Four new toads discovered in Sumatra [09/21/2017]
- Scientists discovered four new species of toads who, unlike their cousins, live isolated in the highlands of Sumatra. - The four toads are distinguishable from one another by their skin patterns, limb shapes and voices. - In the wake of the discovery, one of the researchers called on the Indonesian government to strengthen the monitoring of harvesting quotas for toad exports so that scientists can keep track of its population in the wild.
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.
Amazon dam defeats Brazil’s environment agency (commentary) [09/20/2017]
- The term “controversial” is inadequate to describe the São Manoel Dam. - It is located only 700 m from the Kayabí Indigenous Land and has already provoked a series of confrontations with the indigenous people. - As with other dams, São Manoel can be expected to negatively affect the fish and turtles that are vital food sources for the Kayabí, Munduruku and Apiacá indigenous groups. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Audio: Legendary musician Bruce Cockburn on music, activism, and hope [09/19/2017]
- Music has a unique ability to inspire awareness and action about important issues — and we’re excited to welcome a living legend onto the program to discuss that very topic. - Bruce Cockburn, well known for his outspoken support of environmental and humanitarian causes, appears on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast. - Our second guest is Amanda Lollar, founder and president of Bat World Sanctuary, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Texas. - All that plus the top news!
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.
Belo Monte dam installation license suspended, housing inadequacy cited [09/19/2017]
- A federal court has suspended the installation license of the Belo Monte mega-dam in the state of Pará, Brazil. The dam, slated to have the world’s third-largest generating capacity, became operational in 2015, but won’t see construction finished until 2019. - The court ordered further construction halted until Norte Energia met the commitments it made in 2011 to provide adequate housing for those displaced by the dam, including indigenous and traditional people that had been living along the Xingu River. - Among commitment violations cited were houses built without space for larger families, houses built from different materials than promised, and homes constructed too far from work, schools and shopping in Altamira, a city lacking a robust public transportation system. - The consortium continues to operate the dam, as its operating license has not been suspended.
Indigenous victory: Brazil’s Temer decrees 1.2 million Amazon reserve [09/18/2017]
- In a rare recent victory for Brazil’s indigenous people, President Temer has established the 1.2 million hectare Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state. - While NGOs and indigenous groups applaud the move, they note that the region has not been claimed by the Temer-backed ruralists, agribusiness and mining interests, who have aggressively disputed indigenous claims to ancestral lands in the southern Amazon region. - Two weeks ago, Temer reversed a decree establishing the 532-hectare indigenous Territory of Jaraguá in São Paulo state, ancestral home to 700 Guarani Indians. As a result, the indigenous group has now been squeezed into a reserve covering just 1.7 hectares. - Brazil also just established the 5,200-hectare Indigenous Territory of Tapeba, near Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern state of Ceará. These indigenous victories do not seem to indicate a shift away from Temer’s wave of initiatives undermining indigenous land rights.
Oil palm firms advance into Leuser rainforest, defying Aceh governor’s orders [09/18/2017]
- The government of Indonesia's Aceh province has banned land clearance for oil palm development inside the Leuser Ecosystem. - However, deforestation is still ongoing as some companies ignore the moratorium. - During the first seven months of 2017, Leuser lost 3,941 hectares of forest cover, an area almost three times as large as Los Angeles International Airport, watchdogs say.
Does social forestry always decrease deforestation and poverty? (commentary) [09/17/2017]
- Many governmental and non-governmental organizations see community forestry in Indonesia as a new approach to reducing environmental degradation and increasing social welfare. Despite a decade of experimentation with the concept, very little is known, however, about actual impacts. - Studies by the Monitoring and Evaluation of Social Forestry program (MEPS) reveal that Village Forest (Hutan Desa) areas reduce deforestation in forests allocated for watershed protection and limited timber extraction - In forest allocated to normal timber production and conversion, Hutan Desa areas, however, have higher deforestation than comparable forests not managed by communities. Community forestry can achieve positive outcomes, but not everywhere. The government needs to take this insight on board to help in allocating licenses and investments for this scheme. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Local approaches to conservation may be the most effective, study finds [09/15/2017]
- Researchers compared deforestation and forest degradation rates in areas of the Peruvian Amazon that were unprotected to those protected through government and local management. - They found, on average, locally led conservation initiatives proved more successful in preserving forests than those that are government-managed. - The study adds to mounting evidence that letting local and indigenous communities officially manage their forests may often be a highly effective way to conserve them. - However, official recognition of land rights often stands in the way of community-based conservation initiatives. The researchers urge the process be simplified so that more indigenous territories can be established and managed by the people who live in them.
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.
Amazon mining unleashed (commentary) [09/15/2017]
- On August 23, 2017, Brazil’s president Michel Temer issued a decree revoking the RENCA, an area the size of Switzerland in the Amazon. - The Ministry of Environment had not been consulted and Brazil’s environmentalists and public were caught by surprise - A firestorm of criticism in Brazil and abroad led Temer to “revoke” the decree on August 28th and replace it with a new one. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Pygmy death shows need for land reform, group says [09/15/2017]
- The shooting death of a Pygmy native in the Democratic Republic of Congo is putting park rangers there under the microscope. - The rangers in the country's protected areas are employed by a semi-government entity in charge of protected areas, the ICCN. - Local Pygmy groups and some advocacy organizations say the shooting proves that proper access to the forest is crucial to their way of life and safety.
Ecologist wins Heinz environment prize for airborne mapping that informs policy [09/14/2017]
- Ecologist Greg Asner of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory will receive a $250,000 award from the Heinz Family Foundation for his work to map rainforests and coral reefs around the world. - Lawmakers and other key decision-makers use Asner’s research to guide policy in the United States, South America and Southeast Asia. - Asner said he intends to put the funds toward marine education and outreach in Hawaii, where he began his career.
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.
Transformance: Finding common ground in the Amazon (commentary) [09/12/2017]
- The Fórum Bem Viver (Good Life Forum) met earlier this month to bring together indigenous leaders, military police, a federal judge, television actors, musicians, journalists, scientists and activists from eight countries and 14 Brazilian states. - The event, organized by the eco-cultural education nonprofit Rios de Encontro, utilized arts performances and workshops to seek common ground between participants regarding sustainable solutions in the Amazon. - The event was held in Marabá, Pará state, which is home to the Carajás mine, the world’s largest iron ore mine, and the community sits beside the Tocantins River where a dam is proposed upstream. - Participants sought solutions for turning Marabá into an “example of sustainable development for the Amazon, the Americas, and the world.” This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Jackson Hole Film Festival finalist Q&A: “Yasuni Man” [09/12/2017]
- The Jackson Hole Film Festival is considered to be the “Oscars of nature filmmaking” and had over 1,000 entries for 25 awards. - One of those entries, "Yasuni Man," is the story of a tribe in the Ecuadoran Amazon that lives in harmony with nature yet is constantly under threat from different intruders to the rainforest. - Filmmaker and film festival finalist Ryan Patrick Killackey talks to Mongabay about motivation, inspiration, and saving the planet's biodiverse places.
Central Africa’s ivory trade shifts underground, according to new report [09/12/2017]
- A series of undercover investigations by the NGO TRAFFIC over several years in five Central African countries has revealed a shift in the region from local markets for ivory to an ‘underground’ international trade. - The resulting report, published Sept. 7, finds that organized crime outfits, aided by high-level corruption, are moving ivory out of Central African to markets abroad, especially in China and other parts of Asia. - A 2013 study found that elephant numbers in Central Africa’s forests dropped by 62 percent between 2002 and 2011.
Javan rhinos face human incursions into their last remaining habitat [09/11/2017]
- Only around 60 Javan rhinoceroses are believed to remain, all of them in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park. - Authorities have caught dozens of people hunting, gathering forest products and planting crops in the park, including the recent arrest of 13 people in core rhino habitat. - Despite the challenges, the population is believed to be stable and calves continue to be born.
Uncontacted Amazon indigenous groups reportedly attacked by outsiders [09/11/2017]
- Brazil is investigating possible violent incidents between illegal miners and farmers and two uncontacted indigenous groups in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory in Amazonas state bordering Peru. - One alleged case involved gold miners operating dredges illegally on the Jandiatuba River, a tributary of the Solimões. - In a second case, villagers in Jarinal, a Kanamari community on the Jutai River reported an attack against a Wakinara Djapar group, possibly carried out by people farming illegally in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory. - Both reports are under investigation, but so far no solid evidence confirming the attacks has been produced. FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous services agency, has been hampered in enforcing protections of uncontacted groups due to drastic budget reductions. This year, the Temer administration cut the agency’s operating budget by nearly 50 percent.
Deforestation in Cambodia linked to ill health in children [09/11/2017]
- A new study has found that the loss of dense forest cover in Cambodia is associated with an increased risk of diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and fever in children younger than five years. - Just a 10 percentage increase in the loss of dense forest around Cambodian households was associated with a 14 percent increase in the rate of diarrhea among children, the researchers found. - In contrast, a higher coverage of protected areas around the households was linked to a lower incidence of diarrhea and acute respiratory infection in children.
A lingering ‘legacy’: Deforestation warms climate more than expected [09/08/2017]
- Tropical deforestation results in the release of not only carbon dioxide but also methane and nitrous oxide, leading to greater-than-anticipated warming of the global climate. - The study compared emissions from land conversion with those from burning fossil fuels for energy and other sources. - The researchers found that tropical deforestation at current rates could cause a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100.
Three years after the tragedy of Saweto, where is the justice and security? (commentary) [09/08/2017]
- Three years ago this month, my friends Edwin Chota and Jorge Ríos were assassinated along with Francisco Pinedo and Leoncio Quintícima as they hiked through their homelands in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest along the border with Brazil. - This summer I returned to their community of Saweto and hiked the path where they died. The community now holds legal title to their homelands, but their situation is far from secure. Illegal loggers continue to operate in their territory. - If the most famous titled community in Peru has neither territorial security nor sustainability two years after receiving title, how will the scores of other recently titled communities fare? - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
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 it’s 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.
Audio: Technologies that boost conservation efforts right now and in the future [09/06/2017]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we take a look at the role technology is playing — and might play in the future — in conservation efforts. - Our first guest is Topher White, the founder of Rainforest Connection, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that has deployed upcycled cell phones in tropical forests around the world to provide real-time monitoring of forests and wildlife. - Our second guest is Matthew Putman, an applied physicist with a keen interest in conservation. Putman is CEO of Nanotronics, a company headquartered in Brooklyn, NY that makes automated industrial microscopes used by manufacturers of advanced technologies like semiconductors, microchips, hard drives, LEDs, and aerospace hardware.
Indigenous communities resist Chinese mining in Amazonian Ecuador [09/05/2017]
- Last weekend, a tribunal held by indigenous communities in Gualaquiza, in the Amazon headwaters region of Ecuador, accused the nation’s first large scale mining operation of major human and environmental abuses. - The Mirador and Panantza-San Carlos open-pit copper mines are run by Ecuacorriente S.A. (ECSA) and owned by the Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan. The two mines are located in the Cordillera del Cóndor region and within the Shuar indigenous territory. - Charges lodged against the government and Chinese consortium include displacement of 116 indigenous people, the razing of the town of San Marcos de Tundayme, escalating violence including the death of Shuar leader José Tendetza, discrimination, intimidation, threats, and worsening environmental degradation. - President Lenin Moreno’s administration has so far made no response to the Gualaquiza accusations or the demand for redress of grievances filed by the tribunal’s leaders.
Saving the Serranía de San Lucas, a vital link in the ‘jaguar corridor’ [09/01/2017]
- The Serranía de San Lucas in Colombia’s department of Bolivar is an area of renowned biodiversity. Due to the country’s long-running conflict the region has not yet been fully explored and scientists believe a “treasure trove” of undiscovered species may be lying in wait. - The mountain massif is also key to the “jaguar corridor,” a habitat link that connects Central American jaguar populations to those in South America. - But San Lucas is also home to some of Latin America’s richest deposits of gold. Mining for gold has damaged the region’s lowlands, releasing mercury into the surrounding environment. In 2014, two jaguar canines were found to contain mercury. - The race is on to protect the area through establishing it as a national park. Proponents of the initiative say doing to would help maintain its rich biodiversity and ensure it retains viable habitat for jaguars and other wildlife.
‘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.
Temer’s Amazon mining decrees derided by protestors, annulled by judge [08/30/2017]
- In a seeming win for Canadian and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer on August 23rd abolished a vast Amazonian national reserve — the Renca preserve, covering 4.6 million hectares — and opened the region up to mining. - The reserve, straddling Pará and Amapá states, contains large preserved areas and indigenous communities. Temer’s original Amazon mining decree was met with widespread condemnation, resulting in a second clarifying decree on August 28th. - On August 29th, federal judge Ronaldo Spanholo annulled both decrees, citing Brazil’s 1988 constitution, and ruling that the Renca preserve may not be abolished by presidential order but only legislative action. The Brazilian Union´s General Advocate said it will appeal the judge´s decision. - BBC Brasil reported that Canadian mining companies, who would likely profit from the Renca preserve´s abolishment, were notified that the region was going to be opened up for prospecting last March, five months before the original decree was issued.
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.
Samsung under fire for partnership with forest-burning Korindo [08/25/2017]
- Ahead of the launch of its new cell phone, Samsung was handed a petition with tens of thousands of signatures asking it to end its joint venture with Korindo, a conglomerate that has cleared thousands of hectares of rainforest in Indonesia's Tanah Papua region. - Samsung has partnered with Korindo in the logistics sector. It has a direct stake in the oil palm sector via its partnership with Ganda Group, another Indonesian palm oil company. - After Mighty, the NGO that set up the petition, exposed Korindo's practices in a report last year, the company said it would stop clearing forest until sustainability assessments could be undertaken.
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.
‘Yoda bat’ happy to be recognized as new species [08/23/2017]
- A new fruit bat species found in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea and described in the Records of the Australian Museum this month resembles Yoda closely enough that it has actually been referred to simply as the “Yoda bat” — at least until now. - Acccording to Nancy Irwin, author of the study describing the species, the name Hamamas or "happy" tube-nosed fruit bat was chosen because "Most of the morphological characteristics that separate this bat from other species are associated with a broader, rounder jaw which gives the appearance of a constant smile.” - The bat was given its scientific name, N. wrightae, in honor of conservationist Deb Wright, who spent two decades building conservation programs and long-term scientific capacity in Papua New Guinea.
These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid? [08/23/2017]
- The Indonesian government has been trying to collect penalties from three companies found guilty of damaging the environment. - One of the companies is PT Kallista Alam, an oil palm plantation firm convicted of cut-and-burning rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem. - Another is PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, a timber plantation firm that was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars for illegal logging. - The government plans to establish a task force for the express purpose of collecting the penalties.
Deforestation from gold mining in Peru continues, despite gov’t crackdowns [08/22/2017]
- A team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science found that, between 1999 and 2016, gold mining expansion cost the region 4,437 hectares (10,964 acres) of forest loss per year. - Miners were working an area in 2016 that was 40 percent larger than it was in 2012. - The findings, along analyses by ecologists at the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, indicate that increased enforcement by the Peruvian government has slowed the rate of deforestation.
Audio: A rare earth mine in Madagascar triggers concerns for locals and lemurs [08/22/2017]
- Our first guest on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Eddie Carver, a Mongabay contributor based in Madagascar who recently wrote a report about a troubled company that is hoping to mine rare earth elements in a forest on the Ampasindava peninsula, a highly biodiverse region that is home to numerous endangered lemur species. - Carver speaks about the risks of mining for rare earth elements, how the mine might impact wildlife like endangered lemur species found nowhere else on Earth, the complicated history of the company and its ownership of the mine, and how villagers in nearby communities have already been impacted by exploratory mining efforts. - Our second guest is Jo Wood, an Environmental Water Project Officer in Victoria, Australia, who plays for us the calls of a number of indicator species whose presence helps her assess the success of her wetland rewetting work.
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."
Indigenous groups win key land rights victory in Brazil’s Supreme Court [08/17/2017]
- In a victory for Brazil’s indigenous groups, the Supreme Court Wednesday decided against the claims of Mato Grosso state, which wanted compensation for Indian reserves established in that state by the federal government. - Mato Grosso argued that the land on which the reserves were established belonged to the state, but the Court decided on the side of indigenous people, noting in one case that the Indians had been living on the territory that became a reserve for 800 years. - Indirectly, this week’s court decisions undermine a measure recently signed by President Temer, and backed by the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, known as the “marco temporal.” - The marco temporal sets an arbitrary 1988 date for Indian occupations as a legal basis for all indigenous land claims. The court, in its rulings, based its decision on far longer ancestral territory occupation. It’s likely Temer and the rural caucus will continue pushing marco temporal, or similar strategies to delegitimize indigenous land claims.
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.
New study: Bird species blossom in stable climates [08/17/2017]
- A team of scientists from Sweden and the United States found that more bird species inhabit stable climates. - The finding runs counter the hypothesis that a changing climate induces the evolution of species. - That could mean that these bird species will be less adapted to upticks in temperature as part of current climate change. - But the stability of these climates could also protect the species living there since they’re not expected to warm as much as more seasonal areas.
Mammal numbers high in logged tropical forests, study finds [08/16/2017]
- The study quantified mammal numbers in forests and landscapes with varying degrees of human impact in Malaysian Borneo. - Across 57 mammal species recorded with live and camera traps, the average number of all animals combined was 28 percent higher in logged forests -- where hunting wasn’t an issue -- compared to old-growth forests. - The findings demonstrate the importance of conserving degraded forests along with more pristine areas.
International investment blamed for violence and oppression in Sarawak [08/15/2017]
- Land rights activist Bill Kayong was shot dead last year in Miri, Sarawak. Representatives of a palm oil plantation company were charged with his murder, but were later acquitted. - Their acquittal was denounced by many observers, who see it as yet another blow against indigenous communities in the fight for their land. - NGOs in Sarawak and around the world report failures by the Sarawak government to uphold indigenous land rights, and failures by international banks and investors to ensure their investments are conflict-free. - Investigators urge more accountability when it comes to international financing of development ventures. They also say retail customers could “act as change agents and raise the bar for banks’ respect for indigenous rights."
Protecting a forest in the land of the Indonesian deer-pig [08/15/2017]
- In a village in the northern part of Indonesia's giant Sulawesi island, hunters pursue rare animals that are protected by the law. - A local affiliate of NGO BirdLife International is working with locals to preserve the Popayato-Paguat forest block — and the dozens of endemic species within. - The NGO is facilitating an ecosystem restoration project in the forest block.
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.
Brazil’s Indians on the march in last ditch effort to stop land theft [08/14/2017]
- Last week, indigenous organizations and civil society bodies demonstrated widely against what they see as the Brazilian government’s on going moves to reduce Indian land rights, and to demand the government open a dialogue with indigenous representatives. - Of greatest concern is President Temer’s recommendation to approve the “marco temporal” a 1988 cut-off date for Indian occupation of traditional lands. - Critics say the marco temporal is designed to deny indigenous land rights guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, while legalizing claims of land thieves and wealthy elite ruralists who have long hungered for control of Indian lands. - Brazilian Supreme Court rulings that will help determine the legality of the marco temporal are expected this Wednesday, 16 August.
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.
Monkey rediscovered in Brazil after 80 years [08/09/2017]
- An Ecuadorian naturalist collected the bald-faced Vanzolini saki in 1936 along the Eiru River. His record was the first and last known living evidence of the species. - In February 2017, an expedition called Houseboat Amazon set out to survey the forest along the Juruá River and its tributaries, with the hopes of finding the Vanzolini saki. - After just four days, the team spotted one leaping from branch to branch in a tall tree by the Eiru River. - The saki's habitat is still fairly pristine, but the scientists worry its proximity to Brazil's "arc of deforestation" and hunting pressure may threaten the species in the future.
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.
First real test for Jokowi on haze as annual fires return to Indonesia [08/08/2017]
- Land and forest fires have broken out in pockets of Indonesia since mid-July. - Last year the country caught a break, when a longer-than-normal wet season brought on by La Niña helped mitigate the fire threat. - This year, hotspots have started appearing in regions with no history of major land and forest fires, like East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh. - The government has responded by declaring an emergency status as well as deploying firefighters.
HydroCalculator: new, free, online tool helps citizens assess dams [08/07/2017]
- With mega-dams planned globally, especially in the Amazon and Mekong, the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), an NGO, has developed a new free tool for evaluating a planned dam’s economic viability, greenhouse gas emissions and more. - The HydroCalculator estimates the net economic value of a proposed dam, with and without the cost of greenhouse gas emissions factored in, number of years required before a project generates a profit, and years until net emissions become negative. - The tool has been used by CSF, International Rivers, and a development bank and found to be very useful. Its forecasts have been tested against the economic viability and carbon emissions of existing dams, and found accurate. - The HydroCalculator is meant for use by communities, researchers and activists who are often closed out of the technical dam planning process. It is available free online.
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.
Why the Suy’uk are fact-checking their Dayak origin myth [08/04/2017]
- The Suy'uk are one of Indonesia's hundreds of indigenous groups. They live in western Borneo. - Like many communities, the Suy'uk are mapping their lands in the wake of a landmark decision by Indonesia's highest court that took indigenous peoples' forests out of state control. - The government has dragged its feet in implementing the ruling, but mapping is seen as a prerequisite before indigenous groups can claim their rights.
Greater collaboration between companies and governments necessary to enhance climate action, report finds [08/03/2017]
- A new report released by the NGOs Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Forest Trends (FT) last week consists of case studies on how companies are working with the governments of Brazil and Indonesia, which together accounted for nearly 40 percent of total tropical deforestation in 2014, to achieve their shared goals around forests and the climate. - The authors of the report write that greater collaboration between corporations, governments, and other stakeholders is crucial to actually meeting climate change mitigation goals: “Considering the common goals of companies, governments, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, it is imperative to identify opportunities for collaboration to harness synergies between initiatives and catalyze action.” - In Brazil, for instance, several companies that have adopted Zero Deforestation Commitments are also collaborating with the government and NGOs in initiatives like Mato Grosso state’s Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) program, which aims to decrease deforestation levels, boost reforestation efforts, and push for more sustainable agricultural and livestock production.
Study examines sex-specific responses of Neotropical bats to habitat fragmentation [08/02/2017]
- While scientists have long known that males and females of some species use their habitat in different ways, the various responses to habitat destruction that are sex-specific are less well understood. - Research published in the journal Biotropica this month looked at the different responses to the effects of fragmentation exhibited by male and female individuals of Seba's Short-tailed Bat (Carollia perspicillata) and the Dwarf Little Fruit Bat (Rhinophylla pumilio), both fruit-eating bats native to the Neotropics. - Researchers captured more than 2,000 bats of the target species in eight forest fragments of various sizes and nine control sites at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, a research forest about 80 kilometers north of Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon. - The authors of the study write that their results align with those of previous research in temperate areas, where male and female bats have been found to differ in their responses to habitat degradation at the local and landscape level.
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.
Five instances in which Peru won the battle against deforestation [08/02/2017]
- The main activities that have threatened forests in these areas include illegal gold mining and the advancement of industrial agriculture. - Satellite images show deforestation for large oil palm and cacao plantations in central and northern Peru is no longer expanding. - Illegal mining-driven deforestation within Amarakaeri Communal Reserve and Tambopata National Reserve has ceased.
US retailers halt sales of hardwood flooring linked to illegal logging in PNG [08/01/2017]
- A report released today by London-based NGO Global Witness has prompted major US retailers to discontinue sales of exotic wood flooring linked to illegal logging in Papua New Guinea (PNG). - Global Witness reports that an investigation into the 9,000-mile-long chain of custody that timber travels on its way from PNG to Chinese factories and ultimately store shelves in the United States determined that as much as one-third of the wood exports coming from the South Pacific nation in recent years was produced by clear-cutting rainforest concessions that local communities say were granted to logging companies in violation of their rights under PNG law. - The majority of timber produced in PNG is shipped to China and turned into flooring, furniture, and plywood, among other products, much of which is sold domestically. But the US buys $15 billion-worth of wood products from China every year, more than any other country. - Many Chinese companies don't do their due diligence, Global Witness reports, putting US companies at significant risk of violating the Lacey Act.
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.
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."
Five promising stories for Global Tiger Day [07/28/2017]
- Since the last Global Tiger Day in 2016, researchers have discovered tiger populations in unexpected areas, such as forested corridors along riverbanks and in areas that recently served as theaters of war. - Several countries have worked to protect the tigers that live within their borders, including the creation of a massive national park and taking steps to end tiger farming. - Camera trap surveys continue to prove invaluable to wildlife researchers in tracking down tigers and other species that can range over huge areas.
Landless Workers Movement protest occupies farms of Brazil’s elite [07/28/2017]
- This week, Brazil’s internationally recognized Landless Workers Movement (MST) launched a coordinated protest against corruption, with thousands of its members occupying six farms affiliated with government officials and Brazil’s wealthy elite. - Farms were occupied by hundreds of protesting landless families in the states of Mato Grosso, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paraná and Minas Gerais. - One occupation occurred on a soy farm owned by the Amaggi Group and affiliated with Brazilian agriculture minister Blairo Maggi. Another occurred on the farm of João Baptista Lima Filho, a close friend of President Temer. Both Lima Filho and Temer are under investigation for alleged corruption. - At present, neither federal nor state authorities have made any known moves to end the occupations.
Amazonian city drags down fish stocks in 1,000-kilometer shadow [07/28/2017]
- A study of tambaqui, a popular table fish, in the Brazilian Amazon found that fish caught near the city of Manaus are half the size of those upriver. - Boats that buy the fish have brought the demand into the forest surrounding the city, and with holds full of ice, they’re able to travel further to bring tambaqui back to Manaus’ markets. - The fishers living in the relatively pristine forest along the Purus River reported that tambaquie are smaller and harder to catch than they were previously, a trend extended 1,000 kilometers from Manaus, the researchers found.
First ‘intrusions’ into unbroken forests drive pulses of biodiversity loss [07/28/2017]
- The study examined ‘initial intrusions’ into tropical forests and their effect on the threat status of species. - The researchers found that deforestation at current rates in high-priority areas such as Borneo, the Congo Basin, and the Amazon could push 121 to 219 species closer to extinction in the next 30 years. - While the authors point out that their conclusions are not a call to protect only intact landscapes, the data could help policymakers working with limited resources to decide where to place new protected areas.
Study links most Amazon deforestation to 128 slaughterhouses [07/27/2017]
- A new study by the NGO Imazon finds that just 128 slaughterhouses process 93 percent of cattle raised in the Brazilian Amazon. The areas of influence supplying the herds to those plants coincide with where the most Amazon deforestation occurs. - The total pasture area, or zone of influence, corresponding to the 128 slaughterhouses provided an 88 percent match with the deforested area that occurred in the Amazon between 2010 and 2015. - Based on a probability map created by the study, a 90 percent match was also found between the 128 slaughterhouse zones of estimated cattle supply and the Amazon areas projected to have a higher risk of new deforestation in future. - The study adds weight to the idea that the most effective deforestation enforcement strategy is not to regulate the Amazon’s 400,000 ranchers and farmers, but for government to enter into effective deforestation enforcement partnerships with the slaughterhouses.
Proposed Colombia dam threatens to wipe out endangered plants, disrupt river [07/26/2017]
- A proposed $800 million dam in northwestern Colombia would provide 352 megawatts of electricity annually. - The dam is sited in the Samaná Norte River, which scientists are just starting to survey after being barred due to conflict. A recently discovered, critically endangered species of palm, Aiphanes argos, is highly threatened by the dam. Its discoverer says that flooding caused by dam construction could put the palm at high risk of extinction. - Other critics say the dam may also displace local communities and reduce populations of a fish species important to the local economy. A dam expert says reduced water flow from damming the Samaná Norte could release more methane into the atmosphere. - A representative from the company charged with construction of the dam says precautions will be taken to mitigate environmental damage.
Working with communities to fight fires in Way Kambas National Park [07/26/2017]
- Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra supports populations of Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers and elephants, along with hundreds of other species. - In 1997, forest fires hit 70 percent of the park, killing many animals and hampering regeneration in previously logged areas. - Local authorities and conservation groups are now working with residents to prevent and fight fires, with notable success.
Conserving the World’s Remaining Intact Forests (commentary) [07/25/2017]
- Intact forests are among the few places on earth where native trees and animals can fulfill their ecological roles outside the influence of industrial humankind. - Some interpret “intact” to mean absent the influence of people, but people have lived within forests the world over for millennia and we are only beginning to understand how they have – and continue to – influence them. - We cannot solve our most pressing environmental and development problems by compromising the few areas that remain whole. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Audio: Global megadam activism and the sounds of nature in Taiwan [07/25/2017]
- Activists from around the world attended the conference to strategize around stopping what they see as destructive hydropower projects. As Bardeen relates in her commentary, many attendees at the conference have faced harassment, intimidation, and worse for their opposition to dam projects, but they’re still standing strong in defense of free-flowing rivers. - We also speak with Yannick Dauby, a French sound artist based in Taiwan. Since 2002, Dauby has been crafting sound art out of field recordings made throughout the small country of Taiwan and posting them on his website, Kalerne.net. - In this Field Notes segment, Dauby plays a recording of his favorite singer, a frog named Rhacophorus moltrechti; the sounds of the marine life of the corals of Penghu, which he is documenting together with biologists; the calls bats use to echolocate (slowed down 16 times so they can be heard by human ears!); and more! - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Pangolin hunting skyrockets in Central Africa, driven by international trade [07/24/2017]
- The study pulled together information on markets, prices and hunting methods for pangolins from research in 14 countries in Africa. - Pangolins are hunted for their meat in some African countries, and their scales are used in traditional medicine, both locally and in several Asian countries, including China. - The researchers found that as many as 2.71 million pangolins from three species are killed every year across six Central African countries – at least a 145 percent increase since before 2000. - They recommend better enforcement of the 2016 CITES ban across the entire supply chain, from Africa to Asia.
Orangutans find home in degraded forests [07/24/2017]
- The study leveraged three years of orangutan observation in the field and airborne mapping of the forest structure using laser-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. - The research team found that orangutans make use of habitats that have been ‘degraded’ by logging and other human uses. - The research is part of a larger effort in collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department to map carbon stocks and plant and animal biodiversity throughout the Malaysian state of Sabah with the goal of identifying new areas for conservation.
Mounting outcry over Indonesian palm oil bill as legislators press on [07/21/2017]
- The bill cements the right of oil palm planters to operate on peat soil, at a time when President Joko Widodo is trying to enforce new peat protections to stop another outbreak of devastating fires and haze. - The bill has also been criticized for outlining a variety of tax breaks and duty relief schemes for palm oil investors, although those provisions have been dialed back — but not completely eliminated — in the latest draft. - The bill's main champion in the House of Representatives is the Golkar Party's Firman Soebagyo. He says it will help farmers and protect Indonesian palm oil from foreign intervention. - Responding to mounting public criticism, some cabinet members recently asked the House to abandon the bill, but Soebagyo, who is leading the deliberations, says they will continue.
Big forests, big ag: Are rainforests the right place for industrial agriculture? (commentary) [07/20/2017]
- Gabon remains a relative stronghold for endangered wildlife like chimpanzees and forest elephants. - Singapore-based Olam International, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, has agreed not to plant palm oil in protected wetlands, and also set aside conservation areas and corridors for wildlife in its concessions in Gabon. - But there is only so much that can be done to minimize the impact of clearing 26,000 hectares in the middle of one of the world’s most forested countries. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Camera traps capture elusive ocelots in Peru’s Madre de Dios [07/20/2017]
- The ocelot is a particularly important part of the Amazonian ecosystem because it’s a dominant species in the food chain, especially at the mesopredator level. - Between 1960 and 1970, Peru’s population of ocelots went through a crisis known as a population bottleneck. Even today, they are sometimes kept as pets or killed for their fur. - In addition to the hunting of ocelots, the study highlights the vulnerability of Peru’s Las Piedras District. Although it has some of the most remote forests in Peru, the district is at risk of deforestation and degradation due to the human pressures like logging.
As Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem faces multiple threats, local resistance grows [07/17/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares and is home to some 105 mammal and 382 bird species, many found nowhere else on earth. - The ecosystem is part of a World Heritage Site that has been listed as "In Danger" since 2011 — a designation that was renewed earlier this month. - The local government's plans for the ecosystem include large hydroelectric dams. Deforestation and encroachment for palm oil and pulp and paper production are also major problems for the Leuser. - Local NGOs and community groups are speaking out against large-scale projects in the ecosystem, citing threats to the area's human residents as well as to wildlife.
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.
Colombia expands indigenous reserves near key deforestation hotspot [07/14/2017]
- The Puerto Sabalo - Los Monos and Monochoa indigenous reserves are both located in the province of Caquetá, which has the highest rate of forest loss in Colombia. - The expansion of the two reserves connects Chiribiquete with Predio Putumayo, the country's largest indigenous reserve, creating a conservation corridor slightly larger than the entire country of Honduras. - A recent report by the Mapping the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) shows that cattle ranching and agricultural development have opened a new deforestation hotspot in Caquetá province’s Amazon rainforests — and that deforestation is expanding towards Chiribiquete National Park.
Going under: mangrove restoration in low-lying Guyana a vital need, say experts [07/13/2017]
- A mature mangrove tree, which can grow as high at 30 feet, acts as a buffer against the sea and storms, a filter for the water, and can chop ten times more carbon than any other plant. - Greater seawall defense is an urgent problem in a country where portions of the coastline are nearly five feet below sea level at high tide. - Almost 90 percent of the country’s population lives and works along Guyana’s fertile Atlantic coast, making a lack of seawall defense a potential threat to food security, livelihoods and lives.
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.
Audio: DJ remixes the sounds of birds, lemurs, and more to inspire conservation [07/12/2017]
- Our first guest is Ben Mirin, aka DJ Ecotone, an explorer, wildlife DJ, educator, and television presenter who creates music from the sounds of nature to help inspire conservation efforts. - In this very special Field Notes segment, Mirin discusses his craft and some of the challenges of capturing wildlife sounds in the field — including why it can be so difficult to record dolphins when all they want to do is take a bow ride on your boat. - We also speak with Cleve Hicks, author of a children’s book called A Rhino to the Rescue: A Tale of Conservation and Adventure, not only to express his love of nature but to help raise awareness of the poaching crisis decimating Africa’s rhino population. - All that plus the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast!
Abdon Nababan, former head of Indonesia’s indigenous peoples alliance, to run for North Sumatra governor [07/12/2017]
- Nababan announced his candidacy in a Facebook post today. - He recently ended his tenure as leader of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago. - The current governor is unelected, having risen to the position after his running mate was arrested for corruption. - Graft is an epidemic in Indonesia, serving the interests of mining, logging and plantation firms at the expense of indigenous groups.
Ongoing mass extinction causing ‘biological annihilation,’ new study says [07/11/2017]
- Building on research in which they showed that two species have gone extinct per year over the past century, a team of biologists analyzed the population trends for 27,600 vertebrates around the world. - They found that nearly a third of the animals they looked at were on the decline. - In a closer look at 177 well-studied mammals, the team found that all had lost 30 percent or more of their home ranges, and 40 percent had lost at least 80 percent of their habitat.
Study: Biodiversity poorly protected by conservation areas worldwide [07/10/2017]
- The study identified the highest concentrations of species, phylogenetic and functional biodiversity on Earth and determined how well the current network of protected areas encompasses these dimensions. - The three facets of biodiversity overlap on only 4.6 percent of land on Earth, with only 1 percent under protection. - The research points to areas that could be prioritized to maximize the amount of unique biodiversity protected.
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.
How the World Heritage Convention could save more wilderness: Q&A with World Heritage expert Cyril Kormos [07/06/2017]
- Since its inception in the 1970s, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention has officially recognized 1,052 sites of cultural or ecological importance around the planet. - Making the list as a World Heritage site can help provide a location with increased protection and attention. - The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an advisor to the World Heritage Committee, released a study showing that 1.8 percent of wilderness areas are covered under World Heritage protection. - The IUCN recommends a more methodical approach to the designation of World Heritage sites to help fill these gaps.
Amazon infrastructure EIAs under-assess biodiversity; scientists offer solutions [07/06/2017]
- In a new paper, scientists assert that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for major Brazilian Amazon infrastructure projects often fail in their performance of comprehensive biodiversity evaluations, so underestimate ecosystem risk. - Their proposed solution is the development and use within EIAs of multiple, complementary scientific methods they say would be cost effective, and make more comprehensive biodiversity assessments possible. - These methods include satellite imaging, near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy, and DNA metabarcoding to detect a wider range of species. The scientists propose these methods be implemented to improve pre-construction biodiversity surveys and EIAs. - A major concern by researchers is that Brazil’s Congress is currently considering legislation that would do away with the existing environmental licensing process, and reduce or eliminate existing EIA requirements.
Is Brazil’s Forest Code failing to reduce deforestation? [07/06/2017]
- Engagement with the land registration system that underpins the Forest Code was initially high, but the researchers found that it had little bearing on the amount of illegal deforestation. - Only 6 percent of farmers surveyed said they were actively restoring deforested parts of their land, while 76 percent said that they would only do so if forced by authorities. - After dropping off substantially in the late 2000s, deforestation rates are once again on the rise, reaching their highest levels since 2008 last year.
Study: Brazilian mega-dams caused far more flooding than EIA predicted [07/05/2017]
- A satellite study of the Santo Antônio and Jirau dams in the Amazon found the area flooded by their reservoirs to be much greater than projected by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done as part of the Brazilian dams’ licensing process. - Satellite images from 2006-2015 were analyzed, spanning the time immediately before, during, and after dam construction, and then these images were compared with the flooding predictions found in the EIA. - The total flooded area upstream of the dams was found to be 69.8 percent larger than projected by the EIA. The area of natural forest flooded exceeded EIA predictions by 52 percent. - Political considerations likely influenced the EIAs gross inaccuracy, with real world results. In 2014, Madeira River floods upriver from the dams impacted 75,000 people, killed a quarter-million livestock and caused over US $180 million in damage.
Merabu’s efforts to keep the carbon in its trees [07/05/2017]
- Merabu residents harvest a variety of non-timber forest products. - “The forest is our storehouse,” one resident explains. "We have a village forest and a backup forest.” - One observer says the village could dispose of its plastic better.
Indonesia is running out of places to put rescued animals [07/03/2017]
- The head of the state conservation agency in North Sumatra says both of her rescue centers are over capacity. She is having to send animals to zoos. - The glut is due to an increase of people handing over protected species to the government, in line with efforts by authorities and NGOs to raise awareness of the law. - Dedicated facilities exist to receive some species, but for others, authorities have had to improvise.
Photos: Four new species of burrowing frogs discovered in India [06/30/2017]
- The four new species include Kadar Burrowing Frog (Fejervarya kadar), CEPF Burrowing Frog (F. cepfi), Manoharan’s Burrowing Frog (F. Manoharani) and Neil Cox’s Burrowing Frog (F. neilcoxi). - Two of the newly described frogs, the Kadar Burrowing Frog and CEPF Burrowing Frog, could be facing serious threats, the researchers warn. - The Rufescent Burrowing Frog was previously listed as a Least Concern species under the IUCN Red List because of its wide distribution, but the new study shows that the species is actually restricted to a much smaller area.
Leaked terms of huge EU-Japan trade deal spark environmental alarm [06/29/2017]
- A new trade deal between the European Union (EU) and Japan is set to become one of the biggest ever. - The deal would alleviate certain trade barriers, improve access to automobile and machinery industries for both Japan and the EU and establish new protocols for the resolution of investment disputes. - Conservation NGOs are critical of the deal's terms, which they say lack "any binding obligations" to environmental protection, and will result in lower standards against illegal logging.
International illegal logging conference touches on myriad issues [06/29/2017]
- A core issue at this year's conference was the FLEGT process. - FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) is the EU's answer to fighting the global scourge of illegal logging. - Collectively around the world, illegal logging is the highest-value environmental crime, at $51-$152 billion per year, according to a 2016 report by Interpol and the UNEP.
Audio: The fight to save Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem [06/27/2017]
- One of the richest, most biodiverse tropical forests on the planet, Leuser is currently being targeted for expansion of oil palm plantations by a number of companies. - Tillack explains just what makes Leuser so unique and valuable, details some of her organization’s investigations into the ongoing clearance of Leuser in violation of Indonesia’s moratorium on deforestation for new oil palm plantations, and how consumers like you and me can help decide the fate of the region. - We also welcome to the show research ecologist Marcone Campos Cerqueira for our latest Field Notes segment. Cerqueira has recently completed a study that used bioacoustic monitoring to examine bird ranges in the mountains of Puerto Rico, and he’ll share some of his recordings with us on today’s show.
Norway vexed as Brazil sends mixed message on Amazon forest protection [06/27/2017]
- Last week, Brazil’s President Michel Temer fully vetoed MP 756, and partially vetoed MP 758, two provisional measures which he himself introduced and which Congress approved that would have cut conserved Amazon lands by 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles). - Almost simultaneously, Brazil’s environmental minister, José Sarney Filho, announced urgent plans for the administration to introduce a new bill to Congress to dismember the same conservation units described in the vetoed MP 756. - Also last week, Norway gave a stern warning to Temer on his visit to Oslo, telling him that Brazil could lose millions of dollars from the Amazon Fund if Brazil’s deforestation rates continue rising. - 7,989 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest were lost between August 2015 and 2016. A rise in annual Amazon deforestation to 8,500 square kilometers would reduce Norway’s funding to Brazil to zero. Brazil defended itself, claiming preliminary annual data shows a recent leveling off of its deforestation rate.
2 new reptiles discovered in Sumatra [06/27/2017]
- A newly discovered snake in Takengon, in the highlands of Aceh province, was named for one of Indonesia's few herpetologists. - The snake is non-venomous, but it mimics the characteristics of its venomous cousins as a survival technique. - The other creature, a lizard, inhabits the forests along central Sumatra's western coast.
Logging in Malaysia’s Ulu Muda forest threatens wildlife and water supplies [06/26/2017]
- The Ulu Muda forest is the primary source of water for four million Malaysians, as well as for industry and agriculture. - The forest is also home to a huge diversity of species, including the Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, sambar deer and clouded and spotted leopards. - Although the federal government imposed a ban on logging in the reserve in 2003, local authorities have allowed commercial logging to increase over the past decade.
Footprints in the forest: The future of the Sumatran rhino [06/23/2017]
- Fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) remain in the wild, a number many biologists say is too low to ensure the survival of the species. - Several organizations have begun to build momentum toward a single program that pools resources and know-how in Malaysia and Indonesia, the last places in Southeast Asia where captive and wild rhinos still live. - Advocates for intensive efforts to breed animals in captivity fear that an emphasis on the protection of the remaining wild animals may divert attention and funding away from such projects. - They worry that if they don’t act now, the Sumatran rhino may pass a point of no return from which it cannot recover.
Warnings and protests mark Brazilian President Temer’s trip to Norway [06/22/2017]
- Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon from 2015 to 2016 jumped 29 percent over the previous year, the highest rate of loss recorded since 2008. - In a letter sent to Brazilian Minister of Environment Jose Sarney Filho, Norway's Environment Minister, Vidar Helgesen, noted the "worrying upward trend" in deforestation since 2015 and warned that "Even a fairly modest further increase" in deforestation would mean that no further payments from Norway to Brazil would be forthcoming. - A number of Norwegian environmental and rights-based organizations, including Greenpeace, Norwegian Church Aid, Norwegian Solidarity Committee for Latin America, and Rainforest Foundation Norway, say they are planning a protest in front of the Prime Minister's residence in Oslo on Friday.
Unexamined synergies: dam building and mining go together in the Amazon [06/22/2017]
- 40 large hydroelectric dams are slated for the Amazon basin over the next 20 years, feeding the massive electricity needs of an energy-hungry mining industry — digging, processing and exporting iron, aluminum, manganese and gold. - But mining’s energy needs are rarely linked to plans for new dams or their environmental impact assessments. Amazon mining and dam building have repeatedly in the past resulted in major harmful environmental and social impacts, including displacement of indigenous and traditional communities. - Transnational mining companies and consortiums are major beneficiaries of government largesse through subsidies, tax breaks and the energy obtained from newly commissioned Amazon dams. - Brazilian infrastructure development in the Amazon, including dam building and mining, could — if environmental and social issues are not properly addressed — turn the Amazon into a national sacrifice zone where biological and cultural diversity are drastically diminished.
Illegal logging and hunting threaten Yasuní isolated indigenous groups [06/22/2017]
- A preliminary report on illegal logging in the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone reveals a complete law enforcement abandonment of the eastern part of Yasuní National Park. - People living inside Yasuní National Park have denounced the presence of Peruvian timber and bushmeat traffickers in the Ecuadorian Amazon. - Experts fear the constant pressures to which the isolated indigenous groups are subjected in the Intangible Zone will trigger massacres and increase the likelihood of extinction of isolated populations. - Multiple NGOs are preparing to file official complaints against the violation of environmental and human rights by illegal logging and hunting pressures.
New highway brings deforestation near two Colombian national parks [06/21/2017]
- The Marginal de la Selva is a $1 billion dollar highway project would connect Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador without having to enter the Andes mountains. - The unfinished section that would complete the project cuts through a natural corridor between two national parks, which both contain exceptionally high levels of biodiversity — even by Colombia’s standards. - Forest loss in the sensitive ecological area has shot up in anticipation of the highway and as illegal armed groups promote deforestation in the region. - Critics say institutions lack territorial control in the area and are unable to coordinate effectively to ensure environmental laws are enforced.
Five new species in world’s largest tree genus found on Sulawesi [06/21/2017]
- Syzygium is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs in the myrtle family that contains more than 1,500 species. - Only 14 of those were previously known to occur on Sulawesi, the world’s eleventh-largest island, however. By comparison, Borneo, Sulawesi’s larger neighbor to the west, is home to around 200 Syzygium species. - Due to the rate of tropical forest destruction across Indonesia, according to the researchers who discovered the new Syzygium species, three of the five newly described species on Sulawesi qualify for an endangered listing on the IUCN Red List.
Brazil evicts 80 rural peasant families, awards land thieves parcel [06/21/2017]
- 80 families, hopeful of being granted land in the Amazon state of Pará, have instead been ordered by a Brazilian court to vacate their camp located on the parcel in just two weeks. - The land will then be turned over to members of the Vilela family, notorious convicted land thieves, illegal forest fellers and members of the wealthy Brazilian rural elite. - The judge’s decision has been called into question. Eliane Moreira, Justice Prosecutor in the Pará Public Ministry, has long criticized authorities for allowing land thieves to use the environmental register to legitimize land grabs, something the judge has now endorsed. - It will be very difficult for the peasant families to appeal the decision, as they don’t have the resources to hire a lawyer and cover other legal expenses.
Religious leaders: Rainforest protection a ‘moral imperative’ [06/20/2017]
- The three-day event, held in Oslo, Norway, includes discussions between NGOs, government agencies, universities, indigenous groups and major religions. - The event marks the launch of the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, which seeks to build on the moral case for rainforest protection with tangible metrics and goals. - Indigenous and religious leaders from 21 countries attended the event, organized by the UN Development Programme, Rainforest Foundation Norway and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.
Borneo’s ‘biocultural holocaust’: an interview with author Alex Shoumatoff [06/19/2017]
- Over the past half century, we've laid waste to the rainforests of Borneo thanks to humanity's demand for food, fuel, and fiber. - The Wasting of Borneo, a new book by Alex Shoumatoff, chronicles some of Borneo's staggering losses - Shoumatoff is a former writer and editor for The New Yorker, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair who Donald Trump once called "the greatest writer in America".
International action a must to stop irreversible harm of Amazon dams, say experts [06/19/2017]
- A study, published in Nature and led by Edgardo Latrubesse of the University of Texas at Austin, went beyond local impacts of individual dams to assess cumulative, basin-wide impacts that planned dams are bringing to 19 major Amazon sub-basins. - The team developed a new metric: the Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index (DEVI) which includes assessments of basin integrity (vulnerability to land use change and erosion, etc.); fluvial dynamics (influence of sediment fluxes and flood pulses); and the extent of the river affected by dams. - A score for each sub-basin from 0-100 was assigned, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability. The Madeira, Ucayali, Marañon and Tapajós sub-basins were found to be most threatened; all had DEVI totals higher than 60. - The researchers say that a collective, cooperative, multi-country Amazon region assessment of dams and their cumulative impacts is urgently needed to get a handle on the true magnitude of the threat to the Amazon, as well as means to a solution.
If Brazil okays Terra Legal changes, land grabbers win, Amazon loses, say environmentalists [06/16/2017]
- Provisional Measure (MP) 759, now converted into a bill called the Conversion Law Project (PLC) 12/16, would significantly alter the successful Terra Legal program, introduced originally in 2009. President Temer has until 22 June to sign the bill or veto it. - The original program enabled peasant families to gain ownership of their small land plots. The new version introduces multiple loopholes to allow big, wealthy land owners to use the program, threatening small land owners and the environment, especially the Amazon. - Analysts say the new law, if passed, will allow another 20 million hectares (77,200 square miles) of the Amazon biome and 40 million hectares (154,440 square miles) of the Cerrado (savanna) to be legally cleared. - The bill ups the acreage claimable via the Terra Legal program, ends a rule allowing peasant families to delay paying for plots until the land is supported by adequate infrastructure, allows one farmer to acquire multiple plots, and ends a rule allowing peasant families to pay far less for their land than big farmers.
Groundwater may play key role in forest fires [06/16/2017]
- Researchers compared groundwater dynamics to fire incidence in Borneo. - During prolonged dry spells, groundwater levels can get so low that capillary action cannot take place, creating a condition called "hydrological drought." - The researchers found that when a fire occurs, almost 10 times more land is burned in a hydrological drought year than in a non-drought year. - They write that their findings may help better predict fire occurrence and extent during El Niño events, and may provide a tool to help plan and adapt to climate change.
Brazil on verge of legitimizing Amazon land theft on a grand scale, warn NGOs [06/15/2017]
- Brazil’s president has until 22 June to approve or veto two bills (PLC 4 and PLC 5) turning over more than 600,000 hectares (2,317 square miles) of federally protected Amazon forest to illegal loggers, illegal miners and land thieves. - The measures, initiated by Temer and already approved by Congress, are seen as a reward to the bancada ruralista (rural lobby of agribusiness and mining) for its aid in bringing Temer to power through the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. - Large portions of the Jamanxim National Park and of the National Forest of Jamanxim would have their protections downgraded to an Area of Environmental Protection, where logging, mining and private property are allowed. - Mongabay recently went to the region to observe conditions there: we found major illegal mining operations underway within federal conservation units and interviewed miners who have been exploited by mine “owners” under conditions analogous to slavery.
Why losing big animals causes big problems in tropical forests [06/14/2017]
- A team of scientists from Germany and Spain built a mathematical model to test the interplay between plants and animals that results in the distribution of seeds. - Field data collected from Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve formed the foundation of the model. - The scientists discovered the importance of matching between the sizes of seeds and the birds in the ecosystem. - As larger birds were removed from the forest, the forest’s biodiversity dropped more quickly.
Norway bans government purchasing of palm oil biofuel [06/13/2017]
- The growth of the palm oil industry has been blamed for a host of damaging environmental impacts, such as deforestation and carbon emissions. - Research indicates that biofuel made with palm oil may be even worse for the climate than fossil fuels. - The Norwegian parliament responded to these impacts by voting in a regulation to its Public Procurement Act to stop using biofuel palm oil-based biofuel. The resolution further stipulates that the "regulatory amendment shall enter into force as soon as possible." - Conservationists laud the move, but say more countries need to follow suit. They recommend the EU's biofuel policy be updated to reflect concerns about palm oil.
30 years of protecting the mysterious Okapi [06/13/2017]
- The discovery of the elusive okapi, once believed to be a mythical unicorn, was one of the most exciting taxonomic findings of the twentieth century. - To protect this shy, giraffe-like animal, wildlife conservationist John Lukas founded the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) in 1987. - During the past three decades, the project team has seen both successes and challenges, from political unrest to a brutal rebel attack in 2012 that killed 6 people and 14 okapis.
Long plagued by illegal logging, Cambodia faces accusations of corruption [06/12/2017]
- Long known as a hotspot for rapid and largely illegal deforestation for logging, Cambodia was singled out in a May 2017 EIA report. - The report was the result of months of undercover investigations which found that from November 2016, more than 300,000 cubic meters (nearly 10.6 million cubic feet) of timber have been illegally felled in a wildlife sanctuary and two protected areas in Cambodia. - Most of the timber was sold to Vietnam and generated $13 million in kickbacks from Vietnamese timber traders. - Environmental experts believe that a much-publicized crackdown on illegal logging launched in Cambodia in early 2016 was little more than theatrics.
‘Give us back our land’: paper giants struggle to resolve conflicts with communities in Sumatra [06/09/2017]
- Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a long history of land grabbing, often dating back to the New Order military dictatorship. More recently, they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. - Many of the conflicts remain unaddressed. The companies say they are working hard to resolve them. - A new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still suffering the impacts of having their traditional forests and lands seized to make way for plantations.
Indigenous Guarani leader appeals to Europe to save people and forests [06/07/2017]
- Brazil’s Temer administration is seriously violating the rights of the Guarani-Kaiowá people according to their leader, Ladio Veron, who is touring Europe this Spring to garner support for the rights of indigenous people in Brazil. - Veron, in presentations and petitions across Europe, has highlighted the rising violence against indigenous people in Brazil, publicized past and on-going land thefts, and protested the efforts of the Temer government to halt the demarcation of indigenous lands guaranteed under the nation’s 1988 Constitution. - The tour is being conducted against a background of escalating civil unrest and public protest in Brazil, as the Temer government staggers under the weight of corruption charges. His administration’s approval rating is in the single digits and near collapse, though the current National Congress has also been antagonistic to indigenous rights.
‘Crunch time for biodiversity’: Farming, hunting push thousands of species toward extinction [06/07/2017]
- Eighty percent of threatened animals are losing ground - literally, in the form of habitat loss - to agriculture. - Up to 50 percent of threatened birds and mammals face extinction at the hands of hunters. - In a study published in the journal Nature, a team of scientists explores solutions to avoid destroying the habitats of these animals, such as increasing yields in the developed world and minimizing fertilizer use.
One cow per hectare: deforestation in Colombia after FARC’s exit [06/06/2017]
- Caquetá was one of the epicenters of the war against FARC. The exit of FARC, at the end of last year, coincided with an increase in deforestation in the region. - In 2015, only 7,000 hectares were destined for coca crops in Caquetá, and more than 1.5 million for livestock. - To combat deforestation, the government - with the collaboration of other environmental entities - formed the programs "bubble against deforestation" (‘Burbuja contra la deforestación’ in Spanish) and ‘Visión Amazonia.’ - Experts fear that without additional investment, deforestation will be allowed to continue unchecked.
Financing sustainable agriculture possible, if terms fit farmers’ needs [06/02/2017]
- Worldwide, more deforestation results from the push for farmland than any other cause. - The Global Canopy Programme reports that funding aimed at encouraging a move away from deforestation-based agriculture and toward more sustainable methods must be designed to address the needs of farmers. - Loans with longer terms and lower interest rates can help farmers who are switching to sustainable agriculture survive the ‘valley of death’ – that is, the first few years of new methods before their production becomes profitable.
Why not both? Rainforest diversity stems from two seemingly irreconcilable processes [06/02/2017]
- Scientists have long been puzzled by the immense diversity of tropical rainforests, but a new study finds that both light and height are key to plant diversity. - Diversity in the tropics isn’t just about light-loving species versus shade-tolerant ones, but also about how tall plants are when they hit maturity. - Research supports both niche theory and unified neutral theory, but with some twists.
Philippines’ indigenous Higaonon fight for return of ancestral land [06/01/2017]
- The Higaonon filed an “ancestral domain claim” in 2002 for land they have traditionally inhabited, which is their right under the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. But the government allowed agribusiness company A Brown Corporation, Inc., to establish oil palm plantations through its subsidiary ABERDI on the land that same year. - Members of local human rights organizations allege legally required free, prior and informed consent was never obtained by the company before setting up its plantations, and that some residents were tricked into waiving the rights to their land. - Residents claim intimidation and harassment by ABERDI and other subsidiary company Nakeen, and say they were left with nothing after plantation operations ceased – despite initial promises of benefits. - A government representative said there is an ongoing investigation into whether ABERDI is operating with the proper permits.
Brazil assaults indigenous rights, environment, social movements [06/01/2017]
- The Temer administration and Congress, dominated by the increasingly militant bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, are encouraging violence, say critics, as attacks reach record levels against the landless peasants of the agrarian reform movement and against indigenous groups fighting for land rights assured by the 1988 Constitution. - In May a Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry, dominated by the bancada, recommended prosecution of 67 people, many of them serving in the federal government, who the commission claims have allegedly committed illegal acts by supporting indigenous groups and their land claims. - Also in May, Congress approved MPs (administrative orders), handed down by Temer, removing 486,000 hectares of the National Forest of Jamanxim and 101,000 hectares of the National Park of Jamanxim from protection, likely allowing land thieves to claim these formerly protected Amazon areas for private ownership, ranching and mining. - The Chamber of Deputies also rushed through MP 759, giving real estate ownership rights to hundreds of thousands of small land owners illegally occupying land in Brazil. Critics say the MP is also a massive gift to wealthy land thieves. Another bill, now on hold, could gut environmental licensing rules for infrastructure and agribusiness projects.
Audio: Frances Seymour on why rich nations need to start paying up to protect the world’s tropical forests [05/31/2017]
- Seymour shares her thoughts on why now was such an opportune moment for the publication of the book, whether or not the large-scale investment necessary to protect the world’s tropical forests shows signs of materializing any time soon, and which countries are leading the forest conservation charge. - We also welcome Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer back to the program to answer a question from Newscast listener Brian Platt about which 'good news' stories are worth talking about more in these tough times for environmental and conservation news. - All that and the top news on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
Vietnam pledges to investigate massive illegal logging violations as international pressure grows [05/31/2017]
- The report, released May 8 by the Environmental Investigation Agency, detailed how corrupt government officials in Vietnam are helping to funnel millions of dollars in illegal timber from Cambodia into Vietnam. - Vietnam imports an average of 4.5 million cubic meters of roughly 150 different species of wood from over 100 countries. - In the midst of an agreement with the EU to ensure the source of its timber is legal, Vietnam is now under tremendous scrutiny.
Pressure builds on palm oil firm Goodhope after RSPO sanction [05/31/2017]
- The RSPO ordered Goodhope to freeze its operations in Indonesia earlier this month amid allegations of land grabbing and forest destruction. - Goodhope said recently that it needed more time than the RSPO had given it to bring its operations into compliance with the roundtable's standards. - The company says it is working with credible auditors to conduct new assessments of its concessions, after the RSPO deemed previous audits the firm had commissioned as lacking in credibility.
Governor halts work on coal railway being built without permits in Indonesian Borneo [05/30/2017]
- During a field visit to Katingan Regency in Central Kalimantan, Mongabay-Indonesia observed that developers of a coal-transport rail line had already cleared forest land and constructed around two kilometers of track. - Government sources confirmed the developer did not have the necessary permits to begin work on the project. - On May 23, the Central Kalimantan governor announced that work on the project had been suspended, although he did not signal any intent to initiate law-enforcement actions against the developer.
Amid life and death risks, Brazil’s land defenders stand firm [05/29/2017]
- They comprise a diverse range of people, from indigenous groups to fishing communities descended from rubber tappers. - In 2015, more land defenders were killed in Brazil than any other country put together, according to watchdog organization Global Witness. - Among land defenders, indigenous activists are the most-targeted for their work and activism.
Thylacine survey: Are we going to rediscover the ‘moonlight tiger’? [05/26/2017]
- The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) was declared extinct in 1936. But anecdotal reports of sightings of the marsupial inspired a recent media frenzy, leading to speculation that some might still be living in the forests of northern Queensland's Cape York Peninsula. - A biological survey conducted via camera traps had been planned for the region before news of the reported sightings spread. The aim of the survey is to find out why so many of Australia’s native marsupials – and those of Cape York in particular – are disappearing. They also hope to figure out if there are any as-yet undocumented mammals living there, such as a small, endangered rat-kangaroo called the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica). - A bettong expert says cattle ranching, invasive animals, and changing fire management regimes may be hurting native mammals in Australia. - The researchers caution that the possibility of finding evidence of thylacines living in Cape York is vanishingly small. But, if the near-impossible happens and they do manage to document some, they say news of the rediscovery likely won't be released until protections are enacted.
Temer seeks to privatize Brazil’s deforestation remote sensing program [05/26/2017]
- Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment, in a surprise move at the end of April, tried to privatize much of the remote sensing deforestation work that, until now, has been successfully carried out by INPE, the federal National Institute for Space Research. So sudden was the move that INPE’s head learned of it from a journalist. - Under the plan, private companies would take over monitoring for Amazonia, the Cerrado (where Brazilian deforestation is most intense), and indigenous reserves (under attack by the Temer administration). Experts view the move as a bow to the powerful agribusiness lobby, which wants more control of Amazonia, the Cerrado and indigenous preserves. - The hurried maneuver was met with shock from experts inside and outside the government, with charges that the 8-day bid process was absurdly short, and with some calling the proposal incompetent. Critics suggest the privatization bid process may have been designed to turn over deforestation remote sensing to a foreign company. - Vocal protests from 6,000 experts led the Ministry of the Environment to shelve privatization for now; though the measure could still be revived. A concern of experts was that the company engaged would have played a key role in assessing whether or not Brazil was meeting its carbon reduction commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Not out of the woods: Concerns remain with Nigerian superhighway [05/26/2017]
- The six-lane highway was shifted in April to the west so that it no longer cuts through the center of Cross River National Park, a ‘biological jewel’ that is home to 18 primate species. - In a new study, scientists report that multiple alternative routes exist that would still provide the intended economic connections and avoid harming the environment in the area. - However, Nigerian conservation and community rights group worry that the state government won’t follow through on its promises.
Slight bumps in protected areas could be a boon for biodiversity [05/26/2017]
- Increasing protected areas by 5 percent in strategic locations could boost biodiversity protection by a factor of three. - The study examined global protected areas and evaluated how well they safeguard species, functional and evolutionary biodiversity. - More than a quarter of species live mostly outside protected areas. - The new strategy from the research leverages the functional and evolutionary biodiversity found in certain spots and could help conservation planners pinpoint areas for protection that maximize all three types of biodiversity.
On the road to ‘smart development’ [05/25/2017]
- Ecologist Bill Laurance and his team are looking at development projects across Southeast Asia in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. - The scientists are traveling throughout the regions to better understand the needs of planners, and to impart lessons about ‘smart development’ based on decades of research in the tropics. - In Malaysia, they are focusing on finding solutions that preserve the repository of forests and biodiversity there in a way that also looks out for the country’s human residents.
Brazil agribusiness company accuses ally Temer in secret bribe taping [05/23/2017]
- The world’s largest meat processor, Brazil’s JBS has been rocked by scandal. In March, investigations revealed the company had bribed federal officials to turn a blind eye to tainted meat, and had also illegally raised 59,000 head of cattle on illegally deforested Amazon lands. JBS is a key backer of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby. - Now, JBS owners the Batista brothers, in a plea bargain with federal investigators, have produced a tape in which Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, in conversation with one of the JBS owners, apparently enthusiastically endorses the use of bribes by the company. Temer claims the recording has been altered. - Temer has consistently done the bidding of the agribusiness lobby, which brought him to power a year ago. He has worked to reverse indigenous land rights gained under the 1988 constitution, and to dismember conservation units, with up to 1.2 million hectares of forest to be turned over to land thieves who illegally seized federal lands. - There are calls for the president to resign, though Temer has refused to step down. Legislation to dismember Amazon conservation units was recently approved by Brazil’s Assembly and is headed for the Senate, which has until 29 May to approve the bills, a timeline which is looking extremely tight considering current events.
Experts explore sustainable infrastructure amid major development needs [05/23/2017]
- The Asia-Pacific region's biological wealth and rapid development makes it a highly vulnerable and critical part of Earth's overall health, notes expert William Laurance. - Laurance, a distinguished research professor at Australia’s James Cook University, noted that 95 percent of illegal deforestation takes place within 3.4 miles of a road. - Southeast Asia, with the most wood per hectare of forests in the world and home to numerous developing nations, is particularly at risk.
New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America [05/22/2017]
- Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia. - They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation. - Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.
Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province [05/20/2017]
- West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year. - In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual. - Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a "double standard." - His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.
Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon [05/19/2017]
- The 138-kilometer road was carved illegally through rainforest and used by the FARC rebel group to transport coca, from which cocaine is produced. - Officials from city governments have begun a project to widen and pave the road, saying it will help communities transport agricultural goods to markets. - Conservationists decry the move, citing research finding road expansion opens “a Pandora’s box of environmental evils” that includes land-grabbing, illegal road development and accelerated deforestation. - A Colombian governmental agency recently ordered all construction on the road stop until further environmental studies could be performed and greater restrictions applied. However, an official said construction activity has not ceased.
A stubborn dreamer who fought to save Amazon’s Waimiri-Atroari passes [05/18/2017]
- As a young man in the 1960s, José Porfirio Fontenele de Carvalho decided to resist Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship by going into the Amazon to help indigenous groups in their struggles against the military’s assault on their way of life. - He made early contact with the warlike Waimiri-Atroari Indians, who were decimated in their struggle to block the BR-174 highway through their territory. The Indians tell of numerous atrocities committed against them by the government during this period. - With Carvalho’s help, a new indigenous reserve, covering 2.6 million hectares (10,000 square miles), was established, along with a conservation unit — the Biological Reserve of Uatumã. Through the years, Carvalho won other concessions for the Waimiri-Atroari. - Today, the group has increased its number to nearly 2,000, though the tribe continues fighting the government. President Temer is now determined to put a major transmission line through their lands. Most observers agree: without Carvalho’s assist, the Waimiri-Atroari would likely be extinct, and their forests gone. He died this month at age 70.
Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems. - We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe. - We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. - In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.
What would you do if you had “nature’s pharmacy” in your backyard? [05/17/2017]
- Though most cures are not medically proven and scientific experts remain skeptical of their benefits, others say that indigenous peoples’ long-accumulated wisdom of the forest and what grows in it is undeniable. - In Ecuador, knowledge of the medicinal properties of the Amazon have been passed down throughout the generations by Yachaj, or medicine men, who spend years living with the forest, meditating and listening to nature. - Training to become a Yachaj takes three to ten years and involves long separations from loved ones and society.
Environment secretary of São Paulo faces controversies over management plans of protected areas [05/15/2017]
- The suspension of the implementation of MPs affects over a million hectares of marine regions and oceanic islands. - One MP is under investigation following accusations that the secretariat surreptitiously introduced changes to decrease the level of protection for some areas. - Critics accuse the environment secretary of putting industrial interests over the defense of the environment.
Drylands greener with forests than previously thought [05/12/2017]
- The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, increases global forest cover estimates by 9 percent. - Using very high resolution imagery, the team calculated that dryland forest cover was 40 to 47 percent higher above current totals. - The researchers calculate that 1.1 million hectares (4,247 square miles) of forest covers the Earth’s drylands.
Palm oil firm pledges to stop deforesting after RSPO freezes its operations in Papua [05/11/2017]
- Goodhope Asia Holdings, an arm of Sri Lanka's Carson Cumberbatch, is the latest palm oil company to promise to purge its operations of deforestation, peatland conversion and human rights abuses. - Announcing such a commitment and implementing it are two different matters. Despite the growing prevalence of such pledges, no major user or processor of palm oil can say it has actually eliminated deforestation from its supply chain. - Goodhope subsidiary PT Nabire Baru presides over what one watchdog called “possibly the most controversial plantation in Papua.”
Industry-NGO coalition releases toolkit for making ‘No Deforestation’ commitments a reality on the ground [05/10/2017]
- Numerous companies involved in the global palm oil supply chain, from producers and traders to consumer companies that use the commodity in their products, have adopted Zero Deforestation commitments — but pledging to address the deforestation and human rights abuses associated with palm oil supply chains is one thing, while making those commitments a reality on the ground is another. - Companies have said they need more support from governments of tropical forest nations to make their Zero Deforestation commitments a reality, citing a maze of administrative and regulatory frameworks across palm oil producing countries as hampering their efforts. - The new HCS Approach Toolkit might help address this very issue, however, as it is intended to standardize the methodology for protecting tropical forests and identifying suitable landscapes for the sustainable production of palm oil. - The revised HCS Approach Toolkit lays out the fundamental elements of a methodology for protecting high carbon stock (HCS) forests and other high conservation value (HCV) areas such as peatlands. Simply achieving “no deforestation” is not the only goal of the revised HCS Approach, though.
In Liberia, a battered palm oil industry adjusts to new rules [05/10/2017]
- Palm oil companies signed a series of large contracts between 2008-2012 to develop plantations in Liberia. - Disputes over land ownership by rural communities and the imposition of new environmental rules have forced investors to adjust their projections. - The ‘High Carbon Stock’ approach, endorsed by environmental advocates, will restrict expansion in some cases.
Howler monkeys booming in Belize sanctuary 25 years after translocation [05/10/2017]
- Disease, hurricanes and hunting wiped out the native howler monkeys living in the Cockscomb Basin by the 1970s. - Between 1992 and 1994, 62 black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) were relocated from a nearby reserve. - After surveying the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in March and April, scientists figure there are at least 170 howler monkeys – and perhaps many more – living all over the 51,800-hectare (128,000-acre) preserve.
‘Killed, forced, afraid’: Philippine palm oil legacy incites new fears [05/09/2017]
- Following a rush of corporate investment in the 1960s, agroindustry company NDC-Guthrie set up camp on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The company hired a private security force dubbed the "Lost Command" to protect its oil palm plantations. - Sources say the Lost Command used violence to expand NDC-Guthrie's land holdings in the 1980s, with allegations ranging from forcibly displacing residents of local communities and extorting business-owners to looting, rape, and even murder. - In the 1990s NDC-Guthrie was bought by Filipinas Palm Oil Plantations Inc. (FPPI), which continues to operate in the region today. A company representative said "issues have been blown up" and that FPPI is interested in expanding further in Mindanao. - The administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010) touted oil palm propagation as a way to elevate the national economy and even stem armed conflict. But industry watchdog groups disagree, saying palm oil's track record of conflict in the Philippine archipelago does not bode well for the future.