Newsletter 2017-11-30


Trump’s indecision on trophy hunting reignites heated debate by Jeremy Hance [11/28/2017]

– On November 15, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted a ban on the U.S. import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The president put a hold on the order two days later, calling trophy hunting in a tweet a “horror show.” He has yet to make a final determination regarding the USFWS order.
– At the same time, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the establishment of the International Wildlife Conservation Council. One goal of the body will be to promote with the U.S. public the “economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to [trophy] hunt.”
– While trophy hunting does provide revenue for land and wildlife conservation in some special cases in Africa, the new U.S. council will likely have its work cut out for it, since many Americans no longer see trophy hunting of endangered species as ethical.
– Conservationists counter pro-trophy hunting advocates by noting that rampant government corruption in nations like Zimbabwe and Zambia make it unlikely that most trophy hunting revenues ever reach the African preserves, local communities or rangers that need the funding.

Audio: Margaret Atwood on her conservation-themed graphic novel, dystopian futures, and how not to despair by Mike Gaworecki [11/28/2017]

– Today’s episode features best-selling author and environmental activist Margaret Atwood as well as the founder of a beverage company rooted in the Amazon whose new book details the lessons he’s learned from indigenous rainforest peoples.
– Margaret Atwood, whose novels and poetry have won everything from an Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction to the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction, recently tackled a medium she is not as well-known for: comic books. Not only that, but she has written a comic book series, called Angel Catbird, that “was a conservation project from the get-go,” she told Mongabay.
– Our second guest is Tyler Gage, co-founder of the beverage company Runa. “Runa” is the word the indigenous Kichwa people use to describe the effects of drinking guayusa; it translates to “fully alive” — which also happens to be the name of a new book that Gage has just published detailing the lessons he learned in the Amazon that led to the launch of Runa and its mission to partner with indigenous communities in business.

In search of the fireface: The precarious, scandalous lives of the slow lorises of Java by Jeremy Hance [11/26/2017]

– Cute and fuzzy but also vicious and venomous, Javan slow lorises have been driven to the brink of extinction by habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade.
– The Little Fireface Project in West Java is the first long-term research project focusing on the critically endangered primate.
– In addition to making strides toward understanding how to care for and reintroduce lorises to the wild, the project has revealed new details about the species’ complex, and often reality-show-worthy social behavior.


WATCH: Rare sighting of mother Sunda clouded leopard and cubs caught on film by Mike Gaworecki [11/29/2017]
– On the afternoon of November 6, while traveling through Deramakot Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, photographer Michael Gordon came across a sight he was not expecting: a Sunda clouded leopard mother with her cubs.
– “When I first saw the clouded leopards from a distance I thought it was just some macaques on the road,” he told Mongabay. “Once I realized that it was actually three clouded leopards I stopped the car right away. I had my camera close by, but with only a 15mm macro lens attached. I wasn’t sure whether to just enjoy the moment or go into the boot of the car and change lenses. I figured I would regret it badly if I didn’t record it.”
– The Sunda clouded leopard, found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, is such a rare and elusive big cat that it’s traditionally been rather difficult to study, never mind casually sight while driving through the forest.

Among global companies, efforts on deforestation lag by Hans Nicholas Jong [11/29/2017]
– A recent report found that out of 201 companies, a mere 13 percent surveyed have adopted zero net deforestation policies.
– Adopting zero deforestation policies is a critical step in stopping global forest loss.
– The adoption of zero deforestation policies by a few big companies like the McDonald’s Corporation has not had a major trickle-down impact on other companies following suit.

Fundão dam criminal case moves ahead against 21 mining executives by Zoe Sullivan [11/29/2017]
– The Fundão dam rupture — the largest environmental disaster in Brazil’s history — unleashed 50 million tons of waste from the world´s largest iron mine, killing nineteen people in a flood of toxic mud and contaminating 500 miles of the Doce River.
– A Brazilian judge has decided that the criminal case against 21 executives from the Samarco, Vale and BHP Biliton mining companies can again moving forward in the courts. The case had been put on hold in July.
– Prosecutors have also announced an agreement with Samarco requiring that the corporation provide technical support to those affected by the disaster, along with an assessment of the socio-economic damage.
– A just released study on the Doce River´s water quality revealed that nearly 90 percent of 18 test sites demonstrated bad or terrible water quality. The “terrible” designation, found at 7 test sites, indicates that the water is currently unfit for human consumption.

Plastic in the ocean smells like junk food to hungry anchovies by Vicky Stein [11/29/2017]
– Researchers created blends of algae- and bacteria-coated plastic, clean plastic, and plain seawater to test whether anchovies are drawn to the scent of plastic debris in the ocean.
– The odors of plastic pieces coated in algae or bacteria sparked vigorous feeding behavior in the fish.
– By eating plastics, anchovies and other baitfish could become toxic to the animals and people who rely on them for food.

New carbon maps of Sabah’s forests guide conservation in Borneo by John C. Cannon [11/29/2017]
– Airborne LiDAR mapping combined with satellite imagery analysis has provided scientists, government agencies and NGOs with a “wall-to-wall” account of the carbon held in Sabah, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo.
– The study, led by ecologists from the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, revealed that more than 40 percent of the forests with the highest carbon stocks aren’t covered by the state’s most stringent protections.
– The findings give wildlife biologists the chance to examine how carbon stocks correlate with the presence of biodiversity; NGOs the opportunity to identify new high-carbon areas to set aside under oil palm certification schemes; and the Sabah government the information to determine which forests are the most valuable and therefore need further protections.

Here is the most current list of the world’s top 25 most endangered primates by Mike Gaworecki [11/28/2017]
– According to the biennial Primates In Peril report, the latest installment of which was released today at the Primate Society of Great Britain’s 50th anniversary conference in London, 62 percent of the more than 700 known species and subspecies of apes, lemurs, monkeys, and other primates are currently facing serious threats to their survival. Forty-two percent of them are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered.
– The report lists the top 25 most endangered primate species, and while the list was compiled before the Batang Toru orangutan was described to science, the authors of the report said it would almost certainly appear on the list next year.
– The Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), the Batang Toru orangutan’s closest relative, makes its first-ever appearance on the list, however. Eight other species from Asia join the Bornean orangutan on the list, as do five species from the Neotropics, five species from Africa, and six lemurs from Madagascar.

Indonesian conservation bill stirs debate over geothermal rigs, private guards by Fidelis E. Satriastanti [11/28/2017]
– A proposed revision of Indonesia’s 1990 Conservation Law provides a mechanism for companies to obtain a waiver for geothermal drilling in forest areas zoned for conservation, currently off-limits to the industry.
– Lawmakers are considering a proposal from companies that their security guards be allowed to arrest trespassers in their plantation and mining concessions.
– The law would include heavier penalties for wildlife traffickers.

Peru: Illegal mining devastates forests in Amazonas Region by VANESSA ROMO [11/28/2017]
– In the past five years, a group of miners from the Amazonas Region and Madre de Dios have destroyed about 20 hectares of forest, not including the constant contamination from the Pastacillo stream, in the Río Santiago district.
– Although two bans have been put in place, the Wampis community claims that the illegal activity continues to grow.

Indonesia to kick off 10-year plan to save critically endangered helmeted hornbill by Hans Nicholas Jong [11/28/2017]
– The Indonesian government is currently drafting a 10-year master plan to protect the endangered helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), set to be launched in 2018.
– The program will comprise five action plans: research and monitoring; policies and law enforcement; partnerships; raising public awareness; and funding.
– The helmeted hornbill has been driven to the brink of extinction by poaching for its distinctive scarlet casqued beak, which is pound-for-pound three times as valuable as elephant ivory.

Storytelling empowers indigenous people to conserve their environments by Nicoletta Lanese [11/27/2017]
– Indigenous storytelling is a powerful tool for preserving biocultural diversity, conservation scientists propose.
– Conservationists should rise above the field’s historic malpractice by listening to stories and truly collaborating with indigenous people.
– To successfully collaborate, conservationists must regard indigenous knowledge as valid, act in accordance with standing traditions and maintain a humble willingness to learn.

Long-term droughts are throttling growth in Hawaiian forests, finds airborne laser-based study by Alex Fox [11/27/2017]
– Long-term declines in rainfall on the Big Island of Hawaii have added up over time to make forests shorter and less green.
– Data from satellites and airplane surveys showed that forest canopy greenness decreased twice as much in areas where annual rainfall had steadily declined since 1920.
– Long-term drying trends in other parts of the world may have far-reaching impacts on forests.

Peru: the man who overcomes fear to defend the forest by Jack Lo Lau [11/27/2017]
– The vice president of the Tambopata National Reserve management committee has reported invasions and threats on several occasions.
– Demetrio Pacheco says that he has found burned and fallen trees inside his concession.

Where one predator meets another: tracking sharks and fishing effort by Sue Palminteri [11/25/2017]
– Fishing boats kill over 100 million sharks each year, many of which are caught unintentionally (bycatch) and may be discarded at sea without being recorded, so data on their mortality are poor.
– Researchers used satellite telemetry and publicly available global fishing locations in Global Fishing Watch to compare movements of 10 blue sharks to fishing activity in the northwest Atlantic Ocean.
– Within a 110-day period, two of the 10 tagged sharks surfaced near three different boats that were likely fishing, based on their movement patterns.
– The research team wants to better understand how fishing fleets can limit fishing in areas when and where sharks and other non-target species gather or migrate each year.

Brilliant blue tarantula among potentially new species discovered in Guyana by [11/24/2017]
– In the forests of the Potaro plateau of Guyana, scientists have discovered a bright blue tarantula that is likely new to science.
– The discovery was part of a larger biodiversity assessment survey of the Kaieteur Plateau and Upper Potaro area of Guyana, within the Pakaraima Mountains range.
– Overall, the team uncovered more than 30 species that are potentially new to science, and found several species that are known only from the Kaieteur Plateau-Upper Potaro region and nowhere else.

Culture keeps cattle ranching going in the Brazilian Amazon by John C. Cannon [11/23/2017]
– A recent study finds that financial incentives to move people away from cattle ranching don’t address cultural and logistical hurdles to changing course.
– Even though ranchers could earn four times as much per hectare farming soy or up to 12 times as much from fruit and vegetable farming, many stick with cattle as a result of cultural values.
– Ranchers, along with small-scale farmers, could benefit from targeted infrastructure investments to provide them with easier access to markets, according to the study.
– The researchers argue that their findings point to the need for policies that take these obstacles into account.


Damming or damning the Amazon: Assessing Ecuador / China cooperation by Max Nathanson [11/22/2017]

Another blow to troubled Madagascar rare earth mine by Edward Carver [11/22/2017]

Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? by Shreya Dasgupta [11/21/2017]

To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor [11/17/2017]

COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland by Justin Catanoso [11/17/2017]

Jane Goodall interview: ‘The most important thing is sharing good news’ by [11/17/2017]

The uncertain future of Bogotá’s shantytowns by Maximo Anderson [11/16/2017]

Alliance of the Bear: Native groups stymie Trump, tar sands pipelines by Saul Elbein [11/16/2017]