Newsletter 2018-09-06


How land is stolen in Colombia by Maria Fernanda Lizcano [09/06/2018]

– Mongabay learned that the Superintendent of Notary and Registry has a record of empty lands being used illegally in seven Colombian departments.
– The illegally-used land is in the departments of Norte de Santander, Antioquia, Meta, Caquetá, Casanare, Cesar, and Vichada.
– The land makes up a total of 762,807 hectares (almost 1,885,000 acres).

A civic outcry in Malaysia forces a Chinese builder to live up to its eco-friendly tag by Keith Schneider [09/05/2018]

– Forest City, a massive land reclamation project built by a Chinese developer and backed by the sultan of Johor state in Malaysia, was initially allowed to begin construction without a detailed environmental impact assessment.
– Facing public protests, and concern from neighboring Singapore, the government halted the project and required a laundry list of design changes to the city, which is projected to house 700,000 people upon completion.
– The project is marketed as an eco-friendly “future city,” but has been met with concern by environmentalists. China’s involvement has also caused political problems, including an announcement in August that Malaysia will not allow foreigners to purchase property in the development.
– This is the final installment in a six-part series on infrastructure development in Peninsular Malaysia.


A Brazilian mourns what was lost in the National Museum fire by Peter Moon [09/06/2018]

– Last Sunday, the Brazilian National Museum burned, with an estimated 90 percent of its priceless collection destroyed. In this story, co-published by ((O))eco and Mongabay, noted Brazilian science writer and journalist Peter Moon enumerates those losses and what they mean to Brazil and the world.
– The museum’s Paleontology collection housed practically all fossils of plants and animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, discovered in Brazil from 1800 into the 20th century. The fire consumed the accumulated fossil record of tens of millions of years of evolution in Brazil and South America.
– The Anthropology collection was also burned, a heartbreaking, irreplaceable loss of Brazil’s indigenous legacy. Gone is the entire Ethnology collection, which kept masks, weapons, utensils and other artifacts documenting the cultures of numerous Brazilian indigenous peoples, collected over two centuries.
– Saved were the collections of invertebrates and vertebrates, and the botany collection, all installed 30 years ago in an annex. While the scientific value of those collections preserved is immense, Peter Moon laments the loss of the vast natural history archive: “Scientific collections, once lost, are forever.”

‘Diaper Brigade’ fights a chemical crisis in Java’s rivers by Tommy Apriando [09/06/2018]

– Indonesian biologist Prigi Arisandi leads a movement to tackle the dumping of millions of disposable diapers into rivers across Indonesia’s Java Island every year.
– Used diapers contain a long list of chemical components that don’t degrade easily, contaminating river ecosystems.
– Fishing the diapers from the rivers is a quick solution. Over the long term, Prigi says, governments and diaper manufacturers must establish better waste management policies, and consumers must cut back on their use of disposable diapers.

Improving rural credit in Brazil: More production, better environment (commentary) by Juliano Assunção and Priscila Souza [09/06/2018]

– One of the biggest challenges for the global economy is to use natural resources more efficiently, increasing food and energy production while preserving the environment.
– Brazil is at the center of this process, since it has abundant natural resources and is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world—the fourth largest according to FAO (2016). Controlling deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening the agribusiness should occur together.
– The primary public policy for Brazilian agriculture is rural credit. A thorough analysis of the rural credit system shows the need to reform the policy, simplify the rules, improve distribution channels, and more closely align it with the Brazilian Forest Code.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Study sheds light on how seeds survive in tropical soils by Ignacio Amigo [09/05/2018]

– Researchers have identified three different strategies by which seeds from pioneer tree species avoid predators and await the right time to germinate.
– Pioneer tree species are the first to grow after a clearing is opened in the forest. The seeds from these species are also the most abundant within the soils.
– To avoid early germination, many seeds in the soil become ‘dormant’, an ability that allows them to survive for relatively long periods until the right conditions to germinate arise.
– A recent study suggests that the means by which tropical seeds from pioneer tree species keep away their predators and remain dormant are evolutionarily connected.

An anti-poaching technology for elephants that is always listening by Marianne Messina [09/05/2018]

– Summer 2018 marked the successful completion of the first of three test phases for a new anti-poaching technology elephants can wear on a tracking collar.
– Called WIPER by its development team, the device integrates with wildlife tracking collars and listens for the shockwave, or sonic boom, of a high-powered rifle, a common weapon in the industrial killing of elephants and other megafauna.
– WIPER’s design overcomes two key challenges for high-tech wildlife monitoring: power source (by creating a sleep mode) and cost (by putting designs in the public domain).
– WIPER provides real-time alerts and location data when a rifle is fired within 50 meters (50 yards) of the collared animal. WIPER may not protect the animal wearing it, but it helps security personnel close in on poachers, which may deter future poaching.

Audio: The ‘Godfather of Biodiversity’ on why it’s time to manage Earth as a system by Mike Gaworecki [09/05/2018]

– On this episode we welcome the godfather of biodiversity, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, to discuss some of the most important environmental issues we’re currently facing and why he believes the next decade will be the “last decade of real opportunity” to address those issues.
– Lovejoy joined the Mongabay Newscast to talk about how deforestation and the impacts of climate change could trigger dieback in the Amazon and other tropical forests, causing them to shift into non-forest ecosystems, as well as the other trends impacting the world’s biodiversity he’s most concerned about.
– He says it’s time for a paradigmatic shift in how we approach the conservation of the natural world: “We really have got to the point now where we need to think about managing the entire planet as a combined physical and biological system.”

Fires tear through East Java park, threatening leopard habitat by Eko Widianto [09/05/2018]

– Authorities in East Java, Indonesia, are trying to stop a wildfire from spreading into core zone of the Coban Wisula forest, home to Javan leopards.
– The fire is burning within Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, a major tourist attraction. An iconic landscape in the park, known as Teletubbies Hill, has already gone up in flames.
– A local NGO is monitoring the situation to make sure none of the leopards are flushed out of their habitat and into contact with humans, which could turn violent.

Diverse family of algae could help corals survive warming seas by [09/05/2018]

– Scientists have found that some algae that associate with corals are much more diverse and much older than previously thought.
– The origin of certain algae occurred at around the same time corals began building reefs on a grand scale around the world, the researchers showed.
– The diversity of these algae could boost corals’ resistance to higher ocean temperatures.

Delay in Hong Kong’s ivory ban endangers elephants and is ‘legally unnecessary’ by Shreya Dasgupta [09/05/2018]

– China implemented a full ivory ban at the end of 2017, while Hong Kong announced it would only completely phase out domestic ivory trade by 2021. This mismatch in the implementation of the bans could be shifting the ivory trade to Hong Kong, researchers say in a new paper.
– In addition to concerns about a growing ivory market in Hong Kong, the closure of China’s markets, combined with increased enforcement there, is also driving ivory to growing markets like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
– An immediate ban of the ivory trade in Hong Kong is technically possible, and the delay to 2021 is “legally unnecessary,” a legal expert says.

87 elephants found dead in Botswana, one of last safe havens for the species by [09/05/2018]

– At least 87 elephants were killed by poachers in recent months, conservation nonprofit Elephants Without Borders said based on an ongoing aerial survey in northern Botswana.
– Given that the current aerial survey is only halfway through, conservationists worry the final number of poached elephants will be much higher.
– The government of Botswana, however, has refuted the organization’s claims and called the figures “unsubstantiated,” in a statement published on Twitter.

Indonesia, a top plastic polluter, mobilizes 20,000 citizens to clean up the mess by Mongabay-indonesia [09/04/2018]

– On a Sunday last August, thousands of Indonesians gathered at 76 locations across the Southeast Asian country to participate in a massive cleanup of plastic trash.
– Government officials and NGO activists hoped the event would raise awareness about plastic pollution, especially among the youth.
– Indonesia is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter, with 10 billion plastic bags in the country alone dumped into the environment each year.

Brazil mourns ‘incalculable loss’ in National Museum fire by Genevieve Belmaker [09/04/2018]

– A massive fire that may have started from a small flame on the roof gutted Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro on the night of Sept. 2.
– It’s not yet known how the museum’s more than 20 million scientific and historical items fared, but the blaze that destroyed the building’s roof and blew out every single window on the 200-year-old structure.
– The priceless artifacts known to have been lost include Luzia, believed to be the oldest human remains ever found in the Americas.
– The museum had been struggling to meet maintenance needs due to budget shortfalls, and experts had warned of fire risk.

Monitoring the ambitious land restoration commitments in Africa by Sophie Mbugua [09/03/2018]

– Announcements by Burkina Faso and Tanzania at the GLF Africa Conference, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya this week, brings restoration commitments under AFR100 to a total of 96.4 million hectares by 27 African countries.
– Making pledges is one thing, however, while monitoring and tracking progress in actually achieving these restoration goals is another. Attendees of the GLF Africa Conference were keenly aware of this challenge, and a variety of tools for monitoring and tracking restoration activities was a topic of much discussion.
– Restoration requires more than the planting of trees, as Charles Karangwa, an IUCN Regional Forest Landscape Restoration Coordinator, noted at the conference: “Countries must enact polices, allocate budget to restoration implementation, track and learn from their progress.”

New Zealand penguins make ‘crazy’ 7,000-km round trip for food by [09/03/2018]

– Until recently, researchers did not know where the Fiordland penguins of New Zealand, known locally as tawaki, went to hunt during their pre-moult summer period.
– A new study that tracked 17 penguins has found that the birds made a round trip of up to 6,800 kilometers (4,225 miles) in 2016, making it one of the longest-known pre-moult penguin migrations to date.
– The penguins went nearly halfway to Antarctica, traveling to the sub-tropical front south of Tasmania or to the sub-Antarctic front to hunt, the researchers found.
– It’s not clear why they went so far, given that other penguin species in New Zealand seem to find enough food in the waters near their breeding colonies. Researchers say more studies over several seasons and involving more individual penguins are needed.

The secret life of the southern naked-tailed armadillo by Emily Clark [09/03/2018]

– The southern naked-tailed armadillo spends 99.25 percent of its time underground. If by chance you locate one above ground, it can dig away in a matter of seconds.
– The air of mystery surrounding this species led Desbiez and his team to seek out any information they could about its day-to-day activities and its natural history in Brazil’s Pantanal region.
– Unlike other species that Desbiez studies, such as the giant armadillo and the giant anteater, the southern naked-tailed armadillo is rated as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Latam Eco Review: Industrial fishing in the Galapagos, fracking Colombian cloud forests, whale sharks in Peru by [09/02/2018]

The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, this past week followed high-volume fishing in the Galapagos, oil drilling in Colombian cloud forests, mercury levels in the Peruvian Amazon, whale sharks in Peru, and tiny catfish in Bolivia. A year after Ecuador captured Chinese shark cargo, high-volume fishing continues A year ago, an illegal […]

Farmers see promise and profit for agroforestry in southern Kenya by David Njagi [08/31/2018]

– In Kenya’s Rift Valley, rural communities are implementing agroforestry to boost incomes and forest cover.
– Native plants like enset, a type of wild banana, and trees are being cultivated in combination with crops, which benefit each other and provide a diversity of produce.
– “Farmers are looking for new ways to widen their farm revenue as food markets become unpredictable. They are finding these answers in agroforestry,” says an official with the Kenya Forestry Service.
– Agroforestry is also a main facet of Kenya’s goal to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris climate treaty, since it sequesters a large amount of carbon in woody plants both above and below ground.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 31, 2018 by [08/31/2018]

– 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.

Madagascar: Where young whale sharks party by Nora Ward [08/31/2018]

– Whale sharks don’t need help being spectacular. The world’s biggest fish is impressive in nearly every aspect, growing as long as 12 meters (40 feet) and weighing up to 21 tons.
– A new study in the journal Endangered Species Research used photo-identification techniques based on the sharks’ distinctive spots to discover a new hotspot for juvenile whale sharks around the tiny island of Nosy Be, in northwest Madagascar.
– This is a rare bit of good news for a species that, like many other sharks, is struggling to survive in oceans increasingly subject to the negative impacts of human activity.

Deal in sight for PNG landowners protesting Exxon-led gas project by Lucy EJ Woods [08/31/2018]

– The ExxonMobil-led PNG LNG project’s Angore operations have been shut down since June due to conflict with traditional landholders in the Papua New Guinea highlands.
– Around 97 percent of land in Papua New Guinea is held communally by clans, so development projects require a complex social mapping process. Critics of PNG LNG claim this was not carried out correctly.
– Following the occupation of a wellhead site in July, and a threat to shut down the project permanently, landowners now say they are close to reaching an agreement with the government regarding royalties and equity.

Tech goes back to basics to mitigate human-wildlife conflict near Indian parks by Moushumi Basu [08/31/2018]

– A simple user-friendly mobile phone system has helped villagers near two Indian national parks report crop and livestock damages to authorities and receive appropriate compensation.
– Such damages can lead to retaliatory killing ofanimals, whereas compensation can help foster tolerance of wildlife even in densely populated regions.
– The mobile technology used by the Wild Seve project speeds the compensation processes using a toll-free hotline that records the victim’s voice message with details of the incident and routes it to a field coordinator, who sends local trained responders to meet with the complainant within 24 hours.

Indonesian government appeals ruling on tighter peat fire regulations by Basten Gokkon [08/30/2018]

– The Indonesian government is appealing a court ruling ordering it to issue a number of regulations aimed at tackling forest fires.
– The lawsuit was brought by a number of environmental activists from a city in Central Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo, one of the regions hit hardest by the massive fires and haze of 2015.
– The government counters that measures it enacted in the wake of those fires already address the activists’ demands, and point to an 85 percent reduction in fire hotspots in 2016 and 2017.
– The activists say they are optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule in their favor, as another bout of fires flares up across parts of Borneo and Sumatra.


Will protecting half the Earth save biodiversity? Depends which half by Shreya Dasgupta [08/30/2018]
Indigenous architecture saves lives in Lombok quakes by Fathul Rakhman [08/28/2018]
Brazil’s pesticide poisoning problem poses global dilemma, say critics by Anna Sophie Gross [08/27/2018]
A Malaysian port city grapples with the fallout from Chinese funding by Keith Schneider [08/24/2018]