- Mongabay had 10.8 million pageviews in July, up 45% over a year ago.
- Below are the most read stories on news.mongabay.com from July 2020.
Amazon indigenous leader: Our survival is at stake. You can help (commentary)
(5/12/20) Written by Beto Marubo – 196,693 pageviews
- Beto Marubo, a representative of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley, warns that indigenous peoples in the Amazon face existential threats from rising deforestation, anti-environment and anti-indigenous policies from the Bolsonaro administration, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Marubo, whose indigenous name is Wino Këyashëni, is calling upon the outside world to pressure the Bolsonaro administration to protect indigenous peoples’ rights, lands, and livelihoods.
- He’s asking for (1) the Brazilian government to evict land invaders from indigenous territories, (2) restrictions on outsiders’ access to indigenous lands, and (3) logistical and medical support.
- This article is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.
‘It’s a success’: Pangolins return to a region where they were once extinct
(06/23/20) Written by Elizabeth Claire Alberts – 145,162
- Temminck’s pangolins have been “ecologically extinct” in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province Africa for the past 30 or 40 years, but a new program managed by the African Pangolin Working Group is reintroducing the scaly anteaters back into this region.
- Pangolins rescued from the illegal wildlife trade tend to be physically ill and mentally stressed, and need to go through a lengthy rehabilitation process before they can be released.
- Instead of simply releasing pangolins back into the wild, the African Pangolin Working Group puts the animals through a “soft release” program, and continues to closely monitor them through GPS satellite and VHF radio tracking tags.
- In 2019, seven pangolins were released at Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal; two died of natural causes, but the remaining five are doing well.
Shifting cultivation: more than a means of livelihood
(06/18/20) Written by Aimee Gabay – 115,865
- Despite state discouragement, indigenous communities in northeast India persist in practicing shifting cultivation, an agricultural system used over centuries.
- A new study published in the journal Forest Policy and Economics examined this attachment, revealing various factors behind their motivation to continue.
- They found that shifting cultivation (SC) is not only a means of living for these communities but is also deeply rooted in their culture and way of life.
In Sri Lanka, the hunt is on for alien fish in native lakes
(07/06/20) Written by Malaka Rodrigo – 94,116
- A young fish enthusiast from suburban Sri Lanka is on a personal mission to remove invasive species from the island’s lakes and other waterways, starting with clown knifefish and alligator gars introduced as part of the aquarium fish trade.
- Sri Lanka’s freshwater habitats are plagued by at least 30 exotic fish species, according to the most recent assessment — either released intentionally for aquaculture or mosquito control, or accidentally through the aquarium trade — with a number of them having turned invasive.
- Some of the carnivorous species are listed among the world’s worst invasive fish, including the knifefish, which has become established in a number of key habitats and poses a threat to native freshwater species, many of which are endemic.
- Experts have called for stronger regulation to prevent the continued introduction of alien invasive fish species into Sri Lanka’s freshwater habitats.
Discovery of fish never recorded in the Amazon shows richness of Brazil’s Calha Norte
(07/03/20) Written by Fernanda Wenzel – 87,150
- Brazilian scientists have identified six fish species never before seen in the Amazon in Calha Norte, in the state of Pará, one of the best-preserved and least studied parts of the rainforest.
- Calha Norte lies north of the Amazon River, along the border with Guyana and Suriname, where those species were previously thought to be endemic, and 80% of its area is protected within conservation areas and Indigenous and Afro-Brazilian territories.
- Even though it is remote and hard to reach, illegal hunting, mining and deforestation are already placing local biodiversity at risk.
- These threats have made research even more urgent, with scientists warning the risk is that species will disappear before they are ever described.
Campaigners in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region oppose $21m conservation project
(5/27/20) Written by Daniel Quinlan – 83,945 pageviews
- Campaigners in the Tanintharyi region of southern Myanmar have urged international donors to support community conservation efforts, rather than what they see as a top-down approach that excludes indigenous groups.
- In a report released on Friday, CAT documents resistance in local communities to the imposition of a $21m project backed by major conservation groups and the UN.
- The proposed Ridge to Reef project would cover about 35% of the Tanintharyi region and aims to protect some of the best preserved lowland evergreen forests in Southeast Asia. The 3.5 million acre conservation area would cover 225 villages and radically transform the lives of the indigenous people that live in them.
For the world’s rarest gorillas, a troubled sanctuary
(07/13/20) Written by Linus Unah – 78,539
- Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS), near the Nigeria-Cameroon border, was established in 2000 to serve as a refuge for endangered primates including Cross River gorillas.
- Of an estimated 300 Cross River gorillas, around 100 live in a patchwork of adjoining protected areas: AMWS, Mbe Mountains, and the Okwangwo division of Cross River National Park.
- Though officially protected, the AMWS suffers from encroachment for hunting, logging and agriculture. Conservationists say rangers and resources are too few to effectively protect the sanctuary.
- Without a major commitment from the Cross River state government, the sanctuary “may very well be doomed,” one expert says.
‘Don’t let your cat outside’: Q&A with author Peter Christie
(5/26/20) Written by John C. Cannon – 78,500 pageviews
- Journalist Peter Christie has published a new book about the effects that pets have on wildlife and biodiversity.
- In addition to the billions of birds and small mammals killed by free-roaming pets each year, the wild pet trade, invasive pets, disease spread and the pet food industry are harming biodiversity and contributing to the global crisis.
- Christie calls the book “a call to action,” and he says he hopes that humans’ love for their pets might extend to wild species as well.
Rare fish-eating crocodile confirmed nesting in southwest Nepal after 37 years
(11/21/19) Written by Mongabay.com – 77,870
- In Nepal, fewer than 100 mature adult gharials are estimated to remain, with only one population in the Narayani and Rapti Rivers of Chitwan National Park known to be breeding until recently.
- Now, researchers have recorded nesting sites and more than 100 gharial babies in yet another site, in Bardia National Park in southwest Nepal.
- The last time gharials were recorded breeding in Bardia was in 1982.
Indonesia’s lobster export safeguards won’t end smuggling, scientists warn
(DATE) Written by AUTHOR – 73,120
- Indonesia has allowed the resumption of exports of lobster larvae and set a maximum quota for wild capture of the crustacean to control the trade.
- But fisheries experts and conservationists say the quota and requirements will not be enough to spur companies into investing in Indonesia’s lobster aquaculture sector, or to stop illegal lobster exports.
- Lobsters are among Indonesia’s top fisheries commodities, but the illegal export of larvae and baby lobsters cost the country 900 billion rupiah ($64 million) in lost revenue in 2019 alone.
- The larvae are typically sold to buyers in Vietnam, Singapore and China, where they can be raised and sold at much higher prices.
Groups demand financial, human rights probes into palm conglomerate Korindo
(06/10/20) Written by Basten Gokkon – 72,438
- Activists have called for a financial probe into the Korindo Group, a conglomerate that paid a $22 million “consultancy fee” for the permits to expand its oil palm operations in Indonesia’s Papua province.
- The circumstances around the payment were recently uncovered in an investigation by Mongabay, The Gecko Project, the Korean Center for Investigative Journalism-Newstapa and Al Jazeera.
- Activists want Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency to look into the possibility that the money was channeled as bribes to officials.
- They also want the government to ensure the safety of Papuan communities featured in the Al Jazeera documentary about the payment, in light of a record of rights abuses associated with Korindo’s operations.
Did China really ban the pangolin trade? Not quite, investigators say
(06/24/20) Written by Elizabeth Claire Alberts – 71,151
- Investigators have cast doubt on a recent announcement that China had banned pangolin scales in traditional Chinese medicine, based on the discovery that pangolin scales are still in the ingredient lists of various patent medicines cataloged in China’s 2020 pharmacopoeia.
- At least eight of the listed patent medicines contain pangolin scales, including a blood circulation pill and a remedy for abdominal pain.
- Experts say pangolin scales are still being legally traded in China based on a loophole in the country’s Wildlife Protection Law, which allows the trade of protected species in special circumstances.
- There are also concerns about how the current stockpiles of pangolin scales will be used and managed to prevent laundering of illegal pangolin scales.
That coconut oil you love? Species have gone extinct over it. True story
(07/06/20) Written by Elizabeth Claire Alberts – 71,076
- A new study found that coconut oil production, by some measures, is more destructive than palm oil production, with coconuts affecting 20 threatened species per million liters of oil produced, and palm oil only affecting 3.8 species per million liters.
- Globally, coconut farms occupy 12.3 million hectares (30.4 million acres) of land, about two-thirds the area of oil palm plantations, with most farms located in Indonesia and the Philippines.
- Instead of positioning coconut oil as a product that should be avoided, the study aims to demonstrate that most consumable oils, such as olive, soy and rapeseed oil, have a negative impact on the environment, although these impacts are not all well known or publicized.
- Since this story was published, a substantive rebuttal to the findings on coconut oil was published by Mongabay, see below for a link to that.
Where are South Africa’s great white sharks?
(6/10/20) Written by Heather Richardson – 70,732 pageviews
- White sharks have disappeared from False Bay and Gansbaai, two sites off South Africa where they have historically been commonly sighted.
- Scientists have a number of theories about this, including predation of sharks by orcas, and fishing activity that targets species that juvenile sharks feed on.
- Scientists say it’s important to look at the big picture — while sharks have gone from some areas, they’ve increased in others — but data covering South Africa’s whole coastline is still patchy.
- The COVID-19 lockdown is also hampering data-gathering efforts, with scientists not yet permitted to go out to sea, potentially leading to a gap in the long-term data.
World’s top tapir expert prepares for unprecedented Amazon mission
(06/24/20) Written by ENaira Hofmeister – 68,030
- Brazilian conservation biologist Patrícia Medici first won a Whitley Award, the “Green Oscars” for conservation science, in 2008; this year, she’s the recipient of the top tier of the prize, the Whitley Gold Award.
- She will use the $75,000 prize to fund the new stage of her studies, in which she plans for the first time to study the lowland tapir in the Amazon.
- Medici has already spent two decades studying the species, South America’s largest land mammal, in the Atlantic Forest, the Pantanal wetlands, and the Cerrado grassland.
- She hopes to use the next stage of the study, in the Amazon, to expand understanding of the species by seeing how it reacts to deforestation driven by mining, large-scale agriculture, and logging.
Mystery ailments, asymptomatic individuals: Spotlight on monkeypox in chimps
(06/05/20) Written by Shreya Dasgupta – 67,303
- In 2017 and 2018, monkeypox viral outbreaks struck three chimpanzee communities in Taï National Park in Côte d’Ivoire.
- Researchers investigating the outbreaks found that very few individuals actually showed the characteristic smallpox-like skin rashes on their bodies associated with monkeypox; many chimps that only exhibited respiratory symptoms like coughing with few or no rashes also had high viral loads of monkeypox virus DNA in their feces.
- Detecting monkeypox viral DNA in individuals with only respiratory symptoms suggests that the same might be true in humans, researchers say, which could mean that monkeypox cases could be going undiagnosed.
- This study is the first-of-its kind deep dive into monkeypox virus transmission among wild primates.
Deer droppings help researchers understand sambar antler development
(07/14/20) Written by Malaka Rodrigo – 65,149
- The sambar is the most widespread deer species in the Asian region, but there are very few studies on their reproduction and antler development cycles.
- A new Sri Lankan study focusing on testosterone levels in sambar droppings sheds light on the link between hormone levels in males with the development cycle of their antlers, though it doesn’t show clear seasonality like in deer in temperate regions.
- The sambar population in Horton Plains National Park in central Sri Lanka is unique in the formation of herds, which can grow to up to 20 individuals, in contrast to the much smaller herds found elsewhere.
- Sambar deer are a flagship species for the conservation of Horton Plains National Park, a unique habitat of montane wet grassland.
Camera snaps first ever glimpse of a troop of the world’s rarest gorilla
(07/10/20) Written by Elizabeth Claire Alberts – 64,427
- A camera in Nigeria’s Mbe Mountains captured the first known images of a large group of Cross River gorillas, including adults, juveniles and babies, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
- It’s estimated that there are about 300 Cross River gorillas left in the world, with about a third of the population living in three contiguous sites in Nigeria, and 30 to 35 individuals based in the Mbe Mountains.
- Due to conservation efforts, no Cross River gorillas have been reported poached since 2012, according to WCS.
Myanmar ponders what to do with its out-of-work elephants
(07/05/20) Written by Curtis Segarra – 57,878
- As the Myanmar government moves to rein in deforestation, thousands of captive elephants trained to haul logs in Myanmar may lose the care and protection they received when working.
- A government body that owns more than 2,900 captive elephants has turned to ecotourism to raise funds to care for the elephants, but it’s not enough.
- Releasing the elephants into the wild presents its own difficulties, including increased risks of human-wildlife conflict and poaching.
- Private owners, strapped for cash, may be forced to kill their elephant and sell its parts, or sell it alive to another country.
Keystone mammal plunges 87% in Mesoamerica
(07/17/20) Written by Francesca Edralin – 42,841
- White-lipped peccaries, the pig-like mammals that range from Mexico to Argentina, are in “precipitous decline” in their Mesoamerican range, according to a new study.
- Their numbers in this region may have dropped by as much as 90% over the past 40 years, sparking a push for a new conservation assessment.
- The main threat to the species is the destruction of its rainforest habitat, largely attributed to the expansion of agriculture and cattle pasture.
- Conservationists say the loss of peccaries will have significant ramifications for rainforest ecosystems, which the animals are important in shaping through seed dispersal, tree control, and creation of watering holes.
Header image: NASA image showing soil erosion in the Kasai River, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)