that Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever are not upholding their commitments to get rid of deforestation, peatland destruction and exploitation from their supply chains.


3,000 indigenous people gather in Brasilia to protest ruralist agenda [04/30/2018]
- From 23-27 April, 3,000 indigenous people from a hundred groups all across Brazil came together in Brasilia for the 15th annual encampment to demonstrate against government policies and to demand justice. While last year’s event saw police crowd control with teargas, this year’s was peaceful.
- This year’s encampment, like last year’s, was among the largest ever, catalysed by rising violence against indigenous leaders and activists, and by what participants see as the repressive and authoritarian policies of the Temer government and Congress, both of which are dominated by the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby.
- Among other demands, the demonstrators called for demarcation of ancestral lands, guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 Constitution, but not yet carried out in many indigenous areas. Protestors also asked the government to obey International Labour Organization Convention 169, which Brazil signed, and assures pre-consultation of groups impacted by large infrastructure projects.
- Indigenous women had an exceptionally strong presence at this year’s encampment, and there was further collaboration with traditional riverine group representatives, who in the past were sometimes indigenous opponents. Now, indigenous and traditional people are joining together to prevent the loss of their lands and cultures, and to preserve their way of life.


More gorillas and chimpanzees living in Central Africa’s forests than thought [04/27/2018]
- A study led by WCS researchers pulled together wildlife survey data collected between 2003 and 2013 at 59 sites in five countries across western Central Africa.
- They then developed mathematical models to understand where the highest densities of gorillas and chimpanzees are and why, as well as broader trends in the populations.
- They found that more than 361,000 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and almost 129,000 central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) inhabit these forests — about 30 percent more gorillas and 10 percent more chimpanzees than previously estimated.
- The team’s analyses also demonstrate that western lowland gorilla numbers are slipping by 2.7 percent a year.


Latam Eco Review: Respected ancestral healer murdered in Peru [04/27/2018]
Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 16 – 22. Among the top articles: the environmental world’s reaction to the terrible assassination of Olivia Arévalo, an activist of the Shipibo people in Peru; the search for a better system of land distribution […]

Photos: Meet the 2018 ‘Green Oscars’ winners [04/27/2018]
- The six winners of 2018 Whitley Award are Munir Virani of Kenya; Shahriar Caesar Rahman of Bangladesh; Kerstin Forsberg of Peru; Dominique Bikaba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Anjali Chandraraj Watson of Sri Lanka; and Olivier Nsengimana of Rwanda.
- Each recipient was awarded £40,000 ($56,000) in project funding over one year at an awards ceremony held at the Royal Geographic Society in London, U.K., on April 25.
- A seventh conservationist, Pablo “Popi” Garcia Borboroglu from Argentina, who won the Whitley Award in 2010, received the Whitley Gold Award for his commitment to safeguarding the world’s penguin species.


‘Monumental’ bust in Madagascar triggers effort to save thousands of endangered tortoises [04/25/2018]
- Authorities discovered 9,888 starving and dehydrated radiated tortoises in a vacant house in southwestern Madagascar on April 10.
- Since then, a team of organizations led by the Turtle Survival Alliance has been working to provide care for the critically endangered tortoises, 574 of which died during the first week.
- The tortoises, endemic to Madagascar, have lost around 40 percent of their habitat to deforestation, and poachers commonly capture them for the pet trade in Asia and the United States.


Venezuelan gold strike prompts invasion by 3,000 miners, military raid [04/25/2018]
- Venezuela is in the throes of an intense economic crisis, with people eager to earn money by any way possible. In 2017, rumors of a gold strike in Palmarote, a farming hamlet in Carabobo state, attracted 3,000 miners — even though no gold was known to be there, since Palmarote is 600 kilometers from the Orinoco Mining Arc, the primary source of Venezuelan gold.
- Illegal miners, given bogus mining permits by a local villager, wreaked havoc, excavating pits everywhere, digging out streambanks, polluting waterways with sediment and allegedly with mercury, a toxic metal used to purify gold. Local farmers complained repeatedly and bitterly to the government asking for law enforcement to step in.
- On January 31, a military and police operation, armed with guns and helicopters, detained 3,000 illegal miners and jailed dozens. Locals allege that a dozen people were killed. In February, President Maduro created the Carabobo Gold Corporation and nationalized the mining area, claiming its profits for government.
- Mongabay went to the lawless artisanal mines in Palmarote, which are still operating despite the government presence, to get the full story firsthand.


Papuan chef Charles Toto serves up sustainability and environmental protection in a platter [04/24/2018]
- Charles Toto is the founder of the Jungle Chef Community, a network of enthusiasts from across the Indonesian region of Papua who promote sustainable living and environmental protection through local cuisine.
- Toto came up with the idea after seeing foreign documentary makers and tour groups embarking on weeks-long treks in the Papuan wilderness with nothing more than instant and canned food.
- Over the years, he has learned to make the best use of the ingredients served up by the forest and the sea, and has taken his unique mission to culinary shows across Indonesia and abroad.
- But for Toto and his group, the opening up of Papua’s forests to palm oil and other commercial operators, aided by a government-backed infrastructure push, threatens the region’s natural wealth and heritage.


Restoring flagging oil palm plantations to forest may benefit clouded leopards, study finds [04/24/2018]
- A team of biologists fitted four clouded leopards in the Kinabatangan region of Malaysian Borneo with satellite collars, and they gathered several months of data on the animals’ movements.
- They found that the cats stuck to areas with canopy cover, and they avoided land cleared for oil palm.
- Converting underperforming oil palm plantations back to forest could help the clouded leopard population with minimal impact on the state’s production of palm oil, the authors predict.


Sumatran tiger blamed for killing two people is captured alive after marathon hunt [04/24/2018]
- Authorities in Indonesia have captured alive a critically endangered Sumatran tiger blamed for the deaths of two people in an oil palm plantation.
- The tiger has been moved to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will undergo medical tests ahead of being released back into the wild.
- The capture averts a repeat of a near-identical case in March, in which villagers killed and mutilated a tiger blamed for attacking two members of a hunting party.
- The whole incident, which an official described as the longest ever search-and-rescue operation for a Sumatran tiger, has highlighted the importance of protecting wildlife habitats, which often are lost to plantations or human settlements, driving the animals into conflict with people.


Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue [04/23/2018]
- Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy.
- We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ.
- Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback.
- We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.


Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study [04/23/2018]
- In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality.
- As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals.
- The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.


Cerrado: abandoned pasturelands fail to regain savanna biodiversity [04/20/2018]
- A new study has found that abandoned pasturelands in the Brazilian Cerrado do not regain their former biodiversity even after as much as 25 years. The Cerrado biome once covered 2 million square kilometers, but its rapid conversion by agribusiness means that less than half the region’s native vegetation remains.
- Researchers sampled 29 Cerrado pasture tracts that had been abandoned for between 3 and 25 years and found that native plants and animals largely didn’t return. Up to a quarter century after abandonment, restored savannas continued to lack 37 percent of their original species.
- Brazil’s Forest Code requires that at least 20 percent of private rural Cerrado property not be cultivated. However the new study suggests that the code may not be fully achieving its goal of protecting and restoring native species if the conserved land is degraded pasture, since native vegetation will not come back.
- The scientists suggest that one way of boosting biodiversity would be to use fire as a land management tool. Fire is a naturally occurring process in the Cerrado. Its artificial suppression allows trees to grow up, reducing biodiversity. So the reintroduction of fire could help restore native grasses as well as other species.


Bornean bantengs feeling the heat in logged forests, study finds [04/20/2018]
- A recent study shows that Bornean bantengs in recently logged forests in Malaysia’s Sabah state have become less active during the daytime in response to the hotter temperatures brought on by there being fewer trees providing shade.
- Banteng herds living in forests with more regrowth continue to be active throughout the day as they have more shade and refuge.
- The paper’s researchers suggest that steps must be taken to reduce the stress upon bantengs, such as limiting disturbance during key times of activity and maintaining blocks of mature forest.


Tambopata: Where forest conservation and opportunity meet [04/19/2018]
- Robin Van Loon is founder of Camino Verde in Peru, an organization working to go above and beyond sustainable agro-economics in favor of regenerative agro-economics.
- The Tambopata Region of the Peruvian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet where new species are still being discovered. It’s home to species of trees used and nurtured by Camino Verde for profit and forest health.
- The vision of Robin Van Loon and his team at Camino Verde: see the forest for the trees, and you’ll find a way to preserve both for generations to come.


Brazil’s actual forest-related CO2 emissions could blow by Paris pledge [04/19/2018]
- Brazil is reporting its CO2 emissions within U.N. guidelines, but those rules ignore significant sources of national greenhouse gas emissions ¬by disregarding carbon emitting processes related to forests, say scientists. None of this underreporting is likely unique to Brazil, but it is perhaps more acute there than in other nations due to Brazil’s vast forests.
- The U.N. doesn’t require Brazil and other developing nations to count certain greenhouse gas emissions in detail, especially sources it classifies as non-anthropogenic. This, for example, includes CO2 released from wildfires. However, most fires in the Brazilian Amazon are set by people clearing land, so those CO2 emissions are largely human-caused.
- Forest degradation, methane emitted from reservoirs, and carbon released from soils where forests are converted to croplands or pastures go partly or totally untallied in emission reports, sometimes because data is lacking, or because the UN hasn’t included the source in its reporting criteria. Another problem: low-resolution satellite monitoring allows small-scale deforestation to go undetected, so is unreported.
- As a result, Brazil’s actual carbon emissions are almost certainly higher than the figures reported to the United Nations — how much higher is unknown. But, experts say, that if this missing carbon were added to Brazil’s reported emissions, the nation would likely not meet its 2025 Paris Climate Agreement goal.


It’s time to confront the collusion between the palm oil industry and politicians that is driving Indonesia’s deforestation crisis (commentary) [04/18/2018]
- An investigation released today by Mongabay and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project reveals the deep connections between the international palm oil industry and the corruption of Indonesian democracy.
- Some of the biggest firms in the industry, that are supplying supermarkets in the EU and U.S., are buying palm oil from plantations linked to corrupt politicians.
- Six million hectares of rainforest and carbon-rich peatlands remains in licenses issued in opaque circumstances. If the role of corruption is confronted, through action in Indonesia, by overseas consumer companies and the international community, much of this forest could be saved.


Audio: Impacts of agriculture on Brazil’s Cerrado region [04/17/2018]
- On today’s episode: the impacts of agriculture on Brazil’s Cerrado region. Incredibly biodiverse, the region supports more than 10,000 plant species, 900 birds, and 300 mammals. But it has long been overlooked by scientists and environmentalists alike, and as protecting the Amazon has become more of a priority, much agricultural production in Brazil has moved from the rainforest to the vast Cerrado savannah.
- In February, Mongabay sent journalists Alicia Prager and Flávia Milhorance to the Cerrado region of central Brazil to report on the impacts of this rapid expansion of agribusiness on the region’s environment and people.
- Prager and Milhorance filed a series of six reports and they’re here to tell us what they found.


Colombia grants ‘historic’ protections to rainforest, indigenous groups [04/13/2018]
- In a move described as “unprecedented,” Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos announced Tuesday that the country intends to add 8 million hectares (80,000 square kilometers or 31,000 square miles) to its protected areas.
- Santos also signed a decree granting indigenous communities the ability and autonomy to govern their own territories.
- He said the government will be spending the next two weeks defining the bounds of the new protected areas, and that residents of local indigenous communities will be granted land titles giving them the autonomy to manage them.
- Norway has committed $250 million towards Colombia’s initiative.


Certified weaknesses: The RSPO’s Liberian fiasco (commentary) [04/13/2018]
- On February 13, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the industry certification system for production of conflict-free palm oil, confirmed what many in Liberia’s rural Sinoe County have been saying all along: Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), a palm oil company operating since 2010, did not properly receive the consent of local communities to acquire their traditional lands.
- The charges against GVL are not new. The first complaint filed against GVL with the RSPO came in 2012. Over the years, multiple civil society reports have documented GVL’s land grabbing, human rights violations, and environmental degradation. In 2015, a riot erupted on GVL’s plantation. Six years and various investigations by the RSPO later, the situation for these communities is largely the same.
- It’s striking that, given the resources and responsibilities of both the company and the certification body, neither GVL nor the RSPO had chosen to communicate with these communities about the remedies GVL was directed to pursue by the RSPO. This begs the question: What is the value of corporate commitments and industry standards if those messages never reach the people they intend to benefit, let alone are translated into tangible actions?
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Global warming may poison monarch butterflies, study finds [04/12/2018]
- Monarch numbers have plummeted in recent decades and scientists think it’s due in large part to the reduction of milkweed in the U.S. and Canada from increased herbicide use, as well as deforestation of monarch overwintering grounds in Mexico.
- A recently published study finds a new threat: warming temperatures may be making milkweed, the only plant monarch caterpillars can eat, too toxic for the butterflies.
- The researchers estimate that at current warming rates in the southern U.S., tropical milkweed will be too toxic for monarchs within 40 years.
- Monarchs prefer tropical milkweed to native species and the plant is now widespread throughout the southern U.S.


Brazil’s high court curbs executive power to dismember protected areas [04/12/2018]
- Last week, Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) ruled that MP 558, a Provisional Measure, was unconstitutional, making it unlawful for the executive branch to use the administrative decree to reduce seven conservation units by 100,000 hectares — five of those units were in the Tapajós basin.
- In addition, the STF ruled that in future it would be unconstitutional for the executive branch to use MPs to alter the boundaries of already established conservation units. Such reductions can only be approved by the legislature.
- MPs can continue to be used in setting other policies, some harmful to the environment. Past MPs approved the building of new coal burning power plants, and for dramatically revising the Terra Legal program, revising it not to benefit the landless poor, but wealthy elites and land grabbers, say critics.
- In another win for conservationists, environment minister José Sarney Filho created five new Brazilian conservation units last week, covering 1.2 million hectares. Two were created in Bahia state, in the Cerrado savanna biome; and three in Maranhão state, in the Caatinga tropical dry forest biome.


India’s new forest policy draft draws criticism for emphasis on industrial timber [04/12/2018]
- The Draft National Forest Policy 2018 is now open for public comments, and will replace the older 1988 policy once it comes into force.
- Critics are apprehensive about how the draft policy deals with community participation and industrial forestry.
- The current draft is bereft of knowledge-driven solutions, some experts say.


Wildlife trade detective Samuel Wasser receives prestigious Albert Schweitzer Medal [04/11/2018]
- Samuel K. Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington, U.S., has pioneered ways of using DNA from animal feces to track wildlife poachers.
- In recognition of his achievements, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has honored Wasser with the Albert Schweitzer Medal, an award that “recognizes outstanding achievement in the advancement of animal welfare.”
- In a brief Q&A, Wasser told Mongabay that it was “heartening” to win the Albert Schweitzer Medal, and that he is proud to see his work make a difference in the world.


Indonesian billionaire using ‘shadow companies’ to clear forest for palm oil, report alleges [04/11/2018]
- Two plantation companies linked to Anthoni Salim, Indonesia’s third-richest man, are deforesting a peat swamp in Borneo, according to new research by Aidenvironment.
- In response to the findings, Citigroup said it was cancelling all lending agreements with IndoAgri, the Salim Group’s agribusiness arm.
- The Salim Group was previously accused of being behind four companies at the forefront of illegal oil palm expansion in Indonesia’s Papua region, employing a complex network of shared directorships and offshore companies to obfuscate its responsibility.
- “It is not just the Salim Group; most of the main palm oil groups have these ‘dark sides’ that continue to deforest,” said Selwyn Moran, founder of investigative blog awas MIFEE.


46% of Albertine Rift species may be threatened by 2080, study finds [04/10/2018]
- East Africa’s Albertine Rift region hosts many animal and plant species that evolved in isolation and are endemic – meaning they’re found nowhere else in the world.
- But a recent study estimates nearly half of the Albertine Rift’s endemic species may become threatened with extinction by 2080 as climate change shrinks their habitat.
- The study also finds certain species have already lost as much as 90 percent of their habitat to agriculture.
- The researchers say that their findings could be used to predict how the ranges of wildlife populations will shift in response to a changing climate so that conservation workers can focus their efforts on the areas most likely to retain important habitat.


Critics say proposed changes to Mexico’s Forestry Law threaten sustainable forest management by local communities [04/09/2018]
- Mexico’s General Law of Sustainable Forest Development, more commonly referred to as the Forestry Law, has been criticized for not being sufficient to keep illegal wood out of the country, which imperils the sustainable forestry enterprises of ejidos, community-owned and -managed landscapes. At the same time, proposed changes to the country’s Forestry Law could put the entire ejido system in jeopardy, critics say.
- The Mexican Network of Peasant Forestry Organizations (MOCAF), a coalition of rural farmers and indigenous organizations, says it is “urgent” that the Mexican Senate open up discussions on how the Forestry Law can be strengthened to halt the practice of “wood washing,” which refers to the process by which illegally sourced wood is made to appear to be legal.
- Meanwhile, at a press conference held last month, MOCAF’s Gustavo Sánchez Valle warned that proposed changes to Mexico’s Forestry Law and General Law of Biodiversity would allow the government to grant to third parties, like mining companies, the rights to exploit natural resources on ejido lands without consulting the communities that own the land.


New research examines spread of payments for ecosystem services around the globe [04/06/2018]
- There are currently more than 550 PES programs active around the world in developed and developing countries alike, and more than $36 billion in annual transactions have been made through these programs, according to a study published last month in the journal Nature Sustainability.
- Researchers found that PES programs designed to protect watersheds have seen the largest volume of global transactions and have spread the farthest worldwide, with $24.7 billion in transactions across 62 countries in 2015.
- Little research has focused on the question of whether or not any benefits of PES are sustained after payments cease, according to another study recently published in Nature Sustainability. But that research suggests that paying rural villagers to cut down fewer trees can not only boost conservation efforts while the payments are being made but even after they’re discontinued.


Rubber plantation in Cameroon edges closer to UNESCO World Heritage Site [04/06/2018]
- Satellite data indicate the rubber plantation, operated by China-owned Sud Cameroun Hévéa (Sudcam), is currently less than one kilometer away from intact primary forest habitat. Development is ongoing amidst concerns about threats to endangered species within and outside the park, as well as alleged violations of community land rights and political affiliations with the Cameroonian government.
- The expansion of this rubber plantation is “by far the most devastating new clearing of forest for industrial agriculture in the Congo Basin,” according to Greenpeace.
- Rubber expansion also stands to affect the 9,500 people who live in villages on the reserve’s periphery. According to Greenpeace Africa, Sudcam did not obtain Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from these communities before acquiring the land and residents have claimed that subsistence farmland has been taken away with little or no compensation.
- Members of the conservation community say that in order for rubber development to happen sustainably in Cameroon, companies need to collaborate with conservation NGOs to create robust buffers around wetlands and streams, develop wildlife corridors, establish areas to filter the runoff of toxins and sediment, and create bushmeat alternatives. They also recommend regulatory actions be taken in the U.S. and EU, which are major buyers of rubber.


South Korean company under fire for alleged deforestation in Papua oil palm concession [04/05/2018]
- A report by WRI shows ongoing deforestation in an oil palm concession in Papua, Indonesia, operated by a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO Daewoo.
- The company has responded by saying its operations in Papua are legal and fully permitted.
- Concerns over deforestation by POSCO Daewoo have prompted other companies to say they will not allow its palm oil into their supply chains. These include big-name brands such as Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, IKEA, L’Oreal, Mars and Unilever.
- POSCO Daewoo has issued a temporary moratorium on land clearing in its Papua concession and hired a consultant to advise it on how to proceed with its operations there.


‘Lost’ fairy lantern spotted in Malaysian Borneo after 151 years [04/04/2018]
- In January last year, a team of botanists spotted Thismia neptunis again, 151 years after it was first recorded in the rainforests of western Sarawak, in Malaysian Borneo.
- Thismia neptunis is tiny, standing at just 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) when flowering, and spends its life underground, parasitizing fungi for its food supply.
- Given that the species is likely restricted to a small area within a primary lowland rainforest of Sarawak, and might have fewer than 50 individuals, the researchers believe that the species qualifies as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.


Indonesia’s dying timber concessions, invaded by oil palms, top deforestation table [04/03/2018]
- A study shows that selective-logging leases accounted for the highest rate of deforestation in three provinces studied from 2013 to 2016.
- While the discovery came as a surprise, the researchers attributed part of that deforestation to the illegal encroachment of oil palm plantations into many of these timber concessions. Another factor is the cutting of more trees than permitted by logging operators.
- Environmentalists warn the problem could get even worse if the government follows through on plans to lift a ban on exports of unprocessed logs, which has been in place since 1985 (with a brief hiatus from 1997 to 2001).


Special judiciary on environmental crimes established in Peru [04/02/2018]
- The majority of crimes correspond to illegal mining and illegal logging, two activities that seriously affect the region and that so far in 2018 account for 53 complaints.
- One of the emblematic cases is related to the regional governor Luis Otsuka Salazar, who has two complaints about illegal mining and negligence in the performance of his duties.
- Aside from the court in Madre de Dios, experts hope to also see courts in other regions of Peru, including Loreto, Ucayali, Cusco, Piura, Lima and San Martin.


New study discovers 81 lost human settlements in the Amazon rainforest [04/02/2018]
- By looking at satellite images of a previously unexplored part of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team of archaeologists has identified 81 pre-Columbian human settlements.
- The team also found that the settlements weren’t near major rivers, but closer to smaller streams and creeks, challenging a commonly held belief that pre-Columbian people tended to live close to fertile floodplains of large rivers, leaving the rest of the forest relatively untouched.
- The researchers’ computer model predicted that the southern rim of the Amazon likely supported up to 1 million people in pre-Columbian times, a population that’s much larger than previous estimates.


Study: Indonesia’s ambitious peat restoration initiative severely underfunded [03/30/2018]
- Indonesia will need an estimated $4.6 billion to restore some 20,000 square kilometers (7,720 square miles) of degraded peatland by its self-imposed deadline of 2020, a study suggests.
- To date, however, funding for the project that began in 2016 amounts to less than $200 million, with the result that only 5 percent of the restoration target has been achieved.
- The study authors say the Indonesian government faces a dilemma over whether to concentrate its resources in a smaller area or risk potentially ineffective restoration methods to cover the entire target area.


Greenpeace International ends its Forest Stewardship Council membership [03/30/2018]
- Greenpeace International announced on March 26 that it would not renew its membership with the FSC.
- The environmental organization says the FSC is not meeting its aims of protecting forests and ensuring that human rights are respected.
- Greenpeace and the FSC both say they intend to continue to engage with each other, despite the end of a long formal relationship.


Cerrado Manifesto could curb deforestation, but needs support: experts [03/29/2018]
- The Cerrado Manifesto, issued in 2017, calls for a voluntary pledge by companies to help halt deforestation and native vegetation loss in the Cerrado. The Brazilian savannah’s native vegetation once covered 2 million square kilometers that has been reduced by soy, corn, cotton, and cattle production by more than half.
- A Manifesto Statement of Support (SoS) has been signed mostly by supermarkets and fast food chains, including McDonalds, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Unilever. However, commodities firms such as Cargill, Bunge, and ADM, all active in the Cerrado, have yet to sign the SoS. Experts say big traders must join in to make the initiative effective.
- The Cerrado Manifesto is a call to action, and is somewhat akin to the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium, which some say was effective in cutting deforestation due to the direct conversion of forests to soy plantations. Critics of the Manifesto say that its top down approach should also include major incentives to farmers to not clear native vegetation.
- One concern is that the Manifesto and other deforestation mechanisms could force good actors out of the Cerrado, creating a vacuum into which entities unsupportive of environmental reform might enter. Among entities of concern is China, which already buys a third of Cerrado soy. China has not signed the Manifesto.


Do environmental advocacy campaigns drive successful forest conservation? [03/29/2018]
- How effective are advocacy campaigns at driving permanent policy changes that lead to forest conservation results? We suspected this might be a difficult question to answer scientifically, but nevertheless we gamely set out to see what researchers had discovered when they attempted to do so as part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
- We ultimately reviewed 34 studies and papers, and found that the scientific evidence is fairly weak for any claims about the effectiveness of advocacy campaigns. So we also spoke with several experts in forest conservation and advocacy campaigns to supplement our understanding of some of the broader trends and to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge.
- We found no evidence that advocacy campaigns on their own drive long-term forest conservation, though they do appear to be valuable in terms of raising awareness of environmental issues and driving people to take action. But it’s important to note that, of all the conservation interventions we examined for the Conservation Effectiveness series, advocacy campaigns appear to have the weakest evidence base in scientific literature.


Cerrado: U.S. investment spurs land theft, deforestation in Brazil, say experts [03/28/2018]
- In Brazil, large swathes of land are owned by the state, but can be legally claimed by small-scale farmers if they cultivate crops and homestead on it, though they may lack legal title. In the 1990s, 240 small-scale farm families laid claim to lands in Cotegipe municipality, Bahia state.
- Over time, local elites allegedly drove them off those lands, using intimidation and violence, and then laid claim to 140,000 hectares (540 square miles) — an area bigger than Los Angeles. That land was sold and resold. Today, it is occupied by the Campo Largo farm, a minimally productive operation owned by Caracol Agropecuária LTDA.
- The capital that Caracol used to buy that land has now been traced to its foreign partners. Caracol is apparently owned by the endowment fund of Harvard University, via its Harvard Management Company: HMC, which oversees more than 12,000 funds, is believed to own Caracol through two subsidiaries: Guara LLC and Bromelia LLC.
- Globally, HMC, TIAA-CREF and other financial firms began investing heavily in farmland in developing nations after 2007/08. Often, say analysts, these lands were originally obtained via land theft. In Cotegipe, 22 families are still fighting to reclaim the small farms they say were stolen from them — a Mongabay exclusive.


Borneo’s elephants prefer degraded forests, a new study finds [03/27/2018]
- New research has found that Bornean elephants most often use degraded forests with canopy heights topping out at around 13 meters (43 feet).
- Less than 25 percent of the state’s protected intact forests, which include primary forests, are suitable for elephants, the authors concluded.
- The team suggests that maintaining suitable elephant habitat in Malaysian Borneo will require the protection of relatively small patches of degraded forests that elephants favor.


Cerrado: Agribusiness boomtown; profits for a few, hardships for many [03/26/2018]
- Luís Eduardo Magalhães (LEM) is a soy boomtown, built on Cerrado agribusiness. Its population has grown fourfold since 2000, to 83,000 people, and is one of Brazil’s fastest growing cities. But LEM has suffered growing pains as the people from rural areas have rushed there seeking jobs and opportunities.
- Public services have failed to keep up, with most urban streets still dirt and sanitation services lagging behind population growth. Many new arrivals from the countryside, lacking specialized skills, have been unable to get good jobs or gain access to the highly mechanized and specialized industrial agribusiness economy. So they remain poor.
- Many have ended up in Santa Cruz, an impoverished neighborhood where drug trafficking and gang violence are a constant daily threat. Those with better skills and more luck may end up in Jardim Paraíso (Paradise Garden), a nearby upscale neighborhood marked by security fences and security alarms as protection against crime.
- Experts say LEM seems likely to follow the path of agribusiness boomtowns globally: population grows rapidly, but initial economic gains and urbanization aren’t followed by ongoing development and investment. Disorderly growth negatively impacts the environment, leading to more poverty and a concentration of land ownership and wealth.


How Indonesia’s Seruyan district became an epicenter of fires and haze [03/26/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.”  This is the third part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son of Darwan Ali, […]

Colombia scraps Amazon highway plans due to deforestation concerns [03/23/2018]
- The Marginal de la Selva highway is part of $1 billion infrastructure project that would have opened a trade route for heavy land cargo to pass from Venezuela to Ecuador through Colombia without having to enter the treacherous Andes mountains.
- Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos declared earlier the controversial project will not be completed, citing rampant deforestation and potentially irreversible environmental impacts to a sensitive ecological corridor near three national parks if the highway were developed as planned.
- Conservationists are lauding the President’s announcement, calling it “extraordinary news for deforestation mitigation and restoration efforts” to restore the region’s ecological integrity.


Cerrado: Traditional communities accuse agribusiness of ‘green land grabbing’ [03/22/2018]
- The Cerrado savannah includes many traditional communities. Among them are the geraizeiros who arrived in Western Bahia as much as 200 years ago. For those many years, they occupied small communal villages, and farmed, grazed, and harvested surrounding native lands held by the Brazilian government.
- Typically lacking legal deeds to these lands, the geraizeiros have increasingly come into conflict with agribusiness expansion. Company-run plantations have, according to local people, laid claim to the natural lands, fenced them off, placed guards, then converted native vegetation to soy, corn and cotton monocultures.
- Another conflict: in the Cerrado, a percentage of a land owner’s property must be kept in its natural state, as a Legal Reserve. However, these reserves needn’t be contiguous with croplands. As a result, say local people, agribusiness is laying claim to natural lands that the geraizeiros have long used sustainably for their livelihoods.
- Conflict continues to escalate. The Cerrado states of Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia – known collectively as Matopiba – saw a 56 percent increase in reported land conflicts (400 in total) over the five year period, 2012-2016. In contrast, the national increase over the same period was 21 percent.


Company outed for fires in Indonesian palm lease still clearing forests in timber concession, NGO finds [03/22/2018]
- Agribusiness conglomerate Korindo has since 2017 implemented a moratorium on forest clearing in its oil palm concessions, after it was found to be burning forests in Indonesia’s Papua province.
- A new report indicates that since then, the company may have degraded more than 30 square kilometers of pristine forest to build logging roads in one of its timber concessions — an area excluded from the self-imposed moratorium.
- The NGO Mighty Earth has called on the company to extend both the forest clearing moratorium and a high carbon stock approach, which it employs on its oil palm concessions, to its timber operations.


How the son of a tailor rose to power in Indonesia’s palm oil heartland [03/22/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the second part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son […]

Brazilian lawmakers funded by donors guilty of environmental crimes: report [03/21/2018]
- The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies has 513 members. Of those, 249 received a total of 58.9 million reais (US$18.3 million) in official donations during the 2014 election from companies and people who committed environmental crimes, including illegal clearing of forests, says a recent report by Repórter Brasil.
- Receiving these donations is not a crime, but it does provide insight into how environmental offenders are connected to, and potentially influencing, lawmakers and their decisions. Of the 249 deputies who received tainted donations, 134 are members of the Bancada Ruralista, the pro-agribusiness rural caucus that dominates the chamber.
- Since the 2014 general election, Brazil’s election laws have been tightened. In 2015, the Federal Supreme Court passed a decree that made it illegal for companies to donate to candidates and political parties. These new rules will be in effect for the October 2018 presidential election.
- Analysts still worry that money from those who have committed environmental crimes will go right on flowing to politicians — possibly illegally or utilizing newly discovered campaign finance law loopholes — risking the possibility of influence peddling.


Audio: Exploring humanity’s deep connection to water, plus the sounds of the Sandhill crane migration [03/20/2018]
- On today’s episode, we discuss humanity’s deep connection to water and hear sounds of one of the most ancient animal migrations on Earth, that of the Sandhill crane.
- Our first guest today is marine biologist and conservationist Wallace J. Nichols, the author of Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, & Better at What You Do.
- Our second guests are Ben Gottesman and Emma Brinley Buckley, researchers who are using bioacoustics to document Sandhill cranes on the Platte River in the U.S. state of Nebraska as the birds make a stopover during their annual migration. We’ll hear recordings of the cranes and other important species in this Field Notes segment.


How one of Indonesia’s biggest companies cut a secret deal to plant oil palm in Borneo [03/20/2018]
In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the first part of that article, which can be read in full here. (Baca juga dalam Bahasa […]

The world’s last male northern white rhino has died [03/20/2018]
- Sudan, a 45-year-old rhino believed to be the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino, died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19.
- Sudan had been battling ill health over the past few months, and after his condition worsened considerably in the last 24 hours, veterinarians decided to euthanize him.
- Sudan lived at Ol Pejeta with the only other northern white rhinos left on Earth — his daughter, Najin, and her daughter, Fatu — under 24-hour armed surveillance.
- The survival of the species now hinges on costly and never-before-attempted in vitro fertilization using eggs from the remaining females, stored sperm samples, and southern white rhino females as surrogates.


Sarawak’s Penan now have detailed maps of their ancestral homeland [03/20/2018]
- Some 63 Penan communities came together to create 23 maps of their territory in central Borneo over the past 15 years.
- For three days in late November 2017, the Penan of the region celebrated the completion of the maps.
- The Penan now believe they are armed with the information that will help them hold on to their land in the face of pressure from outside timber and industrial agriculture interests.


Cerrado: Agribusiness may be killing Brazil’s ‘birthplace of waters’ [03/19/2018]
- The eighth World Water Forum takes place in Brasilia this week, and World Water Day is this Thursday, 22 March. So Mongabay here takes a close look at the Cerrado as Brazil’s “birthplace of waters.”
- The Cerrado savannah, despite its annual dry season, has in the past had water to spare. Eight out of 12 of Brazil’s major river basins and three aquifers — the Guarani, Bambuí and Urucuia — all rely on the Cerrado as a source for much of their water.
- Traditional communities are also reliant on the Cerrado’s aquifers and streams. But as agribusiness has moved into the region, putting large-scale irrigation into operation, those communities have complained of a diminishing water supply. A major water conflict arose recently between the town of Correntina and large-scale farms, in Bahia state.
- The diminishing Cerrado water supply has complex causes, including deforestation due to land conversion to agriculture; large-scale irrigation to grow water-intensive crops like soy, cotton and corn; and climate change. However, scientists say that addressing the problem proactively is critically important to local communities and all of Brazil.


Belize creates one of Central America’s largest biological corridors [03/19/2018]
- On Feb. 13, the government of Belize approved the 110-square-kilometer Belize northeastern biological corridor.
- The corridor aims to provide safe passage for wild animals like jaguars, pumas and Baird’s tapir to move freely between the Shipstern Nature Reserve and Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve in northern Belize.
- Private landowners have agreed to place their corridor-designated lands into a trust in perpetuity, with the lands to be managed as part of the protected area system for conservation purposes.


Indonesia launches bid to restore national park that’s home to tigers, elephants [03/19/2018]
- Tesso Nilo National Park in Sumatra is home to critically endangered tigers and elephants, but has been heavily deforested by illegal oil palm plantations and human settlements.
- The government has introduced a program to gradually relocate the people living within the park’s borders, by encouraging them to shift away from oil palm farming to alternative and sustainable forms of livelihood.
- If successful, the program could serve as a model for restoring other national parks across Indonesia, which face similar problems of human encroachment.


FSC-certified timber importer failed to check legality of shipment from Cameroon [03/19/2018]
- Hardwood Dimensions, a timber importer in the U.K., violated the EU Timber Regulation by not properly verifying the legality of a shipment of Cameroonian ayous in January 2017.
- A judge ordered Hardwood Dimensions to pay 4,000 pounds ($5,576) plus court costs in the case.
- The case calls into question the effectiveness of Forest Stewardship Council certification, which Hardwood Dimensions has held since 2000.


Oil palm plantations’ dearth of biodiversity rubs off on nearby forests, study shows [03/19/2018]
- Oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo host a lower number of frog species than forests in same area.
- However, the plantations exhibit an edge effect that extends as far as 4 kilometers, resulting in a decline in the diversity of frog species in adjacent forests.
- The researchers suggest that for small forest patches or narrow corridors to be of long-term conservation value in oil palm landscapes, their sizes and widths need to adequately account for these edge effects.


Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds [03/16/2018]
- Results of a new study reveal that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species.
- It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent.
- However, there are caveats. The researchers write that most of these countries are among the “20 worst-ranked” in terms of environmental impacts and have governance and political issues that would impede effective land-use planning at a national level. And they say global land-use optimization aimed at protecting the natural resources of the world’s most biodiverse countries may come “at the expense of their own production opportunities and economic development.”
- The researchers write that in order for the world’s most biodiverse countries to reach their full conservation potential while providing for their human communities, global land-use policy and research need to better integrate the governance, political and economic challenges present in these countries.


Report finds projects in DRC ‘REDD+ laboratory’ fall short of development, conservation goals [03/16/2018]
- The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) released a new report that found that 20 REDD+ projects in a province in DRC aren’t set to address forest conservation and economic development — the primary goals of the strategy.
- The Paris Agreement explicitly mentions the role of REDD+ projects, which channel funds from wealthy countries to heavily forested ones, in keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century.
- RRI is asking REDD+ donors to pause funding of projects in DRC until coordinators develop a more participatory approach that includes communities and indigenous groups.


Cerrado: can the empire of soy coexist with savannah conservation? [03/15/2018]
- With new deforestation due to soy production markedly reduced in recent years by Brazilian laws and by the 2006 Amazon Soy Moratorium, agribusiness, transnational commodities companies like Bunge and Cargill, and investors have shifted their attention to the Cerrado, savannah.
- Four Cerrado states, Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia, known collectively as Matopiba, are seeing a rapid reduction in native vegetation as soy, cotton, corn and cattle production rises. Over half of the Cerrado’s 2 million square kilometers has already been converted to croplands, with large-scale agribusiness owning most land.
- One reason for the focus on the Cerrado: Brazil’s Forest Code requires that inside Legal Amazonia 80 percent of forests on privately held lands be conserved as Legal Reserves. But in a large portion of the Cerrado, property owners are only required to protect 20 to 35 percent of native vegetation.
- With little help coming currently from government, conservationists are responding with creative approaches for protection – developing partnerships with local communities, seeking signers for the Cerrado Manifesto to curb new deforestation due to soy, and restoring degraded lands to market the Cerrado’s unique fruits and other produce.


Indonesia races to catch tiger alive as villagers threaten to ‘kill the beast’ [03/15/2018]
- A conservation agency in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has deployed two teams to capture alive a wild tiger that has reportedly killed two people at an oil palm plantation.
- The incidents prompted villagers living near the plantation to threaten to kill the tiger themselves if it was not caught.
- Authorities are keen to take the animal alive, following the killing of a tiger earlier this month under similar circumstances.


Five years after zero-deforestation vow, little sign of progress from Indonesian pulp giant [03/15/2018]
- Environmental watchdogs have criticized Indonesian paper behemoth Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) for not making good on the zero-deforestation pledge it made five years ago.
- The NGOs have highlighted several key problems in the implementation of APP’s Forest Conservation Program, including virtually no progress in addressing longstanding land conflicts with local communities, and the glacial pace of peatland restoration.
- APP has acknowledged some of the shortcomings in the implementation of its pledge, but says many of the outstanding issues and complex and that it remains committed to its goal.


Carol Van Strum, crusader against Agent Orange, wins prestigious environmental award [03/14/2018]
- The international David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding environmental and social justice work was presented to Strum on March 1, 2018.
- Strum is the author of “A Bitter Fog,” which tells the story of the fight she helped lead against aerial herbicide spraying in the Five Rivers area of Oregon, which led to a temporary ban on aerial pesticide spraying on federal forests.
- Though the ban was rescinded, the work done by Strum and others on the issue contributed to a new national forest policy that favors selective harvests without herbicides.


Illegal cattle ranching deforests Mexico’s massive Lacandon Jungle [03/14/2018]
- According to authorities and residents, cattle from Central America are brought to Mexico illegally over the porous border with Guatemala and left to graze in the Lacandon Jungle, a protected area.
- The Lacandon Jungle in Chiapas state once covered 1.5 million hectares. Today, it is only a third of that size and continuing to shrink.
- A potent mix of poverty, porous borders and lack of government control of protected areas has contributed to the proliferation of small cattle ranches throughout the area, which, combined, have a major impact on the ecosystem.


Small hydropower a big global issue overlooked by science and policy [03/13/2018]
- Brazil recently announced an end to its mega-dam construction policy, a strategy other nations may embrace as understanding of the massive environmental and social impacts of big dams grows.
- However, a trend long neglected by scientists and policymakers ¬ the rapid growth of small dams – has been spotlighted in a new study.
- Nearly 83,000 small dams in 150 nations (with 11 small dams for each large dam), exist globally, while that number could triple if all capacity worldwide is used. More than 10,000 new small dams are already in the planning stages. But small dam impacts have been little studied by scientists, and little regulated by governments.
- Environmentalists say that, with the rapid construction of new small dams, it is urgent for researchers to assess the impacts of different types of small dams, as well as looking at the cumulative impacts of many small dams placed on a single river, or on main stems and tributaries within watersheds.


Debates heat up as Indonesian palm oil moratorium is about to be signed [03/13/2018]
- Announced two years ago, a moratorium on new oil palm permits in Indonesia is about to be signed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
- But a coalition of environmental NGOs has criticized the latest draft of the moratorium, saying it contains many loopholes.
- The coalition has submitted a list of recommendations to the government, which has promised to follow up on their concerns.


Sarawak makes 80% forest preservation commitment, but some have doubts [03/12/2018]
- The Malaysian state of Sarawak is committing to the preservation of 80 percent of its land area as primary and secondary forest, according to an announcement by Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
- According to data, concession boundaries for oil palm and other kinds of tree plantations covered 32.7 percent of Sarawak’s land area as of 2010/11, suggesting that if Sarawak is to fulfill its commitment to preserve 80 percent of its land as primary and secondary forest, then it may need to cancel some of these concessions.
- The director of environmental and human rights watchdog organization Earthsight expressed doubts that Sarawak will follow through on the commitment, and recommends the state increase transparency and crack down on illegal logging.


Cerrado: appreciation grows for Brazil’s savannah, even as it vanishes [03/12/2018]
- The Brazilian Cerrado – a vast savannah – once covered two million square kilometers (772,204 square miles), an area bigger than Great Britain, France and Germany combined, stretching to the east and south of the Amazon.
- Long undervalued by scientists and environmental activists, researchers are today realizing that the Cerrado is incredibly biodiverse. The biome supports more than 10,000 plant species, over 900 bird and 300 mammal species.
- The Cerrado’s deep-rooted plants and its soils also sequester huge amounts of carbon, making the region’s preservation key to curbing climate change, and to reducing Brazil’s deforestation and CO2 emissions to help meet its Paris carbon reduction pledge.
- Agribusiness – hampered by Brazilian laws in the Amazon – has moved into the Cerrado in a big way. More than half of the biome’s native vegetation has already disappeared, as soy and cattle production rapidly replace habitat. This series explores the dynamics of change convulsing the region.


Oil palm, rubber could trigger ‘storm’ of deforestation in the Congo Basin [03/12/2018]
- Earthsight documented approximately 500 square kilometers (193 square miles) of deforestation to clear the way for new rubber and oil palm plantations in Central Africa’s rainforest countries in the past five years.
- The team also found that companies in five Central African countries hold licenses for industrial agriculture on another 8,400 square kilometers (3,243 square miles) of land.
- The investigators warn that thousands of hectares of forest could fall to industrial agriculture in the COngo Basin, the world’s second-largest rainforest, if governance of the forest doesn’t improve.


How deforestation risks for investors can become opportunities for conservation (commentary) [03/09/2018]
- Deforestation can damage a company’s reputation and business performance, presenting a real risk for investors.
- Recent research showcases examples of how companies have suffered from failing to properly manage deforestation-related issues. Impacts include multi-million dollar fines, loss of key customers, falling share prices, and even liquidation.
- Investors and companies can reduce these risks by adopting, implementing, and transparently reporting on credible zero-deforestation policies, and joining partnerships to improve production in key landscapes.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Carbon credit prices too low to protect forests from rubber, study finds [03/08/2018]
- Data indicate rubber plantations cover around 86,000 square kilometers – an area equivalent to around 67 percent of that of oil palm in 2014.
- As rubber plantations expand, scientists and conservationists worry it will come at the expense of rainforests and the wildlife they contain. They say forests in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are particularly at risk.
- A new study finds that carbon credits, which are used to discourage deforestation, are currently priced between $5 and $13 per metric ton of CO2. But in order to match the revenue generated by converting a forest to a rubber plantation, that number would need to be upped to between $30 and $51 per ton of CO2.
- The study concludes that as they stand now, carbon prices likely do not provide enough incentive to protect Southeast Asian forests from rubber expansion. It recommends raising carbon prices to make them more competitive with rubber revenue; its lead author further urges increasing development of synthetic alternatives and more effective rubber recycling.


NGOs seek suspension of forest-related funding to DRC in response to proposed end to logging moratorium [03/08/2018]
- More than 50 conservation and human rights organizations have called on international donors to halt forest conservation-related funding to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The call comes in response to signals by the country’s leaders of their intention to end a 16-year-old moratorium on new logging licenses in the country, including a secretive push to alter the DRC forest code.
- The NGOs argue that opening DRC up to logging will destabilize the country and damage the environment and forest-dependent communities.


Tropical deforestation: the need for a strategy adjustment (commentary) [03/08/2018]
- Ecologist Dan Nepstad is the founder and executive director of the Earth Innovation Institute.
- In this commentary, Nepstad makes the case for building stronger government support to end deforestation in tropical countries.
- Without this support, it may not be possible to further curb tropical deforestation.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Public access to Indonesian plantation data still mired in bureaucracy [03/08/2018]
- Indonesia’s agrarian ministry continues to hold out on releasing oil palm plantation data to the public, a year after the Supreme Court ordered it to comply with a freedom-of-information ruling.
- The ministry argues it is obliged to generate revenue from the release of such data, and that the lack of a payment mechanism prevents it from complying.
- It also initially dodged a request for similar data filed by the national mapping agency, citing the same reason, but complied after the anti-corruption agency intervened.


Jaguar numbers rising at field sites, WCS says [03/07/2018]
- WCS reports that jaguar numbers have risen by almost 8 percent a year between 2002 and 2016 at study sites in Central and South America.
- The sites cover around 400,000 square kilometers (154,440 square miles) of jaguar habitat.
- Despite the promising findings, WCS scientists caution that habitat destruction, hunting in response to livestock killings, and poaching for their body parts remain critical threats to jaguars.


Analysis: the Brazilian Supreme Court’s New Forest Code ruling [03/07/2018]
- Last week Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge by environmentalists, upholding the constitutionality of most, though not all, of Brazil’s New Forest Code – legislation crafted in 2012 by the powerful bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress.
- The 2012 code is weaker than the old Forest Code, which was approved in 1965, but never well enforced.
- Many environmentalists have expressed concern that the high court ruling endorses legislation that prioritizes the economic importance of industrial agriculture over basic environmental protections.
- Conservationists also say that the decision rewards those who have illegally infringed on environmental laws at a time when pressures on forests are growing more intense, especially in the Amazon. This story includes a chart that provides a detailed analysis of the environmental pros and cons of the Supreme Court decision.


Bornean bearded pigs seen adapting to oil palm habitats, study finds [03/06/2018]
- Bornean bearded pigs appear to thrive in oil palm plantations, but remain heavily dependent on nearby forests as their primary habitat, a recent study indicates.
- The findings are crucial because of the species’ key role as an “ecosystem engineer,” controlling the spread of tree species and turning over the soil with their rooting behavior.
- The researchers have called on the Malaysian government to better protect these forests in a bid to ensure a sustainable population of bearded pigs in mixed forest-oil palm areas.


Video: Budiardi, labeled a ‘provocateur’ and jailed in a dispute with a palm oil company [03/06/2018]
- “The palm oil fiefdom” is an investigation by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the UK-based research house Earthsight.
- The article reveals how Darwan Ali, the former head of Indonesia’s Seruyan district, presided over an elaborate scheme to use shell companies as vehicles to sell plantation licenses to major palm oil firms.
- Short films produced in conjunction with the article feature some of those affected by Darwan’s licensing spree, including a Dayak man named Budiardi.


Amazon forest to savannah tipping point could be far closer than thought (commentary) [03/05/2018]
- In the 1970s, scientists recognized that the Amazon makes half of its own rainfall via evaporation and transpiration from vegetation. Researchers also recognized that escalating deforestation would reduce this rainfall producing effect.
- A 2007 study estimated that with 40 percent Amazon deforestation a tipping point could be reached, with large swathes of Amazonia switching from forest to savannah. Two newly considered factors in a 2016 study – climate change and fires – have now reduced that estimated tipping point to 20-25 percent. Current deforestation is at 17 percent, with an unknown amount of degraded forest adding less moisture.
- There is good reason to think that this Amazon forest to savannah tipping point is close at hand. Historically unprecedented droughts in 2005, 2010 and 2015 would seem to be the first flickers of such change.
- Noted Amazon scientists Tom Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre argue that it is critical to build in a margin of safety by keeping Amazon deforestation below 20 percent. To avoid this tipping point, Brazil needs to strongly control deforestation, and combine that effort with reforestation. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


In eastern Indonesia, a forest tribe pushes back against miners and loggers [03/05/2018]
- The Forest Tobelo, an indigenous tribe in Indonesia’s North Maluku province, faces constant threat from illegal loggers and the expansion of mining leases.
- More than one third of the province’s total area has been allocated for mining leases.
- The community has chosen to fight back by drawing up its own maps of the land to which it has long laid claim, and by reporting illegal incursions into its forests.


Brazil high court Forest Code ruling largely bad for environment, Amazon: NGOs [03/01/2018]
- In a tight decision, the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) upheld the constitutionality of much of Brazil’s 2012 New Forest Code, that had been created under the powerful influence of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby. The upheld 2012 New Forest Code is a weaker body of environmental regulations than the 1965 code created under Brazil’s military government.
- The court ruling made constitutional a declared amnesty for those who illegally cleared their Legal Reserves (lands, by law, they must not clear) before 22 July 2008, eliminating required fines and tree replantings. It allows for the reduction of Legal Reserves in states or municipalities largely occupied by indigenous reserves or protected areas.
- The STF decision also allows for the reduction in size of APAs (Areas of Permanent Protection), even when considered fundamental by environmentalists for maintaining water supplies and preventing climate disasters such as floods and mudslides.
- The ruling allows farmers who have already illegally cleared protected APAs, to get authorization to clear even more land, and approves farming activities on steep slopes and hilltops. Environmentalists were critical of the high court decision, while agribusiness praised it.


Pepsi cuts off Indonesian palm oil supplier over labor, sustainability concerns [03/01/2018]
- PepsiCo has announced the suspension since January 2017 of its business ties with IndoAgri, one of Indonesia’s biggest palm oil producers, citing concerns over the company’s labor rights and sustainability practices.
- IndoAgri has been criticized for alleged abuses of workers’ rights in some of its plantations in North Sumatra province.
- PepsiCo has demanded that IndoAgri resolve these outstanding issues before its considers resuming their business partnership.


‘S.O.S.’ carved out of former plantation shines a light on palm oil-driven deforestation [03/01/2018]
- A dramatic S.O.S. sign has been carved out of a stand of oil palms on a former plantation in Sumatra, serving to highlight the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests.
- The work is part of a campaign by a Lithuanian artist, a conservation group and a cosmetics firm to raise awareness about palm oil-driven deforestation in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity.
- Extensive deforestation has for decades threatened the lives of the island’s native wildlife and the people who depend on the forests for a living.


Video: James Watt, the farmer who challenged a palm oil fiefdom [03/01/2018]
- “The palm oil fiefdom” is an investigation by Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an initiative of the UK-based research house Earthsight.
- The article reveals how Darwan Ali, the former head of Indonesia’s Seruyan district, presided over an elaborate scheme to use shell companies as vehicles to sell plantation licenses to major palm oil firms.
- Short films produced in conjunction with the article feature some of those affected by Darwan’s licensing spree, including an Indonesian farmer named James Watt.


Andes dams twice as numerous as thought are fragmenting the Amazon [02/28/2018]
- A new study identified 142 dams currently in operation or under construction in the Andes headwaters of the Amazon, twice the number previously estimated. An additional 160 are in the planning stages.
- If proposed Andes dams go ahead, sediment transport to the Amazon floodplains could cease, blocking freshwater fish migratory routes, disrupting flow and flood regimes, and threatening food security for downstream communities, impacting up to 30 million people.
- Most dams to date are on the tributary networks of Andean river main stems. But new dams are planned for five out of eight major Andean Amazon main stems, bringing connectivity reductions on the Marañón, Ucayali and Beni rivers of more than 50 percent; and on the Madre de Dios and Mamoré rivers of over 35 percent.
- Researchers conclude that proposed dams should be required to complete cumulative effects assessments at a basin-wide scale, and account for synergistic impacts of existing dams, utilizing the UN Watercourses Convention as a legal basis for international cooperation for sustainable water management between Amazon nations.


Belo Monte legacy: harm from Amazon dam didn’t end with construction (photo story) [02/26/2018]
- The controversial Belo Monte dam, operational in 2016 and the world’s third biggest, was forced on the people of Altamira, Pará state, and is now believed to have been built largely as payback to Brazil’s construction industry by the nation’s then ruling Workers’ Party for campaign contributions received.
- The dam was opposed by an alliance of indigenous and traditional communities, and international environmentalists, all to no avail. Today, the media coverage that once turned the world’s eyes toward Belo Monte, has gone away. But that hasn’t ended the suffering and harm resulting from the project.
- Tens of thousands of indigenous and traditional people were forced from their homes, and had to give up their fishing livelihoods. Meanwhile, the city of Altamira endured boom and bust, as workers flooded in, then abandoned it. The Belo Sun goldmine, if ever built, also continues to be a potential threat.
- In this story, Mongabay contributor Maximo Anderson and photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim document the ongoing harm being done by the giant dam. Belo Monte, today, stands as a warning regarding the urgent need to properly assess and plan for mega-infrastructure projects in Amazonia.


Scientists aim to give engineers the tools for ecologically sensitive development [02/26/2018]
- EIAs, or environmental impact assessments, are notoriously flawed and don’t always provide an accurate assessment of the risks of development projects.
- A recent article by a team of scientists is part of a larger effort to give planners and engineers the data for more environmentally sensitive development.
- The article appears in the February issue of Jurutera: The Journal of Malaysian Engineers.


Indonesia braces for return of fire season as hotspots flare up [02/26/2018]
- Indonesia’s annual forest fire season has started, with reports of blazes in four peat-rich provinces, all of which have declared a state of emergency.
- The stake is high for Indonesia to prevent the fires and resultant haze this year, as it prepares to host tens of thousands of athletes and visitors for the Asian Games. One of the host cities is in South Sumatra province, a perennial tinderbox.
- The Indonesian government rolled out extensive measures to prevent fires in the wake of the 2015 blazes, focusing on restoring drained peatland, but questions remain over the effectiveness of those efforts.


Orangutan culture in focus in ‘Person of the Forest’: Q&A with researchers Cheryl Knott and Robert Rodriguez Suro [02/23/2018]
- A recent documentary, “Person of the Forest,” investigates the cultures of orangutans.
- Orangutan numbers have dwindled as a result of habitat loss, hunting and the pet trade.
- Scientists argue that the existence of orangutan culture makes protecting them even more critical.
- The film is a finalist at the New York WILD Film Festival, which began on Feb. 22.


Activists: Palm oil must not get wider access to EU under Indonesia trade talks [02/22/2018]
- The prospect of greater access for Indonesian palm oil to the 28-nation EU market is expected to dominate trade negotiations taking place this week.
- Environmental activists from both Indonesia and Europe warn that granting this access could lead to even greater deforestation and more social conflicts in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil.
- For its part, the Indonesian government is seeking to push back against EU measures to phase out palm oil for use in biofuels by 2021.


Drought-driven wildfires on rise in Amazon basin, upping CO2 release [02/22/2018]
- Despite a 76 percent decline in deforestation rates between 2003 and 2015, the incidence of forest fires is increasing in Brazil, with new research linking the rise in fires not only to deforestation, but also to severe droughts.
- El Niño, combined with other oceanic and atmospheric cycles, produced an unusually severe drought in 2015, a year that saw a 36 percent increase in Amazon basin forest fires, which also raised carbon emissions.
- Severe droughts are expected to become more common in the Brazilian Amazon as natural oceanic cycles are made more extreme by human-induced climate change.
- In this new climate paradigm, limiting deforestation alone will not be sufficient to reduce fires and curb carbon emissions, scientists say. The maintenance of healthy, intact, unfragmented forests is vital to providing resilience against further increases in Amazon fires.


Audio: Exploring the minds and inner lives of animals [02/20/2018]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with an author of a new book about the minds and lives of animals – about their amazing memories and minds, how they dream, and more – and we’ll also learn what Mongabay’s newest bureau just launched in India is reporting about.
- Our first guest is Sy Montgomery, the author of two dozen books for adults and kids about animals. She recently teamed up with her friend and fellow animal writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas to write Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, and is here to share a few of the fascinating stories from the book with us.
- Our second guest today is Sandhya Sekar, program manager for Mongabay India, who’s here to tell us about the environmental challenges India is facing and what kinds of coverage you’ll find at india.mongabay.com.


Study delves into overlooked community perceptions of conservation impact [02/20/2018]
- A new study measures the impacts of conservation projects on people’s lives by letting the people define what matters to them.
- The study has adapted the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI), an index that has previously been used in the health sector to see what people consider important for their quality of life, and lets the people rate the performance of those domains.
- The study found that overall, the local people were most commonly concerned with agriculture, health, livestock, education, jobs, and family-related activities, but more than 50 percent of the people who were interviewed said that the conservation projects had had no significant impacts on these aspects of their well-being.


‘It’s our home’: Pygmies fight for recognition as forest protectors in new film [02/20/2018]
- A recent short film, Pygmy Peoples of the DRC: A Rising Movement, tracks the push for the recognition of indigenous land rights in the DRC.
- The film catalogs the importance of the forest to pygmy groups, as well as their role as stewards of the forest.
- A raft of recent research has shown that indigenous groups around the world often do a better job of protecting forests than parks and reserves.


As Indonesia gears up for elections, activists brace for an environmental sell-off [02/19/2018]
- This year, Indonesia will hold elections for governors, district heads and mayors across 171 regions, many of them home to vast natural resources.
- Environmental activists are worried that, as in previous election years, the campaigning this year will be rife with corruption, as candidates take kickbacks from plantation and mining operators in a quid pro quo for permits and other favors once in office.
- A key factor in the issue is the greater autonomy that local leaders enjoy managing their lands and resources, to the extent that they can even skirt some of the controls imposed by the central government.
- The central government has made assurances that its processes now are more transparent and accountable, making potential abuses at the local level less likely. Activists, though, are unconvinced, citing a longstanding lack of strong enforcement.


Protected areas with deforestation more likely to lose status in Brazilian state [02/18/2018]
- A recent study finds that ineffective protected areas stand a lower chance of surviving if deforestation has occurred within their boundaries.
- The research took place in the state of Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon.
- The team of scientists also found that protected areas that work are less likely to be carved up for development.
- The authors argue that removing safeguards, even from degraded areas, does not take into account the benefits that we may derive from existing protected areas, including carbon storage and clean water.


Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon dropped 13 percent in 2017 [02/16/2018]
- A new analysis of satellite imagery and data finds 143,425 hectares of forest were lost in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, down 13 percent from 2016.
- The analysis identified newly deforestation hotspots in the San Martín and Amazonas regions.
- The main causes of the loss of forest in the Amazon appear to be cultivation of crops, small- and medium-scale ranching, large oil palm plantations and gold mining.


Borneo, ravaged by deforestation, loses nearly 150,000 orangutans in 16 years, study finds [02/15/2018]
- A new study calculates that the island of Borneo lost nearly 150,000 orangutans in the period between 1999 and 2015, largely as a result of deforestation and killing. There were an estimated 104,700 of the critically endangered apes left as of 2012.
- The study also warns that another 45,000 orangutans are doomed by 2050 under the business-as-usual scenario, where forests are cleared for logging, palm oil, mining and pulpwood leases. Orangutans are also disappearing from intact forests, most likely being killed, the researchers say.
- The researchers have called for more effective partnerships between governments, industries and local communities to ensure the Bornean orangutan’s survival. Public education and awareness will also be key.


East Africa’s Albertine Rift needs protection now, scientists say [02/15/2018]
- The Albertine Rift in East Africa is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet.
- Created by the stretching apart of tectonic plates, the unique ecosystems of the Albertine Rift are also under threat from encroaching human population and climate change.
- A new report details a plan to protect the landscapes that make up the Rift at a cost of around $21 million per year — a bargain rate, scientists argue, given the number of threatened species that could be saved.


‘Eye of Papua’ shines a light on environmental, indigenous issues in Indonesia’s last frontier [02/14/2018]
- For decades the Papua region in Indonesia has remained the country’s least-understood, least-developed and most-impoverished area, amid a lack of transparency fueled by a strong security presence.
- Activists hope their new website, Mata Papua, or Eye of Papua, will fill the information void with reports, data and maps about indigenous welfare and the proliferation of mines, logging leases and plantations in one of the world’s last great spans of tropical forest.
- Companies, with the encouragement of the government, are fast carving up Papua’s land, after having nearly depleted the forests of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.


Brazilian Supreme Court ruling protects Quilombola land rights for now [02/13/2018]
- Brazil’s Supreme Court has soundly rejected a lawsuit filed in 2003 by a right wing political party that would have drastically limit the ability of quilombolas (former slave communities) to legitimize claims to their traditional lands.
- There are 2,962 quilombolas in Brazil today, but just 219 have land titles, while 1,673 are pursuing the process of acquiring legal title. Titled quilombola territories include 767,596 hectares (1.9 million acres); these settlements have a good record of protecting their forests. Brazil’s total quilombola population includes some 16 million people.
- While advocates for quilombola rights cheered the Supreme Court decision, major threats to the communities loom: successive administrations have drastically slashed the budget for titling quilombola lands, almost completely stalling the demarcation process. Also, a constitutional amendment, PEC 215 is moving through Brazil’s Congress.
- PEC 215 would shift authority from the Executive branch to Congress for giving out land titles to quilombolas, recognizing indigenous claims to ancestral lands, and creating protected areas. With Congress dominated by the ruralist caucus and agribusiness, PEC 215 threatens Brazilian forests and indigenous and traditional communities.


Bridgestone aims for full sustainability by 2050 [02/13/2018]
- Bridgestone is the world’s largest tire and rubber manufacturer.
- The company joins Pirelli and Michelin in committing itself and its suppliers to a sustainable supply chain by 2050.
- The move could be particularly beneficial in places like Cambodia, where deforestation has closely tracked the global price for rubber.


Scientists discover 18 new spider-hunting spiders from Madagascar [02/09/2018]
- Researchers have added 18 new species to the assassin spider family, upping the total number of known Eriauchenius and Madagascarchaea species to 26.
- Assassin spiders, also known as pelican spiders, have special physical and behavioral adaptations that allow them to hunt other spiders.
- The new species were discovered in Madagascar’s forests and through examination of previously collected museum specimens.
- Madagascar is currently experiencing high levels of deforestation. Researchers say the loss of Madagascar’s forests is putting the new assassin spiders – as well as many other species – at risk of extinction.


Cattle invade Colombian national park [02/08/2018]
- An analysis of satellite data shows incursions into La Paya National Park in southern Colombia.
- The data indicate La Paya lost around 9,500 hectares of rainforest between 2001 and 2016.
- Researchers say satellite imagery show evidence that these clearings are being used for cattle pasture.
- Conservationists worry deforestation will continue to rise with the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC rebel group, whose presence in the country’s forests kept logging and agriculture at bay for decades.


Carbon pricing could save millions of hectares of tropical forest: new study [02/05/2018]
- Recently published research in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that setting a price of $20 per metric ton (about $18/short ton) of carbon dioxide could diminish deforestation by nearly 16 percent and the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by nearly 25 percent.
- The pair of economists calculated that, as things currently stand, the world stands to lose an India-size chunk of tropical forest by 2050.
- In addition to carbon pricing, stricter policies to halt deforestation, such as those that helped Brazil cut its deforestation rate by 80 percent in the early 2000s, could save nearly 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles).


Deforestation wanes in Indonesia’s Aceh and Leuser Ecosystem, but threats remain, NGO says [02/05/2018]
- Deforestation in Indonesia’s Aceh province last year fell 18 percent from 2016 — a trend activists attribute to better law enforcement and intensified campaigning about the importance of protecting the unique Leuser Ecosystem.
- Another factor is a government moratorium on oil palm planters clearing peatlands, but this hasn’t stopped many such operators from acting with impunity.
- Activists worry that future threats will come from road projects and planned hydropower and geothermal plants.


Amazon rainforest hit by surge in small-scale deforestation, study finds [02/02/2018]
- A recent study used high-resolution satellite imagery to analyze deforestation events in Amazonia, uncovering a shift from large- to small-scale deforestation events across the region. Protected areas also appear to be affected.
- The results indicate big new deforestation hotspots are opening up in Peru and Bolivia, likely caused by industrial agriculture.
- The researchers found 34 percent of forest loss patches in the Brazilian Amazon were smaller than 6.25 hectares, which is the smallest size detectable by the Brazilian government’s deforestation monitoring system.
- The researchers say higher-resolution monitoring systems are needed to combat the rising tide of small-scale deforestation.


Venezuela: can a failing state protect its environment and its people? [02/01/2018]
- Venezuela is fast becoming a failed state, with 11.4 percent of its children malnourished, 10.5 percent of its workforce unemployed, and an annual inflation rate of roughly 2,700 percent for 2017.
- Serious food, fuel and medicine shortages have in recent months resulted in mobs raiding stores and shops, fishing boats, even the stoning of a cow to death where it stood in a field, in order for people to be able to provide for their families.
- Meanwhile, Pres. Maduro has sought to save his nation from economic ruin by selling off its natural resources, opening the Arco Minero in Bolívar state to mining – 112,000 square kilometers, more than 12 percent of the country. He has also announced the creation of the Petro cryptocurrency, backed by the nation’s oil and possibly minerals.
- Mongabay correspondent Bram Ebus, in partnership with InfoAmazonia, recently traveled to the remote Arco Minero and reported firsthand on the chaotic political and social situation, where indigenous communities and the environment are put at risk by economic hardship, a corrupt military, armed gangs and guerrilla bands.


Zero-deforestation pledges need help, support to meet targets, new study finds [02/01/2018]
- The study’s authors reviewed previous research to understand the impact that zero-deforestation commitments are having on reducing the loss of forests.
- Nearly 450 companies made 760 such commitments by early 2017.
- These pledges can reduce deforestation in some cases, but in others, they weren’t effective or had unintended effects, according to the study.
- The authors advocate for increased public-private communication, more support for smallholders, and complementary laws that support these pledges.


Mega developments set to transform a tranquil Cambodian bay [01/31/2018]
- Sim Him has organized the planting of more than 200,000 mangrove trees in Cambodia’s Trapeang Sangke estuary. The surrounding ecosystem, which feeds thousands of families, is thriving.
- But the nearby construction of a ferry terminal and a luxury resort are upsetting the estuary’s equilibrium, and development projects continue west along the coastline from there.
- Dotted along a 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) coastal strip, no less than six large-scale developments present a direct threat to healthy mangrove forests and the fishing communities they support.
- Aside from being a nursery for sealife and a barrier to erosion, mangroves are also one of the planet’s most effective carbon neutralizers, capable of capturing and storing it for millennia.


Is a plantation a forest? Indonesia says yes, as it touts a drop in deforestation [01/31/2018]
- Indonesia has reported a second straight year of declining deforestation, and credited more stringent land management policies for the trend.
- However, the government’s insistence on counting pulpwood plantations as reforested areas has once again sparked controversy over how the very concept of a forest should be defined.
- Researchers caution that the disparity between Indonesia’s methodology and the standard more commonly used elsewhere could make it difficult for the government to qualify for funding to mitigate carbon emissions from deforestation.


New study suggests Borneo’s had elephants for thousands of years [01/31/2018]
- The research, published in January in the journal Scientific Reports, used genetic information and changes to the topography of the region to surmise that Asian elephants arrived in Borneo between 11,000 and 18,000 years ago.
- The authors hypothesize that elephants moved from nearby islands or the Malaysian peninsula to Borneo via land bridges.
- It’s an indication that the elephants are ‘native’ to Borneo, the scientists argue, and points to the need to bolster conservation efforts.


Maduro seeks sell off of Venezuela’s natural resources to escape debt – analysis [01/25/2018]
- With Venezuela’s hyperinflation rate soaring to an estimated 2,700 percent in 2017, corruption and looting rife, and food and medicine in short supply nationwide, President Nicolás Maduro is desperate to find solutions to the country’s deepening economic crisis.
- Many of the president’s solutions, including the Arco Minero and the Petro cryptocurrency, could end up selling off Venezuela’s mineral wealth while devastating indigenous territories and the environment, including the Venezuelan Amazon.
- The Arco Minero, announced by Maduro in 2016, would open 112,000 square kilometers, more than 12 percent of the country, to mining. And while Maduro has invited transnational companies to do the work, most mining that is currently being done is controlled by corrupt elements of the military and organized armed gangs.
- In December, Maduro announced the Petro cryptocurrency, another scheme likely meant to help ease Venezuela’s debt. The new virtual currency would either be backed by the country’s untapped oil wealth or mineral wealth, including gold, coltan and diamonds. The fear is that none of these policies will prevent Venezuela from becoming a failed state.


Pope’s message to Amazonia inspires hope, but will it bring action? [01/22/2018]
- On 19 January, Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of thousands, including many indigenous people, in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, the capital of Madre de Dios state in the Amazon, a region that has seen significant deforestation (62,500 hectares between 2012 and 2016), and significant violence due to illegal mining.
- Latin American analysts, while excited about the pope’s visit, and appreciative of his spotlighting of illegal mining in Madre de Dios and other environmental problems across Amazonia, expressed doubt that the papal visit will have much impact in the long run.
- The pope singled out large corporations in his address: “[G]reat business interests… want to lay hands on [the Amazon’s] petroleum, gas, lumber, gold and other forms of agro-industrial monocultivation,” he said. “We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants.”
- The pope invited a top-down and bottom-up response by Catholics to the Amazon crisis, calling on indigenous people “to shape the culture of local churches in Amazonia,” and announcing next year’s first-ever Synod for Amazonia – a gathering of global bishops who will put papal doctrine such as Laudato Si, his landmark 2015 papal encyclical, into action.


Outrage and conspiracy claims as Indonesia, Malaysia react to EU ban on palm oil in biofuels [01/19/2018]
- Indonesian and Malaysian ministers have derided as unfair and misguided the European Parliament’s vote to approve the phase-out of palm oil from biofuels by 2021.
- The vote Wednesday, over concerns about the environmental and social impacts of the palm oil industry, still needs to be ratified by the European Commission and member governments.
- Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have filed official notes of protest, claiming a protectionist conspiracy to promote other vegetable oil producers, but activists say the EU’s concerns, including about deforestation, are valid and the ban justified.


Pope set to visit site of deforestation, indigenous struggle in Peru [01/19/2018]
- Pope Francis plans to visit Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian region of Madre de Dios Friday morning on his trip to South America.
- He will speak with indigenous communities in a coliseum.
- Madre de Dios had the second-highest rate of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, with 208 square kilometers (80 square miles) of forest cover loss as a result of farming, logging and mining.


New satellite data reveals forest loss far greater than expected in Brazil Amazon [01/18/2018]
- The Brazilian Amazon lost 184 km2 of forest in December 2017, 20 times more than was recorded in December 2016 (9 km2).
- The massive increase reflects Brazil’s use of a more accurate satellite monitoring system that incorporates radar, which can see land cover at night and through clouds, and suggests prior deforestation rates were likely underestimates.
- As the cost of radar and other satellite data decreases, continuous monitoring will enable officials and civil society to more accurately monitor and quantify forest loss over a broad range of spatial scales.


680000 acres of Amazon rainforest may be lost to Peru’s new roads [01/18/2018]
- The Peruvian government has green-lighted the construction of a volley of new roads along its border with Brazil in the Ucayali and Madre de Dios regions.
- The most major of these roads would span 172 miles through the Amazon rainforest, connecting the towns of Puerto Esperanza and Iñapari.
- A new analysis finds around 680,000 acres (2,750 square kilometers) of primary rainforest will likely be put at risk from the road construction – an area the size of the country of Samoa.
- The proposed route of the main road would also cross two indigenous reserves and a national park.




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