Brazil’s fundamental pesticide law under attack [02/20/2018]
- In 2008, Brazil became the largest pesticide consumer in the world – the dual result of booming industrial agribusiness and ineffective environmental regulation. - In 1989, the country established one of the then toughest pesticide laws in the world (7,802/1989), which included the precautionary principle in its pesticide evaluation and registration standards. However, limited staffing and budget has made the law very difficult to implement and enforce. - With its increasing power after 2000, the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, has worked to overthrow that law, an effort thwarted to date but more likely to succeed under the Temer administration and the current ruralista-dominated Congress. - Lax pesticide use regulation and education have major health and environmental consequences. Farmers often use pesticides without proper safety gear, while children are often in the fields when spraying occurs. Some experts blame pesticides partly for Brazil’s high cancer rate – cancer is the nation’s second leading cause of death.
Red Cloud’s Revolution: Oglalla Sioux freeing themselves from fossil fuel [02/19/2018]
- Henry Red Cloud, like so many Oglalla Sioux young men, left the reservation to work in construction. When he returned home in 2002, he needed a job, and also wanted to make a difference. He attended a solar energy workshop and saw the future. - Today, Red Cloud runs Lakota Solar and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, which have become catalysts for an innovative new economic network – one that employs locals and connects tribes, while building greater energy independence among First Nations. - The company is building and installing alternative energy systems, and training others to do the same, throughout remote areas of U.S. reservations, thus allowing the Sioux and others to leap past outdated fossil fuel technology altogether. - Henry Red Cloud’s company has another more radical purpose: it helps provide energy to remote Water Protector camps, like the one at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Solar power and other alternative energy sources are vital at such remote sites, as they power up cellphones, connecting resistors to the media and outside world.
Moment of truth: Study reveals high percentage of illegal Peruvian timber exports [02/13/2018]
- Research has shown that the origin of most of the wood that leaves Peru is unknown. - A new report reveals that most of the wood exported from Peru in 2015 was of illegal or unknown origin. - Published by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the report says that the amount of illegally-sourced wood bound for export remains extremely high three years after a major bust.
Rewriting biological history: Trump border wall puts wildlife at risk [02/12/2018]
- Mexican conservationists are alarmed over Trump’s wall, with the loss of connectivity threatening already stressed bison, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, bears and other animals. - About one-third of the border, roughly 700 miles, already has fencing; President Trump has been pushing a controversial plan to fence the remainder. - A wall running the entire nearly 2,000-mile frontier from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, conservationists warn, would be catastrophic for borderland ecosystems and many wildlife species, undoing years of environmental cooperation between the two countries to protect animals that must move freely or die. - The wall is currently a key bargaining chip, and a sticking point, in ongoing immigration legislation negotiations taking place this week in Congress. Also expected this week: a federal court ruling on whether the administration can legally waive environmental laws to expedite border wall construction.
Scientists discover 18 new spider-hunting spiders from Madagascar [02/09/2018]
- Researchers have added 18 new species to the assassin spider family, upping the total number of known Eriauchenius and Madagascarchaea species to 26. - Assassin spiders, also known as pelican spiders, have special physical and behavioral adaptations that allow them to hunt other spiders. - The new species were discovered in Madagascar’s forests and through examination of previously collected museum specimens. - Madagascar is currently experiencing high levels of deforestation. Researchers say the loss of Madagascar’s forests is putting the new assassin spiders – as well as many other species – at risk of extinction.
Scorched earth: Colombia’s ‘refugee farmers’ returning to land [02/09/2018]
- Many of those returning are victims of a horrific, days-long massacre amid fighting between the Colombian military and FARC in 2000. - Residents of Montes de Maria now face new threats of deforestation and the impacts of climate change, which has caused wide-scale desertification across the mountainous region. - The region is part of Colombia’s dry forests, an important eco-system which acts as a buffer zone from floods and a nesting ground for many species.
Trumping Colombia’s peace: U.S. drug war threatens fragile accord, forests [02/05/2018]
- President Donald Trump has brought new tension to U.S.-Colombian relations, threatening to cut crucial funding at a pivotal moment in Colombia’s peace process and to decertify that agreement for a perceived failure to tackle the drug trade. - According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Colombian coca production has risen to an all-time high, with around 90 percent of cocaine entering the U.S. coming from that Latin American country. - U.S. officials blame the cocaine resurgence on Colombia’s decision to halt aerial spraying of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide – a controversial tactic considered to have serious health and environmental impacts by some, but rejected by others. - Now, with Colombia’s fragile internal truce taking hold, the Trump administration’s stance – reminiscent of the War on Drugs strategy of the 80s and 90s – could be a great hindrance to peace, with knock-on negative effects for Colombia’s rural population and world-renowned biodiversity.
Safe spaces: Tackling sexual harassment in science [02/05/2018]
- Through this 3-month long investigation, Mongabay examined a variety of common situations in sciences where people are victimized by uneven power dynamics and abuses of authority in the sciences across the Americas. - Most of those who spoke to Mongabay for this story asked to remain anonymous for fear of serious repercussions for their career. - Though those interviewed were based throughout the Americas, Mongabay has received other tips from around the world describing a wide variety of abuses of power.
Maps tease apart complex relationship between agriculture and deforestation in DRC [02/02/2018]
- A team from the University of Maryland’s GLAD laboratory has analyzed satellite images of the Democratic Republic of Congo to identify different elements of the “rural complex” — where many of the DRC’s subsistence farmers live. - Their new maps and visualizations allow scientists and land-use planners to pinpoint areas where the cycle of shifting cultivation is contained, and where it is causing new deforestation. - The team and many experts believe that enhanced understanding of the rural complex could help establish baselines that further inform multi-pronged approaches to forest conservation and development, such as REDD+.
Venezuela: can a failing state protect its environment and its people? [02/01/2018]
- Venezuela is fast becoming a failed state, with 11.4 percent of its children malnourished, 10.5 percent of its workforce unemployed, and an annual inflation rate of roughly 2,700 percent for 2017. - Serious food, fuel and medicine shortages have in recent months resulted in mobs raiding stores and shops, fishing boats, even the stoning of a cow to death where it stood in a field, in order for people to be able to provide for their families. - Meanwhile, Pres. Maduro has sought to save his nation from economic ruin by selling off its natural resources, opening the Arco Minero in Bolívar state to mining – 112,000 square kilometers, more than 12 percent of the country. He has also announced the creation of the Petro cryptocurrency, backed by the nation’s oil and possibly minerals. - Mongabay correspondent Bram Ebus, in partnership with InfoAmazonia, recently traveled to the remote Arco Minero and reported firsthand on the chaotic political and social situation, where indigenous communities and the environment are put at risk by economic hardship, a corrupt military, armed gangs and guerrilla bands.
Corals thrive on remotest islands in the Galápagos [01/31/2018]
- Our first reef community stop in the Reefscape project was the Galápagos Islands in December 2017. - We found that ocean events such as El Niño can wipe out huge areas of reef, yet coral survival and regrowth remain evident. - Our direct actions, be the destructive overfishing or constructive protection, have a huge impact on the future of coral reef ecosystems. - One size does not fit all when it comes to coral reefs — even an archipelago hammered by coral-killing warm waters can harbor refugia for biodiversity.
Mega developments set to transform a tranquil Cambodian bay [01/31/2018]
- Sim Him has organized the planting of more than 200,000 mangrove trees in Cambodia’s Trapeang Sangke estuary. The surrounding ecosystem, which feeds thousands of families, is thriving. - But the nearby construction of a ferry terminal and a luxury resort are upsetting the estuary’s equilibrium, and development projects continue west along the coastline from there. - Dotted along a 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) coastal strip, no less than six large-scale developments present a direct threat to healthy mangrove forests and the fishing communities they support. - Aside from being a nursery for sealife and a barrier to erosion, mangroves are also one of the planet’s most effective carbon neutralizers, capable of capturing and storing it for millennia.
Fang trafficking to China is putting Bolivia’s jaguars in jeopardy [01/26/2018]
- Residents in Bolivia’s Sena community say that they can sell a jaguar canine for about $215 on the Chinese market. - According to Bolivian authorities, the fangs are valued in the Asian market at prices as high as cocaine. - Between 2013 and 2016, 380 jaguar canines were seized by Bolivian authorities, which correlates to 95 jaguars killed. - Residents say an influx of Chinese companies to build roads and bridges in Bolivia is contributing to increased trafficking of jaguar parts. However, authorities deny these claims.
The ups and downs of marine protected areas: Examining the evidence [01/25/2018]
- To find out if marine protected areas achieve their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 42 scientific studies and talked to seven experts. - Overall, marine protected areas do appear to help marine animals recover within their boundaries. But a lot more rigorous research is needed. - The effects of marine protected areas on socioeconomic outcomes and fisheries are less clear. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Maduro seeks sell off of Venezuela’s natural resources to escape debt – analysis [01/25/2018]
- With Venezuela’s hyperinflation rate soaring to an estimated 2,700 percent in 2017, corruption and looting rife, and food and medicine in short supply nationwide, President Nicolás Maduro is desperate to find solutions to the country’s deepening economic crisis. - Many of the president’s solutions, including the Arco Minero and the Petro cryptocurrency, could end up selling off Venezuela’s mineral wealth while devastating indigenous territories and the environment, including the Venezuelan Amazon. - The Arco Minero, announced by Maduro in 2016, would open 112,000 square kilometers, more than 12 percent of the country, to mining. And while Maduro has invited transnational companies to do the work, most mining that is currently being done is controlled by corrupt elements of the military and organized armed gangs. - In December, Maduro announced the Petro cryptocurrency, another scheme likely meant to help ease Venezuela’s debt. The new virtual currency would either be backed by the country’s untapped oil wealth or mineral wealth, including gold, coltan and diamonds. The fear is that none of these policies will prevent Venezuela from becoming a failed state.
Luxury British yacht makers vow to examine supply chains [01/23/2018]
- Highly durable and aesthetically beautiful Burmese teak is prized for boat decking, particularly in luxury yachts, but natural teak from Myanmar is often exported illegally. - According to a recent alert from Britain’s Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), many British-made luxury yachts contain decking from illegally-sourced Burmese teak despite EU regulations in place to prevent its sale and export. - Luxury yacht companies interviewed at the London Boat Show stress that although they plan on investigating their supply chains, they maintain that their Burmese teak decking is legally and ethically-sourced.
Venezuela’s Mining Arc boom sweeps up Indigenous people and cultures [01/15/2018]
- In 2016, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro declared the opening of the Arco Minero, which sprawls in an east-to-west crescent across 112,000 square kilometers (43,243 square miles) mostly in Bolívar state, south of the Orinoco River and in the Venezuelan Amazon. - Indigenous communities within the Arco Minero were given no say in the development of mining in their region or near their territories, a clear violation of the International Labour Organization’s 169 Convention, an agreement to which Venezuela is a party. - Mining is not only spreading in Bolivar’s Mining Arc, where armed gangs and the military compete for gold, diamond and coltan claims, but also into Venezuela’s Amazonas state to the south. Indigenous men and women leave their ancestral communities and small farms to do backbreaking and dangerous work in the mines for little money. - Violence against, and conflicts with, indigenous communities can be expected to escalate as Venezuelan armed gangs and military organizations, and Colombian guerrilla groups continue to expand their presence in the region, and flex their muscles in the mining areas.
Peru declares a huge new national park in the Amazon [01/12/2018]
- Yaguas National Park is located in the Loreto Region of northern Peru and covers more than 868,000 hectares of Amazonian rainforest – around the size of Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. - Peru’s newest national park is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, 500 species of birds and 160 species of mammals. - Yaguas National Park holds around 550 fish species, representing two-thirds of Peru’s freshwater fish diversity – more than any other place in the country, and one of the richest freshwater fish assemblages in the world.
Trump threatens NASA climate satellite missions as Congress stalls [01/12/2018]
- Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would cut four NASA Earth Observation projects including three climate satellite missions: the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission; Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) pathfinder; and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3). - These missions are critical to ongoing climate change research, as well as to weather and air pollution forecasting. Without them, international scientists lose their “eyes in the sky” with potentially disastrous consequences for people not only in the United States, but the world round. - The U.S. Congress has the final say on whether these satellite programs go forward or not. Their vote on the 2018 budget was delayed from September to December 2017, and now to 19 January, 2018. Whether the vote will occur then, or what the outcome might be, remains in question. - As a result of Trump’s threatened cuts the international scientific community has been left in great uncertainty. It is currently scrambling to find a way to replace NASA’s planned Earth Observation missions and continue vital climate change, weather and pollution monitoring.
Natural World Heritage Sites in trouble, especially in the Tropics [01/11/2018]
- From the Great Barrier Reef to the Galapagos Islands and the forests of central Africa, over a third of Natural World Heritage Sites designated by UNESCO are under threat from myriad problems. - Of the seventeen locations with a critical conservation outlook, sixteen are in the Tropics, and the majority of those are in Africa. Less than half of African World Heritage sites received a “good” outlook. Lack of funding in developing nations is a major problem. - Sites harboring rich biodiversity, such as Virunga and Garamba national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras, are especially at risk. - The most common threats to Natural World Heritage Sites are invasive non-native species, unsustainable tourism, poaching, hydroelectric dams, and logging, with climate change the fastest growing threat.
Critically endangered monkeys found in Ghana forest slated for mining [01/11/2018]
- Researchers were surprised to discover white-naped mangabeys (Cercocebus lunulatus) while reviewing camera trap footage captured in Ghana’s Atewa mountain range. - The white-naped mangabey has declined by more than 50 percent in less than three decades and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Habitat loss and hunting are its major threats. The camera trap footage is the first record of the species in eastern Ghana. - Deposits of bauxite, from which aluminum is produced, underlie Atewa’s forests. The Ghanaian government is reportedly gearing up to develop mining operations and associated infrastructure for bauxite extraction, refinement and export. - Conservation organizations and other stakeholders are urging the government to cease its plans for mining and more effectively protect Atewa by turning the region into a national park.
Chocó at epicenter of Colombia’s social, environmental conflicts [01/10/2018]
- Rebel fighters of ELN largely aim to disrupt their country’s conservative political system and implement agrarian reform. - The ELN, the last armed insurgency on the continent, has been negotiating with the government, but a recent attack has put peace talks in jeopardy. - Locals in Chocó who have suffered the brunt of the civil war, are now coping with crop eradication and effects of climate change.
Bangladeshi forests stripped bare as Rohingya refugees battle to survive [01/09/2018]
- Their panicked dash from burning villages involved stumbling through forests or battling monsoon-charged waters in search of safety. - Along the way and in makeshift shelters and now camps, refugees have needed a massive supply of firewood and shelter for survival. - The rapid decimation of the forest is also possibly contaminating groundwater supplies.
Brazil 2018: Amazon under attack, resistance grows, courts to act, elections [01/09/2018]
- While forecasts are always difficult, it seems likely that Brazilian President Michel Temer will remain in power for the last year of his term, despite on-going corruption investigations. - Elections for president, the house of deputies, and most of the senate are scheduled for October. Former President Lula has led the presidential polls, though right wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro has grown strong. Lula’s environmental record is mixed; Bolsonaro would almost certainly be bad news for the environment, indigenous groups and the Amazon. - During 2018, Temer, Congress and the bancada ruralista (a lobby representing agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and other wealthy rural elites) will likely seek to undermine environmental laws and indigenous land rights further. Potential paving of the BR 319 in the heart of the Amazon is considered one of the biggest threats. - However, grassroots environmental and indigenous resistance continues to grow, and important Brazilian Supreme Court decisions are expected in the weeks and months ahead, which could undo some of the major gains made by the ruralists under Temer.
IUCN, UN, global NGOs, likely to see major budget cuts under Trump [01/08/2018]
- President Donald Trump has proposed cutting foreign aid funding to nations and inter-governmental organizations by 32 percent, about $19 billion – cuts the U.S. Congress has yet to vote on. Voting has been delayed since September, and is next scheduled for 19 January, though another delay may occur. - One inter-governmental organization on Trump’s cutting block is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) best known for its global Red List, the go-to resource for the status of endangered species planet-wide. Over the past four years the U.S. contributed between 5 and 9 percent of the IUCN’s total framework funding, and 4 to 7 percent of its programmatic funding. - Currently it remains unclear just how much, or even if, the IUCN budget will be slashed by Congress, leaving the organization in limbo. Another organization potentially looking at major cuts under Trump is TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring network. - Also under Trump’s axe are the UN Population Fund ($79 million), the Green Climate Fund ($2 billion, which no nation has stepped up to replace), and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ($1.96 million annually, funding already replaced by other nations for 2018).
U.S. zoos learn how to keep captive pangolins alive, helping wild ones [01/05/2018]
- The Pangolin Consortium, a partnership between six U.S. zoos and Pangolin Conservation, an NGO, launched a project in 2014 which today houses fifty White-bellied tree pangolins (Phataginus tricuspis). - Common knowledge says that pangolins are almost impossible to keep alive in captivity, but the consortium has done basic research to boost survival rates, traveling to Africa and working with a company, EnviroFlight, to develop a natural nutritious insect-derived diet for pangolins in captivity. - While some conservationists are critical of the project, actions by the Pangolin Consortium have resulted in high captive survival rates, and even in the successful breeding of pangolins in captivity. - The Pangolin Consortium is able to conduct basic research under controlled conditions at zoos on pangolin behavior and health ¬– research that can’t be done in the wild. Zoos can also present pangolins to the public, educating about their endangered status, improving conservation funding.
Rainforests: the year in review 2017 [01/04/2018]
- 2017 was a rough year for tropical rainforests, but there were some bright spots. - This is Mongabay’s annual year-in-review on what happened in the world of tropical rainforests. - Here we summarize some of the more notable developments and trends for tropical forests in 2017.
Brazil announces end to Amazon mega-dam building policy [01/03/2018]
- Brazil’s government this week announced a major shift away from its policy of building mega-dams in the Brazilian Amazon – a strategy born during the country’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) and vigorously carried forward down to the present day. - The Temer government claims the decision is a response to intense resistance from environmentalists and indigenous groups, but while that may be part of the reason, experts see other causes as well. - The decline in political influence of Brazil’s gigantic construction companies caused by the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption investigation is likely a major cause of the change in policy. So is the current depressed state of Brazil’s economy, which makes it unlikely that Brazil’s huge development bank (BNDES) will invest in such multi-billion dollar projects. - While environmentalists and indigenous groups will likely celebrate the shift away from the mega-dam policy, experts warn that many threats to the Amazon remain, including pressure by Brazil’s ruralist lobby to open up conserved areas and indigenous lands to agribusiness, along with threats posed by new road, rail, waterway and mining projects.
Reefscape: A global reef survey to build better satellites for coral conservation [01/02/2018]
- While science has fully documented only a small portion of reef species that occur around our planet, we know that human activities have taken an extensive toll on reef ecosystems worldwide. - To gather a more comprehensive understanding of the condition of global reef ecosystems, we need a way to assess and monitor them on a large geographic scale. - With our partners, we are planning a new satellite mission for global reef ecosystems, which will advance our ability not only to map reef extent, but also to monitor changes in coral reef health. - This post is the first in a series that will chronicle field work ongoing for the next year to develop an understanding of reef characteristics that need to be monitored from Earth orbit.
Top 20 forest stories of 2017 [12/29/2017]
Mongabay published hundreds of stories on forests in 2017. Here are some of our favorites. 1. Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon With the demobilization of Colombia’s FARC militant group, the country is expanding agriculture and infrastructure in places in the country once too dangerous to develop. One of these areas is […]
Top 10 HAPPY environmental stories of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- Throughout 2017, scientists discovered new populations of rare wildlife, and rediscovered some species that were previously thought to be extinct. - Some countries created large marine protected areas, while a few others granted land rights to indigenous communities. - In 2017, we also saw the ever-increasing potential of technology to improve conservation monitoring and efforts.
Photos: Top 20 new species of 2017 [12/28/2017]
- There’s still so much we don’t know about life on planet Earth that scientists discover new species with whom we share this planet nearly every day. - For instance, this year scientists described a new species of orangutan in Sumatra — just the eighth great ape species known to exist on planet Earth. And that’s just one of many notable, bizarre, or downright fascinating discoveries made this year. - Here, in no particular order, we present the top 20 new species discovered in 2017.
Brazil 2017: environmental and indigenous rollbacks, rising violence [12/27/2017]
- The bancada ruralista, or ruralist lobby, in Brazil’s congress flexed its muscles in 2017, making numerous demands on President Michel Temer to make presidential decrees weakening environmental protections and revoking land rights to indigenous and traditional communities in Brazil – decisions especially impacting the Amazon. - Emboldened ruralists – including agribusiness, cattle ranchers, land thieves and loggers – stepped up violent attacks in 2017, making Brazil the most dangerous country in the world for social or environmental activists. There were 63 assassinations by the end of October. - Budgets to FUNAI, the indigenous agency; IBAMA, the environmental agency; and other institutions, were reduced so severely this year that these government regulatory agencies were largely unable to do their enforcement and protection work. - In 2017, Temer led attempts to dismember Jimanxim National Forest and National Park, and to open the vast RENCA preserve in the Amazon to mining – efforts that have failed to date, but are still being pursued. Resistance has remained fierce, especially among indigenous groups, with Temer sometimes forced to backtrack on his initiatives.
Chainsaws imperil an old-growth mangrove stronghold in southern Myanmar [12/27/2017]
- Tanintharyi, Myanmar’s southern-most state, is home to the country’s last remaining old-growth mangrove forest. The trees support village life and a booming fishing industry up and down the coast. - But logging for charcoal and fuel wood, much of it illegal, is taking a toll. Studies show that roughly two-thirds of the region’s remaining mangrove forests have been degraded, with consequences for people and wildlife. - Conservationists are attempting to expand community forestry and set up mangrove reserves to combat the widespread degradation.
So long, UNESCO! What does U.S. withdrawal mean for the environment? [12/26/2017]
- Since 2011, the U.S. has refused to pay its agreed to share to UNESCO as a Member Nation who has participated in and benefited from the organization’s scientific, environmental and sustainability programs. Now, President Trump has announced U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO, effective at the end of 2018. - Experts say the pullout won’t in fact do any major damage to the organization, with most of the harm done to UNESCO when the U.S. went into arrears starting in 2011, with unpaid dues now totaling roughly $550 million. However, America’s failure to participate could hurt millions of Americans. - UNESCO science initiatives are international and deal multilaterally with a variety of environmental issues ranging from basic earth science, climate change, freshwater, oceans, mining, and international interrelationships between indigenous, rural and urban communities. - Among the most famous of UNESCO science programs are the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, now including 669 sites in 120 countries, including the United States.
Agroforestry boosts rice and biodiversity in India [12/19/2017]
- Agroforestry is an ancient agricultural method covering 1 billion hectares globally; it combines trees and woody shrubs with crops to increase food security, mitigate the effects of climate change, and boost biodiversity. - India has set a goal to increase its tree cover from the present 24 percent to 33 percent of its total area, primarily by promoting agroforestry in croplands. - In West Bengal, the adoption of useful trees into paddy fields has boosted crop yields and crop diversity, and has also sparked a movement that champions organic cultivation methods. - Agroforestry has been hailed as one of the top solutions to climate change because it sequesters much carbon dioxide above and below the soil surface.
Do protected areas work in the tropics? [12/18/2017]
- To find out if terrestrial protected areas are effective in achieving their environmental and socioeconomic goals, we read 56 scientific studies. (See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, protected areas do appear to reduce forest cover loss. But other ecological outcomes of protected areas, like biodiversity or illegal hunting, remain extremely understudied. - The evidence on socioeconomic impacts is very thin. What limited rigorous research exists shows that protected areas do not exacerbate poverty generally, but anecdotal studies suggest that protected areas could be making other aspects of people’s well-being worse off. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Building a refuge where trawlers now ravage Cambodia’s marine life [12/14/2017]
- In Cambodia’s Kep Archipelago, fleets of trawlers dragging weighted, electrified nets have reduced the area’s once sprawling seagrass meadows to a sludgy underwater wasteland and sent fisheries into a tailspin. - Here and around the world, seagrass meadows are in decline. But these critical habitats serve as nurseries and feeding grounds for many marine organisms, as well as bulwarks against climate change and ocean acidification by capturing carbon dioxide. - In the Kep Archipelago a small NGO is working to establish a marine refuge that will keep the trawlers at bay so seagrass meadows can recover and depleted fish stocks can return to life.
Mining concessions in Ecuador stalled over compliance with indigenous rights [12/13/2017]
- The announcement is especially meaningful for indigenous groups that are directly impacted by extractive projects. - By law, indigenous groups have the right to free and prior consultation before extractive projects take place near their land. - Over 3,000 indigenous peoples from across the country marched to the presidential palace in Quito to demand action.
Brazil / UK push offshore oil pact, a potential climate change disaster [12/13/2017]
- This month, as Brazil ratified the Paris Agreement, President Michel Temer and the Congress pressed forward with Provisional Measure 795, which must be approved by Friday or it will expire. PM 795 would offer billions in tax breaks to transnational oil companies seeking to tap into Brazil’s 176 billion barrel offshore oil reserve. - In November, Britain reaffirmed its Paris Climate Agreement commitments, but diplomatic telegrams released by Greenpeace show the UK was in clandestine talks with Brazil in 2017 to smooth the way for offshore drilling, massive tax incentives and relaxation of environmental licenses for transnational oil and gas companies, including British Petroleum (BP). - Brazil has also announced major auctions for oil and gas exploration blocks in its offshore pre-salt region. Ten rounds of bids have been authorized to occur between 2017 and 2019. The September and October auctions counted BP, Shell, Exxon, and Brazil’s Petrobras among the big winners. - Exploitation of Brazil’s offshore oil reserves could release 74.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, compromising the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. UPDATE: Late on Dec. 13 Brazil’s House passed PM 795 in its original form. Now the bill goes to Pres. Temer. Court challenges may follow.
CITES rejects Madagascar’s bid to sell rosewood and ebony stockpiles [12/12/2017]
- The standing committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had its annual meeting in Geneva November 27 through December 1. - The committee rejected Madagascar’s petition to sell its stockpiles of seized rosewood and ebony that had been illegally cut from the country’s rainforests. - CITES delegates agreed that while a future sale of the stockpiles might be possible, Madagascar was not yet ready for such a risky undertaking, which could allow newly chopped logs to be laundered and traded overseas. - Other notable outcomes of the CITES meeting dealt with the sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), pangolins, and the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus).
As 2017 hurricane season ends, scientists assess tropical forest harm [12/11/2017]
- This year’s Atlantic hurricane season – one for the record books – ended on 30 November, seeing six Category 3 to 5 storms wreaking massive destruction across the Caribbean, in the U.S. and Mexico. While damage to the built environment is fairly easy to assess, harm to conserved areas and species is more difficult to determine. - Satellite images show extensive damage to the 28,400-acre El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, the United States’ only national tropical rainforest. However, observers on the ground say the forest is showing signs of a quick recovery. - More serious is harm to already stressed, endangered species with small populations. El Yunque’s Critically Endangered Puerto Rican parrot was hard hit: out of 50 endemic wild parrots, 16 are known dead. Likewise, the Endangered imperial parrot endemic to Dominica, spotted just three times since Hurricane Maria. - Ecosystems and species need time to recover between storms. If the intensity of hurricanes continues to increase due to escalating global warming as predicted, tropical ecosystem and species resilience may be seriously tested.
Abandoned by their sponsors, Madagascar’s orphaned parks struggle on [12/08/2017]
- A dozen protected areas that were created amid the rapid buildup of Madagascar’s conservation sector in the aughts were later abandoned by their NGO sponsors after the political crisis of 2009. - Among these so-called orphan protected areas is the 606-square-kilometer (234-square-mile) Bongolava Forest Corridor in the country’s northwest. The U.S.-based NGO Conservation International spent 15 years spearheading Bongolava’s creation, then abandoned the project in 2012. - A year ago, a scrappy group of locals returned to Bongolava to resuscitate the protected area. Working with a slim budget, they are confronting both intense pressure for farmland inside the protected area and widespread corruption. - This is the eighth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Militarization and mining a dangerous mix in Venezuelan Amazon [12/07/2017]
- Venezuela today is gripped by a catastrophic economic crisis, born out of corruption on a vast scale, government mismanagement and a failed petro-economy. - In 2016, President Nicolás Maduro announced the opening of the Orinoco Mining Arc, a vast region in the southern part of the nation perhaps boasting $100 billion in untapped gold, diamonds and coltan, as well as being one of the most biodiverse parts of the Amazon. - Maduro also created an “Economic Military Zone” to protect the region. Today, the army has a huge presence there, ostensibly to reduce the influence of organized gangs doing illegal mining. - In reality, the military is heavily involved in mining itself, often allegedly competing with gangs for resources, with violent conflict a result. Small-scale miners, indigenous and traditional communities, and the environment could be the big losers in this struggle for power and wealth.
Ferrogrão grain railway threatens Amazon indigenous groups, forest [12/04/2017]
- Michel Temer’s administration is fast tracking the Ferrogrão (Grainrail), a 1,142 kilometer railway to link grain-producing midwest Brazil with the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon, in order to more economically and efficiently export soy and other commodities to foreign markets. - The railway is seen as vital to Brazil’s agribusiness-centric economy, especially considering the country’s current economic crisis, but indigenous groups say they’ve not been consulted in project planning as stipulated by International Labour Organization Convention 169. - The railway will come near several indigenous groups: the Kaiabi in Indigenous Territory of Batelão, the Pankararu in Indigenous Territory of Pankararu, the Kayapó in Indigenous Territory of Kapot-Nhinore, and the Panará in Indigenous Territory of Baú. These groups say they’ve not been properly consulted by the government. - Ferrogrão will also pass near Jamanxim National Park and cut through Jamanxim National Forest, where the government is seeking diminished protections to benefit elite land thieves. Scientists worry that deforestation brought by the loss of these conserved lands, plus the railway, could significantly reduce the Amazon’s greenhouse gas storage capacity.
Forced out or killed: rare chimps go missing from Cameroon mountain forest [12/01/2017]
- The Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti) is the least numerous subspecies of chimpanzee, with a total population almost certainly less than 9,000, and probably less than 6,000 individuals. - The estimated population is far smaller in Cameroon, where just four known populations number some 250 individuals, all located in the Northwest region. - One of those groups, known as “The Great Apes of Tubah” was until recently found in the unprotected Kejom-Keku Mountain Forest. - But the chimps haven’t been seen in three years, and conservationists fear they’ve been killed or forced to move on. A new road into the Kejom-Keku area has resulted in the loss of half its forest, as herders, farmers, loggers and poachers move in.
Indonesians race to save their disappearing lakes, before it’s too late [11/30/2017]
- Seventeen lakes in the Southeast Asian nation are in “critical” condition. One of them, Lake Limboto in northern Sulawesi, is shrinking rapidly and could disappear by 2025. - Recently, government officials and researchers from across Indonesia gathered on Lake Limboto’s shores, declaring that a national agency should be established to handle the issue. In December they will meet again, hoping to attract the attention of President Joko Widodo. - One of the most pressing problems at Limboto is the lake’s shrinking increases the risk of flooding in nearby Gorontalo city.
Carbon dreams: Can REDD+ save a Yosemite-size forest in Madagascar? [11/29/2017]
- When Makira Natural Park launched in 2005, it seemed to present a solution to one of the most intractable problems in conservation: finding a source of funding that could be counted on year after year. - The sale of carbon offset credits would fund the park itself as well as development projects aimed at helping nearby communities improve their standard of living and curtail deforestation. - But more than a decade later, carbon buyers are scarce and much of the funding for community development has been held up. And although deforestation has slowed considerably in and around Makira, it is falling well short of deforestation targets set at the outset of the project. - This is the seventh story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Trump’s indecision on trophy hunting reignites heated debate [11/28/2017]
- On November 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted a ban on the U.S. import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The president put a hold on the order two days later, calling trophy hunting in a tweet a “horror show.” He has yet to make a final determination regarding the USFWS order. - At the same time, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the establishment of the International Wildlife Conservation Council. One goal of the body will be to promote with the U.S. public the “economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to [trophy] hunt.” - While trophy hunting does provide revenue for land and wildlife conservation in some special cases in Africa, the new U.S. council will likely have its work cut out for it, since many Americans no longer see trophy hunting of endangered species as ethical. - Conservationists counter pro-trophy hunting advocates by noting that rampant government corruption in nations like Zimbabwe and Zambia make it unlikely that most trophy hunting revenues ever reach the African preserves, local communities or rangers that need the funding.
Audio: Margaret Atwood on her conservation-themed graphic novel, dystopian futures, and how not to despair [11/28/2017]
- Today’s episode features best-selling author and environmental activist Margaret Atwood as well as the founder of a beverage company rooted in the Amazon whose new book details the lessons he’s learned from indigenous rainforest peoples. - Margaret Atwood, whose novels and poetry have won everything from an Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction to the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction, recently tackled a medium she is not as well-known for: comic books. Not only that, but she has written a comic book series, called Angel Catbird, that “was a conservation project from the get-go,” she told Mongabay. - Our second guest is Tyler Gage, co-founder of the beverage company Runa. “Runa” is the word the indigenous Kichwa people use to describe the effects of drinking guayusa; it translates to “fully alive” — which also happens to be the name of a new book that Gage has just published detailing the lessons he learned in the Amazon that led to the launch of Runa and its mission to partner with indigenous communities in business.
In search of the fireface: The precarious, scandalous lives of the slow lorises of Java [11/26/2017]
- Cute and fuzzy but also vicious and venomous, Javan slow lorises have been driven to the brink of extinction by habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade. - The Little Fireface Project in West Java is the first long-term research project focusing on the critically endangered primate. - In addition to making strides toward understanding how to care for and reintroduce lorises to the wild, the project has revealed new details about the species’ complex, and often reality-show-worthy social behavior.
Damming or damning the Amazon: Assessing Ecuador / China cooperation [11/22/2017]
- In 2008, Ecuador, led by President Rafael Correa, approved a new constitution based upon Buen Vivir (the ”Good Life”), committing the nation to indigenous rights, environmental sustainability and state sovereignty. However, Correa quickly aligned the nation with China, a partnership that many critics say undermined the promises of the constitution. - Under Correa, China became Ecuador’s primary creditor and Chinese investment, both public and private, resulted in an infrastructure boom in new dams, mines, oilrigs, roads, power transmission lines, telecommunications systems and schools. - During Correa’s administration, eight major dams were built, including Coca Coda Sinclair (CCS) constructed by Chinese state corporation Sinohydro. While CCS promised local prosperity, residents of surrounding communities say the government provided them with no say in the project, which has created serious environmental problems. - In May, a new president, Lenin Moreno, was elected. He has so far not followed in Correa’s footsteps, and his administration seems set on deemphasizing the relationship with China, with few major infrastructure projects currently in the works. However a power struggle in the ruling Alianza País Party has made Ecuador’s political path forward less than clear.
Another blow to troubled Madagascar rare earth mine [11/22/2017]
- German and Singaporean business interests have been attempting to start a rare earth mine on northwestern Madagascar’s Ampasindava peninsula. - According to some scientists, going forward with the project would pose grave long-term threats to local people and the surrounding rainforest, including a protected area home to endangered lemurs and other unique wildlife. - The project has been beset by ownership uncertainty, an ongoing investigation into one of its owners for financial misconduct, and permit delays. - Now its concession, previously valued at over $1 billion, has been reappraised at just $48 million.
Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? [11/21/2017]
- Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. - However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. - For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests [11/17/2017]
- In Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation. - The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss. - With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify.
COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland [11/17/2017]
- The presence of the world’s biggest tropical peatland was recently confirmed in Central Africa. It is the size of England and straddles the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC). - However, conservationists and scientists worry it may be at risk from logging and development. They caution its destruction could release “vast amounts” of carbon emissions. Others say the threats are overblown. - Conservation leaders and representatives gathered this week at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, say protections could exist through REDD+ projects that could give local communities management rights and provide financial incentives for leaving the peat forest intact.
Jane Goodall interview: ‘The most important thing is sharing good news’ [11/17/2017]
- Celebrated conservationist and Mongabay advisor Jane Goodall spoke with Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler for the podcast just before departing for her latest speaking tour (she travels 300 days a year raising conservation awareness). Here we supply the full transcript. - This wide-ranging conversation begins with reaction to the science community’s recent acceptance of her six decade contention that animals are individuals with personalities, and moves on to discuss trends in conservation, and she then provides an update on the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s global projects. - She also challenges trophy hunting as an effective tool for funding conservation (“It’s rubbish,” she says), shares her positive view of China’s quickly growing environmental movement, talks about the key role of technology in conservation, and discusses a range of good news, which she states is always so important to share. - Amazingly, Dr. Goodall reports that JGI’s youth program Roots & Shoots now has perhaps as many as 150,000 chapters worldwide, making it probably the largest conservation movement in the world, with many millions having been part of the program. An effort is now underway to document them all.
The uncertain future of Bogotá’s shantytowns [11/16/2017]
- Colombia’s massive population of internally displaced is second only to Syria, and thousands fleeing violence make homes in the forests outside of cities. - Outside of Colombia’s capital of Bogotá, thousands live in groups of makeshift homes that form a range of communities from villages to shanytowns. - The shanytowns present worsening health and public safety problems, and have a devastating impact on the forests where communities are established and growing.
Alliance of the Bear: Native groups stymie Trump, tar sands pipelines [11/16/2017]
- When Big Oil and Gas invaded rural North America to frack, drill and dig the Alberta tar sands, the firms were met by a scattered opposition from Native peoples who developed a novel strategy: oppose new pipelines to keep fossil fuels from getting to market. - Gradually, First Nations resistance groups in Canada’s East and West joined up with Western U.S. Native groups. Last July, many of their leaders met at a Rapid City, South Dakota Holiday Inn to sign a treaty of alliance against the fossil fuel companies and their ongoing projects. - In recent months, oil and gas projects that indigenous organizers had risen against began to fold, including the Petronas liquid natural gas refinery project in British Columbia, and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline. - In June, the Trump administration removed Endangered protection status for the Greater Yellowstone River Valley grizzly population. The powerful Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion vowed resistance, viewing delisting as both an attack on the sacred bear and as a means of exposing the land over which the bear roams to mining and drilling.
Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar [11/15/2017]
- Officials in Madagascar’s northeastern Sava region say lemur is served illegally in restaurants. - One conservationist says people use a code to order lemur meat. - More than 90 percent of lemur species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Audio: Dr. Jane Goodall on being proven right about animals having personalities, plus updates direct from COP23 [11/15/2017]
- On today’s episode, we speak with the legendary Jane Goodall, who truly needs no introduction, and will have a direct report from the United Nations’ climate talks happening now in Bonn, Germany. - Just before Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler was scheduled to speak with Goodall recently, research came out that vindicated her contention, which she’s held for nearly 60 years, that animals have personalities just like people. So we decided to record her thoughts about that for the Mongabay Newscast. - Our second guest today is Mongabay contributor and Wake Forest University journalism professor Justin Catanoso, who appears on the podcast direct from COP23 to tell us how the UN climate talks are going in Bonn, Germany, what the mood is like amongst delegates, and how the US delegation is factoring into the talks as the Trump Administration continues to pursue a pullout from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood [11/13/2017]
- The Madagascar government has petitioned wildlife regulators under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for permission to sell its stockpiles of seized rainforest wood. - Some campaigners warn that traffickers stand to benefit from any such sale and fear it could herald a “logging boom” in the country’s remaining rainforests. - The CITES committee will consider the proposal at the end of this month.
U.S. subnationals shoulder climate role in Bonn, Trump sidelined [11/13/2017]
- The United States government under Donald Trump now stands alone, a rogue nation. Aligned against it at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, is every other nation in the world – all committed to meeting national emissions goals set in Paris in 2015. - Completely bypassing Trump and the federal government at COP23 is the U.S. subnational delegation, led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. - The U.S. subnational delegation in Bonn represents non-federal actors in 15 states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities. Combined they represent nearly half the U.S. economy. It remains to be seen if the delegation will be formally seated at COP23 as negotiators – a potential slap in the face to Trump’s tiny U.S. State Department delegation. - The U.S. subnationals are committed to keeping America’s Paris goal of a 28 percent reduction in carbon emissions (over 2005 levels) by 2025. Supporters of America’s Pledge say they’re nearly halfway there. But it will take a far bigger push, and deeper cuts, to avoid the threat of escalating climate change, as heatwaves, extreme storms, and sea levels surge.
Trump family planning policy may up population, hurt women, environment [11/10/2017]
- In January, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule, first introduced under Ronald Reagan. It requires foreign NGOs receiving U.S. global family planning assistance to certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” with non-U.S. funds. - According to Marie Stopes International (MSI), the gag rule could result in a minimum of 2.2 million abortions from 2017-2020, with 21,700 women dying as a result. And that only accounts for services lost from MSI. - Research shows that the gag rule is also likely to increase population growth in the developing world by reducing the ability of organizations to provide family planning services. This could endanger the environment in a variety of ways. For example, population growth puts more pressure on forests and wildlife. - A lack of family planning can lead to large families, with women spending more of their time on childrearing, largely leaving them out of any active role in community sustainability and conservation projects, as well as education programs that train them in sustainable livelihoods.
The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands [11/10/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino edges closer to extinction, aggressive interventions have stalled. Even ongoing efforts like ranger protection have been undercut by lack of government support. - As of May, conservation groups are united in their calls to ramp up captive-breeding efforts in Indonesia, but the government has not yet responded. - Frustrated conservationists cite bureaucracy, risk aversion, opaque and arbitrary decisions, and territorial squabbling as barriers to progress — but remain hopeful the government will act in time.
‘Much deeper than we expected’: Huge peatland offers up more surprises [11/09/2017]
- Scientists recently discovered the world’s biggest tropical peatland in the Congo Basin rainforest of Central Africa. The peatland straddles the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. - Roughly the size of England, the massive peatland is estimated to contain more than 30 billion metric tons of carbon — equivalent to three years of global fossil fuel emissions. - When the scientists went back to investigate the peatland further, they discovered the peat along its edges is deeper than they thought. This means it may contain more peat — and, thus, more carbon — than they originally thought. - The scientists are racing to learn more about the peatland as loggers move to fell and drain the forests above it to make way for roads and developments like palm oil plantations. Meanwhile, local communities are hoping for greater protection of the region as government officials try to drum up more support for conservation initiatives at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
From carbon sink to source: Brazil puts Amazon, Paris goals at risk [11/09/2017]
- Brazil is committed to cutting carbon emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, to ending illegal deforestation, and restoring 120,000 square kilometers of forest by 2030. Scientists warn these Paris commitments are at risk due to a flood of anti-environmental and anti-indigenous measures forwarded by President Michel Temer. - “If these initiatives succeed, Temer will go down in history with the ruralistas as the ones who put a stake in the beating heart of the Amazon.” — Thomas Lovejoy, conservation biologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability at George Mason University. - “The Temer government’s reckless behavior flies in the face of Brazil’s commitments to the Paris Agreement.” — Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch. - “There was, or maybe there still is, a very slim chance we can avoid a catastrophic desertification of South America. No doubt, there will be horrific damage if the Brazilian government initiatives move forward in the region.” — Antonio Donato Nobre, scientist at INPA, the Institute for Amazonian Research.
Is anyone going to save the Sumatran rhino? [11/09/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino’s population dwindled, conservationists were locked in a debate about whether resources should be directed toward captive breeding or protecting wild populations. - With captive breeding efforts showing success, and wild populations becoming non-viable, the pendulum has swung in favor of captive breeding. - Experts agree that action is needed now more than ever, but any steps rely on support from the Indonesian government.
Logjam: Inside Madagascar’s illegal-rosewood stockpiles [11/08/2017]
- Over the past six years, Madagascar has spent millions of dollars and devoted countless person hours to figuring out how to dispose of vast stockpiles of highly valuable, illegally logged rosewood, much of it cut from the country’s rainforests following a 2009 coup. - To do so, the government must conduct a comprehensive inventory of the stockpiles, among other requirements issued by CITES. The World Bank has supported the effort with at least $3 million to $4 million in murky ad hoc loans. - The current state of affairs, with untold thousands of rosewood logs still unaccounted for, and tens of thousands more stacked outside government offices, is widely seen as facilitating continued corruption and illicit activity. - This is the sixth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Mapping how to feed 9 billion humans, while avoiding environmental calamity [11/08/2017]
- The “Safety Net” initiative aims to map the best opportunities for conservation and ecosystem restoration globally. - That means incorporating data on variables ranging from species richness to climate trends to deforestation rates for every point on Earth’s surface. - That task is being taken up by a consortium of groups led by RESOLVE, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. - In this interview, RESOLVE’s chief scientist Eric Dinerstein talks about the Safety Net project.
Where, oh where, are the rhinos of Bukit Barisan Selatan? [11/08/2017]
- Some claim a small but viable population of about a dozen rhinos persists deep within the forests of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on Sumatra’s southwestern coast. - Camera traps haven’t captured a single rhino there since 2014, spurring doubts there are any rhinos remaining at all. - The disputed numbers lead to questions about what should happen to any rhinos that might remain in the park — and to the rangers assigned to protect them.
Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left [11/07/2017]
- In 1986, scientists estimated there could be as many as 800 Sumatran rhinos left. That fell to 400 in 1996, then 275 in 2008. - Today the official estimate is 100 rhinos, but almost all experts believe that figure is overly optimistic. - Adding up the minimum estimate for each of the four known wild populations yields a total of just 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left on earth, plus another nine in captivity.
Indigenous forests could be a key to averting climate catastrophe [11/06/2017]
- A new study finds the world’s tropical forests may no longer be carbon sinks, with a net loss of 425 million tons of carbon from 2003 to 2014. Also, 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon is emitted globally from forested areas and land use annually — 4.4 billion metric tons are absorbed by standing forests on managed lands, but 5.5 billion metric tons are released via deforestation and degradation. - As a result, curbing deforestation and degradation is now seen by scientists as a vital strategy for nations to meet the carbon reduction goals set in Paris in 2015, and of averting a catastrophic 2 degree Celsius rise in temperatures by the end of the century. - Other new research finds that indigenous and traditional community management of forests could offer a key to curbing emissions, and give the world time to transition to a green energy economy. In a separate study, Amazon deforestation rates were found to be five times greater outside indigenous territories and conservation units than inside. - “We are a proven solution to the long-term protection of forests, whose survival is vital for reaching our [planetary] climate change goals,” said an envoy of a global indigenous delegation in attendance at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The delegation wants the world’s nations to protect indigenous forests from an invasion by global extraction industries.
Indonesia races against time to save new orangutan species [11/06/2017]
- With an estimated population of less than 800, the newly described Tapanuli orangutan is already at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. - The Indonesian government will come up with a strategy to protect the orangutan, including the establishment of protected forest areas and wildlife sanctuaries. - The government will also review a plan to build a hydroelectric plant in an area with the highest known density of Tapanuli orangutans.
The lure of wild orchids persists in Colombia [11/02/2017]
- Colombia is the top location for orchids in the world, but about 50 percent of the country’s native orchids are threatened. Estimates put the total amount of annual wild orchid trafficking at about $6 billion minimum. - The disappearance of the orchid threatens the stability of countless aspects of the forest, including the loss of specific types of wasps and bees attracted to a specific orchid. - Colombia’s conservation efforts have been harshly criticized by one expert who points out that even Bogota’s botanical garden doesn’t have a permanent orchid exhibition.
Does community-based forest management work in the tropics? [11/02/2017]
- To find out if community-based forest management is effective, we read 30 studies that best represent the available evidence.
(See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, community-based forest management does not appear to make a forest’s condition worse — and may even make it better. - The evidence on socio-economic benefits is mixed, but what research there is suggests that community-based forest management sometimes aggravates existing inequities within communities. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Mining activity causing nearly 10 percent of Amazon deforestation [11/02/2017]
- Scientists have learned that nearly 10 percent of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2015 was due to mining activities. Previously, it was thought to cause just 1-2 percent, but that is because past assessments primarily looked at deforestation caused by the mines themselves, and didn’t account for all the ancillary infrastructure that accompanies the mines. - With mining causing such high levels of deforestation — up to 70 kilometers away from mines — and with the Brazilian government under Michel Temer eager to open vast areas of the Amazon to mining, the researchers say that companies and government need to aggressively address the deforestation issue. - While the new research documented Amazon deforestation due to many ancillary activities, including roads, staff housing and airports, it did not look into the major deforestation brought by
the new hydroelectric dams that often provide energy for mining operations - To address the high level of deforestation caused by mining in the Amazon, Brazil needs to significantly revise its environmental impact assessment process to include ancillary infrastructure up to 70 kilometers away from mines along with related hydroelectric dam construction.
The Eighth Great Ape: New orangutan species discovered in Sumatra [11/02/2017]
- A study indicates what was once assumed to be an isolated population of the Sumatran orangutan is in fact a distinct species. - The Batang Toru orangutan differs from the Sumatran orangutan in morphology, behavior and genetics. Genomic analysis suggests it diverged from other orangutan species 3.4 million years ago. - There are fewer than 800 Batang Toru orangutans in existence, making it the rarest of all the great apes. - It is highly threatened by habitat loss. The study says a hydropower plant planned for the area could affect 8 percent of the species’ remaining forest habitat.
Interoceanic Highway incites deforestation in Peru, threatens more to come [11/01/2017]
- Between July and August, 435 hectares of forest were lost around Iberia, a Peruvian town that has been turned into a deforestation hotspot. - The Interoceanic Highway is threatening forests in eastern Peru’s Amazon rainforest where many residents depend on sustainably harvesting rubber for their livelihoods.
Fish vs. forests? Madagascar’s marine conservation boom [11/01/2017]
- Inspired by early successes in marine conservation, locally controlled fisheries projects have expanded quickly along Madagascar’s 3,000-mile-long coastline over the past 15 years. - Now that growth is poised to skyrocket, with rising interest in fisheries management and conservation from international donors, including a planned injection of more than $70 million by the World Bank. - But the scale of funding for marine conservation has prompted concerns from both small NGOs that already work on fisheries and advocates of terrestrial conservation, who point to the uneven track record of locally controlled fisheries projects around the country. - This is the fifth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Carbon sequestration role of savanna soils key to climate goals [11/01/2017]
- Savannas and grasslands cover a vast area, some 20 percent of the earth’s land surface — from sub-Saharan Africa, to the Cerrado in Brazil, to North America’s heartland. They also offer an enormous and underappreciated capacity for carbon sequestration. - However, the role of forests in storing carbon has long been emphasized over the role of savannas (and savanna soils) by international climate negotiators, resulting in policies such as REDD+ for preserving and restoring forests, with no such incentives for protecting grasslands. - Scientists warn that the planting of trees, such as nonnative eucalyptus in Africa and Brazil, could be counterproductive in the long term, potentially contributing to climate change emissions while harming grassland biodiversity and altering ecosystems. - As participants prepare to meet for the COP23 climate summit in Bonn, Germany next week, grassland scientists are urging that policymakers turn an eye toward savannas, and begin to develop incentives for preserving them and their carbon storing soils. More research is also needed to fully understand the role savannas can play in carbon sequestration.
Checkpoint China: The shadowy world of timber smuggling [10/31/2017]
- Beyond the logistics of moving and selling illegal timber, a former smuggler says he used to pay thousands of dollars in bribes to officials to move his products. - The mobile checkpoints move from place to place, giving Myanmar’s timber management authority the element of surprise. - Sometimes smuggled timber is abandoned, other times the smuggler is captured, surprise search and seizure operations have become a strong deterrent.
Palm oil mounts ‘new offensive’ in Colombia while workers decry labor conditions [10/27/2017]
- Demobilization of the FARC and other militant groups are opening vast areas of Colombia to new development. - Colombia is Latin America’s biggest palm oil producer. Researchers expect the industry will be expanding into these new territories, and are worried about how Colombia’s native ecosystems will fare against new oil palm plantations and how communities will be treated by the industry. - Advocacy organizations say Colombia is facing a grave security crisis for human rights defenders, unionists, community activists, and indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, with more than 120 social leaders reportedly killed so far in 2017. - Mongabay traveled to Magdalena Medio to talk with oil palm plantation workers; they reported dangerous working conditions and deadly retribution from anti-union organizers.
Agroforestry: An increasingly popular solution for a hot, hungry world [10/26/2017]
- Agroforestry integrates trees, shrubs, and crops in a system that functions well together — it covers over 1 billion hectares of land worldwide and its best known examples include shade grown coffee and chocolate. - Indigenous peoples have practiced agroforestry for millennia but this technique is now gaining popularity with farmers everywhere. - Agroforestry mitigates climate change through carbon sequestration and also benefits biodiversity, water cycling, food security, and more. - This is the first in a yearlong series about farmers and communities implementing agroforestry worldwide.
Burning down the house: Myanmar’s destructive charcoal trade [10/26/2017]
- A nearly year-long investigation by Mongabay led to a multi-part reporting project into the illegal production and trade of charcoal in Myanmar. - One route for charcoal sales from Myanmar to China documented by Mongabay could generate as much as $10 million a year in payoffs alone to Burmese government officials. - Charcoal is used to make silicon metal, used to manufacture a massive range of products, from solar panels to the silicon chips used in laptops and other mobile devices. - In this series, reported for Mongabay by investigative journalist Emmanuel Freudenthal with photography and videography by Nathan Siegel, we go behind the curtain to reveal a world of conflicting interests, needs, and loyalties in forest management and conservation.
Building conservation’s brain trust in Madagascar [10/25/2017]
- Foreigners have dominated scientific research in Madagascar, with more than 9 out of 10 publications on biodiversity led by foreigners from 1960 to 2015. - A series of programs aimed at boosting early career Malagasy scientists is now bearing fruit as local researchers take on leadership roles in conservation. - But Madagascar’s higher education system remains weak and deeply under-funded, so that the best chance of rigorous training and support for graduate work often comes through connections overseas. - This is the fourth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
As Northwest salmon economy teeters on brink, Trump gives it a push [10/23/2017]
- Northwest salmon fisheries are in trouble, impacted by warming oceans and overdeveloped, dammed and silted spawning rivers and streams. - Pre-contact indigenous groups in the region once organized their societies around sustainable fishing tribal agreements that worked. More recently, under past presidential administrations, Canadian, US and tribal authorities came together to save the declining salmon fisheries. - Especially successful have been federally funded local, state and tribal programs, administered by NOAA, that protect and restore Northwest spawning streams — an investment in habitat and healthy local economies. - Trump’s 2018 budget would cut all those programs, though for now Congress has restored them. However, politicians and regulators are concerned that Trump’s abandonment of Northwest fisheries and local economies will persist through his administration.
Another Madagascar environmental activist imprisoned [10/20/2017]
- Malagasy authorities have held Raleva, a 61-year-old farmer, in custody since September 27 after he asked to see a mining company’s permits to operate near his village. - His arrest is at least the sixth such case of authorities targeting those opposed to wildlife trafficking or land grabs. - Environmental activists say they face bribes and threats from traffickers on one side, and jail time and fines from the government on the other.
Road building threatens forests, water supplies in Kuala Lumpur area [10/19/2017]
- Construction has begun on the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE), part of a broader plan to create a ring road around Malaysia’s capital. - The road has been controversial from the start, with environmentalists and residents raising concerns about its impact on forests, wildlife, erosion and urban water supplies. - Activists are particularly concerned about the second phase of the project, fearing it will threaten the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, a proposed World Heritage site.
Leading US plywood firm linked to alleged destruction, rights violations in Malaysia [10/19/2017]
- An investigation has found that Liberty Woods, the top importer of plywood in the US, buys wood from a Malaysian company that has faced numerous allegations of environmentally unsustainable logging and indigenous rights violations. - Environmental NGOs have accused the timber industry in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, of clearing too much forest too quickly, polluting streams and rivers and failing to obtain consent to log from local communities. - Satellite imagery analysis in 2013 showed that, between 2000 and 2012, Malaysia had the world’s highest deforestation rate. - In Sarawak, where logging company Shin Yang is based, only 5 percent of forests remain relatively untouched.
‘If it’s going to kill us, OK, we’ll die’: Villagers stand firm as Cambodian dam begins to fill [10/18/2017]
- Cambodia’s largest hydropower project, the Lower Sesan 2 dam, was officially launched late last month. - Experts fear the dam will lead to a 9.3 percent loss of fish throughout the entire Lower Mekong River Basin, a concern Prime Minister Hun Sen has brushed aside. - Thousands of people have already been relocated to make way for the dam, but around 100 families intend to stay on their land, despite intense pressure and the risk of inundation.
Unfair trade: US beef has a climate problem [10/18/2017]
- Across the globe, beef consumption, is seeing rapid growth, fed by cheap imports and served by an industrialized agricultural global trade model that’s been linked to a host of environmental impacts, climate change chief among them. - Beef consumption in previously meat-light countries like Japan presents profit opportunities for the global beef industry. But scientists and activists argue that increasing beef consumption and industrial farm production go against efforts to combat climate change. - President Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a global trade deal, upset the US beef industry’s plans of expanding into lucrative Asian markets, including Japan, calling into question if, or when, a future deal will be signed. - TPP, like other global trade treaties, fails to acknowledge climate change or include mechanisms to curb it. Critics say TPP (which continues to be negotiated by 11 nations) and future trade deals must change radically — protecting not only business and the economy, but the environment.
How small is too small? The uncertain fate of Madagascar’s forest fragments [10/18/2017]
- Madagascar’s total forest cover fell by 40 percent in the second half of the 20th century, but fragmentation of the forests that remained progressed even more quickly. - Conservation groups are working to conserve a number of small fragments. In Ankafobe, the local community has come together to reconnect three scraps of forest and defend them against fire. - The risk that both animates this work and threatens to make it obsolete is that fire, agriculture, or other pressures could reduce the size of these fragments below some basic threshold of ecological viability. - This is the third story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
One man’s quest to save the world’s wildest places: Hansjörg Wyss [10/18/2017]
- A summer spent in Colorado in 1958 prompted Hansjörg Wyss’s life-long commitment to conservation. - As his means increased, Wyss became one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, supporting causes ranging from the arts to social justice to science to conservation. - Much of Wyss’s support of conservation has focused on creating permanent public access to the rugged landscapes of the American West - In recent years Wyss has expanded his efforts to other regions, including the Amazon rainforest, African savannas and forests, and in Romania.
Munduruku standoff against Amazon dam builders potentially explosive [10/17/2017]
- On 13 October, eighty Munduruku warriors and shamans tried to occupy the São Manoel dam on the Teles Pires River in one of the most remote parts of the Amazon. But the government and construction companies had been tipped off in advance. - Thirty armed Public Security National Force police had been flown in and blocked them from entering the site. The Munduruku were met by teargas and flash bombs. They have since left the immediate vicinity, but their demands remain unresolved. - The Munduruku say that the construction firms, to end a July occupation of the dam, had agreed to a September meeting and to apologize for the destruction of two of their most sacred sites — one of them the equivalent of Christian Heaven — and to apologize for collecting and storing sacred urns without proper rituals. - According to the Indians, the performance of these apology rituals is now vital to the survival of the Munduruku as a people, and to the survival of the Amazon itself, but the companies remain adamant in their denial of wrongdoing. Tensions remain high, and many fear more violence could erupt.
‘Then they shot me’: Land conflict and murder in Ucayali, Peru [10/12/2017]
- In September, six people were murdered in Bajo Rayal, Peru. - A conflict over the possession of 450 hectares of forest appears to be the motive behind the killings. - Mongabay Latam went to Bajo Rayal to investigate, and discovered around 300,000 hectares of forest in the region are under dispute and being considered for agricultural conversion.
Indigenous group scores legal victory as dam floods their lands [10/12/2017]
- A brief legal battle related to the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project in western Panama concluded late last month in a rare triumph for indigenous communities who have opposed the dam’s construction for a decade. - The dam’s construction company had accused three Ngäbe-Bugle leaders of instigating project delays and causing financial losses during protests at Barro Blanco’s entrance in July 2015. On September 20, a judge acquitted all three defendants of any wrongdoing. - Nevertheless, the dam is now fully operational and its reservoir has flooded the land of three Ngäbe-Bugle communities. - Leadership of the Ngäbe-Bugle is deeply divided between members who support the dam and those who oppose it, claiming that they had not been adequately consulted prior to the dam’s approval.
Cash for conservation: Do payments for ecosystem services work? [10/12/2017]
- What can we say about the effectiveness of payments for ecosystem services (PES) based on the available scientific literature? To find out, we examined 38 studies that represent the best evidence we could find. - The vast majority of the evidence in those 38 studies was still very weak, however. In other words, most of the studies did not compare areas where PES had been implemented with non-PES control areas or some other kind of countervailing example. - On average, the more rigorously designed studies showed very modest reductions in deforestation, generally of just a few percentage points. Meanwhile, the majority of the available evidence suggests that payments were often too low to cover the opportunity costs of agricultural development or other profitable activities that the land could have been used for. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Trump’s global resorts put profit first, environment last, critics say [10/11/2017]
- Donald Trump’s negative environmental record in Scotland and elsewhere has conservationists concerned in Bali, where Trump firms are developing a major resort and golf facility known as Trump International Hotel & Tower Bali. - Another resort under development, the Trump International Hotel & Tower Lido, a 700-hectare facility including a six-star luxury resort, theme park, country club, spa, villas, condos and 18-hole golf course threatens the nearby Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, one of Java’s last virgin tropical forests. - Mongabay looked into Trump’s claims that he is an environmentalist, winning “many, many environmental awards.” We were able to locate just two — one a local New York award, and another granted by a golf business association. The Trump Organization did not respond to requests to list Mr. Trump’s awards. - Trump’s environmental record as president, and as a businessman, is abysmal, say critics. His attempt to defund the U.S. Energy Star program, they say, is typical of a compulsion to protect his self interest: Energy Star has given poor ratings to nearly all Trump’s hotels, which experts note has possibly impacted his bottom line.
The palm oil fiefdom [10/10/2017]
- This is the first installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. - The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
Conservation in a weak state: Madagascar struggles with enforcement [10/10/2017]
- In the years since Madagascar’s 2009 coup d’état, the area around Ranomafana National Park has faced security threats from illegal gold miners, armed cattle rustlers, and bandits that have made it increasingly difficult to operate parts of the park. - Elsewhere in the country illegal logging and mining, corruption, impunity and other breaches threaten to undermine conservation efforts, and limited funds make enforcement difficult. - The problem underscores a broad challenge for conservationists across Madagascar: how to make progress on a set of environmental goals that depend fundamentally on the rule of law? - This is the second story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Colombia, an example to world, balances conservation and development [10/09/2017]
- Colombia, under the leadership of President Juan Santos, has more than doubled its national conserved area — from 13 million hectares (50,193 square miles) in 2010, to 28.4 million hectares (109,653 square miles) today — an extraordinary achievement for any country.* - In an exclusive interview with Mongabay, Luis Gilberto Murillo, Colombia’s minister of the environment and sustainable development, tells how that goal was achieved, and what it will take to keep those conserved lands and waters protected for all time. - The country, first off, has a constitutional provision which assures that protected areas can’t be dismembered by future incoming administrations. The Santos administration has protected many areas that once were FARC rebel strongholds during the 50-year civil war. - Colombia will need significant international financial assistance if it is to continue conserving land, and also enforcing protections. But, says Murillo, that is only proper since the entire world benefits from Colombia’s efforts to conserve forests, which sequester carbon.
Amazon deforestation linked to McDonald’s and British retail giants [10/04/2017]
- British fast food restaurants and grocery chains, including Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald’s, buy their chicken from Cargill, which feeds its poultry with imported soy, much of it apparently coming from the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado — areas rapidly being deforested for new soy plantations. - A decade ago, Cargill and other global commodities companies agreed to stop buying soy from the Brazilian Amazon and established a Soy Moratorium in the region. - But a recent study showed that Cargill and other companies simply began sourcing their soy purchases from nearby areas, including the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado, a vast area of savanna, part of which is included in Brazil’s definition of Legal Amazonia. - That shift has resulted in rapid deforestation in both areas; a Mighty Earth report revealed that U.S. soy distributor Cargill is a major soy buyer there. Efforts to extend the soy moratorium to the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado have long been opposed by Cargill, despite calls to do so by NGOs, scientists and the Brazilian environment minister.
Even as Trump and Modi clash on energy, India and U.S. are partnering [10/03/2017]
- In the past, and under Pres. Trump and Prime Minister Modi, the U.S. and India have often been at odds environmentally, especially regarding climate change, with the U.S. saying that developing nations need to do more to cut emissions, while India says that the U.S, as biggest historical carbon emitter, must take a primary role. - However, the two countries, under Obama and now under Trump, have quietly done trade agreements to enhance the transfer of liquid natural gas and nuclear power plant technology via sales from U.S. high tech companies to India. - India’s Modi, a proponent of solar energy, was also convinced in talks with Pres. Obama to be a big supporter of the Paris Climate Agreement. Though, with the ascendance of Pres. Trump, and his rejection of the landmark accord, the two countries have again parted ways. - Trump’s plan to renege on a US $2 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF) commitment made by Pres. Obama could somewhat slow India’s drive to quickly embrace green technologies.
Can community forestry deliver for Madagascar’s forests and people? [10/02/2017]
- In recent years “managed resource protected areas”— forests where local people control the use of natural resources — have sprung up across Madagascar, aiming to spark both economic development and conservation, and to include nearby communities in important decision-making. - But the community groups managing these forests often struggle to exert real control over the landscapes they’ve been asked to protect, and complain that promised development assistance has never materialized. - Nevertheless, proponents say the approach can succeed with the right project design, and sufficient funding and support. - This is the first story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
The plight of predators: Q&A with the director of ‘The Hunt: Living with Predators’ [09/25/2017]
- “The Hunt” is a BBC series that showcases the lives of predators around the world. - Several episodes have been nominated for prizes at the 2017 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival taking place this week in Jackson, Wyoming. - Mongabay caught up with series director Rob Sullivan to discuss his work on “The Hunt” – in particular an episode that explores the relationship between predators and humans.
Does forest certification really work? [09/21/2017]
- Based on a review of 40 studies of variable quality, we found that certified tropical forests can overall be better for the environment than forests managed conventionally. - But there wasn’t enough evidence to say if certified tropical forests are better than, the same as, or worse than conventionally managed tropical forests when it comes to people. - We also found that profits and other economic benefits can be hard to come by for certified logging companies working in tropical forests. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Cross currents: Mega-dams and micro-hydro offer two different futures for rural Borneo [09/20/2017]
- Rural villages along the Papar River in Sabah, Malaysia are getting electrical infrastructure for the first time by building micro-hydropower systems. - The proposed Kaiduan Dam would flood the Ulu Papar Valley, displacing villagers in order to provide a water source to the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, and its environs. - Villages share what they have learned about managing their new hydropower systems, and work together to try to block plans for the dam.
Andes dams could threaten food security for millions in Amazon basin [09/19/2017]
- More than 275 hydroelectric projects are planned for the Amazon basin, the majority of which could be constructed in the Andes whose rivers supply over 90 percent of the basin’s sediments and over half its nutrients. - A new study projects huge environmental costs for six of these dams, which together will retain 900 million tons of river sediment annually, reducing supplies of phosphorus and nitrogen, and threatening fish populations and soil quality downstream. - Accumulating sediments upstream of dams are projected to release 10 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, significantly contributing to global warming, and would contaminate waters and the aquatic life they support with mercury. - The construction of these dams should be reconsidered to preserve food security and the livelihoods of millions of people in the Amazon Basin.
What works in conservation? In-depth series starts next week [09/15/2017]
- “Conservation Effectiveness” is a multi-part series investigating the effectiveness of some of the most popular strategies to conserve tropical forests around the world. - The series is the result of a collaboration between Mongabay staff reporters Shreya Dasgupta and Mike Gaworecki, and a team of conservation scientists led by tropical forest ecologist Zuzana Burivalova of Princeton University. - Conservation Effectiveness launches next week.
Communities struggle to save Sabah’s shrinking mangroves [09/13/2017]
- A development plan establishing shrimp farms and timber plantations begun purportedly to reduce poverty in northern Sabah, Malaysia, has attracted criticism from local communities and NGOs, which say the project is ignoring communities’ land rights. - Satellite imagery shows the clearing of large tracts of mangrove forest for shrimp farms. Critics of the development say this is depriving forest-dependent local communities of their livelihoods as well as threatening mangrove wildlife. - Several communities have banded together and are together petitioning the government to officially recognize their rights to the remaining mangroves and prevent further clearing for development.
Why we can’t lose hope: Dr. David Suzuki speaks out [09/11/2017]
- Suzuki on hope: “I can certainly see that people in the environmental movement are being disheartened… [but] we’ve all got to do our little bit… Actually doing something invigorates you.” - On politics: “In many ways, the election of Trump was dismaying, but it has galvanized Americans to oppose him and to get on with reducing carbon emissions.” - The big problem: “[T]he values and beliefs we cling to are driving our destructive path… You can’t change the rules of Nature. Our chemistry and biology dictate the way we have to live.” - The solutions: “We need to enshrine environmental protection in our Constitution… [A]s consumers, we’ve got a big role to play, [and] we’ve also got to be… much more active in the political process.”
REDD+ Africa: looking past Trump’s U.N. proposed climate budget cuts [09/08/2017]
- In March, the Trump administration proposed the elimination in its entirety of the Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI), established by President Obama to integrate climate change funding into U.S. foreign assistance. - Though Congress has yet to finalize a 2018 budget, Trump’s cuts if implemented, would end the GCCI, reducing to zero all U.S. payments to U.N. climate change programs, including the Global Climate Fund (GCF), Global Environmental Facility (GEF); Clean Technology Fund (CTF); and Strategic Climate Fund (SCF). - These losses would impact UN-REDD+ programs (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) in Africa and around the world only to a degree, since many are funded by other nations or supported by private groups. - However, Trump’s proposed cuts, if approved, would impact REDD+ programs in Malawi in the short term, and likely in other countries, if U.S. international climate change funding is not restored.
Community pulls water-thirsty invasive weeds from Ethiopia’s Lake Tana [09/07/2017]
- Lake Tana is Ethiopia’s largest lake, and feeds the Blue Nile. - At several points where tributaries flow into the lake, invasive water hyacinth is soaking up water and choking the shoreline. - A 2012 study found that there were 20,000 hectares of water hyacinth on Lake Tana. In five years, that number doubled.
Zero tolerance of deforestation likely only way to save Amazon gateway [09/07/2017]
- In a new paper, conservationists urgently call for a policy of zero deforestation and sustainable agroforestry in Maranhão, one of Brazil’s poorest states, before its remaining Amazon forests are lost. - The region’s forests are home to unique and endangered species, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), Black bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas), and kaapori capuchin (Cebus kaapori), one of the world’s rarest primates. - It is also inhabited by some of the most vulnerable indigenous groups in the world, including uncontacted indigenous communities. - Though 70 percent of remaining forest lies within protected areas, illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture are persistent problems, threatening already fragmented wildlife habitat and forcing indigenous tribes off ancestral land.
Philippine palm oil plan ‘equals corruption and land-grabbing,’ critics say [08/31/2017]
- With its renewed promotion of what it calls the “Sunshine Industry,” the Philippine government is looking to cultivate another one million hectares of oil palm, 98 percent of which would be on the island of Mindanao. - Proponents say increasing palm oil production will alleviate poverty and armed conflict through large investments from Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean firms and other foreign and domestic companies, and tout potential revenue brought by palm oil’s increasing demand as a food and cosmetic ingredient and biofuel. - But critics worry expansion of the country’s palm oil industry will benefit large companies at the expense of small farmers, forests, and water quality.
Collateral damage: Snow leopards and trophy hunting in Kyrgyzstan [08/31/2017]
- The mountains of Kyrgyzstan provide important connective habitat for endangered snow leopards. - Government-supported hunting of Marco Polo sheep and Siberian ibex is being blamed for depleting the food supply of snow leopards and driving their numbers down. - Ecologists say more animals are being hunted than can naturally reproduce, while government representatives contend the harvest is sustainable. - A bill that would have banned hunting until 2030 was narrowly defeated earlier this year.
‘Ecological disaster’: controversial bridge puts East Kalimantan’s green commitment to the test [08/30/2017]
- Work is currently underway on a bridge and access road that will connect the fast-growing city of Balikpapan with its rural outskirts. - The project is part of a broader government program to transform Indonesian Borneo into an economic powerhouse. - Conservationists have opposed the project since it was launched in 2008, fearing it will disrupt marine life, cut a crucial wildlife corridor and spark land speculation and encroachment along a protected forest.
Bats and viruses: Beating back a bad reputation [08/29/2017]
- Ecologist Merlin Tuttle argues that too much research and media attention is focused on bats based on tenuous links to deadly disease-causing viruses such as Ebola. - Live Ebola virus has never been found in bats, and virologists acknowledge that other animals may be involved. - But scientists have plucked live strains of other dangerous viruses from bats, and researchers argue that continuing to study the association between viruses and bats (as well as other animals) will ultimately help us better prepare for future disease outbreaks.
Indigenous farmers fight eucalyptus damage to water source in Ecuador [08/28/2017]
- In Ecuador’s central Cotopaxi province, massive industrial eucalyptus production is presenting problems for Cotopaxi’s rural economy, which traditionally thrived on flower and broccoli production. - Throughout the Nagsiche River water basin, exotic species like eucalyptus and pine have wreaked havoc on the soil by sucking out tremendous amounts of water. - Frustrated with a lack of assistance from the local government to curb the eucalyptus, 400 community members pooled together funds to purchase these 99 acres and turn them into an unofficial nature reserve. - Over the past 15 years, some stretches of the Nagsiche River have seen their water flow decrease by 40 percent.
Intact forests crucial to Amazon ecosystem resilience, stable climate [08/28/2017]
- Three recent South American studies emphasize the importance of intact forests to healthy habitat and a stable climate — both locally, and at a great distance. - The first study found that forest integrity is crucial for habitat stability and resilience. Degradation makes it harder for Brazil’s Caatinga forest to recover from intensifying drought due to climate change. Protected forests are more resilient against drought. - Another study showed that intense land use change in central Brazil and northern Argentina has resulted in the dry season becoming warmer across South America, with changes in Amazon plant productivity 500 kilometers from the disturbed area. - A third study’s modelling found that major future deforestation anywhere in the Amazon will dramatically reduce rainfall in the Amazon’s southwest — accounting for about 25 percent of the Amazon basin — and the La Plata basin.
Quilombolas’ community land rights under attack by Brazilian ruralists [08/25/2017]
- Four million African slaves were transported to Brazilian plantations. Many fled into the wild, some as far as the Amazon, and established quilombos — runaway slave communities long ignored by the federal and state governments. - Brazil’s 1988 constitution gave the quilombos legal land rights, which were not, however, recognized by the ruralists, an elite of wealthy landholders that coveted the land for agribusiness, mining and other development purposes. - In 2003, the “marco temporal,” requiring Quilombolas to prove that they occupied the land they are claiming both in 1888 (the year slavery was abolished) and in 1988 (the year of the new constitution) was overturned. Quilombos were granted inalienable community land rights. - Now, a long dormant court challenge by the DEM political party has reached Brazil’s Supreme Court, threatening the 2003 landmark ruling, again putting the Quilombolas at risk. Meanwhile, violence is up, with 13 people living in quilombos assassinated this year.
Temer pays back ruralists: opens Brazil, Amazon to mining, say critics [08/24/2017]
- In a victory for transnational and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer this week decreed the opening of a vast national reserve covering 4.6 million hectares in the Amazon to mining. The region contains large conserved areas as well as indigenous communities. - Late last month, Temer also decreed a new Brazilian mining code. Though the code still needs to be approved by Congress, it shifts responsibility for monitoring environmental standards away from government and to the mining companies — a move that risks major mining accidents. - It also replaces the National Department of Mineral Production with a new regulatory agency, the National Mining Agency — a bureau that critics say lacks the teeth and personnel to do the job. - Mining code opponents are also concerned it could weaken protections against mining on indigenous lands. They say that the new mining code and green lighting of mining in the Amazon is pay back for a House of Deputies vote in August to close a criminal investigation of the president for corruption.
Identifying the world’s top biodiversity investment returns [08/21/2017]
- When portions of a previously contiguous forest are carved away, so-called “fragmented forests” are created, and now-isolated species find it increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy and sustainable population. Species in fragmented forests start to head toward extinction within in less than a decade. - Out of 25 global biodiversity hotspots – sites that contain unusually high numbers of endemic plant and animal species and have lost greater than 70 percent of their original habitat – a team of scientists analyzed two forests for habitat restoration study. - The team calculated that the cost to regenerate the locations, two of the most fragmented biodiversity hotspots in the world, at less than $70 million. Under the advised approach, the overall projects could generate one of the highest returns on investment for biodiversity conservation in the world. - The team also notes that the work “could dramatically postpone and likely prevent many forest bird extinctions in these two highly fragmented tropical biodiversity hotspots.”
Modern Fish Act: boon to recreational fishing or risk to U.S. fishery? [08/21/2017]
- The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act sets strict, scientifically adjusted, annual catch limits on U.S. commercial, charter and recreational fisheries in order to sustain saltwater fish stocks, and is seen as a model of fishery management globally. - The Modern Fish Act (MFA), a bill introduced in the U.S. House in April, would do away with limits on recreational fishermen, who argue they have no impact on fishery stocks. Environmentalists, however, say the MFA introduces legal loopholes that would allow for uncontrolled fishing at potentially unsustainable levels that could cause stocks to crash. - Critics also say that the MFA muddies the waters between federal and state management, and allows political and economic considerations to override science in management decisions. The bill is still moving through Congress, and its chances for passage are presently unknown. - The Trump administration has already made moves to undermine scientifically arrived at recreational fishing limits. Its Commerce Department overruled a NOAA limit on the red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico, a ruling experts say could delay the fishery’s recovery.
Kenyans fear proposed Trump cuts could threaten elephants, ranger jobs [08/18/2017]
- In March, President Trump proposed cuts to the 2018 USAID global budget totaling 40 percent, a recommendation Congress isn’t required to follow, but which the legislature won’t likely vote on before October 1st. - As a result, nations in the developing world are in limbo over cuts, and worried they’ll lose vital USAID funds. Trump’s budget is only slated to reduce USAID to Kenya by 10 percent, but officials and NGOs there still fear environmental programs will be slashed. - They worry USAID funds to protect elephants and curb trafficking, to pay community ranger salaries, and to keep East Africa’s only wildlife forensics lab open will be lost. There are no known plans to cut these programs at present, but rumors abound, with many rangers disheartened and “losing motivation to work” according to one observer. - An unnamed U.S. embassy official in Nairobi told Mongabay that the Trump administration has, however, taken one action that could harm environmental research, with 34 visas denied to Kenyan scientists wishing to travel to the United States.
A clouded future: Asia’s enigmatic clouded leopard threatened by palm oil [08/17/2017]
- The clouded leopard is the least well-known of the big cats. Both species (Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diarti) are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN across their ranges. - Clouded leopard habitat falls within three of the world’s top palm oil producing countries: Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. While many questions remain about this elusive species’ ecology, it’s widely believed that palm oil development severely threatens its long-term survival in the wild. - At a recent workshop in Sabah, Malaysia, experts devised a 10-year action plan to help secure the Sunda clouded leopard in the state, where it’s estimated there are around 700 left in the wild. - Biologists who study the species are hopeful that enough time remains to save the species in the long term – if plantations and development take conservation into consideration.
A rich person’s profession? Young conservationists struggle to make it [08/16/2017]
- Mongabay interviewed young conservationists about their experiences launching their careers. - Many of them related similar stories of having to reconsider their career choice as a result of the conservation sector’s tight job market, high educational and experience requirements, and often-temporary entry-level jobs. - To meet prospective employers’ demands for experience, many graduates become stuck in full-time unpaid internships or long-term volunteering. - As a result of these trends, the field of conservation may be hemorrhaging passionate, qualified, and innovative young people.
Colombian shamans want to restore traditional power via national network [08/14/2017]
- A Colombian organization known by the acronym CAAENOC is comprised of 35 elders from across Colombia. - CAAENOC seeks to revive an ancient shamanic network that had existed for thousands of years until the 1600s. - Employing indigenous beliefs in the spiritual realm, shamans in Colombia are attempting to restore the natural balance of the world based on a holistic concept of cosmology, land, memory and justice. - Known as derechos mayores (or higher authority), at the local level, it seeks to restore the traditional place of the shaman within indigenous communities as the political and spiritual leaders of the tribe.
Brazilian firm wants to build new dams in Amazon’s Aripuanã basin [08/10/2017]
- With the bancada ruralista mining / agribusiness lobby in control of the Temer government and Congress, a Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, sees it as an opportune time to revive a shelved plan to build dams in the Amazon’s Aripuanã basin. - The company has asked federal officials to allow viability studies for 3 new dams in this very remote, biodiverse region — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River. - The Inferninho dam, if built, would highly impact the Cinta Larga Indians, the victims of Brazilian-inflicted genocide in the 1960s. The Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve contains one of the world’s five largest diamond reserves, a cause of past violent conflicts. - Moves may be afoot in Congress to end a ban of mining on indigenous lands. If passed, a new law could allow mining on Cinta Larga land, with new mines potentially powered by the new hydroelectric dams. These projects, if built, would likely be a source of intense new controversy and conflict in the Amazon.
Father and son butt heads in decades-long battle over bird tourism site [08/09/2017]
- In their rural Ecuador town, bird watching promises to be an economic and conservation lifeline for the Basantes family and the biodiversity on their land. - Located just outside the capital city of Quito in Pacto province, the family’s 336 acres is at the southernmost tip of the dense rainforest called the Chocó-Darién region. - Convinced that the region’s biodiversity is more valuable than its timber and grazing land, Sergio Basantes has worked hard to convince his family of the same. - Today, the family’s land is a hotspot for bird watching, but power struggles over its future continue between Sergio and his father.
Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link a double-edged sword for environment, wildlife [08/09/2017]
- Work on the East Coast Rail Link, a Chinese-backed cargo and passenger rail project that will connect Peninsular Malaysia’s east and west coasts, commenced August 9. - The project aims to shift traffic from roads to rails, but will also lead to habitat loss and fragmentation in the peninsula’s forested heart. - Developers have adopted mitigation measures, but areas of ecological significance will still be affected.
In Colombia, deforestation gangs run rampant [08/08/2017]
- In Colombia’s southeast Guaviare department, which includes almost 20 percent of the deforested areas of Colombia, harvested wood rots on the ground while gangs and drug traffickers take over the land for illegal mining and agriculture. - A main objective of the deforestation is to confiscate the lands in order to later extort those who want to use the area for mining, agriculture, or ranching. - The land is also developed, as it was between 2012 and 2015, when the number of hectares of coca planted in Guaviare grew from 3,851 to 5,423, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. - The number of timber confiscations in Colombia is staggering: between January and May 2017, police have seized 36,251 cubic meters of wood.
Troubled firm aims to mine Madagascar forest for rare earth elements [08/08/2017]
- A Singaporean company called ISR Capital is working to develop a rare earth mine on Madagascar’s highly biodiverse Ampasindava peninsula. The company faces an investigation by financial regulators and turnover among its top executives. - The mining of rare earth elements needed for cell phones and many other modern devices can have severe environmental and health impacts. This would be the first such mine in Madagascar. - The Ampasindava peninsula is home to a number of threatened lemur species that could be further imperiled if the mining project goes forward, scientists warn. Local farmers and tourism operators oppose the project, fearing it could contaminate land and water.
Road projects threaten Sumatra’s last great rainforests [08/07/2017]
- Local officials currently have plans to build roads in Mount Leuser, Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. - Conservationists fear these plans could accelerate habitat loss and degradation in this highly biodiverse forest complex, which is home to many endangered species. - Proponents of road development cite the need for increased economic opportunities for local people and evacuation routes in case of natural disasters.
Guyana’s road to Brazil presents opportunity and challenge [08/02/2017]
- For those who regularly use Guyana’s Linden-Lethem trail for work, trade, or visiting family, it’s a source of constant frustration. - An 80-mile section of the road, stretching from Linden to Mabura Hill, has been earmarked for rehabilitation. - The Caribbean Development Bank has just approved a grant of $1.06 million to the government of Guyana to fund a feasibility study for the project.
Brazil’s Temer threatens constitutional indigenous land rights [08/01/2017]
- President Temer, influenced by the rural lobby in congress whose votes he needs to not be tried by the Supreme Court on corruption charges, has okayed new criteria meant to delegitimize indigenous land boundary claims, legal experts say. - One rule rejects any indigenous demarcation of land where Indians were not physically present on a traditional territory in 1988, which would disqualify many legitimate claims. - Another allows government to undertake “strategic” public works, such as dams and roads, without indigenous consent, violating the International Labor Organization’s 169 Convention, signed by Brazil. - The administration also introduced a bill likely to be passed by congress that reclassifies 349,000 hectares (1,347 square miles) of Jamanxim National Forest in the Amazon, gutting protections, allowing economic activities — logging, ranching, farming and mining — and legitimizing land grabs there.
What happens after a mining rush? Photographs from Madagascar [07/31/2017]
- Precious and semi-precious stone mines, legal or not, are born, die, and spring back to life all over Madagascar. - Much of the gem mining in Madagascar is unofficial and therefore unregulated, so the immediate impacts are high, both envirnmentally and socially. But people seldom examine the long-lasting effects. - Toward the end of 2016, photoreporter Arnaud De Grave spent several months in the country’s eastern Alaotra-Mangoro region, in an area experiencing a mining recession. - His photos show the toll of mining on people’s lives and the landscape.
Trump budget threatens Zimbabwe climate change resilience programs [07/31/2017]
- President Trump has threatened to cut U.S. aid to developing nations by a third. This could impact Zimbabwe which receives $150 million annually to decrease food insecurity for 2.1 million people. - Aid to Zimbabwe is important to rural farmers, victims of escalating drought due to climate change. USAID finances dams and irrigation projects, making agriculture sustainable. - The 2018 budget isn’t due to be finalized by Congress until October 1, 2017, leaving Zimbabwe’s people in uncertainty as to the direly needed aid. - What seems certain is that the climate resilience program will not be expanded to meet the needs of yet to be served Zimbabwean communities.
Is Norwegian money funding Congo deforestation? [07/28/2017]
- A recent report by conservation NGO Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) is decrying what they say is Norwegian government complicity in funding a project they allege could result in the clearance of vast tracts of Congo rainforest and the release of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - RFUK’s report spotlights a project funded through Norway’s Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) that would increase the area comprised by logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by 20 million hectares. Its analysis found the concessions stand to include 10,000 square kilometers of peat swamp, and if actively logged, could release as much as 3.8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. - Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment says the report is overblown and the situation more complicated than RFUK contends. - Per F. I. Pharo, director of the Government of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, said an amended project proposal is under review and will not be accepted unless various conditions are met: “Among the key recommendations Norway has made to the program document is the importance that the program document should not conclude on important policy choices that should be the product of a thorough and inclusive process at country level.”
Flood hits India’s Kaziranga National Park, killing four rhinos [07/24/2017]
- Annual monsoon floods are a natural part of Kaziranga National Park’s ecosystem but pose multiple threats to animals, including the risk of drowning or getting poached or hit by cars while fleeing rising water. - According to officials, 81 animals have been killed in this year’s flood, including four rhinos. Another 78 animals have been stranded or injured. - Mitigation measures include increased monitoring by rangers, police and drones; closely tracking the speed of vehicles through the park; and the construction of artificial highlands. - Authorities are also considering a controversial proposal to build a road-cum-embankment to prevent floodwaters from inundating the park.
Behind rising rhino numbers in Nepal, a complex human story [07/19/2017]
- The fortunes of the indigenous Tharu people and Nepal’s rhinos have been linked for centuries. - The establishment of Chitwan National Park in 1973 deepened the marginalization the Tharu, evicting thousands from their land and depriving them of access to the forest. - Since the 1990s, conservation groups have been working to develop a community-based conservation model that includes the Tharu. - Other ethnic groups have long remained outside the community conservation model, and have in some cases turned to poaching for income.
Nepal’s rhino numbers rise, thanks to national and local commitment [07/18/2017]
- Nepal’s population of greater one-horned rhinos has fluctuated wildly over the past century. - Widespread in the early 1900s, rhinos were reduced to a few pockets by the 1950s and around 100 individuals in the 1970s. - Conservation efforts boosted the population by the 1990s, but the 1996-2006 Maoist insurgency took a devastating toll. - Numbers are now rising again, a trend attributed to commitment at both the grassroots and the highest levels of government.
Transforming business as usual in Indonesia: an interview with Aida Greenbury [07/17/2017]
- Aida Greenbury is the former Chief Sustainability Officer at Asia Pulp & Paper, a forestry giant with extensive operations in Indonesia. - Greenbury was the lead internal architect for APP’s 2013 forest conservation policy, which is today one of the most ambitious zero deforestation commitments in the plantation sector. - Greenbury left APP in May and is today working on collaborative initiatives to protect and restore ecosystems.
Soy King Blairo Maggi wields power over Amazon’s fate, say critics [07/13/2017]
- Brazil’s Blairo Maggi made a fortune with vast Mato Grosso soy plantations in Legal Amazonia. Today, Amaggi Group, the family company, dominates the nation’s agribusiness sector — profiting from farm commodities, and the roads, railways, and industrial waterways that transport them. - Maggi rose through Brazilian politics, becoming Mato Grosso’s governor, a senator, and today, the Temer administration’s agriculture minister. He is also a leader of the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, that dominates Brazilian government. - Once known as the Soy King, Maggi has often pushed anti-environmental agribusiness policies, including those resulting in major Amazon deforestation, ending indigenous land demarcation, and harmful infrastructure projects putting biodiversity at risk. He has also, paradoxically, worked to end illegal logging and to reduce deforestation. - On Monday, 17 July, Maggi will meet with the Trump administration to urge the U.S. to lift its ban on Brazilian beef, a ban prompted by scandal involving a corrupt federal meat inspection service overseen by his ministry. Maggi was recently accused of corruption by federal Lava Jato investigators. He continues to shape Amazon policies.
Temer signs law that could see millions of acres lost in the Amazon [07/13/2017]
- MP 759, signed into law this week by President Temer, and little noticed by the media, significantly alters Brazil’s Terra Legal program, introduced in 2009 by President Lula — a program that has already been hijacked by land thieves, critics say. - The new law introduces further multiple loopholes to allow land thieves, who have illegally occupied and cleared vast areas of public land in the Amazon, to legalize their land holdings, and to do so both easily and cheaply. - MP 759, among other things, increases the land claimable via Terra Legal from 1,500 to 2,500 hectares; allows wealthy land thieves to go on paying very little for land; and offers what in practice is an amnesty for land grabbers who illegally seized public lands between 2004 and 2011. - With government regulatory and enforcement agencies hard hit by massive budget cuts, analysts fear that the passage of MP 759 will result in an alarming increase in rural violence, which is already running at very high levels.
Trump’s policies could put Cambodia’s environment on chopping block [07/11/2017]
- Under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, Cambodia could experience a 70 percent cut in aid from the United States. - For Cambodia, this would mean a combined cut of $11.7 million from the budgets of the U.S. State Department and USAID, with the latter involved in a host of projects meant to help sustain and protect the Cambodian environment and help curb and adapt to climate change. - Trump’s isolationism and “America First” policies could create a political vacuum in Southeast Asia, with China stepping in to replace the U.S., with major repercussions. China has historically been less transparent and less concerned about environmental impacts in nations where its government and corporations are at work. - Trump’s authoritarian and anti-environmental policies are possibly being interpreted as a green light by autocratic leaders in the developing world. Cambodia, for example, has lately stepped up dissident arrests and sought transnational corporate partnerships to build large infrastructure projects — such projects often see high levels of corruption and do major environmental harm.
Sand mining, land reclamation meet fierce resistance in Makassar [07/10/2017]
- The South Sulawesi government plans a massive land-reclamation project, known as Centre Point Indonesia, that will create five artificial islands off the coast of the provincial capital, Makassar. - The project is estimated to require around 22 million cubic meters of sand and gravel, which will be mined on- and offshore in nearby districts. - Local fishing communities have rejected — and attempted to physically prevent — sand mining, which they fear will destroy their livelihoods. - The project also faces a lawsuit alleging work commenced without required documentation — including a permit from the fisheries ministry and a valid Environmental Impact Assessment.
A spotty revival amid decline for China’s endemic leopards [07/07/2017]
- The North China leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) is one of nine leopard subspecies and an endemic to China. - The cats’ population has shown signs of revival in certain parts of the country in recent years, according to conservation groups - However, industrial development and infrastructure construction remain major threats to the integrity of the leopards’ habitat and conflicts with people over livestock in their mountainous territories are intense.
African great ape bushmeat crisis intensifies; few solutions in sight [07/07/2017]
- Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos are all Critically Endangered or Endangered, and continue to decline toward extinction due to habitat loss and degradation, disease, and illegal hunting. - Great ape poaching, which supplies growing urban and rural bushmeat markets, is now at crisis levels across Central Africa, and despite conservationists’ efforts, is showing no sign of slowing down. - Vast networks of logging roads, modern weapons, cell phones, cheap motorized transportation, and high demand for wild meat in urban centers is driving the booming bushmeat market. - Africa’s great ape sanctuaries rescue some survivors, and active outreach to local communities offer a partial solution. Educational programs for children and adults, teaching the value of great apes, are seen as essential.