Newsletter 2018-11-29


The Bangladeshi tribe that’s guarding turtles, co-authoring research papers by Shreya Dasgupta [11/29/2018]

– A team of indigenous parabiologists in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, documenting their forest’s wildlife, have uncovered a surprisingly wide range of species.
– The parabiologists belong to the Mro ethnic group and work with the Creative Conservation Alliance co-founded by Shahriar Caesar Rahman and colleagues. They set up camera traps, monitor hunting and consumption of turtles and other wild animals in villages; act as protectors of hornbill nests; and serve as community leaders.
– The Mro parabiologists have become so crucial to the researchers’ work that they are regularly listed as formal co-authors of scientific papers.
– The Mro-CCA partnership has earned Rahman several laurels, including, most recently, the 2018 Whitley Award, dubbed the “green Oscars.”

Kenya: Bees help indigenous Yiaku defend and monitor their ancestral forest by Shadrack Kavilu [11/28/2018]

– The Yiaku, former hunter-gatherers who live in Mukogodo Forest in central Kenya, have kept bees since ancient times.
– They consider honey a valuable commodity and use it not only as food but in traditional rituals and medicine. Beekeeping is also part of the community’s customary system of forest management, helping the Yiaku defend the forest against intruders and monitor its health.
– The Yiaku’s use of beekeeping and other traditional practices to conserve their forest has earned them recognition and autonomy from the Kenyan government, which in 2008 granted the community full responsibility for managing the forest.
– This is the second part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Yiaku’s management of their ancestral forest.

The secret deal to destroy paradise by Malaysiakini, Mongabay, Tempo, The Gecko Project [11/28/2018]

– “The secret deal to destroy paradise” is the third installment of Indonesia for Sale, an in-depth series on the opaque deals underpinning Indonesia’s deforestation and land-rights crisis.
– The series is the product of 22 months of investigative reporting across the Southeast Asian country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
– “The secret deal to destroy paradise” is based on a cross-border collaboration between Tempo, Malaysiakini, Mongabay and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project.

Extinction by omission: Peru’s disappearing ancient shihuahuaco trees by Vanessa Romo [11/28/2018]

– Although an initial list of 705 species, including the shihuahuaco tree, valued in the hardwood timber trade, was published, the list has not yet been made official.
– Last year, a second workshop was carried out in which the shihuahuaco was classified as critically endangered, with a warning that it could be wiped out in at least two regions of Peru by 2025.
– Peru’s failure to update its own threatened-species list has also meant it can’t nominate the shihuahuaco for inclusion in the global list administered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

A forest of their own: The Yiaku as Kenya’s model forest stewards by Shadrack Kavilu [11/26/2018]

– The Yiaku people have inhabited and watched over Mukogodo Forest for centuries, as hunter-gatherers who have lately embraced herding. But it is only in the past decade that the Kenyan government has officially given them rights to the forest, as well as full responsibility for managing it.
– The forest has thrived under the Yiaku’s care, according to officials, a stark contrast to other forests in the country, which are being lost to illegal logging and agricultural encroachment.
– The Kenyan government, which has a decidedly mixed record when it comes to protecting both forests and the rights of forest-dwelling indigenous groups, is hailing the Yiaku’s approach as a model for other communities around the country. However, the Yiaku face a suite of challenges, including intensifying drought, threats of encroachment by neighboring groups, and their own dwindling connection to their traditional culture.
– This is the first part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Yiaku’s management of their ancestral forest.

Agroforestry supports food security and conservation in Papua New Guinea by Camilo Mejia Giraldo [11/26/2018]

– Papua New Guinea’s predominantly agricultural society practices agroforestry (the cropping of useful fruit and nut trees with understory vines, shrubs, and vegetables in a forest-mimicking system) widely.
– The practice produces a wide array of products for farmers, from betel nut to coconut and cacao, and is seen as a tool to address the country’s issues of rapid population growth and shrinking land resources.
– The diverse and predictable harvest provided by agroforestry also allows the community of Gildipasi the additional luxury of putting aside nearby areas of forest for conservation: 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) of forested areas and a marine zone have been protected in the last 18 years.
– Agroforestry also sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provides homes and forage for wild creatures here, ranging from cockatoos to bandicoots.


It’s time to strengthen the macroecology–conservation practice interface (commentary) by Giovanni Rapacciuolo [11/29/2018]
– Imagine being able to know how many individual organisms occur at any given time across areas as large as whole continents or even the entire globe. Though satellites may one day enable us to obtain this information directly, a sub-discipline of ecology — macroecology — currently represents the main tool to generate those estimates.
– With biodiversity under increasing pressure from human activities, macroecology can contribute greatly to the scientific evidence base for national and international decisions aimed at conserving biodiversity and ensuring a safe future for our planet.
– Yet, examples of macroecological research directly supporting conservation decisions remain rare. Why does a sizeable macroecology-conservation practice gap persist?
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

First wild Sumatran rhino in Borneo captured for breeding campaign by Basten Gokkon [11/29/2018]
– A female Sumatran rhinoceros has been captured in Indonesian Borneo and moved to a local sanctuary as part of an initiative to conserve the near-extinct species through captive breeding.
– A team of veterinarians and rhino experts is now caring for the rhino around the clock, and will seek to establish whether she is viable for breeding.
– Conservationists and government officials have welcomed news of the capture and rescue, a key step toward replenishing a species whose total population may be fewer than 100.
– The capture comes two years after another female rhino was trapped in the same district, only to die less than a month later.

New research quantifies ecosystem services provided by Amazon rainforest by [11/28/2018]
– New research published in the journal Nature Sustainability this month attempts to establish the monetary value of the ecosystem services provided by the world’s largest tropical forest, the Amazon.
– Researchers estimated that, in total, the Amazon contributes as much as $8.2 billion to Brazil’s economy on an annual basis. Some $3.3 billion of that total is generated from privately owned forest areas, they found, while areas under protection, sustainable use areas, and indigenous lands together contribute $3 billion.
– In the study, the researchers write that their findings can help inform tropical forest conservation measures, such as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes, that allow for sustainable use of forests — and that their findings show the importance of conserving the rainforest not only to protect its rich biodiversity but also to ensure the sustainability of agricultural production in Brazil.

Forestry reforms could fall short without PM’s backing in Ukraine by John C. Cannon [11/28/2018]
– Ukrainian’s prime minister called for “a massive crackdown” on his country’s timber sector after allegations of widespread corruption and illegality.
– The London-based NGO Earthsight first revealed the potential illegalities in a July 2018 report, and since then, independent investigations from WWF Ukraine and the EU’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange have corroborated Earthsight’s findings.
– A reform package that would allow for independent enforcement of Ukraine’s forestry laws and increased transparency has been approved by the country’s cabinet of ministers, but it still lacks the signature and public backing of Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.

Whale stress levels influenced by human activity, earwax study suggests by [11/28/2018]
– Using earwax collected from baleen (filter-feeding) whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, scientists have been able to map the animals’ stress levels in relation to human activities over 146 years.
– Between 1870 and 2016, the whales’ stress levels closely corresponded to activities such as industrial whaling, naval operations during World War II, and rising sea-surface temperature, the study found.
– The effects on the whales of climate change, increased fishing and krill harvests, and sea ice decline need to be studied further, the researchers say.

In pursuit of the rare bird that vanishes for half the year by Abhaya Raj Joshi [11/27/2018]
– Until recently, the habits and habitats of the Bengal florican remained a mystery: males were easily seen in their seasonally flooded grassland habitat during the breeding season but effectively disappeared for half the year.
– Researchers in India and Nepal combined field surveys, satellite telemetry and remote sensing to model the distribution and assess the critically endangered bird’s movements, survival and home ranges.
– After years of not knowing the birds’ non-breeding whereabouts, the study found that Bengal floricans leave their protected, seasonally flooded breeding areas in favor of unprotected low-intensity agricultural fields and other upland grasslands during their non-breeding season.

Audio: Bill McKibben on the climate movements that give him hope by Mike Gaworecki [11/27/2018]
– On this episode, Bill McKibben discusses the climate movements that could spur the world to action and help us avert the worst impacts of global warming.
– You might think that the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would be closely followed by Bill McKibben. But McKibben is not looking to the upcoming COP, taking place in Poland next week, to make much progress in the world’s attempts to combat climate change.
– McKibben joins the Mongabay Newscast to discuss why he thinks these international climate efforts have run out of steam, the climate movements that give him hope, and what’s at stake if we don’t find a way to check global warming.

A living planet begins with thriving forests (commentary) by Alistair Monument [11/27/2018]
– In my lifetime, global wildlife populations have seen an overall decline of more than half. That’s a statement of such enormity that it’s hard to process.
– The evidence comes from WWF’s recent Living Planet Report 2018, which shows that, on average, populations of mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles declined by 60 percent between 1970 and 2014. And the trends are still going in the wrong direction. My children could be reading about many of these species — such as orangutans and Amur leopards — in history books if conservation actions are not ramped up.
– We need a fundamental shift in the way we treat our one and only planet, a New Deal for Nature and People by 2020, to galvanize serious international action to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, including efforts to stop the degradation and destruction of our forests.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Women in small-island states exposed to high levels of mercury: study by Basten Gokkon [11/27/2018]
– Tests of hair samples from hundreds of women in small-island countries and territories found 75 percent had mercury levels high enough to cause fetal neurological damage.
– Nearly 60 percent of the women had mercury levels exceeding a threshold beyond which brain damage, IQ loss, and kidney and cardiovascular damage can occur.
– The report attributed the mercury pollution in fisheries in these regions to air emissions of the toxic heavy metal emanating from coal-fired power plants and artisanal gold mining.
– The researchers have called for a complete ban on the trade in and use of mercury, and urged a transition away from coal power to renewables.

Five wildlife conservationists held by Iran could face the death penalty by [11/27/2018]
– Four conservationists arrested for suspected espionage in Iran in January face charges of “sowing corruption on Earth.”
– The charges stem from the team’s use of camera traps to track the Asiatic cheetah, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guard contends that the accused were collecting information on the country’s missile program.
– If convicted, the conservationists could be sentenced to death.

This blue-throated hummingbird is new to science — but already endangered by Emily Clark [11/27/2018]
– From Ecuador’s southwestern highlands, ornithologists have described a new species of hummingbird, named blue-throated hillstar after its glittering ultramarine-blue chin and throat feathers.
– The blue-throated hillstar prefers grasslands on the Ecuadoran Andes, which is being rapidly lost to human activity, and researchers think the bird is likely already critically endangered.
– The researchers are now working with the local communities to protect the bird and its habitat.

Catalyzing action on sea litter in Brazil and beyond by [11/26/2018]
– The impact of plastic on the world’s oceans has been garnering a lot of attention of late.
– In Brazil, a key catalyst for raising awareness on the issue of sea little has been Menos 1 Lixo, an educational platform that runs online campaigns and organizes beach clean-ups to spur behavior change.
– Menos 1 Lixo was founded by Fe Cortez, a Brazilian TV presenter, social media expert, and environmental activist.
– Cortez is speaking December 1 at the Global Landscape Forum in Bonn, Germany.

Smallholder farmers defy cocoa’s production model in Brazil by Sarita Reed, Vinícius Fontana [11/26/2018]
– Filha do Combu, a family-run chocolate factory in the Amazon makes tree-to-table organic chocolate and is an exception to this model.
– Using an agroforestry system, smallholder farms like Filha do Combu can now produce their own chocolate, which allows them to have more autonomy and control over their quality of life.
– When cocoa is grown within an agroforestry system, it helps preserve the forest by reducing erosion and the use of pesticides, as well as preserving biodiversity.
– However, there is still a lack of support from the public sector for these smallholder farmers.

Chile fishers brace for fallout after massive mining port is approved by Michelle Carrere [11/26/2018]
– The iron ore export terminal was approved for an area rich in marine resources that artisanal fishing communities rely on, and is just 29 kilometers (18 miles) from the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and the Choros and Damas Islands Marine Reserve.
– The project’s approval went practically unnoticed at a time when attention was focused on a debate over the planned construction of another mining port, Dominga, just 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the south.
– Once completed, the Cruz Grande port will serve 75 ships a year carrying away 13.5 million tons of iron ore — less than 300 meters (1,000 feet) from fishing sites that hundreds of families rely on for their incomes.
– This section of the coast is an important whale migration corridor and is also home to 122 species of birds, among them the Humboldt penguin. Chile’s only colony of bottlenose dolphins also lives there, as do 68 species of fish and 180 species of microalgae and invertebrates.

Amazon deforestation at highest level in 10 years, says Brazil by [11/24/2018]
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon hit 7,900 square kilometers for the year ending July 31, 2018, reports Brazil’s national space research institute, INPE.
– The figure represents a 14% increase over last year and a 41% miss of the official deforestation target. Final figures will be released next spring.
– The increase had been widely expected due to economic and political conditions in Brazil, as well as the American trade war that has increased the profitability of Brazilian agricultural products.
– Scientists warn that ongoing destruction of the Amazon could have dire economic impacts across South America.

Filling in the gaps: Managing endangered species on the high seas by Marianne Messina [11/23/2018]
– Information about how marine animals move through the oceans has become vitally important as efforts progress to create a global plan for securing sustainable fish stocks in the high seas. Researchers are integrating new technologies and applying new approaches to data sets to find answers.
– A recent examination of the long-term Tagging of Pelagic Predators (TOPP) data set has mapped the travel patterns of marine predators — certain whale, turtle, tuna, shark, and seabird species — through their life cycles.
– The study showed that many of these predators spend over half their time on the high seas, supporting the need for global strategies to protect and monitor the high seas. Vessel identification systems paired with several emerging satellite technologies can help.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, November 23, 2018 by [11/23/2018]
– 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: Jail time for jaguar traffickers by [11/23/2018]
The top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, looked at jail sentences for wildlife traffickers in Bolivia; conserving river dolphins in Venezuela and culling lionfish in Colombia; and shark bycatch in Chile. Jaguar-tooth traffickers get up to four years’ prison in Bolivia A Bolivian court has set a legal precedent by sentencing traffickers in […]

Map pinpoints ‘last chance’ locations of endangered species by John C. Cannon, Shreya Dasgupta [11/23/2018]
– A new assessment updates the last known ranges for nearly 1,500 species of animals and plants at 853 locations around the world.
– The three-year effort is aimed at helping scientists, governments and conservationists identify the threats that could lead to the extinction of these species and find ways to address them.
– Governments are already using this information to identify target areas for conservation to protect the last remaining habitats of threatened species.
– Nearly half of the sites identified lack formal protection, despite many of them having been flagged as important more than a decade ago.

Turtles exposed to record levels of microplastics on Mediterranean beaches by Nora Ward [11/23/2018]
– Beaches in northern Cyprus have the second highest recorded amount of microplastics among beaches studied across the world, a new study has found.
– The Cyprus beaches are crucial nesting sites for green and loggerhead sea turtles, and high levels of microplastics in their nesting sites could pose a significant threat to turtle hatching success, researchers say.
– The current magnitude of microplastic contamination is likely underestimated, the researchers warn.

Climate change may turn Amazon peatlands from carbon sinks to sources by Morgan Erickson-Davis [11/22/2018]
– A new study looked at peat in Peru’s Pastaza-Marañon foreland basin (PMFB) to see how carbon accumulation there responded to past changes in temperature and precipitation. They then used that information to predict how the peatland will respond to future climate conditions.
– It finds that under expected future climate conditions, the PMFB peatland may lose more carbon than it sequesters, making it a carbon source instead of a sink.
– In total, the study estimates that PMFB may release 500 million tons of carbon by the end of the century – roughly equivalent to 5 percent of the annual fossil-fuel emissions of the entire world.

Stop importing illegal timber, PNG activists tell China at APEC Summit by John C. Cannon [11/22/2018]
– Environmental and community groups from Papua New Guinea issued a letter for Chinese President Xi Jinping during the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the capital, Port Moresby.
– In the letter, the authors asked that China, the destination for the bulk of PNG’s timber exports, regulate imports to discourage the illegality that plagues PNG’s forestry sector.
– They highlight the negative effects that rampant logging has had on the country’s ecosystems and forest-dependent communities.

Two iconic birds make a striking comeback, but much work remains by Shreya Dasgupta [11/22/2018]
– BirdLife International has revised the information for the conservation status of more than 2,300 bird species this year.
– Overall, 31 species of birds were moved to lower threat categories, while 58 species were uplisted to higher threat categories.
– The pink pigeon, which has been downlisted to vulnerable from endangered, and the northern bald ibis, which has been downlisted to endangered from critically endangered, have shown some of the most dramatic improvements.

‘Punished’: Bolivian communities opposed to highway cry foul over neglect by Iván Paredes Tamayo [11/22/2018]
– Indigenous leaders from 14 villages settled within the TIPNIS nature reserve say that government programs and public works have not reached their areas because they are opposed to a planned highway running through the park.
– The inhabitants of Trinidadcito complain that the health post is not used because there’s no resident doctor and that their school doesn’t have walls.
– In the community of Nueva Galilea, an indigenous leader says a public pool and a school that the government claims to have built are among the “phantom” public works projects that were paid for but never built.


Tax havens and Brazilian Amazon deforestation linked: study by Giovanni Ortolani [11/21/2018]
Fracking threatens Aboriginal land rights in Western Australia by Grace Dungey and Nick Rodway [11/21/2018]
Purus-Madeira: the Amazon arc of deforestation marches north by Gustavo Faleiros and Marcio Isensee e Sá [11/20/2018]
Bolsonaro pledges government shakeup, deregulation, Amazon development by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [11/19/2018]
RSPO adopts total ban on deforestation under sweeping new standards by Hans Nicholas Jong [11/16/2018]