– Jadav Payeng, India’s “Forest Man,” transformed a barren island in Assam state into a 550-hectare (1,360-acre) forest that hosts rare species including rhinos, tigers and elephants. – Some conservationists fear that the animals living on the island are vulnerable to poaching, since the forest lacks formal protected status and therefore is not allotted official forest guards. – Payeng, however, resists seeking formal protected status for the forest, fearing it would limit local peoples’ access to the forest’s resources.
– In the early 20th century, rubber tappers established traditional communities along the middle reaches of the Xingu River in the Amazon. In the late 20th century these communities endured the threats of illegal loggers and land thieves. – In the early 2000s, São Sebastião do Xingu residents were told that a group of elite landowners had bought the land on which their hamlet stood, and that the community would be forced to vacate, which it did, moving upstream. Then, in 2005, the people were told again they would have to move to make way for Serra do Pardo National Park. – This time, the residents of São Sebastião resisted and stayed on the land, despite intense pressure from the Brazilian government to leave. They argued that they were not properly informed of the government’s plan to establish the park, that their livelihoods are sustainable, and that they live in harmony with the local ecology, rather than harming it. – São Sebastião residents continue to negotiate to stay on their land with officials from ICMBio, the Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity Conservation. And while those talks have been painfully slow, the traditional people hope that the conflict will be resolved soon, and that they will be able to keep their homes and territory.
– Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world, with more than a million snatched from the wild in the past decade, according to IUCN estimates. The four Asian species have been hunted nearly to extinction, while the four African species are being poached in record numbers. – The illegal trade largely goes to China and other East Asian nations, where pangolin meat is an expensive delicacy served to flaunt wealth and influence. Pangolin is also a preferred ingredient in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa. Traditional healers in Sierra Leone use pangolin to treat 59 medical conditions, though there is no evidence of efficacy. – In 2016, pangolins were given the highest level of protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a multilateral treaty signed by 183 nations. But laws and enforcement in African nations, along illegal trade routes, and in Asia continue to be weak, with conservationists working hard to strengthen them. – Pangolins don’t thrive in captivity, but the Tikki Hywood Foundation in Zimbabwe and Save Vietnam’s Wildlife have succeeded in rescuing confiscated pangolins and restoring them to the wild. Six U.S. zoos are trying to raise pangolins as part of the controversial Pangolin Consortium project — only 29 of 45 imported individuals remain alive.
– The Aceh provincial government has vowed to protect Gunung Leuser National Park, the core part of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, by canceling infrastructure projects in the park. – However, questions linger over the future of the remaining part of the wider ecosystem, where planned infrastructure projects remain unaffected by the latest pledge. – Activists have called on the provincial government to recognize the wider Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh’s spatial plans so that the region is excluded from any infrastructure development that could threaten the habitat of the many endangered species living there.
– Iceland Foods recently decided to remove palm oil from its own-label products. The move follows a vote by the European Parliament to ban the use of palm oil in European biofuels. – An aggressive lobbying campaign spearheaded by actors from Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top palm oil producers, have framed the ban as an attack on small farmers, although the industry is dominated by large companies. But Iceland’s move has also spurred debate among scientists and conservationists, some of whom say Iceland would do better to source palm oil that has been produced “sustainably.” – Iceland says it doesn’t believe there is enough “truly sustainable palm oil…currently available on the mass market” for that to be a practical solution. The credibility of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the world’s largest association for ethical production of the commodity, for example, is widely seen as questionable, as it has repeatedly failed to enforce its standards. – Greenpeace described Iceland’s move as a “warning shot from a tiny UK company, that could start to grow bigger if palm oil producers and governments don’t tackle the scourge of deforestation.”
– An escalation in the number of conflicts across the Sahara and the Sahel in Africa is driving down numbers of the region’s wildlife, a new study finds. – The authors found that the number of conflicts in the region has risen by 565 percent since 2011. – At the same time, 12 species of vertebrate have either gone extinct or are much closer to extinction as a result of conflicts in the region.
– The Chinese government plans to fund a massive hydroelectric power dam in the Batang Toru ecosystem in North Sumatra, Indonesia, where the newly described Tapanuli orangutan lives. – Activists staged a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta on May 8, coinciding with a state visit by Premier Li Keqiang, to condemn Beijing’s involvement in the project. – In a letter submitted by the demonstrators to the embassy, they demanded China withdraw its support for the project due to the massive environmental threats posed by the endeavor.
– Ships of sealers and whalers arriving on South Georgia brought with them rats and mice that spread over much of the island, eating eggs and chicks of the native birds. – To counter the problem of invasive rats, the South Georgia Heritage Trust launched a $13.5 million rodent eradication operation in 2011, using helicopters to drop poisoned bait in every part of the island that could be infested with rodents. – In the final phase of monitoring that concluded in April this year — a six-month survey that included three trained sniffer dogs — the SGHT team found no signs of rats or mice.
– A team of scientists looked for places in the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest that have had stable weather patterns for a long time — going back to the Pleistocene Epoch — but that don’t fall within the boundaries of existing parks or reserves. – They measured the efficiency of the current network of protected areas in these areas, and they also came up with a prioritization scale for conservation efforts that incorporated the locations of intact forest landscapes. – The team reports that protected areas in the Amazon are four times as efficient at safeguarding these “climatically stable areas” as protected areas in the Atlantic Forest.
– People living in the regions of Madre de Dios, Huancavelica, Puno, and Cusco have mercury levels higher than those considered safe. – It is estimated that in the last 20 years, more than 3,000 tons of mercury have been dumped into rivers in the Peruvian Amazon.
– Humpback whales living around the Western Antarctic Peninsula seem to be recovering rapidly, indicated by females showing high pregnancy rates, a new study has found. – Researchers also found a high proportion of females that are both lactating and pregnant, which is a sign that the humpback whale population there is growing. – So far, changing climate in the Western Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for the humpbacks because of more ice-free days and more access to food. But long-term trends of climate change may be more problematic, the researchers write.
– Colombia’s supreme court granted protections, filed by 25 children and other young people, that affirm that deforestation in the Colombian Amazon violates their rights to health and life. – In the ruling, the supreme court ordered the president of Colombia and environmental authorities to create an action plan to protect this important natural area. – This article is a journalistic collaboration between Mongabay Latam and Semana Sostenible of Colombia.
– The Caparo Forest Reserve in Barinas state, Venezuela, created in 1961, covers almost 175,000 hectares (432,000 acres). The Caparo Experimental Station, located within the reserve, encompasses 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) and has been under the administration of the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) since 1982 for scientific research and education. – The reserve has been heavily degraded in past decades, as farmers intruded and burned forest to make way for crops. But the Experimental Station’s forest has remained mostly intact. In January, 200 members of the 777 Christ Ambassadors Cooperative (Cooperativa Embajadores de Cristo 777) invaded the Experimental Station. Mongabay reports from the scene. – The intruders claim to have a legitimate permit for the tract. But the courts have nullified that permit and ordered an eviction. The National Guard failed to remove the invaders, so in April on a visit to the site, the Ecosocialism minister promised the settlers new land elsewhere. At the start of May, the squatters remained in place in an apparent standoff. – The ULA is concerned about the threat the invasion poses to one of the last major surviving tracts of Colombian-Venezuelan lowland forest. The ULA continues seeking the community’s eviction, with a series of protests by academics and NGOs scheduled for May in Caracas. The groups are asking that the Caparo Reserve and Experimental Station are given national park status.
– The NGO African Parks and its partners in South Africa and Chad reintroduced six black rhinos to Zakouma National Park on May 4. – Chad’s oldest national park had not had rhinos since the early 1970s, when they were wiped out by hunting. – After a brief acclimation period in transitional bomas, or enclosures, the rhinos will be released into a protected sanctuary in the park. – Around 5,000 black rhinos remain on the African continent, and poaching for their horns, used in traditional Asian medicine, continues to be a threat to their survival as a species.
– Researchers have discovered a correlation between deforestation and local temperature changes in many temperate mid-latitude locations around the world. – These increases were particularly high in North America. The study found that deforestation in heavily cleared regions of the central U.S. contributed as much as 1 degree Celsius to local maximum temperatures. – Overall, the study indicates that deforestation contributes around one-third to average hottest-day temperature increases in places that lost at least 15 percent of their forest cover.
– 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.
Below are summaries of the most popular stories from our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, for the week of April 16 – 22. Among the top articles: Colombian activist Francia Márquez receives the Goldman Prize and Peruvian biologist Kerstin Forsberg wins the Whitley Award. And in Ecuador, a condor’s flight demarcates a protected area. The […]
– In Spiti Valley in northern India, red foxes can be seen rummaging through kitchen waste. Such dumpster diving could potentially bring wild animals in close proximity to humans and increase conflict, researchers say. – Increasing reliance of wild animals on food waste could affect other ecological processes. – In the state of West Bengal, for example, some troops of rhesus macaques spend most of their time “begging or chasing” tourists for food. These troops, unlike the forest-dwelling ones, contribute very little to the dispersal of seeds, researchers have found.
– Winters are getting warmer in northwest Himalayas, which is increasing the risk of avalanches, two new studies have found. – Winter temperatures in the northwestern Himalayas have risen by 0.65 degrees Celsius on average over a period of 25 years, a team of Indian researchers found, which is higher than the global average rise of 0.44 degrees Celsius. – During this 25-year study period, total winter precipitation also increased, but it was marked by an increase in rainfall and a decrease in snowfall, the study found. – Rising temperatures have led to an increase in the frequency of avalanches in the Himalayas since 1970, a team of Swiss researchers found.
– Young reef fish use the chorus of sounds made by other fish to find and settle in suitable habitat, but damage to reefs from storms and coral bleaching affects these sounds and thus the ability of juvenile fish to find a home. – Researchers compared the effects of sounds of intact and degraded reefs on juvenile fish behavior; they found that soundscapes of degraded reefs lacked the volume and complexity of those of intact reefs and attracted far fewer juveniles. – Limiting future bleaching by reducing carbon emissions that lead to warmer seas is considered key to the survival of coral reefs.
– Last month, rangers in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park found an adult male rhino dead on a beach. – A necropsy determined the rhino’s death was due to complications from a twisted bowel, putting to rest fears of poaching or contagion. – Despite the death, the Javan rhino population has shown stable growth with the birth of two calves earlier this year, putting the tally at minimum 68 individuals.