Violence spikes during Brazil elections, rural minorities fear worse by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [10/24/2018]
– Brazil has seen a major upswing of violence in recent years, with 63,880 homicides in 2017, a trend that includes both urban and rural areas, and parts of the Amazon where land grabbing and other environmental crimes are common.
– The highly polarized Brazilian presidential election between progressive candidate Fernando Haddad and far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro seems to have escalated threats and acts of violence across the country. In the period after the 7 October first round election, three land activists were murdered in the Amazon.
– Critics have accused Bolsonaro of perpetrating “fake news” and of inciting violence, especially against minorities, including urban LGBT communities, and rural indigenous groups, Quilombos (descendants of runaway slaves living in remote rural communities), and the landless peasant movement (MST).
– The runoff presidential election is scheduled for Sunday, 28 October, and polls show Bolsonaro with a significant lead over Haddad, with Bolsonaro expected to be Brazil’s next president, barring surprises. Whether Bolsonaro will carry through on incendiary promises made during his candidacy is unknown.
CITES rejects another Madagascar plan to sell illegal rosewood stockpiles by Edward Carver [10/24/2018]
– At a meeting in Sochi, Russia, earlier this month, CITES’s standing committee rejected Madagascar’s latest plan to sell off its stockpiles of illegally harvested rosewood, largely because the plan called for local timber barons to be paid for their troves of wood.
– Environmental groups argued that operators who logged illegally should not be rewarded for it, and delegations from several African countries reportedly opposed the plan because they feared their own timber barons would learn the wrong lesson from the deal.
– Madagascar’s environment ministry released a statement after the meeting indicating that it would take the recommendations made by the CITES committee into account in revising the plan for submission again in 2019.
Grainrail: ‘2nd revolution in Brazilian agribusiness’ and Amazon threat by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [10/22/2018]
– The BR-163 highway is being overwhelmed with truck traffic moving soy from the interior state of Mato Grosso to ports on the Tapajós River, where the cargo is moved to barges taking it down the Amazon for export to the EU and China. Soy farmers and transnational commodities companies say the answer is a new Amazon railway.
– Ferrogrão (Grainrail) would stretch for 934 kilometers (580 miles), running parallel to the BR-163, from northern Mato Grosso to the port of Miritituba on the Tapajós River. Proponents argue the new rail line would cut freight costs, while reducing shipment times and backlogs, and even decrease greenhouse gas emissions due to transport.
– Conservationists and indigenous groups strongly oppose the plan, saying that the railroad threatens the Amazon rainforest and the Cerrado, would likely have harmful impacts on three indigenous groups, and would open 14 protected areas to illegal intruders, including loggers and ranchers.
– Grainrail has yet to be green lighted, maybe due to Brazil’s political and economic instability. Investors may be waiting to see how the election of Jair Bolsonaro might impact the nation – possibly opening the way for much longed-for Amazon industrial waterways. This story is the first in an exclusive Mongabay series about Grainrail.
Women’s work in Senegalese conservation includes exorcising demons by Jennifer O’Mahony [10/19/2018]
– Women, and older women in particular, play important roles in the Kawawana ICCA, an indigenous conservation group in Senegal’s Casamance region.
– They set rules for oyster harvesting and mediate conflicts that arise with outsiders who infringe upon Kawawana rules.
– They also deploy ancient animist traditions in defense of the local environment and act as spiritual doctors for those who break the rules.
– Since 2010, Kawawana has made huge strides in repopulating the local river with fish, reducing damaging levels of salinity in its waters, and halting deforestation, largely by returning to traditional fishing and forestry practices.
Genome-wide study confirms there are six tiger subspecies by Mongabay.com [10/25/2018]
– According to a study published in the journal Current Biology today, uncertainty about how many tiger subspecies there are in the world has frustrated efforts at conserving what’s left of the global tiger population.
– A research team led by Yue-Chen Liu of China’s Peking University analyzed the complete genomes of 32 tiger specimens, selected to be representative of all six potential subspecies, to confirm that tigers do indeed fall into six genetically distinct groups.
– The researchers also used their genome-wide survey to look for evidence that different groups of tigers have adapted to the distinct environments in their geographic regions through the process of natural selection. They say that their genomic research shows very little gene flow has occurred between tiger populations, but also that, despite the big cat’s low genetic diversity, each subspecies has a unique evolutionary history.
Indonesia’s anti-graft agency ‘eager to intervene’ in palm oil sector by Mongabay.com [10/25/2018]
– A new video by Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission, the KPK, suggests the agency is taking a closer look than ever before at the country’s palm oil sector.
– Many palm oil companies aren’t paying their taxes, and corruption in the licensing process for plantations is rife, according to the KPK.
– Smallholders control only around a quarter of Indonesia’s oil palm, according to the KPK.
Trapper, turned conservationist: Bill Wood (obituary) by Bernie Tershy [10/24/2018]
– Bill Wood, a trapper who turned his expertise to save scores of species from extinction, died October 10, 2018 at the age of 84.
– Bill worked for Island Conservation for almost two decades, hunting and trapping invasive species on remote islands.
– Bill directly and personally saved over 180 animals and plant species from extinction though his work.
Citizen Ape: The fight for personhood for humans’ closest relatives by Giovanni Ortolani [10/24/2018]
– The great ape personhood movement aims to extend legal personhood to apes, a distinction that recognizes these non-human animals as beings with the capacity to hold both rights and duties
– The movement has had several notable successes in advocating for changes to laws, and in individual court verdicts freeing apes from captivity in harsh conditions.
– Proponents hope that granting apes legal rights will also help bridge the gap between humans and non-human animals, along with the greater natural world.
– The great ape personhood movement draws on both modern philosophy and on indigenous traditions that recognize apes as creatures with complex societies and rich emotional lives.
Camera trap photos confirm discovery of lowland bongo in Uganda for first time by Mongabay.com [10/24/2018]
– Endemic to the tropical forests of Central and West Africa, the lowland bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus) is known for its red-brown coat with white-yellow stripes and long, lightly spiraled horns. Adult male bongos can stand as tall as 1.3 meters (or over 4 feet) at the shoulders and weigh as much as 800 pounds.
– Scientists with the UK-based Chester Zoo say that the mostly nocturnal ungulate was captured by motion-sensor camera traps in the lowland rainforests of Semuliki National Park in southwest Uganda, where the East African country borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
– The western or lowland bongo, one of two recognized subspecies of bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), is listed as Near-Threatened on the IUCN Red List. The subspecies faces ongoing population declines due to habitat loss, hunting for meat, and trophy hunting, threats that continue to increase as human settlements and commercial forestry expand ever-farther into their range.
Stay or go? Understanding a partial seasonal elephant migration by Sue Palminteri [10/24/2018]
– Elephants in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park wearing GPS tracking tags shared a general dry-season home range but followed three different wet-season migration strategies: residency, short-distance migration, and long-distance migration.
– Despite similar dry-season conditions that kept all the tagged elephants near provisioned waterholes, the migrating elephants began their seasonal movements at the onset of the first rains.
– Scientists urge collaboration among stakeholders and countries to maintain the long-distance, cross-border migrations some animals need to survive.
Bat Week: the super powers of bats (photos) by Sarah H. Olson and Julie Larsen Maher [10/24/2018]
– This photo post comes via Mongabay’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Wild View blog.
– Under this partnership, we publish occasional original contributions from Wild View that highlights an animal species or group.
– In this post, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Sarah H. Olson and Julie Larsen Maher write about bats on the occasion of Bat Week, which runs from October 24-31.
Absent for decades, zebras reintroduced to park in southern Tanzania by Mongabay.com [10/24/2018]
– Staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners in Tanzania released 24 zebras into Kitulo National Park on Oct. 12 and 13.
– The Kitulo Plateau in Tanzania’s southern highlands includes high-elevation grasslands, a unique habitat that requires fire and grazing animals to maintain its plant diversity.
– The reintroduction, with plains zebras from Mikumi National Park, is part of a broader effort to “rewild” the southern highlands after decades of wildlife hunting and livestock grazing.
Two black rhinos found dead in Chad after move from South Africa by Mongabay.com [10/24/2018]
– Two of the six black rhinos that were flown from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad in May this year have died.
– The two rhinos, a male and a female, were not poached, African Parks said, but the exact cause of death is not yet known.
– The translocation of the six rhinos marked the return of critically endangered black rhinos to Chad after nearly 50 years of the species’ absence.
– The four surviving rhinos are still alive and are being closely monitored, African Parks said.
New research measures impacts of China’s elephant ivory trade ban by Mongabay.com [10/23/2018]
– Research released last month by WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife monitoring network, found that there has been a substantial decline in the number of Chinese consumers buying ivory since the ivory trade ban went into effect on December 31, 2017. But there is still work to be done to diminish both the supply and demand for elephant ivory in China.
– Of 2,000 Chinese consumers surveyed, 14 percent claimed to have bought ivory in the past year — significantly fewer than the 31 percent of respondents who said they’d recently purchased ivory during a pre-ban survey conducted in 2017. Some ivory sales have simply gone international, however: 18 percent of regular travelers reported buying ivory products while abroad, particularly in Thailand and Hong Kong.
– TRAFFIC reports that all of the formerly accredited (i.e. legal) ivory shops the group’s investigators visited in 2018 have stopped selling ivory. But the illegal ivory trade has not been so thoroughly shut down. TRAFFIC investigators also visited 157 markets in 23 cities and found 2,812 ivory products on offer in 345 separate stores.
Amazon and climate science threatened if Bolsonaro elected Brazil’s president (commentary) by 18 Latin American scientists [10/23/2018]
– Fake news and pseudo-science have been used as propaganda by supporters of the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro during his presidential election bid, according to a group of 18 Latin American scientists.
– The lack of defined environmental positions within the candidate’s political platform is of great concern to the scientific community.
– The pledge to fuse the agricultural and environmental ministries, expand agricultural and mining activities especially in the Amazon, and the promise made in the media to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, could make a Bolsonaro presidency dangerous not only for Brazil but for the world.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay. A full list of authors is presented at the end of the commentary.
Study warns of dire ecological, social fallout from Sumatran dam by Hans Nicholas Jong [10/23/2018]
– A new study warns that the environmental impact of a planned hydroelectric plant in Sumatra’s unique Leuser Ecosystem will be much greater than initially thought.
– The area is the last place on Earth that’s home to wild tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants — all critically endangered species whose habitat would be flooded and fragmented by the dam and its roads and power lines, activists say.
– They also warn of the dam exacerbating disaster risks to local communities, in a region already prone to flooding, landslides and earthquakes.
– Activists are mulling a lawsuit to void the project permit, but the developer says it has done everything by the book and that the new study is based on an outdated environmental impact analysis.
Chinese demand wiping out forests in the Solomon Islands: New report by John C. Cannon [10/22/2018]
– Logging companies are harvesting timber from the forests of the Solomon Islands at about 19 times the sustainable rate, according to an analysis by the watchdog NGO Global Witness.
– More than 80 percent of the Solomons’ log exports go to China.
– Global Witness is calling on China to build on its efforts to develop its “Green Supply Chain” by requiring companies to verify that the timber they import comes from sustainable and legal sources.
African wood industry: 10,000 micro-businesses need support for sustainable trade by Joseph Charpentier [10/22/2018]
– A survey of 10,000 east and west African wood processing micro-businesses found that sourcing legal materials and legal compliance to be key difficulties in maintaining environmentally-ethical and legal business practices.
– The micro-businesses, connected and represented by a network of 21 wood industry associations, found a widespread need for more support and access to resources.
– The two reports from the survey results were released on Oct. 22 by the Global Timber Forum, a Washington, DC non-profit that works to build the capacity of forest and wood-based industry associations.
– The findings were released just ahead of Forest Legality Week, an annual gathering that draws together global forestry leaders and experts in Washington, D.C.
Indonesia’s Aceh sees harshest penalty yet for a wildlife crime by Junaidi Hanafiah [10/22/2018]
– Two men who tried to sell a tiger pelt received four-year sentences in Indonesia’s Aceh province earlier this month.
– Sentences for wildlife traffickers have typically been low. Activists are pushing to revise the law to increase the maximum five-year penalty for wildlife crimes, but courts have tended to impose even lower sentences.
– Just a few hundred Sumatran tigers remain in the wild. The big cat is one of a number of rare species sought after by poachers in Indonesia.
Illegal cheetah trade continues through Instagram, 4sale, YouTube by Shreya Dasgupta [10/22/2018]
– Between February 2012 and July 2018, a total of 1,367 cheetahs were offered on sale through 906 posts on social media, a new analysis by the Cheetah Conservation Fund has found. Almost all of the investigated cheetah sale offers appear to be illegal.
– Instagram alone accounted for some 77 percent of the posts, followed by 4sale, a Kuwait-based mobile app, and YouTube.
– Nearly all of the posts had some link to the Gulf states, with more than 62 percent linked to users in Saudi Arabia, the analysis found.
Environmental delegation blocked from entering Bolivian national park by Miriam Telma Jemio [10/22/2018]
– A delegation from the International Rights of Nature Tribunal was recently refused entry to the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS) in Bolivia.
– The commission had planned a discussion with leaders of the TIPNIS regarding the construction of a highway that would cross through the protected area. Some leaders are in favor of the highway, while others are opposed.
– The Rights of Nature representatives had received an invitation from the Indigenous Council of the South (CONISUR) to visit the area, but CONISUR representatives were among those blocking the way.
– After five hours of not being allowed to advance or to retreat back to Cochabamba, nor to get out of their vehicles, the delegation was able to peacefully leave the area with a police escort.
The iNaturalist species data sharing platform reaches one million users by Sue Palminteri [10/19/2018]
– The iNaturalist species data-sharing platform reached a milestone earlier this month with its one millionth observer.
– The 10-year-old platform and mobile app use several smartphone technologies, crowd-sourced data, and artificial intelligence to help observers identify the species of plants and animals they see.
– Co-founder Scott Loarie highlighted the rapid progress in computer vision technology as a surprisingly helpful technology that complements crowdsourcing to speed the image identification process for a large number of photos, though it has also introduced other concerns, including how to maintain high data quality.
Illegal wildlife trade’s ‘dirty money’ targeted by big banks by James Fair [10/19/2018]
– Leading global banks and financial institutions have pledged their commitment to a financial task force to uncover laundering of profits derived from the illegal wildlife trade.
– Alongside the task force, there are also calls for a greater focus on the role corruption plays in facilitating the poaching of fauna and flora.
– There have also been warnings that efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade should not focus too heavily on large, charismatic mammals like elephants and rhinos.
Secrets revealed: Researchers explore unique, isolated forest in Mozambique by Morgan Erickson-Davis [10/19/2018]
– Researcher Julian Bayliss discovered a forest on Mount Lico by using satellite imagery from Google Earth. In May, Bayliss and a team of more than two-dozen scientists and other experts set out on an expedition to see what kinds of animals and plants lived in the forest.
– According to Bayliss, they found several new species, including a new butterfly.
– Protected by 410-meter cliffs, Mount Lico’s forest is undisturbed by human activity. But the surrounding lowlands – as well as other nearby mountains – are heavily cleared for agriculture.
– These mountains serve as important habitat for unique species, as well as critical water sources for local communities. However, their soil is very fertile and often targeted for cropland. Bayliss says these mountain forests need more conservation attention, and urges the development of programs aimed at balancing local livelihoods with forest preservation.
Guyana deforestation rate hits 7-year low, officials say by Carinya Sharples [10/19/2018]
– According to data released on Oct. 5 by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), the small South American nation’a deforestation rate in 2017 was 0.048 percent.
– Government official say that their new deforestation estimates are the lowest since assessments started back in 1990.
– Environmental advocates say the reduction in timber concession areas has reduced road building by loggers that once facilitated opportunistic mining.
‘The posterchild for entangled marine mammals around the globe:’ Q&A with author of ‘Vaquita’ by Mike Gaworecki [10/19/2018]
Earlier this year, Mongabay reported that there might be as few as 12 vaquita left in the world, down from 30 in 2017. The vaquita population has been driven to the brink of extinction by the illegal trade in swim bladders from a fish called totoaba, which are highly sought after by practitioners of traditional […]
Bolivian coca crops follow a planned highway through indigenous lands by Iván Paredes Tamayo [10/19/2018]
– Bolivia’s Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory hosts 33 hectares (82 acres) of illegal coca crops, despite being an ostensibly protected area.
– Indigenous leaders blame the encroachment on the coca growers who formally occupy part of the park and are steadily expanding beyond their territory and into indigenous lands.
– Central to the conflict is a planned highway that would cut through the park and has already splintered the indigenous community into camps opposing or supporting the project.
In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, October 19, 2018 by Mongabay.com [10/19/2018]
– 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.
Tropical deforestation now emits more CO2 than the EU by Rachel Fritts [10/18/2018]
– According to a new analysis, tropical forest loss currently accounts for 8 percent of the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. If tropical deforestation were a country, it would be the third-biggest emitter globally – ranking just below the U.S. and significantly higher than the EU.
– Between 2015 and 2017, forest-related emissions were 63 percent higher than the average for the previous 14 years, rising from 3 billion to 4.9 billion metric tons per year.
– Researchers say this increase can be traced to three main factors: A growing global middle class, a population boom in Sub-Saharan Africa, and fires and hurricanes that are becoming more intense and destructive due to climate change.
– The analysis finds tropical forests could potentially provide 23 percent of the climate change mitigation needed to keep warming under 2 degrees by 2030. But researchers say increased government intervention and funding are needed in order to more effectively protect them.
Jair Bolsonaro: looming threat to the Amazon and global climate? by Jenny Gonzales [10/18/2018]
Watching the wildlife return: Q&A with a rural Senegalese river monitor by Jennifer O’Mahony [10/15/2018]
Top Madagascar shrimp co. moved millions among tax-haven shell companies by Edward CarverWill Fitzgibbon [10/11/2018]