Newsletter 2019-02-28


It pays, but does it stay? Hunting in Namibia’s community conservation system by John Grobler [02/26/2019]

– Namibia has designated about 20 percent of its area as 82 communal conservancies run by local communities. Of these, about two-thirds have hunting rights. They retain a portion of their allocated quota to hunt for food for the local community, and sell a portion to professional hunters, who in turn bring in trophy hunters.
– In theory, it’s a win-win: income and development opportunities for impoverished local people that give them a reason to preserve their wildlife, while using hunting as a tool to keep the species in balance.
– A visit to the system’s first and most successful conservancy, Nyae Nyae in remote northeastern Namibia, raises questions about how well the system is currently working for either the local San community or their wildlife.

Fears of a dire precedent as Brazil seeks results-based REDD+ payment by Sarah Sax [02/25/2019]

– Critics worry that Brazil’s reference level for deforestation and the lack of guarantee that the carbon will stay locked up could set an unsustainable precedent for future payments.
– The forest reference levels currently used in the proposal are high enough that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon could double and Brazil would still qualify for “results-based” payments.

Stunting, loss of earning potential linked to Indonesia’s 1997 wildfires by Lauren Crothers [02/22/2019]

– Fires raged out of control in Indonesia in 1997, spreading across 110,000 square kilometers (42,500 square miles) of forest.
– Researchers have found that people who were prenatal or 6 months old at the time did not grow to the expected average height by the time they were 17.
– Relative height has been found to have an impact on a person’s ability to earn an income, providing a new glimpse into the intergenerational cost of exposure to fire and haze.


Indigenous-made film explores traditional textile making in the Ecuadorian Amazon by Taran Volckhausen [02/28/2019]
– Yanda Montahuano, a filmmaker from the Sápara indigenous people in Ecuador’s Amazon region, has just released a short documentary film to share how his culture makes clothes from a tree-based fabric.
– The Sápara people are fighting to keep oil drilling out of their territory.
– With the film, Manthanhuano hopes to preserve and return millenary cultural knowledge for the younger generations and demonstrate to the world that the Sápara indigenous people remain alive in the Amazon rainforest.

Vaquita still doomed without further disruption of totoaba cartels (commentary) by Andrea Crosta [02/28/2019]
– According to our sources on the ground in Baja California, recent arrests of totoaba traffickers in China and pressure on the Chinese traders in Mexico are beginning to have an effect on the illegal totoaba supply chain.
– This is the most important news for the vaquita in years and a result of — and proof that — intelligence activities and law enforcement can disrupt these criminal enterprises and significantly slow their illegal operations. Intelligence operations produce results.
– Without these efforts aimed at direct disruption of the supply chain itself and the operations of the wildlife crime networks involved, there is absolutely no chance to win the war in the Sea of Cortez, save the vaquita, and save the rest of the region’s extraordinary marine life.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Study finds people apt to shrug off extreme weather as normal by [02/28/2019]
– A new study published Feb. 25 that tracked Twitter posts on weather-related topics has found that people are quick to accept unusual weather as normal.
– The researchers calculated that we humans set our baseline for what we consider normal weather from what we’ve experienced in just the past two to eight years.
– The authors of the study write that, as people get used to wilder swings in temperature and other weather patterns, they might be reticent to find ways to deal with climate change or even see it as a problem.

Sri Lanka scientist blames industry as award for herbicide research is axed by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [02/28/2019]
– Two Sri Lankan scientists who were to receive a prestigious award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) were informed that their selection was placed “under review,” two days after they were announced as the recipients.
– Sarath Gunatilake and Channa Jayasumana have long made the case that the chemical glyphosate, perhaps best known as the main ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, is responsible for chronic kidney disease among agricultural communities.
– Jayasumana says the award was withdrawn due to corporate pressure from the agrochemical lobby; an AAAS official said concerns had been raised about the scientists’ findings and a peer review process would be carried out to evaluate them.

For the famed chimps of Gombe, human encroachment takes a toll by Anthony Langat [02/28/2019]
– The chimpanzee population in Gombe National Park in Tanzania has declined significantly in recent years.
– Among other factors, loss of suitable habitats due to charcoal production and smallholder agriculture has contributed to this drop.
– The Jane Goodall Institute, domiciled in Gombe, is now working with the communities living near the park to address these issues.

Abandoned plantations in forested areas may not recover fully: Study by Shreya Dasgupta [02/27/2019]
– In a eucalyptus plantation in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in southern India, abandoned for nearly 40 years and allowed to regenerate, researchers found that the number of tree species had increased since 2005, now making it similar that of the adjacent primary forest.
– But the kinds of trees growing in the plantation were very different from those in the primary forest, suggesting that the latter provide ecosystem benefits, like greater carbon storage, that the plantation forests do not.
– While plantation forests can provide benefits, such as serving as a corridor connecting primary forests, they are not a substitute for intact old-growth forests, the researchers conclude.

We know why zebras got their stripes, but how do they work? by [02/27/2019]
– Scientists have long wondered why zebras wear striped coats and a 2014 study might have finally supplied the answer: biting flies like glossinids (tsetse flies) and tabanids (horseflies) appear to be the “evolutionary driver” of the zebra’s stripes.
– Finding the answer to how zebras got their stripes led to another question: How exactly do stripes help zebras avoid biting insects?
– Tim Caro, a professor of wildlife biology at the University of California, Davis in the US, and Martin How, a researcher at the University of Bristol in the UK, led a new study to examine how stripes might deter biting flies as they attempt to land on zebras.

Nepal, in a bid to create a new rhino population, pauses to take stock by Abhaya Raj Joshi [02/27/2019]
– Efforts to establish a population of Indian rhinos in Nepal’s Bardia National Park have a checkered history.
– The park received 87 rhinos from Chitwan National Park between 1986 and 2003, a process that continued even as Bardia was buffeted by armed conflict. Only 22 of those rhinos survived.
– Two years ago, Bardia began receiving rhinos again, although so far just eight of a planned 25 have been relocated. Two of them have since died.

New study finds young forests have a huge climate impact by Morgan Erickson-Davis [02/26/2019]
– A recent study finds young forests sequester more carbon per year than old-growth forests. In total, it estimates that intact, old-growth forests sequestered 950 million to 1.11 billion metric tons of carbon per year while younger forests – those that have been growing less than 140 years – stored between 1.17 and 1.66 billion metric tons per year.
– The study also estimates that the world’s regenerating forests stand to uptake a further 50 billion metric tons of carbon as they grow.
– These findings upend conventional wisdom that old-growth tropical rainforests are the planet’s biggest carbon sinks.
– The authors say their research could be used to improve forest management and help mitigate climate change.

Financiers to discuss hydropower as climate-change mitigation, but dams are not ‘clean energy’ (commentary) by Philip M. Fearnside [02/26/2019]
– Nature, the world’s highest-impact scientific journal, published a comment on February 20 by an advisor to the Climate Bonds initiative, who claimed that dams are good for the climate and should be given priority for subsidies when a group of 500 global financiers who participate in the initiative meets in London on March 5.
– The Nature comment is highly misleading, especially for dams in tropical areas where much of the future hydroelectric development is expected to occur. In addition to having a substantial impact on global warming during the narrow time window we have to contain climate change, virtually all planned dams would be built anyway for reasons unrelated to climate mitigation. Granting subsidies with “green” money drains funds away from alternatives with real climate benefits.
– Tropical dams have social and environmental impacts that dwarf those of other energy alternatives. Global financiers should better inform themselves about these impacts and the perverse effects of hydropower as climate-change mitigation.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Blue whales remember best times and places to find prey by [02/26/2019]
– A new study demonstrates that blue whales in the northern Pacific Ocean use their memories, instead of cues in the environment, to guide them to the best feeding spots.
– The researchers used 10 years of data to discern the movements of 60 blue whales.
– They compared the whales’ locations with spots with high concentrations of prey over the same period.
– The whales’ reliance on memory could make them vulnerable to changes in the ocean brought about by climate change.

Is there another Javan Rhino habitat as ideal as Ujung Kulon? (Commentary) by Haerudin R. Sadjudin [02/26/2019]
– Ujung Kulon National Park is the last habitat of the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus), a critically endangered species.
– A recent tsunami increased calls for a new habitat to be found in which to establish a second population.
– Finding an ideal habitats elsewhere is important, but not as easy as some experts and conservationists think.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

New map shows every forest matters in helping save the Javan leopard by Gianluca Cerullo [02/26/2019]
– A new study outlines where Javan leopards live – and where suitable habitat remains on the densely inhabited island.
– National parks remain the most stable habitat for the critically endangered species, but the study finds that half its potential habitat is in unprotected areas.
– Partnering with companies and local people is necessary to keep Java’s last big cat from going extinct.

The odor side of otters: Tech reveals species’ adaptations to human activity by Visvak P. [02/25/2019]
– Recent studies of an elusive otter species living in the highly modified mangroves and reclaimed lands on the coast of Goa, India offer new insights into otter behavior that could inform future conservation efforts.
– Researchers have studied these adaptable otters with camera traps, ground GPS surveys, and satellite images; they’re now testing drone photogrammetry to improve the accuracy of their habitat mapping.
– Using data gathered over a period of time, the researchers aim to pinpoint changes in the landscape and, in combination with the behavioral data gathered by the camera traps, understand how otters are reacting to these changes.

Will Malaysia become Southeast Asia’s clean energy leader? (commentary) by Christine Milne [02/25/2019]
– Malaysia sits at a unique crossroads. Last year’s election was a wake-up call for the powers that be, with more than 60 years of entrenched power coming to an unexpected and abrupt end. While much of our region, Australia included, slips further into the pockets of fossil fuel interests, Malaysia has the opportunity to position itself as Southeast Asia’s clean energy and renewable industries leader.
– Australia now has the highest proportion of households with PV systems on their roof of any country in the world, in spite of the current Government’s hopeless commitment to fossil fuels. The Australian legislation of 2012 is a template for other countries intent on responding to the climate crisis.
– Malaysia can be a champion for our region. Where it chooses to sit on this spectrum between leader and follower in the new geopolitical relationships evolving from the transition to renewable energy is yet to be seen, but the opportunity to lead in the transformation in South-East Asia is wide open.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Allegation of forged signature casts shadow over China-backed dam in Sumatra by Hans Nicholas Jong [02/25/2019]
– A researcher has claimed that his signature was forged in a document used to obtain a permit for a Chinese-backed $1.6 billion hydropower project in Indonesia.
– If his claim is proven true, the project’s environmental permit would presumably be rendered invalid, raising questions about the project’s future.
– Environmentalists say the cancellation of the project is crucial for the future survival of the Tapanuli orangutan, a newly described great ape that is already at risk of extinction due to habitat fragmentation.

World’s largest bee filmed alive for the first time in Indonesia by [02/25/2019]
– The world’s largest known bee, the Wallace’s giant bee, has been photographed and filmed in Indonesia’s North Maluku archipelago alive for the first time.
– Wallace’s giant bee is listed as data deficient on the IUCN Red List and researchers know very little about the species.
– But last year, researchers discovered listings of Wallace’s giant bee specimens up for auction on eBay. One specimen sold for $9,100, and another for $4,150.
– Given that collectors already know that the bee is out there, researchers hope that the publicity of the bee will renew both research efforts to understand the bee’s life history better, as well as government efforts to protect the species.

AI and public data identifies fishing behavior to protect hungry seabirds by Marianne Messina [02/22/2019]
– In an effort to reduce albatross deaths as bycatch of longline fishing, Global Fishing Watch (GFW) and Birdlife International researchers are using machine learning models to determine if fishing vessels are setting their lines at night, a recommended technique to avoid accidentally killing albatrosses.
– Mapping fishing vessel behavior involved training new models to recognize when a long-line ship is setting its line.
– This new application broadens the range of GFW’s toolkit to combine machine learning and public data to protect marine wildlife and better manage fisheries.
– Results of the new algorithm formed the basis of a January 2019 regulatory decision by the South Pacific Regional Management Organization.

Latam Eco Review: Icon status for jaguars and fears over lithium mining by [02/22/2019]
The environmental impact of the global demand for lithium and more jaguar protection in South America, plus profiles of five pioneering women in conservation science, and a newly discovered tree frog in Ecuador — these are among the recent top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam. Peru wants jaguar named Latin America’s flagship animal […]

Forest soils take longer to recover from fires and logging than previously thought by Mike Gaworecki [02/22/2019]
– Australian National University’s Elle Bowd led a research team that collected 729 soil cores from 81 sites in the mountain ash forests of southeast Australia. The sampling sites had been subjected to nine different types of disturbances, from wildfires to clearcutting and post-fire salvage logging, at different frequencies in the past.
– The team used the soil samples to look at 22 different soil measures, including key soil nutrients like nitrate, organic carbon, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur, and how they’d been impacted by disturbances that occurred 8, 34, 78, and 167 years ago.
– Bowd said the team’s findings show that forest soils recover from disturbances slowly over many years — up to 80 years following a wildfire and as many as 30 years after logging, much longer than previously thought.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, February 22, 2019 by [02/22/2019]
– 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.
– Mongabay does not vet the news sources below, nor does the inclusion of a story on this list imply an endorsement of its content.

Research into chimp health benefits human, ecosystem well-being too by Giovanni Ortolani [02/22/2019]
– Decades of research at Tanzania’s Gombe National Park have identified two major threats facing the park’s chimpanzees: habitat loss and disease.
– The two factors are linked, with human incursions into chimpanzee habitat increasing the risk of exposure to disease.
– Given the close genetic relationship between chimps and humans, diseases can flow both ways.
– Established 15 years ago, the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project aims to improve the health of chimps, humans and the wider ecosystem in the Gombe area.

Indonesian minister blasted over palm permit for graft-tainted concession by Hans Nicholas Jong [02/22/2019]
– Anti-corruption officials and environmental activists have criticized the Indonesian forestry ministry for allowing a company that obtained a forest concession through bribery to clear the land for a palm oil plantation.
– PT Hardaya Inti Plantations (HIP) was allowed to keep the concession even after its owner, politician Hartati Murdaya Poo, was arrested and jailed for bribing the chief of Buol district to grant her company the concession in 2012.
– The forestry minister has defended her decision, but in the wake of the controversy has sent investigators to review the concession.

What the Congo Basin can learn from Filipino community forestry laws (commentary) by Tanja Venisnik [02/21/2019]
– More than two-thirds of the Philippine’s forest cover has been lost to logging, agriculture, fuelwood extraction, mining and other human pressures. To tackle forest depletion, the Philippines has adopted a logging ban and promoted a system of community-run natural resource management. As of 2013, about 61 percent of the Philippines’ forests were managed under this scheme.
– Nonprofit environmental law organization ClientEarth says that despite some limitations, the legal frameworks establishing community management of forests help reduce deforestation by empowering local people to patrol their forests and carry out both conservation and revenue-generating activities. Another strength of the Filipino community forestry model is that it requires free, prior and informed consent of any indigenous group likely to be affected by the community forest plan.
– ClientEarth says lessons learned from the Philippines’ community forestry system can be applied to places that currently lack such legal frameworks, such as countries in the Congo Basin that are reviewing their forests laws.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Illegal corn farming menaces a Madagascar protected area by Emilie Filou [02/21/2019]
– Deforestation within Menabe Antimena Protected Area, a large swath of unique dry forest ecosystem on Madagascar’s west coast, has increased dramatically in recent years.
– Slash-and-burn agriculture is the primary driver. Unlike in most places in Madagascar, it isn’t done for subsistence farming but to plant corn, a cash crop traded by a powerful local elite.
– Conservation groups have teamed up to organize raids that have resulted in a number of arrests, and are making inroads into the corn distribution networks.
– So far, however, only impoverished laborers have been held to account, many of them new arrivals to the area who have fled drought in southern Madagascar; none of the well-connected backers of the deforestation have been touched.


New Species of orangutan threatened from moment of its discovery by Laurel Neme [02/20/2019]
Bolsonaro government takes aim at Vatican over Amazon meeting by Jan Rocha [02/20/2019]
Illegal gold mining destroys wetland forest in Madagascar park by Rowan Moore Gerety [02/19/2019]
What does it take to discover a new great ape species? by Laurel Neme [02/19/2019]
The view from the bottleneck: Is nature poised for a big comeback? by Jeremy Hance [02/18/2019]