Newsletter 2018-02-25


Brazil’s fundamental pesticide law under attack by Jenny Gonzales [02/20/2018]

– In 2008, Brazil became the largest pesticide consumer in the world – the dual result of booming industrial agribusiness and ineffective environmental regulation.
– In 1989, the country established one of the then toughest pesticide laws in the world (7,802/1989), which included the precautionary principle in its pesticide evaluation and registration standards. However, limited staffing and budget has made the law very difficult to implement and enforce.
– With its increasing power after 2000, the bancada ruralista, the agribusiness lobby, has worked to overthrow that law, an effort thwarted to date but more likely to succeed under the Temer administration and the current ruralista-dominated Congress.
– Lax pesticide use regulation and education have major health and environmental consequences. Farmers often use pesticides without proper safety gear, while children are often in the fields when spraying occurs. Some experts blame pesticides partly for Brazil’s high cancer rate – cancer is the nation’s second leading cause of death.

Red Cloud’s Revolution: Oglalla Sioux freeing themselves from fossil fuel by Saul Elbein [02/19/2018]

– Henry Red Cloud, like so many Oglalla Sioux young men, left the reservation to work in construction. When he returned home in 2002, he needed a job, and also wanted to make a difference. He attended a solar energy workshop and saw the future.
– Today, Red Cloud runs Lakota Solar and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, which have become catalysts for an innovative new economic network – one that employs locals and connects tribes, while building greater energy independence among First Nations.
– The company is building and installing alternative energy systems, and training others to do the same, throughout remote areas of U.S. reservations, thus allowing the Sioux and others to leap past outdated fossil fuel technology altogether.
– Henry Red Cloud’s company has another more radical purpose: it helps provide energy to remote Water Protector camps, like the one at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Solar power and other alternative energy sources are vital at such remote sites, as they power up cellphones, connecting resistors to the media and outside world.


New maps reveal industrial fishing in over half of world’s oceans by Shreya Dasgupta [02/24/2018]

– Researchers poring through billions of ship-tracking data points have found that industrial fishing vessels operated across more than 55 percent of ocean, or over 200 million square kilometers (77 million square miles), in 2016 alone.
– While most countries fished predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, five nations — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — accounted for more than 85 percent of observed fishing in the high seas.
– Mapping the fishing fleets also showed that global fishing patterns were strongly linked to holidays and periods of fishing closures.

DRC breaches logging moratorium for Chinese-owned companies by [02/23/2018]

– 6,500 square kilometers of logging concessions in the DRC’s central Congo have been awarded.
– The deal – with two Chinese companies – is an apparent violation of a 2002 logging moratorium.
– The logging concessions are located on a 145,000 square kilometer tropical peatland complex – the largest in the world.

Conservationist, imprisoned for ‘spying’ with wildlife camera traps, dies in Iranian prison by Mongabay [02/23/2018]

– Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor of sociology and a director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison earlier this month.
– Iranian authorities say Seyed Emami committed suicide, an assertion his family doubts.
– Seyed Emami’s arrest and suspicious death appear to be part of a wider crack down on environmentalists in Iran. Authorities arrested at least six other conservationists around the same time.

Tropical forest fragmentation nearing ‘critical point,’ study finds by Morgan Erickson-Davis [02/23/2018]

– In addition to having severe repercussions for animals like jaguars and tigers that require vast tracts of connected habitat, forest fragmentation has a big carbon footprint.
– A new physics-based study finds fragmentation of tropical forests may be reaching a threshold past which fragmentation will shoot up sharply. At this threshold, even a relatively small amount of deforestation could lead to dramatic fragmentation – and significant habitat loss and greenhouse gas emissions.
– The team calculated that at current deforestation rates, the number of fragments will increase 33-fold in Central and South America by 2050, and their average size will drop from 17 hectares to 0.25 hectares.

Volunteering on the front lines of rhino conservation (commentary) by Ed Warner [02/23/2018]

– Zimbabwe is home to the world’s fourth largest black rhino population after South Africa, Namibia and Kenya.
– Author Ed Warner travels there frequently to volunteer with the International Rhino Foundation’s Zimbabwe Lowveld Rhino Program, which conducts monitoring and anti-poaching efforts aimed at treating, rehabilitating, and translocating rhinos as needed.
– Here we publish Warner’s diary of six days in the bush supporting the team’s data collection and anti-poaching efforts.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Orangutan culture in focus in ‘Person of the Forest’: Q&A with researchers Cheryl Knott and Robert Rodriguez Suro by John C. Cannon [02/23/2018]

– A recent documentary, “Person of the Forest,” investigates the cultures of orangutans.
– Orangutan numbers have dwindled as a result of habitat loss, hunting and the pet trade.
– Scientists argue that the existence of orangutan culture makes protecting them even more critical.
– The film is a finalist at the New York WILD Film Festival, which began on Feb. 22.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, February 23, 2018 by [02/23/2018]

– There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
– Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
– If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.

Making mountains out of molehills: system builds public-access big data from many sources by Sue Palminteri [02/23/2018]

– How and where to store, manage, and share increasingly large data sets challenges scientists across disciplines.
– Like a library network for scientific data, the Data Observation Network for Earth (DataONE) links member data repositories to ensure open and secure access to well-described and easily discovered Earth observational data.
– The network provides guidelines and tools for researchers to document and preserve their data and make them available for future users to expand studies across time periods and locations.

‘Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise’ film shows how farmers are fighting climate change by [02/22/2018]

– A recent documentary looks at how Bangladeshi farmers are adapting to rising sea levels.
– The film documents how Bangladeshi farmers are keeping their farms from flooding by building floating gardens made of water hyacinth and bamboo.
– The film won the Best Short Film at the New York WILD Film Festival, which begins on Feb. 22.
– Mongabay interviewed cultural anthropologist Alizé Carrère to learn more about why she chose to focus on Bangladesh and why this story is important.

Activists: Palm oil must not get wider access to EU under Indonesia trade talks by Hans Nicholas Jong [02/22/2018]

– The prospect of greater access for Indonesian palm oil to the 28-nation EU market is expected to dominate trade negotiations taking place this week.
– Environmental activists from both Indonesia and Europe warn that granting this access could lead to even greater deforestation and more social conflicts in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil.
– For its part, the Indonesian government is seeking to push back against EU measures to phase out palm oil for use in biofuels by 2021.

Drought-driven wildfires on rise in Amazon basin, upping CO2 release by Claire Asher [02/22/2018]

– Despite a 76 percent decline in deforestation rates between 2003 and 2015, the incidence of forest fires is increasing in Brazil, with new research linking the rise in fires not only to deforestation, but also to severe droughts.
– El Niño, combined with other oceanic and atmospheric cycles, produced an unusually severe drought in 2015, a year that saw a 36 percent increase in Amazon basin forest fires, which also raised carbon emissions.
– Severe droughts are expected to become more common in the Brazilian Amazon as natural oceanic cycles are made more extreme by human-induced climate change.
– In this new climate paradigm, limiting deforestation alone will not be sufficient to reduce fires and curb carbon emissions, scientists say. The maintenance of healthy, intact, unfragmented forests is vital to providing resilience against further increases in Amazon fires.

Seychelles announces two new marine protected areas the size of Great Britain by [02/22/2018]

– The government of Seychelles has announced the creation of two new marine protected areas covering 210,000 square kilometers, the size of the island of Great Britain.
– The first marine protected area includes 74,400 square kilometers of waters surrounding the extremely isolated Aldabra archipelago that is home to the world’s largest population of rare giant tortoises.
– The second marine protected area covers 136,000 square kilometers of a commercially important stretch of ocean between the Amirantes group of islands and Fortune Bank.
– The creation of the marine protected areas is part of a debt-for-nature deal that will allow the Seychelles to restructure its national debt in exchange for protecting 30 percent of its exclusive economic zone.

Land plants may have evolved much earlier than we thought by Morgan Erickson-Davis [02/21/2018]

– The results of a new study push back the date of emergence of land plants around 80 million years to approximately 500 million years ago.
– This new date coincides with the emergence of the first land animals.
– The study also finds the earliest land plants may have had roots. Plant roots are a powerful erosive force, and the researchers believe these plants could have had a big impact on the Earth’s climate.

‘Photo Ark’ a quest to document global biodiversity: Q&A with photographer Joel Sartore and director Chun-Wei Yi by [02/21/2018]

– The film “RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark” follows National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore as he travels the world snapping pictures of thousands of different animal species.
– In the last 12 years, Sartore has photographed nearly 8,000 species.
– “RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark” was named Best Conservation Film at the New York WILD Film Festival.

DJ and ornithologists create wildlife music game by Erik Hoffner [02/21/2018]

– Wildlife DJ Ben Mirin has teamed up with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Hip Hop Collection on a new online game that uses wildlife recordings.
– Players take sound recordings of wild creatures and transform them into loops, creating a wide variety of song clips. Players also learn about the animals and the habitats they live in.
– Mirin was also a guest on Mongabay’s podcast in 2017.

Audio: Exploring the minds and inner lives of animals by Mike Gaworecki [02/20/2018]

– On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with an author of a new book about the minds and lives of animals – about their amazing memories and minds, how they dream, and more – and we’ll also learn what Mongabay’s newest bureau just launched in India is reporting about.
– Our first guest is Sy Montgomery, the author of two dozen books for adults and kids about animals. She recently teamed up with her friend and fellow animal writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas to write Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, and is here to share a few of the fascinating stories from the book with us.
– Our second guest today is Sandhya Sekar, program manager for Mongabay India, who’s here to tell us about the environmental challenges India is facing and what kinds of coverage you’ll find at

Study delves into overlooked community perceptions of conservation impact by Shreya Dasgupta [02/20/2018]

– A new study measures the impacts of conservation projects on people’s lives by letting the people define what matters to them.
– The study has adapted the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI), an index that has previously been used in the health sector to see what people consider important for their quality of life, and lets the people rate the performance of those domains.
– The study found that overall, the local people were most commonly concerned with agriculture, health, livestock, education, jobs, and family-related activities, but more than 50 percent of the people who were interviewed said that the conservation projects had had no significant impacts on these aspects of their well-being.

‘It’s our home’: Pygmies fight for recognition as forest protectors in new film by John C. Cannon [02/20/2018]

– A recent short film, Pygmy Peoples of the DRC: A Rising Movement, tracks the push for the recognition of indigenous land rights in the DRC.
– The film catalogs the importance of the forest to pygmy groups, as well as their role as stewards of the forest.
– A raft of recent research has shown that indigenous groups around the world often do a better job of protecting forests than parks and reserves.

Scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands win Indonesian Peat Prize by Hans Nicholas Jong [02/20/2018]

– A team of scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands has won the Indonesian Peat Prize for coming up with a fast, accurate and cost-effective way to map Indonesia’s vast tropical peatlands.
– The judges praise the winning methodology’s versatility, speediness and accuracy in mapping peatlands.
– Indonesia will have two years to fully adapt the winning methodology into the new peat-mapping standard, although some government agencies are clamoring to start adopting the system immediately.

Films celebrate big cats on World Wildlife Day by Erik Hoffner [02/19/2018]

– Big cats is the theme of the global celebration of this year’s World Wildlife Day on March 3.
– A big cats film festival hosted by CITES and Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival at the UN headquarters in New York City will screen 16 films selected as finalists.
– Big cats are key apex predators that keep ecosystems healthy, and eight species are being celebrated for the event: the clouded leopard, jaguar, cheetah, leopard, lion, snow leopard, tiger and puma.

Coral reef monitoring takes to the skies: drone-mounted hyperspectral cameras help scientists assess health of coral reefs by Colleen O’Brien [02/19/2018]

– Hyperspectral images taken from cameras on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are helping scientists survey the composition and health of coral reefs under the water.
– These images capture information from visible (light) and non-visible sections of the electromagnetic spectrum thereby offering information the human eye can’t see.
– When paired with UAVs or satellites, hyperspectral images allow researchers to survey the reef habitats–including coral, sand, and algae–over large areas as well as monitor the health of individual corals.

As Indonesia gears up for elections, activists brace for an environmental sell-off by Hans Nicholas Jong [02/19/2018]

– This year, Indonesia will hold elections for governors, district heads and mayors across 171 regions, many of them home to vast natural resources.
– Environmental activists are worried that, as in previous election years, the campaigning this year will be rife with corruption, as candidates take kickbacks from plantation and mining operators in a quid pro quo for permits and other favors once in office.
– A key factor in the issue is the greater autonomy that local leaders enjoy managing their lands and resources, to the extent that they can even skirt some of the controls imposed by the central government.
– The central government has made assurances that its processes now are more transparent and accountable, making potential abuses at the local level less likely. Activists, though, are unconvinced, citing a longstanding lack of strong enforcement.

Protected areas with deforestation more likely to lose status in Brazilian state by [02/18/2018]

– A recent study finds that ineffective protected areas stand a lower chance of surviving if deforestation has occurred within their boundaries.
– The research took place in the state of Rondônia in the Brazilian Amazon.
– The team of scientists also found that protected areas that work are less likely to be carved up for development.
– The authors argue that removing safeguards, even from degraded areas, does not take into account the benefits that we may derive from existing protected areas, including carbon storage and clean water.

Four Indonesian farmers charged in killing of orangutan that was shot 130 times by [02/18/2018]

– Police in Indonesia have arrested four farmers for allegedly shooting a Bornean orangutan whose body was found riddled with 130 air gun pellets.
– The suspects claimed to have killed the animal because it had encroached onto their pineapple farm and ruined the crop.
– The killing was the second such case reported this year in Indonesia, where orangutans are ostensibly protected under the conservation act. But lax enforcement means few perpetrators ever face justice for killing or trading in these great apes.

Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon dropped 13 percent in 2017 by Yvette Sierra Praeli [02/16/2018]

– A new analysis of satellite imagery and data finds 143,425 hectares of forest were lost in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017, down 13 percent from 2016.
– The analysis identified newly deforestation hotspots in the San Martín and Amazonas regions.
– The main causes of the loss of forest in the Amazon appear to be cultivation of crops, small- and medium-scale ranching, large oil palm plantations and gold mining.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, February 16, 2018 by [02/16/2018]

– There are many important conservation and environmental stories Mongabay isn’t able to cover.
– Here’s a digest of some of the significant developments from the week.
– If you think we’ve missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.

Watch: A minke whale’s view of the Antarctic by [02/16/2018]

– Scientists in Antarctica have attached a “whale cam” to the back of a southern minke whale for the very first time.
– The video footage is giving scientists a sneak peek into a day in the life of a minke, one of the most poorly understood baleen whales.
– At one point, the camera slid down the side of the animal and this side view ended up capturing remarkable footage of the whale feeding.

Queen conch dying out in the Bahamas despite marine parks by Jim Tan [02/16/2018]

– There has been a major decline in the population of protected queen conchs in the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park over the last 20 years.
– The most recent survey found predominantly older queen conchs, with a shortage of juveniles to replace them.
– Researchers believe overfishing in upstream areas has depleted the park’s larval supply. Increased predator density within the park may also be a problem for juveniles.
– Queen conch fisheries outside protected areas in the Bahamas are experiencing intense fishing pressure and are near collapse.


Moment of truth: Study reveals high percentage of illegal Peruvian timber exports by Yvette Sierra Praeli [02/13/2018]

Rewriting biological history: Trump border wall puts wildlife at risk by Rebecca Kessler [02/12/2018]

Scientists discover 18 new spider-hunting spiders from Madagascar by Morgan Erickson-Davis [02/09/2018]

Scorched earth: Colombia’s ‘refugee farmers’ returning to land by Maximo Anderson [02/09/2018]


  • Mongabay in the news, January 2018 [02/19/2018]
  • Mongabay welcomes new board member, Jeanne Sedgwick [02/16/2018]