Newsletter 2018-04-26



For the Caiçaras, environmental laws in Brazil at odds with tradition by Ignacio Amigo [04/25/2018]

– The origin of the Caiçaras trace back to the early mixture of indigenous tribes, European settlers and African slaves in Brazil.
– For the last 300 years the Caiçaras subsisted on fishing and farming in one of the best conserved stretches of Atlantic Forest.
– Confined between the Atlantic Ocean and the Serra do Mar mountain range, Caiçaras lived in relative isolation until the 1970s, when the creation of the BR-101 road opened the doors to mass tourism.
– In just the last few decades, real estate speculation and the enforcement of strict environmental laws have threatened the Caiçara’s traditional way of life.

China’s Belt and Road poised to transform the Earth, but at what cost? by Giovanni Ortolani [04/24/2018]

– With its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its embrace of international trade tariffs, the Trump administration has pulled back from the U.S. commitment to, and once powerful position in, the Asian sphere of influence.
– China is aggressively working to fill that void. One of its key strategies for leveraging its economic and geopolitical power is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a nearly trillion dollar transportation and energy infrastructure construction juggernaut – a vast program launched in 2013 and not due for completion until 2049.
– The BRI is the largest infrastructure initiative in human history, and includes the Silk Road Economic Belt, a land transportation route running from China to Southern Europe via Central Asia and the Middle East, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting the port of Shanghai to Venice, Italy, via India and Africa.
– The potential environmental impacts of the mega-construction program could be severe, warn analysts. China has committed to BRI environmental and sustainability standards, at least on paper, but the sheer size of the initiative, along with China’s past environmental record and its autocratic institutions, are cause for deep concern.

Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue by Shreya Dasgupta & Zuzana Burivalova [04/23/2018]

– Our in-depth series examined the effectiveness of six common conservation strategies: Forest certification, payments for ecosystem services, community-based forest management, terrestrial protected areas, marine protected areas, and environmental advocacy.
– We also examined how four of the biggest groups that dominate today’s conservation landscape — The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) — make decisions about which conservation strategy to employ.
– Our series generated a lot of discussion and attracted a wide variety of feedback.
– We hope to keep our databases of scientific studies and our infographics alive and relevant by developing a platform that allows researchers to update them by adding studies. We welcome ideas on this effort.



Environmental defenders fear backlash as defendant sues expert over testimony by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/26/2018]
– Basuki Wasis, an environmental expert whose testimony helped convict a provincial governor of abuse of power, now faces a lawsuit brought by the latter for alleged inaccuracies in his calculations of environmental damage.
– The lawsuit against Basuki is similar to one he faced last year from a palm oil company that was fined for setting fires on its concession. The earlier lawsuit was dropped, but the company now appears to be targeting another expert witness who testified against it.
– The litigation has sparked concerns among environmental experts and activists alike, who fear it will have a silencing effect and allow environmental crimes to go unpunished.
– They also worry that without financial assessments of damages caused to the environment, prosecutors trying corruption cases in the natural resources sector will not be able to push for longer prison sentences and heavier fines.

Signoff on rhino sperm transfer between Indonesia, Malaysia expected mid-May: Official by Basten Gokkon [04/26/2018]
– Indonesia has sent a memorandum of understanding to the Malaysian government regarding the transfer of sperm for use in a captive-breeding attempt, an official confirmed to Mongabay on April 26.
– Hoping the sperm can be used to fertilize Malaysia’s last remaining female rhino, conservationists have been awaiting permission for the transfer for years.
– Herry Subagiadi, secretary to the conservation director at Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry, says he expects Malaysia to sign the agreement in mid-May.
– Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered, with just nine living in captivity in Indonesia and Malaysia, and as few as 30 surviving in the wild.

Two newborn Javan rhinos spotted on camera in Indonesian park by Basten Gokkon [04/26/2018]
– Officials from Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park announced Thursday that two new Javan rhino calves were born this year.
– An adult male, estimated to be around 30 years old, was found dead in the park this week. Officials have found no indication the death was due to poaching, poison or acute infection.
– Ujung Kulon is the sole remaining habitat of the species. With two births and one death, the official population estimate now stands at 68.

Better than bottled: How a Dutch company uses bison to maintain pure drinking water by Joshua Parfitt [04/26/2018]
– Water companies in the Netherlands have introduced bison and other large grazers to the dunelands from which they draw water to serve more than 4 million customers.
– The grazers keep tree and shrub growth in check and allow the dune ecosystem, home to 50 percent of the country’s biodiversity, to reach optimal ecological health.
– The reintroduction of the bison, which has been extinct in the Netherlands for thousands of years, also gives conservationists new insights into the management of the iconic species outside of forests.

Cities worldwide use photo app technology to compete in nature observation challenge by Sue Palminteri [04/25/2018]
– The third-annual City Nature Challenge takes place this weekend, April 27-30, 2018, giving nature lovers in cities around the globe a chance to compete against other cities to see who can make the most observations and find the most species of local plants and animals.
– Residents and visitors from nearly 70 cities will use their smartphones and the iNaturalist app to share photos of their findings over the 4-day period; experts will verify the identifications in early May.
– Organizers hope the event will connect more people to their local urban biodiversity and uncover threatened and invasive species in new locations, to assist local resource managers.

US urban areas are losing 36 million trees every year, study finds by Morgan Erickson-Davis [04/25/2018]
– Forest Service researchers estimate that urban areas in the U.S. lost a collective total of 1 percent of their tree cover between 2009 and 2014. In total, around 175,000 acres of tree over was lost annually.
– At the same time, they found “impervious surfaces” like asphalt roads and buildings increased at 1 percent per year.
– Trees provide a variety of benefits to cities from shielding buildings from the sun and reducing cooling costs and energy consumption, filtering pollutants from water and air, mitigating flooding and erosion, and helping in the fight against global warming by storing carbon. In total, analysts estimate urban trees save the U.S. around $18.3 billion every year. Impervious surfaces do not provide these benefits and often have the opposite effect.
– The researchers urge changes to management policy to prioritize tree cover and create more programs focused on protecting urban forests.

‘Monumental’ bust in Madagascar triggers effort to save thousands of endangered tortoises by [04/25/2018]
– Authorities discovered 9,888 starving and dehydrated radiated tortoises in a vacant house in southwestern Madagascar on April 10.
– Since then, a team of organizations led by the Turtle Survival Alliance has been working to provide care for the critically endangered tortoises, 574 of which died during the first week.
– The tortoises, endemic to Madagascar, have lost around 40 percent of their habitat to deforestation, and poachers commonly capture them for the pet trade in Asia and the United States.

Venezuelan gold strike prompts invasion by 3,000 miners, military raid by Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez Torres [04/25/2018]
– Venezuela is in the throes of an intense economic crisis, with people eager to earn money by any way possible. In 2017, rumors of a gold strike in Palmarote, a farming hamlet in Carabobo state, attracted 3,000 miners — even though no gold was known to be there, since Palmarote is 600 kilometers from the Orinoco Mining Arc, the primary source of Venezuelan gold.
– Illegal miners, given bogus mining permits by a local villager, wreaked havoc, excavating pits everywhere, digging out streambanks, polluting waterways with sediment and allegedly with mercury, a toxic metal used to purify gold. Local farmers complained repeatedly and bitterly to the government asking for law enforcement to step in.
– On January 31, a military and police operation, armed with guns and helicopters, detained 3,000 illegal miners and jailed dozens. Locals allege that a dozen people were killed. In February, President Maduro created the Carabobo Gold Corporation and nationalized the mining area, claiming its profits for government.
– Mongabay went to the lawless artisanal mines in Palmarote, which are still operating despite the government presence, to get the full story firsthand.

Study puts a figure to hidden cost of community-company conflict in palm oil industry by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/25/2018]
– Two studies have revealed the extraordinary costs of social conflicts between local communities and palm oil firms in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the vegetable oil.
– One study found that more than half of local household expenditure at present was going on things they would have obtained for free in the past, such as water and fruits, from the forests that were cleared to make way for palm plantations.
– The other study highlighted the hidden burden of these same conflicts on the companies, amounting to millions of dollars in tangible and intangible costs, including reputational damage.

In the Canary Islands, a good seed disperser is hard to find by Bhanu Sridharan [04/25/2018]
– Researchers have found that the bigger lizards of the Canary Islands are better seed dispersers than smaller ones.
– But habitat loss and invasive species have threatened the islands’ lizards, with large specimens increasingly hard to come by.
– Successive generations of lizards are getting smaller in size, making scientists fear for native plants’ survival.

New species of superb bird-of-paradise has special dance moves by [04/25/2018]
– Until recently, researchers thought that the island of New Guinea was home to a single species of the superb bird-of-paradise, the bird with the now-famous “smiley face” dance routine.
– Now, researchers have confirmed yet another species of the superb bird-of-paradise in the Indonesian Bird’s Head or Vogelkop region of the island, called the Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise.
– The males of the two species have different dance moves and calls, and the females look different too, researchers have found.

Papuan chef Charles Toto serves up sustainability and environmental protection in a platter by Luh De Suriyani [04/24/2018]
– Charles Toto is the founder of the Jungle Chef Community, a network of enthusiasts from across the Indonesian region of Papua who promote sustainable living and environmental protection through local cuisine.
– Toto came up with the idea after seeing foreign documentary makers and tour groups embarking on weeks-long treks in the Papuan wilderness with nothing more than instant and canned food.
– Over the years, he has learned to make the best use of the ingredients served up by the forest and the sea, and has taken his unique mission to culinary shows across Indonesia and abroad.
– But for Toto and his group, the opening up of Papua’s forests to palm oil and other commercial operators, aided by a government-backed infrastructure push, threatens the region’s natural wealth and heritage.

Restoring flagging oil palm plantations to forest may benefit clouded leopards, study finds by [04/24/2018]
– A team of biologists fitted four clouded leopards in the Kinabatangan region of Malaysian Borneo with satellite collars, and they gathered several months of data on the animals’ movements.
– They found that the cats stuck to areas with canopy cover, and they avoided land cleared for oil palm.
– Converting underperforming oil palm plantations back to forest could help the clouded leopard population with minimal impact on the state’s production of palm oil, the authors predict.

Indonesian oil palm smallholders sue state over subsidy to biofuel producers by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/24/2018]
– A union of palm oil smallholders is challenging the allocation of a billion-dollar fund that they say fails to help them rejuvenate their low-yielding oil palms and instead unfairly subsidizes large biofuel producers.
– Only 1 percent of the fund went to the smallholder replanting program last year, while 89 percent went to the biodiesel subsidy. The government has promised to amend the split to 22:70 this year.
– But the government has also defended the subsidy, saying it needs to artificially boost the price of crude palm oil, to make biodiesel competitive with the regular diesel sold in the country — which is also subsidized by the state.

Sumatran tiger blamed for killing two people is captured alive after marathon hunt by Zamzami [04/24/2018]
– Authorities in Indonesia have captured alive a critically endangered Sumatran tiger blamed for the deaths of two people in an oil palm plantation.
– The tiger has been moved to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will undergo medical tests ahead of being released back into the wild.
– The capture averts a repeat of a near-identical case in March, in which villagers killed and mutilated a tiger blamed for attacking two members of a hunting party.
– The whole incident, which an official described as the longest ever search-and-rescue operation for a Sumatran tiger, has highlighted the importance of protecting wildlife habitats, which often are lost to plantations or human settlements, driving the animals into conflict with people.

Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal fishing is paying off, study finds by Basten Gokkon [04/23/2018]
– Indonesia’s crackdown on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in its waters is paying off for domestic fisheries and fish recovery, according to a new study.
– But for Indonesia to continue to reap the benefit from its anti-IUU fishing policies, the country needs to ensure that domestic fishing efforts are also well-managed, the paper’s authors noted.
– Indonesia’s success in tackling illegal fishing provides an example that can be implemented in other countries plagued by overfishing by foreign vessels, the researchers concluded.

Camera trap videos capture biodiversity of conservation area in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula by Mike Gaworecki [04/23/2018]
– Many ejidos, such as Ejido Caoba in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula, run sustainable forestry enterprises on their land, harvesting and selling wood for the benefit of the entire community and replanting the trees they cut down in order to ensure the health of the ecosystem as a whole.
– One way to measure how well an ecosystem has been maintained is through the levels of biodiversity the land is capable of sustaining — and by that measure, Ejido Caoba’s efforts to preserve the ecosystem appear to be quite successful, as the camera trap videos below suggest.
– After this year’s harvest of timber and non-timber forest products comes to an end, the ejido will once again install the camera traps in harvest areas in order to continue monitoring wildlife populations on their land. But for now, you can enjoy these videos captured in November and December 2017.

New short film captures rare spider monkey feeding behavior (commentary) by Eilidh Munro [04/23/2018]
– A new short film captures rarely seen footage of endangered spider monkeys feeding at a mammal clay lick in the remote Peruvian Amazon.
– A Rainforest Reborn, a short documentary by filmmaker Eilidh Munro, was captured in the Crees Reserve, a regenerating rainforest within the Manu Biosphere Reserve, giving us hope that endangered species can return to previously disturbed forests.
– In this commentary, the filmmaker, Eilidh Munro, talks about the difficulties of filming spider monkeys in a rainforest and the importance of this story for conservation.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Meet the winners of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize by [04/23/2018]
– Six of the seven winners of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize recipients are women.
– Dubbed the Green Nobel Prize, the annual award honors grassroots environmental heroes from Europe, Asia, North America, Central and South America, Africa, and islands and island nations.
– This year’s winners are Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid from South Africa; Claire Nouvian from France; Francia Márquez from Colombia; Khanh Nguy Thi from Vietnam; LeeAnne Walters from the United States; and Manny Calonzo from the Philippines.

Island logging must go beyond current ‘best practices’ to avoid erosion: New study by [04/23/2018]
– In a new study, a team of ecologists modeled what would happen if companies were allowed to log the forests of Kolombangara Island under several management scenarios, including those designed to minimize soil erosion and protect water quality.
– As the model simulated higher proportions of land clearance, the most stringent methods couldn’t stop the soil erosion that would foul clean water and agricultural land for the island’s people, as well as the habitats of local aquatic plants and animals.
– The Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association is spearheading an effort to get intact forests at elevations higher than 400 meters (1,310 feet) designated as a national park on the island.

Open destruction in the Colombian Amazon after FARC’s exit by Esteban Montaño/Semana Sostenible [04/20/2018]
– In 2015, 24,142 hectares of forest were lost, which is almost 20 percent of Colombia’s total forested area in that year.
– The main driving forces of the deforestation are the expansion of the agricultural industry to make room for cattle, along with the commercialization of wood, illicit crops, and illegal mining, according to General Parra.

Save intact forests for humanity’s sake, urge experts by [04/20/2018]
– The world’s largest forests can help solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity, but only if we move to safeguard them, argues a New York Times op-ed by Tom Lovejoy and John Reid.
– Lovejoy and Reid make a case for protecting the planet’s last “intact forest landscapes” for the role they can play in addressing critical social and environmental challenges.
– They argue that while the extent of intact forests have declined by 7 percent so far this century, there are “practical and affordable” options for protecting them.
– “Saving forests is more than just a nice thing to do; it’s a survival skill we’re going to need over the next hundred years or more,” Reid told Mongabay in an interview.

Fish tales: Six amazing journeys to celebrate World Fish Migration Day by John Waldman [04/20/2018]
– April 21 marks World Fish Migration Day, a biennial event that strives to foster appreciation for the importance of migratory fish and their aquatic swimways.
– Healthy fish stocks with unimpeded migrations are essential to feeding humankind and maintaining the ecological equilibrium of the world’s waters.
– But fish migrations are being increasingly stressed by a worldwide boom in the building of dams that block their essential riverine passage, pollution, overfishing, lowering of water levels for agriculture and drinking water, and climate change.
– Here are six notable fish migrations to consider on this day.

Scientists discover carbon ‘fingerprint’ in tree rings by Morgan Erickson-Davis [04/20/2018]
– A recently published study describes a way to more accurately measure the CO2 uptake of trees over their entire lifetimes.
– Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), scientists discovered isotopic signals that correspond to specific metabolic processes and allow a deeper understanding of how a tree uses C02 throughout its life. They found that trees of the same species have similarities in these signals.
– The researchers write that their results could be used to figure out the responses of tree species to environmental changes as well as aid forest management and climate modeling.

Bid to protect indigenous Indonesians hit by ministry’s doubts over rights bill by Hans Nicholas Jong [04/20/2018]
– Indonesia’s Home Affairs Ministry has shocked indigenous-rights advocates with its assessment that a bill currently before parliament on indigenous peoples is “not a necessity” and will only give rise to more problems.
– That stance goes against the long-held commitment of the administration of President Joko Widodo to recognize and protect the rights of the country’s myriad indigenous communities, including their rights to ancestral forests.
– The ministry, however, has played down the uproar, saying discussions on the bill are still in their early stages and other ministries and government agencies have yet to weigh in on the matter.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, April 20, 2018 by [04/20/2018]
– 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.

Cerrado: abandoned pasturelands fail to regain savanna biodiversity by Anna Sophie Gross [04/20/2018]
– A new study has found that abandoned pasturelands in the Brazilian Cerrado do not regain their former biodiversity even after as much as 25 years. The Cerrado biome once covered 2 million square kilometers, but its rapid conversion by agribusiness means that less than half the region’s native vegetation remains.
– Researchers sampled 29 Cerrado pasture tracts that had been abandoned for between 3 and 25 years and found that native plants and animals largely didn’t return. Up to a quarter century after abandonment, restored savannas continued to lack 37 percent of their original species.
– Brazil’s Forest Code requires that at least 20 percent of private rural Cerrado property not be cultivated. However the new study suggests that the code may not be fully achieving its goal of protecting and restoring native species if the conserved land is degraded pasture, since native vegetation will not come back.
– The scientists suggest that one way of boosting biodiversity would be to use fire as a land management tool. Fire is a naturally occurring process in the Cerrado. Its artificial suppression allows trees to grow up, reducing biodiversity. So the reintroduction of fire could help restore native grasses as well as other species.

Bornean bantengs feeling the heat in logged forests, study finds by [04/20/2018]
– A recent study shows that Bornean bantengs in recently logged forests in Malaysia’s Sabah state have become less active during the daytime in response to the hotter temperatures brought on by there being fewer trees providing shade.
– Banteng herds living in forests with more regrowth continue to be active throughout the day as they have more shade and refuge.
– The paper’s researchers suggest that steps must be taken to reduce the stress upon bantengs, such as limiting disturbance during key times of activity and maintaining blocks of mature forest.

Latam Eco review: Colombian reserves fail large vertebrates by [04/20/2018]
– Here are summaries of the most read stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 9 – 15. The top two articles reported on high expectations for Peru’s new environmental minister, and the two sides of Colombian conservation, from a history of great success to threats to its most iconic.

New species of ‘exploding ant’ discovered in Borneo by Morgan Erickson-Davis [04/19/2018]
– Researchers have revealed a new species of exploding ant, which they discovered living in the rainforest canopy of Brunei on the island of Borneo.
– Named Colobopsis explodens, the new ant ruptures its abdomen when threatened, killing itself in the process. This rupturing releases a sticky, yellow, toxic goo that has a spicy smell.
– The researchers expect more exploding ant species will be described in the near future.

Tambopata: Where forest conservation and opportunity meet by Heather D’angelo [04/19/2018]
– Robin Van Loon is founder of Camino Verde in Peru, an organization working to go above and beyond sustainable agro-economics in favor of regenerative agro-economics.
– The Tambopata Region of the Peruvian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet where new species are still being discovered. It’s home to species of trees used and nurtured by Camino Verde for profit and forest health.
– The vision of Robin Van Loon and his team at Camino Verde: see the forest for the trees, and you’ll find a way to preserve both for generations to come.

Half a ton of pangolin scales seized on the way to Asia from Benin by John C. Cannon [04/19/2018]
– More than 500 kilograms of pangolin scales were confiscated at the Cotonou airport in Benin on March 19.
– Three people suspected of trying to smuggle 23 bags of scales, used in traditional medicine in Asia, were arrested on their way to Vietnam.
– Research indicates that a hunter captures a pangolin in the wild once every five minutes, adding up to more than a million taken over the past 10 years.


Brazil’s actual forest-related CO2 emissions could blow by Paris pledge by Claire Asher [04/19/2018]

Ghosts in the Machine: The land deals behind the downfall of Indonesia’s top judge by The Gecko Project and Mongabay [04/18/2018]


Cooperative agroforestry empowers indigenous women in Honduras by Monica Pelliccia [04/16/2018]

Colombia grants ‘historic’ protections to rainforest, indigenous groups by Morgan Erickson-Davis [04/13/2018]