Newsletter 2018-09-27


Traditional Kyrgyz walnut-apple forests provide map for sustainable future by Cholpon Uzakbaeva [09/27/2018]

– In the Kyrgyz mountain town of Kyzyl-Unkur, farmers grow mixed forests of walnut, apple, apricot, pear, almond and cherry trees in a traditional system of agroforestry that stretches back centuries.
– Beneath the fruit and nut trees, honey from beehives and mushrooms are collected, and hay is mown for livestock, providing multiple products for sale and consumption during the seasons.
– Kyrgyzstan currently has numerous environmental challenges such as land, forest and pasture degradation, which agroforestry could alleviate.
– Agroforestry also sequesters atmospheric carbon in trees and soil, and provides habitat for wild creatures.

Deforestation-linked palm oil still finding its way into top consumer brands: report by Hans Nicholas Jong [09/25/2018]

– A new report by Greenpeace finds that palm oil suppliers to the world’s largest brands have cleared more than 1,300 square kilometers (500 square miles) of rainforest — an area the size of the city of Los Angeles — since the end of 2015.
– Greenpeace says palm oil-fueled deforestation remains rampant in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia because global consumer brands like Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo continue to buy from rogue producers.
– These brands have failed to commit to their zero-deforestation pledges and are poised to fall short of their own 2020 deadlines of cleaning up their entire supply chain from deforestation, Greenpeace says.
– Greenpeace has called for a transformation in the palm oil industry, particularly in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity.

A herd of dead rhinos by Jeremy Hance [09/24/2018]

– An agreement to launch a captive breeding program was brokered in 1984. By 1985, key participants began pulling out, including the Malaysian state of Sabah.
– Despite the setbacks, efforts to capture rhinos quickly got up and running. Keeping the animals healthy proved to be a much greater challenge.
– By 1995, nearly half of the 40 rhinos caught were dead, and none of them had successfully bred in captivity.

Chilling images of illegal mining operations in Peru by Yvette Sierra Praeli [09/24/2018]

– These images suggest that the operations are being carried out in the communities of Puerto La Pastora, Tres Islas and Kotsimba.
– The result was the destruction of four dredges and other equipment used to extract gold from the rainforest.


New survey results show Nepal is on track to double its tiger population by 2022 by [09/26/2018]

– Data gathered from camera trap surveys conducted across most of Nepal’s tiger habitats between 2017 and 2018 show that there are now 235 of the big cats who call the South Asian country home.
– That represents a 19 percent increase over the 198 tigers found during a nationwide study completed in 2014. Nepal’s first census, in 2009, found 121 tigers.
– These numbers put Nepal firmly on the path to becoming the first nation to double its tiger population since the Tx2 goal — which seeks a doubling of the global tiger population by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger on the Asian lunar calendar — was adopted by the world’s 13 tiger range countries at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.

New species of neon-colored fish discovered off Brazil by [09/26/2018]

– While diving in the waters surrounding Saint Paul’s Rocks, an archipelago off Brail, in June last year, researchers discovered a stunning pink-and-white neon-colored fish that’s new to science.
– The researchers were so taken by the colorful fish that they did not notice a large six-gill shark swimming very close to them. For its “enchanting” beauty, they named the fish Tosanoides aphrodite, or the Aphrodite anthias, after the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
– Aphrodite anthias is the only known species of the genus Tosanoides found in the Atlantic Ocean. All the other known species of Tosanoides live in the Pacific Ocean.

Diversity is key to forests withstanding drought, research finds by [09/25/2018]

– Research published in Nature last week finds that “hydraulically diverse” forests are particularly resilient in the face of drought, which could help inform strategies for restoring forests after they’ve been degraded by wildfires or logging.
– Hydraulic traits are essentially the mechanisms by which a tree moves water through itself, which in turn help determine the degree of drought stress a tree can withstand before its water-transport system starts to shut down. These characteristics, the researchers write in the study, were found to be “the predominant significant predictors” of drought response across all of the forest sites they studied.
– The researchers suggest that there are steps forest managers can take to improve the diversity and drought resilience of forests, especially following a traumatic disturbance of the ecosystem such as logging or wildfire.

Dress like a polar bear: learning to love muskoxen at 15 below zero by Gloria Dickie [09/25/2018]

– Enduring subzero temperatures that make your face freeze, dressing as a bear, and getting chased by an angry male muskox, are all in a day’s work for biologist Joel Berger. His experiences and scientific insights are featured in a new book that focuses on the lives and survival strategies of muskoxen and other cold-adapted animals.
– The autobiographical book, “Extreme Conservation: Life at the Edge of the World,” profiles Berger’s studies of inhospitable ecosystems, ranging from the high latitudes above the Arctic Circle, to the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.
– Mongabay contributor Gloria Dickie interviews Berger to see what makes a human want to live and work in some of the Earth’s most brutal environments. The quick answer: to see how barely studied Northern and alpine large mammals — especially muskoxen — are adapting, or not adapting, to a rapidly warming world.
– Berger’s findings regarding instinctual and learned behavior, evolution and survival in a globally warmed world turn out to be revelatory not only to cold-adapted animals, but also relevant to wildlife species around the globe — and to the scientists who want to conserve them.

Indonesian fish farmers get early-warning system for lake pollution by M Ambari [09/25/2018]

– In the wake of the latest mass fish death in Indonesia’s Lake Toba, in northern Sumatra, the government has published a predictive calendar that gives fish farmers early warning of dire water conditions.
– The tool, available online and in printed form, ranks conditions on a progressive scale running from “safe” to “alert” to “dangerous.”
– In addition to the calendar, the government has also recommended other solutions, including the growing of water hyacinths to absorb pollutants in the lake, and reforestation efforts in the area.

China’s primates could disappear by end of this century, study warns by Shreya Dasgupta [09/25/2018]

– China has some 25 species of primates, of which 15 to 18 have fewer than 3,000 individuals surviving in the wild, according to a new study.
– Two species of gibbons have become extinct in China in just the past two decades, while two other species of gibbons have fewer than 30 individuals in the country.
– Researchers warn that primate distributions in China could shrink by 51 percent to 87 percent by the end of this century.
– Expanding suitable habitat for primates is critical, the researchers say, as is prioritizing a network of protected corridors that can connect isolated primate subpopulations.

Indonesian president signs order to accelerate land reform by Donny IqbalLusia Arumingtyas [09/25/2018]

– The signing was announced the on the first day of the Global Land Forum in Bandung.
– A final copy of the order is not yet available, but a draft seen by Mongabay outlines the creation of a special task force on agrarian issues.
– Elsewhere at the Global Land Forum, farmers called for an end to “criminalization” of rural peoples who find themselves in conflict with large companies.

Limi Valley: A threatened Shangri-La for wildlife (commentary) by Yadav Ghimirey [09/24/2018]

– Despite being extremely rich in wildlife and biodiversity, all is not well in in Nepal’s Limi Valley, an area of global importance for highland wildlife, both flora and fauna.
– The valley is facing an increasing number of anthropogenic and natural threats, the most prominent being human-wildlife conflict and the illegal wildlife trade. In spite of these challenges to conservation, however, the area also provides ample opportunities to address the issues it is facing.
– The Limi Valley is in need of well-thought-out, long-term conservation initiatives. However, any initiatives aimed at conserving the unique biodiversity of the area in the long-run must address the complex issue of human-wildlife conflict. This will involve working directly with local people in alternative livelihood and income generation activities.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Traditional groups sowing sustainable crops could save Venezuelan park by Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez Torres [09/24/2018]

– Starting in 2009, Afro-Venezuelan and Indigenous peoples and Phynatura, an NGO, signed a series of conservation agreements which are helping safeguard 570 squares miles of largely pristine forest in the Venezuelan Amazon south of the Orinoco River from illegal mining, timber harvesting and wildlife poaching. In 2017, that area was absorbed into Caura National Park.
– The new park conserves the region’s biodiversity and forests, but its founding didn’t automatically protect the ancestral homelands of the indigenous people living there. However, these 52 indigenous communities in El Caura are claiming a legal right to continue to live and pursue sustainable livelihoods within the park. The government has yet to grant their claim.
– Some of these traditional communities are involved in the sustainable agroforestry livelihood projects, with a variety of innovative crops being grown. Agroforestry is seen by local people as offering an alternative income over mining and deforestation.
– Among non-timber crops grown are tonka (a bean used as a flavoring and in cosmetics), quina (also known as cinchona bark, formerly used to treat malaria and now a common ingredient in cocktails), and copaiba oil (a folk medicinal credited with anti-inflammatory qualities). Cocoa, to be made into fine chocolates, and orchids are included among potential exports.

Amid ongoing evictions, Kenya’s Sengwer make plans to save their ancestral forest by Anthony Langat [09/24/2018]

– In one of Kenya’s biggest watersheds, the Sengwer indigenous community has struggled to obtain land rights for the forest it has called home for generations.
– The government has been forcefully evicting the Sengwer from Embobut Forest to pave the way for conservation projects funded by international donors.
– The Sengwer, hunter-gatherers, believe that they can protect the forest while living in it better than the government can, using traditional knowledge passed down from their ancestors.
– They have developed a plan to do so, even as another round of evictions looms.

World Gorilla Day: good news and grave threats by [09/23/2018]

– September 24 marks World Gorilla Day, when humanity celebrates one of its closest relatives.
– All species of gorillas are critically endangered, but that does not mean there’s no hope for these animals.
– New populations have recently been discovered, and programs to care for orphaned and injured ones are growing.

Latam Eco Review: Black market jaguars, freed green macaws by [09/23/2018]

– Here are the recent top stories from Mongabay’s Latin America bureau, Mongabay Latam.

Using space tech to improve palm oil transparency in Colombia by Andrew J. Wight [09/21/2018]

– Palm oil is one of Colombia’s biggest agricultural exports, but the commodity has been linked to environmental and social damage in tropical areas around the world.
– Industry insiders say Colombian palm oil growers are underinsured as a group.
– A new $5 million project sponsored by the UK Space Agency aims to use satellites and other technology to monitor the country’s oil palm plantations.
– Project leaders say this could help solve some of the industry’s problems by providing more information to farmers and grower federations.

Video analysis shows baby birds avoid predators while building strength by Sue Palminteri [09/21/2018]

– By monitoring grassland bird nests with small video cameras, researchers are learning why and when chicks first venture into the outside world.
– A recent study using video footage showed that nestlings of different species left their nests at different times of the day and over varying lengths of time, from less than one hour to three days for nests with multiple chicks.
– Smaller and more affordable video equipment is allowing scientists to study events, such as bird nest predation and fledging, that happen quickly, generally when humans are absent.

Activists blast Myanmar timber deal: ‘There is no transparency at all’ by [09/21/2018]

– The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is sounding the alarm over what it calls a “shadowy agreement” made by the Myanmar government to allow the export of 5,000 tons of hardwood timber, including 3,000 tons of highly prized teak.
– In a statement, the EIA says that the timber deal, first reported by local media in Myanmar’s Kayah State, “will further undermine the Myanmar Government’s stated policy of improving forest governance after decades of mismanagement which have led to the country suffering one of the highest rates of forest loss in the world” should it be allowed to go through.
– The 5,000 tons of timber to be harvested will be on top of Myanmar’s Annual Allowable Cut, meaning the timber deal appears to violate the country’s own forestry regulations.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, September 21, 2018 by [09/21/2018]

– 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.

New species of blood-red coral found off Panama coast by [09/21/2018]

– Researchers have found a new species of bright red coral in Hannibal Bank, an underwater seamount off Panama’s Pacific coast.
– The new coral, Thesea dalioi, is only the second known species of Thesea found in the eastern Pacific, the researchers say.
– Researchers named the new coral after Ray Dalio, a U.S. philanthropist and hedge fund manager whose foundation supports ocean exploration.
– The reefs on Hannibal Bank, where T. dalioi was discovered, occur in low-light environments that are thought to be fragile habitats made of a high diversity of corals, algae and sponges.

Scientists uncover what makes deep soil either a carbon sink or source by [09/20/2018]

– Researchers say they have discovered the conditions that determine whether deep soil acts as a source of carbon emissions, releasing heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or as a sink, sequestering the carbon and keeping it from contributing to global climate change.
– It’s estimated that as much as 2,400 gigatons of carbon is stored in soil and that two-thirds of that carbon lies at a depth greater than 20 centimeters — meaning that there is enough deep soil carbon in the world to double the amount of carbon dioxide currently in Earth’s atmosphere.
– Soil organic carbon results from the decomposition of plant matter and can stay locked up in soil for thousands of years. But if below-ground decomposition rates increase due to climate change, the carbon stored in deep soil could be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Activists say Indonesia dragging its heels on indigenous rights by Hans Nicholas Jong [09/20/2018]

– Legislation of a long-awaited bill on indigenous rights continues to be mired in red tape, as activists accuse the government of stalling the process.
– The start of deliberations in parliament was scheduled for Aug. 16, but has now been pushed back to Sept. 27 because the government has still not submitted an inventory of sticking points.
– The government says it still needs input from various ministries, particularly on funding for programs under the bill, which it had previously cited as a reason for shelving the legislation.
– The urgency to pass the bill comes as a study finds that at least a third of the carbon managed by indigenous communities in tropical and subtropical countries lies in forests where they lack legal title, putting them, their forests and the carbon they store at great risk.


1984: the meeting that changed everything for Sumatran rhinos by Jeremy Hance [09/20/2018]

Connect the dots: Cerrado soy drives inequality to provide EU with chicken by Anna Sophie Gross [09/19/2018]

Brazilian elections and the environment: where top candidates stand by Jenny Gonzales [09/17/2018]

How a national reserve stopped the extinction of the Peruvian vicuña by Vanessa Romo [09/17/2018]

On the hunt for a silent salamander-killer by Benji Jones [09/13/2018]