Newsletter 2017-11-16

Mongabay’s origin story covered in Silicon Valley newspaper [ad]
The Almanac, the weekly paper that services the Silicon Valley communities of Atherton, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, and Woodside, did a cover story this week on Mongabay.


Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor [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.

Audio: Dr. Jane Goodall on being proven right about animals having personalities, plus updates direct from COP23 by Mike Gaworecki [11/15/2017]

– On today’s episode, we speak with the legendary Jane Goodall, who truly needs no introduction, and will have a direct report from the United Nations’ climate talks happening now in Bonn, Germany.
– Just before Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler was scheduled to speak with Goodall recently, research came out that vindicated her contention, which she’s held for nearly 60 years, that animals have personalities just like people. So we decided to record her thoughts about that for the Mongabay Newscast.
– Our second guest today is Mongabay contributor and Wake Forest University journalism professor Justin Catanoso, who appears on the podcast direct from COP23 to tell us how the UN climate talks are going in Bonn, Germany, what the mood is like amongst delegates, and how the US delegation is factoring into the talks as the Trump Administration continues to pursue a pullout from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor [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.

U.S. subnationals shoulder climate role in Bonn, Trump sidelined by Justin Catanoso [11/13/2017]

– The United States government under Donald Trump now stands alone, a rogue nation. Aligned against it at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, is every other nation in the world – all committed to meeting national emissions goals set in Paris in 2015.
– Completely bypassing Trump and the federal government at COP23 is the U.S. subnational delegation, led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
– The U.S. subnational delegation in Bonn represents non-federal actors in 15 states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities. Combined they represent nearly half the U.S. economy. It remains to be seen if the delegation will be formally seated at COP23 as negotiators – a potential slap in the face to Trump’s tiny U.S. State Department delegation.
– The U.S. subnationals are committed to keeping America’s Paris goal of a 28 percent reduction in carbon emissions (over 2005 levels) by 2025. Supporters of America’s Pledge say they’re nearly halfway there. But it will take a far bigger push, and deeper cuts, to avoid the threat of escalating climate change, as heatwaves, extreme storms, and sea levels surge.

Trump family planning policy may up population, hurt women, environment by Tina Deines [11/10/2017]

– In January, U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated the global gag rule, first introduced under Ronald Reagan. It requires foreign NGOs receiving U.S. global family planning assistance to certify that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” with non-U.S. funds.
– According to Marie Stopes International (MSI), the gag rule could result in a minimum of 2.2 million abortions from 2017-2020, with 21,700 women dying as a result. And that only accounts for services lost from MSI.
– Research shows that the gag rule is also likely to increase population growth in the developing world by reducing the ability of organizations to provide family planning services. This could endanger the environment in a variety of ways. For example, population growth puts more pressure on forests and wildlife.
– A lack of family planning can lead to large families, with women spending more of their time on childrearing, largely leaving them out of any active role in community sustainability and conservation projects, as well as education programs that train them in sustainable livelihoods.

The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands by Jeremy Hance [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.


A tranquilizer shortage is holding back rhino management plans in India by Moushumi Basu [11/16/2017]

– Conservationists rely on a semi-synthetic opioid called Etorphine HCl to tranquilize rhinos for veterinary care, translocation and other critical interventions.
– Due to export regulations in South Africa, and red tape at home, Indian states face a critical shortage of the drug.
– The lack of Etorphine is already holding up translocation plans in several protected areas, and preventing veterinarians from caring for injured animals.

Video: Thousands of illegally caught African gray parrots being rehabilitated by Shreya Dasgupta [11/16/2017]

– The Wildlife Conservation Society has released a video showing seized African gray parrots being treated at a rescue facility built specially for the rehabilitation of these birds.
– The birds were collected from the wild in the Republic of the Congo, and were most likely being smuggled to markets in Europe and the Middle East.
– So far, the WCS team has rehabilitated and released almost 900 parrots back into the wild.

Government revokes 406 mining permits in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan by Yovanda [11/16/2017]

– Local authorities have revoked 406 coal-mining permits in East Kalimantan province, with another 403 permits to be revoked in the future.
– East Kalimantan is the heart of Indonesia’s coal-mining industry, with over half of the province’s land area allocated for mining concessions.
– The revocation is a part of a nationwide effort to stamp out irregularities in the the country’s mining sector, which has long been plagued by corruption, legal violations, and environmental and social damage.

Scientists give humanity ‘second notice’ to shape up or suffer the consequences by Morgan Erickson-Davis [11/15/2017]

– In a paper published this week in Bioscience, scientists issue a second warning to humanity to adopt more sustainable practices and check in on how the world has fared since the first warning was published in 1992.
– They found most environmental problems have gotten far worse during the past 25 years.
– The paper puts forth ways in which humanity could improve its relationship with the natural world. If we don’t, the scientists warn we are “jeopardizing our future.”
– More than 15,000 scientists from 180 countries have signed the paper in support.

$2 billion investment in forest restoration announced at COP23 by Mike Gaworecki [11/15/2017]

– Last Thursday, at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany (known as COP23), the World Resources Institute (WRI) announced that $2.1 billion in private investment funds have been committed to efforts to restore degraded lands in the Caribbean and Latin America.
– The investments will be made through WRI’s Initiative 20×20, which has already put 10 million hectares (about 25 million acres) of land under restoration thanks to 19 private investors who are supporting more than 40 restoration projects.
– There’s a plethora of recent research showing that, while halting deforestation is of course critical, the restoration of degraded forests and other landscapes are a vital component to meeting the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius.

Can the Solomon Islands’ Gold Ridge Mine serve as a new model for resource extraction in the South Pacific? by Catherine Wilson [11/15/2017]

– After 17 years of foreign ownership and a checkered environmental history, the Solomon Islands’ Gold Ridge mine is now being led by a local landowner-driven joint venture.
– The company saw its first major test in April 2016, when rainfall triggered a spillover from the mine’s tailing dam. However, independent tests found the water quality downstream remained safe.
– Though concerns still remain, the new ownership structure could be a model for mining operations elsewhere in the region.

Should I stay, or should I go: is U.S. facing a climate scientist brain drain? by Sean Mowbray [11/15/2017]

– When Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement last June, French President Emmanuel Macron offered U.S. climate scientists refuge to continue their research. So did Germany. Several hundred answered that call, though many others are in a wait-and-see holding pattern.
– With Trump proposing major budget cuts to scientific programs, and an “anti-science” mantra resounding throughout the new administration, young scientists face a difficult climb up the career ladder. Some are actively looking for research opportunities in the private sector or abroad, while others are staying put in the U.S. and stepping up to resist Trumpian anti-science policies.
– Some experts warn that a decline in U.S. political openness and Trump’s closing of the door to immigrants, who often staff research positions, could pose greater problems for science in the U.S. than any outflow of researchers. Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and many other scientists were immigrants to the U.S. and provided some of the nation’s greatest scientific advances.

More big mammals found in high-carbon forests, says new study by John C. Cannon [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.

Videos detail corruption in massive illegal Peruvian timber case by Genevieve Belmaker [11/14/2017]

– New video shows Peruvian timber executives knew they might be trafficking illegal timber out of the country aboard one of the largest captured shipments of illegal timber in Peru’s history, the Yacu Kallpa.
– The video, released by NGO Global Witness, shows that despite public claims, exporters often know that documents do not guarantee legal origin of timber.
– The videos include representatives from three of the exporting companies involved in the Yacu Kallpa case: Corporación Industrial Forestal, Inversiones WCA, and Sico Maderas.

COP23: Trump team leads ‘surreal’ coal-gas-nuke climate summit panel by Justin Catanoso [11/14/2017]

– The only U.S. presentation to be offered at the COP23 climate summit was led by Trump administration energy advisors, along with coal, natural gas and nuclear industry representatives.
– The panel argued that fossil fuel production at high, subsidized levels is vital to “energy security and economic development.” Panel members made only infrequent references to climate change, and they made no mention of the dire impacts from burning fossil fuels.
– The presentation was likely one of the most uproarious in the history of COP. Two U.S. state governors burst in at the start to give impromptu speeches, attacking Trump’s climate denialist policies.
– A memorable highlight occurred when a chorus of young people arose en masse during the panel’s opening remarks, and to the tune of Lee Greenwood’s patriotic hit “God Bless the USA” sang: “So you claim to be an American. But we see right through your greed.” Their song lasted seven minutes, after which they peacefully departed the hall.

4 sperm whales dead after mass stranding in Sumatra by [11/14/2017]

– A pod of 10 sperm whales beached earlier this week in shallow waters in western Indonesia.
– Despite attempts by authorities and residents to push the animals back out into deeper water, four of the whales died after being stranded overnight.
– Experts are looking into what caused the whales to swim so close to shore.

Indonesia coal power push neglects rural households, chokes urban ones by Basten Gokkon [11/14/2017]

– The Indonesian government’s push to generate an additional 35 GW of electricity capacity by 2019 relies heavily on building new coal-fired power plants.
– Observers say the program focuses too much on the already saturated Java-Bali grid, while ignoring millions of households in more remote areas.
– The preference for generating power from coal could also threaten the health of up to 30 million people living in areas slated for power plant construction, a recent study from Greenpeace says.

Indonesian agribusiness giant APRIL outed in Paradise Papers by [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.

VaquitaCPR ends capture program in Gulf of California after vaquita dies in captivity by Mike Gaworecki [11/13/2017]

– VaquitaCPR, the emergency conservation team pulled together by the Mexican government in a desperate attempt to save the vaquita from extinction, announced last Friday that its capture program had come to an end.
– Just two of the marine mammals were taken into captivity by VaquitaCPR’s scientists, and neither was able to adapt to human care. The second, a breeding-age female that was not pregnant or lactating, responded poorly to being under the care of humans and died as the team was attempting to return her to the wild.
– With the vaquita population continuing to plummet, a prohibition on the use of gillnets adopted by the Mexican government does not appear to have made much difference thus far — but environmentalists say that much tougher enforcement of the ban is the only way to save the vaquita at this point.

COP23: Voices from America’s Pledge; in their own words by Justin Catanoso [11/13/2017]

– A U.S. non-federal delegation led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and including 15 U.S. states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities, represents nearly half the United States economy.
– This U.S. subnational delegation is at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, to commit to keeping the U.S. Paris Agreement emissions reduction goal set by the Obama administration in Paris in 2015 – a commitment made in defiance of President Donald Trump.
– On Saturday, a standing-room-only event was held at COP23 where Bloomberg, Brown, Gore, and others spoke rousingly of emission cut achievements so far, and to come. Their words and photos are presented here.

A forgotten promise to forests? (commentary) by Karen Petersen | Josefina Braña-Varela [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 by Basten Gokkon [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 by Zoe Osborne [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.

Citizen scientists around the world are monitoring elephants in Gabon via camera traps — and you can too by Mike Gaworecki [11/10/2017]

– Camera traps have proven to be a powerful tool in conservationists’ arsenal for monitoring forests and wildlife. But the mountains of data they capture need to be sifted through in order to be useful, which often presents a significant challenge for cash-strapped conservationists and researchers.
– To meet this challenge, a team led by Anabelle Cardoso, a PhD candidate at Oxford University in the UK, has turned to another promising new method that is reshaping the way research is done in modern times: citizen science.
– Slow population growth and the ivory poaching crisis have driven down the numbers of African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in recent years. “We want to conserve these beautiful creatures, but to do that effectively we need to know where these elephants are and how many of them there are, so we can pick the best places to focus our efforts,” Cardoso and her colleagues write.

Indonesia tries to learn from Brazil’s success in REDD+ by Hans Nicholas Jong [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.


‘Much deeper than we expected’: Huge peatland offers up more surprises by John Vidal [11/09/2017]

From carbon sink to source: Brazil puts Amazon, Paris goals at risk by Claire Salisbury [11/09/2017]

Is anyone going to save the Sumatran rhino? by Jeremy Hance [11/09/2017]

Logjam: Inside Madagascar’s illegal-rosewood stockpiles by Rowan Moore Gerety [11/08/2017]

Mapping how to feed 9 billion humans, while avoiding environmental calamity by Rhett A. Butler [11/08/2017]

Where, oh where, are the rhinos of Bukit Barisan Selatan? by Jeremy Hance [11/08/2017]

Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left by Jeremy Hance [11/07/2017]

Indigenous forests could be a key to averting climate catastrophe by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [11/06/2017]

Indonesia races against time to save new orangutan species by Hans Nicholas Jong [11/06/2017]


  • Mongabay’s origin story covered in Silicon Valley newspaper [11/12/2017]
  • Intern with us at Mongabay [11/10/2017]