World’s second breeding population of Indochinese tigers discovered in Thailand’s forests [03/28/2017]
- The world’s second known breeding population of Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti) confirmed in Eastern Thailand’s Dong-Phayayen Khao Yai Forest Complex - a UNESCO World Heritage site. - Remarkable discovery now makes Thailand home to two breeding populations of this tiger subspecies, a significant step toward ensuring their long-term survival in the wild. - Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and conservation groups Freeland and Panthera have conducted a scientific survey on the tiger population using the ‘photographic capture-recapture’ method, indicating a density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometers. - While conservationists welcome these exciting new findings, they warn of the continued decline of tigers elsewhere in Thailand and across their global range.
Amazon land speculators poised to gain control of vast public lands [03/27/2017]
- In the Brazilian Amazon, the paving of highways makes adjacent forests far more attractive to land thieves, resulting in major deforestation. The Sustainable BR-163 Plan of 2006 created vast swathes of protected land — eight new conservation units — to prevent land theft and deforestation from happening near the vulnerable BR-163 highway in Pará state. - From the start, land speculators wanted to get their hands on one of those units, the National Forest of Jamanxim, known as “Flona Jamaxim.” They’ve occupied large areas of the Flona, making it one of Brazil’s conservation units with the most serious illegal forest clearing. Illicit activities there helped turn the region into a very violent place. - The rise of the agribusiness-friendly Temer administration in August 2016 emboldened the land speculators. Working with the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, they got Temer to pass interim measures in December 2016, dismembering Flona Jamanxim, reclassifying 305,000 hectares, and allowing land thieves to keep the land they had seized. - Other conservation units are being targeted: in January 2017, the government announced plans to slash conservation units in Amazonas state — dismembering the Biological Reserve of Manicoré, National Park of Acari, and National Forests of Aripuanã and Urupadi, and more. If approved, one million hectares will lose environmental protection.
As Thailand ramps up its palm oil sector, peat forests feel the pressure [03/24/2017]
- Thailand is currently the world's third-largest producer of palm oil. As of 2015, around 70 percent of land used for oil palm cultivation was managed by small-scale farmers. - Most of Thailand's palm oil is grown in the southern part of the country. In one protected area, called Pru Kaching, the government is trying to reclaim land from palm oil growers. But complicating factors have mired the effort. - In order to grow crops like oil palm in peatlands, the swampy peat must be drained – which releases carbon into the atmosphere and makes the forests that overlay them more susceptible to fire.
Panama’s Barro Blanco dam to begin operation, indigenous pleas refused [03/24/2017]
- For nearly a decade, Panama’s Barro Blanco dam has met with strong opposition from indigenous Ngäbe communities. It has also generated violent suppression from government forces, and attracted criticism from international organizations. - An agreement on the dam’s completion, reached by the government and the community’s now-ousted leader, was voted down by the Ngäbe-Bugle General Congress in September 2016. The dam’s surprise deregistration from the UN Clean Development Mechanism in October 2016 did nothing to stop the project. - Now, the General Administrator of Panama’s National Authority for Public Services has declared that the Ngäbe-Bugle General Congress never presented a formal rejection document to the government, meaning dam operations can begin. - Panama’s Supreme Court has ruled against the last two legal actions by indigenous communities impacted by Barro Blanco. The Supreme Court decisions cannot be appealed, so the communities have now exhausted all legal avenues within the country, leaving only international processes.
“Endangered species to declare?” Europe’s understudied bushmeat trade [03/20/2017]
- Bushmeat can be purchased in Europe’s capital cities, with the meat of endangered species such as primates and pangolins available. But the scale of the problem is not fully understood as few studies have been undertaken at airports and other points of entry to determine its scope. - In a Paris airport study, 134 passengers arriving from Africa were searched over a period of 17 days; nine were found to be carrying a total of 188 kilograms (414 pounds) of bushmeat. A more recent study of bushmeat arriving from Africa at two Swiss airports found that one third of meat seized was from threatened CITES species including pangolins, small carnivores and primates. - Based on what evidence there is of the trade, some appears to be organized for profit, with traffickers transporting suitcases full of bushmeat to sell on the black market. Africans who reside in Europe also sometimes bring back bushmeat from Africa as a “taste of home,” potentially contributing to the risk of spreading diseases that may be found in the meat. - Researchers are urging that DNA analysis tools be used more widely to learn what species are being transported as bushmeat into Europe, and to bring about more prosecutions of bushmeat traffickers who are dealing in endangered species. But with customs officials already stretched, and bushmeat a low priority, the technology is rarely utilized at present.
Saving orphaned baby rhinos in India [03/17/2017]
- The Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, near Kaziranga National Park in Assam State, is currently home to nine greater one-horned rhino calves, including eight orphaned in monsoon floods last year. - Carers at the center hand raise these young rhinos with the aim of reintroducing them to the wild when they are old enough to fend for themselves. - Since 2002, the center has raised and released 14 rhino calves, along with young from other species including elephants and wild buffalo. - Raising these vulnerable animals requires years of painstaking effort.
Cambodia’s Sambor Dam plans cause controversy as public left in the dark [03/16/2017]
- A recent social media posting by a government spokesman indicates that the Sambor Dam is a priority project for the Cambodian government, to be completed by 2027 with an output of 1,800 megawatts. - The developer that originally planned to build the dam, China Southern Power Grid, pulled out of the project after villagers protested the dam's potential impact on fisheries. Studies indicate the dam could reduce yields of fish and aquatic animals by as much as 30 percent. - China Southern Power Grid's feasibility studies also indicated that 19,000 people would have to be relocated for the dam. - In 2013, the Cambodian government hired the US-based National Heritage Institute to review options for the project. The report prepared by NHI has not been made public, which has drawn criticism from civil society groups.
Crime and not enough punishment: Amazon thieves keep stolen public land [03/15/2017]
- Land grabbing and illegal ranching (even on public lands) has long been, and still is, big business in the Brazilian Amazon. Last year the Brazilian government launched its most ambitious crackdown ever. And some of the criminals caught up in the federal police net were members of Brazil’s richest families. - In June 2016, federal law enforcement pounced on a gang of land thieves. Antônio José Junqueira Vilela Filho, known as AJ Vilela, and Ricardo Caldeira Viacava, among others, were charged with clearing public lands — 300 square kilometers (74,132 acres) of forest, in total — an area 5 times larger than Manhattan, and of using slave labor to do it. - One of the gang’s innovations was to use sophisticated technology to work out just how much forest they could clear without being detected by monitoring satellites. Unfortunately for the offenders, they were spotted by Kayapó Indians who had their own sophisticated monitoring system (called radio!); they reported the crime to federal police. - But by October 2016, AJ Vilela was out of jail and awaiting trial. And unofficial reports from Pará state, gathered there by Mongabay in November, say that the gang is carrying on as before, illegally raising cattle on the public lands they illegally deforested. Question: why hasn’t the land been reclaimed by the government?
Current regulations unable to control trade in products from slave labor, expert says [03/13/2017]
- Kevin Bales is co-founder of the advocacy group Free the Slaves and professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham in the UK. - In his recent book, Blood and Earth, Bales discusses his research to uncover connections between labor rights and the protection of nature. - In this interview with Repórter Brasil, Bales discusses how current regulation is largely unable to stem the trade in products manufactured through slave labor and recommends governments devote more resources to combatting it. He also highlights a few promising developments that are helping to boost corporate transparency.
Suppliers of Lowe’s in the US and Walmart in Brazil linked to slave labor in the Amazon [03/13/2017]
- Slave labor-analogous conditions were revealed by investigation of logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A supply chain investigation of the timber harvested through these camps has found links to markets in Brazil and the U.S. - Major retailers with links to intermediaries that sourced wood from logging camps found to use slave labor practices include Lowe's, Timber Holdings, and Brazilian Walmart stories. Timber Holdings has used wood from Brazil in major renovation projects for New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park.
Slave labor in the Amazon: Risking lives to cut down the rainforest [03/13/2017]
- Investigations show conditions analogous to slave labor as defined by Brazilian law are not uncommon at small logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A recent bust of one labor camp by a team headed by the Ministry of Labor led to the rescue several men living in substandard conditions. Interviews of the men and observations by Repórter Brasil indicate their lives were forcibly put at-risk at the camp. - Workers from other logging camps came forward to report instances of nonpayment, and being threatened by guns when they demanded their pay. - Although the job is life threatening and illegal, and wages aren't guaranteed, workers report often having no other choice but to work at the logging camps.
Investigation reveals slave labor conditions in Brazil’s timber industry [03/13/2017]
- The report was the culmination of an investigation into slave labor practices in the state of Pará’s timber industry led by the Integrated Action Network to Combat Slavery (RAICE). - The investigation found several conditions used by Brazilian law to define slave labor were occurring at logging camps, including forced work, debt bondage, isolation, exhausting working hours and life-threatening activities. - According to the report, workers at the camp often felt forced into illegal logging because of dire economic circumstances.
Iconic musician Paul Simon announces tour supporting biodiversity [03/13/2017]
- Twelve-time Grammy winner Paul Simon spoke to Mongabay during a recent conference in Durham, North Carolina. - Proceeds from the tour will support the Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. - He spoke to Mongabay about optimism, life on Earth, and more during an hour-long conversation. - It was widely reported in 2016 that the performer was considering retirement from touring, but has now heeded Wilson's call for saving biodiversity.
Successful forest protection in DRC hinges on community participation [03/12/2017]
- Forest covers at least 112 million hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Studies from 2013 show that subsistence agriculture and the need for firewood threaten DRC’s forests, and new investments in the countries forests by industrial outfits could contribute to the problem. - DRC’s leaders have signed on to international agreements and have begun to receive millions of dollars to finance projects aimed at keeping DRC’s forests standing, protecting global climate and reducing poverty.
From conflict to communities: Forests in Liberia [03/10/2017]
- Liberia holds 40 percent of West Africa’s Upper Guinean rainforest. - National and international organizations have worked with communities and the country’s leadership to clean up the corruption that many say has pervaded outside investments in timber and commercial agriculture. - Currently, the Land Rights Act, which would give communities more control over their forests, awaits approval, but its progress has been paralyzed, in part by this year’s elections.
Living above a century-old coal fire, Jharia residents pay the price for India’s mining ambitions [03/10/2017]
- The Jharia coalfields, in India's Jharkhand state, contain high-grade coal and have been continuously mined since 1894. - The first underground fire was recorded in 1916. By the 1970s, around 17.32 square kilometers (6.68 square miles) were affected by fires. Mine executives say that has now been reduced to around 2.18 square kilometers. - More than 100,000 families are affected by the fires and need to be relocated. - Doctors say the average life expectancy of people living in the coalfields is reduced by 10 years, due to air and water pollution.
Climate change driving widespread local extinctions; tropics most at risk [03/09/2017]
- Climate change forces three fates on species: adapt, flee or die. A new meta-analysis compiled data from 27 studies to see how species distributions have changed over timescales of 10-159 years, and included 976 species. Almost half (47 percent) had seen some local populations disappear along the warming edge of their ranges. - The tropics were especially vulnerable to climate change-driven local extinctions. The data showed that 55 percent of tropical and subtropical species experienced local extinctions, whereas the figure was only 39 percent for temperate species. Though the tropical data set was not large, this higher tropical risk concurs with past studies. - Tropical species are at greater risk due to climate change because they live in some of the world’s hottest environments, so are already at the upper limit of known temperature adaptation, are restricted to small areas, particular rare habitats, and narrow temperature ranges, or have poor dispersal ability and slow reproductive rates. - Scientists see multiple solutions to the problem: beyond the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, they recommend conserving large core areas of habitat, and preserving strong connectivity between those core areas, so plants and animals can move more freely between them as required as the world warms.
Amazon Soy Moratorium: defeating deforestation or greenwash diversion? [03/08/2017]
- In the early 2000s, public outrage over Amazon clear cutting for soy production caused transnational grain companies including Cargill, Bunge and Brazil’s Amaggi, to join with soy producers and environmental NGOs including Greenpeace to sign the voluntary Amazon Soy Moratorium, banning direct conversion of Amazon forests to soy after 2006. - The agreement’s signatories have long proclaimed its phenomenal success. A 2014 study found that in the 2 years preceding the agreement, nearly 30 percent of soy expansion in the Amazon biome occurred through deforestation. But after the ASM direct deforestation for soy fell to only 1 percent of soy expansion in the Amazon biome. - Critics say these statistics hide major ASM failings: that its apparent success is largely due to there already being so much deforested land in the Amazon as of 2006, that there was plenty of room for soy expansion without cutting forest. Also, cleared pastureland onto which soy moved, often simply displaced cattle into forests newly cut by land grabbers for ranchers. - Of most concern: ASM covers only one of two Legal Amazonia biomes. While marginally protecting the Amazon, it doesn’t cover the Cerrado savanna, where soy growers have aggressively cleared millions of acres of biodiverse habitat — critics see the ASM as corporate and NGO greenwash; defenders say it inspired other tropical deforestation agreements globally.
Trapped elephants face attacks by mob in India [03/03/2017]
- The herd of about 25 elephants is "trapped" within dense human habitation in an area called Athgarh in the state of Orissa in India. - The elephants take shelter in some of the small forest patches during the day, and go out to look for food in the evenings, which mostly constitutes of crops, getting harassed in the process. - Conservationists say that harassing elephants has now become a form of entertainment in the area.
China’s Domestic Dams: Hydropower not only an export for world’s biggest dam builder [02/28/2017]
- China is the world's biggest financier and builder of dams, with projects across the globe. It also has extensive domestic hydropower ambitions. - Twenty dams have been proposed or constructed along the Lancang, China's stretch of the Mekong River. - Separated from village life by deep canyons, the Lancang Jiang, whose name means "Turbulent River," is viewed by many in China as good for little more than its hydropower potential. - Further downstream, in the Mekong Basin, the river is the source of sustenance for tens of millions of people. Any changes to upstream ecology could have severe effects in downstream countries.
The Spirit of the Steppes: Saving Central Asia’s saiga [02/27/2017]
- The Critically Endangered saiga (Saiga tatarica) once numbered in the millions. This large antelope was perhaps best known for making one of the last of the world’s remaining great mammal migrations — a trek sweeping twice per year across the steppes of Central Asia. - Saiga populations declined more than 95 percent by 2004, according to the IUCN. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan banned hunting in the 1990s, but the horns of male saiga are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, and illegal trafficking is a major threat; if not curtailed the trade could doom the species. - In the 21st century, international NGOs and regional organizations such as the Saiga Conservation Alliance (SCA) and Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) formed partnerships with Central Asian nations to better conserve the species. And their work was paying off, until 2015. - That’s when disease killed over 200,000 adult saiga of the Betpak Dala population in Central Kazakhstan. At the end of 2016, the Mongolian herd was hit hard by a new viral infection, with 4,000 saiga carcasses buried so far. But the saiga is reproductively resilient, and could be saved, if the species receives sufficient attention, say conservationists.
The changing face of Amazon development: from land grab to eco-lodge [02/23/2017]
- Ariosto da Riva was often described as “the last of the bandeirantes”, the violent adventurers who first penetrated the Brazilian Amazon in the 16th century in search of gold. Working with Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), he owned a million hectares of forest, pushed indigenous people from their lands, and brought in settlers. - His daughter, Vitória da Riva Carvalho, though wealthy, did not buy into his legacy. She is noted instead for her strong defense of the rainforest and for her world-renowned ecotourism destination, the Cristalino Jungle Lodge, located outside the town of Alta Floresta — which her father settled — in northernmost Mato Grosso state. - The evolution of the relationship between father and daughter helps trace the unfolding land conflicts that have smouldered and exploded in the Amazon between indigenous and traditional peoples on one side; and land speculators, land grabbers, loggers, settlers and soy growers on the other. - Today, most of the indigenous people who lived in the region where the Cristalino Jungle Lodge entertains its wealthy guests are gone — dead, pushed into indigenous reserves, or retreated elsewhere. But for now, the rainforest and much extraordinary biodiversity remains, with people like Vitória da Riva Carvalho as its stewards.
Proposed Trump policy threatens Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla [02/21/2017]
- The largest great ape, Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has nearly disappeared in the past two decades. Numbers have plummeted by 77 percent; perhaps 3,800 remain. This animal, dubbed “the forgotten gorilla” because it was so little studied and was absent from most zoos, is in serious danger of extinction. - Their slaughter was precipitated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s bloody civil war and by mining for coltan and tin ore, “conflict minerals” used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Gorillas are heavily poached by armed militias, miners, and less often, by refugees: the animals are being eaten nearly to extinction. - The gorillas could suffer greater harm from warlords and miners if President Trump signs a proposed presidential memorandum leaked to Reuters. It would allow US companies to buy conflict minerals freely without public disclosure, likely increasing mining in the Congo basin — and poaching. - Trump’s plan would nullify the current US Conflict Mineral Rule, passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and enacted as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Dodd Frank Act. Meanwhile, conservationists are hopeful that the Grauer’s gorilla can be saved — but only with a DRC and planet-wide response.
What happens when the soy and palm oil boom ends? [02/21/2017]
- Over the past 30 years demand and production of oils crops like oil palm and soybeans has boomed across the tropics. - This rapid expansion has in some places taken a heavy toll on native, wildlife-rich ecosystems. - Derek Byerlee, co-author of a new book titled The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution, spoke with Mongabay about the tropical oil crop sector and what's to come for the industry.
Grief, anger and fear in the aftermath of a deadly coal-mining disaster in Jharkhand State, India [02/16/2017]
- On Dec. 29, 2016, the Lalmatia coal mine's massive overburden dump collapsed into the pit, killing 23 workers — including five whose bodies have still not been recovered. - Workers claim they reported warning signs to management ahead of the disaster but were ignored. In the days following the collapse, inspection authorities said Lalmatia was not fit for mining. - The mine is under the umbrella of government-owned Coal India Limited, but production was outsourced to a private company. - India aims to ramp up its coal production to one billion tonnes per year, with "large scale contract mining" expected to play a major role in reaching this goal.
Getting there: The rush to turn the Amazon into a soy transport corridor [02/15/2017]
- The development over the last 40 years of Mato Grosso state in Brazil’s interior as an industrial agribusiness powerhouse has, from the beginning, been hindered by a major economic problem: how to get the commodities to the coast for profitable export. - The first route of export from Mato Grosso was a costly and time-consuming southern one, with commodities trucked on a circuitous route to Santos in São Paulo state and Paranaguá in Paraná state on the Atlantic coast. - The paving of the northern section of BR-163, running south to north through Pará state, opened a much less expensive, faster route, with commodities now moved to Miritituba on the Tapajós River, then downstream to the Amazon, and on to Europe and China. - New infrastructure plans call for the channelization of the Juruena, Teles Pires and Tapajós rivers, creating a 1,000-mile industrial waterway. Two railways, one over the Andes, are also proposed. These schemes pose grave threats to the Amazon rainforest, biodiversity, indigenous and traditional communities, and even the global climate.
Counterintuitive: Global hydropower boom will add to climate change [02/14/2017]
- For many years new hydropower dams were assumed to be zero greenhouse gas emitters. Now with 847 large (more than 100 MW) and 2,853 smaller (more than 1 MW) hydropower projects currently planned or under construction around the world, a new global study has shown that dam reservoirs are major greenhouse gas emitters. - The study looked at the carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted from 267 reservoirs across six continents. Globally, the researchers estimate that reservoirs contribute 1.3 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to those from rice paddy cultivation or biomass burning. - Reservoir emissions are not currently counted within the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) emissions assessments, but they should be, argue the researchers. In fact, countries are currently eligible under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to receive carbon credits for newly built dams. - The study raises the question as to whether hydropower should continue to be counted as green power or be eligible for UN CDM carbon credits.
A Thai oil firm, Indonesian seaweed farmers and Australian regulators. What happened after the Montara oil spill? [02/14/2017]
- The 2009 Montara oil spill was the worst such offshore disaster in Australian history. The company behind it acknowledges "mistakes were made that should never be repeated." - But while the firm has paid a penalty to the Australian government, it has yet to compensate Indonesia, which says it too suffered from the spill. - Now, thousands of seaweed farmers are suing the Thai-owned oil and gas giant, seeking compensation in Australian court. The Indonesian government has also launched a lawsuit. - The dispute highlights the complexity of regulating transnational corporations operating in maritime borderlands like the Timor Sea, a relatively narrow body of water rich in oil and gas reserves and surrounded by multiple countries.
India’s Manas National Park illustrates the human dimension of rhino conservation [02/13/2017]
- Manas National Park, one of India's rhino conservation areas, is at the heart of a proposed homeland for the Bodos, an indigenous ethnic group. - From the 1980s until 2003, the park was engulfed by armed conflict, and its rhino population was wiped out. During this period, the Bodos were frequently portrayed as hostile to conservation efforts. - A 2003 peace accord paved the way for the establishment of autonomous local governance, and the restoration of rhinos to the park. Former guerrillas now serve as anti-poaching patrols. - With the Bodos in power, a new group has been cast as ecological villains: Bengali Muslims living in the fringes of the park.
The clouded leopard: conserving Asia’s elusive arboreal acrobat [02/09/2017]
- The clouded leopard is not closely related to the leopard, but has its own genus (Neofelis), separate from the big cats (Panthera). In 2006, the single species of clouded leopard was split in two: Neofelis nebulosa is found on the Asian mainland, while Neofelis diardi, the Sunda clouded leopard, occurs only on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. - Another subspecies native to Taiwan (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) is believed to be extinct, after none were found in a camera trapping survey conducted between 1997 and 2012. - Originally, researchers found it difficult to breed the animals in captivity, since mates tended to kill each other. A variety of breeding techniques have however allowed zoos around the world to begin mating the animals successfully, to create and maintain a genetically viable captive population. - Clouded leopards are incredibly elusive, and only with the advent of new technology, including camera traps and radio collars, have scientists been able to begin defining clouded leopard ranges, distribution, populations and threats. Public outreach is also helping build awareness around the plight of these Vulnerable wild cats.
Fighting rhino poaching in India, CSI-style [02/09/2017]
- RhODIS, the Rhino DNA Index System, relies on a database of rhino DNA collected from across rhino range states in Africa. - The system, developed in South Africa, allows investigators to link captured poachers and confiscated horns to specific poaching incidents. - Researchers are currently working to expand the database to include Asian rhino species. - This year, India is expected to be the first Asian country to roll out the program as part of its anti-poaching strategy.
Shrugging off the risks, Laos plans to proceed with the Pak Beng dam [02/08/2017]
- The Pak Beng dam is the third of nine mainstream dams planned for the Mekong in Laos, and the second in a cascade of six on the country’s upper stretch of the river. - If built, the 912-megawatt capacity dam will flood 4,178 hectares of land and create a 7,659-hectare reservoir along the river valley. - A suite of project documents was published last month, including impact assessments that conclude the project will lead to loss of agricultural land, forest and fisheries as well as possible contamination. However, the developers claim mitigation measures will be able to overcome the negative social and environmental impacts. - During a visit in January, Mongabay learned that people living in villages around the dam site had not been fully briefed on the project and its potential effects on their lives and livelihoods.
Soy invasion poses imminent threat to Amazon, say agricultural experts [02/08/2017]
- The meteoric rise in soy production in the state of Mato Grosso is eating up rainforest and savanna at a staggering rate, with 1.2 million hectares under production in 1991; 6.2 million hectares in 2010; and 9.4 million hectares by 2016. Much of that soy is being exported to China, and it is expected that Brazil will grow more soy to meet Asia’s need. - Since the time of Brazil’s military government (1964-1985), down to the present day, the national government has repeatedly offered lip service in support of Brazil’s agrarian poor, while offering large tax breaks and other major incentives to large landowners, large-scale agribusiness, and transnational commodities companies. - This trend of overwhelming federal support for big soy growers seems likely to continue under current Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi (once dubbed the “Soy King”), and due to the powerful influence held by the ruralista agribusiness lobby in the National Congress. - If China’s 21st century demand for soy, and Brazil’s ambition to meet that demand, don’t slacken, Amazon deforestation rates are likely to continue rising, and indigenous peoples are likely to see on-going threats to their communities and livelihoods. One place the threat is most dire is in the Tapajós Basin on the border of Mato Grosso and Pará states.
Resurrected Jeypore ground gecko faces second death sentence [02/07/2017]
- In India — a land that’s home to the regal tiger, the majestic elephant and the flamboyant peacock — gaining the Endangered Species spotlight can be difficult. Equally challenging in a land with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, is the conservation of habitat that is vital to threatened species. - The Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis) was first noted in India’s Eastern Ghats in 1877, then not seen again and presumed extinct. Rediscovered by scientists in 2010, it exists in just two known areas covering a mere 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of degraded habitat threatened by development. - Conservationists are working with the public and private sectors, and with local communities, urging the creation of “gecko reserves” to protect G. jeyporensis as well as the golden gecko (Calodactylodes aureus). But whether these little reptiles will inspire enough public enthusiasm is anyone’s guess.
Bright lights, big city, tiny frog: Romer’s tree frog survives Hong Kong [02/03/2017]
- Discovered in the 1950s, Romer’s tree frog has so far been declared extinct, rediscovered, immediately declared Critically Endangered, been seriously threatened by an international airport, and become the focus of one of the first ever successful, wholesale population relocation projects conducted for an amphibian. - At just 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters (0.6 to 1 inch) in length, this little brown frog lives at just a few locations within the sprawl of Hong Kong Island, as well as on a few outlying islands. It lives in moist forest leaf litter on the forest floor, and depends on temporary fish-free pools of water for breeding. - When Hong Kong planned a major new international airport within the shrinking habitat of the Romer’s tree frog, scientists responded quickly, studying the animal’s lifestyle, eating and breeding habits; they then instituted a captive breeding program at the Melbourne Zoo, and launched a restoration program. It worked. - While some restoration site populations have since failed, others continue to thrive. And with new protections now in place, scientists hold out some hope that Romer’s tree frog may be a Hong Kong resident for many years to come.
Battle for the Amazon: As Sinop grew, the Amazon rainforest faded away [02/01/2017]
- Sinop, a city of 125,000 people in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon in Mato Grosso state, is a modern success story. Prosperous and booming, the small urban center services a region dominated today by industrial agriculture. - Few remember how the city came to be. As recently as the 1970’s, the Sinop region was mostly rainforest and occupied by indigenous peoples. - At the time, Brazil’s military government highly favored large-scale land speculators. These men gained dubious title to millions of acres of rainforest, divided it into lots, and sold it off to poor Brazilian settlers. Many settlers found their transplantation into the Amazon very difficult. - Indigenous and traditional people who lacked land titles were driven out, often violently. The story of Sinop is a story of development, exploitation and conflict that has continued to play out across the Amazon region — especially in the Tapajós River basin today.
NGO takes action to save great apes in Cameroon’s Lebialem Highlands [01/31/2017]
- The Lebialem Highlands, in Cameroon’s southwest, is a rugged mountainous and plateaued region still inhabited by the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla, the Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and the Vulnerable African forest elephant. - While the Cameroon government has taken action by protecting swathes of forest in the region, they admit to being unable to fully protect this habitat from incursions by surrounding communities, who go to the protected lands to farm, harvest bushmeat, hunt, log and mine. - The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), an NGO, has stepped in to help protect Highlands conserved areas — including the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the still to be created Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary. - Supported by the Rainforest Trust-USA, ERuDeF is also working to improve local village economies and livelihoods in order to take pressure off of wildlife.
Thap Lan: Thailand’s unsung forest gem under threat, but still abrim with life [01/31/2017]
- Thailand's Thap Lan National Park is part of the Dong Phayayen - Khao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY-FC), designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance to global biodiversity. - The DPKY-FC supports 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds, and 200 species of reptiles and amphibians. - Thap Lan receives few visitors and faces major threats, including poaching, illegal logging and the expansion of a highway leading from Bangkok to the country's northeast. - The park, along with the rest of the DPKY-FC, could be downgraded by UNESCO to inscription on the “List of World Heritage in Danger.”
‘Revolutionary’ new biodiversity maps reveal big gaps in conservation [01/27/2017]
- The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. - Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. - Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
Before the flood: can the Bunong culture survive Cambodia’s Sesan II dam? [01/27/2017]
- When completed, the Lower Sesan II dam will inundate 36,000 hectares (89,000 acres) of forest and force 5,000 people to relocate, activists say. - The Bunong, an ethnic minority group whose livelihood and culture depends on the river and the forest, will be among the most affected by the dam. - Even before the dam is completed, Bunong villages like Kbal Romeas have been divided, as some residents accept compensation packages while others staunchly refuse to leave their land.
Primates face impending extinction – what’s next? [01/24/2017]
- Nonhuman primates are on the decline almost everywhere. - The third most diverse Order of mammals, primates are under the highest level of threat of any larger group of mammals, and among the highest of any group of vertebrates - 63% of primates are threatened, meaning that they fall into one of the three IUCN categories of threat—Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable. - This post is a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
Indigenous traditional knowledge revival helps conserve great apes [01/20/2017]
- Deforestation and hunting continue to put Africa’s great apes at risk. National parks and other top down strategies have met with limited success. Many conservationists are trying alternative strategies, especially harnessing the power of indigenous taboos and other traditional knowledge to motivate local communities to protect great apes. - In remote parts of Africa, taboos against hunting have long helped conserve gorilla populations. However, those ancient traditions are being weakened by globalization, modernization and Christianity, with anti-hunting taboos and other traditional beliefs being abandoned at a time when they are most needed to conserve great apes. - Primatologist Denis Ndeloh Etiendem suggests a unique approach to reviving indigenous taboos and traditional beliefs — the creation of videos and films in which these beliefs are presented as a prime reason for conserving wildlife. He also urges that African environmental and general educational curricula focus not on endangered dolphins or whales, but on wildlife found in interior Africa. - Development specialist Dominique Bikaba emphasizes the importance of moving away from top down federal management, and to local management of community forests by indigenous communities, whose leaders mesh traditional beliefs with modern conservation strategies. Prime examples are successes seen at Burhinyi Community Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
‘Running out of time’: 60 percent of primates sliding toward extinction [01/19/2017]
- The assessment of 504 primate species found that 60 percent are on track toward extinction, and the numbers of 75 percent are going down. - Agricultural expansion led to the clearing of primate habitat three times the size of France between 1990 and 2010, impinging on the range of 76 percent of apes and monkeys. - By region, Madagascar and Southeast Asia have the most species in trouble. Nearly 90 percent of Madagascar’s more than 100 primates are moving toward extinction. - Primates also face serious threats from hunting, logging and ranching.
Trade in skulls, body parts severely threatens Cameroon’s great apes [01/19/2017]
- Primatologists in Cameroon have been heartened in recent years by the discoveries of new great ape populations scattered around the country. Unfortunately for these gorillas and chimpanzees, their numbers are being rapidly diminished by deforestation and human exploitation. - Cameroon’s gorillas and chimps have long fallen victim to the bushmeat trade, but they are now being hunted vigorously to feed a national and international illegal trade in skulls and other body parts which are being exported to Nigeria, other West African coastal states, and especially to the US and China, either as trophies or for use in traditional medicine. - Great ape trafficking operations in Cameroon are starting to resemble the ivory trade: International trafficking networks are financing hunters, providing them with motorbikes and sophisticated weapons. A spreading network of logging and agribusiness roads and a porous border between Cameroon and Nigeria are further facilitating the trade. - The seriousness of this poaching hits home when one considers that during a four-month period in 2015, anti-poaching and anti-trafficking squads in Cameroon arrested 22 dealers and seized 16 great ape limbs, 24 gorilla heads and 34 chimpanzee skulls in separate operations around the country. Law enforcement is likely only detecting 10 percent of the trade.
Is Brazil green washing hydropower? The case of the Teles Pires dam [01/18/2017]
- The Teles Pires Hydroelectric Company (builder and operator of Brazil’s Teles Pires dam in the Amazon Basin) was awarded a Green Certificate in the “Responsible Social and Environmental Management” category of the Chico Mendes Award, a prize named after the murdered Brazilian eco-hero. - The company has won other green awards for its construction projects (including Amazon dams), and been awarded carbon credits by the United Nations. - But critics ask how green the company that built the Tele Pires dam can be when their project wrecked indigenous and traditional communities, led to the dynamiting of an indigenous sacred site, did harm to biodiversity and fisheries, while also likely producing significant carbon emissions. - The company claims it is not to blame, because it complied with all government regulations during the dam’s construction, and even went further to make the project sustainable. The Teles Pires dam raises key questions about “sustainability,” and who has the right to define it.
E.O. Wilson on Half-Earth, Donald Trump, and hope [01/17/2017]
- Celebrated biologist's new book outlines an audacious plan to save the biodiversity of Earth - He is also the author of numerous biological concepts, including island biogeography and biophilia - In a wide-ranging interview, he also discusses the Trump phenomenon and decries de-extinction and so-called 'Anthropocenists'
Pileated gibbons poached as bushmeat to feed illegal rosewood loggers [01/17/2017]
- There were 14,000 Pileated gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) in southeast Thailand in 2005, the last time a census survey was done. No one knows what those numbers look like today. The animals are falling victim to illegal hunting, which is the most serious threat to wildlife across Southeast Asia according to a recent study. - The gibbons are especially being poached as bushmeat in Thap Lan National Park by poachers who feed on them when they venture deep into the forest to cut Endangered rosewood trees. 'Hongmu' (red wood) timber imports from the Mekong region to China between 2000 and 2014 were valued at nearly US $2.4 billion. - Underfunded and under-equipped Thai park rangers regularly engage in firefights with the armed loggers, but it is believed that gibbon numbers continue to fall, as the animals are easily spotted when they sing, and are shot out of the trees. - “In the past we used to hear [the gibbons singing] a lot, but now we don’t hear them so much. I think it’s people going into the forest to log that is affecting them,” said Surat Monyupanao, head ranger at Thap Lan National Park.
Great apes and greater challenges: Trafficking in Cameroon [01/12/2017]
- Cameroon is home to four great ape species and sub-species: the Western Lowland gorilla, Cross River gorilla, Central chimpanzee and Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee. Scientists still don’t fully understand these species and the secrets they may hold, especially for medical science, but those secrets will be lost if the animals are not conserved. - A thriving trade in ape skulls, bushmeat, and live animal trafficking is threatening to wipe out ape populations already stressed by habitat loss and fragmentation. The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) is an NGO that is tackling the traffickers behind the African trade, but they are up against widespread government corruption that is hindering their efforts. - While confiscations of trafficked great apes is important, estimates put the total of traded animals being detected by law enforcement along trafficking routes at a mere 10 percent. That’s why many conservationists argue that trafficking needs to be stopped not at national borders and airports, but nipped in the bud at the source, in the wild.
‘Day of Terror’: Munduruku village attacked by Brazil’s Federal Police [01/11/2017]
- On November 7, 2012, Brazil’s Federal Police launched the Eldorado Operation with a raid aimed at destroying an illegal gold mining barge at Teles Pires, a Munduruku village. During the attack, an Indian was killed by police — “executed,” according to a Federal Public Ministry (MPF) investigation. - The gold mining barge that was destroyed that day — and others in indigenous territory along the Teles Pires River in the Tapajós Basin — had been allowed to operate illegally by the government for years previously. - The income earned from the gold mining barges had recently been used to fund indigenous opposition to the Belo Monte mega-dam, and resistance to more than 40 dams proposed for the Tapajós Basin. The extreme violence of the Eldorado Operation has shaken Munduruku trust in Brazil’s government. - According to the Indians, the police told them to lie about these events, or face persecution. Mongabay’s videotaped eyewitness interviews have resulted in the MPF opening a new investigation into the Eldorado Operation; MPF is seeking US $2.9 million in damages for the Munduruku.
The end of a People: Amazon dam destroys sacred Munduruku “Heaven” [01/05/2017]
- Four dams are being built on the Teles Pires River — a major tributary of the Tapajós River — to provide Brazil with hydropower, and to possibly be a first step toward constructing an industrial waterway to transport soy and other commodities from Mato Grosso state, in the interior, to the Atlantic coast. - Those dams are being built largely without consultation with impacted indigenous people, as required by the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, an agreement which Brazil signed. - A sacred rapid, known as Sete Quedas, the Munduruku “Heaven”, was dynamited in 2013 to build the Teles Pires dam. A cache of sacred artefacts was also seized by the dam construction consortium and the Brazilian state. - The Indians see both events as callous attacks on their sacred sites, and say that these desecrations will result in the destruction of the Munduruku as a people — 13,000 Munduruku Indians live in 112 villages, mainly along the upper reaches of the Tapajós River and its tributaries in the heart of the Amazon.
Smuggled to death: how loopholes and lax enforcement have sealed the fate of Siamese rosewood [01/05/2017]
- Thailand's Thap Lan National Park is on the frontline of the deadly battle against the illegal rosewood trade, but the root cause of the problem lies outside the park's borders. - Siamese rosewood has been listed under CITES Appendix II since 2013, but loopholes in trade rules and poor oversight allowed the trade to persist. - A key loophole was closed at last year’s CITES CoP17. Now, campaigners fear for the future of lookalike species like Burmese rosewood and padauk.
What to expect for rainforests in 2017 [01/05/2017]
- Will deforestation continue to rise in Brazil? - Will Indonesia continue on a path toward forestry reform? - What effect will Donald Trump have on rainforest conservation?
Local NGOs: Ecosystem services, not orangutans, key to saving Leuser [01/04/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares, encompasses two mountain ranges, three lakes, nine river systems and three national parks. It boasts 10,000 species of plant and 200 species of mammal — dozens found nowhere else on earth. Of the 6,000 orangutans left in Sumatra, 90 percent live in Leuser. - But the region has been under siege by the government of Aceh, which has repeatedly tried to sell off concessions to oil palm companies that encroach on the borders of conserved lands. - While international environmental NGOs have focused on saving Leuser’s orangutans, local NGOs have had far more success focusing on the US $23 billion in ecosystem services provided by the preserve — including flood prevention, water supply, agro-ecology, tourism, fire prevention, carbon sequestration, and more. - Many rural Sumatrans see orangutans not as important endangered species to be protected, but rather as garden and farm pests. Local organizers like Rudi Putra and T.M. Zulfikar are building a homegrown Sumatran conservation movement that relies heavily on litigation over the potential loss of Leuser’s ecosystem services.
No let-up in Thailand’s relentless, violent Siamese rosewood poaching [01/04/2017]
- Rosewood, famed for its blood red hue, is the world's most trafficked wildlife product. It accounts for a third of all seizures recorded by the UNODC from 2005-2014. - Most of the valuable Siamese rosewood has already been logged out in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, leaving Thailand's remaining stands prey to cross-border incursions by poaching gangs. - Seven wildlife rangers died in 2015 in incidents related to the Siamese rosewood trade, along with an unknown number of poachers, but the trade continues unabated.
Battle for the Amazon: Tapajós Basin threatened by massive development [01/03/2017]
- The Brazilian Amazon has systematically been deforested, dammed and developed by the federal government, river basin by river basin. The most recent to be so developed was the Xingu watershed. The next target, where road and dam construction has already begun, is the Tapajós Basin. - Plans by agribusiness and the government call for the paving of the BR-163 highway (almost complete); the building of a new railroad, nicknamed Ferrogrão or Grainrail (just given approval); and the building of the Teles Pires-Tapajós industrial waterway, requiring dozens of dams, plus canals. - As Mato Grosso soy plantations creep north deeper into the Tapajós region, agribusiness hopes to benefit from the rapid development of transportation infrastructure that will provide a cheap, fast northern road, rail and water route to the Atlantic for the export of commodities. - Indigenous groups, traditional river communities, environmentalists and social NGOs oppose the mega-infrastructure projects, which they say will bring deforestation, cultural disruption, and quicken local and global climate change. The conflict is over no less than the fate of the Amazon.
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [01/01/2017]
- After 2015's radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world's largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2016 [12/28/2016]
- Some animal species showed signs of recovery after years of decline. - In 2016, the world became serious about protecting our oceans by establishing some of the largest marine protected areas ever. - Countries moved towards ending domestic ivory trade, and researchers discovered the world’s tallest tree.
Photos: Top 20 new species of 2016 [12/26/2016]
- This year, scientists discovered and described several thousand new species of animals and plants. - Many of these new species are already on the brink of extinction, threatened by poaching, illegal wildlife trade, habitat destruction and diseases. - Mongabay presents the top new species discovered in 2016.
Temer government set to overthrow Brazil’s environmental agenda [12/22/2016]
- A catastrophic setback to environmental and indigenous protections was narrowly averted last week when quick action from two federal deputies prevented the agricultural lobby from forcing passage of bills to authorize construction of three mega-industrial waterways in the Amazon and elsewhere. - The Congress will likely pick up the bills again after the recess in February. They would authorize building many dozens of dams and industrial waterways in three river basins — PDC 119/2015 on the Tapajós, Teles Pires and Juruena rivers in the Amazon; PDC 120/2015 on the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers, also in the Amazon; and PDC 118/2015 on the Paraguai River. - In 2005, a similar bill was passed, fast tracking the Belo Monte dam and bypassing proper environmental evaluation. Today, Norte Energia, the consortium that built the Amazon mega-dam has been charged with environmental crimes, ethnocide and is under investigation for corruption. - Another bill working its way through the National Congress would completely gut the environmental licensing process for most infrastructure projects, while still another would take away hard won protections guaranteed to Brazil’s indigenous people in the 1988 Constitution.
Stone, Sand, Water: the key ingredients changing the Salween landscape [12/21/2016]
- A construction boom in Myanmar is fueling a demand for raw materials like limestone and sand. Extracting these resources threatens ecosystems and communities along the Salween River. - This push for economic and industrial development is also driving plans to build megadams on the Salween River. - Activists call for an alternative vision for development, based on sustainable technologies and small-scale, decentralized projects.
All I want for Christmas… a wildlife researcher’s holiday wish list [12/20/2016]
- They are some of the world’s most unique, beautiful (though sometimes, really ugly), little known, but always seriously threatened species. They’re among the many Almost Famous Asian Animals conservationists are trying to save, and which Mongabay has featured in 2016. - The examples included here are Asia’s urbane fishing cat, Vietnam’s heavily trafficked pangolin, Central Asia’s at risk wild yaks and saiga, and Indonesia’s Painted terrapin. All of these, and many more, could benefit from a holiday financial boost. - Mostly these creatures need the same things: research and breeding facilities; educational workshops; and really cool, high tech, high ticket, radio collars and tracking devices. These items come with price tags ranging from a few hundred bucks, to thousands, to tens of thousands of dollars.
Karen people call for a peace park instead of big hydropower in their homeland [12/14/2016]
- Despite decades of conflict and widespread deforestation, the Salween Basin is one of Asia-Pacific's most biodiverse ecoregions. - To protect this diversity, a group of Karen leaders, local people and NGOs have called for the creation of a 5,200-square kilometer park that would function as an indigenous-led protected area. The proposed park includes existing community forests, as well as the site of the planned Hat Gyi dam. - The stated aspirations of the park are "peace and self-determination, environmental integrity, and cultural survival," a stark contrast to the conflict, environmental degradation and oppression of minorities that have historically defined development projects in Myanmar.
Vanishing point: Bumblebee bat is world’s smallest; it’s also at risk [12/13/2016]
- Asia boasts 442 bat species, more than a third of the globe’s 1,200 species total. While many of these bats haven’t even been assessed by the IUCN, 7 are known to be Critically Endangered, 15 are Endangered and 44 are Vulnerable. - The bumblebee bat roosts in caves in Thailand and Myanmar. While population estimates have risen recently due to the discovery of new populations, this small bat is Vulnerable. Its roosting caves and forest habitat are being disrupted by people. - Bats worldwide are understudied and also unloved, partly due to poor public perceptions perpetuated by hundreds of horror movies with their portrayals of bloodsucking bats. The truth is that bats are incredibly beneficial to humans, eating prodigious amounts of insect pests. - One of the most fascinating facts about the bumblebee bat is that its two geographically separated populations in Thailand and Myanmar might currently be undergoing speciation, a process scientists would like to observe. Of course, that won’t happen if nothing is done to keep this tiny mammal from going extinct.
Home for the holidays: Chimp exits war-torn Iraq, lands in Kenya [12/12/2016]
- After years of effort, animal welfare advocates have negotiated the freedom of Manno, a trafficked chimpanzee who had been smuggled out of Syria for $15,000 and into a private zoo in Iraqi Kurdistan. At the zoo, Manno suffered severely cramped conditions; he was fed a steady diet consisting mostly of snack foods. - Freeing the animal involved diplomatic negotiations at the highest level in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Kenya. Manno arrived in Kenya on November 30, and is undergoing a 90-day health quarantine at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. - The young chimp still must be accepted into the Sanctuary population. This is a slow, possibly multiyear, process, requiring introduction to a foster mother, followed by introduction to female chimps, then other males in the community. Manno’s long acclimation to humans will not allow him to ever return to the wild. - The chimp’s rescue was facilitated by individuals and organizations including Spencer Seykar, a Canadian high school teacher; Jason Mier, the executive director of Animals Lebanon; Jane Goodall and her institute; Daniel Stiles of the Project to End Great Ape Slavery; Dr. Stephen Ngulu, head wildlife veterinarian at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the staff of Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and others.
Brazil’s dispossessed: Belo Monte dam ruinous for indigenous cultures [12/08/2016]
- Brazil’s Public Federal Ministry (MPF) launched a lawsuit in 2015 accusing Norte Energia, the consortium that built the Belo Monte mega-dam on the Xingu River in Pará state, along with the federal government’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) with the crime of ethnocide. - Indigenous families say that serious harm was done to them when they were uprooted from their riverside homes; forced to give up their sustainable fishing, hunting and farming livelihoods; and compelled to seek jobs in an economically depressed urban environment. - Tamawaerw Paracana, an indigenous woman, describes the everyday challenges her family faces as they try to survive in an urban resettlement community: “I don’t have the means to live here. I don’t have the money for food. Here you have to have a job.… People who don’t work, can’t eat. There’s no food.” The ethnocide case has yet to go to court. - “Every day that goes by, there are more dams being built in our country; there are more people affected; and there are more rights violated. So our goal is to organize all the people affected and carry on this fight,” says Edizangela Alves Barros, an indigenous activist.
The media megaphone: does it help curb bad infrastructure projects? [12/07/2016]
- A tsunami of infrastructure development is putting global ecosystems, wildlife and indigenous people at risk; with 25 million kilometers of new roads planned by 2050, most in the developing world. Add pipelines, hundreds of dams on the Amazon, Mekong and other river systems, with their electricity used often by mega-mining projects. - As in the past, this tidal wave of construction is being heavily backed by national governments, greatly benefiting industry and international investors, often at the cost of indigenous peoples, rural communities, wildlife and habitat. Government and industry typically have large public relations budgets to promote such projects. - Many conservationists trying to mitigate the harm of ill-advised projects, or even see them canceled, are relying heavily on the media to achieve their aims. There is precedent for such a strategy: media coverage has historically played a key part in curbing some of the most ambitious of international mega-infrastructure projects. - As infrastructure development rapidly accelerate, today’s environmentalists are utilizing all the media tools at their disposal — ranging from traditional newspapers and television, to Twitter, Facebook, blogs and YouTube — to shine a light on poorly designed infrastructure projects and inform and engage the public.
‘My spirit is there’: life in the shadow of the Mong Ton dam [12/07/2016]
- The Mong Ton dam will provide 90% of its hydroelectricity to China and Thailand, leaving ethnic minority communities in Myanmar's Shan state to bear the costs. - Tens of thousands of people will be displaced when dam's 640-square kilometer reservoir fills, and habitat will be lost for endangered species like the clouded leopard and Sunda pangolin. - Even before the dam is complete, its construction has accelerated deforestation and resource extraction in the area.
From loathed to loved: Villagers rally to save Greater Adjutant stork [12/06/2016]
- The Greater Adjutant stork (Leptoptilos dubius) could once be found from India to Southeast Asia in the hundreds of thousands. Long despised and treated as a pest, this giant, ungainly bird is Endangered by habitat lost, with just 1,000 remaining by the 1990s. - Purnima Devi Barman fell in love with the species. But with most of the remaining birds living on private property, how to save it? She launched a one-woman campaign to teach local villagers in India’s Assam to value L. dubius, showing them it can enhance their livelihoods. - Arvind Mishra transformed another Indian community’s disgust for the huge storks into a strong desire to preserve them. With a Bihar community’s help, he’s established a rescue and rehabilitation center devoted exclusively to the care of downed Greater Adjutant chicks. - Barman and Mishra both serve as vibrant examples of how the unflinching commitment of just one person to a species can make the difference between conservation and extinction, and how engaged local communities can make the difference.
Fire on the Salween: Dams in conflict zones could threaten Myanmar’s fragile peace process [12/01/2016]
- Ethnic armed groups in Myanmar's border states have been in conflict with the central government for more than half a century. - Civil society groups, ethnic political groups and ethnic armed groups already blame the Salween dams for either exacerbating existing conflict or prompting new military incursions. - The UNHCR estimates that as of December 2015, Myanmar already has some 400,000 internally displaced persons, entire communities who have had to flee from war, natural disasters or development projects. Many fear the dams could create thousands more.
Brazil: deforestation in the Amazon increased 29% over last year [11/30/2016]
- Deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest jumped 29 percent over last year. - Deforestation from 2015-2016 reached the highest level since 2008. - Relaxed environmental regulation, dry conditions, and Brazil's economy may be factors in the rising rate of forest loss.
A dam shame: the plight of the Mekong giant catfish [11/30/2016]
- Southeast Asia’s Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) is the world’s largest freshwater fish, with the biggest among them weighing an astonishing 650 pounds (300 kilograms), and growing to a length of 10 feet (3 meters). - Species numbers are thought to have crashed by 80 percent in recent decades, although there are no reliable population estimates for the fish. A sudden escalation in the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Mekong could seal the fate of the species. - A host of dams, both under construction and planned, threaten to block the catfish’s natural migration patterns, potentially driving it to extinction. The Xayaburi dam, which is already being built, poses the most immediate threat. - Radio telemetry and environmental DNA techniques are crucial to the study and monitoring of this elusive creature in the wild. Conservationists working at Cambodia’s proposed Sambor Dam hope to help the government design a project that might vastly improve aquatic connectivity.
Top scientists: Amazon’s Tapajós Dam Complex “a crisis in the making” [11/28/2016]
- BRAZIL’S GRAND PLAN: Build 40+ dams, new roads and railways at the heart of the Amazon to transport soy from the interior to the coast and foreign markets, turning the Tapajós Basin and its river systems into an industrial waterway, leading to unprecedented deforestation, top researchers say. - ECOSYSTEM IMPACTS: “The effects would clearly be devastating for the ecology and connectivity of the greater Tapajós Basin,” says William Laurance, of James Cook University, Australia; a leading rainforest ecology scientist. “It is not overstating matters to term this a crisis in the making.” - HUMAN IMPACTS: The dams would produce “A human rights crisis, driven by the flooding of indigenous territories and forced relocation of indigenous villages… [plus] the loss of fisheries, reduced fertility of fertile floodplains, and polluting of clean water sources,” says Amazon Watch’s Christian Poirier. - CLIMATE IMPACTS: “The worst-case scenario… over 200,000 square kilometers of deforestation,” says climatologist Carlos Nobre, which would be “very serious” and create “regional climate change.” Tapajós deforestation could even help tip the global scales, as the Amazon ceases being a carbon sink, and becomes a carbon source — with grave consequences for the planet.
Damming the Salween: what next for Southeast Asia’s last great free-flowing river? [11/24/2016]
- In accordance with deals signed under military rule, Myanmar plans to build five major hydroelectric dams on its stretch of the Salween River. - The majority of the power produced will go to China and Thailand. Critics say consumers in these countries will benefit while people in Myanmar's ethnic border states pay the price. - The dams threaten the river's ecology and the livelihoods of riverine communities, and could exacerbate conflict between the army and non-state ethnic armed groups.
Silent soldiers of the extreme, or why I’m glad I’m not a wild yak [11/22/2016]
- They are big mammals — wild yaks, muskoxen, saiga, takin and more — possessing a multitude of wildly ingenious evolutionary adaptations that allow them to live at the margins, in Asia’s coldest, toughest habitats. But they lack defenses against us and are at risk. - While some of these magnificent animals have received scattered attention from conservationists and the media across the years, most do not benefit from the publicity boon — or budgets — accorded to rhinos and snow leopards. - They are unsung, mostly unstudied, existing in the shadows — hidden by high elevations, deep snow, daunting deserts, and in our lack of knowledge and indifference. Scientist Joel Berger asks us to look at why we love only thin slivers of the natural world, while ignoring much of the bounty and beauty at the margins that could provide us hope and inspiration. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Where have all the lutungs gone? Mystery monkeys fast disappearing [11/18/2016]
- Asia boasts 16 species of lutung, in two ranges, one in south central and Southeast Asia (northeast India, southern China, Taiwan, Borneo, Thailand, Java and Bali), and the other at the southern tip of India and on Sri Lanka. - Lutungs are tree dwellers, threatened by a rapid loss of tropical forests due to oil palm plantations, logging, and human population growth; the animals are also illegally hunted for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the pet trade. - Like so many Almost Famous species, lutungs suffer from a lack of publicity, research, funding and local concern. Except for a few species, most are protected accidentally, when a forest in which lutungs live is preserved by a government or NGO trying to protect charismatic megafauna. - Of the 16 lutung species, the IUCN assesses 4 as Vulnerable, 2 as Near Threatened, 7 as Endangered, 2 as Critically Endangered, and one as suffering from insufficient data for a conservation assessment. While surveys are lacking, all lutungs are known to be in decline, some alarmingly.
Trump vows Paris Agreement pull out; world unites behind green economy [11/17/2016]
- Climate delegates and NGOs meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, responded to threats this week by Donald Trump to quickly renege on the US commitment to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement. While the US under Pres. Obama led the way to the accord, COP22 summit attendees say that China is now likely to fill the leadership vacuum created by Trump. - COP22 participants also say that the world’s nations are now united in moving toward decarbonizing their economies with 21st century technologies to slow the rate of global warming, while creating millions of new green-energy jobs. Meanwhile, a US under Trump is on the path to re-embracing coal, a 19th century technology in rapid decline. - Summit attendees have discussed repercussions for a US withdrawal from the accord reached in December 2015 by nearly 200 nations. Beyond the loss of US standing on the world stage, backlash could come in the form of faltering trade agreements, failed military cooperation, economic sanctions, or a carbon tax levied on the US for failing its carbon-reduction pledges. - “Even though we are in a time of uncertainty because of the US election, there is no way to turn away from what [climate] scientists have shown us. Failure to act now will lead to catastrophic consequences,” said Peru’s Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, a key organizer of the Lima and Paris climate summits.
Trump election leaves COP22 climate delegates aghast, shaken but firm [11/11/2016]
- President elect Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, a move that — if carried out — COP22 delegates and NGOs say would be a disaster for the world, as well as the US economy. - The Paris Climate Agreement went into force in November and 195 nations, including the United States, are now obligated to meet their voluntary pledges to reduce carbon emissions and abide by the agreement for three years before they can seek to withdraw from it. Withdraw by Trump and the US would take another year — his entire presidential term. - “Beyond national politics, modernization of the energy system and of basic infrastructure [as driven by the Paris Agreement] is good for the US economy, for jobs, for growth,” said Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of recent UN climate summits. - “The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a president, but by the United States itself. As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the US to its climate commitments,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.
Endangered species database ‘outdated’, underestimates risk of extinction: new study [11/10/2016]
- The world’s most widely used database of endangered species, the IUCN Red List, may be underestimating the number of species at risk of extinction, a new study concludes. - Of the 586 bird species included in the study, 210 species belong in a higher-threat category than their current Red List classifications, the study found. - Some 189 species should be classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered in the IUCN Red List, but are currently deemed non-threatened.
From Ohio to Indonesia: captive-bred Sumatran rhinos may be the species’ only hope for a future [11/08/2016]
- Andalas, the first rhino born at the Cincinnati Zoo, has already fathered two calves with a female at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia. Hopes are now pinned on his brother successfully breeding there too. - Researchers in Malaysian Borneo, where the last three rhinos surviving in captivity all have fertility problems, have turned to in vitro fertilization to try and produce a calf. - Experts say they have to be optimistic about the future, but Sumatran rhinos face daunting challenges: small numbers, low fertility, bureaucratic obstacles and questions over the wisdom of expending so many resources on so few animals.
Asia races to save the Critically Endangered helmeted hornbill [11/07/2016]
- The helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) is one of Southeast Asia’s most unique large bird species, but its numbers have plummeted since 2012 as organized crime trafficking rings trade in the “red ivory” of the birds’ casque, an enlargement of its beak, which can sell for $4,000 per kilo. - Yokyok Hadiprakarsa, Executive Director of the Indonesian Hornbill Conservation Society, has worked with R. vigil for seventeen years. At first he was interested in its biology; then, as he watched the bird vanish from his nation’s forests, he became a crusader for its preservation. - A 2013 investigation revealed that in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province 6,000 helmeted hornbills were killed for their red ivory in a single year. The birds’ casques are carved into ornaments, jewelry and belt buckles, or are turned into pills with dubious curative powers. - While the species is protected under CITES, and has been declared Critically Endangered by the IUCN, trafficking enforcement efforts have largely been a failure so far across the region. Only a redoubled effort by Asian countries is likely to save it.
From Indonesia to Ohio: the struggle to breed Sumatran rhinos in captivity [11/03/2016]
- Sumatran rhinos were once widespread across southern Asia; today, fewer than 100 are believed to be left in the wild. - An international captive breeding program was launched in 1984, sending rhinos to the United States and United Kingdom. - The first calf wasn't born until 2001, because maintaining and breeding these rare rhinos turned out to be an unusual challenge.
Nations come together to save Kenya’s disappearing coastal forests [11/03/2016]
- Kenya's coastal forests are part of the Eastern Africa Coastal Forests ecoregion, with high levels of biodiversity and several species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. - An influx of migrants into the region has meant more human pressure on forests, with the region losing upwards of 10 percent of its tree cover in 15 years. - Major infrastructure and industry developments are also planned for the area, leaving conservationists worried about their environmental impacts. - A program by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development is aiming to help communities and governments better manage their forests – and keep the wildlife that lives within them from going extinct.
Myanmar’s logging ban feeds shadow economy of illegal trade [11/01/2016]
- Despite efforts by local authorities, a nationwide logging ban has heightened illicit trade of wood in Myanmar’s second-largest city. - An intricate network along the Irrawaddy River is leading illegally logged timber and logs into the city. - Even some business owners sympathetic to the logging ban find it necessary to operate outside the law.
Mongabay Newscast episode 4: Inside scoop on new Netflix documentary “The Ivory Game;” orangutan habitat under threat in Indonesia [11/01/2016]
- Crosta discusses how Chinese demand is driving the multi-billion dollar trade in ivory, as well as EAL’s project WildLeaks and the undercover investigations in mainland China and Hong Kong that have helped expose the illegal ivory being laundered through legal ivory markets. - We also speak with Mongabay contributor and Borneo Futures founder Erik Meijaard, who recently wrote a piece entitled, “Company poised to destroy critical orangutan habitat in breach of Indonesia’s moratorium.” - And of course we cover the top news on Mongabay.com for the past two weeks!
Thirst for coltan, gold threatens Venezuelan forests, indigenous lands [10/31/2016]
- Venezuela has invited foreign companies to play a leading role in developing the Orinoco Mining Arc, potentially opening 12 percent of the country to mining interests, and endangering forests, rivers, national parks and indigenous lands in the remote southeastern part of the nation. - The opening of these lands to mining comes as the nation continues its economic free-fall due to plummeting oil prices. The Maduro administration — which is struggling for its political life amid food and medicine shortages and civil unrest — hopes that mining will replace oil as a state cash cow. - Venezuela’s southeast is thought to be extremely rich in coltan (vital to electronic devices), gold, copper and diamonds. But it is also rich in forests, rivers and wildlife. - The development of the Orinoco Mining Arc would threaten Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, covering 30,000 square kilometers (12,000 square miles). It would also threaten other protected areas and indigenous territory.
Could REDD help save an embattled forest in Cambodia? [10/28/2016]
- REDD in Cambodia has faced many obstacles, but now one long-awaited project has just gotten the green light to proceed. - Wildlife Alliance is pushing forward with a REDD project that aims to finance the newly established Southern Cardamom National Park's ongoing protection. - In an October 2016 interview with Mongabay.com, Gauntlett spoke about the Southern Cardamoms and her hopes for the project.
Environmentalists squirm as Jokowi eyes Lake Toba tourism bonanza [10/19/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has established a special authority to revive tourism in Lake Toba, North Sumatra. - Environmentalists worry the plan could lead to forest clearance and exacerbate a worsening pollution problem. - Government officials argue tourism could actually be a boon for the lake's environment — trees included — as well as the local economy.
A plan to save the Mekong Delta [10/18/2016]
- The Mekong Delta Plan is the product of several years’ work by Dutch and Vietnamese officials, supported by a platoon of experts from both nations. - It's a blueprint for dealing not only with the effects of climate change and upstream dams but also with certain shortsighted activities by the Vietnamese themselves. - The region's farmers as well as the relevant branches of government must be persuaded to buy into the plan.
Asian elephant herds lack clear matriarchs, strict hierarchies: new study [10/18/2016]
- The differences between Asian and African elephants may be the result of their ecological environments, the team posits. - The researchers think that stable ecological conditions in Sri Lanka make it easier for Asian elephants to make their own movement decisions without having to rely on very experienced individuals to know where to go or how to avoid predators. - But as habitats continue to shrink and elephants are forced into smaller areas where they cannot avoid each other, their weak dominance hierarchies may result in greater conflict between individuals, the researchers think.
It’s a bear, it’s a cat; no, it’s a binturong and it’s threatened [10/13/2016]
- The binturong, or bearcat (Arctictis binturong) inhabits a range stretching from northeast India and Bangladesh to the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and the Philippines. It is found more rarely in Nepal, South China, Java, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. - This tree-dwelling species occupies its own unique genus: it possesses a prehensile tail (like a monkey), purrs and cleans itself like a cat, and has a territory-marking scent that smells exactly like buttered popcorn. - The binturong is threatened by habitat loss due to logging and agribusiness, especially the oil palm industry. It is also hunted for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the pet trade. A local coffee, made from beans that pass through a binturong’s digestive system, is also valued. - Binturongs have been little studied and their numbers in the wild are unknown. It is known that they eat prodigious amounts of strangler fig fruit, and that they are important seed spreaders. More study is urgently needed to determine how the species can be conserved.
Mother Nature and a hydropower onslaught aren’t the Mekong Delta’s only problems [10/13/2016]
- Vietnam's Mekong Delta, home to nearly 20 million people, is one of the most highly productive agricultural environments in the world, thanks in part to an elaborate network of canals, dikes, sluice gates and drainage ditches. - On the strength of Delta agriculture, Vietnam has gone from a chronic importer of rice to a major exporter. - But farmers in the region are critical of the government's food security policies, which mandate that most of the Delta's land be devoted to rice production. And many of them are taking measures to circumvent those rules, in ways that aren't always friendly to the environment. - That's just one example of how water and land-use policy in the Delta is undermining efforts to protect the vulnerable region from climate change and upstream development.
Exclusive: Rainforest rapidly cleared for sugarcane in Bolivia [10/12/2016]
- Satellite data indicate deforestation for sugarcane in the northern portion of the country near Madidi National Park is ramping up as the San Buenaventura sugar mill expands production in the area. - Nearly 2,000 hectares have been cleared for sugarcane so far, with a total of 11,700 hectares planned for cultivation by 2023. - The Tacana Indigenous community alleges it was forced to concede 4,000 hectares of its ancestral territory for the construction of the mill. - Deforestation already affects 20 percent of the Pan Amazon, and scientists warn that if it continues at this pace, it could produce an ecological collapse in less than 40 years.
Airbus to marshal its satellites against deforestation [10/12/2016]
- Starling is a new service developed by Airbus, The Forest Trust and SarVision. - Palm oil suppliers can use it to verify their compliance with their customers' zero-deforestation policies. - Starling, which will be sold to companies, is meant as a compliment to Global Forest Watch, a publicly available platform that anyone can use to track deforestation in near-real time. - Starling is more powerful than Global Forest Watch, with the ability to see through clouds and zoom in close enough to count the trees.
Indonesia’s oil palm plantations are rife with spitting cobras [10/06/2016]
- The Southeast Asian country is the world's top palm oil producer. It also ranks No. 2 in snakebites globally. - The species of serpent that has spread in Indonesia's oil palm and rubber plantations is the Sumatran cobra. - There is no available antivenom for Sumatran cobra bites. Plantation workers often die from them.
Vietnam sweats bullets as China and Laos dam the Mekong [10/06/2016]
- The Mekong River is the lifeblood of mainland Southeast Asia. It flows through six countries and affects the lives of some 60 million people. - China and Laos are damming the river in many places. And Thailand is planning a large-scale of diversion of water that could further affect its flow. - It's still an open question whether the dams in Laos can be financed. Will Beijing step in?
Brazil pledges to cut carbon, but government policies say otherwise [10/06/2016]
- Brazil's Paris Agreement target calls for a carbon emissions reduction of 37 percent by 2025, and 43 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. These reductions are dependent on the nation’s ability to meet its forestry goals. Brazil’s vast forests are vital for carbon storage and for curbing the worst impacts of climate change. - However, Brazil’s government is moving to relax environmental licensing regulations in order to fast track large-scale infrastructure projects, including industrial waterways, dams, highways and railways; and is pursuing a major agribusiness expansion — all of which could work to increase carbon emissions. - In addition, new studies show that Brazil will likely fall well short of the billions in funding needed to meet the country’s ambitious forestry goals which were declared in 2015, just before the Paris Climate Summit. - The continued curbing of Amazon deforestation is key to Brazil’s achievement of its Paris carbon cut targets, but recent news from the Amazon is bad: after years of decreased deforestation rates, forest loss in the Amazon is again on the upswing.
Field Notes: Mapping condor conservation strategies [10/05/2016]
- Nearly extinct in the wild in the 1980’s, the California condor is experiencing a recovery thanks to an intense management plan and a partial ban on lead ammunition. Unfortunately for captive condors released to the wild, lead poisoning is still a problem. - Holly Copeland’s GIS mapping study has shown that condors close to the coast suffer less from lead poisoning than those inland. Mapping also helps locate less risky release sites, and predict locales where birds might be most at risk from lead. - The mapping study detected increased wild behavior in the condors, meaning they are ranging farther from captive release sites. That is good news, but also means the birds that fly farther inland are being exposed to a greater risk of lead poisoning. - Copeland hopes that when the comprehensive California ban on lead ammunition takes full effect in 2019, the wild condors will benefit. The researcher is also applying her mapping experiences with condors, to eagles and other raptors in Wyoming.
Mongabay Newscast episode 2: Earth’s most climate-sensitive river delta, conservation in conflict zones [10/04/2016]
- No other delta region in the world is more threatened by climate change than the Mekong Delta, which is why the first installment of the series, up now, asks: “Will climate change sink the Mekong Delta?” - Three more articles by Mongabay correspondent David Brown, who traveled extensively in Vietnam to report these stories, will be coming out over the next couple weeks. - We also speak with Mongabay’s Israel-based forests editor, Genevieve Belmaker, who answered a question submitted by Muneer ul Islam Najar, a PhD Scholar in the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Pondicherry University in Puducherry, India: “I want to ask you how can a person living in a conflict zone contribute to the environmental conservation?”
The Myanmar snub-nosed monkey: discovered and immediately endangered [10/04/2016]
- Discovered in 2010 and promptly listed as Critically Endangered, the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey lives only in the remote high forests of Northeast Myanmar, and across the border in China’s Gaoligong Mountain Natural Reserve. There are as few as 260-330 left in the wild. - Hunting, illegal logging and proposed hydropower development, taking place within the context of a simmering civil conflict, threaten to push the species to extinction. - On the plus side, conservationists have already gone a long way toward winning over local communities, getting them to stop hunting the animals; while the government’s approval of a newly proposed national park offers hope that the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey can be preserved.
Victory for forests: Rosewood gets enhanced protection at wildlife summit [10/04/2016]
- Rosewood refers to a large group of deeply-hued, durable timbers used for making expensive furniture as well as musical instruments like guitar. Majority of rosewoods belong to Dalbergia genus. - At a recent conservation meeting, governments voted to include all rosewood species belonging to Dalbergia genus under CITES protection, launching a clampdown on the illegal trade of rosewood. - This increased CITES protection means that all international trade in Dalbergia rosewoods will be subject to trade restrictions.
Will climate change sink the Mekong Delta? [10/03/2016]
- Scientists say the 1-meter sea level rise expected by century's end will displace 3.5-5 million Mekong Delta residents. A 2-meter sea level rise could force three times that to higher ground. - Shifting rainfall and flooding patterns are also threatening one of the most highly productive agricultural environments in the world. - The onus is now on Vietnam's government in Hanoi to approve a comprehensive adaptation and mitigation plan.
Program targets food security concerns among Panama’s indigenous women [10/03/2016]
- Malnutrition rates of indigenous children in Panama’s rural areas can be three to five times higher than that of non-indigenous children in the cities. - Poor access to employment and health care, a lack of participation in politics, land conflicts over resource development projects, and farming problems related to volatile climactic conditions all contribute to food insecurity among Panama’s indigenous groups. - Now, a 10-month program for indigenous women headed by the International Indigenous Women’s Forum aims to tackle food security among indigenous groups in Panama, as well as in Paraguay and El Salvador.
Indigenous communities take the lead on conservation in Colombia [09/30/2016]
- Colombia's Sierra Nevada mountain range and the land around it has experienced heavy deforestation, and many of its endemic species are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss. - The Wiwa use traditional conservation and cultural practices to manage forests, and believe it is their purpose to act as environmental stewards. - For around 20 years, local communities like the Wiwa have been buying up land around Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Natural National Park, aided by The Nature Conservancy. - Satellite data indicate this may be helping prevent deforestation, with less tree cover loss within the Indigenous territory than outside of it.
Madagascar’s largest tortoise could become extinct in 2 years [09/27/2016]
- Currently listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List, the ploughshare tortoise occurs only in the Baly Bay National Park in northwestern Madagascar. - The animal’s striking gold and black domed shell has made it a prized pet in the international market, fueling organized poaching and trafficking that is driving the species towards extinction. - Since early 2016, ploughshare tortoises appear to have disappeared completely from several areas of the Baly Bay National Park.
‘We are revolutionaries’: Villagers fight to protect Myanmar’s forests [09/23/2016]
- Deforestation has been trending upward in the Tanintharyi region of southern Myanmar, with the area losing 6 percent of its tree cover in 14 years. Mines and new roads are among the threats to its forest. - A committee formed by a community in Tanintharyi is working to preserve the remaining forest of the Kamoethway river valley. - The organization – Rays of Kamoethway Indigenous People and Nature – has established nine different conservation zones in the region. - But members say another conservation project established by Myanmar's government and funded by oil and gas companies is threatening the community and its conservation efforts.
Amazonian bat identification takes flight with new interactive guide [09/22/2016]
- Often small and flying at night, the more than 160 bat species found in the Amazon can be challenging to identify in the field by researchers and amateur enthusiasts. - To make identification easier, a free, open-access, interactive, downloadable, digital Field Guide to Amazonian Bats — designed for use with tablets or smartphones — has just been published by the National Institute of Amazonian Research. - The dynamic digital format allows the guide to be continuously updated as new research data becomes available, making the format particularly suited to less explored regions of the world where the rate of new species discovery is high. - The Amazon bat field guide is to be followed by digital bat guides for Madagascar and East Africa.
China considers a huge national park for Amur tigers and leopards [09/22/2016]
- Endangered Amur tigers and Amur leopards are staging a modest recovery in China’s remote northeastern provinces. Over thirty tigers and some 42 leopards now roam the region’s forests. - The big cats’ habitat remains threatened by human encroachment and experts say the amount of forest currently protected is insufficient to support their growing populations. - The government of Jilin Province, where most of the big cats live, has proposed a massive new national park focused on the two species that would connect three existing protected areas. - The park remains under consideration by the central government.
Indian rhino horns being smuggled to China via Myanmar [09/22/2016]
- In the past, poachers would move horns of the Greater one-horned rhinos from India to China through Nepal. - But the trade route has shifted to Myanmar because of increasing anti-poaching efforts in Nepal, according to a new report. - This shift to Myanmar may be temporary however, rhino expert said, depending on how Nepal continues its efforts to check wildlife crimes.
Proposed sale of timber from palm oil concession sparks alarm in Liberia [09/21/2016]
- News that Liberia's forestry authority was considering allowing the sale of timber logged from oil palm concessions – called "conversion timber" -- was met with opposition by international and local conservationists. - Critics say this path could give industrial agriculture companies like palm oil producers a way to get around forest preservation measures and their own zero-deforestation policies. Company representatives deny these claims. - Liberia has stepped up its environmental regulations in recent years after decades of conflict-fuelled deforestation and recent international pressure to keep its trees in the ground to help stave off climate change. - A conversion timber request by palm oil producer Golden Veroleum Liberia was ultimately denied by the government, but conservationists worry this is only the beginning.
Saving Bangladesh’s last rainforest [09/21/2016]
- Bordering Myanmar and the Indian states of Tripura and Mizoram, the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is characterized by semi-evergreen forest that is considered part of the highly endangered Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. - Concern for the well-being of these forests and their inhabitants spurred Shahriar Caesar Rahman and associates to this year launch the Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA), a Bangladesh-based non-profit - CCA is taking an unconventional approach to conservation.
Philippine Bleeding-heart doves flutter at the brink, but NGOs respond [09/20/2016]
- The Republic of the Philippines ranks among the 17 most mega-biodiverse nations on earth, with huge numbers of endemic species. Among birds, for example, 40 percent of all species found there are endemic — 226 out of 569 species. - Five Bleeding-heart dove species are endemic to the Philippines, with three classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Massive deforestation, which has been going on for decades, is the primary threat to these birds. - The Negros Bleeding-heart dove (Gallicolumba keayi) is the focus of a decade-long conservation initiative by the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS), UK. The NGO is using multiple conservation strategies, including captive breeding, but is most focused on local engagement, working to lift people out of poverty to reduce forest pressures. - The Mindoro Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba platenae), with a population in the low hundreds, is a focus of the Haribon Foundation (BirdLife International’s Philippines partner). The group is focused on education and community empowerment, plus “rainforestation” — the restoration of forests using native species of trees.
Youth, women, indigenous group pay the price of logging in Kenya [09/16/2016]
- Members of the Ogiek indigenous group have been subject to evictions from their forest homeland as part of a government effort to restore the Mau forest, a critically important watershed where deforestation and illegal logging are persistent problems. - Many Ogiek are impoverished, living in camps for displaced persons. Children with poor access to schooling are turning to work in the region’s thriving timber industry. - A new law giving local communities more control over their forests may improve the situation, but advocates say it needs to go further in specifically addressing the needs of marginalized women and children.
PHOTOS: Panama begins “test-flooding” dam over indigenous protests [09/15/2016]
- Panama’s Ngäbe and Buglé indigenous groups have long opposed the nearly complete Barro Blanco dam near their territory, alleging that the dam’s owner failed to consult them or conduct proper environmental and social impact assessments. - The dam has spurred countless demonstrations, prompted outcry from national and international NGOs, and caused violent clashes between protestors and national security forces, including one in late August. - The Panamanian government has allowed “test-flooding” of the nearly complete dam’s reservoir to proceed, despite the fact that an agreement between it and the indigenous authorities allowing the dam to go forward has yet to be finalized.
After game-changing Dakota Access decision, a look at Sioux strategy [09/14/2016]
- On Friday, a judge ruled that the controversial 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline could go forward. Soon after, the Obama administration reversed that decision, at least temporarily. - Activists from the Sioux and other tribes, as well as their supporters, have been fighting the pipeline using three main strategies: legal, grassroots action, and political. - Where the tribe’s legal approach failed, the other two helped lead to what many claim as a victory against the pipeline.
Can ‘plant blindness’ be cured? [09/14/2016]
- Bias against plants is widespread, and seriously limits conservation efforts, scientists say. - While some studies suggest that people’s attraction towards animals may be due to biologically based visual and cognitive processes, others have shown that cultural practices play an important role in shaping people’s relationship with plants. - Plant blindness can be challenged, researchers say, through activities and programs that encourage deeper appreciation of plants.
Operation license for Amazon’s Belo Monte mega-dam suspended [09/13/2016]
- A Brazilian judge has suspended the operating license of the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon because the Norte Energia consortium, the dam’s builder and operator, failed to meet a key compensation commitment required by the federal government. - In exchange for the right to build and run the dam, Norte Energia originally agreed to install drinking water and sewage systems for the city of Altamira, with completion due in July 2014. The court allowed an extension to September 1, 2016, but the system is still not complete. - Norte Energia had argued that its commitment only extended to constructing water and sewer lines, not to connecting those lines to residences — a contention which the court has rejected. - The city currently dumps its sewage directly into the Xingu River, and waste is now building up behind the new dam. If the sanitation system isn’t quickly installed, officials worry that Altamira runs the risk of a collapse in sanitation due to the contamination of the city’s groundwater from domestic sewage.
Poaching in Africa becomes increasingly militarized [09/12/2016]
- Due to skyrocketing consumer demand, particularly from Asia, today’s wildlife traffickers have the resources to outfit their henchmen with weaponry and equipment that often outmatches that of the local park rangers. - The poachers doing the most damage in Africa today are employed by professional trafficking syndicates, and they enjoy a level of support and financial backing unimaginable during earlier poaching crises. - The poachers’ arsenal includes the expanding use of military-grade equipment like helicopters, machine guns, infrared scopes, and heavy armored vehicles.
‘A major concern’: plantation-driven deforestation ramps up in Borneo [09/10/2016]
- Researchers analyzed satellite data and historical land cover maps to determine how much forest was cleared for plantations between 1973 and 2015. - In total, they found 18.7 million hectares of old-growth forest was cleared between 1973 and 2015. Of that, they concluded 4.5 to 4.8 million hectares were cleared for plantation expansion – mostly for palm oil production. - They found less plantation-driven deforestation on the Indonesian side than they were expecting, but a big jump from 2005 to 2015. Malaysia has remained relatively constant since the 1970s. - The researchers recommend their findings be used to increase transparency and accountability.
Belo Monte dam compensation inadequate, say traditional fisherfolk [09/09/2016]
- The Norte Energia Consortium — the group of companies that built the Belo Monte dam — signed an agreement with the Brazilian government in 2011 to pay US $1 billion to Altamira residents, including indigenous people, in compensation for the impacts of the dam. But traditional fisherfolk complain they have not been adequately compensated. - The traditional fisherfolk say that the Amazon dam negatively impacted water quality and fish spawning in the Xingu River, and drastically reduced the area in which they could fish. Belo Monte also deprived them of the markets where they sold their fish — communities razed by the dam. - Belo Monte’s construction also forced them to move from rural villages to a gritty urban resettlement community in the city of Altamira with few amenities. The fisherfolk also no longer live on the river, and so must commute to the waterway to pursue their fishing livelihood. - Fisherfolk protests resulted in the creation of a new condition for Belo Monte’s operating license at the end of 2015. Norte Energia has been obliged to start a technical assistance project focused on improving fishing conditions on the Xingu River. IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, is also studying the loss of income, along with the loss of identity and traditional practices to draft a compensation plan.
Dam opponents claim criminalization by Ecuadorian government [09/09/2016]
- Hidrotambo dam opponent Manuel Trujillo was recently exonerated from terrorism charges for allegedly destroying dam company property, but still faces more than two-dozen other legal cases related to his opposition to the dam. - Human-rights groups claim the Ecuadorean government has criminalized Trujillo and other local leaders for organizing against the dam as part of a larger pattern in which the administration of Rafael Correa has gone after over 100 community leaders and activists for protesting development projects across the country. - Activists have taken their case against the Hidrotambo dam to international courts.
Black, white and unique: the Malayan tapir struggles for recognition [09/07/2016]
- The endangered Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) is the world’s biggest tapir, and the only one found in Asia. It ranges today from the Malaysian Peninsula to Myanmar and Thailand, and the island of Sumatra; it is threatened chiefly by habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, and by hunting, road-kills and bi-catches by snare hunters. - Though the Malayan tapir has been largely neglected in the past by conservationists and by the Malaysian public, the tide is slowly turning in its favour and interest in conserving the species is growing. - The Malay Tapir Conservation Project (MTCP), along with other scientific programs, are actively researching tapir behaviors, so as to develop more effective conservation plans. - The Malaysian government too is working to protect the animal. It has earmarked funds for the animal’s conservation as part of the current ten-year economic development plan. But the key to the Malayan tapir’s survival lies in a stronger commitment to forest habitat protection.
Deforestation reducing monsoon rainfall in India: new study [09/02/2016]
- Large-scale deforestation in India has resulted in a decline in rainfall, especially in north and northeast India, a new study has found. - Deforestation has resulted in a decline in evapotranspiration in these regions. - Reduced evapotranspiration lowers “recycled precipitation”, which accounts for a quarter of the rainfall during late monsoon (August and September).
No fire, no food: tribe clings to slash-and-burn amid haze crackdown [09/01/2016]
- Indonesia's vast peat swamp zones have been widely drained and dried for agriculture and made highly flammable. In the dry season they burn uncontrollably when farmers and companies use fire to clear land. - Last year's fires sent toxic haze billowing across Southeast Asia, polluting the air above Singapore, Malaysia and other countries. They sickened half a million people in Indonesia and emitted more carbon than the entire EU during the same period. - To prevent another crisis, President Joko Widodo has ordered a law enforcement crackdown on illegal burning, and already the police have arrested hundreds of people. - Indigenous tribes who have relied on slash-and-burn for centuries, however, say that they need to be allowed to keep burning, and that they may face a food crisis if they cannot.
Why did millions of fish turn up dead in Indonesia’s giant Lake Toba? [08/30/2016]
- In May, millions of fish died suddenly in the Haranggaol Bay of Lake Toba, Indonesia's largest lake. Scientists chalked it up to a sudden depletion of oxygen in the water, the result of a buildup of pollutants in the lake, unfavorable weather conditions and unsustainable practices by local aquafarmers. - The local economy was badly shaken by the incident. Most residents of Haranggaol village rely on the fish farms as their only dependable source of income. Many villagers have had to go into debt to keep their businesses from collapsing. - Haranggaol residents have since tried to modify their practices to prevent another die-off, but without the resources and know-how of the lake's corporate aquafarmers, they have had a difficult time. - Meanwhile, the government has big plans for Lake Toba as a tourist destination along the lines of a "Monaco of Asia" — one that might not include the unsightly fish farms.
Oil pipeline sparks fierce opposition among American tribes and farmers [08/29/2016]
- An estimated 1,500 activists opposing the Dakota Access pipeline have settled in at a camp near the construction site for the pipeline’s Missouri River crossing. - The Standing Rock Sioux have filed for an injunction against the pipeline, arguing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued permits for the project without properly evaluating its impacts on water and sites of cultural or historical importance, or listening to the tribe’s concerns. - Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s Texas-based owner, has suspended construction at the contested site as both sides await the judge's ruling, expected September 9. - However, work continues elsewhere along the pipeline’s 1,172-mile length.
Planned Tapajós industrial waterway a potential environmental disaster [08/26/2016]
- The recent Brazilian government decision to cancel the São Luiz do Tapajós mega-dam was hailed as a victory by indigenous groups and environmentalists. But a new book describes the serious threats still facing the Tapajós basin. - Brazil’s Tapajós is one of the most biodiverse and culturally rich regions in Amazonia. But it is also an area being aggressively eyed by agribusiness and the mining industry for extensive infrastructure development — to include a vast industrial waterway and major hydropower projects. - The book, called Ocekadi (meaning “the river of our place” in the Munduruku indigenous language), includes 25 articles by academic researchers, and offers the most comprehensive analysis yet available of Tapajós environmental and social assets, and the threats facing them. - Ocekadi is being published in Portuguese by International Rivers and Brazil’s Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará (UFOPA).
Pet trade’s “cute” and “adorable” label endangers the slow loris [08/25/2016]
- The slow loris includes all the species of the genus Nycticebus, which range from Northeast India to Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Much still isn’t known about the genus, including the numbers of animals remaining in the wild. Not even the number of species is certain (the IUCN is raising the count from 8 to 9 this fall). - These nocturnal primates are highly threatened by trafficking. Lorises are hunted for sale as pets, for traditional medicine, and for photo prop opportunities with tourists. Habitat loss is another leading cause of decline, though lorises have proven to be adaptable. They like forest edges, so can live near human communities successfully if left alone. - The loris is unusual in that it is a venomous mammal, and its bite is toxic, and can be dangerous to humans. For that reason, traffickers pull the animal’s teeth when captured without use of anesthetics or antibiotics. Many captured for the pet trade die in transit. - Dr. Anna Nekaris and the Little Fireface Project in Java, Indonesia, are leaders in the underfunded slow loris research and conservation effort. Rescue centers have arisen across Asia to protect the animals. Education is a key tool: Nekaris, for example, suggests not “liking” viral loris youtube videos, but instead offering conservation-related comments.
PHOTOS: Panama revives stalled dam over strong indigenous opposition [08/25/2016]
- The 28-megawatt Barro Blanco dam in western Panama is nearly complete, but construction has been stalled since February due to opposition by local indigenous communities. - A ceremony on Monday meant to mark a deal to complete the project between the Panamanian government and leaders of the indigenous Ngäbe community was disrupted by Ngäbe protesters, highlighting a strong division within the indigenous community. - In a demonstration that erupted into violence, Ngäbe protesters temporarily shut down the ceremony. - However, the dam will move forward under the signed agreement, which details new economic and oversight concessions for the communities and the ouster of the dam’s controversial owner.
Nixed Bolivian highway offers environmental lessons to big Brazil bank [08/24/2016]
- Bolivia’s TIPNIS Highway, which would have bisected a national park and remote indigenous lands, was to be largely financed by BNDES, Brazil’s development bank. Instead, the project met with intense protests from indigenous groups and environmentalists, and was abandoned. - The highway project was cancelled in 2011 before BNDES had contributed any money to the project, but after construction had begun. - Earlier this year, three civil society NGOs sent a joint complaint to BNDES, alleging that it had failed to adequately consider the environmental and human rights impacts of the TIPNIS highway. - The groups say that the BNDES investment process was not adequately transparent, did not meet social and environmental criteria, or offer a complaint process; and conclude that the bank needs to improve its standards on future projects. The bank refutes these accusations.
Can helping women achieve financial freedom help the environment, too? [08/24/2016]
- Conservation organizations across the board are focusing on women with programs that attempt to achieve social and environmental change in one fell swoop. - A small subset of these organizations uses the prospect of financial freedom to encourage women to participate in projects that benefit the environment. - But outcomes are difficult to measure and research into whether the approach actually works is hard to come by, leaving experts to rely more on instinct than hard evidence in evaluating them.
Three murders highlight troubles of Iran’s park rangers [08/18/2016]
- In the final days of June, three Iranian park rangers were shot by poachers, bringing the tally of rangers killed in such instances in the country to 119. - At least eight rangers have spent years behind bars after being convicted of murder for killing poachers while on the job. - The Iranian Department of Environment claims the rangers were released during the last year. But the conditions of their release concern environmentalists, who point to flaws in the system meant to protect both rangers and the country’s rich biodiversity.
Pulling the stunningly unique painted terrapin back from the brink [08/17/2016]
- The Critically Endangered painted terrapin (Batagur borneoensis) is one of the 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles on earth, according to the Turtle Survival Coalition — with surviving numbers in Indonesia and Malaysia unknown. - The species is under tremendous pressure from poaching for eggs and by agroindustry which is degrading and converting its river and ocean beach and mangrove habitat for fish and shrimp aquaculture and oil palm production. - Joko Guntoro and the Satucita Foundation — with help from the UK’s Chester Zoo, the Houston Zoo in Texas, and the Turtle Survival Alliance — have built a head starting facility in Indonesia and successfully incubated more than six hundred hatchlings which are scheduled for release this autumn. - A mysterious species, scientists know next to nothing about painted terrapin migration, juvenile and adult behaviors — key to conservation. Unfortunately, under-funded researchers lack the money for satellite tracking of the species.
In search of a lost species: the Santa Marta Toro [08/17/2016]
- Nicolette (Nikki) Roach, a PhD Student at Texas A&M University, is on a mission to find the elusive Santa Marta Toro again. - The tiny rodent was last spotted in 2011, for the first time in 113 years. - Roach says that finding and gathering data on the Toro would be a huge symbol of hope for conservation.
Climate change pledges not nearly enough to save tropical ecosystems [08/16/2016]
- Last December, 178 nations pledged to cut their carbon emissions enough to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius — with an aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees. A study in the journal Nature has found that pledges so far are insufficient to keep the world from blasting past the 2 degree mark, even as scientists meet this week in Geneva to consider plans to reach the goal. - While scientists have long known that extreme temperature rises in the Arctic presaged ecosystem devastation there, they believed that less extreme temperature rises in the tropics might have smaller, less serious impacts on biodiversity. - Recent findings, however, show that major tropical ecosystems, ranging from coral reefs and mangroves to cloud forests and rainforests are already seriously threatened by climate change with likely dangerous repercussions for wildlife. - While nations work to commit to, and achieve, their Paris commitments, scientists say it is vital that tropical countries continue to protect large core tracts of wild land linked by wild corridors in order to conserve maximum biodiversity — allowing for free, unhampered movement of species as climate change unfolds.
Company ordered to pay record $76m over fires in Sumatra [08/12/2016]
- The case concerned fires that burned across PT National Sago Prima's concession in Indonesia's Riau province in 2014. - The company was deemed to have been negligent in failing to prevent the fires because it did not have the proper firefighting equipment and infrastructure on hand. - The fires were also deemed to have damaged the environment and the economy.
In Latin America, environmentalists are an endangered species [08/11/2016]
- At least 185 environmental activists were murdered worldwide in 2015, nearly two-thirds of them in Latin America, according to a June report from the U.K.-based NGO Global Witness. - The reasons for the killings vary, but many are related to a surge in development in remote parts of the region. There, governments have been granting concessions for hydroelectric dams, mines, and other projects, often without consulting indigenous or farming communities already occupying the land. - With little government assistance, some members of these communities are opposing environmental destruction on their own and paying the ultimate price.
Out of sight, out of mind: Asia’s elusive Fishing Cat in trouble [08/11/2016]
- Fishing cats have a broad but discontinuous range, including wetland areas of mainland Asia (India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and perhaps Malaysia), as well as the islands of Sri Lanka and maybe Java. But these small nocturnal wild cats are rarely seen. Habitat loss has caused a drastic decline, and as few as 3,000 may remain in the wild. - Fishing cats are prestigious swimmers, love the water, and eat mostly fish, but they also eat just about anything that they can catch, including birds, snakes, frogs, insects, terrestrial mammals such as civets and rodents, along with domestic livestock such as ducks and chickens. - While primarily wetland species, Fishing cats have recently proven to be quite adaptable, and the animals have been discovered making night time raids on fishponds in the highly urbanized city of Colombo, Sri Lanka, population 650,000+. - The major block to Fishing cat conservation is that it is almost unknown to the public and to funders. The animals are almost never seen in the wild, but researchers who have spent time with Fishing cats say that this species’ time in the public limelight could be on the verge of occurring.
Indochinese leopard has disappeared from 94% of its historical range [08/10/2016]
- An estimated 973 to 2503 Indochinese leopards remain in the wild, a new study has found, of which only 409 to 1051 are breeding adults. - The Indochinese leopard is now extinct in Singapore, functionally extinct in Laos and Vietnam, and nearly extinct in Cambodia and China. - Researchers have identified three priority sites for Indochinese leopard conservation: Peninsular Malaysia, the Northern Tenasserim Forest Complex on Thailand-Myanmar border, and a small isolated population in eastern Cambodia.
Borneo conservationists and top oil palm firm work to help orangutans [08/09/2016]
- Oil palm production in Borneo is booming, resulting in major deforestation and putting Critically Endangered orangutans at risk. But the industry and conservationists have historically not worked well together to solve the problem. - In an attempt at a solution, Orangutan Foundation International and PT SMART — Indonesia’s largest oil palm group — have joined forces to teach administrators, management and workers to value and protect orangutans. - PT SMART and PT Lontar Papyrus, a major wood pulp supplier, have agreed to a Zero Tolerance/No Kill policy for orangutans and other protected species, and OFI is running an ongoing training program to initiate employees to the initiative.
Environmental licence for São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam denied [08/04/2016]
- Ibama, Brazil’s environmental agency has denied an environmental license for the proposed 8,000-megawatt São Luiz do Tapajós dam on the Tapajós River in the Amazon — a decision seen as a victory by the Munduruku Indians and environmentalists. - The Amazon mega-dam would have required the flooding of Munduruku territory known as the Sawré Muybu — a land claim first recognized by Funai, the federal indigenous affairs agency, in April of this year. The Brazilian constitution forbids such uses of indigenous lands. - The decision will not likely end controversy in the region. The Brazilian government has major development plans for the Tapajós river basin, including 43 dams on the Tapajós River and its tributaries, ten of which are considered priority, to be completed by 2022.
India floods kill more than 200 animals, including rare rhinos [08/03/2016]
- Severe floods have ravaged the state of Assam in northeastern India. - The flood that began during the last week of July submerged around 80 percent of Kaziranga National Park (KNP), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. - Rescue teams have managed to save more than 100 animals from the flooded forests.
A dangerous, illegal necessity: charcoal reform comes to Virunga [08/02/2016]
- Like elsewhere in Africa, charcoal has become a big problem for Virunga National Park. Illegal production in the park has been high in recent years as producers try to meet the demand from the millions of impoverished people who depend on charcoal as their only source of fuel. - This demand has led to the destruction of vast swaths of Virunga's forest – as well as the deaths of gorillas and other wildlife that depend on it. - Eco-Makala, a project funded through REDD+, is seeking to reduce the impact of charcoal on the park by establishing tree plantations around it and distributing cookstoves that burn charcoal more efficiently. In the process, the project hopes to ease deforestation-driven CO2 emissions.
Tapajós dams may bring fish kills, species loss, mercury contamination [08/02/2016]
- Brazil plans to construct seven hydroelectric dams on the Tapajós River and its tributaries — a part of the Amazon known for its exceptional aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity. The São Luiz do Tapajós hydropower plant is the largest and first proposed dam. - An Environmental Impact Study (EIS) commissioned by the federal energy agency Eletrobrás in conjunction with the companies hoping to build the São Luiz do Tapajós dam says the project will cause a quick disappearance of habitat, loss of animals and reduction of their populations. Still, the EIS concludes the dam will cause little environmental impact. - In an independent analysis of the EIS commissioned by Greenpeace, scientists criticized the methodology and results of the document, noting that it failed to identify or misidentified - Because so little is known about Tapajós aquatic ecology, there is an urgent need for more studies before building begins, say experts. The hydroelectric project could jeopardize commercial fish species, the pink river dolphin, giant otter and black caiman. One fear is that the reservoir will concentrate dangerous levels of toxic mercury, poisoning fish and people.
Malayan Sun bear: bile trade threatens the World’s smallest bear [08/01/2016]
- The Malayan Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the IUCN, and is threatened by habitat loss and hunting for traditional medicine. Its range once extended across mainland Southeast Asia, to Sumatra and Borneo, but the animal now occurs only patchily throughout. - Sun bears are a keystone species, vitally important to seed dispersal, pest control and nutrient cycling, so their extinction would likely bring major, though largely unstudied, impacts to tropical forests. - Killing Sun bears is prohibited under international and national wildlife protection laws, but these laws are often poorly enforced, while international trade in bear bile to serve the traditional medicine industry continues to boom. - Conservationists in Indonesia and elsewhere are studying Sun bear behavior to improve rescue and restoration efforts. Others want to eliminate commercial bear farms where bear bile is extracted, and end trafficking by creating strong national legislation, improving enforcement, and raising public awareness.
Deficient water systems, poor sanitation driving Zika in Brazil [07/29/2016]
- Public health experts have found a strong link between inadequate water and sanitation systems among the poor of the developing world, and major outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. - Recife, a city of 3.7 million, is the epicenter of Brazil’s Zika virus outbreak. One factor driving the disease is that the city — built on a mangrove swamp — has deficient sanitation infrastructure, making the urban center a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. - Half of Brazil´s population has inadequate sewage services, and 10 percent have none at all. While Brazil has repeatedly proposed enhancing its water and sanitation systems, lack of funds, bureaucratic red tape and corruption have combined to stall improvements. - Brazil has confirmed over 1,600 microcephaly cases linked to Zika. Whether the incidence of Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases rises or falls, partly depends on how well Brazil addresses basic public health infrastructure problems.
International Tiger Day: How are tigers faring now? [07/29/2016]
- Once ranging widely across Asia, the awe-inspiring tiger has now vanished from more than 93 percent of its former range. - Only about 3,200 wild tigers remain and the species is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. - Mongabay takes a look at how the six surviving tiger subspecies are faring in a human-dominated world.
Amid epic drought, villagers bitter over Zimbabwean ethanol plant [07/28/2016]
- The Green Fuel plant in Chisumbanje in eastern Zimbabwe became operational in 2011. - Since then the livelihood of local farming people, already thin, has become dire. Community members and advocacy groups offer a litany of complaints against the company. - In April, Billy Rautenbach, the owner of the companies with a controlling stake in Green Fuel, was named in the Panama Papers as having offshore accounts, prompting calls for an investigation into his financial dealings that has yet to materialize.
“Carbon farming” good for the climate, farmers, and biodiversity [07/28/2016]
- Author says "carbon farming" can feed people while cooling the planet - Farming methods like agroforestry exhibit the highest levels of biodiversity of any anthropogenic ecosystem - Even industrial crops like oil palm and rubber can be grown in ways that have multiple positive benefits
Rio Olympic organizers fail to meet all environmental goals [07/28/2016]
- Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 Olympic Games, is plagued by waterways polluted with garbage, raw sewage and untreated hospital waste. - In 2009, as part of its Olympics Legacy commitment, Brazil’s government dedicated itself to cleaning up Rio’s rivers and estuary in time for the Games. That initiative — conducted by federal, state and city government, as well as private companies, has been a near total failure. - As a result, participants in Olympic sailing and swimming events may be exposed to dangerous levels of unhealthy viruses and bacteria. - Of particular concern: scientists have found superbugs — antibiotic resistant bacteria — in the waters at several locations where aquatic events are being held.