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Mongabay’s What-to-Watch list for June 2023

Sloth bears are attracted to the garbage dumps

Sloth bears are attracted to the garbage dumps near Nilgiris’ towns in southern India. Image courtesy of Chandrasekar Das/Keystone Foundation.

  • Mongabay’s May videos show new discoveries of hydrothermal vents from deep in the oceans and blind fish from shallow aquifers, success and failure narratives in waste management in India, and stories of small-scale farmers in the Philippines and Cambodia.
  • Watch how herders from Senegal are fighting for their land and the country’s drinking water against a U.S. agricultural company, why the Indigenous and local community in Colombia is divided over a Canadian mining company, and what the construction of a Chinese-funded dam means to a Philippine Indigenous community.
  • In India, city-dwellers have taken to urban and peri-urban agriculture to encourage sustainability, and Indigenous women are gaining financial independence through traditional jewelry that uses natural materials
  • Get a peek into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

The underwater world continues to surprise us with new discoveries across the world, both in the seas and freshwater ecosystems. Watch deep-sea footage from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where a team of scientists discovered life thriving around hydrothermal vents hot enough to melt lead. Meanwhile, in Kerala, India, scientists discovered a new-to-science blind fish. The brightly-colored catfish has no eyes and lives in lateritic aquifers.

In May’s episode of Mongabay Explains, host Romi Castagnino explains how small wild cats are different from the big cats, explores their habitats, and tells us why small cats are a big deal.

From the Philippines, watch how two decades following devastating floods, a community’s farms designed around sustainability has thrived only to face new problems now. Not too far away, in Cambodia, small-scale rice farmers are confronted with multiple crises, too. In India, urban and peri-urban agriculture is gaining popularity in the cities, encouraging climate action and sustainable development.

Waste management in India is a growing concern, as Mongabay-India reports. While in one part of the country, a landfill is attacting wildlife from forests, leading to human-wildlife conflict, authorities in another part of the country have successfully conquered 40 years of accumulated waste in less than a year.

In Senegal, watch how herders and residents around Ndiaël nature reserve are set to confront a U.S. agro company whose use of pesticides in the region will contaminate the drinking water of a large part of the country’s population.

Local communities in other countries are also fighting big industries for rights: in Colombia, a Canadian mining company is set to explore the richly biodiverse Andean-Amazon Piedmont for metals. In the Philippines, the Indigenous Dumagat-Remontados oppose a Chinese-backed dam project on the Kaliwa River.

Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on Mongabay’s YouTube channel.

Deep-sea life swarms newly discovered hydrothermal vents

A team of international scientists on board the RV Falkor (too), a research vessel operated by the Schmidt Ocean Institute, recently discovered active hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Researchers say hydrothermal vents help regulate global ocean chemistry, support complex ecosystems, and store vast amounts of marine genetic resources. However, there is already interest in mining the sulfide deposits of hydrothermal vent systems for their commercially valuable minerals.

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Read more: Seafloor life abounds around hydrothermal vents hot enough to melt lead

In India, blind catfish discovered beneath Kerala’s surface

Scientists have discovered a new species of blind catfish, Horaglanis populi, in the lateritic aquifers of Kerala, India. Although visually similar to its three closely related species, the Horaglanis populi stands out due to its genetic diversity. Researchers anticipate that many more undiscovered species await their moment of discovery within the depths of these aquifers. This discovery emphasizes the vital role of public involvement in documenting, conserving, and protecting biodiversity.

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Read more: Citizen scientists help discover a blind catfish species hidden inside Kerala’s aquifers

Understanding rhino rays through fishing communities in India

Scientists interviewed fishing communities in Goa, India, to gather local ecological knowledge and understand the critically endangered rhino rays, particularly guitarfish and wedge fish. The research aimed to understand their habitat use, fishing practices, and perspectives of fishers. The study found that fishing communities provided valuable information on behavior and habitat patterns, filling gaps in scientific knowledge.

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Read more: Understanding the role of local communities in the conservation of critically endangered rhino rays


This community rebuilt its farms with sustainable methods in the Philippines

In the wake of devastating floods in 2004, the residents of Kiday, Philippines, embarked on a journey of resilience and sustainability. This video explores how this community rebuilt their farms using agroecology and agroforestry practices after the disaster. However, their commitment to sustainable agriculture faces challenges, including a lack of government support and the construction of the Kaliwa Dam upstream.

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Read more: Organic farming, and community spirit, buoy a typhoon-battered Philippine town

Uncertain future for Cambodia’s small-scale rice farmers

Farmers in Cambodia are confronted with multiple crises from unpredictable crop prices and skyrocketing costs for fertilizer and pesticides to the impacts of extreme weather — leaving farmers with little profit and an uncertain future.

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Read more: Small farmers in limbo as Cambodia wavers on Tonle Sap conservation rules

Urban farming movements taking shape in Indian cities

Urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) is gaining popularity in Indian metropolises to encourage climate action and sustainable development. UPA not only helps bring down the land surface temperatures in cities, but also promotes individual and community well-being while increasing urban food security and creating green jobs.

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Read more: Urban and peri-urban farming can play a small role in reducing carbon footprint


Poor waste management endangers humans and animals in Nilgiris, India

Kotagiri town in the mountainous Nilgiris district, Tamil Nadu, is witnessing increasing reports of human-wildlife interactions. The hill town, with its fragmented forest patches, has open dump sites and landfills that attract and feed wildlife.

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Read more: A hill town in Nilgiris district pays the price for poor waste management

In India, Assam conquers 40 years legacy waste

The authorities of North Lakhimpur in Assam, India, have successfully conquered 40 years of accumulated waste in less than a year. The legacy waste, amounting to approximately 79,000 metric tonnes, had been causing severe environmental and health hazards for the community. The waste was processed into Refuse-derived fuel (RDF), used as fuel in a cement factory, and organic matter used as fertilizer.

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Read more: Assam’s North Lakhimpur treats 40 years of legacy waste in just nine months

Senegal herders vs U.S. firm: local population demands return of grazing grounds

African Agriculture (AAGR), a U.S. company planning to grow alfalfa for livestock feed in Senegal, is set to launch an initial public offering on the Nasdaq exchange. But the land concession it holds used to be part of the Ndiaël nature reserve, a wetland that’s home to many threatened species and a key grazing ground for local herders. The local population is considering suing AAGR in the U.S.

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Read more: Senegal herders demand return of grazing grounds controlled by U.S. firm


Combatting wildlife crime with technology

The state forest department of Kerala, India, has introduced new technology to combat wildlife crime. The Hostile Activity Watch Kernel, or HAWK, was introduced to transition to digital documentation replacing the manual system of data entering. By digitizing the information networks they are now able to access data on the go and also make informed information on steps to protect against wildlife crime.

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Women united against copper mining in the Colombian Amazon

Libero Copper, a Canadian company, plans to explore copper, molybdenum, and other metals in the richly biodiverse Andean-Amazon Piedmont, which has led to strong divisions within Indigenous and local communities. The copper and molybdenum project is framed as a green project that could contribute needed minerals for the country’s energy transition— a proposal that aligns with the goals of the new left-wing government of Gustavo Petro.

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Read more: Plan to mine ‘clean energy’ metals in Colombian Amazon splits communities

Meet the Indigenous leader at the forefront of an anti-dam movement in the Philippines

A Chinese-backed dam project on the Kaliwa River in Quezon, Philippines, has sparked concerns among the Indigenous Dumagat-Remontados community. Local members fear that the dam project will flood their ancestral lands, destroy their livelihoods and displace them. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.

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Read more: ‘It gives life’: Philippine tribe fights to save a sacred river from a dam


Four reasons why small wild cats are a big deal

Though lesser known than big cats, such as tigers or snow leopards, more than 30 species of small cats roam the world. They’re well adapted to drastically different habitats, as varied as South America’s high Andes and Asia’s coastal wetlands. Though stealthy and largely unseen, they have value to ecosystems and humanity.

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Read more: Small cats face big threats: Reasons to save these elusive endangered species


Exploring the world of sustainable jewelry

The world of natural material jewelry in India is gaining popularity among people looking for sustainable alternatives. Through the lens of Priyadarshini Das, the founder of Ecodarshini, we get an insight into the concept of using natural materials for jewelry making and how it is an old practice gaining renewed attention. Das trains Indigenous women in jewelry making, providing them with the skills they need to become financially independent.

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Read more: Eco-friendly materials add bling to India’s jewellery market

Banner image: Sloth bears are attracted to the garbage dumps near Nilgiris’ towns in southern India. Image courtesy of Chandrasekar Das/Keystone Foundation.

Mongabay’s What-to-Watch list for May 2023

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