Newsletter 2018-04-05


For Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution, elephants pose a new threat by Kaamil Ahmed [04/05/2018]

– Twelve people have been killed by elephants in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
– Fleeing military operations in Myanmar, the refugees have settled in elephant corridors.
– Training is underway to help the refugees negotiate their encounters with the endangered animals safely.

Calls for change in handling abuse allegations at top conservation group by Genevieve Belmaker [04/02/2018]

– Information provided to Mongabay shows a history of employees at CI who feel twice victimized — first by what they describe as “bullying and harassment,” and a second time by consequences if they report up.
– Although CI advertises myriad policies about workplace ethics and protections, many say they are still afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.
– Staff also say that they are crippled by uncertainty about privacy rights and fear possibly destroying their careers or being branded a “troublemaker.” Despite that, staff have found ways to tell management time and again that not enough is being done to protect people in their organization.

Special judiciary on environmental crimes established in Peru by Yvette Sierra Praeli [04/02/2018]

– The majority of crimes correspond to illegal mining and illegal logging, two activities that seriously affect the region and that so far in 2018 account for 53 complaints.
– One of the emblematic cases is related to the regional governor Luis Otsuka Salazar, who has two complaints about illegal mining and negligence in the performance of his duties.
– Aside from the court in Madre de Dios, experts hope to also see courts in other regions of Peru, including Loreto, Ucayali, Cusco, Piura, Lima and San Martin.

Frogs may be ‘fighting back’ against deadly pandemic by Morgan Erickson-Davis [03/30/2018]

– Chytridiomycosis is caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a type of chytrid fungus.
– Scientists believe Bd originated in Africa, and has spread around the world where it has contributed to the declines and extinctions of at least 200 amphibian species globally.
– But a new study finds populations of several Panamanian frog species exposed to Bd appear to have gained resistance to the pathogen. Previous research indicates U.S. frogs may also have developed resistance after exposure.
– The authors of the study say their findings offer hope for the survival of amphibians around the world. But they caution that detecting the remnant populations that survive infection and helping them persist and proliferate will require extensive monitoring efforts.

Agroforestry bolsters biodiversity and villages in Sri Lanka by Chandni Navalkha [03/29/2018]

– Residents of the rural Sri Lankan village of Pitekele relied on the nearby rainforest as a source of food, fuel, fiber and medicine for generations, until it was made into a park.
– The forest’s new conservation status and rules for accessing traditional products caused traditional “home garden” agroforestry plots to replace the forest’s role in villagers’ incomes and food procurement strategies.
– These unusually diverse agroforestry systems have reduced the pressure on native primary rainforest and serve to provide habitat, forest cover, biodiversity and food security within the buffer zone, where land is otherwise increasingly being used for tea cultivation.
– Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot, and its home gardens are very diverse too: Pitekele’s home gardens support a richness of 219 species in 181 genera and 73 families.


You don’t need a bigger boat: AI buoys safeguard swimmers and sharks by Sue Palminteri [04/05/2018]

– A new tech-driven device may help reduce harmful interactions with sharks and improve people’s tolerance of one of the ocean’s top predators.
– The system, called Clever Buoy, combines sonar to detect a large object in the water, artificial intelligence to determine that the object is a shark close enough to threaten beachgoers, and automated SMS alerts to lifeguards that enable them to take action.
– Local governments have deployed the system at popular beaches and surfing sites to test its capacity to protect swimmers and surfers without harming marine wildlife.

Kaziranga’s rhino census finds the population is growing, but more slowly than expected by Moushumi Basu [04/05/2018]

– Kaziranga National Park in India’s Assam state is home to the majority of the world’s greater one-horned rhinos.
– A census completed in March counted 2,413 rhinos, an increase of 12 individuals since 2015.
– Officials believe rhinos were undercounted, likely due to poor visibility. Other observers suggest changes should be made to survey methodology.
– If the numbers are accurate, it could suggest the park has reached its carrying capacity. However, a large number of young rhinos were counted, indicating that the population remains healthy and breeding.

South Korean company under fire for alleged deforestation in Papua oil palm concession by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/05/2018]

– A report by WRI shows ongoing deforestation in an oil palm concession in Papua, Indonesia, operated by a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO Daewoo.
– The company has responded by saying its operations in Papua are legal and fully permitted.
– Concerns over deforestation by POSCO Daewoo have prompted other companies to say they will not allow its palm oil into their supply chains. These include big-name brands such as Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, IKEA, L’Oreal, Mars and Unilever.
– POSCO Daewoo has issued a temporary moratorium on land clearing in its Papua concession and hired a consultant to advise it on how to proceed with its operations there.

New sloth book features amazing photographs and busts myths [PHOTOS] by Erik Hoffner [04/05/2018]

– Sloths have gained in popularity in recent years but some misconceptions about them remain, such as their being ‘lazy,’ which is not true. Rather, it’s increasingly clear that sloths are quite active and incredibly stealthy.
– A new book by an award-winning wildlife photographer and a world expert on sloths aims to raise awareness of facts like this, and raise funds for their conservation.
– Sloths in fact sleep just 8-10 hours a day, and are otherwise quite active. And when they swim, they can move quite quickly.
– Mongabay interviewed the authors and shares here several of the stunning images printed in the book.

How the farmers of Seruyan rose up a against a palm oil fiefdom by The Gecko Project and Mongabay [04/05/2018]

In the leadup to the release of the second installment of Indonesia for Sale, our series examining the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis, we are republishing the first article in the series, “The Palm Oil Fiefdom.” This is the fourth part of that article. The first part described a secret deal between the son of Darwan Ali, […]

Deadly oil spill in eastern Borneo spreads to the open sea by Basten Gokkon [04/05/2018]

– An oil spill that began on March 31 in Balikpapan Bay has spread out to the Strait of Makassar and now covers an area of 130 square kilometers (50 square miles) — larger than the city of Paris.
– Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina has admitted responsibility after days of denials, but suggested the damage to its undersea pipeline was caused by a vessel passing through the area.
– The disaster has claimed the lives of five fishermen, contaminated a mangrove forest, prompted thousands of health complaints, and been linked to the death of an endangered dolphin.

For Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution, elephants pose a new threat by Kaamil Ahmed [04/05/2018]

– Twelve people have been killed by elephants in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
– Fleeing military operations in Myanmar, the refugees have settled in elephant corridors.
– Training is underway to help the refugees negotiate their encounters with the endangered animals safely.

NGOs denounce Tapajós basin intimidation, violence, Brazil inaction by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [04/04/2018]

– Thirty-eight national and international NGOs have condemned the Brazilian government and the builders of four Teles Pires River dams in the Amazon. The NGOs condemned the dam consortium for acts of intimidation against indigenous groups, especially involving the newly built São Manoel dam.
– This dam was built by the Sao Manoel Energy Consortium, headed by the Brazilian subsidiaries of China Three Gorges Corporation, Energia de Portugal, and state company Furnas. The NGOs say the Temer government sent in a national police unit as a “private security firm” to defend the dam builders and intimidate indigenous groups.
– The NGOs also say the government is in violation of numerous laws regarding the São Manoel dam, including a failure to properly consult with indigenous communities, threats made to those groups, incomplete environmental impact studies, and failure to implement agreed to “conditions” made by authorities in return for dam authorization.
– Elsewhere, riverside communities on the Tapajós River, frustrated with government delays to meet a legal obligation to demarcate their lands, took action to mark the borders themselves. Illegal loggers and miners responded with threats of violence. The Brazilian government has done nothing so far to protect these traditional communities.

Yellow fever may threaten biophilia in São Paulo city (commentary) by Fabio de Oliveira RoqueFrancisco Valente-Neto [04/04/2018]

– Reconciling biodiversity conservation and urban development is one of the biggest challenges for humanity, considering that by 2030, 60 percent of people globally are expected to live in cities.
– There are currently numerous forest fragments rooted in an urban matrix. On the one hand, these remnant forests confer many benefits on human society. One the other hand, forests may cause biophobias related to human fear and avoidance of some animals, misconceptions about animals’ risks, and the association of forest with dangerous and unsafe areas.
– A recent increase of yellow fever cases in highly urbanized cities in Brazil’s Atlantic forest – a tropical hotspot of biodiversity – can threaten the balance between biophilia and biophobia.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

‘Lost’ fairy lantern spotted in Malaysian Borneo after 151 years by [04/04/2018]

– In January last year, a team of botanists spotted Thismia neptunis again, 151 years after it was first recorded in the rainforests of western Sarawak, in Malaysian Borneo.
– Thismia neptunis is tiny, standing at just 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) when flowering, and spends its life underground, parasitizing fungi for its food supply.
– Given that the species is likely restricted to a small area within a primary lowland rainforest of Sarawak, and might have fewer than 50 individuals, the researchers believe that the species qualifies as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Indonesia investigates deadly oil spill in eastern Borneo by Basten Gokkon [04/03/2018]

– An oil spill and ensuing fire in Balikpapan Bay in Indonesian Borneo over the weekend has been blamed for the deaths of at least four fishermen and an endangered Irrawaddy dolphin.
– State oil firm Pertamina, which operates a refinery and undersea pipeline in the area, has denied any link to the oil, suggesting it came from a ship.
– The environment ministry has deployed a team to investigate the source of the spill and survey the extent of the damage caused.

Ire and ore: Demands grow for clarity around Cambodian gold mine by Rod Harbinson [04/03/2018]

– Earlier this year, residents of Tropeang Tontem in the province of Preah Vihear submitted a petition to the government Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. It complained about their treatment by local officials and a mining company.
– According to Cambodian media, the petition was signed by 56 families. It states that government and company officials “forced us, coerced us and cheated us into thumb-printing a document that stated that we were farming on part of the company‘s land.” The petition requests that the document be “annulled in its entirety.”
– Residents are also concerned about the intensive chemical processing of the gold ore in the open environment, a process that uses highly toxic chemicals like cyanide and mercury.
– A representative from a Cambodian NGO said the organization will be opposed to the mine until an environmental impact assessment of its operations is conducted, and until there is more clarity regarding mine activity.

Audio: Maroon 5’s James Valentine on why he’s working to stop illegal logging by Mike Gaworecki [04/03/2018]

– On today’s episode, we speak with multiple-Grammy-winning musician James Valentine about his work to stop illegal logging and make concert tours more environmentally friendly.
– As lead guitarist of Maroon 5, Valentine has traversed the globe numerous times on tour, taking the band’s music around the world. But late last year, Valentine went to Peru with a much different mission: he was part of a group of musicians who spoke in Lima in support of the “No More Blood Wood” campaign. He also visited a sustainable logging operation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve in 2016.
– Valentine is here to tell us about his experiences in Peru and Guatemala and to tell us all about the work he and Reverb are doing to keep illegal wood out of musical instruments, lower the environmental impact of touring, and engage music fans in environmental action.

Indonesia’s dying timber concessions, invaded by oil palms, top deforestation table by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/03/2018]

– A study shows that selective-logging leases accounted for the highest rate of deforestation in three provinces studied from 2013 to 2016.
– While the discovery came as a surprise, the researchers attributed part of that deforestation to the illegal encroachment of oil palm plantations into many of these timber concessions. Another factor is the cutting of more trees than permitted by logging operators.
– Environmentalists warn the problem could get even worse if the government follows through on plans to lift a ban on exports of unprocessed logs, which has been in place since 1985 (with a brief hiatus from 1997 to 2001).

U.K. ban relegates legal ivory trade to ‘a thing of the past’ by [04/03/2018]

– The United Kingdom says it will ban, with a few exceptions, the sale of all ivory in the country.
– Conservation groups have welcomed the move and pointed out that poaching to fuel the global ivory trade leads to the deaths of 55 elephants a day, or around 20,000 per year.
– The closure of domestic markets in the U.K., along with similar moves in China, Hong Kong and the U.S., will close the loopholes that allow illegal traders to launder their illicitly acquired ivory, proponents of the measure say.

NOAA publishes global list of fisheries and their risks to marine mammals by [04/02/2018]

– The list, published in draft form in late 2017 as part of requirements laid out by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, includes nearly 4,000 fisheries across some 135 countries.
– NOAA says the list represents ‘a strong step forward’ in developing sustainable fisheries.
– These fisheries have until 2022 to demonstrate that the methods they use to catch fish and other marine animals either pose little risk to marine mammals or employ comparable methods to similar operations in the United States.

New study discovers 81 lost human settlements in the Amazon rainforest by [04/02/2018]

– By looking at satellite images of a previously unexplored part of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team of archaeologists has identified 81 pre-Columbian human settlements.
– The team also found that the settlements weren’t near major rivers, but closer to smaller streams and creeks, challenging a commonly held belief that pre-Columbian people tended to live close to fertile floodplains of large rivers, leaving the rest of the forest relatively untouched.
– The researchers’ computer model predicted that the southern rim of the Amazon likely supported up to 1 million people in pre-Columbian times, a population that’s much larger than previous estimates.

Brazil creates four massive marine protected areas by Shreya Dasgupta [03/30/2018]

– The four newly designated marine protected areas (MPAs) will cover an area of more than 920,000 square kilometers (355,200 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean.
– Two of the MPAs will cover waters around the archipelago of Trindade, Martin Vaz and Mount Columbia, located more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of the Brazilian mainland.
– The remaining two MPAs will be located around the São Pedro and São Paulo archipelagos, some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off the northeast coast.
– However, some marine biologists worry that these large, remote MPAs may do little to safeguard biodiversity.

Study: Indonesia’s ambitious peat restoration initiative severely underfunded by Hans Nicholas Jong [03/30/2018]

– Indonesia will need an estimated $4.6 billion to restore some 20,000 square kilometers (7,720 square miles) of degraded peatland by its self-imposed deadline of 2020, a study suggests.
– To date, however, funding for the project that began in 2016 amounts to less than $200 million, with the result that only 5 percent of the restoration target has been achieved.
– The study authors say the Indonesian government faces a dilemma over whether to concentrate its resources in a smaller area or risk potentially ineffective restoration methods to cover the entire target area.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, March 30, 2018 by [03/30/2018]

– 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.

Greenpeace International ends its Forest Stewardship Council membership by John C. Cannon [03/30/2018]

– Greenpeace International announced on March 26 that it would not renew its membership with the FSC.
– The environmental organization says the FSC is not meeting its aims of protecting forests and ensuring that human rights are respected.
– Greenpeace and the FSC both say they intend to continue to engage with each other, despite the end of a long formal relationship.


Cerrado Manifesto could curb deforestation, but needs support: experts by Anna Sophie Gross [03/29/2018]

Do environmental advocacy campaigns drive successful forest conservation? by Mike Gaworecki [03/29/2018]

Cerrado: U.S. investment spurs land theft, deforestation in Brazil, say experts by Alicia Prager and Flávia Milhorance [03/28/2018]

In a land untouched by mines, indigenous holdouts fight a coal invasion by Ian Morse [03/28/2018]

Cerrado: Agribusiness boomtown; profits for a few, hardships for many by Alicia Prager and Flávia Milhorance [03/26/2018]

“Save the Krill” urges Greenpeace report by Kim Smuga-Otto [03/23/2018]


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