Newsletter 2018-10-11


Fire and agroforestry revive California indigenous groups’ traditions by Jane Braxton Little [10/11/2018]

– In Northern California, the Karuk and Yurok indigenous peoples are burning away decades of forest management practices and revitalizing their foodways and communities.
– Prescribed burning is the main tool in the groups’ agroforestry system, which encourages proliferation of traditional foods like huckleberries, acorns, salmon and elk, medicinal herbs like wormwood, plus willow, bear grass and hazel for basket making.
– Agroforestry is the conscious tending of groups of trees, shrubs and herbs in a forest system that benefits biodiversity, sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, improves water quality, and also provides traditional foods that these indigenous peoples need to carry on their customs.
– At a time when California is repeatedly ravaged by wildfires, these groups’ fire management practices are being studied by state and national agencies to inform their own fire management techniques.

In a Colombian sanctuary, once-trafficked birds fly again by Maria Fernanda Lizcano [10/11/2018]

– Colombia is home to the most important aviary in South America, a sanctuary containing almost 2,000 birds.
– The privately run National Aviary of Colombia serves as a refuge in which birds representing 165 different species have a second chance at life after escaping the hands of illegal wildlife traffickers.
– So far in 2018, Colombian authorities have rescued nearly 4,000 birds — victims of a trafficking industry that has become the third-largest illicit economy in the country.

Senegal: After reviving fish and forests, Jola villages tackle new threats by Jennifer O’Mahony [10/10/2018]

– Thirteen years ago, the eight Jola villages in Mangagoulack, in Senegal’s Casamance region, were indebted and hungry, with overfishing, rising saltwater levels and rampant deforestation of mangroves contributing to a downward spiral.
– In 2006, the community formed an association and began work toward drawing up a code of conduct based on traditional fishing and land-management techniques. The group, now known as the Kawawana ICCA, operates through consensual decision-making and has pledged to remain independent from the government and NGOs.
– By 2012, the river was full of fish, oysters and other wildlife once again. Local people rejoiced at the renewed supply of food and income.
– Today, climate change, a dam, state indifference to poachers, and a youth exodus are putting their hard-won standard of living at risk. Kawawana has served as a model for other communities in the region, and now the villagers hope that working together will help them face down their problems and fortify their gains.

Business and biodiversity benefit from Kyrgyz agroforestry systems by Cholpon Uzakbaeva [10/05/2018]

– In the arid Kyrgyz border region of Batken, farmers grow agroforestry gardens of pomegranate, peach, apple, apricot, and cherry trees which provide shade and moisture to intercropped vegetables and low fruit crops like strawberry and raspberry.
– Because irrigation water is limited, agroforestry allows farmers to grow many crops in close proximity, rather than monocrops of grain or hay as one sees in neighboring areas.
– Farmers enjoy diverse harvests for a longer period of time each year, from Spring to Autumn, and their forest-mimicking gardens are home to biodiversity too, like hedgehogs, hares, and lynx.
– Agroforestry also captures carbon dioxide from the air and stores it in branches, trunks, and soil, making it a useful solution to climate change, one which also boosts soil horizons, groundwater levels, and biodiversity.


Top Madagascar shrimp co. moved millions among tax-haven shell companies by Edward Carver and Will Fitzgibbon [10/11/2018]

– Aziz Ismail, 85, a French citizen born in Madagascar, bought into Madagascar’s shrimp business in 1973. His empire, known generally as Unima, now includes at least eight privately held companies in Europe and Africa that are mainly involved in seafood from Madagascar, where operations are centered.
– Ismail has also owned a British Virgin Islands-based shell company called Ergia Limited since 2000. In the last decade, Ergia appears to have had financial transactions totaling several million dollars with another apparent shell company in Mauritius that has close ties to Unima, and with Unima companies in Europe.
– Although owning and using offshore companies is generally legal, tax and law enforcement officials are increasingly scrutinizing transactions through tax havens like the British Virgin Islands and Mauritius. Tax inspectors from Madagascar and other experts said Unima’s use of multiple offshore companies raises the risk of lost taxes for one of the world’s poorest countries.
– Files obtained from the now-defunct Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca as part of the “Panama Papers” were the basis for this investigation by Mongabay and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Tech prize finalists promote collaboration to fight extinction by Marianne Messina [10/11/2018]

– Conservation X Labs recently announced 20 finalists for the Con X Tech Prize. As finalists, each project receives $3,500 seed money to develop ideas that may be early stage or broad in scope.
– Among the finalists, the Wild N.O.S.E technology will use olfactory data to detect animals or animal parts and help stem trafficking. LobsterLift presents a lineless lobster pot – to prevent the entanglement so dangerous to whales. The Right Whale Auto-Detect project listens for and identifies whale calls and then warns ships of whales in the area.
– These projects express Con X Tech values, such as collaboration, working across disciplines and thinking big enough to deliver transformative conservation solutions with “exponential impact.” One finalist will be selected in November 2018 to receive the $20,000 grand prize.

Second environmental expert sued over testimony against palm oil firm by Hans Nicholas Jong [10/11/2018]

– A palm oil company convicted and fined for negligence over fires in its concession is now suing one of the expert witnesses who testified against it in court.
– Bambang Hero Saharjo, an expert in fire forensics, is the second witness hit with a lawsuit by the company, JJP, which is seeking hefty damages on an apparently trivial technicality.
– The company dropped an earlier lawsuit against another expert who testified against it, but its latest move has sparked concerns among activists about a rising tide of litigation to silence environmental defenders.
– Indonesia has regulations in place to protect environmental defenders and witnesses giving testimony, but critics say there is little awareness among law enforcers about these protections.

It’s déjà vu for orangutans, devastated by climate change and hunting once before by Linda Lombardi [10/11/2018]

– The fossil record shows that orangutan numbers and range declined rapidly in the late Pleistocene area; by 12,000 years ago they remained in only around 20 percent of their original range.
– A recent study concludes that the twin pressures of climate change and human hunting were responsible for this rapid decline.
– The study’s authors say their research indicates that humans and orangutans have co-existed for millennia, and can continue to do so if proper conservation measures are taken.
– Their research suggests that far more attention needs to be paid to the impact human hunting has on modern orangutan populations.

In a rhino stronghold, indigenous wood-carvers cut through stereotypes by Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya [10/10/2018]

– Local artisans near northeast India’s Kaziranga National Park say their wildlife-inspired woodcraft is an expression of nature-friendly values, and counters stereotypes of tribal people as antagonistic to conservation.
– Small, locally owned workshops face competition from big-city businesses who control prime retail locations and can undercut their prices.
– Carving a fast-growing local wood by hand, sculptors say theirs is a green craft, and should be promoted and supported by the government.

Whales not enough sustenance for polar bears in fast-changing climate by [10/10/2018]

– Scientists believe that whale carcasses may have helped polar bears survive past upswings in temperatures that melted the sea ice from which they usually hunt seals.
– As the current changing climate threatens to make the Arctic ice-free during the summer, this strategy may help some populations of polar bears to survive.
– But according to new study, whale carcasses won’t provide enough food for most bear populations because there are fewer whales than there once were, and human settlements, industry and shipping could affect the bears’ access to any carcasses that do wash ashore.

Indonesian government puts off Sumatran rhino IVF program by Basten Gokkon [10/10/2018]

– Indonesia says a long-awaited program to breed Sumatran rhinos through IVF has been postponed, citing the lack of viable eggs from a female rhino in Malaysia.
– The news becomes the latest setback in the years-long saga between the two countries, with some conservationists in Malaysia blaming the Indonesian government inaction for the dwindling odds of a successful artificial insemination attempt.
– There are only an estimated 40 to 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the world, scattered on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Hot pink swamp eel discovered in Indian rainforest by [10/09/2018]

– Scientists from London’s Natural History Museum discovered a previously unknown species of swamp eel in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, India.
– The biologists found only a single specimen living in mud near a rainforest stream.
– Like other swamp eels, Monopterus rongsaw lives terrestrially, is blind, and has sharp teeth.
– There are some 25 species are known to science worldwide.

Plastic trash from the ‘sachet economy’ chokes the Philippines’ seas by Bong S. Sarmiento [10/09/2018]

– The Philippines generates an enormous amount of trash and is the third worst ocean plastic polluter in the world, according to a 2015 study in the journal Science.
– The trash is piling up on land, clogging coastlines, spilling into the sea, and traveling to remote corners of the globe as the country fails to meet targets for improved waste management that it signed into law 18 years ago.
– The central government claims it’s done all it can, and that the onus is on local governments and the Philippine people to solve the problem.
– But environmental advocates disagree, saying the government could do more, including pressuring multinational corporations to change how they package their products.

Decoding the language of bats key to their conservation by Javier Lyonnet [10/08/2018]

– Uruguayan scientists have developed a new artificial intelligence algorithm and reference library of bat ultrasound pulses to enable the use of acoustic monitoring of this understudied regional fauna.
– Bats in the Southern Cone are threatened by wind turbines, but their species and sonar emissions differ from other areas, requiring the scientists to build their own acoustic library and predictive algorithms.
– The scientists are collaborating with wind farm companies and international academics to help expand the reference library and improve the algorithm’s accuracy and speed.

The bioethics of wildlife intervention (commentary) by Elvina Yau [10/08/2018]

– As health care professionals, veterinarians are uniquely positioned to address complex ethical issues involving human, animal, and ecosystem health — a concept aptly known as “One Health.” This initiative governs the core of conservation medicine and reflects the interrelationship and transdisciplinary approach needed to ultimately ensure the wellbeing of all.
– Veterinarians regularly wrestle with whether their actions are restorative or destructive, and reflect on a track record of gratifying wins and unsavory losses to learn from.
– Given our substantial roles in the fate of conservation, it is imperative to debate the significance of interventional efforts and whether they can be rationalized.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Brazil scraps 11 new Amazon protected areas covering 2,316 square miles by Sue Branford [10/08/2018]

– In recent months, the state deputies of the Legislative Assembly of Rondonia had moved to create 11 new protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon, covering about 600,000 hectares (2,316 square miles) of forest.
– However, the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby, bitterly opposed to the action, launched a counter legislative measure, attaching the scrapping of the protected areas to an emergency state funding bill. On 25 September, that funding bill passed, effectively killing the conserved areas.
– Thirty years ago, only 2 percent of Rondonia’s forested land had been felled. That has increased to 28.5 percent today, the highest level in any Amazonian state due to a massive influx of land-hungry families, relocation encouraged by the government, along with the uncontrolled expansion of logging and land clearing for ranching.
– Conservationists fear that continued illegal incursions into conserved areas could result in escalating violence as land grabbers, illicit loggers and cattlemen conflict with indigenous groups and Brazilian law enforcement over Amazon land claims.

Int’l protections not stopping pangolin overexploitation in Cameroon by John C. Cannon [10/08/2018]

– A recent report indicates that the 2016 listing of pangolins under CITES Appendix I, outlawing their international trade, is not translating into protections for the anteater-like animal at the local level in Central Africa.
– The study used data gathered from an investigation in Cameroon.
– Pangolins are considered the world’s “most illegally traded wild mammal” by the IUCN, and scientific research in 2017 found that between 420,000 and 2.71 million pangolins are hunted from Central African forests each year.

Kenya: Indigenous Ogiek face eviction from their ancestral forest… again by Nathan Siegel [10/08/2018]

– The Ogiek, traditional hunter-gatherers, have been subject to violent evictions from their ancestral homeland in the Mau Forest Complex of western Kenya since the beginning of British colonial rule.
– The Kenyan government says the evictions are necessary to protect the Mau Forest Complex, an important water catchment.
– In 2017, after more than 20 years of legal wrangling, the Ogiek won a landmark victory when an international court ruled that the Kenyan government had violated the Ogiek’s right to their ancestral land by evicting them.
– However, there are signs that the Kenyan government may be backing down from its pledge to abide by the court’s decision. Activists are warning of “an imminent plan” by the government to evict Ogiek from parts of the forest.

Loss of forest elephant may make Earth ‘less inhabitable for humans’ by Emily Clark [10/08/2018]

– A new review paper finds that the loss of Africa’s forest elephants has broad impacts on their ecosystems, including hitting several tall tree species, which play a key role in sequestering carbon dioxide.
– Forest elephants disperse large seeds, keep the forest canopy open, and spread rare nutrients across the forest, benefiting numerous species across the African tropics.
– While the IUCN currently defines African elephants as a single species, scientists believe it long past time to split them into two distinct species, savanna and forest, to bolster protection for both from the ivory trade.

To conserve West Papua, start with land rights (commentary) by Bernadinus SteniDaniel Nepstad [10/05/2018]

– West Papua Province in Indonesia retains over 90 per cent of its forest cover, as well as some of the world’s most biologically diverse marine areas.
– The drive to become a conservation province, however, runs the risk of repeating past mistakes that have disadvantaged indigenous communities and left their customary land rights unrecognized.
– We recommend that the recognition of customary land and resource rights should be prioritized, followed by strengthening the management capacity of customary institutions while improving the markets and value for forest-maintaining community enterprise, as we illustrate with the District of Fakfak.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Hunting, agriculture driving rapid decline of jaguars in South America’s Gran Chaco by Mike Gaworecki [10/05/2018]

– New research finds that one-third of critical jaguar habitat in the Gran Chaco, South America’s largest tropical dry forest, has been lost since the mid-1980s.
– According to the study, led by researchers at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin) and published in the journal Biodiversity Research this week, deforestation driven by agricultural expansion — mainly for soy and cattle production — has caused the steep decline of jaguar habitat in the region.
– Meanwhile, the conversion of jaguar habitat into cropland and pastureland gives hunters easier access to the forest. Thus overhunting and persecution by cattle ranchers has also become one of the chief causes of the big cat’s shrinking numbers, the study found.

Deforestation surges in Virunga National Park in the wake of violence by Benji Jones [10/05/2018]

– In the DRC’s Virunga National Park, rangers and wildlife are caught in the crosshairs of a brutal civil conflict.
– Forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch detected more than 1,100 hectares (2,718 acres) of tree cover loss from May to September.
– The recent uptick coincides with the temporary closure of the Virunga after rebel forces killed a park ranger and kidnapped two British tourists.
– The primary driver deforestation is likely charcoal production. Illegal logging and land clearing for agriculture are also presumed to play a role.

8,100-square-mile indigenous reserve recognized in Brazilian Amazon by Jenny Gonzales [10/05/2018]

– There are 462 government-declared Indigenous Lands (TIs) in Brazil, but of these only 8 percent have been demarcated, a boundary-marking process vital to preventing and to prosecuting illegal incursions by land grabbers, loggers, miners and other outsiders.
– On 19 September the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI on the border of Pará and Amazonas state received Ministry of Justice approval for demarcation of its 2.1 million hectares (8,108 square miles). However, drastic budget cuts at FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, leaves the date at which the demarcation process will begin unknown.
– At least 18 different indigenous groups live within the remote Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, including four isolated uncontacted groups. In the 1960s, the Brazilian government removed many indigenous people forcibly from the region, transporting them in Air Force planes. Some returned, walking all the way back to their home territory.
– Indigenous advocates, and indigenous people living in the Kaxuyana-Tunayana TI, worry that the growing political strength of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby in Congress will result in the abolishment of FUNAI and prevent the demarcation process from ever happening. But they remain hopeful.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, October 5, 2018 by [10/05/2018]

– 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.

Latam Eco Review: Kissable sharks and spectacled bears by [10/05/2018]

The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, followed a new green-eyed shark species in Belize, salmon farms in Patagonia, blast fishing in Peru, a cocaine-laden plane in a Peruvian park, and an Andean bear mystery, also in Peru. Belize’s tiny sixgill shark species at risk “A little shark so adorable, you want […]

Dam project pushes threatened orangutans from forest to farms by Hans Nicholas Jong [10/05/2018]

– Critically endangered Tapanuli orangutans are starting to flee from their only known habitat in Sumatra and encroaching on plantations, as the development of a controversial hydropower project in the Batang Toru forest gets underway.
– The finding comes just days after the project developer joined forces with the local government and a prominent university to speed up the pace of development ahead of the 2022 deadline.
– Indonesia’s environment ministry has ordered the developer to revise its environmental impact assessment, but conservationists say there are far too many problems with the project for it to continue.
– A key risk that remains unaddressed is the proposed dam’s location along a known fault line, which critics of the project say could have disastrous consequences in a region known for its high level of seismic activity.

Frogs coping with fatal fungus in Panamanian forest, study finds by [10/05/2018]

– Scientists discovered that frogs in the El Copé forest appear to have found a way to live with chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), a fungus that is still devastating amphibian populations in other parts of the world.
– The team found that surviving frog species had similar survival rates whether they were infected with chytrid or not.
– The results offer the possibility that frog communities, though altered, can stabilize after these catastrophic events.

Pasture expansion driving deforestation in Brazilian protected area by Mike Gaworecki [10/04/2018]

– Climate scientists were wary when the Brazilian government announced in August that its 2020 goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions had already been met. Lending credence to those concerns, it appears even protected areas in the country aren’t currently safe from forest destruction.
– Brazil’s Triunfo do Xingu Area of Environmental Protection has become a deforestation hotspot over the past few months, with more than 14,000 hectares of the protected area impacted by the expansion of pasture since May.
– Though deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon peaked around 2004, the Triunfo do Xingu protected area has lost more than 350,000 hectares (nearly 865,000 acres) of tree cover since its founding in 2006.

Agreement bans commercial fishing across much of the Arctic, for now by [10/04/2018]

– Nine jurisdictions — Canada, Norway, Russia, the U.S., China, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands) and the European Union — have signed a legally binding agreement that bans commercial fishing in the high seas portion of the Central Arctic Ocean, covering 2.8 million square kilometers, or an area about the size of the Mediterranean Sea, for at least 16 years.
– As part of the agreement, the signatory parties have committed to a joint scientific research and monitoring program to gain a better understanding of the changing Arctic ecosystem and determine the region’s potential for commercial, sustainable fisheries in the future.
– The moratorium will initially cover 16 years, but this can be extended in five-year increments, if the parties agree to do so.

Nepali scientists deploy drones to count endangered crocodiles by Abhaya Raj Joshi [10/04/2018]

– Researchers in Nepal used drone images to survey critically endangered gharial crocodiles along the banks of the Babai River, comparing their results to those of multi-team ground surveys.
– Analysis of the drone images produced counts of gharials and mugger crocodiles similar to those of ground survey teams, in less time and at a lower cost.
– The researchers stressed the importance of conducting aerial surveys when environmental conditions are most conducive, such as during the winter months when water clarity in the Babai River enables counts of gharials just under the water’s surface.


The rhino reckoning by Jeremy Hance [10/02/2018]

Cerrado towns terrorized to provide toilet paper for the world, say critics by Anna Sophie Gross [10/02/2018]

Purus-Madeira: journey to the Amazon’s newest deforestation frontier by Gustavo FaleirosMarcio Isensee e Sá [10/01/2018]

The great rhino U-turn by Jeremy Hance [09/28/2018]