Newsletter 2018-12-13


From a new bird to a new community reserve: India’s tribe sets example by Shreya Dasgupta [12/13/2018]

– In 2006, the discovery of the Bugun liocichla, a new species of bird, near Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, India, brought the area’s small tribe of Buguns into the international spotlight. It prompted both a community bird ecotourism business, and a series of small conservation actions to protect the forest that harbors the rare bird.
– In 2013, the idea to protect the Bugun liocichla’s home took a more definitive shape, culminating in a community reserve. The reserve was formally created in 2017 after several rounds of discussions between the Buguns, researchers working in the area, and the local forest department.
– Today, the community reserve is more effectively patrolled by a Bugun team than the sanctuary it abuts.
– A few teething troubles remain to be worked out, but the researchers hope to streamline the running of the reserve in the coming years, so that the community takes center stage in the reserve’s management, while others step back.

‘We see its value’: Ugandan communities benefiting from agroforestry by Deusdedit Ruhangariyo [12/11/2018]

– Farming communities in the western Ugandan highlands of Butanda have for generations practiced agroforestry, intercropping fruit, grains and vegetables with medicinal plants, trees and grasses on their land.
– The practice allows them to harvest food throughout the year, both for sustenance and to sell, provides them with timber and other resources, and prevents soil erosion while boosting water conservation.
– A local NGO is working to promote the practice to other communities in the region, including to cattle farmers, who have often overlooked the importance of trees in providing shade and protection for their herds.
– Experts say there’s much to learn from the indigenous communities that have long practiced some form of agroforestry, and have stressed the importance of heeding this valuable store of knowledge.

‘Light for everyone’: Indigenous youth mount a solar-powered resistance by Ethan Bien [12/10/2018]

– Among the cloud forests of northern Puebla, Mexico, an indigenous cooperative is training its youth to install solar panels.
– The initiative was born of the cooperative’s contentious fight with the federal and local government over plans to build an electricity substation that the co-op members believed would only benefit industry, not local communities.
– The panels are part of a plan hatched by these mountain communities to unhook from Mexico’s federal power company, provide their youth with meaningful employment, and reclaim control of their land and resources.
– The initiative appears to be well aligned with the renewable-energy plans of Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

‘There are no laws’: Cattle, drugs, corruption destroying Honduras UNESCO site by Taran Volckhausen [12/06/2018]

– Poverty and political violence are driving Hondurans into Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage site holding some of the region’s largest tracts of old growth rainforest.
– Local conservation and agroforestry organizations say the settlers are contributing to deforestation in the reserve. However, research indicates illegal ranching is the biggest deforestation driver in the area.
– Locals say many illegal cattle ranchers maintain ties to the drug business. They claim government corruption and apathy are also contributing to the situation.
– An investigation found criminal groups are able to operate with impunity in Honduras because of an ineffective justice system and corrupt security forces.


A Zambian sanctuary finds caring for chimps is a lifetime commitment by Humphrey Nkonde [12/13/2018]
– Home to more than 130 apes, Zambia’s Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage is one of the world’s oldest and largest chimpanzee sanctuaries.
– Chimpanzees can live for 50 years or more, so each new animal the center takes in will require decades of care and financial support.
– With an ever-growing number of chimps in need of a home, simply financing daily operations is a challenge for this award-winning facility.

COP24: Tropical deforestation risks undermining 1.5-degree warming limit by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/13/2018]
– Maintaining forests is a key tactic in the fight against catastrophic climate change, one that could help significantly reduce global carbon dioxide emissions.
– But of the six countries that account for the greatest expanses of tropical rainforest, only Indonesia is on track to reduce its current rate of deforestation by 2030. The five others — Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Peru and Myanmar — look set to maintain or even increase their deforestation rates.
– The findings are based on an analysis of each country’s climate action pledges within their National Determined Commitments, or NDCs.
– Researchers say these countries can do more to both tamp down deforestation and boost their emissions reduction targets.

Ethiopia: Khat farming threatens food security, biodiversity, women, and agroforestry by Tesfa-Alem Tekle [12/12/2018]
– Southern Ethiopia has long been a stronghold of an ecologically sound version of agriculture, agroforestry, which yields food and medicine crops year round while benefiting a diversity of wild species.
– In recent decades farmers have moved toward growing only khat, a drug banned in most countries but still legal in Ethiopia and neighboring countries, on their small farms.
– The transition has led to greater farmer incomes but also declines in food security, biodiversity, soil health, and women’s empowerment.
– Researchers and activists are advocating for returning such farms at least to modified agroforestry systems of khat intercropped with food crops in the event of a massive crop failure or outright ban of the drug.

Birds on Broadway: A Q&A with the Audubon Mural Project’s Avi Gitler by Nandini Dias Velho [12/12/2018]
– A public art project is bringing new bird life to uptown Manhattan in John James Audubon’s old neighborhood in New York City.
– The Audubon Mural Project is an ongoing collaboration between the National Audobon Society and Gitler &____ Gallery. So far, 80 murals of 101 bird species have been painted, spanning 133rd to 165th street on Broadway. The project will eventually end at 193rd street, at the end of Audubon Avenue.
– In this Q&A, Avi Gitler, co-producer of the Audubon Mural Project and founder of Gitler &____ Gallery, talks about the impetus for the public art project, which focuses on birds threatened by climate change, how he has enlisted the participating artists, and what he hopes public art about climate change-threatened birds can achieve.

Guatemala: An indigenous community rejects, then accepts, a protected area by Anna-Catherine Brigida [12/12/2018]
– When the Guatemalan government designated the Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area in 2005, the local people said it never properly contacted or consulted the indigenous Q’eqchi’ living in the area.
– The Q’eqchi’ initially opposed the designation, and vociferously, for fear it would infringe on their rights to the land.
– Eventually, the government gave them a role managing the zone.
– Now, more than a decade after the Río Sarstún Multiple Use Area came into being, the relationship between the Guatemalan government and local communities is settling into a symbiotic groove, and conservation initiatives are having a noticeable effect on the forests and wildlife.

Feed a fishery, starve a seabird by [12/12/2018]
– Industrial fisheries increased their share of fish taken by 10 percent, while seabirds’ take dropped by nearly 20 percent, between 1970-1989 and 1990-2010, new research has found.
– The study mapped out 40 years of data comparing the takes of seabirds and fisheries during that timeframe.
– Scientists say that seabirds, which also face threats from pollution, plastic garbage and possible entanglements, could also face starvation as a result of the competition with large-scale fisheries for the same resource.

Scientists team up with indigenous, faithful to fight for forests by Andrew J. Wight [12/11/2018]
– Colombia’s deforestation rate has been accelerating since the country’s peace accord in 2016, which formally ended a more than 50-year civil conflict.
– The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative in Colombia was launched in November to bring together scientists, development experts, indigenous peoples and religious leaders.
– The aim is to use their combined expertise to reduce deforestation via public policy and grassroots action.
– The initiative hopes to expand its activities in Peru, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Audio: The true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtle hatchlings survived New York City by Mike Gaworecki [12/11/2018]
– On this episode, the true story of how 96 critically endangered sea turtles survived a New York City beach — with a little help from some dedicated conservationists.
– This past summer, beachgoers in New York City spotted a nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle on West Beach, which is on National Park Service land.
– Luckily, two of those beachgoers had the presence of mind to call the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation’s 24-hour hotline to report the nesting turtle — which very likely saved the lives of 96 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle hatchlings.

Brazilian regulators deny French oil giant Total license to drill near Amazon Reef by [12/11/2018]
– Brazil’s environmental regulatory agency, Ibama, announced last Friday that it was denying French oil company Total license to drill for oil near the Amazon Reef.
– Greenpeace announced earlier this year that a team of scientists onboard one of the environmental group’s ships had documented a reef formation under one of Total’s drilling blocks, contradicting Total’s Environmental Impact Assessment, which stated that the closest reef formation was 8 kilometers away.
– In a statement about the rejection of the environmental licenses Total was seeking in order to begin drilling in the Foz do Amazonas Basin, Ibama president Suely Araújo said that there were “deep uncertainties related to the Individual Emergency Plan (PEI) of the enterprise, aggravated by the possibility of eventual oil leakage affecting the biogenic reefs present in the region and marine biodiversity more broadly.”

A monitoring network in the Amazon captures a flood of data by Elizabeth Oliveira [12/11/2018]
– Cameras and microphones are capturing images and sounds of the world’s largest rainforest to monitor the Amazon’s species and environmental dynamics in an unprecedented way.
– The Providence Project’s series of networked sensors is aimed at complementing remote-sensing data on forest cover change by revealing ecological interactions beneath the forest canopy.
– Capable of continuously recording, processing and transmitting information to a database in real time, this high-tech experiment involves research institutions from three countries and the skills of biologists, engineers, computer scientists and other experts.
– The monitoring system will connect to a website to disseminate the forest biodiversity data interactively, which the researchers hope will contribute to more effective biodiversity conservation strategies.

COP24: Europe looks to fill the leadership void left by the U.S. by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/11/2018]
– The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement of the United States — the world’s second-biggest CO2 emitter and also its main source of climate funding — has left the global community without a clear leader on climate action.
– The European Union has emerged as a potential successor, following the publication of proposal that aims to see the bloc go carbon-neutral by 2050.
– But observers say the EU’s own targets need to be more aggressive, while the union’s chief says other countries will also need to step up their own climate goals.
– There are also concerns that the EU’s 2050 carbon-neutral plan relies heavily on so-called renewable gas, a source of methane — a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

COP24: Trumpers tout clean coal; protesters call it ‘climate suicide’ by Justin Catanoso [12/11/2018]
– As in 2017, the Trump administration delegation was again at COP, seriously praising coal as a climate solution in a public presentation Monday – but behind the scenes the U.S. delegation is reportedly less incendiary and more cooperative. The Polish government is also heavily promoting the dirtiest of fossil fuels at the two-week-long Katowice event.
– But protestors, subnationals and NGOs are having none of it. COP24 participants treated the Trump administration coal public presentation with outrage, as a freakish sideshow and a joke. They used the event to send the message that decarbonization is the only way forward – as a means of curbing climate change, while boosting local economies and creating jobs.
– “It’s ludicrous for Trump officials to claim that they want to clean up fossil fuels, while dismantling standards that would do just that,” said Dan Lashof, director, World Resources Institute US.
– “More and more companies are committing to renewable energy, reducing emissions, and striving for a just [energy] transition that protects the wellbeing of all workers,” said Aron Cramer, CEO of BSR, a sustainability consulting firm in San Francisco.

New species of giant salamander described after decades of mystery by [12/11/2018]
– Scientists have described a new species of giant salamander that grows up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) long and is a type of siren, a group of eel-like salamanders that have only front limbs, and large, frilled gills behind their heads.
– The formal description of the species, named the reticulated siren, comes after decades of surveys and exploration.
– The researchers do not have a complete understanding of the reticulated siren yet, but given that much of its habitat lies in wetlands within the endangered longleaf pine ecosystem, the species is of conservation concern, they say.

In eastern Indonesia, a bird-trafficking hotspot flies under the radar by Ian Morse [12/11/2018]
– Indonesia, one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, is a major hub of the illegal bird trade. Demand comes from both inside and outside its borders.
– Aru, a remote archipelago near the giant island of New Guinea, is a major supplier of cockatoos and other exotic birds.
– The relevant government agency is too understaffed to keep up with traffickers, officials say.

Belo Monte dam Xingu River Management Plan violates human rights: finding by Max Nathanson [12/10/2018]
– Construction on the Belo Monte mega-dam, on the Xingu River in Pará state in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, began in 2011. Since then, the giant infrastructure project has met with a near constant flood of contentious protests from indigenous and traditional communities, and from the international environmental community.
– Norte Energia, the consortium that built and operates the troubled project, has been fined or seen its operating license withdrawn by the Brazilian government for a variety of socio-environmental violations, including fish kills and the failure to provide compensation promised at the start of the project to local people and the nearby city of Altamira.
– Local communities, with legal assistance from international civil society organizations, filed a motion to the UN Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asking for the Belo Monte dam project to be officially labeled a Violation of Human Rights. In November, the Commission’s preliminary conclusions found repeated violations.
– Indigenous communities “suffer from frequent incidents of violence and lack of attention from public services, in addition to increased difficulties and obstacles surrounding claims to their lands,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola Noguera, the IACHR Rapporteur for Brazil. Norte Energia has denied the charges.

Ground-feeding birds in Southeast Asia may be going extinct outside protected areas by Priyanka Runwal [12/10/2018]
– Quails, partridges and pheasants, together called galliforms, are becoming increasingly restricted to protected areas in Southeast Asia.
– Five species of galliforms, including three endemics, might no longer survive outside protected areas, a new study predicts.
– Many local extinctions have occurred in Sumatra, where habitat loss appears more pronounced.
– Researchers find that protected areas are becoming increasingly isolated and are not integrated into the wider landscape.

COP24: US, Russia, Saudis downplay IPCC report in display of disunity by Justin Catanoso [12/10/2018]
– The U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait rejected language strongly affirming the severity of global warming at the COP24 summit in Poland on Saturday night. The United States is in the process of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, while Russia has failed so far to ratify the accord.
– Some fear this could signal further obstruction this week by major oil producing nations as national leaders arrive at COP24 to wrestle with resolving a host of difficult issues, including an upping of Paris carbon-reduction pledges, completion of the Paris Rulebook measuring energy production, transportation, agriculture, and deforestation to curb climate change.
– Also, to be worked out, transparency rules on emissions, and plans for wealthy nations to help support poor nations adapt to climate damage. This daunting agenda isn’t helped by the leadership void created when the U.S. pulled back from the Paris agreement after Democrat Barack Obama was replaced as president by Republican Donald Trump.
– At COP24, Tom Steyer, a prominent U.S. environmental activist, said that “nothing short of transformational politics” in the United States will get international climate action back on track. He sees U.S. leadership as essential to preventing the worst impacts of global warming. But such a sea change won’t likely come until after the 2020 presidential election.

Pesticides could be painting black howler monkeys yellow in Costa Rica by [12/10/2018]
– Mantled howler monkeys in Costa Rica are starting to appear with patches of yellow fur on their usually black coats.
– A team of scientists believes that the dappled monkeys are consuming sulfur-containing pesticides along with the leaves they eat.
– Sulfur from the pesticide ends up in the monkeys’ pigmentation, resulting in splashes of yellow on their coats.

COP24: Human rights concerns cast a shadow over U.N. climate summit by Hans Nicholas Jong [12/10/2018]
– A set of guidelines for putting the landmark Paris Climate Agreement into action has omitted references to human rights, a move that activists blame on the U.S. delegation at the ongoing climate summit in Katowice, Poland.
– A top U.N. official and activists have denounced the omission, warning that no meaningful climate action can be taken without due reference to and respect for human rights, particularly those of indigenous peoples.
– The Katowice talks have also been marred by reports that more than a dozen activists have either been denied entry into or deported from Poland, prompting concerns about who is allowed a voice at the discussions.

Graphic video reveals brutality of pangolin poaching in northeast India by [12/07/2018]
– Hunters in India are helping supply the illegal pangolin trade, and new research that probes their motivations might point to measures that can reduce the poaching and sale of the species known as “the world’s most trafficked mammal.”
– An undercover video shot during the course of the research could prove to be a deterrent in and of itself, as it shows just how vicious and inhumane the pangolin trade can be.
– Interventions to reduce poverty and promote alternative livelihoods are certainly necessary, the researchers write in the study, but they argue that these measures alone would likely be ineffective in reducing pangolin hunting.

Secondary forests in Costa Rica are re-cleared within decades by Rodrigo Pérez Ortega [12/07/2018]
– Secondary forests in Costa Rica, which are important for the country’s reforestation and climate change goals, don’t last long enough to recover previously lost biomass and biodiversity, a new study shows.
– Within 20 years, half of the secondary forest in a region of Coto Brus was cleared. After 54 years, 85 percent of these young forests were gone. The results contradict national reports of increasing forest coverage.
– Costa Rica should shift from its current commitment to restore 1 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 to longer-term commitments to ensure the persistence of young forests, researchers propose.

Latam Eco Review: Whale attacks, palm oil woes, and hope for vaquitas by [12/07/2018]
Peruvian palm oil, orca attacks on humpback whales, and mining in an Amazon national park are among the recent top stories from Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language service. Orcas attack young humpbacks migrating north For 30 years, Juan Capella and five other researchers analyzed thousands of photos of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) off Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, […]

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, December 7, 2018 by [12/07/2018]
– 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 forest conservation in the Bolsonaro era (commentary) by Dan NepstadJoão ShimadaOswaldo Carvalho Jr. [12/06/2018]
– Brazil’s President-elect represents a major threat to Brazil’s legacy of forest conservation and to the prospects of preventing extremely dangerous climate change. This legacy was achieved largely through command-and-control measures that were supported by consistently pro-environment presidents over the last three decades; these measures are now vulnerable to the abrupt decline in environmental political will.
– A strategy to avoid major forest conservation setbacks and achieve new wins is possible under Bolsonaro if Brazil’s farmers and the broader society are convinced that they will be worse off if this legacy is dismantled.
– Instead of escalating antagonism between conservation leaders and medium- to large-scale farmers and agribusinesses, dialogues and collaborations are urgently needed to deliver positive incentives to conservation-minded producers.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.


Amazon indigenous groups and truckers ally to oppose Brazil’s Grainrail by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres [12/06/2018]
For Ugandan villagers, tradition and tourism help keep the peace with gorillas by Deusdedit Ruhangariyo [12/05/2018]
Agroforestry ‘home gardens’ build community resilience in southern Ethiopia by Tesfa-Alem Tekle [12/04/2018]
Santo Antônio mega-dam on Brazil’s Madeira River disrupts local lives by Sonya Cunningham [12/03/2018]
COP24: World’s nations gather to grapple with looming climate disaster by Justin Catanoso [12/03/2018]
Photos: Indian tribe revives heirloom seeds for health and climate security by Sonali Prasad [11/30/2018]
For Kenya’s Yiaku, medicinal herbs are their forest’s blessing and curse by Shadrack Kavilu [11/30/2018]