A Sumatran king’s 1,400-year-old vision for sustainable landscape planning [03/28/2017]
- Indonesia's South Sumatra is an epicenter of the annual peat fires that ravage the archipelago country. - The province has become a staging ground for projects like KELOLA Sendang, which is intended to promote sustainable landscape management in an important tiger habitat. - More than a millennium ago, the ruler of the Srivijaya kingdom put forth his own vision for sustainable prosperity — one of which today's policymakers could take heed.
Two new clown tree frogs discovered in the Amazon [03/27/2017]
- Clown frogs are widespread throughout the Amazon region and get their name from their unique, bright coloration. - The two newly discovered clown frogs were previously considered to belong to other species, but researchers were able to show that they are their own distinct species after analyzing their DNA and the calls they make. - According to the international team of researchers who made the discovery, the conservation status of both clown frogs has yet to be determined — but it is likely that the species could already be considered threatened, especially given that both are reported to have particularly small distribution areas that are endangered by habitat destruction.
Amazon land speculators poised to gain control of vast public lands [03/27/2017]
- In the Brazilian Amazon, the paving of highways makes adjacent forests far more attractive to land thieves, resulting in major deforestation. The Sustainable BR-163 Plan of 2006 created vast swathes of protected land — eight new conservation units — to prevent land theft and deforestation from happening near the vulnerable BR-163 highway in Pará state. - From the start, land speculators wanted to get their hands on one of those units, the National Forest of Jamanxim, known as “Flona Jamaxim.” They’ve occupied large areas of the Flona, making it one of Brazil’s conservation units with the most serious illegal forest clearing. Illicit activities there helped turn the region into a very violent place. - The rise of the agribusiness-friendly Temer administration in August 2016 emboldened the land speculators. Working with the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, they got Temer to pass interim measures in December 2016, dismembering Flona Jamanxim, reclassifying 305,000 hectares, and allowing land thieves to keep the land they had seized. - Other conservation units are being targeted: in January 2017, the government announced plans to slash conservation units in Amazonas state — dismembering the Biological Reserve of Manicoré, National Park of Acari, and National Forests of Aripuanã and Urupadi, and more. If approved, one million hectares will lose environmental protection.
Panama’s Barro Blanco dam to begin operation, indigenous pleas refused [03/24/2017]
- For nearly a decade, Panama’s Barro Blanco dam has met with strong opposition from indigenous Ngäbe communities. It has also generated violent suppression from government forces, and attracted criticism from international organizations. - An agreement on the dam’s completion, reached by the government and the community’s now-ousted leader, was voted down by the Ngäbe-Bugle General Congress in September 2016. The dam’s surprise deregistration from the UN Clean Development Mechanism in October 2016 did nothing to stop the project. - Now, the General Administrator of Panama’s National Authority for Public Services has declared that the Ngäbe-Bugle General Congress never presented a formal rejection document to the government, meaning dam operations can begin. - Panama’s Supreme Court has ruled against the last two legal actions by indigenous communities impacted by Barro Blanco. The Supreme Court decisions cannot be appealed, so the communities have now exhausted all legal avenues within the country, leaving only international processes.
New cave catfish threatened by deforestation, mining, pollution [03/23/2017]
- The new catfish, Aspidoras mephisto, is the first completely cave-dependent member of the Callichthyidae family found in South America. - The species has adaptations to living underground, including a lack of pigment and reduced eyes. Researchers think it may use tree roots for shelter and food. - Surveys indicate A. mephisto is restricted to two caves in an area devoid of official protection. Deforestation and mining activities threaten the vegetation around the caves, and sewage from a nearby town may be polluting their water sources.
Downstream from a coal mine, villages in Indonesian Borneo suffer from water pollution [03/23/2017]
- East Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo, hosts rare expanses of biologically rich tropical rainforest. It also has rich deposits of coal — according to Greenpeace data, around 75 percent of the province has been assigned for coal mining. - PT Indominco Mandiri, a subsidiary of Thai conglomerate Banpu, operates a 25,000-hectare (~62,000-acre) mining concession in East Kalimantan. - Activists and residents say this mining operation has rendered the water of the Santan River unusable for drinking, irrigation or aquaculture.
Jokowi reiterates commitment to indigenous rights [03/23/2017]
- Instead of attending the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago last week in Sumatra as planned, Jokowi invited representatives of the organization to meet in Jakarta on Wednesday. - He told them he would push parliament to pass a law on indigenous rights and said he would form a task force to support the movement. - The administration is planning to recognize the rights of 18 more communities to the forests they call home, an area spanning a total of 590,000 hectares, the president said.
In defining plantations as forest, FAO attracts criticism [03/21/2017]
- The FAO lumps non-oil palm tree plantations into its definition of forest cover when conducting its Global Forest Resource Assessments. The assessments analyze land cover change in countries around the world using largely self-reported data. - Nearly 200 organizations have signed an open letter authored by the NGO World Rainforest Movement to change how they define forest. - Remote sensing technology currently doesn't provide the ability to differentiate the canopies of forests and tree plantations. But researchers say that within a decade, technological advances will make this a reality. - A representative of FAO said the organization is unlikely to change its definition since it is already well established and accepted by governments and other stakeholders.
The people of DRC’s forests [03/21/2017]
- DRC's unstable political situation, security risks, poverty, and weak governance contribute to putting the country's forests at risk. - Africa's most popular fuel - charcoal - is largely unregulated in DRC and comes at the expense of vast tracts of primary forest. - Some DRC residents have a lifelong connection to the forests and rely on it for their livelihood.
Indonesia’s indigenous peoples will have to keep waiting for a promised task force on their rights [03/18/2017]
- President Joko Widodo's administration announced some new initiatives at this week's indigenous peoples congress in Sumatra, but not the task force on their rights participants had been hoping for. - The president's chief of staff said it was more efficient for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to address the matter directly. - Attention now turns to who will be selected to lead the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago for the next five years. A decision will be made on Sunday.
Communities in Mexico step up to protect a disappearing forest [03/16/2017]
- Comprising around 1.9 million hectares in Mexico and Guatemala, the Lacandon is regarded as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. But Mexico's Lacandon rainforest is experiencing significant deforestation activity, and the Guatemalan side of the ecosystem is even more affected. - In Mexico, communities in and around the Lacandon are developing initiatives to help protect the forest through ecotourism. - Movement leaders say they have seen success from their work in parts of the ecosystem, but they urge the need for institutionalization of their model and more collaboration with Guatemala to protect the Lacandon as a whole.
Jokowi cancels appearance at rare indigenous peoples congress [03/16/2017]
- This week marks the fifth congress of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago. The event takes place once every five years. - Indonesian President Joko Widodo had been scheduled to deliver a speech. He would have been the nation's first top official to attend. - Last last year, Jokowi recognized the rights of nine communities to the forests they call home. The development was welcomed by indigenous groups even as they called for him to replicate it on a far larger scale. - "This congress is a deadline for Jokowi to keep his promises. Otherwise there will be a political decision."
Crime and not enough punishment: Amazon thieves keep stolen public land [03/15/2017]
- Land grabbing and illegal ranching (even on public lands) has long been, and still is, big business in the Brazilian Amazon. Last year the Brazilian government launched its most ambitious crackdown ever. And some of the criminals caught up in the federal police net were members of Brazil’s richest families. - In June 2016, federal law enforcement pounced on a gang of land thieves. Antônio José Junqueira Vilela Filho, known as AJ Vilela, and Ricardo Caldeira Viacava, among others, were charged with clearing public lands — 300 square kilometers (74,132 acres) of forest, in total — an area 5 times larger than Manhattan, and of using slave labor to do it. - One of the gang’s innovations was to use sophisticated technology to work out just how much forest they could clear without being detected by monitoring satellites. Unfortunately for the offenders, they were spotted by Kayapó Indians who had their own sophisticated monitoring system (called radio!); they reported the crime to federal police. - But by October 2016, AJ Vilela was out of jail and awaiting trial. And unofficial reports from Pará state, gathered there by Mongabay in November, say that the gang is carrying on as before, illegally raising cattle on the public lands they illegally deforested. Question: why hasn’t the land been reclaimed by the government?
Delays continue over signing of Guyana-EU trade agreement to combat illegal logging [03/15/2017]
- Part of the process involves setting up a Voluntary Partnership Agreement, or VPA - a trade agreement between the EU and a timber-producing country to ensure legal sourcing. - Negotiations, which take place under the auspices of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), are expected to continue for much of 2017. - Delays with VPA’s are not unheard of, but a new deadline on the Guyana trade agreement has been pushed back to the end of 2017.
Current regulations unable to control trade in products from slave labor, expert says [03/13/2017]
- Kevin Bales is co-founder of the advocacy group Free the Slaves and professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham in the UK. - In his recent book, Blood and Earth, Bales discusses his research to uncover connections between labor rights and the protection of nature. - In this interview with Repórter Brasil, Bales discusses how current regulation is largely unable to stem the trade in products manufactured through slave labor and recommends governments devote more resources to combatting it. He also highlights a few promising developments that are helping to boost corporate transparency.
Suppliers of Lowe’s in the US and Walmart in Brazil linked to slave labor in the Amazon [03/13/2017]
- Slave labor-analogous conditions were revealed by investigation of logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A supply chain investigation of the timber harvested through these camps has found links to markets in Brazil and the U.S. - Major retailers with links to intermediaries that sourced wood from logging camps found to use slave labor practices include Lowe's, Timber Holdings, and Brazilian Walmart stories. Timber Holdings has used wood from Brazil in major renovation projects for New York's Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park.
Slave labor in the Amazon: Risking lives to cut down the rainforest [03/13/2017]
- Investigations show conditions analogous to slave labor as defined by Brazilian law are not uncommon at small logging camps in Pará, Brazil. - A recent bust of one labor camp by a team headed by the Ministry of Labor led to the rescue several men living in substandard conditions. Interviews of the men and observations by Repórter Brasil indicate their lives were forcibly put at-risk at the camp. - Workers from other logging camps came forward to report instances of nonpayment, and being threatened by guns when they demanded their pay. - Although the job is life threatening and illegal, and wages aren't guaranteed, workers report often having no other choice but to work at the logging camps.
Investigation reveals slave labor conditions in Brazil’s timber industry [03/13/2017]
- The report was the culmination of an investigation into slave labor practices in the state of Pará’s timber industry led by the Integrated Action Network to Combat Slavery (RAICE). - The investigation found several conditions used by Brazilian law to define slave labor were occurring at logging camps, including forced work, debt bondage, isolation, exhausting working hours and life-threatening activities. - According to the report, workers at the camp often felt forced into illegal logging because of dire economic circumstances.
Big data timber exchange partners with FSC in Brazil [03/13/2017]
- BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. - Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber. - The partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
Q&A with Abdon Nababan, outgoing head of Indonesia’s indigenous peoples alliance [03/13/2017]
- The Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago holds its congress once every five years. The next one will take place this week in Tanjung Gusta village on the island of Sumatra. - The Southeast Asian country is one of the planet's most ethnically diverse, with hundreds of different languages spoken within its borders. - After 10 years at the organization's helm, Abdon Nababan will yield his position to someone new.
Successful forest protection in DRC hinges on community participation [03/12/2017]
- Forest covers at least 112 million hectares of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Studies from 2013 show that subsistence agriculture and the need for firewood threaten DRC’s forests, and new investments in the countries forests by industrial outfits could contribute to the problem. - DRC’s leaders have signed on to international agreements and have begun to receive millions of dollars to finance projects aimed at keeping DRC’s forests standing, protecting global climate and reducing poverty.
Aceh governor-elect: ‘I myself will cancel’ controversial geothermal project in Sumatran rainforest [03/11/2017]
- Last month, Irwandi Yusuf beat incumbent Zaini Abdullah in the race for governor of Indonesia's westernmost Aceh province. - Yusuf, whom some called Aceh's "green governor" when he previously held its top office, said before the election that he would review Abdullah's less environmentally friendly policies. - It remains to be seen how Yusuf will handle the dispute over a provincial land-use plan passed by Abdullah's administration. The plan makes no mention of the Leuser Ecosystem, and therefore leaves its rainforests vulnerable to plantation and mining companies. Environmentalists say it is illegal and are challenging it in court.
New bill aims to cut protection of 1M hectares of Brazilian rainforest [03/10/2017]
- State legislators presented the proposal early last month to President Michel Temer’s Chief of Staff, which included changes to five protected areas in the southern state of Amazonas. - When presenting the proposal, the legislators argued that the “protected” classification undermines the legal security of rural producers and economic investments that have already been made in the region. - Conservation groups worry that, if approved, the bid would put more than a million hectares of rainforest at risk to deforestation. - When surveying documents filed with Brazil’s National Department of Mineral Production, WWF reportedly uncovered a link between the proposed bill and applications for prospecting and mining in southern Amazonas.
Indonesian Supreme Court orders Jokowi administration to hand over palm oil permit data [03/10/2017]
- Forest Watch Indonesia has been trying to force the Ministry of Land and Spatial Planning to release in full the maps of oil palm companies' concessions, known as HGUs. - The Supreme Court's decision hands the NGO a victory in its freedom of information request, launched in 2015. - Once it receives the hard copies of the documents, FWI will scan and upload them on its website.
From conflict to communities: Forests in Liberia [03/10/2017]
- Liberia holds 40 percent of West Africa’s Upper Guinean rainforest. - National and international organizations have worked with communities and the country’s leadership to clean up the corruption that many say has pervaded outside investments in timber and commercial agriculture. - Currently, the Land Rights Act, which would give communities more control over their forests, awaits approval, but its progress has been paralyzed, in part by this year’s elections.
Cattle industry lags behind in addressing impact on deforestation [03/09/2017]
- Supply chain transparency is especially difficult in the cattle industry because cattle frequently change hands, unlike soy or oil palm crops that remain stationary for years. - While some major cattle companies have taken strides toward sustainability, they still lack sufficient support from the industry as a whole. - While consumers are increasingly pushing for deforestation-free palm oil and other products, consumer pressure for change in the cattle industry hasn’t been as significant.
Greenpeace to take Indonesian forestry ministry to Supreme Court over environmental data [03/09/2017]
- Greenpeace wants the ministry to release seven different geospatial maps of Indonesia in the shapefile format. - The ministry is willing to publish PDF and JPEG versions of the maps, but it says shapefiles can't be reliably authenticated and could therefore be altered by third parties. - Greenpeace contends the shapefiles could quite simply be digitally signed.
Industry-backed plantation museum opens in Indonesia [03/09/2017]
- The museum was inaugurated by the North Sumatra provincial government last December. - The idea came from the CEO of Bakrie Sumatera Plantations, a major oil palm grower. - It is Indonesia's first plantation museum.
Short film takes you into the Amazon with researcher who discovered a new frog species [03/08/2017]
- Back in January, biologist Jennifer Serrano and a team of researchers published a paper officially describing a new species of poison dart frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, which was given the name Ameerega shihuemoy, to science. - Finding Frogs, a short documentary by filmmaker Nick Werber, captures the sense of awe and discovery inherent in doing fieldwork like Jennifer Serrano’s. - In this Q&A, Mongabay speaks with Werber about his motivation for making the documentary in the first place, the difficulties of shooting a film in a humid environment like a rainforest, and why it’s so important for scientific discoveries to be more widely shared via media like film.
Amazon Soy Moratorium: defeating deforestation or greenwash diversion? [03/08/2017]
- In the early 2000s, public outrage over Amazon clear cutting for soy production caused transnational grain companies including Cargill, Bunge and Brazil’s Amaggi, to join with soy producers and environmental NGOs including Greenpeace to sign the voluntary Amazon Soy Moratorium, banning direct conversion of Amazon forests to soy after 2006. - The agreement’s signatories have long proclaimed its phenomenal success. A 2014 study found that in the 2 years preceding the agreement, nearly 30 percent of soy expansion in the Amazon biome occurred through deforestation. But after the ASM direct deforestation for soy fell to only 1 percent of soy expansion in the Amazon biome. - Critics say these statistics hide major ASM failings: that its apparent success is largely due to there already being so much deforested land in the Amazon as of 2006, that there was plenty of room for soy expansion without cutting forest. Also, cleared pastureland onto which soy moved, often simply displaced cattle into forests newly cut by land grabbers for ranchers. - Of most concern: ASM covers only one of two Legal Amazonia biomes. While marginally protecting the Amazon, it doesn’t cover the Cerrado savanna, where soy growers have aggressively cleared millions of acres of biodiverse habitat — critics see the ASM as corporate and NGO greenwash; defenders say it inspired other tropical deforestation agreements globally.
Brazilian savanna and Bolivian rainforest at risk from soy production, says report [03/08/2017]
- Soybeans, which make up the main feed for livestock that supply fast food chains like Burger King, occupy almost 1 million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) of land around the world. - Through the investigation, researchers found that the production of some of Burger King's meat may be linked to deforestation. - The report focuses on the massive soy purchase operations of multinational agricultural corporations Cargill, Bunge, and Archer Daniels Midland.
An indigenous group reforests its corner of coastal New Guinea [03/07/2017]
- Residents of Yepem on the Indonesian half of New Guinea island are undertaking a reforestation project with the local government. - Respect for nature is a fundamental part of the worldview of the local Asmat people. - Locals' biggest problem is a lack of clean water.
Science needed for more transparency in Paris climate projections [03/06/2017]
- According to a new study, forest-rich nations could play a huge role in keeping the temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, the key metric agreed to at the 2015 UN climate talks in Paris. - Forests could account for a quarter of emissions reductions to meet targets in the Paris Agreement. - However, the ways that countries measure emissions differ, making it difficult to track progress.
HSBC to stop financing deforestation-linked palm oil firms [03/03/2017]
- A recent Greenpeace report accused the bank of marshalling $16.3 billion in financing for six firms since 2012 that have illegally cleared forests, planted oil palm on carbon-rich peat soil and grabbed community lands. - The investigation prompted scores of people to join a campaign to change the bank’s policies, including thousands of HSBC’s own customers. - The bank's new policy requires HSBC customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peatland by June 30, and provide independent verification of their own NDPE commitments by Dec. 31, 2018.
Newly discovered Tanzanian frog already facing extinction [03/02/2017]
- The new frog was collected in 2001 from Ruvu South Forest Reserve in Tanzania, in habitat atypical for spiny reed frogs. - The scientists who collected it couldn't identify it in the field. Fourteen years later, they sequenced the frog's DNA, which revealed that it was a species previously unknown to science. - The new species is represented by just one museum specimen. Recent attempts to find more in Ruvu South Forest Reserve failed to turn up the sought-after frogs, leaving researchers worried the species is being wiped out by dramatic deforestation affecting the reserve and surrounding areas.
Deforestation vs. Degradation: How we underestimate tropical forest greenhouse gas emissions [03/02/2017]
- Researchers calculated carbon dioxide emissions from tropical forest degradation from 74 countries focusing on timber harvesting, wood fuel collection, and fires. - They found that emissions from forest degradation amounted to 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide — a third of those from tropical deforestation and greater than the emissions from power generation in the USA. - Forest degradation emissions for a third of the countries studied were higher than their emissions from deforestation.
Forests provide a nutritional boon to some communities, research shows [03/02/2017]
- The new study, across 24 countries, shows a wide range in the variability of how communities use forests for food. - The nutrients provided by wild fruits, vegetables, game and fish are critical to the nutritional health of some communities and should play a role in decisions about land usage. - Land-use decisions should factor in the importance of forest foods to some communities, say the authors.
Pressure over water in Brazil puts pulp industry in the spotlight [03/02/2017]
- Brazil is the world's largest producer of eucalyptus-derived pulp and the state of Espírito Santo is one of its biggest production centers. - More than a third of the state, which was once rich in Atlantic Forest, is at risk of becoming desert. - The region faces one of the worst droughts in its history, which is causing billions in losses.
A Bornean village conserves a forest the government listed for cutting [03/02/2017]
- Residents of Bawan village in Indonesia Borneo applied for a permit to manage their land as a "village forest," a form of community forestry being pushed by President Joko Widodo's administration. - The national government had designated the area as "production forest," meaning it could be sold to a plantation or mining company, but residents chose instead to protect the land. - “I consider Bawan’s village forest a champion project," said Lilik Sugiarti, a USAID representative who helped to bring it about.
Environmental costs, benefits and possibilities: Q&A with anthropologist Eben Kirksey [02/28/2017]
- The environmental humanities pull together the tools of the anthropologist and the biologist. - Anthropologist Eben Kirksey has studied the impact of mining, logging and infrastructure development on the Mee people of West Papua, Indonesia, revealing the inequalities that often underpins who benefits and who suffers as a result of natural resource extraction. - Kirksey reports that West Papuans are nurturing a new form of nationalism that might help bring some equality to environmental change.
Kalaodi, Tidore’s eco-village in Indonesia’s spice capital [02/28/2017]
- In 1972, Indonesia's central government mapped Kalaodi, a village of 454 people, into a protected forest. - Locals were upset because the protected status robbed them of the ability to continue their centuries-old tradition of cultivating spice groves. - Today, Kalaodi residents are taking the first steps towards restituting past government oversteps.
Survival of nearly 10,000 orangutans in Borneo oil palm estates at stake [02/28/2017]
- 10,000 orangutans remain in areas currently allocated to oil palm. These animals can only survive if environmental practices in plantations adhere to standards such as those prescribed by RSPO. - Orangutan rescues should only be allowed when no other solutions exist; otherwise they will aggravate problems of deforestation and orangutan killing. - Further scrutiny of companies and other groups that are at the forefront of these improvements is needed, but increasingly campaigners should focus on the laggards and rogues that cause the greatest environmental damage. - This a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
The Republic of Congo: on the cusp of forest conservation [02/27/2017]
- The Republic of Congo’s high forest cover and low annual deforestation rates of just over 0.05 percent have led to the country being named as a priority country by the UN’s REDD+ program. - The country has numerous protected areas and has signed agreements to certify the sustainability and legality of its timber industry. - Skeptics caution that more needs to be done to address corruption and protect the country’s forests, a third of which are still relatively untouched.
The changing face of Amazon development: from land grab to eco-lodge [02/23/2017]
- Ariosto da Riva was often described as “the last of the bandeirantes”, the violent adventurers who first penetrated the Brazilian Amazon in the 16th century in search of gold. Working with Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), he owned a million hectares of forest, pushed indigenous people from their lands, and brought in settlers. - His daughter, Vitória da Riva Carvalho, though wealthy, did not buy into his legacy. She is noted instead for her strong defense of the rainforest and for her world-renowned ecotourism destination, the Cristalino Jungle Lodge, located outside the town of Alta Floresta — which her father settled — in northernmost Mato Grosso state. - The evolution of the relationship between father and daughter helps trace the unfolding land conflicts that have smouldered and exploded in the Amazon between indigenous and traditional peoples on one side; and land speculators, land grabbers, loggers, settlers and soy growers on the other. - Today, most of the indigenous people who lived in the region where the Cristalino Jungle Lodge entertains its wealthy guests are gone — dead, pushed into indigenous reserves, or retreated elsewhere. But for now, the rainforest and much extraordinary biodiversity remains, with people like Vitória da Riva Carvalho as its stewards.
Judge halts excavation plans for largest-ever Brazilian goldmine [02/22/2017]
- The Belo Sun goldmine, to be Brazil’s largest, would use cyanide and other industrial processes to produce 5 million ounces of gold over 12 years. The company´s environmental impact assessment says it will process nearly 35 million tons of rock. The open-pit mine would leave behind gigantic solid waste piles covering many hectares, plus a huge toxic waste impoundment near the Xingu River. - A Brazilian judge suspended the project’s installation license this week, faulting the Canadian company that would be excavating Belo Sun with improperly acquiring federal land and potentially removing families from those lands to “reduce social costs.” - The proposed Belo Sun goldmine is within a short distance of the controversial Belo Monte dam, which has dislocated residents, caused deforestation, and harmed the environment, causing major fish kills on the Xingu River, a major tributary of the Amazon River. Residents are concerned that the addition of the nation’s biggest goldmine will do more severe harm. - Residents fear that a failure of the Belo Sun toxic waste impoundment dam would create a disaster on the Xingu River similar in scale to the Samarco Fundão dam collapse in 2015, which dumped roughly 50 million tons of toxic iron ore waste into the Doce River, polluting it for 500 miles, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and causing Brazil´s largest environmental disaster.
Scrapping Nigerian superhighway buffer isn’t enough, say conservation groups [02/22/2017]
- The superhighway project, intended to stimulate the Cross River state economy, will no longer include a 20-kilometer-wide buffer zone along its 260-kilometer length. - The NGO Wildlife Conservation Society said minimizing the destruction necessary for the buffer zone was an important step, but that it will still disrupt communities and wildlife. - Representatives of the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, told the media that they intended to move forward with the superhighway despite the criticism.
Proposed Trump policy threatens Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorilla [02/21/2017]
- The largest great ape, Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has nearly disappeared in the past two decades. Numbers have plummeted by 77 percent; perhaps 3,800 remain. This animal, dubbed “the forgotten gorilla” because it was so little studied and was absent from most zoos, is in serious danger of extinction. - Their slaughter was precipitated by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s bloody civil war and by mining for coltan and tin ore, “conflict minerals” used in cell phones, laptops and other electronics. Gorillas are heavily poached by armed militias, miners, and less often, by refugees: the animals are being eaten nearly to extinction. - The gorillas could suffer greater harm from warlords and miners if President Trump signs a proposed presidential memorandum leaked to Reuters. It would allow US companies to buy conflict minerals freely without public disclosure, likely increasing mining in the Congo basin — and poaching. - Trump’s plan would nullify the current US Conflict Mineral Rule, passed with bipartisan support in 2010 and enacted as part of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Dodd Frank Act. Meanwhile, conservationists are hopeful that the Grauer’s gorilla can be saved — but only with a DRC and planet-wide response.
What happens when the soy and palm oil boom ends? [02/21/2017]
- Over the past 30 years demand and production of oils crops like oil palm and soybeans has boomed across the tropics. - This rapid expansion has in some places taken a heavy toll on native, wildlife-rich ecosystems. - Derek Byerlee, co-author of a new book titled The Tropical Oil Crop Revolution, spoke with Mongabay about the tropical oil crop sector and what's to come for the industry.
African bush babies gain a new genus [02/20/2017]
- Genetic data has pointed toward a unique group of dwarf galagos living in Africa for a long time, but the physical similarity between the primates in the Galago family has confounded scientists. - Using these genetic clues as a guide, a team of researchers examined the skulls and teeth of galagos and analyzed their calls. - They concluded that five species previously placed in other genera should be placed in a sixth genus of the family Galagidae. They chose the name ‘Paragalago’ for the new genus.
Protected areas found to be ‘significant’ sources of carbon emissions [02/17/2017]
- The researchers found 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 percent of all tropical forest carbon. This is because protected areas tend to have denser, older forest – thus, higher carbon stocks. - Their study uncovered that, on average, nearly 0.2 percent of protected area forest cover was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. - Less than nine percent of the reserves that the researchers sampled contributed 80 percent of the total carbon emissions between 2000 and 2012, putting this small subset of reserves on par with the UK’s entire transportation sector. - The researchers say their findings could help prioritize conservation attention.
Getting there: The rush to turn the Amazon into a soy transport corridor [02/15/2017]
- The development over the last 40 years of Mato Grosso state in Brazil’s interior as an industrial agribusiness powerhouse has, from the beginning, been hindered by a major economic problem: how to get the commodities to the coast for profitable export. - The first route of export from Mato Grosso was a costly and time-consuming southern one, with commodities trucked on a circuitous route to Santos in São Paulo state and Paranaguá in Paraná state on the Atlantic coast. - The paving of the northern section of BR-163, running south to north through Pará state, opened a much less expensive, faster route, with commodities now moved to Miritituba on the Tapajós River, then downstream to the Amazon, and on to Europe and China. - New infrastructure plans call for the channelization of the Juruena, Teles Pires and Tapajós rivers, creating a 1,000-mile industrial waterway. Two railways, one over the Andes, are also proposed. These schemes pose grave threats to the Amazon rainforest, biodiversity, indigenous and traditional communities, and even the global climate.
Counterintuitive: Global hydropower boom will add to climate change [02/14/2017]
- For many years new hydropower dams were assumed to be zero greenhouse gas emitters. Now with 847 large (more than 100 MW) and 2,853 smaller (more than 1 MW) hydropower projects currently planned or under construction around the world, a new global study has shown that dam reservoirs are major greenhouse gas emitters. - The study looked at the carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted from 267 reservoirs across six continents. Globally, the researchers estimate that reservoirs contribute 1.3 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to those from rice paddy cultivation or biomass burning. - Reservoir emissions are not currently counted within the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) emissions assessments, but they should be, argue the researchers. In fact, countries are currently eligible under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to receive carbon credits for newly built dams. - The study raises the question as to whether hydropower should continue to be counted as green power or be eligible for UN CDM carbon credits.
Loving apes celebrated this Valentine’s Day [02/14/2017]
- The IUCN estimates that as few as 15,000 bonobos remain in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. - Bonobos, unlike chimpanzees and humans, live in matriarchal societies and have never been observed killing a member of their own species. - The California Senate passed a resolution stating that Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) would also be known as World Bonobo Day beginning in 2017. - Bushmeat hunting, habitat destruction and the wildlife trade are the greatest threats to the survival of bonobos.
Trees need a little help to reclaim deforested land, study finds [02/14/2017]
- Scientists with the Swiss university ETH Zurich used forensic genetics to determine that seed dispersal and seedling establishment rarely occured more than a few hundred meters from the seed tree in their 216-square-kilometer (about 83-square-mile) study area in an agro-forest landscape in India’s Western Ghats. - The scientists say theirs is the first large-scale, direct estimate of realized seed dispersal of a high-value timber tree — in this case, Dysoxylum malabaricum, or White Cedar, which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. - That means that many tropical tree species that are important to humanity and for preserving biodiversity, like Dysoxylum malabaricum, are less likely to recover from logging and habitat degradation than we previously thought, according to Dr. Christopher Kettle of ETH Zürich, a co-author of the study.
Investors learning to pay heed to community land rights [02/13/2017]
- Most conflicts besetting private investments in Africa – 63 percent – relate to pushing people off their lands. - These conflicts affect agriculture, mining, and even green energy investments. - In Southern Africa, 73 percent of conflicts turned violent and 73 percent halted work on the developments.
Chain saw injuries in Myanmar tied to illegal logging [02/12/2017]
- The dangers of chain saw use in Myanmar are compounded by a lack of training and protective gear in rural areas where inexperienced loggers can end up seriously injured or dead. - Though a license is required to own a chain saw, one can also be rented fairly easily. - A chain saw can cut down a tree many times faster than a hand-held saw, speeding up the movement of illegal timber from Myanmar to its main export destination, China.
Newly discovered beetle catches a ride on the backs of army ants to get around [02/10/2017]
- “From above it is difficult to detect the parasite, because the beetle closely resembles the ant's abdomen,” von Beeren said in a statement. “When viewed from the side, however, it looks as if the ants had a second abdomen. To our surprise the odd looking 'ant abdomens' turned out to be beetles." - In a BMC Zoology article, von Beeren and his co-author, Alexey Tishechkin of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory, write that what they’d observed was an “exceptional mechanism of phoresy,” which is when two organisms form a symbiotic relationship in which one (in this case, the beetle) travels on the body of another. - The new beetle, named Nymphister kronaueri after Daniel Kronauer, an army-ant researcher at The Rockefeller University in New York who first discovered the species, uses its strong mandibles to anchor itself to ants’ bodies during the nomadic army ants’ regular emigrations to new nesting sites.
Camera traps reveal undiscovered leopard population in Javan forest [02/10/2017]
- Government camera traps spotted three individuals in the Cikepuh Wildlife Reserve, along the southern coast of Indonesia's main central island of Java. - The environment ministry says 11 leopards are thought to exist in the sanctuary. - The Javan leopard is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
Brazil’s ‘river people’ join forces with indigenous communities, offer alternative to deforestation [02/10/2017]
- Extractive reserves are important to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, creating buffer zones of protection from deforestation and the exploitation of natural resources. - Extractive reserves cover 3.4 million hectares of land in Brazil, nearly all of it in the Amazon. - Mining, logging and professional hunting are prohibited within the Xingu Resex, but trading posts allow for the exchange of goods gathered from within the reserve.
Efficient stoves and elephant grass aid primate conservation in northern Vietnam [02/09/2017]
- The Cao-vit, or eastern black crested gibbon (Nomascus nasutus), is a critically endangered primate only found in northern Vietnam and across the border in China’s Guangxi province. - The conservation initiative helps provide fuel-efficient stoves at reduced prices to local communities where residents rely on firewood for cooking. The wood is often chopped down in nearby forests where the gibbons live. - The increased efficiency of the stoves has reduced residents' need to harvest wood from forests.
Soy invasion poses imminent threat to Amazon, say agricultural experts [02/08/2017]
- The meteoric rise in soy production in the state of Mato Grosso is eating up rainforest and savanna at a staggering rate, with 1.2 million hectares under production in 1991; 6.2 million hectares in 2010; and 9.4 million hectares by 2016. Much of that soy is being exported to China, and it is expected that Brazil will grow more soy to meet Asia’s need. - Since the time of Brazil’s military government (1964-1985), down to the present day, the national government has repeatedly offered lip service in support of Brazil’s agrarian poor, while offering large tax breaks and other major incentives to large landowners, large-scale agribusiness, and transnational commodities companies. - This trend of overwhelming federal support for big soy growers seems likely to continue under current Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi (once dubbed the “Soy King”), and due to the powerful influence held by the ruralista agribusiness lobby in the National Congress. - If China’s 21st century demand for soy, and Brazil’s ambition to meet that demand, don’t slacken, Amazon deforestation rates are likely to continue rising, and indigenous peoples are likely to see on-going threats to their communities and livelihoods. One place the threat is most dire is in the Tapajós Basin on the border of Mato Grosso and Pará states.
Will there really be enough sustainable palm oil for the whole market? [02/07/2017]
- A report by non-profit CDP suggests companies may have a false confidence in their ability to find enough sustainable palm oil to meet their commitments. - Certified sustainable palm oil was in short supply last summer and prices spiked when two major producers were suspended by the industry's main certification association, revealing vulnerabilities in the supply. - Better planning to secure future supply includes working more intensively with suppliers, says CDP.
Expedition sets out to explore isolated, mysterious forest in DRC [02/06/2017]
- Kabobo Massif is a 100-kilometer mountain range in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The area has been little-explored due to conflict. - The expedition consists of researchers and filmmakers who will spend one month surveying wildlife in Kabobo Massif. - Using new technology, they will analyze DNA in the field to determine species. - They hope their survey will bring more protection to the area.
New population of rare Dryas monkey videotaped for the first time [02/03/2017]
- Fewer than 200 Dryas monkeys are believed to survive in the wild today. - Videotaping the secretive monkeys was not easy. - Researchers set up cameras on the ground, in the understory and even climbed very tall trees to attach cameras in the canopy. - The team hopes that their camera trapping exercise will help them document where new Dryas populations live.
Scientists launch expedition to find missing monkeys [02/02/2017]
- Vanzolini's bald-faced saki hasn't been seen since scientists first discovered it in western Brazil in the 1930s. - Navigating along the Rio Juruá and its tributaries, the expedition will be the first comprehensive biological survey of the region. - Its international team of researchers hopes to uncover the saki, as well as other yet-undocumented species, while calling conservation attention to the river and surrounding rainforest.
Birds wanted: Recovering forests need avian assist [02/02/2017]
- Clearing swaths of rainforests can permanently drive away or kill off birds that are important partners in the regeneration of the forest, the study finds. - The study surveyed 330 sites in the Brazilian Amazon, turning up 472 species of birds. - The analyses demonstrate that recovering forests don’t have the diversity of birds needed to ensure their survival. - The authors say that their findings point to a need to preserve standing forests, even if they’re heavily degraded.
Brazil alters indigenous land demarcation process, sparking conflict [02/02/2017]
- In mid-January Brasília issued Ordinance 80, which moves decisions regarding indigenous land demarcation from Funai, the agency of Indian affairs, to the Justice Ministry. Large-scale landowners applauded the measure, while indigenous land rights activists are opposed to it. - Brazil’s population includes 900,000 indigenous people, of whom 517,000 live on officially recognized indigenous lands. About 13 percent of the country’s territory is set aside as indigenous lands — 98.5 percent of it in the Amazon. - The demarcation process has been fraught with controversy; demarcation of indigenous territory has been delayed for years by Funai, and in some places, by decades. Federal authorities argue that the shift of decision-making to the Justice Ministry will speed the resolution of land conflicts. - Ordinance 80 opponents say that the shift to the Ministry of Justice takes away Funai’s power to decide indigenous demarcation matters via consultations with technical experts and anthropologists, an authority that is enshrined in Brazil’s Constitution.
Honduran politicians, US aid implicated in killings of environmentalists [02/01/2017]
- An investigation by NGO Global Witness finds Honduras has one of the one of the world's highest levels of violence against environmental activists, with more than 120 killed since 2010. - Investigators say government corruption surrounding development projects like dams, mines, and oil palm plantations are largely to blame. - Their report also highlights international finance institutions as playing a role in conflicts surrounding hydroelectric projects, as well as U.S. aid to Honduran military and police forces, which have been implicated in numerous human rights violations in the country.
Introducing Mongabay news alerts [02/01/2017]
Now Mongabay readers can keep up-to-date on the latest conservation and environmental science developments by subscribing to our free topic-based news alerts.
Forest protection funds flow to DRC despite ‘illegal’ logging permits [02/01/2017]
- Since signing agreements with the government of Norway and the Central African Forests Initiative, Greenpeace says leaders in Congo have approved two concessions on 4,000 square kilometers of forest. - DRC expects to receive tens of millions of dollars from CAFI and the Norwegian government for forest protection and sustainable development. - Greenpeace and other watchdog groups have called for an investigation into how these concessions are awarded and an overhaul of donor funding.
Battle for the Amazon: As Sinop grew, the Amazon rainforest faded away [02/01/2017]
- Sinop, a city of 125,000 people in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon in Mato Grosso state, is a modern success story. Prosperous and booming, the small urban center services a region dominated today by industrial agriculture. - Few remember how the city came to be. As recently as the 1970’s, the Sinop region was mostly rainforest and occupied by indigenous peoples. - At the time, Brazil’s military government highly favored large-scale land speculators. These men gained dubious title to millions of acres of rainforest, divided it into lots, and sold it off to poor Brazilian settlers. Many settlers found their transplantation into the Amazon very difficult. - Indigenous and traditional people who lacked land titles were driven out, often violently. The story of Sinop is a story of development, exploitation and conflict that has continued to play out across the Amazon region — especially in the Tapajós River basin today.
Deforestation-free commodities represent a major investment opportunity: Report [01/31/2017]
- Agricultural commodities — especially beef, palm oil, soy, and pulp and paper — have become an increasingly important driver of deforestation over the past couple decades, particularly in the tropics. - While there’s a lot of work left to be done, WEF and TFA 2020 see momentum building toward a sea change in the global supply chain for these much-in-demand commodities. - Overcoming the barriers to sustainable production of the big four commodities and supporting the transition to deforestation-free supply chains represents an investment opportunity that will “roughly total US$ 200 billion annually” by 2020, per the report.
NGO takes action to save great apes in Cameroon’s Lebialem Highlands [01/31/2017]
- The Lebialem Highlands, in Cameroon’s southwest, is a rugged mountainous and plateaued region still inhabited by the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla, the Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and the Vulnerable African forest elephant. - While the Cameroon government has taken action by protecting swathes of forest in the region, they admit to being unable to fully protect this habitat from incursions by surrounding communities, who go to the protected lands to farm, harvest bushmeat, hunt, log and mine. - The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), an NGO, has stepped in to help protect Highlands conserved areas — including the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and the still to be created Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary. - Supported by the Rainforest Trust-USA, ERuDeF is also working to improve local village economies and livelihoods in order to take pressure off of wildlife.
Norway starts $400-million fund to halt deforestation, help farmers [01/31/2017]
- Norway contributed $100 million, and other donors are expected to contribute the balance of the $400-million commitment by 2020. - The World Economic Forum figures that the financing will help protect 5 million hectares of peatland and forest. - Small-scale farmers should receive support through the fund to increase their yields while avoiding further deforestation and degradation.
A possible undiscovered orangutan population in Borneo? [01/31/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is the final part.
Record heat and drought seen in Amazon during 2015-16 El Niño [01/30/2017]
- The Amazon rainforest experienced record-breaking high temperatures and severe drought during the 2015-16 El Niño, according to a recent study, and the area of drought-stricken forest was 20 percent greater than other extreme El Niño events. - This Amazon drought pattern differed from previous El Niños, with drought in the east, and above-average rainfall in the west. Scientists think the precise location of El Niño warming in the Pacific may be responsible: the most recent El Niño saw warming in the Central Pacific, rather than in the Eastern Pacific as in 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Niños. - Tree mortality increases and tree growth decreases during severe droughts, with implications for the global carbon cycle. Drought-induced effects reduce the capacity of the Amazon rainforest to store atmospheric CO2, and those effects could, over time, result in the Amazon shifting from being a carbon sink to being a carbon source. - A primary concern for scientists is that as climate change escalates, extreme El Niño events will become more common, with the Amazon Basin having less recovery time between events and therefore losing resilience. If a tipping point is reached, then the Amazon could make a shift from CO2 sink to source, adding significantly to global warming.
Logging in certified concessions drove intact forest landscape loss in Congo Basin [01/30/2017]
- A study published in the journal Science Advances this month found that, between 2000 and 2013, the global area of intact forest landscape declined by 7.2 percent. - Certification of logging concessions, which aims to ensure sustainable forest management practices, had a “negligible” impact on slowing the fragmentation of intact forest landscapes (IFLs) in the Congo Basin, according to the study. - According to Corey Brinkema, president of the Forest Stewardship Council US, the findings of the study may be noteworthy, but they don’t apply to how FSC operates today.
‘Revolutionary’ new biodiversity maps reveal big gaps in conservation [01/27/2017]
- The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. - Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. - Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
Court dismisses Ecuadorian government bid to shut down environmental NGO [01/26/2017]
- The San Carlos-Panantza copper project in the Cordillera del Cóndor, south of the Ecuadorian Amazon, has given rise to numerous conflicts between the Chinese mining company EXSA and the Shuar indigenous community, which both claim rights to the land. - Ecuador’s leading environmental group, Acción Ecológica, has raised concerns about the government’s actions in dealing with the conflicts that have arisen from the San Carlos-Panantza mine. - The Ecuadorian Government attempted to close Acción Ecológica, generating criticism from the international community. - On January 11, a hearing was held against Acción Ecológica at the premises of the Ministry of Environment; a day later, the request for dissolution was dismissed.
Politician’s son named a suspect over illegal land clearing in Leuser Ecosystem [01/26/2017]
- Last October, authorities found three men and an excavator digging a canal through the Singkil Swamp Wildlife Reserve. They appeared to be preparing the land for oil palm cultivation. - This week, the police announced that the son of the head of a local parliament is a suspect in the case. - The reserve lies within the Leuser Ecosystem, the only place where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans still coexist in the wild.
Want to be a responsible palm oil firm? Follow these reporting guidelines [01/25/2017]
- Ceres, Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance and WWF are among the groups behind the guidelines. - Some of the guidelines describe how companies should map and name their suppliers, disclosing the locations of their own operations as well as those of the firms they buy from. - How companies can ensure they aren’t grabbing community lands are another focus of the guidelines.
Primates face impending extinction – what’s next? [01/24/2017]
- Nonhuman primates are on the decline almost everywhere. - The third most diverse Order of mammals, primates are under the highest level of threat of any larger group of mammals, and among the highest of any group of vertebrates - 63% of primates are threatened, meaning that they fall into one of the three IUCN categories of threat—Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable. - This post is a commentary - the views expressed are those of the authors.
Guyana focuses deforestation prevention efforts on conservation and management [01/24/2017]
- Almost 90 percent of Guyana’s roughly 750,000 residents live in coastal areas outside of the forests, which contributes to the preservation of the country’s intact forest landscape. - Over the past two decades, deforestation rates in Guyana have ranged from between 0.02 percent to 0.079 percent – far less than many other tropical countries. - Gold mining appears to be the biggest threat to Guyana's forests, driving approximately 85 percent of the country's deforestation in 2014.
Bridge through Borneo wildlife sanctuary moving forward [01/22/2017]
- For more than a year, scientists and conservationists have argued that the 350-meter (1,148-foot) Sukau bridge crossing the Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian state of Sabah would hurt wildlife populations and a blossoming ecotourism market more than it would boost local economies. - The paved road that would accompany the bridge would cut through the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, home to Borneo elephants and 11 species of primates including orangutans. - A government official responded to recent reports about the bridge’s construction, saying that it would not begin until the environmental impact assessment has been completed.
Then and now: 100 years of wildlife loss and deforestation in Borneo [01/22/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part III.
Scientists ‘impressed and delighted’ by animals found in remnant forests [01/21/2017]
- A new study finds promising conservation value in forest corridors along rivers in Sumatra's plantation-dominated landscape. - But government regulations require areas of forest that border rivers -- called "riparian" forests – be left standing to safeguard water quality for downstream communities. - In the first study of its kind conducted in the tropics, researchers set camera traps in riparian forests through tree plantations near Tesso Nilo National Park. They found a significant mammal presence, including tapirs, tigers, bears, pangolins, and elephants. - The researchers say their findings indicate Sumatra's forest remnants could help keep wildlife populations afloat in areas with lots of habitat loss. However, they caution that these corridors are threatened by lax regulation enforcement, and can only work in tandem with larger forested areas.
Indigenous traditional knowledge revival helps conserve great apes [01/20/2017]
- Deforestation and hunting continue to put Africa’s great apes at risk. National parks and other top down strategies have met with limited success. Many conservationists are trying alternative strategies, especially harnessing the power of indigenous taboos and other traditional knowledge to motivate local communities to protect great apes. - In remote parts of Africa, taboos against hunting have long helped conserve gorilla populations. However, those ancient traditions are being weakened by globalization, modernization and Christianity, with anti-hunting taboos and other traditional beliefs being abandoned at a time when they are most needed to conserve great apes. - Primatologist Denis Ndeloh Etiendem suggests a unique approach to reviving indigenous taboos and traditional beliefs — the creation of videos and films in which these beliefs are presented as a prime reason for conserving wildlife. He also urges that African environmental and general educational curricula focus not on endangered dolphins or whales, but on wildlife found in interior Africa. - Development specialist Dominique Bikaba emphasizes the importance of moving away from top down federal management, and to local management of community forests by indigenous communities, whose leaders mesh traditional beliefs with modern conservation strategies. Prime examples are successes seen at Burhinyi Community Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
‘Running out of time’: 60 percent of primates sliding toward extinction [01/19/2017]
- The assessment of 504 primate species found that 60 percent are on track toward extinction, and the numbers of 75 percent are going down. - Agricultural expansion led to the clearing of primate habitat three times the size of France between 1990 and 2010, impinging on the range of 76 percent of apes and monkeys. - By region, Madagascar and Southeast Asia have the most species in trouble. Nearly 90 percent of Madagascar’s more than 100 primates are moving toward extinction. - Primates also face serious threats from hunting, logging and ranching.
Trade in skulls, body parts severely threatens Cameroon’s great apes [01/19/2017]
- Primatologists in Cameroon have been heartened in recent years by the discoveries of new great ape populations scattered around the country. Unfortunately for these gorillas and chimpanzees, their numbers are being rapidly diminished by deforestation and human exploitation. - Cameroon’s gorillas and chimps have long fallen victim to the bushmeat trade, but they are now being hunted vigorously to feed a national and international illegal trade in skulls and other body parts which are being exported to Nigeria, other West African coastal states, and especially to the US and China, either as trophies or for use in traditional medicine. - Great ape trafficking operations in Cameroon are starting to resemble the ivory trade: International trafficking networks are financing hunters, providing them with motorbikes and sophisticated weapons. A spreading network of logging and agribusiness roads and a porous border between Cameroon and Nigeria are further facilitating the trade. - The seriousness of this poaching hits home when one considers that during a four-month period in 2015, anti-poaching and anti-trafficking squads in Cameroon arrested 22 dealers and seized 16 great ape limbs, 24 gorilla heads and 34 chimpanzee skulls in separate operations around the country. Law enforcement is likely only detecting 10 percent of the trade.
Is Brazil green washing hydropower? The case of the Teles Pires dam [01/18/2017]
- The Teles Pires Hydroelectric Company (builder and operator of Brazil’s Teles Pires dam in the Amazon Basin) was awarded a Green Certificate in the “Responsible Social and Environmental Management” category of the Chico Mendes Award, a prize named after the murdered Brazilian eco-hero. - The company has won other green awards for its construction projects (including Amazon dams), and been awarded carbon credits by the United Nations. - But critics ask how green the company that built the Tele Pires dam can be when their project wrecked indigenous and traditional communities, led to the dynamiting of an indigenous sacred site, did harm to biodiversity and fisheries, while also likely producing significant carbon emissions. - The company claims it is not to blame, because it complied with all government regulations during the dam’s construction, and even went further to make the project sustainable. The Teles Pires dam raises key questions about “sustainability,” and who has the right to define it.
HSBC financing tied to deforestation, rights violations for palm oil in Indonesia [01/18/2017]
- HSBC has helped several palm oil companies accused of community rights violations and illegal deforestation pull together billions in credit and bonds, according to research by Greenpeace. - The bank has policies that require its customers to achieve RSPO certification by 2018 and prohibiting the bank from ‘knowingly’ engaging with companies that don’t respect sustainability laws and regulations. - Greenpeace contends that HSBC, as one of the world’s largest banks, should commit to a ‘No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policy and should hold its customers accountable to the same standard.
New species of poison frog discovered in Amazonian slopes of Andes in southeastern Peru [01/17/2017]
- The species was found in just nine locales in the buffer zones of Manu National Park and the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, at the transition between montane forests and the lowlands, from 340 to 850 meters (1,115 to 2,788 feet) above sea level. - The region that the Amarakaeri poison frog calls home is considered one of the most biodiverse on the planet for herpetofauna, but it is also threatened by human activities, including agriculture, gold mining, logging, and an illegally constructed road meant for the transport of fuel for illegal miners and loggers in the area. - Based on IUCN Red List criteria, the research team that made the discovery propose that A. shihuemoy likely qualifies as Near Threatened.
‘Out of control’ wildfires damage protected areas in northern Peru [01/17/2017]
- A new analysis of satellite data describes dozens of fires that invaded protected areas throughout northern Peru in the last few months of 2016. - The rainy season has since extinguished the fires, but not before they burned through an estimated 2,668 hectares of protected habitat - Representatives from Peru's National Protected Areas Service (SERNANP) say they met the fires head-on and are working on ways to mitigate similarly severe fire seasons in the future, but critics say their efforts were lacking in 2016.
E.O. Wilson on Half-Earth, Donald Trump, and hope [01/17/2017]
- Celebrated biologist's new book outlines an audacious plan to save the biodiversity of Earth - He is also the author of numerous biological concepts, including island biogeography and biophilia - In a wide-ranging interview, he also discusses the Trump phenomenon and decries de-extinction and so-called 'Anthropocenists'
Indonesian government challenges another green group over freedom of information request [01/17/2017]
- Indonesian NGOs are making increasing use of the country's freedom of information law to gain access to data pertaining to the management of the country's natural resources. - In one ongoing case, Forest Watch Indonesia is trying to force the Ministry of Land and Spatial Planning to release in full the maps of oil palm companies' concessions, known as HGUs. - The ministry argues that releasing the names of the companies that hold the concessions is a violation of the firms' privacy.
Pileated gibbons poached as bushmeat to feed illegal rosewood loggers [01/17/2017]
- There were 14,000 Pileated gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) in southeast Thailand in 2005, the last time a census survey was done. No one knows what those numbers look like today. The animals are falling victim to illegal hunting, which is the most serious threat to wildlife across Southeast Asia according to a recent study. - The gibbons are especially being poached as bushmeat in Thap Lan National Park by poachers who feed on them when they venture deep into the forest to cut Endangered rosewood trees. 'Hongmu' (red wood) timber imports from the Mekong region to China between 2000 and 2014 were valued at nearly US $2.4 billion. - Underfunded and under-equipped Thai park rangers regularly engage in firefights with the armed loggers, but it is believed that gibbon numbers continue to fall, as the animals are easily spotted when they sing, and are shot out of the trees. - “In the past we used to hear [the gibbons singing] a lot, but now we don’t hear them so much. I think it’s people going into the forest to log that is affecting them,” said Surat Monyupanao, head ranger at Thap Lan National Park.
How local elites earn money from burning land in Indonesia [01/16/2017]
- Members of political parties and local figures are organizing farmers to burn land for sale to a variety of large and small buyers, a new study shows. - These elites pocket most of the profits from this destructive and illegal activity. Village officials who administer land documents and the workers who carry out the burning also receive a cut. - For the fires to stop, the study says, these actors must be disempowered through law and policy.
A trip on Borneo’s Mahakam River in search of forgotten wildlife [01/16/2017]
- With funding from National Geographic we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part II.
Nutella manufacturer: Palm oil in product is ‘safe’, despite cancer concerns [01/15/2017]
- In May 2016, the European Food Safety Authority recommended limitations on the consumption of foods containing several compounds found commonly in products that use refined palm oil, such as baby formula. - The refining process results in the formation of several potentially carcinogenic esters in many types of vegetable oils, but the average levels in palm oils and fats were substantially higher than those found in other types of oil. - Ferrero, the Italian manufacturer of Nutella, said that the palm oil its product contains is processed at ‘controlled temperatures’ and is ‘safe.’
How one conservationist is sparking a ‘young revolution’ in Indonesia [01/13/2017]
- Pungky Nanda Pratama and his team at the NGO Animals Indonesia teach environmental education to five elementary schools in the surrounding villages. - The aim is to counter some of the destructive practices that threaten the health of Kerinci Seblat National Park — the largest park on the island of Sumatra, with the highest population of tigers. - To the children, ‘older brother Pungky’ is the fun teacher who shows them the pointy-nosed turtles on the riverbank and the flying dragons in the trees. To Pungky, these children hold the future of the forest in their hands. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
‘Last frontiers of wilderness’: Intact forest plummets globally [01/13/2017]
- More than 7 percent of intact forest landscapes, defined as forest ecosystems greater than 500 square kilometers in area and showing no signs of human impact, disappeared between 2000 and 2013. - In the tropics, the rate of loss appears to be accelerating: Three times more IFLs were lost between 2011 and 2013 as between 2001 and 2003. - The authors of the study, published January 13 in the journal Science Advances, point to timber harvesting and agricultural expansion as the leading causes of IFL loss.
NASA releases images of dramatic deforestation in Cambodia [01/13/2017]
- Cambodia lost around 1.59 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2014, and just 3 percent remains covered in primary forest. - This deforestation has led to the decline of wildlife habitat and the disappearance of tigers from the country – as well as the release of millions of tons of CO2. - The NASA imagery shows the rapid development of rubber plantations over the past decade. - Research attributes the jump in Cambodian deforestation rates primarily to changes in the global rubber price and an increase in concession deals between the government and plantation and timber companies.
New study analyzes biggest threats to Southeast Asian biodiversity [01/12/2017]
- Deforestation rates in Southeast Asia are some of the highest anywhere on Earth, and the rate of mining is the highest in the tropics. - The region also has a number of hydropower dams under construction, and consumption of species for traditional medicines is particularly pronounced. - A new study published in the journal Ecosphere analyzing all of the threats to Southeast Asia’s biodiversity concludes that the region “may be under some of the greatest levels of biotic threat.”
Great apes and greater challenges: Trafficking in Cameroon [01/12/2017]
- Cameroon is home to four great ape species and sub-species: the Western Lowland gorilla, Cross River gorilla, Central chimpanzee and Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee. Scientists still don’t fully understand these species and the secrets they may hold, especially for medical science, but those secrets will be lost if the animals are not conserved. - A thriving trade in ape skulls, bushmeat, and live animal trafficking is threatening to wipe out ape populations already stressed by habitat loss and fragmentation. The Last Great Ape Organization (LAGA) is an NGO that is tackling the traffickers behind the African trade, but they are up against widespread government corruption that is hindering their efforts. - While confiscations of trafficked great apes is important, estimates put the total of traded animals being detected by law enforcement along trafficking routes at a mere 10 percent. That’s why many conservationists argue that trafficking needs to be stopped not at national borders and airports, but nipped in the bud at the source, in the wild.
‘Day of Terror’: Munduruku village attacked by Brazil’s Federal Police [01/11/2017]
- On November 7, 2012, Brazil’s Federal Police launched the Eldorado Operation with a raid aimed at destroying an illegal gold mining barge at Teles Pires, a Munduruku village. During the attack, an Indian was killed by police — “executed,” according to a Federal Public Ministry (MPF) investigation. - The gold mining barge that was destroyed that day — and others in indigenous territory along the Teles Pires River in the Tapajós Basin — had been allowed to operate illegally by the government for years previously. - The income earned from the gold mining barges had recently been used to fund indigenous opposition to the Belo Monte mega-dam, and resistance to more than 40 dams proposed for the Tapajós Basin. The extreme violence of the Eldorado Operation has shaken Munduruku trust in Brazil’s government. - According to the Indians, the police told them to lie about these events, or face persecution. Mongabay’s videotaped eyewitness interviews have resulted in the MPF opening a new investigation into the Eldorado Operation; MPF is seeking US $2.9 million in damages for the Munduruku.
Newscast #9: Joel Berger on overlooked ‘edge species’ that deserve conservation [01/10/2017]
- We’re also joined by Andrew Whitworth, a conservation and biodiversity scientist with the University of Glasgow, who shares with us some of the recordings he’s made in the field of a critically endangered bird called the Sira Curassow. - Plus: China to close its domestic ivory markets, Cheetah population numbers crash, and more in the top news. - Happy New Year to all of our faithful listeners!
Fragmentation boosts carbon storage along temperate forest edges [01/09/2017]
- A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science reports that trees on the edges of temperate forests in eastern Massachusetts grow nearly 90 percent faster than those on the interior, in contrast with the declines documented in tropical and boreal forest edges. - The increased growth rates and biomass production could translate into a 13-percent boost in carbon uptake and a 10-percent bump in carbon storage over current estimates in the region. - However, these edges are more sensitive to higher temperatures, and as the climate warms, their growth rates will likely drop off more quickly than those further into the forest.
Following in Raven’s Footsteps: 100 years of wildlife loss on Borneo [01/06/2017]
- With funding from the National Geographic Society we are retracing the footsteps of Henry Cushier Raven, a specimen collector who travelled extensively in East Kalimantan, Indonesia between 1912 and 1914. - We want to know which species Raven found and whether we can still find these species today. - In April 2016, we already covered the Berau and East Kutai parts of Raven’s journey. This is the story of his Mahakam travels. - The story is published in four parts. This is part 1.
An ‘infrastructure tsunami’ for Asia: Q&A with researcher William Laurance [01/06/2017]
- The world is in the grips of an infrastructure development boom, which threatens to cause enormous damage to vital ecosystems. - The "global roadmap" project led by William Laurance aims to show where roadbuilding can have the greatest benefits or the greatest harm. - Now, researchers are trying to map at a much finer scale in crucial zones in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
Amazon Indigenous REDD+: an innovative approach to conserve Colombian forests? [01/06/2017]
- The Amazon Indigenous REDD+ (RIA) initiative led in Colombia by the indigenous organization OPIAC is being implemented in the departments of Amazonas and Guainia, territories made up of 169 indigenous reservations of 56 different villages, not counting the populations that are in voluntary isolation. - In 2012, the reservation of the Upper Basin of the Inírida River (CMARI), inside the Puinawai Nature Reserve, was chosen as the location of the first pilot implementation project of RIA in Colombia, which had its official presentation at COP18, the 18th meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference. - For indigenous communities in the Amazon, it is important that their ancestral traditions are recognized as the basis for the implementation of RIA and used as a mechanism to safeguard Amazonian biodiversity.
New maps show how our consumption impacts wildlife thousands of miles away [01/06/2017]
- The study identified 6,803 threatened species, pinpointed the commodities that contribute to threats affecting those species, then traced the implicated commodities to final consumers in 187 countries. - The maps revealed some unexpected linkages. - These maps can help connect conservationists, consumers, companies and governments to better target conservation actions, researchers say.
The end of a People: Amazon dam destroys sacred Munduruku “Heaven” [01/05/2017]
- Four dams are being built on the Teles Pires River — a major tributary of the Tapajós River — to provide Brazil with hydropower, and to possibly be a first step toward constructing an industrial waterway to transport soy and other commodities from Mato Grosso state, in the interior, to the Atlantic coast. - Those dams are being built largely without consultation with impacted indigenous people, as required by the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, an agreement which Brazil signed. - A sacred rapid, known as Sete Quedas, the Munduruku “Heaven”, was dynamited in 2013 to build the Teles Pires dam. A cache of sacred artefacts was also seized by the dam construction consortium and the Brazilian state. - The Indians see both events as callous attacks on their sacred sites, and say that these desecrations will result in the destruction of the Munduruku as a people — 13,000 Munduruku Indians live in 112 villages, mainly along the upper reaches of the Tapajós River and its tributaries in the heart of the Amazon.
What to expect for rainforests in 2017 [01/05/2017]
- Will deforestation continue to rise in Brazil? - Will Indonesia continue on a path toward forestry reform? - What effect will Donald Trump have on rainforest conservation?
Local NGOs: Ecosystem services, not orangutans, key to saving Leuser [01/04/2017]
- Sumatra’s Leuser ecosystem covers 2.6 million hectares, encompasses two mountain ranges, three lakes, nine river systems and three national parks. It boasts 10,000 species of plant and 200 species of mammal — dozens found nowhere else on earth. Of the 6,000 orangutans left in Sumatra, 90 percent live in Leuser. - But the region has been under siege by the government of Aceh, which has repeatedly tried to sell off concessions to oil palm companies that encroach on the borders of conserved lands. - While international environmental NGOs have focused on saving Leuser’s orangutans, local NGOs have had far more success focusing on the US $23 billion in ecosystem services provided by the preserve — including flood prevention, water supply, agro-ecology, tourism, fire prevention, carbon sequestration, and more. - Many rural Sumatrans see orangutans not as important endangered species to be protected, but rather as garden and farm pests. Local organizers like Rudi Putra and T.M. Zulfikar are building a homegrown Sumatran conservation movement that relies heavily on litigation over the potential loss of Leuser’s ecosystem services.
Jokowi grants first-ever indigenous land rights to 9 communities [01/04/2017]
- Indonesia is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with hundreds of distinct ethic groups and languages. - The archipelago nation's constitution recognizes its indigenous peoples, but the government has ignored their rights for most of the country's 71-year existence. - In a landmark 2013 ruling, Indonesia's Constitutional Court removed indigenous peoples’ customary forests from state control. This is the Jokowi administration's first act of follow up to the decision. - The action by Jokowi comes at a time when Indonesia's main indigenous peoples organization is considering withdrawing its support for the president, the only candidate the organization has ever endorsed.
Tropical birds may not fare so well in a warming world [01/04/2017]
- The study took place in Panama’s Soberania National Park, an approximately 100-square-mile area of protected rainforest that is home to more than 500 bird species. - Over the course of the study, researchers caught more than 250 different species in mist nets, but only had enough data to model 20 of the most common. - For 19 of the 20 species sampled, a longer dry season had a negative effect on population size. For six of those species, the effect was especially strong.
Battle for the Amazon: Tapajós Basin threatened by massive development [01/03/2017]
- The Brazilian Amazon has systematically been deforested, dammed and developed by the federal government, river basin by river basin. The most recent to be so developed was the Xingu watershed. The next target, where road and dam construction has already begun, is the Tapajós Basin. - Plans by agribusiness and the government call for the paving of the BR-163 highway (almost complete); the building of a new railroad, nicknamed Ferrogrão or Grainrail (just given approval); and the building of the Teles Pires-Tapajós industrial waterway, requiring dozens of dams, plus canals. - As Mato Grosso soy plantations creep north deeper into the Tapajós region, agribusiness hopes to benefit from the rapid development of transportation infrastructure that will provide a cheap, fast northern road, rail and water route to the Atlantic for the export of commodities. - Indigenous groups, traditional river communities, environmentalists and social NGOs oppose the mega-infrastructure projects, which they say will bring deforestation, cultural disruption, and quicken local and global climate change. The conflict is over no less than the fate of the Amazon.
Food from Brazil’s Amazon finds its way to metropolitan tables [01/02/2017]
- Amazonian ingredients have long been used by indigenous peoples, many of whom still rely on the Amazon rainforest for subsistence. - As forest-sourced ingredients find their way into more restaurants, observers are concerned about this new industry's impact on the Brazilian Amazon and forest-dependent communities. - World-renowned, two-star Michelin chef Alex Atala is at the forefront when it comes to the sustainable use of indigenous ingredients.
Sudden sale may doom carbon-rich rainforest in Borneo [01/02/2017]
- Forest Management Unit 5 encompasses more than 101,000 hectares in central Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. - The area’s steep slopes and rich forests provide habitat for the Bornean orangutan and other endangered species and protect watersheds critical to downstream communities. - Conservation groups had been working with the government and the concession holder to set up a concept conservation economy on FMU5, but in October, the rights were acquired by Priceworth, a wood product manufacturing company.
The year in tropical rainforests: 2016 [01/01/2017]
- After 2015's radical advancements in transparency around tropical forests between improved forest cover monitoring systems and corporate policies on commodity sourcing, progress slowed in 2016 with no major updates on tropical forest cover, resistance from several governments in releasing forest data, and some notable backtracking on zero deforestation commitments. - But even without the pan-tropical updates, we know that deforestation increased sharply in the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for the world's largest area of tropical forest. - Low commodity prices may have bought some relief for forests.
Illegal logging shows little sign of slowing [12/30/2016]
- The report was produced by a dozens of scientists and is the most comprehensive analysis of illegal logging to date. - It finds organized crime and a lack of land tenure for local communities to be big drivers of illicit timber extraction in tropical countries around the world. - Research indicates around a third of all tropical timber traded globally may come from illegal forest conversion. - Those affiliated with the report underline the need for more cooperation between countries and sectors, as well as the development of effective policies, in the fight against illegal logging.
Top climate stories to watch in 2017 [12/29/2016]
- Renewable energy use has never been higher — but on the other hand, 2016 brought with it news of record fossil fuel consumption, as well. - Meanwhile, the Paris Climate Agreement went into force on November 4, far sooner than anyone ever expected, signaling a new era of international climate action — but just a few days later, the U.S., the second-largest emitter in the world, elected a new president who has called global warming a hoax and pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as possible. - Here, in no particular order, are some of the top stories to keep an eye on in the new year.
Protest against oil pollution ends with accords on pipeline inspection, remediation, compensation [12/28/2016]
- Protesters from Marañón, Corrientes, Pastaza, Tigre and Chambira watersheds began river blockade September 1. - Three Peruvian Cabinet ministers led negotiating sessions in the village of Saramurillo, on the Marañón River, which ended the night of December 15. - Government officials say accords do not conflict with agreements reached in recent years with other indigenous federations in affected watersheds.
Newscast #8: Top new species discoveries of 2016, and how fig trees can save rainforests [12/27/2016]
- The new species we discover every year prove that we still aren’t even aware of every creature with whom we share planet Earth, so there’s literally more to protect than we can possibly know. - We also speak with author Mike Shanahan, whose new book 'Gods, Wasps, and Stranglers: The secret history and redemptive future of fig trees' looks at the tropical species’ biology and key ecological role, as well as its deep cultural (and spiritual) place in human history. - Thanks to everyone who made the launch of the Mongabay Newscast in 2016 such a success!
Consumer pressure to ditch deforestation begins to reach Indonesia’s oil palm plantation giants [12/27/2016]
- Four of Indonesia’s top 10 oil palm growers have improved sustainability practices due to pressure from buyers since June 2015. - But not all have changed their ways. At least one grower has found new customers that haven't promised to eliminate practices like deforestation from their supply chains. - Several major palm oil users with strong sustainability policies continue to buy from the worst of these 10 growers.
What do experts have to say about Latin American wildlife trafficking? [12/23/2016]
- In Peru, the 67,874 animals have been confiscated from traffickers over the last 15 years. A national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking exists on paper, but it has not yet been approved by the government. - In Bolivia, wildlife trafficking threatens jaguar populations (between 2014 and 2016, 337 fangs were seized). Awareness campaigns have been launched by the Ministry of Environment and Water, local governments, and NGOs; however, a comprehensive strategy does not exist. - In Colombia, 5,060 wildlife traffickers have been detained so far in 2016. To identify confiscated wildlife species, the Humboldt Institute has generated DNA barcodes, a valuable tool not only for environmental and judicial authorities but also for the academic community. - In Ecuador, about 8,000 animals were seized in 10 years. State and private institutions have joined forces to address this problem and apply a landscape-management approach to the conservation of threatened wildlife.
Temer government set to overthrow Brazil’s environmental agenda [12/22/2016]
- A catastrophic setback to environmental and indigenous protections was narrowly averted last week when quick action from two federal deputies prevented the agricultural lobby from forcing passage of bills to authorize construction of three mega-industrial waterways in the Amazon and elsewhere. - The Congress will likely pick up the bills again after the recess in February. They would authorize building many dozens of dams and industrial waterways in three river basins — PDC 119/2015 on the Tapajós, Teles Pires and Juruena rivers in the Amazon; PDC 120/2015 on the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers, also in the Amazon; and PDC 118/2015 on the Paraguai River. - In 2005, a similar bill was passed, fast tracking the Belo Monte dam and bypassing proper environmental evaluation. Today, Norte Energia, the consortium that built the Amazon mega-dam has been charged with environmental crimes, ethnocide and is under investigation for corruption. - Another bill working its way through the National Congress would completely gut the environmental licensing process for most infrastructure projects, while still another would take away hard won protections guaranteed to Brazil’s indigenous people in the 1988 Constitution.
How tropical deforestation and land-use change is driving emerging infectious diseases [12/21/2016]
- There are about 250 known human emerging infectious diseases, which are those that have recently appeared within a human population or those with an incidence rate or geographic range that is rapidly increasing. - As noted by the authors of a study published earlier this month in the journal Science Advances, many of the known emerging infectious diseases have been traced to tropical rainforests, especially freshwater aquatic systems. - The study shows that the collapse of a freshwater food-web driven by deforestation and land-use change led to the increased prevalence of a bacterial pathogen called Mycobacterium ulcerans, which causes a skin disease in humans known as Buruli ulcer.
Study maps 187 land conflicts as palm oil expands in Kalimantan [12/20/2016]
- Nearly half of the 187 villages were found to be strongly opposed to oil palm companies. Such a sentiment was highly correlated with communities that depend on forest products for their livelihoods. - In areas that have already undergone or are undergoing forest transformation to oil palm or timber plantations, there were more specific conflicts among local communities and palm oil companies, such as land boundary disputes, perceived lack of consultation, illegal actions by the company, and lack of compensation and broken promises to the affected communities. - Studies like this that count and map the number of natural resource-related conflicts in Kalimantan are highly needed and currently lacking in reliable data.
93% of world’s roadless areas are less than half the size of Cincinnati [12/19/2016]
- The study used crowd-sourced data covering 36 million kilometers to map the extent of roads around the world. - The researchers found roads have essentially fragmented the Earth's land surface into 600,000 pieces. Only 7 percent of roadless areas are larger than 100 square kilometers, and only 9 percent of these are protected. - The study's authors and an outside expert caution that the area affected by roads is likely much higher, since some regions are not thoroughly mapped. - The study recommends governments place higher importance on preserving the world's remaining roadless areas.
Palm oil giant defends its deforestation in Gabon, points to country’s ‘right to develop’ [12/19/2016]
- Singapore-headquartered Olam International is the subject of a new report by NGOs Mighty and Brainforest that alleges forest destruction by the company in Gabon. - Olam counters that it is only expanding into Gabon's least valuable forested lands and that the clearance is necessary for Gabon to pull itself out of poverty. - The debate raises questions about what it means for a country to develop sustainably, and whether deforestation should be seen as a means to that end. - Olam has also released a list of its palm oil suppliers in response to the NGOs' allegations that the firm is a "black box" that buys and sells palm oil linked to deforestation and human rights abuses.
FSC certification gives boost to rainforest community [12/19/2016]
- The 371,000-hectare Iwokrama forest reserve was awarded FSC certification in October 2016. - Iwokrama is renowned for its collaborative forest management approach with surrounding communities, including the Amerindian community of Fairview. - Fairview is the only Amerindian community within the Iwokrama forest and is closely involved in a portion of its management.
Indonesia’s forestry ministry takes Greenpeace to court over freedom of information request [12/19/2016]
- Reformist President Joko Widodo has called for a more transparent approach to governance in the resource-rich Southeast Asian nation, and activists agree that his administration has been more open than those of his predecessors. - At the same time, the administration has withheld from the public key data and documents related to the country's forestry, agribusiness and mining sectors. - Some civil society groups are seeking access to the shapefile format of certain data, which allows for much more sophisticated analysis than do the .jpeg and .pdf files the state is willing to part with. - In October, Indonesia's freedom of information commission ruled in favor of a case brought by Greenpeace, asking the forestry ministry to publish a number of geospatial maps in shapefile format. The ministry's lawyers are challenging the decision, arguing that the shapefiles could be manipulated by third parties.
Companies are underestimating the risks of deforestation in their commodities supply chains [12/17/2016]
- London-based non-profit CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, released a report earlier this month, produced on behalf of 365 investors representing $22 trillion in funds, that analyzes data disclosures by 187 companies regarding their deforestation risk management strategies. - Despite the significant share of their income that is dependent on cattle products, palm oil, soy, and timber products, just 42 percent of the companies surveyed by CDP have evaluated their supply chains in order to determine how their growth strategies for the next five years will be impacted by the availability or quality of those raw materials. - In its third annual ranking of what it calls the “Forest 500,” the UK-based think tank Global Canopy Programme (GCP) determined that, given the current rate of progress, ambitious deforestation targets for 2020 and 2030 such as those committed to by the Consumer Goods Forum and signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests, aren’t likely to be met.
Wildlife for sale: Is it possible to win the fight in Ecuador? [12/16/2016]
- The most trafficked wild animals are macaws, parrots, parakeets, monkeys, turtles and boas. - These species can be trafficked alive. Body parts like skin, fangs, claws and even tissues are also traded, especially abroad. - According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the illegal wildlife trade generates revenues ranging between $7 billion and $23 billion per year.
Resource wars: Brazilian gold miners go up against indigenous people [12/15/2016]
- Violence in the Brazilian Amazon is on the increase. Last year, Brazil ranked as the most dangerous nation for environmentalists worldwide. Indigenous people are especially at risk, with 137 killings in Brazil reported in 2015. - One cause of this violence arises from the conflict between indigenous people and small-scale mineral prospectors, especially gold miners, who lay claim to the same lands. - Lack of government action to demarcate indigenous lands, along with an inadequate federal law enforcement presence in the Amazon, have exacerbated the problem. - Many worry that violence will escalate if the federal government doesn’t step in to help mediate the claims made by indigenous groups and prospectors. However, some indigenous people see the small-scale prospectors as potential allies in the face of large-scale mining operations moving into the region and as the Tapajós Basin is progressively industrialized.
UK greenheart restriction could put pressure on Guyana’s logging economy [12/15/2016]
- Greenheart is one of the toughest and most durable woods known to man, and is particularly suited to marine and freshwater based applications. The UK instituted a ban on its import earlier this year. - Over the last four years, greenheart exports generated $27 million for the Guyanese economy. - Greenheart represents over 18 percent of Guyana’s logging industry production, of which timber is a major export earner – it brought in $45.6 million just last year.
‘Where do you draw the line?’: Q&A with director of documentary about Amazonian community fighting oil extraction [12/14/2016]
- The documentary was filmed in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and in the community of Sani Isla, which lies deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon on the banks of the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon River. - Sani Isla is located between the borders of Yasuní National Park and the Cuyabeno Natural Reserve, a region that biologists have called one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. - The community is home to hundreds of indigenous Kichwa villagers who have fought the Ecuadorian military and one of the largest oil companies in South America for years in a bid to protect their ancestral lands and traditional way of life.
Wildlife for sale: An illegal activity out of control in Peru? [12/14/2016]
- In the last decade, 383 species have been trafficked in Peru, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). - Peru has about 64 species of animals in danger of extinction. Some of them can be found smoked, grilled or being slaughtered in the market of Belen, the river port of Iquitos. - Animals are not only eaten but are also sold as exotic pets. - Between 2000 and 2015, more than 11,000 animal body parts including feathers, eggs, shells, bones and skins were seized and 156 metric tons of wild meat were confiscated.
Researchers say natural regeneration an overlooked but low-cost option for forest restoration [12/13/2016]
- Biotropica, the journal of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, published a special issue in late November dedicated to exploring the natural regeneration of forests and other large landscapes in the tropics. - More than 50 percent of the original extent of the world’s tropical forests has been cleared, while the area of degraded old-growth and second-growth forests in the tropics is estimated at 850 million hectares (about 2.1 billion acres). - The more than one billion hectares of degraded forest and woodlands across the tropics provide opportunities for various forms of restoration, though natural regeneration is often overlooked, according to the co-authors of a synthesis study that summarizes the findings of the 16 studies appearing in the special issue of Biotropica.
Newscast #7: Undiscovered Sumatran rhinos in the wild in Malaysia? Maybe, maybe not. [12/13/2016]
- Potential new evidence recently emerged that suggests there might be some undiscovered wild Sumatran rhinos in Malaysia, where they were declared extinct in the wild last year -- though not everyone is convinced the new evidence is all that compelling. - We also speak with Richard Bowden, a professor of environmental science at Pennsylvania’s Allegheny College, to answer a reader question: “What are the effects of climate change on phenology, primary production, carbon sequestration, and biotic interactions?” - All that plus the top news and inspiration from nature's front line!
Wildlife for sale: affected species and trade routes in Peru [12/12/2016]
- The Peruvian regions where wildlife is most trafficked are Loreto, Ucayali, Madre de Dios, Puno and Tumbes. - There is a shortage of rescue centers for animals recovered from traffickers. - Several of Peru's cities serve as hubs for wildlife trafficking: Iquitos and Chiclayo in the northeast, Ucayali in central Peru, and Puerto Maldonado in the south.
Vietnam’s forests on the upswing after years of recovery [12/11/2016]
- In 1986 Vietnam started a transition to Doi Moi, a market-driven economy that moved forest management from exclusive government control to a more multi-sector approach involving NGOs, businesses, local communities and management boards. - Vietnam was a REDD pilot country in 2008 and has additional backing from the UN and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility for reforestation efforts and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. - Including reforestation as a part of a larger strategy to protect the country against climate change has become part of the national platform in Vietnam.
Companies need to do more to avoid deforestation, study finds [12/10/2016]
- The Carbon Disclosure Project tabulated the responses of 187 companies about their approaches to avoiding deforestation. - More than $900 billion in revenues is at risk from the decreased productivity and damaged reputations that accompany deforestation, according to the CDP's report. - Board-level involvement in the issue gives companies a statistically better shot at finding ways to avoid deforestation and the problems it poses to their businesses.
Interpol says corruption in global forestry sector worth $29 billion every year [12/09/2016]
- According to the report, the cost of corruption in the global forestry sector is some $29 billion annually. - Bribery is the most common form of forestry corruption, followed by fraud, abuse of office, extortion, cronyism, and nepotism. - Interpol notes in the report that studies over the last decade have repeatedly shown a strong correlation between levels of corruption, illegal logging, and deforestation rates.
Community rights: A key to conservation in Central America [12/09/2016]
- The report, released yesterday, highlights several success stories in Central America and Mexico where local communities are running effective conservation programs. - It underlines rights-based conservation as an important tool, but cautions that many indigenous and local communities still lack officially recognized land rights. - The report urges local communities be more involved when conservation programs are proposed for their land. - Mongabay went on-location in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve, where a community forest concession is experiencing less deforestation than the reserve's core, due in part to an approach that balances conservation with industry.
Green groups raise red flags over Jokowi’s widely acclaimed haze law [12/09/2016]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week codified a much-praised moratorium on peatland development into law. - Though widely reported as a permanent ban on clearing and draining the archipelago's carbon-rich peat swamps, the prohibition will only last until the government finishes mapping and zoning the nation's peatlands, although stronger protections have been put in place. - Norway praised the policy's legalization, announcing it would release $25 million to support the sustainable management of Indonesia's peatlands. - Some environmental groups tell Mongabay that the regulation pays insufficient heed to the scientific evidence of what is required to prevent the wholesale collapse of peatland ecosystems.
Brazil’s dispossessed: Belo Monte dam ruinous for indigenous cultures [12/08/2016]
- Brazil’s Public Federal Ministry (MPF) launched a lawsuit in 2015 accusing Norte Energia, the consortium that built the Belo Monte mega-dam on the Xingu River in Pará state, along with the federal government’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) with the crime of ethnocide. - Indigenous families say that serious harm was done to them when they were uprooted from their riverside homes; forced to give up their sustainable fishing, hunting and farming livelihoods; and compelled to seek jobs in an economically depressed urban environment. - Tamawaerw Paracana, an indigenous woman, describes the everyday challenges her family faces as they try to survive in an urban resettlement community: “I don’t have the means to live here. I don’t have the money for food. Here you have to have a job.… People who don’t work, can’t eat. There’s no food.” The ethnocide case has yet to go to court. - “Every day that goes by, there are more dams being built in our country; there are more people affected; and there are more rights violated. So our goal is to organize all the people affected and carry on this fight,” says Edizangela Alves Barros, an indigenous activist.
Brazil pledges ‘largest restoration commitment ever made’ [12/08/2016]
- Proponents of the pledge believe the restoration will help the country meet climate change and conservation targets as well as Brazil’s economy through the development of more productive agricultural lands and new jobs. - Twelve million hectares of forest land is slated for restoration, along with 10 million hectares of farmland and pastures. - The announcement follows a recent uptick in deforestation in the country, which contains 60 percent of the Amazon Rainforest. Deforestation levels in 2015-2016 were up 75 percent over the three-decade low reached in 2012.
Study points to El Niño-like global connections between forests [12/07/2016]
- A team of scientists from the University of Washington, the University of Arizona, Michigan State University and the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia modeled climate simulations comparing what would happen as the result of die-offs and deforestation in the Amazon and western North America to other forests. - In isolation, a forest die-off in North America would lead to slower growth in northern Asia’s forests and a drier climate in the southeastern United States. However, the loss of forests in both North America and the Amazon could make the American Southeast’s forests more productive. - The authors say that the 'teleconnections' between forests separated by huge distances revealed by their research indicates a need for globally coordinated forest management.