Chocolate makers agree to stop cutting down forests in West Africa for cocoa [11/21/2017]
- At COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week, top cocoa-producing countries in West Africa announced new commitments to end the massive deforestation for cocoa that is occurring within their borders. - Ivory Coast and Ghana are the number one and number two cocoa-producing nations on Earth, respectively. Together, they produce about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, but that production has been tied to high rates of deforestation as well as child labor and other human rights abuses. - The so-called “Frameworks for Action” that were announced by the two countries last Thursday not only aim to halt the clearing of forests for cocoa production, especially in national parks and other protected areas, but to restore forest areas that have already been cleared or degraded.
Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? [11/21/2017]
- Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence. - However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say. - For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests [11/17/2017]
- In Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation. - The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss. - With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify.
COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland [11/17/2017]
- The presence of the world’s biggest tropical peatland was recently confirmed in Central Africa. It is the size of England and straddles the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC). - However, conservationists and scientists worry it may be at risk from logging and development. They caution its destruction could release “vast amounts” of carbon emissions. Others say the threats are overblown. - Conservation leaders and representatives gathered this week at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, say protections could exist through REDD+ projects that could give local communities management rights and provide financial incentives for leaving the peat forest intact.
Jane Goodall interview: ‘The most important thing is sharing good news’ [11/17/2017]
- Celebrated conservationist and Mongabay advisor Jane Goodall spoke with Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler for the podcast just before departing for her latest speaking tour (she travels 300 days a year raising conservation awareness). Here we supply the full transcript. - This wide-ranging conversation begins with reaction to the science community’s recent acceptance of her six decade contention that animals are individuals with personalities, and moves on to discuss trends in conservation, and she then provides an update on the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s global projects. - She also challenges trophy hunting as an effective tool for funding conservation (“It’s rubbish,” she says), shares her positive view of China’s quickly growing environmental movement, talks about the key role of technology in conservation, and discusses a range of good news, which she states is always so important to share. - Amazingly, Dr. Goodall reports that JGI’s youth program Roots & Shoots now has perhaps as many as 150,000 chapters worldwide, making it probably the largest conservation movement in the world, with many millions having been part of the program. An effort is now underway to document them all.
Can agroforestry propel climate commitments? Interview with Peter Minang [11/16/2017]
- In the Paris agreement, most developing countries identified agroforestry as a key part of their climate strategy. - Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, are the main tool for defining countries’ contributions to the Agreement. - The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), just released a policy brief on agroforestry’s central role in governmental efforts to achieve their NDCs. - Author Peter A. Minang explains how agroforestry’s contribution to climate goals could be enhanced.
Forests can beat humans at restoration, new study finds [11/16/2017]
- An analysis of 133 studies found natural regeneration was more effective than active, human-driven restoration at restoring tropical forests. - The study refutes conventional wisdom that holds that actively restoring a forest is better than letting it grow back by itself. - The authors say previous research didn’t control for key factors, which skewed results and made it seem like natural regeneration was less effective than it actually may be. - The say large-scale restoration projects, which tend to favor active restoration, should consider natural regeneration as a way to more effectively achieve their goals while saving money that could be used to scale-up forest restoration worldwide.
Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar [11/15/2017]
- Officials in Madagascar’s northeastern Sava region say lemur is served illegally in restaurants. - One conservationist says people use a code to order lemur meat. - More than 90 percent of lemur species are threatened, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
More big mammals found in high-carbon forests, says new study [11/15/2017]
- The researchers used satellite data to measure forest carbon values and camera trap photographs to tally the mammal species present in forests and oil palm plantations. - Finer-scale data did reveal that high-carbon areas do support more species of medium and large mammals that are threatened with extinction. - Experts say that this research validates the high carbon stock approach for identifying priority areas for conservation. - Still, further research is required to better understand the role of connectivity between high-carbon forests in supporting biodiversity.
Indonesian agribusiness giant APRIL outed in Paradise Papers [11/13/2017]
- Leaked corporate records reveal the offshore dealings of APRIL, one of Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper companies. - APRIL is one of 12 Asian forest-products giants that appear in the Paradise Papers. - APRIL is owned by the super-rich Tanoto family.
Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood [11/13/2017]
- The Madagascar government has petitioned wildlife regulators under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for permission to sell its stockpiles of seized rainforest wood. - Some campaigners warn that traffickers stand to benefit from any such sale and fear it could herald a “logging boom” in the country’s remaining rainforests. - The CITES committee will consider the proposal at the end of this month.
A forgotten promise to forests? (commentary) [11/13/2017]
- In 2016, global tree cover loss spiked 51 percent over the previous year — resulting in a loss of forests the size of New Zealand. Needless to say, losing enough trees to cover the entirety of New Zealand in one year is worrisome for the climate. - To follow through on their promise to protect forests and end climate change, countries can and must do more to reverse these trends. Although many countries allude to their intentions to reduce emissions from forests in their official contributions to the Paris Agreement, too few include explicit or ambitious goals to do so. - It should go without saying that developed countries have the responsibility to lead by example. This makes the European Union’s recent decision allowing members to increase forest harvests all the more concerning. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indonesian president recognizes land rights of nine more indigenous groups [11/12/2017]
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month gave several indigenous communities back the land rights to the forests they have called home for generations. - The total amount of customary forests relinquished to local groups under this initiative remains far short of what the government has promised, and looks unlikely to be fulfilled before the next presidential election in 2019. - At a recent conference in Jakarta, a senior government official said the president would sign a decree to help more communities secure rights.
In Vietnam, small farmers and timber magnates forge uneasy alliance [11/10/2017]
- Vietnam plans to certify as sustainable some 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) of production forests in the country and boost timber export value to $8 billion by 2020. - Nearly a quarter of the country’s forests are managed by smallholders, whose subsistence lifestyle often compels them to harvest their timber too young to be used for furniture or as quality wood products. - An initiative by WWF looks set to change this by training smallholders in sustainable farming methods under FSC standards, which is hoped to also boost their income over the long term. - Local wood processors and exporters are also pushing for higher domestic supply as they look for a more viable alternative to costly imported timber.
Indonesia tries to learn from Brazil’s success in REDD+ [11/10/2017]
- Indonesia and Brazil both have billion-dollar REDD+ agreements with Norway to reduce deforestation and cut carbon emissions in exchange for funding. - While Brazil has succeeded, Indonesia has not, and has even seen deforestation rates climb, surpassing those in Brazil. - Fundamental differences in the way the two countries deal with forest issues, particularly in law enforcement and land reform, help explain their different outcomes. - The Indonesian government hopes to breathe new life into its flagging REDD+ program by emulating the Brazilian model, and speed up the disbursal of funds from Norway by next year.
The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands [11/10/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino edges closer to extinction, aggressive interventions have stalled. Even ongoing efforts like ranger protection have been undercut by lack of government support. - As of May, conservation groups are united in their calls to ramp up captive-breeding efforts in Indonesia, but the government has not yet responded. - Frustrated conservationists cite bureaucracy, risk aversion, opaque and arbitrary decisions, and territorial squabbling as barriers to progress — but remain hopeful the government will act in time.
New research shows why forests are absolutely essential to meeting Paris Climate Agreement goals [11/09/2017]
- It’s widely acknowledged that keeping what’s left of the world’s forests standing is crucial to combating climate change. But a suite of new research published last week shows that forests have an even larger role to play in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement than was previously thought. - In order to meet those goals, the global economy will have to be swiftly decarbonized. According to a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), by taking aggressive action to protect and rehabilitate tropical forests, we could buy ourselves more time to make this transition. - Deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of global emissions, but removing that source of emissions is only half the value of forests to global climate action. Other research shows that planting trees and rehabilitating degraded forests is just as critical to climate efforts as stopping deforestation, because of how reforestation efforts can enhance forests’ role as a carbon sink.
‘Much deeper than we expected’: Huge peatland offers up more surprises [11/09/2017]
- Scientists recently discovered the world’s biggest tropical peatland in the Congo Basin rainforest of Central Africa. The peatland straddles the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. - Roughly the size of England, the massive peatland is estimated to contain more than 30 billion metric tons of carbon — equivalent to three years of global fossil fuel emissions. - When the scientists went back to investigate the peatland further, they discovered the peat along its edges is deeper than they thought. This means it may contain more peat — and, thus, more carbon — than they originally thought. - The scientists are racing to learn more about the peatland as loggers move to fell and drain the forests above it to make way for roads and developments like palm oil plantations. Meanwhile, local communities are hoping for greater protection of the region as government officials try to drum up more support for conservation initiatives at this week’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
From carbon sink to source: Brazil puts Amazon, Paris goals at risk [11/09/2017]
- Brazil is committed to cutting carbon emissions by 37 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, to ending illegal deforestation, and restoring 120,000 square kilometers of forest by 2030. Scientists warn these Paris commitments are at risk due to a flood of anti-environmental and anti-indigenous measures forwarded by President Michel Temer. - “If these initiatives succeed, Temer will go down in history with the ruralistas as the ones who put a stake in the beating heart of the Amazon.” — Thomas Lovejoy, conservation biologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability at George Mason University. - “The Temer government’s reckless behavior flies in the face of Brazil’s commitments to the Paris Agreement.” — Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch. - “There was, or maybe there still is, a very slim chance we can avoid a catastrophic desertification of South America. No doubt, there will be horrific damage if the Brazilian government initiatives move forward in the region.” — Antonio Donato Nobre, scientist at INPA, the Institute for Amazonian Research.
Is anyone going to save the Sumatran rhino? [11/09/2017]
- As the Sumatran rhino’s population dwindled, conservationists were locked in a debate about whether resources should be directed toward captive breeding or protecting wild populations. - With captive breeding efforts showing success, and wild populations becoming non-viable, the pendulum has swung in favor of captive breeding. - Experts agree that action is needed now more than ever, but any steps rely on support from the Indonesian government.
Logjam: Inside Madagascar’s illegal-rosewood stockpiles [11/08/2017]
- Over the past six years, Madagascar has spent millions of dollars and devoted countless person hours to figuring out how to dispose of vast stockpiles of highly valuable, illegally logged rosewood, much of it cut from the country’s rainforests following a 2009 coup. - To do so, the government must conduct a comprehensive inventory of the stockpiles, among other requirements issued by CITES. - The World Bank has supported the effort with at least $3 million to $4 million in murky ad hoc loans. - The current state of affairs, with untold thousands of rosewood logs still unaccounted for, and tens of thousands more stacked outside government offices, is widely seen as facilitating continued corruption and illicit activity.
Mapping how to feed 9 billion humans, while avoiding environmental calamity [11/08/2017]
- The “Safety Net” initiative aims to map the best opportunities for conservation and ecosystem restoration globally. - That means incorporating data on variables ranging from species richness to climate trends to deforestation rates for every point on Earth’s surface. - That task is being taken up by a consortium of groups led by RESOLVE, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. - In this interview, RESOLVE’s chief scientist Eric Dinerstein talks about the Safety Net project.
Where, oh where, are the rhinos of Bukit Barisan Selatan? [11/08/2017]
- Some claim a small but viable population of about a dozen rhinos persists deep within the forests of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on Sumatra’s southwestern coast. - Camera traps haven’t captured a single rhino there since 2014, spurring doubts there are any rhinos remaining at all. - The disputed numbers lead to questions about what should happen to any rhinos that might remain in the park — and to the rangers assigned to protect them.
As negotiators meet in Bonn, Brazil’s carbon emissions rise [11/07/2017]
- Brazil pledged in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent by 2025 over 2005 levels. But its emissions shot up 8.9 percent in 2016, largely due to deforestation and agriculture. That increase threatens Brazil’s Paris goal. - Pará, in the heart of the Amazon, was the highest carbon emitter state, with 12.3 percent of the national total (due almost exclusively to deforestation and poorly managed industrial agriculture), followed by Mato Grosso state (9.6 percent of national emissions), which has converted much forest to soy production. - Experts say that this emissions trend could be reversed through sustainable forestry and more efficient agricultural practices. However, the dominance of the elite ruralist faction in Congress and in the Temer administration is preventing progress toward achieving Brazil’s carbon pledge.
Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left [11/07/2017]
- In 1986, scientists estimated there could be as many as 800 Sumatran rhinos left. That fell to 400 in 1996, then 275 in 2008. - Today the official estimate is 100 rhinos, but almost all experts believe that figure is overly optimistic. - Adding up the minimum estimate for each of the four known wild populations yields a total of just 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left on earth, plus another nine in captivity.
Indigenous lands at risk, as Amazon sellout by Brazil’s Temer continues (commentary) [11/06/2017]
- Brazilian president Michel Temer has twice survived National Congress votes to initiate impeachment against him on extensive corruption charges. - Temer did so by selling out the environment, particularly the Amazon, to the ruralists who largely control the assembly. - Among the concessions made or promised to ruralists are presidential decrees to allow agribusiness to rent indigenous lands, forgiving unpaid environmental fines owed by landowners, and ending any enforcement of restrictions on labor “equivalent to slavery.” - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Indigenous forests could be a key to averting climate catastrophe [11/06/2017]
- A new study finds the world’s tropical forests may no longer be carbon sinks, with a net loss of 425 million tons of carbon from 2003 to 2014. Also, 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon is emitted globally from forested areas and land use annually — 4.4 billion metric tons are absorbed by standing forests on managed lands, but 5.5 billion metric tons are released via deforestation and degradation. - As a result, curbing deforestation and degradation is now seen by scientists as a vital strategy for nations to meet the carbon reduction goals set in Paris in 2015, and of averting a catastrophic 2 degree Celsius rise in temperatures by the end of the century. - Other new research finds that indigenous and traditional community management of forests could offer a key to curbing emissions, and give the world time to transition to a green energy economy. In a separate study, Amazon deforestation rates were found to be five times greater outside indigenous territories and conservation units than inside. - “We are a proven solution to the long-term protection of forests, whose survival is vital for reaching our [planetary] climate change goals,” said an envoy of a global indigenous delegation in attendance at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. The delegation wants the world’s nations to protect indigenous forests from an invasion by global extraction industries.
Betting on agroforestry in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest [11/03/2017]
- Guapiruvu is a rural neighborhood in the Vale do Ribeira, home to the largest remaining stretch of Atlantic Forest in Brazil, and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. - The area has implemented a sustainable development plan, with many farmers opting for organic agriculture and agroforestry since they can sell their produce at a 30 percent premium. - This system grows bananas in combination with “pé de ata” (Annona squamosa) and juçara, an endangered species endemic to the region. - This is the second feature in a year-long series on agroforestry, an increasingly popular solution to challenges like climate change, food insecurity, and the biodiversity crisis. Agroforestry systems cover over a billion hectares of land worldwide.
The lure of wild orchids persists in Colombia [11/02/2017]
- Colombia is the top location for orchids in the world, but about 50 percent of the country’s native orchids are threatened. Estimates put the total amount of annual wild orchid trafficking at about $6 billion minimum. - The disappearance of the orchid threatens the stability of countless aspects of the forest, including the loss of specific types of wasps and bees attracted to a specific orchid. - Colombia’s conservation efforts have been harshly criticized by one expert who points out that even Bogota’s botanical garden doesn’t have a permanent orchid exhibition.
Major Dutch timber company found guilty of dealing in illegal teak [11/02/2017]
- The Dutch Food and Safety Authority has ruled Dutch company Boogaerdt Hout in violation of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) for placing illegal Burmese teak on the EU market. The company has two months in which to clear its supply chain of illegal wood. - The EUTR is part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan and aims to reduce illegal logging by banning the sale of illicitly sourced timber and timber products in the EU. - While most teak on the market today comes from plantations, some is still illegally sourced from Myanmar. - The extraction of Burmese teak has been denounced by conservationists, who say its trade is helping fuel rampant illegal logging in the country.
Does community-based forest management work in the tropics? [11/02/2017]
- To find out if community-based forest management is effective, we read 30 studies that best represent the available evidence.
(See the interactive infographic below.) - Overall, community-based forest management does not appear to make a forest’s condition worse — and may even make it better. - The evidence on socio-economic benefits is mixed, but what research there is suggests that community-based forest management sometimes aggravates existing inequities within communities. - This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
Catastrophic fires sweep through iconic Brazilian national park [11/02/2017]
- Wildfires have consumed more than a quarter of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, a much visited and beloved Brazilian preserve known for its biodiversity, spectacular waterfalls and ancient bedrock. - Though 2017 has been a very dry year, authorities suspect arson, with the park’s enlargement from 65,000 to 240,000 hectares earlier this year a possible motive. - Firefighters have now contained the blaze and the park has reopened. - The fire destroyed at least 65,000 hectares of habitat. It will be years before the preserve’s flora and fauna recover, say experts.
Madagascar environmental activist convicted, sentenced — and paroled [11/02/2017]
- At a community meeting on September 27, a farmer named Raleva asked to see the permits of a gold mining company trying to restart work in his village in southeast Madagascar. - He was arrested and held in prison for about one month. On October 26, a judge sentenced him to two years in prison, and then promptly released him on parole. - This follows a recent pattern in the country in which activists are often given suspended sentences, seemingly as a way of keeping them quiet.
Mining activity causing nearly 10 percent of Amazon deforestation [11/02/2017]
- Scientists have learned that nearly 10 percent of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2015 was due to mining activities. Previously, it was thought to cause just 1-2 percent, but that is because past assessments primarily looked at deforestation caused by the mines themselves, and didn’t account for all the ancillary infrastructure that accompanies the mines. - With mining causing such high levels of deforestation — up to 70 kilometers away from mines — and with the Brazilian government under Michel Temer eager to open vast areas of the Amazon to mining, the researchers say that companies and government need to aggressively address the deforestation issue. - While the new research documented Amazon deforestation due to many ancillary activities, including roads, staff housing and airports, it did not look into the major deforestation brought by
the new hydroelectric dams that often provide energy for mining operations - To address the high level of deforestation caused by mining in the Amazon, Brazil needs to significantly revise its environmental impact assessment process to include ancillary infrastructure up to 70 kilometers away from mines along with related hydroelectric dam construction.
Interoceanic Highway incites deforestation in Peru, threatens more to come [11/01/2017]
- Between July and August, 435 hectares of forest were lost around Iberia, a Peruvian town that has been turned into a deforestation hotspot. - The Interoceanic Highway is threatening forests in eastern Peru’s Amazon rainforest where many residents depend on sustainably harvesting rubber for their livelihoods.
Temer offers amnesty, erasing up to $2.1 billion in environmental crime fines [10/31/2017]
- 95 percent of fines issued by IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency, are never paid. These fines are worth R$11.5 billion (US $3.5 billion). - In a new decree, President Temer has offered offenders — including farmers and ranchers responsible for illegal deforestation —an amnesty of 60 percent of fines, provided the remaining 40 percent is paid into a government environmental fund. - While that fund — if fleshed out — would provide significant amounts of money for environmental agencies, Temer’s decree provides no new and effective means of enforcing the measure. - The amnesty, as seen by critics, is one in a long series of anti-environmental and anti-indigenous decrees made by Temer in order to buy support from congressional deputies and gain their votes to shelve a second round of corruption charges against the president.
Parks and reserves ‘significant’ force for slowing climate change [10/30/2017]
- Protecting tropical forests between 2000 and 2012 amounted to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to a 29 percent cut in deforestation rates. - The authors used statistical models to estimate the amount of CO2 that would have been released if currently protected areas in South America, Asia and Africa had instead been cleared. - The researchers argue that their findings bolster the conservation case for safeguarding tropical forests.
A roar for nature in Indonesia: Q&A with the poet behind ‘Indigenous Species’ [10/30/2017]
- “Indigenous Species” is a book-length poem that highlights environmental crimes and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia. - The literary work has been performed at international events since 2013 and was published last December. - Mongabay caught up with poet Khairani Barokka to discuss her book, activism and environmental issues in literature.
Indonesia’s big development push in Papua: Q&A with program overseer Judith J. Dipodiputro [10/27/2017]
- Papua and West Papua provinces are among President Joko Widodo’s top focus in his ambitious infrastructure development program for Indonesia’s remote and under-developed regions. - Not everyone supports the program, however, due to the environmental impact it poses and the cost to local communities. - Mongabay speaks with Judith J. Dipodiputro, who heads a special presidential working group for Papua and West Papua, about progress, challenges and solutions in both provinces. - Dipodiputro believes infrastructure development is crucial for realizing equal rights for Papuans.
Palm oil mounts ‘new offensive’ in Colombia while workers decry labor conditions [10/27/2017]
- Demobilization of the FARC and other militant groups are opening vast areas of Colombia to new development. - Colombia is Latin America’s biggest palm oil producer. Researchers expect the industry will be expanding into these new territories, and are worried about how Colombia’s native ecosystems will fare against new oil palm plantations and how communities will be treated by the industry. - Advocacy organizations say Colombia is facing a grave security crisis for human rights defenders, unionists, community activists, and indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, with more than 120 social leaders reportedly killed so far in 2017. - Mongabay traveled to Magdalena Medio to talk with oil palm plantation workers; they reported dangerous working conditions and deadly retribution from anti-union organizers.
Brazilian police nab Amazon timber thieves who faked forest credits [10/27/2017]
- Federal Police arrested and fined participants in an illegal logging and forest credit fraud scheme operating in Pará, Santa Catarina, Paraná and Mato Grosso states. - The timber thieves were aided in this crime by gaps in the government’s licensing program and poor control of the timber production chain in Pará and Mato Grosso; lapses which authorities are now moving to correct. - The timber thieves cut rare ipê trees on the Amazon’s Cachoeira Seca indigenous reserve, then used falsified records and a variety of companies to move the timber to other states and export the wood, used for expensive decking in the U.S., Argentina, Panama, France, Germany, the UK, United Arab Emirates and South Korea. - Fines for illegal timber harvesting are only R$ 5,000 (US$ 1,587) per hectare; and for failing to submit proper reports, between R$ 1,000 and R$ 100,000 (US$ 317 to US$ 31,700), insignificant amounts that do little to deter a crime that can yield very high profits for perpetrators. These fines have not been increased since 2008.
RAPP to retire some plantation land in Sumatra amid government pressure [10/27/2017]
- A subsidiary of paper giant APRIL has agreed in principle to retire a large part of its plantations in eastern Sumatra for conservation purposes, following government orders. - The company initially refused to comply with what it saw as an illegal order, and warned of a 50 percent reduction in supply from its concessions. - In giving up part of its concessions, RAPP is demanding to be compensated with new land — something the government has agreed to do in stages.
Burning down the house: Myanmar’s destructive charcoal trade [10/26/2017]
- A nearly year-long investigation by Mongabay led to a multi-part reporting project into the illegal production and trade of charcoal in Myanmar. - One route for charcoal sales from Myanmar to China documented by Mongabay could generate as much as $10 million a year in payoffs alone to Burmese government officials. - Charcoal is used to make silicon metal, used to manufacture a massive range of products, from solar panels to the silicon chips used in laptops and other mobile devices. - In this series, reported for Mongabay by investigative journalist Emmanuel Freudenthal with photography and videography by Nathan Siegel, we go behind the curtain to reveal a world of conflicting interests, needs, and loyalties in forest management and conservation.
Supporting conservation by playing a game? Seriously? (commentary) [10/26/2017]
- Can you answer important questions about conservation by playing a game? Yes, and it works. - In August, ForDev, the research team I lead, was invited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Congo Basin Office to facilitate a workshop of their Regional Working Group on High Conservation Values. FSC’s goal was to define regional indicators for the management of Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) within certified forest concessions. - We combined the MineSet role-playing game with facilitation techniques to help members of the Working Group understand each other, integrate research outputs in their discussions, and support the decision-making process. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Lemur species losing favorite food to climate change, new study says [10/26/2017]
- The greater bamboo lemur tends to feed on nutritious bamboo shoots, switching to the woody trunk of the plant only during the dry season. - A longer dry season due to climate change could force them to subsist on this less-than-optimal food source for more of the year, potentially pushing this critically endangered species closer to extinction, according to a new study. - This discovery could have implications for other threatened species, like the giant panda, that depend on one type of food.
As Grauer’s gorillas cling to survival, new population found [10/26/2017]
- Since 1994, civil war has left over 5 million people dead and wildlife decimated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Today, heavily armed militia and illegal miners prospect for “conflict minerals” needed for modern electronic devices made and sold in the U.S. and around the globe. - Hunters have targeted Grauer’s gorillas to feed miners and militias: in just two decades, these great apes have declined by 77 percent. A 2016 survey found only 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas, the world’s largest primates, still hanging on in the most rugged parts of eastern DRC. - The good news: a bold group of scientists, under the protection of armed rangers, has found 50 previously uncounted Grauer’s gorillas in DRC’s Maiko National Park. And more may exist within the 4,000 square-mile park. - The bad news: the US House of Representatives voted last month to defund the “Conflict Mineral Rule,” which required US companies to report where conflict minerals, such as coltan used in cell phones and computers, were sourced. The Senate has yet to take action on the legislation.
Two scientists and a NASA astronaut just biked across the Brazilian Amazon and want to tell you about it [10/25/2017]
- On Sept 26, two scientists and a NASA astronaut completed TransAmazon +25, a bike trek across the Brazilian Amazon. - What makes this trip particularly interesting is that one of the cyclists, Osvaldo Stella, a mechanical engineer with the non-profit Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) in Brazil who works with small-scale farmers and other landowners to preserve and restore forests, did the same ride 25 years ago. - Stella was accompanied on the journey by Paulo Moutinho, a co-founder and senior scientist at IPAM and a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center in the USA; as well as Chris Cassidy, an astronaut with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Navy SEAL. - “Gold mining, deforestation, and pastures covered many of the areas that were covered with forest 25 years ago,” Stella told Mongabay. ”The cities are larger but have not changed much in their overall appearance. One more sign that the current economic model generates much impact to the environment but little improvement in the quality of life of the people.”
Building conservation’s brain trust in Madagascar [10/25/2017]
- Foreigners have dominated scientific research in Madagascar, with more than 9 out of 10 publications on biodiversity led by foreigners from 1960 to 2015. - A series of programs aimed at boosting early career Malagasy scientists is now bearing fruit as local researchers take on leadership roles in conservation. - But Madagascar’s higher education system remains weak and deeply under-funded, so that the best chance of rigorous training and support for graduate work often comes through connections overseas. - This is the fourth story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
The world lost an area of tree cover the size of New Zealand last year [10/24/2017]
- A new analysis of satellite data found 29.7 million hectares of tree cover was lost in 2016. The number represents a 51 percent jump over 2015. - The analysts say fire is the big culprit. The data indicate big upticks in fires around the around the world, both in areas where fire naturally occurs as well as wetter areas of the tropics where fire is a rare phenomenon. - El Nino coupled with human-caused land disturbance like slash-and-burn clearing is thought to have been a big contributor to increase in fire activity around the world. - Preliminary data indicate 2017 may also be a big fire year. The analysts recommend improved forest management to lower the risks of fire and tree cover loss.
FSC mulls rule change to allow certification for recent deforesters [10/24/2017]
- Motion 7 passed at the FSC General Assembly meeting in Vancouver on Oct. 13, indicating that the organization will pursue a change to its rules allowing companies that have converted forests to plantations since 1994 to go for certification. - Current rules do not allow FSC certification for any companies that have cleared forested land since 1994. - Proponents of a rule change say it would allow more companies to be held to FSC standards and could result in the restoration or conservation of ‘millions of hectares’ in compensation for recent deforestation. - Opponents argue that FSC is bending to industry demands and that a rule change will increase the pressure for land conversion on communities and biodiversity.
New study: Risky roads cause more than just environmental harm [10/24/2017]
- Globally, 25 million kilometers (15.5 million miles) of paved roads are planned for construction by 2050. - A new study, published Monday in the journal Current Biology, examines the environmental, socio-political and economic risks that accompany road building, particularly in the developing world. - The authors argue for a more deliberate process to select sites for roads that will produce the most economic benefit while minimizing damage to the environment.
Temer guts Brazil’s slavery law, to the applause of elite ruralists [10/23/2017]
- Brazil has about 155,000 people working in conditions analogous to slavery, many used by elite ruralists who have become wealthy via environmental crime. Slave labor, for example, is often used in the Amazon to keep illegal deforestation and illicit agribusiness hidden and off the books. - President Temer has issued a decree — known as a portaria — narrowing the definition of slavery. Holding people in economic servitude, in conditions analogous to slavery, is no longer illegal. Now slaves must be held against their will, and two government officials must catch the slaveholder in the act. - The easing of the slavery law, experts say, is Temer’s way of rewarding the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, which includes about 40 percent of the Congress and continues to support Temer and to reject on-going rounds of corruption charges against the president. - Outrage over the weakening of the slavery law is widespread in Brazil and abroad. NOTE: this story was updated on 10-25-17 to report that Brazil’s Supreme Court (STF) has temporarily suspended implementation of Temer’s slavery decree until an STF ruling can be made.
Economic headwinds buffet once-resilient Sumatran forest-farms [10/23/2017]
- Farmers in Indonesia’s Krui region have long cultivated valuable damar resin trees among typical crops such as coconuts and rice. - These agroforests have for more than a century served as an economic bulwark for local communities against the encroachment of palm oil and timber operations. - Since 2000, however, a fifth of the region’s damar agroforests have been razed for sawmills and oil palm plantations, with land grabs and low resin prices driving the decline.
Helmeted hornbill, on verge of extinction, finds respite in new zone outside of known range [10/23/2017]
- A recent survey has found a high concentration of near-extinct helmeted hornbills in a conservation area in western Borneo. - This “hornbill paradise” is currently not included in the IUCN range map for this particular species. - Conservationists have called for the map to be updated, for more research in the area, and for stronger law enforcement to protect the distinctive bird.
Another Madagascar environmental activist imprisoned [10/20/2017]
- Malagasy authorities have held Raleva, a 61-year-old farmer, in custody since September 27 after he asked to see a mining company’s permits to operate near his village. - His arrest is at least the sixth such case of authorities targeting those opposed to wildlife trafficking or land grabs. - Environmental activists say they face bribes and threats from traffickers on one side, and jail time and fines from the government on the other.
Belo Monte dam-opposing Brazilian activist wins prestigious environmental award [10/19/2017]
- Brazilian environmental and human rights activist Antônia Melo da Silva received the Alexander Soros Foundation Award earlier this month in recognition of her work organizing opposition to the Belo Monte dam and other infrastructure projects in the Amazon. - Melo founded the “Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Sempre” two decades ago in order to bring together the numerous people, communities, and organizations in the Altamira region of Brazil who oppose the Belo Monte hydroelectric project on the Xingu River. - Alex Soros, founder of the Alexander Soros Foundation, said of Melo: “She will not be deterred. She will not stop fighting. She will never give up. And she deserves recognition and appreciation for her work.”
Could fungi provide an alternative to palm oil? [10/19/2017]
- Palm oil is used in everything from margarine and ice cream to cosmetics and certain fabrics. - But the palm oil industry has a history of association with deforestation and human rights abuses. As oil palm plantations continue to expand to more tropical areas around the world, many are worried they will come at the expense of rainforests. - A biotech startup in the U.S. thinks it has found an alternative to palm oil – fungus that can be grown on food waste. - But while lab experiments have demonstrated some success, it remains to be seen whether fungus-derived oil can be produced in quantities large and cheap enough to compete with palm oil.
Deforestation drops 16% in the Brazilian Amazon [10/19/2017]
- Deforestation in the world’s largest rainforest declined 16% over the past year, reports the Brazilian government. - The decline in deforestation was not unexpected, but the trend isn’t expected to continue into 2018 given the current drought over large expanses of the Brazilian Amazon. - The recent rate of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon remains well below historic levels.
Amazonian manatee migration at risk from disruption by proposed dams [10/19/2017]
- Amazonian manatees (Trichechus inunguis) spend the high-water season feeding in flooded forests, but migrate to deeper permanent water bodies to see out the dry season. - Researchers have found that as the dry season approaches, manatees time their migration out of the floodplain to avoid bottlenecks that would block their route, and doom them. - But, the scientists warn, those bottlenecks will become far more common, and less predictable, if the hundreds of hydropower dams planned for the Amazon go forward. - The dams, and the bottleneck problem they create, “generates profound concern for the conservation of manatees,” the scientists write.
Road building threatens forests, water supplies in Kuala Lumpur area [10/19/2017]
- Construction has begun on the East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE), part of a broader plan to create a ring road around Malaysia’s capital. - The road has been controversial from the start, with environmentalists and residents raising concerns about its impact on forests, wildlife, erosion and urban water supplies. - Activists are particularly concerned about the second phase of the project, fearing it will threaten the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, a proposed World Heritage site.
Leading US plywood firm linked to alleged destruction, rights violations in Malaysia [10/19/2017]
- An investigation has found that Liberty Woods, the top importer of plywood in the US, buys wood from a Malaysian company that has faced numerous allegations of environmentally unsustainable logging and indigenous rights violations. - Environmental NGOs have accused the timber industry in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, of clearing too much forest too quickly, polluting streams and rivers and failing to obtain consent to log from local communities. - Satellite imagery analysis in 2013 showed that, between 2000 and 2012, Malaysia had the world’s highest deforestation rate. - In Sarawak, where logging company Shin Yang is based, only 5 percent of forests remain relatively untouched.
Audio: Indonesian rainforests for sale and bat calls of the Amazon [10/18/2017]
- This episode of the Mongabay Newscast takes a look at the first installment of our new investigative series, “Indonesia for Sale,” and features the sounds of Amazonian bats. - Mongabay’s Indonesia-based editor Phil Jacobson joins the Newscast to tell us all about “Indonesia for Sale” and the first piece in the series, “The palm oil fiefdom.” - We also speak with Adrià López-Baucells, a PhD student in bat ecology who has conducted acoustic studies of bats in the central Amazon for the past several years. In this Field Notes segment, López-Baucells plays some of the recordings he used to study the effects of Amazon forest fragmentation on bat foraging behavior.
Munduruku standoff against Amazon dam builders potentially explosive [10/17/2017]
- On 13 October, eighty Munduruku warriors and shamans tried to occupy the São Manoel dam on the Teles Pires River in one of the most remote parts of the Amazon. But the government and construction companies had been tipped off in advance. - Thirty armed Public Security National Force police had been flown in and blocked them from entering the site. The Munduruku were met by teargas and flash bombs. They have since left the immediate vicinity, but their demands remain unresolved. - The Munduruku say that the construction firms, to end a July occupation of the dam, had agreed to a September meeting and to apologize for the destruction of two of their most sacred sites — one of them the equivalent of Christian Heaven — and to apologize for collecting and storing sacred urns without proper rituals. - According to the Indians, the performance of these apology rituals is now vital to the survival of the Munduruku as a people, and to the survival of the Amazon itself, but the companies remain adamant in their denial of wrongdoing. Tensions remain high, and many fear more violence could erupt.
When a rhino calls in the forest, this guy hears it: Q&A with a Javan rhino researcher [10/16/2017]
- Javan rhinos are so cryptic and elusive that they are difficult to study, despite the entire species being confined to a single site. - Camera traps are giving researchers new insights into the species’ behaviors and environmental needs. - Steve Wilson, a doctoral student working on a dissertation about Javan rhinos, explains some of these new findings — and how novel research methods might help guide conservation strategies.
Indonesia to miss carbon emissions target under existing climate policies: study [10/16/2017]
- Unless Indonesia takes more drastic measures, it will miss the emission reduction target it has set for itself. - Current policies are a decent starting point, but they could be strengthened to meet or even surpass the emissions-reduction target. - The best thing Indonesia can do is strengthen forest licensing moratorium, which has done little to curb deforestation in off-limits areas.
Conservation leaders in Africa call for a crackdown on biopiracy [10/13/2017]
- Indigenous rights groups and others have long criticized the lack of benefit sharing between bio-prospectors and the local communities that inhabit the places where the organisms are found, calling such acts “biopiracy.” - The African Union (AU) Strategic Guidelines for the Coordinated Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Africa was adopted by the AU Assembly at its 25th Ordinary Session, which was held in South Africa in 2015. The guidelines aim to provide a roadmap for implementation of the Protocol and Access and Benefit Sharing system at national and regional levels. - But while the Nagoya Protocol and its AU implementation guidelines address many issues, some stakeholders remain worried about those not covered – such as off-site synthesis using information previously collected and the use of materials cultivated abroad.
‘Then they shot me’: Land conflict and murder in Ucayali, Peru [10/12/2017]
- In September, six people were murdered in Bajo Rayal, Peru. - A conflict over the possession of 450 hectares of forest appears to be the motive behind the killings. - Mongabay Latam went to Bajo Rayal to investigate, and discovered around 300,000 hectares of forest in the region are under dispute and being considered for agricultural conversion.
Indigenous group scores legal victory as dam floods their lands [10/12/2017]
- A brief legal battle related to the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project in western Panama concluded late last month in a rare triumph for indigenous communities who have opposed the dam’s construction for a decade. - The dam’s construction company had accused three Ngäbe-Bugle leaders of instigating project delays and causing financial losses during protests at Barro Blanco’s entrance in July 2015. On September 20, a judge acquitted all three defendants of any wrongdoing. - Nevertheless, the dam is now fully operational and its reservoir has flooded the land of three Ngäbe-Bugle communities. - Leadership of the Ngäbe-Bugle is deeply divided between members who support the dam and those who oppose it, claiming that they had not been adequately consulted prior to the dam’s approval.
Cash for conservation: Do payments for ecosystem services work? [10/12/2017]
- What can we say about the effectiveness of payments for ecosystem services (PES) based on the available scientific literature? To find out, we examined 38 studies that represent the best evidence we could find. - The vast majority of the evidence in those 38 studies was still very weak, however. In other words, most of the studies did not compare areas where PES had been implemented with non-PES control areas or some other kind of countervailing example. - On average, the more rigorously designed studies showed very modest reductions in deforestation, generally of just a few percentage points. Meanwhile, the majority of the available evidence suggests that payments were often too low to cover the opportunity costs of agricultural development or other profitable activities that the land could have been used for. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”
Ivory is out in the UK, as government moves to shutter legal trade [10/12/2017]
- The British government began a 12-week consultation period on Oct. 6 to sort out the details for a near-total ban on its domestic ivory trade. - Conservation groups have long worried that even a legal trade can mask the illicit movement of ivory and stimulate further demand for ivory from poached elephants. - The conservation groups WCS and Stop Ivory applauded the announcement and pledged to work with the government to put the ban in place.
Island-hopping toxic toad threatens iconic Komodo dragon [10/11/2017]
- The islands of Wallacea, which include parts of Indonesia, are home to many species that exist nowhere else in the world. - The Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) has spread across the islands under the conservation radar while conservationists struggle to cope with a similar invasion in Madagascar. - If the advance of the toad across Wallacea is not stopped, scientists worry it could have devastating consequences for the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon.
Eat less meat, save species and ecosystems, says WWF UK [10/11/2017]
- Crops for livestock feed damage ecosystems and threaten wildlife, says WWF UK. - The conservation NGO estimates that just the UK’s livestock industry has caused the extinction of 33 species worldwide. - However, if people lower their protein intake to recommended amounts, farmers would need 13 percent less land to produce feed for livestock and farmed fish, saving an area 1.5 times the size of the EU.
The palm oil fiefdom [10/10/2017]
- This is the first installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. - The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
Conservation in a weak state: Madagascar struggles with enforcement [10/10/2017]
- In the years since Madagascar’s 2009 coup d’état, the area around Ranomafana National Park has faced security threats from illegal gold miners, armed cattle rustlers, and bandits that have made it increasingly difficult to operate parts of the park. - Elsewhere in the country illegal logging and mining, corruption, impunity and other breaches threaten to undermine conservation efforts, and limited funds make enforcement difficult. - The problem underscores a broad challenge for conservationists across Madagascar: how to make progress on a set of environmental goals that depend fundamentally on the rule of law? - This is the second story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”
Indonesia for Sale: in-depth series on corruption, palm oil and rainforests launches [10/10/2017]
- The investigative series Indonesia for Sale, launching this week, shines new light on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis. - In-depth stories, to be released over the coming months, will expose the role of collusion between palm oil firms and politicians in subverting Indonesia’s democracy. They will be published in English and Indonesian. - The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them. - Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight.
Experts seek ways to mitigate environmental impacts of infrastructure boom in Asia Pacific [10/09/2017]
- More than 22 million kilometers of new roads are projected to be built in highly biodiverse tropical and developing countries by 2050. - Direct habitat loss, illegal logging, increased poaching and encroachment and animal road kill are some of the environmental risks associated with road development. - Last week, a conference of experts, officials and activists from the Asia-Pacific region discussed ways to maximize the socio-economic benefits of infrastructure development while mitigating the environmental risks.
Trending tree cover loss spikes again in Queensland [10/08/2017]
- A government analysis of Landsat satellite imagery found that 395,000 hectares (976,000 acres) of tree cover was cleared between 2015 and 2016 — nearly a 33 percent bump over the same time period in 2014-2015. - Forty percent of that clearing — some 158,000 hectares (390,000 acres) — occurred in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. - The latest year’s clearing is the highest rate in a decade and represents the sixth consecutive year in which rates in Queensland have risen.
Booming legal Amazon wildlife trade documented in new report [10/06/2017]
- Wildlife trade attention has recently focused on Africa. But a new report spotlights the brisk legal international trade in plants and animals from eight Amazon nations. The report did not look at the illegal trade, whose scope is largely unknown. - The US$128 million industry exports 14 million animals and plants annually, plus one million kilograms by weight, including caiman and peccary skins for the fashion industry, live turtles and parrots for the pet trade, and arapaima for the food industry. - The report authors note that such trade, conducted properly, can have benefits for national economies, for livelihoods, and even for wildlife — animals bred in captivity, for example, can provide scientists with vital data for sustaining wild populations. - The report strongly emphasizes the need for monitoring, regulating and enforcing sustainable harvest levels of wild animals and plants if the legal trade is to continue to thrive, and if Amazonian forests and rivers are not to be emptied of their wildlife.
Amazon deforestation linked to McDonald’s and British retail giants [10/04/2017]
- British fast food restaurants and grocery chains, including Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald’s, buy their chicken from Cargill, which feeds its poultry with imported soy, much of it apparently coming from the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado — areas rapidly being deforested for new soy plantations. - A decade ago, Cargill and other global commodities companies agreed to stop buying soy from the Brazilian Amazon and established a Soy Moratorium in the region. - But a recent study showed that Cargill and other companies simply began sourcing their soy purchases from nearby areas, including the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado, a vast area of savanna, part of which is included in Brazil’s definition of Legal Amazonia. - That shift has resulted in rapid deforestation in both areas; a Mighty Earth report revealed that U.S. soy distributor Cargill is a major soy buyer there. Efforts to extend the soy moratorium to the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado have long been opposed by Cargill, despite calls to do so by NGOs, scientists and the Brazilian environment minister.
Audio: Is forest certification an effective strategy? Plus acoustic ecology of the Javan rhino [10/03/2017]
- We take a closer look at the evidence for the effectiveness of forest certification schemes on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast. - Mongabay recently kicked off a new in-depth series called “Conservation Effectiveness” that looks at the scientific literature examining how well various conservation types work, from forest certification to payments for ecosystem services and community forestry. The first installment is out now, and Zuzana Burivalova, a tropical forest ecologist at Princeton University who did the research analysis that the article was based on, is here to speak with us about what she found. - We also speak with Steve Wilson, who is currently working on a PhD at the University of Queensland on Javan rhino ecology and conservation. This is our latest Field Notes segment, in which Wilson will play for us three different Javan rhino vocalisations and fill us in on what the rhinos use these calls for.
Bats key pollinators for durian production, camera traps confirm [10/03/2017]
- A new study employing camera traps indicates that flying foxes in Malaysia are important pollinators of commercially valuable durian fruit trees. - The researchers set 19 traps in semi-wild durian trees. - Their investigation revealed that the bats had a positive impact on the transformation of the flower to fruit.
Amazon community on Tapajós River invaded by wildcat miners [10/02/2017]
- The Brazilian community of Montanha-Mangabal made up of beiradeiros —riverside peasant farmers and traditional fishermen — has been invaded and threatened by angry wildcat miners. - The beiradeiros community spread for miles along the Tapajós River in Pará, worked for decades to establish its legal land rights, achieved in 2013 when Brazil’s National Colonization and Agrarian Reform Institute (INCRA) turned the land into a 550 square kilometer Agro-Extractive Settlement (PAE). - However, the federal government failed to meet its obligation to demarcate the land. As a measure of last resort, Montanha-Mangabal and Munduruku indigenous allies began marking the land’s boundaries in September using GPS and signs. - This self-demarcation process apparently led to the miners’ invasion, as they illegitimately claim some of the community’s land. The beiradeiros, Munduruku, and other indigenous groups see the invasion as part of a bigger threat by Brazilian ruralists and the government to develop the Amazon.
Mining project in Leuser Ecosystem no longer has a valid permit [09/29/2017]
- The mining permit of a company engaged in a long-running conflict with Aceh villagers has expired. - Because the company failed to file paperwork on time, the Indonesian government has rejected the company’s request to extend the permit. - Without a permit, the company cannot legally continue to operate in its concession.
Brazil: a world champion in political and environmental devastation (commentary) [09/29/2017]
- Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world is heir to a fabulously rich heritage in its natural wealth and natural wonders. - It is also heir to a corrupt colonial tradition that today still rewards the nation’s wealthiest most privileged elites, as they overexploit forests, rivers, soils and local communities in the name of exorbitant profits. - These vast profits are made via intense deforestation, cattle ranching, mining, agribusiness, dam and road building and other development, with little or no regard for the wellbeing of the environment or the people. - Brazil’s landed elites, known today as ruralists, are well protected by state and federal governments, and remain largely exempt from prosecution for crimes against the environment and public good. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
New research suggests tropical forests are now a net source of carbon emissions [09/28/2017]
- Whether or not our planet’s rainforests are a net sink of carbon — meaning they sequester more than their destruction by human activities causes them to emit — is a much-debated issue. - Research released today suggests an answer, however: due to deforestation and forest degradation and disturbance, tropical forests in Africa, the Americas, and Asia now emit more carbon into the atmosphere than they sequester on an annual basis, according to scientists with the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and Boston University. - Over the study period, the rainforests of Africa, the Americas, and Asia were found to have gained approximately 437 teragrams of carbon every year, but to have lost about 862 teragrams of carbon. That means they were a net source of some 425 teragrams of carbon annually.
Camera trap records nearly extinct cuckoo bird in Sumatra [09/27/2017]
- A camera trap captured the Sumatran ground cuckoo in a national park. - The discovery of the avian species indicated that the park might be one of its last refuges. - The park agency said it would investigate the finding to make a conservation strategy for the cuckoo.
Temer walks back plan to open Denmark-sized area of Amazon to mining [09/27/2017]
- Brazilian president Michel Temer this Tuesday published a new decree reversing his August 23rd order to open a vast national reserve in the Amazon to mining. - The reserve, known as RENCA, contains nine conserved areas as well as two indigenous reserves. Environmentalists and indigenous leaders were concerned that the opening of the region to large scale mining would put protected areas at risk. - Temer’s original Amazon mining decree was met with worldwide condemnation from environmentalists, indigenous groups, scientists, artists and the general public. - RENCA encompasses 4.6 million hectares (17,800 square miles). Only 0.3 percent of the entire reserve is deforested, making it one of the Amazon’s most intact regions.
Giant tree-dwelling rat discovered in the Solomon Islands [09/27/2017]
- The Uromys vika is the first new rodent species to be described from the Solomon Islands in 80 years. - The elusive rat was finally discovered when an 18-inch, orange-brown individual fell out of a tree that had been cut down by a logging company. - The researchers think that the rat should be listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List because the rat appears to be rare, and its rainforest habitat is rapidly being logged away.
Amazon dam operator defies order to shut down, police action looms [09/26/2017]
- In 2011, the Norte Energia consortium made an agreement with the Brazilian government to provide adequate housing to the more than 20,000 people to be displaced from their homes due to the building of the Belo Monte dam in Pará state in the Amazon. - On September 20th a federal court suspended Norte Energia’s installation license and ordered it to shut down the dam because it violated that agreement, breaking pledges to provide different-sized houses to accommodate variously sized families, and to resettle displaced people within two kilometers of their original homes. - The court order, which went into immediate effect, included an exceptional provision that federal police could be called on to force Norte Energia to comply with the ruling and shut down the dam. - The consortium has so far refused to cease operations at the dam, and argues that it has yet to see the court order, and that its operating license supersedes its installation license.
Liberian park protects Critically Endangered western chimpanzees [09/22/2017]
- The establishment of Grebo-Krahn National Park in southeastern Liberia was approved by the country’s legislature in August 2017. - The 961-square-kilometer (371-square-mile) park is home to an estimated 300 western chimpanzees. - There are about 35,000 Critically Endangered western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) left in the wild, and Liberia is home to 7,000 of them.
Can the Javan rhino be saved before disaster strikes? [09/22/2017]
- The Javan rhinoceros has been reduced to a single population of around 60 individuals in an area prone to natural disasters. - Although the entire species now lives in a single national park, Javan rhinos are difficult to study and researchers are still working to understand the behavior of both individual animals and the population as a whole - Work to expand the existing habitat is underway, but experts agree establishing a second population is critical for the species’ survival.
Does forest certification really work? [09/21/2017]
- Based on a review of 40 studies of variable quality, we found that certified tropical forests can overall be better for the environment than forests managed conventionally. - But there wasn’t enough evidence to say if certified tropical forests are better than, the same as, or worse than conventionally managed tropical forests when it comes to people. - We also found that profits and other economic benefits can be hard to come by for certified logging companies working in tropical forests. - This is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness”.
When will cattle ranchers be proud to show their farms in the Amazon? (commentary) [09/21/2017]
- Consumers increasingly seek information on the origin of products. In Brazil, though, many cattle ranchers are reluctant to reveal the source of their cattle. - Environmental, labor, and fiscal problems explain this resistance. Currently, however, there is a battle to increase transparency about the farms to eliminate these problems, especially in the Amazon, which is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s cattle herd. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.
Four new toads discovered in Sumatra [09/21/2017]
- Scientists discovered four new species of toads who, unlike their cousins, live isolated in the highlands of Sumatra. - The four toads are distinguishable from one another by their skin patterns, limb shapes and voices. - In the wake of the discovery, one of the researchers called on the Indonesian government to strengthen the monitoring of harvesting quotas for toad exports so that scientists can keep track of its population in the wild.
Cross currents: Mega-dams and micro-hydro offer two different futures for rural Borneo [09/20/2017]
- Rural villages along the Papar River in Sabah, Malaysia are getting electrical infrastructure for the first time by building micro-hydropower systems. - The proposed Kaiduan Dam would flood the Ulu Papar Valley, displacing villagers in order to provide a water source to the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, and its environs. - Villages share what they have learned about managing their new hydropower systems, and work together to try to block plans for the dam.
Amazon dam defeats Brazil’s environment agency (commentary) [09/20/2017]
- The term “controversial” is inadequate to describe the São Manoel Dam. - It is located only 700 m from the Kayabí Indigenous Land and has already provoked a series of confrontations with the indigenous people. - As with other dams, São Manoel can be expected to negatively affect the fish and turtles that are vital food sources for the Kayabí, Munduruku and Apiacá indigenous groups. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Audio: Legendary musician Bruce Cockburn on music, activism, and hope [09/19/2017]
- Music has a unique ability to inspire awareness and action about important issues — and we’re excited to welcome a living legend onto the program to discuss that very topic. - Bruce Cockburn, well known for his outspoken support of environmental and humanitarian causes, appears on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast. - Our second guest is Amanda Lollar, founder and president of Bat World Sanctuary, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Texas. - All that plus the top news!
Andes dams could threaten food security for millions in Amazon basin [09/19/2017]
- More than 275 hydroelectric projects are planned for the Amazon basin, the majority of which could be constructed in the Andes whose rivers supply over 90 percent of the basin’s sediments and over half its nutrients. - A new study projects huge environmental costs for six of these dams, which together will retain 900 million tons of river sediment annually, reducing supplies of phosphorus and nitrogen, and threatening fish populations and soil quality downstream. - Accumulating sediments upstream of dams are projected to release 10 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, significantly contributing to global warming, and would contaminate waters and the aquatic life they support with mercury. - The construction of these dams should be reconsidered to preserve food security and the livelihoods of millions of people in the Amazon Basin.
Belo Monte dam installation license suspended, housing inadequacy cited [09/19/2017]
- A federal court has suspended the installation license of the Belo Monte mega-dam in the state of Pará, Brazil. The dam, slated to have the world’s third-largest generating capacity, became operational in 2015, but won’t see construction finished until 2019. - The court ordered further construction halted until Norte Energia met the commitments it made in 2011 to provide adequate housing for those displaced by the dam, including indigenous and traditional people that had been living along the Xingu River. - Among commitment violations cited were houses built without space for larger families, houses built from different materials than promised, and homes constructed too far from work, schools and shopping in Altamira, a city lacking a robust public transportation system. - The consortium continues to operate the dam, as its operating license has not been suspended.
Indigenous victory: Brazil’s Temer decrees 1.2 million Amazon reserve [09/18/2017]
- In a rare recent victory for Brazil’s indigenous people, President Temer has established the 1.2 million hectare Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state. - While NGOs and indigenous groups applaud the move, they note that the region has not been claimed by the Temer-backed ruralists, agribusiness and mining interests, who have aggressively disputed indigenous claims to ancestral lands in the southern Amazon region. - Two weeks ago, Temer reversed a decree establishing the 532-hectare indigenous Territory of Jaraguá in São Paulo state, ancestral home to 700 Guarani Indians. As a result, the indigenous group has now been squeezed into a reserve covering just 1.7 hectares. - Brazil also just established the 5,200-hectare Indigenous Territory of Tapeba, near Fortaleza, the capital of the northeastern state of Ceará. These indigenous victories do not seem to indicate a shift away from Temer’s wave of initiatives undermining indigenous land rights.
Oil palm firms advance into Leuser rainforest, defying Aceh governor’s orders [09/18/2017]
- The government of Indonesia’s Aceh province has banned land clearance for oil palm development inside the Leuser Ecosystem. - However, deforestation is still ongoing as some companies ignore the moratorium. - During the first seven months of 2017, Leuser lost 3,941 hectares of forest cover, an area almost three times as large as Los Angeles International Airport, watchdogs say.
Does social forestry always decrease deforestation and poverty? (commentary) [09/17/2017]
- Many governmental and non-governmental organizations see community forestry in Indonesia as a new approach to reducing environmental degradation and increasing social welfare. Despite a decade of experimentation with the concept, very little is known, however, about actual impacts. - Studies by the Monitoring and Evaluation of Social Forestry program (MEPS) reveal that Village Forest (Hutan Desa) areas reduce deforestation in forests allocated for watershed protection and limited timber extraction - In forest allocated to normal timber production and conversion, Hutan Desa areas, however, have higher deforestation than comparable forests not managed by communities. Community forestry can achieve positive outcomes, but not everywhere. The government needs to take this insight on board to help in allocating licenses and investments for this scheme. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Local approaches to conservation may be the most effective, study finds [09/15/2017]
- Researchers compared deforestation and forest degradation rates in areas of the Peruvian Amazon that were unprotected to those protected through government and local management. - They found, on average, locally led conservation initiatives proved more successful in preserving forests than those that are government-managed. - The study adds to mounting evidence that letting local and indigenous communities officially manage their forests may often be a highly effective way to conserve them. - However, official recognition of land rights often stands in the way of community-based conservation initiatives. The researchers urge the process be simplified so that more indigenous territories can be established and managed by the people who live in them.
What works in conservation? In-depth series starts next week [09/15/2017]
- “Conservation Effectiveness” is a multi-part series investigating the effectiveness of some of the most popular strategies to conserve tropical forests around the world. - The series is the result of a collaboration between Mongabay staff reporters Shreya Dasgupta and Mike Gaworecki, and a team of conservation scientists led by tropical forest ecologist Zuzana Burivalova of Princeton University. - Conservation Effectiveness launches next week.
Amazon mining unleashed (commentary) [09/15/2017]
- On August 23, 2017, Brazil’s president Michel Temer issued a decree revoking the RENCA, an area the size of Switzerland in the Amazon. - The Ministry of Environment had not been consulted and Brazil’s environmentalists and public were caught by surprise - A firestorm of criticism in Brazil and abroad led Temer to “revoke” the decree on August 28th and replace it with a new one. - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author.
Pygmy death shows need for land reform, group says [09/15/2017]
- The shooting death of a Pygmy native in the Democratic Republic of Congo is putting park rangers there under the microscope. - The rangers in the country’s protected areas are employed by a semi-government entity in charge of protected areas, the ICCN. - Local Pygmy groups and some advocacy organizations say the shooting proves that proper access to the forest is crucial to their way of life and safety.
Ecologist wins Heinz environment prize for airborne mapping that informs policy [09/14/2017]
- Ecologist Greg Asner of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory will receive a $250,000 award from the Heinz Family Foundation for his work to map rainforests and coral reefs around the world. - Lawmakers and other key decision-makers use Asner’s research to guide policy in the United States, South America and Southeast Asia. - Asner said he intends to put the funds toward marine education and outreach in Hawaii, where he began his career.
Communities struggle to save Sabah’s shrinking mangroves [09/13/2017]
- A development plan establishing shrimp farms and timber plantations begun purportedly to reduce poverty in northern Sabah, Malaysia, has attracted criticism from local communities and NGOs, which say the project is ignoring communities’ land rights. - Satellite imagery shows the clearing of large tracts of mangrove forest for shrimp farms. Critics of the development say this is depriving forest-dependent local communities of their livelihoods as well as threatening mangrove wildlife. - Several communities have banded together and are together petitioning the government to officially recognize their rights to the remaining mangroves and prevent further clearing for development.
Transformance: Finding common ground in the Amazon (commentary) [09/12/2017]
- The Fórum Bem Viver (Good Life Forum) met earlier this month to bring together indigenous leaders, military police, a federal judge, television actors, musicians, journalists, scientists and activists from eight countries and 14 Brazilian states. - The event, organized by the eco-cultural education nonprofit Rios de Encontro, utilized arts performances and workshops to seek common ground between participants regarding sustainable solutions in the Amazon. - The event was held in Marabá, Pará state, which is home to the Carajás mine, the world’s largest iron ore mine, and the community sits beside the Tocantins River where a dam is proposed upstream. - Participants sought solutions for turning Marabá into an “example of sustainable development for the Amazon, the Americas, and the world.” This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Yasuni indigenous peoples’ fight for survival depicted in new documentary [09/12/2017]
- The film “Yasuni Man” is a finalist for Best Conservation Film at the Jackson Hole Film Festival. The festival is considered to be the “Oscars of nature filmmaking” and received over 1,000 entries for 25 awards. - “Yasuni Man” tells the gripping story of a tribe in the Ecuadoran Amazon that lives in harmony with nature yet is constantly under threat from different intruders to the rainforest. - Filmmaker and film festival finalist Ryan Patrick Killackey talks to Mongabay about motivation, inspiration, and saving the planet’s biodiverse places.
Central Africa’s ivory trade shifts underground, according to new report [09/12/2017]
- A series of undercover investigations by the NGO TRAFFIC over several years in five Central African countries has revealed a shift in the region from local markets for ivory to an ‘underground’ international trade. - The resulting report, published Sept. 7, finds that organized crime outfits, aided by high-level corruption, are moving ivory out of Central African to markets abroad, especially in China and other parts of Asia. - A 2013 study found that elephant numbers in Central Africa’s forests dropped by 62 percent between 2002 and 2011.
Javan rhinos face human incursions into their last remaining habitat [09/11/2017]
- Only around 60 Javan rhinoceroses are believed to remain, all of them in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. - Authorities have caught dozens of people hunting, gathering forest products and planting crops in the park, including the recent arrest of 13 people in core rhino habitat. - Despite the challenges, the population is believed to be stable and calves continue to be born.
Uncontacted Amazon indigenous groups reportedly attacked by outsiders [09/11/2017]
- Brazil is investigating possible violent incidents between illegal miners and farmers and two uncontacted indigenous groups in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory in Amazonas state bordering Peru. - One alleged case involved gold miners operating dredges illegally on the Jandiatuba River, a tributary of the Solimões. - In a second case, villagers in Jarinal, a Kanamari community on the Jutai River reported an attack against a Wakinara Djapar group, possibly carried out by people farming illegally in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory. - Both reports are under investigation, but so far no solid evidence confirming the attacks has been produced. FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous services agency, has been hampered in enforcing protections of uncontacted groups due to drastic budget reductions. This year, the Temer administration cut the agency’s operating budget by nearly 50 percent.
Deforestation in Cambodia linked to ill health in children [09/11/2017]
- A new study has found that the loss of dense forest cover in Cambodia is associated with an increased risk of diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and fever in children younger than five years. - Just a 10 percentage increase in the loss of dense forest around Cambodian households was associated with a 14 percent increase in the rate of diarrhea among children, the researchers found. - In contrast, a higher coverage of protected areas around the households was linked to a lower incidence of diarrhea and acute respiratory infection in children.
A lingering ‘legacy’: Deforestation warms climate more than expected [09/08/2017]
- Tropical deforestation results in the release of not only carbon dioxide but also methane and nitrous oxide, leading to greater-than-anticipated warming of the global climate. - The study compared emissions from land conversion with those from burning fossil fuels for energy and other sources. - The researchers found that tropical deforestation at current rates could cause a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100.
Three years after the tragedy of Saweto, where is the justice and security? (commentary) [09/08/2017]
- Three years ago this month, my friends Edwin Chota and Jorge Ríos were assassinated along with Francisco Pinedo and Leoncio Quintícima as they hiked through their homelands in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest along the border with Brazil. - This summer I returned to their community of Saweto and hiked the path where they died. The community now holds legal title to their homelands, but their situation is far from secure. Illegal loggers continue to operate in their territory. - If the most famous titled community in Peru has neither territorial security nor sustainability two years after receiving title, how will the scores of other recently titled communities fare? - This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
Zero tolerance of deforestation likely only way to save Amazon gateway [09/07/2017]
- In a new paper, conservationists urgently call for a policy of zero deforestation and sustainable agroforestry in Maranhão, one of Brazil’s poorest states, before its remaining Amazon forests are lost. - The region’s forests are home to unique and endangered species, including the jaguar (Panthera onca), Black bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas), and kaapori capuchin (Cebus kaapori), one of the world’s rarest primates. - It is also inhabited by some of the most vulnerable indigenous groups in the world, including uncontacted indigenous communities. - Though 70 percent of remaining forest lies within protected areas, illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture are persistent problems, threatening already fragmented wildlife habitat and forcing indigenous tribes off ancestral land.
Audio: Technologies that boost conservation efforts right now and in the future [09/06/2017]
- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we take a look at the role technology is playing — and might play in the future — in conservation efforts. - Our first guest is Topher White, the founder of Rainforest Connection, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that has deployed upcycled cell phones in tropical forests around the world to provide real-time monitoring of forests and wildlife. - Our second guest is Matthew Putman, an applied physicist with a keen interest in conservation. Putman is CEO of Nanotronics, a company headquartered in Brooklyn, NY that makes automated industrial microscopes used by manufacturers of advanced technologies like semiconductors, microchips, hard drives, LEDs, and aerospace hardware.
Indigenous communities resist Chinese mining in Amazonian Ecuador [09/05/2017]
- Last weekend, a tribunal held by indigenous communities in Gualaquiza, in the Amazon headwaters region of Ecuador, accused the nation’s first large scale mining operation of major human and environmental abuses. - The Mirador and Panantza-San Carlos open-pit copper mines are run by Ecuacorriente S.A. (ECSA) and owned by the Chinese consortium CRCC-Tongguan. The two mines are located in the Cordillera del Cóndor region and within the Shuar indigenous territory. - Charges lodged against the government and Chinese consortium include displacement of 116 indigenous people, the razing of the town of San Marcos de Tundayme, escalating violence including the death of Shuar leader José Tendetza, discrimination, intimidation, threats, and worsening environmental degradation. - President Lenin Moreno’s administration has so far made no response to the Gualaquiza accusations or the demand for redress of grievances filed by the tribunal’s leaders.
Saving the Serranía de San Lucas, a vital link in the ‘jaguar corridor’ [09/01/2017]
- The Serranía de San Lucas in Colombia’s department of Bolivar is an area of renowned biodiversity. Due to the country’s long-running conflict the region has not yet been fully explored and scientists believe a “treasure trove” of undiscovered species may be lying in wait. - The mountain massif is also key to the “jaguar corridor,” a habitat link that connects Central American jaguar populations to those in South America. - But San Lucas is also home to some of Latin America’s richest deposits of gold. Mining for gold has damaged the region’s lowlands, releasing mercury into the surrounding environment. In 2014, two jaguar canines were found to contain mercury. - The race is on to protect the area through establishing it as a national park. Proponents of the initiative say doing to would help maintain its rich biodiversity and ensure it retains viable habitat for jaguars and other wildlife.
‘Ecological disaster’: controversial bridge puts East Kalimantan’s green commitment to the test [08/30/2017]
- Work is currently underway on a bridge and access road that will connect the fast-growing city of Balikpapan with its rural outskirts. - The project is part of a broader government program to transform Indonesian Borneo into an economic powerhouse. - Conservationists have opposed the project since it was launched in 2008, fearing it will disrupt marine life, cut a crucial wildlife corridor and spark land speculation and encroachment along a protected forest.
Temer’s Amazon mining decrees derided by protestors, annulled by judge [08/30/2017]
- In a seeming win for Canadian and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer on August 23rd abolished a vast Amazonian national reserve — the Renca preserve, covering 4.6 million hectares — and opened the region up to mining. - The reserve, straddling Pará and Amapá states, contains large preserved areas and indigenous communities. Temer’s original Amazon mining decree was met with widespread condemnation, resulting in a second clarifying decree on August 28th. - On August 29th, federal judge Ronaldo Spanholo annulled both decrees, citing Brazil’s 1988 constitution, and ruling that the Renca preserve may not be abolished by presidential order but only legislative action. The Brazilian Union´s General Advocate said it will appeal the judge´s decision. - BBC Brasil reported that Canadian mining companies, who would likely profit from the Renca preserve´s abolishment, were notified that the region was going to be opened up for prospecting last March, five months before the original decree was issued.
Indigenous farmers fight eucalyptus damage to water source in Ecuador [08/28/2017]
- In Ecuador’s central Cotopaxi province, massive industrial eucalyptus production is presenting problems for Cotopaxi’s rural economy, which traditionally thrived on flower and broccoli production. - Throughout the Nagsiche River water basin, exotic species like eucalyptus and pine have wreaked havoc on the soil by sucking out tremendous amounts of water. - Frustrated with a lack of assistance from the local government to curb the eucalyptus, 400 community members pooled together funds to purchase these 99 acres and turn them into an unofficial nature reserve. - Over the past 15 years, some stretches of the Nagsiche River have seen their water flow decrease by 40 percent.
Intact forests crucial to Amazon ecosystem resilience, stable climate [08/28/2017]
- Three recent South American studies emphasize the importance of intact forests to healthy habitat and a stable climate — both locally, and at a great distance. - The first study found that forest integrity is crucial for habitat stability and resilience. Degradation makes it harder for Brazil’s Caatinga forest to recover from intensifying drought due to climate change. Protected forests are more resilient against drought. - Another study showed that intense land use change in central Brazil and northern Argentina has resulted in the dry season becoming warmer across South America, with changes in Amazon plant productivity 500 kilometers from the disturbed area. - A third study’s modelling found that major future deforestation anywhere in the Amazon will dramatically reduce rainfall in the Amazon’s southwest — accounting for about 25 percent of the Amazon basin — and the La Plata basin.
Quilombolas’ community land rights under attack by Brazilian ruralists [08/25/2017]
- Four million African slaves were transported to Brazilian plantations. Many fled into the wild, some as far as the Amazon, and established quilombos — runaway slave communities long ignored by the federal and state governments. - Brazil’s 1988 constitution gave the quilombos legal land rights, which were not, however, recognized by the ruralists, an elite of wealthy landholders that coveted the land for agribusiness, mining and other development purposes. - In 2003, the “marco temporal,” requiring Quilombolas to prove that they occupied the land they are claiming both in 1888 (the year slavery was abolished) and in 1988 (the year of the new constitution) was overturned. Quilombos were granted inalienable community land rights. - Now, a long dormant court challenge by the DEM political party has reached Brazil’s Supreme Court, threatening the 2003 landmark ruling, again putting the Quilombolas at risk. Meanwhile, violence is up, with 13 people living in quilombos assassinated this year.
Samsung under fire for partnership with forest-burning Korindo [08/25/2017]
- Ahead of the launch of its new cell phone, Samsung was handed a petition with tens of thousands of signatures asking it to end its joint venture with Korindo, a conglomerate that has cleared thousands of hectares of rainforest in Indonesia’s Tanah Papua region. - Samsung has partnered with Korindo in the logistics sector. It has a direct stake in the oil palm sector via its partnership with Ganda Group, another Indonesian palm oil company. - After Mighty, the NGO that set up the petition, exposed Korindo’s practices in a report last year, the company said it would stop clearing forest until sustainability assessments could be undertaken.
Temer pays back ruralists: opens Brazil, Amazon to mining, say critics [08/24/2017]
- In a victory for transnational and Brazilian mining companies, President Michel Temer this week decreed the opening of a vast national reserve covering 4.6 million hectares in the Amazon to mining. The region contains large conserved areas as well as indigenous communities. - Late last month, Temer also decreed a new Brazilian mining code. Though the code still needs to be approved by Congress, it shifts responsibility for monitoring environmental standards away from government and to the mining companies — a move that risks major mining accidents. - It also replaces the National Department of Mineral Production with a new regulatory agency, the National Mining Agency — a bureau that critics say lacks the teeth and personnel to do the job. - Mining code opponents are also concerned it could weaken protections against mining on indigenous lands. They say that the new mining code and green lighting of mining in the Amazon is pay back for a House of Deputies vote in August to close a criminal investigation of the president for corruption.
‘Yoda bat’ happy to be recognized as new species [08/23/2017]
- A new fruit bat species found in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea and described in the Records of the Australian Museum this month resembles Yoda closely enough that it has actually been referred to simply as the “Yoda bat” — at least until now. - Acccording to Nancy Irwin, author of the study describing the species, the name Hamamas or “happy” tube-nosed fruit bat was chosen because “Most of the morphological characteristics that separate this bat from other species are associated with a broader, rounder jaw which gives the appearance of a constant smile.” - The bat was given its scientific name, N. wrightae, in honor of conservationist Deb Wright, who spent two decades building conservation programs and long-term scientific capacity in Papua New Guinea.
These 3 companies owe Indonesia millions of dollars for damaging the environment. Why haven’t they paid? [08/23/2017]
- The Indonesian government has been trying to collect penalties from three companies found guilty of damaging the environment. - One of the companies is PT Kallista Alam, an oil palm plantation firm convicted of cut-and-burning rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem. - Another is PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari, a timber plantation firm that was ordered to pay more than a billion dollars for illegal logging. - The government plans to establish a task force for the express purpose of collecting the penalties.
Deforestation from gold mining in Peru continues, despite gov’t crackdowns [08/22/2017]
- A team of scientists from the Carnegie Institution for Science found that, between 1999 and 2016, gold mining expansion cost the region 4,437 hectares (10,964 acres) of forest loss per year. - Miners were working an area in 2016 that was 40 percent larger than it was in 2012. - The findings, along analyses by ecologists at the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, indicate that increased enforcement by the Peruvian government has slowed the rate of deforestation.
Audio: A rare earth mine in Madagascar triggers concerns for locals and lemurs [08/22/2017]
- Our first guest on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Eddie Carver, a Mongabay contributor based in Madagascar who recently wrote a report about a troubled company that is hoping to mine rare earth elements in a forest on the Ampasindava peninsula, a highly biodiverse region that is home to numerous endangered lemur species. - Carver speaks about the risks of mining for rare earth elements, how the mine might impact wildlife like endangered lemur species found nowhere else on Earth, the complicated history of the company and its ownership of the mine, and how villagers in nearby communities have already been impacted by exploratory mining efforts. - Our second guest is Jo Wood, an Environmental Water Project Officer in Victoria, Australia, who plays for us the calls of a number of indicator species whose presence helps her assess the success of her wetland rewetting work.
Identifying the world’s top biodiversity investment returns [08/21/2017]
- When portions of a previously contiguous forest are carved away, so-called “fragmented forests” are created, and now-isolated species find it increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy and sustainable population. Species in fragmented forests start to head toward extinction within in less than a decade. - Out of 25 global biodiversity hotspots – sites that contain unusually high numbers of endemic plant and animal species and have lost greater than 70 percent of their original habitat – a team of scientists analyzed two forests for habitat restoration study. - The team calculated that the cost to regenerate the locations, two of the most fragmented biodiversity hotspots in the world, at less than $70 million. Under the advised approach, the overall projects could generate one of the highest returns on investment for biodiversity conservation in the world. - The team also notes that the work “could dramatically postpone and likely prevent many forest bird extinctions in these two highly fragmented tropical biodiversity hotspots.”
Indigenous groups win key land rights victory in Brazil’s Supreme Court [08/17/2017]
- In a victory for Brazil’s indigenous groups, the Supreme Court Wednesday decided against the claims of Mato Grosso state, which wanted compensation for Indian reserves established in that state by the federal government. - Mato Grosso argued that the land on which the reserves were established belonged to the state, but the Court decided on the side of indigenous people, noting in one case that the Indians had been living on the territory that became a reserve for 800 years. - Indirectly, this week’s court decisions undermine a measure recently signed by President Temer, and backed by the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, known as the “marco temporal.” - The marco temporal sets an arbitrary 1988 date for Indian occupations as a legal basis for all indigenous land claims. The court, in its rulings, based its decision on far longer ancestral territory occupation. It’s likely Temer and the rural caucus will continue pushing marco temporal, or similar strategies to delegitimize indigenous land claims.
A clouded future: Asia’s enigmatic clouded leopard threatened by palm oil [08/17/2017]
- The clouded leopard is the least well-known of the big cats. Both species (Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diarti) are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN across their ranges. - Clouded leopard habitat falls within three of the world’s top palm oil producing countries: Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. While many questions remain about this elusive species’ ecology, it’s widely believed that palm oil development severely threatens its long-term survival in the wild. - At a recent workshop in Sabah, Malaysia, experts devised a 10-year action plan to help secure the Sunda clouded leopard in the state, where it’s estimated there are around 700 left in the wild. - Biologists who study the species are hopeful that enough time remains to save the species in the long term – if plantations and development take conservation into consideration.
New study: Bird species blossom in stable climates [08/17/2017]
- A team of scientists from Sweden and the United States found that more bird species inhabit stable climates. - The finding runs counter the hypothesis that a changing climate induces the evolution of species. - That could mean that these bird species will be less adapted to upticks in temperature as part of current climate change. - But the stability of these climates could also protect the species living there since they’re not expected to warm as much as more seasonal areas.
Mammal numbers high in logged tropical forests, study finds [08/16/2017]
- The study quantified mammal numbers in forests and landscapes with varying degrees of human impact in Malaysian Borneo. - Across 57 mammal species recorded with live and camera traps, the average number of all animals combined was 28 percent higher in logged forests — where hunting wasn’t an issue — compared to old-growth forests. - The findings demonstrate the importance of conserving degraded forests along with more pristine areas.
International investment blamed for violence and oppression in Sarawak [08/15/2017]
- Land rights activist Bill Kayong was shot dead last year in Miri, Sarawak. Representatives of a palm oil plantation company were charged with his murder, but were later acquitted. - Their acquittal was denounced by many observers, who see it as yet another blow against indigenous communities in the fight for their land. - NGOs in Sarawak and around the world report failures by the Sarawak government to uphold indigenous land rights, and failures by international banks and investors to ensure their investments are conflict-free. - Investigators urge more accountability when it comes to international financing of development ventures. They also say retail customers could “act as change agents and raise the bar for banks’ respect for indigenous rights.”
Protecting a forest in the land of the Indonesian deer-pig [08/15/2017]
- In a village in the northern part of Indonesia’s giant Sulawesi island, hunters pursue rare animals that are protected by the law. - A local affiliate of NGO BirdLife International is working with locals to preserve the Popayato-Paguat forest block — and the dozens of endemic species within. - The NGO is facilitating an ecosystem restoration project in the forest block.
Colombian shamans want to restore traditional power via national network [08/14/2017]
- A Colombian organization known by the acronym CAAENOC is comprised of 35 elders from across Colombia. - CAAENOC seeks to revive an ancient shamanic network that had existed for thousands of years until the 1600s. - Employing indigenous beliefs in the spiritual realm, shamans in Colombia are attempting to restore the natural balance of the world based on a holistic concept of cosmology, land, memory and justice. - Known as derechos mayores (or higher authority), at the local level, it seeks to restore the traditional place of the shaman within indigenous communities as the political and spiritual leaders of the tribe.
Brazil’s Indians on the march in last ditch effort to stop land theft [08/14/2017]
- Last week, indigenous organizations and civil society bodies demonstrated widely against what they see as the Brazilian government’s on going moves to reduce Indian land rights, and to demand the government open a dialogue with indigenous representatives. - Of greatest concern is President Temer’s recommendation to approve the “marco temporal” a 1988 cut-off date for Indian occupation of traditional lands. - Critics say the marco temporal is designed to deny indigenous land rights guaranteed under Brazil’s 1988 constitution, while legalizing claims of land thieves and wealthy elite ruralists who have long hungered for control of Indian lands. - Brazilian Supreme Court rulings that will help determine the legality of the marco temporal are expected this Wednesday, 16 August.
Brazilian firm wants to build new dams in Amazon’s Aripuanã basin [08/10/2017]
- With the bancada ruralista mining / agribusiness lobby in control of the Temer government and Congress, a Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, sees it as an opportune time to revive a shelved plan to build dams in the Amazon’s Aripuanã basin. - The company has asked federal officials to allow viability studies for 3 new dams in this very remote, biodiverse region — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River. - The Inferninho dam, if built, would highly impact the Cinta Larga Indians, the victims of Brazilian-inflicted genocide in the 1960s. The Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve contains one of the world’s five largest diamond reserves, a cause of past violent conflicts. - Moves may be afoot in Congress to end a ban of mining on indigenous lands. If passed, a new law could allow mining on Cinta Larga land, with new mines potentially powered by the new hydroelectric dams. These projects, if built, would likely be a source of intense new controversy and conflict in the Amazon.
Father and son butt heads in decades-long battle over bird tourism site [08/09/2017]
- In their rural Ecuador town, bird watching promises to be an economic and conservation lifeline for the Basantes family and the biodiversity on their land. - Located just outside the capital city of Quito in Pacto province, the family’s 336 acres is at the southernmost tip of the dense rainforest called the Chocó-Darién region. - Convinced that the region’s biodiversity is more valuable than its timber and grazing land, Sergio Basantes has worked hard to convince his family of the same. - Today, the family’s land is a hotspot for bird watching, but power struggles over its future continue between Sergio and his father.
Monkey rediscovered in Brazil after 80 years [08/09/2017]
- An Ecuadorian naturalist collected the bald-faced Vanzolini saki in 1936 along the Eiru River. His record was the first and last known living evidence of the species. - In February 2017, an expedition called Houseboat Amazon set out to survey the forest along the Juruá River and its tributaries, with the hopes of finding the Vanzolini saki. - After just four days, the team spotted one leaping from branch to branch in a tall tree by the Eiru River. - The saki’s habitat is still fairly pristine, but the scientists worry its proximity to Brazil’s “arc of deforestation” and hunting pressure may threaten the species in the future.
Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Link a double-edged sword for environment, wildlife [08/09/2017]
- Work on the East Coast Rail Link, a Chinese-backed cargo and passenger rail project that will connect Peninsular Malaysia’s east and west coasts, commenced August 9. - The project aims to shift traffic from roads to rails, but will also lead to habitat loss and fragmentation in the peninsula’s forested heart. - Developers have adopted mitigation measures, but areas of ecological significance will still be affected.
First real test for Jokowi on haze as annual fires return to Indonesia [08/08/2017]
- Land and forest fires have broken out in pockets of Indonesia since mid-July. - Last year the country caught a break, when a longer-than-normal wet season brought on by La Niña helped mitigate the fire threat. - This year, hotspots have started appearing in regions with no history of major land and forest fires, like East Nusa Tenggara and Aceh. - The government has responded by declaring an emergency status as well as deploying firefighters.
HydroCalculator: new, free, online tool helps citizens assess dams [08/07/2017]
- With mega-dams planned globally, especially in the Amazon and Mekong, the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), an NGO, has developed a new free tool for evaluating a planned dam’s economic viability, greenhouse gas emissions and more. - The HydroCalculator estimates the net economic value of a proposed dam, with and without the cost of greenhouse gas emissions factored in, number of years required before a project generates a profit, and years until net emissions become negative. - The tool has been used by CSF, International Rivers, and a development bank and found to be very useful. Its forecasts have been tested against the economic viability and carbon emissions of existing dams, and found accurate. - The HydroCalculator is meant for use by communities, researchers and activists who are often closed out of the technical dam planning process. It is available free online.
Road projects threaten Sumatra’s last great rainforests [08/07/2017]
- Local officials currently have plans to build roads in Mount Leuser, Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. - Conservationists fear these plans could accelerate habitat loss and degradation in this highly biodiverse forest complex, which is home to many endangered species. - Proponents of road development cite the need for increased economic opportunities for local people and evacuation routes in case of natural disasters.
Why the Suy’uk are fact-checking their Dayak origin myth [08/04/2017]
- The Suy’uk are one of Indonesia’s hundreds of indigenous groups. They live in western Borneo. - Like many communities, the Suy’uk are mapping their lands in the wake of a landmark decision by Indonesia’s highest court that took indigenous peoples’ forests out of state control. - The government has dragged its feet in implementing the ruling, but mapping is seen as a prerequisite before indigenous groups can claim their rights.
Greater collaboration between companies and governments necessary to enhance climate action, report finds [08/03/2017]
- A new report released by the NGOs Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Forest Trends (FT) last week consists of case studies on how companies are working with the governments of Brazil and Indonesia, which together accounted for nearly 40 percent of total tropical deforestation in 2014, to achieve their shared goals around forests and the climate. - The authors of the report write that greater collaboration between corporations, governments, and other stakeholders is crucial to actually meeting climate change mitigation goals: “Considering the common goals of companies, governments, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, it is imperative to identify opportunities for collaboration to harness synergies between initiatives and catalyze action.” - In Brazil, for instance, several companies that have adopted Zero Deforestation Commitments are also collaborating with the government and NGOs in initiatives like Mato Grosso state’s Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) program, which aims to decrease deforestation levels, boost reforestation efforts, and push for more sustainable agricultural and livestock production.
Study examines sex-specific responses of Neotropical bats to habitat fragmentation [08/02/2017]
- While scientists have long known that males and females of some species use their habitat in different ways, the various responses to habitat destruction that are sex-specific are less well understood. - Research published in the journal Biotropica this month looked at the different responses to the effects of fragmentation exhibited by male and female individuals of Seba’s Short-tailed Bat (Carollia perspicillata) and the Dwarf Little Fruit Bat (Rhinophylla pumilio), both fruit-eating bats native to the Neotropics. - Researchers captured more than 2,000 bats of the target species in eight forest fragments of various sizes and nine control sites at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, a research forest about 80 kilometers north of Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon. - The authors of the study write that their results align with those of previous research in temperate areas, where male and female bats have been found to differ in their responses to habitat degradation at the local and landscape level.