Newsletter 2019-05-30


The world’s biggest reptile fair is also a hub for traffickers by Denise Hruby[05/30/2019]

– On June 1, a quarterly event in Germany which touts itself as the largest reptile trade show in the world, will again sell tens of thousands of reptiles.
– The fair, referred to as “Hamm”, is a meeting point for aficionados seeking the rarest and best reptiles, including animals that are threatened with extinction and may have been poached from the wild.
– Conservationists criticize the fair saying that it is the biggest hub for the legal and illegal trade in reptiles in the world.
– While national laws protect many of the reptile species, legal loopholes allow the trade to persist.

What is magic without ape parts? Inside the illicit trade devastating Nigeria’s apesby Orji Sunday [05/29/2019]

– Beliefs regarding the spiritual powers of apes drive a thriving trade in ape body parts in Nigeria and beyond.
– In many cultures within Nigeria, chimpanzee and gorilla parts are believed to provide protection from evil spirits and curses, or allow communication with ancestors.
– Due to a lack of data, the trade in ape body parts is sometimes viewed as simply a by-product of the much larger trade in bushmeat. Mongabay’s reporting suggests that the body part trade is, in its own right, a complex, well-organized and far more lucrative business.


Rare rhino’s death should light a fire under Indonesia by Jeremy Hance[05/30/2019]
– Tam died on Monday, likely from old age, after living in captivity for 11 years.
– Tam never bred in captivity despite repeated attempts with captive females.
– Tam represented hope when he was captured – today he represents the need to move aggressively on measures to save his species.
– This post is part of “Saving Life on Earth: Words on the Wild,” a monthly column by Jeremy Hance, one of Mongabay’s original staff writers.

Community conservation in Namibia requires balance and understanding (commentary) by Gail Potgieter [05/29/2019]
– In a recent article, John Grobler recounted his experiences from a one-week visit to Nyae Nyae Conservancy in Namibia. Mr. Grobler’s report, based on brief experiences in Nyae Nyae and a cursory study of the Namibian conservancy system, leaves much to be desired.
– Grobler implies that the Namibian conservancy program has been less successful in terms of conserving wildlife and providing benefits to local people than the government and supporting NGOs claim. In order to judge the Namibian conservancies, one needs to first place them within the broader African conservation context.
– This context allows us to examine a more central question about conservancies, one that has been incorrectly answered by many. What exactly are Namibian conservancies, and what is their purpose?
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

In a first, chimps found bashing tortoises against trees to get at the meat by [05/29/2019]
– For the first time, researchers have observed chimpanzees in Gabon vigorously smashing forest hinge-back tortoises against tree trunks to try and crack open their shells and extract meat out of them.
– It was usually adult male chimps that were successful at cracking open tortoise shells. One female and two adolescents were seen trying too, but they were unsuccessful, following which an adult male finished the job, sharing the meat with them.
– In an unexpected observation, a adult male chimp cracked open a tortoise, ate half of its meat, then stored the remainder in a tree fork. He came back for it the next day, suggesting that chimpanzees plan for the future.

Altered forests threaten sustainability of subsistence hunting by[05/29/2019]
– In a commentary, two conservation scientists say that changes to the forests of Central and South America may mean that subsistence hunting there is no longer sustainable.
– Habitat loss and commercial hunting have put increasing pressure on species, leading to the loss of both biodiversity and a critical source of protein for these communities.
– The authors suggest that allowing the hunting of only certain species, strengthening parks and reserves, and helping communities find alternative livelihoods and sources of food could help address the problem, though they acknowledge the difficult nature of these solutions.

Vets rule out poaching and disease in recent death of rare Javan rhino by [05/29/2019]
– In March, a Javan rhinoceros was found dead in a protected area at the western tip of the Indonesian island.
– A necropsy carried out by veterinarians has now determined that the young rhino bled to death, due to injuries likely sustained during a fight with an adult male rhino.
– The finding rules out earlier fears that the rhino may have been killed by poachers or contracted an infectious disease from livestock living near the park.
– The estimated population of the critically endangered animals is now at a minimum 68 individuals.

Otter cafés and ‘cute pets craze’ fuel illegal trafficking in Japan and Indonesia by Erik Hoffner [05/28/2019]
– A new investigative film reveals the extent of illegal trafficking of otters to supply Tokyo’s ‘cafés’ where people pay to cuddle the wild animals, and it also shows their unsuitability as domestic pets.
– Otters kept in these cafés endure poor conditions and are fed items like cat food, which is not good for them.
– The business is highly profitable and is likely linked to organized crime, according to the film’s undercover investigation. Adults are often killed and their young captured for the trade.
– Mongabay interviewed the filmmaker as the movie was released, and one can also watch the film below.

Underwater ultrasound scanner to support manta conservation by Sue Palminteri[05/28/2019]
– Researchers used a new contactless ultrasound device to scan reef manta rays in the wild, enabling them to assess the animals’ maturity and reproductive status underwater.
– The successful scanning of a pregnant female manta produced clear images of her fetus.
– By helping researchers better understand the factors that influence the timing and location of mantas’ breeding, the researchers say, the ultrasound technology can help them determine reproductive rates and guide manta conservation strategies.

Audio: Chatty river dolphins in Brazil might help us understand evolution of marine mammal communication by Mike Gaworecki [05/28/2019]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Gabriel Melo-Santos, whose study of Araguaian river dolphins in Brazil has revealed that the species is much chattier than we’d previously known — and could potentially help us better understand the evolution of underwater communication in marine mammals.
– The Araguaian river dolphin was only described to science in 2014, and there’s a lot we don’t yet know about the freshwater cetacean species. It was believed that the solitary nature of the dolphins meant that they wouldn’t have much use for communication, but Gabriel Melo-Santos led a team of researchers that recorded 20 hours of vocalizations and documented 237 distinct types of sounds made by the dolphins.
– In this Field Notes segment, Melo-Santos plays some of the recordings he’s made of Araguaian river dolphins, explains how he managed to study the elusive creatures thanks to their fondness for a certain fish market in Brazil, and discusses how the study of Araguaian river dolphin vocalizations could yield insights into how their sea-faring relatives use their own calls to maintain social cohesion.

Conservation groups concerned as WHO recognizes traditional Chinese medicineby [05/28/2019]
– The World Health Organization (WHO) will include traditional Chinese medicine in the revision of its influential International Classification of Diseases for the first time.
– The move concerns wildlife scientists and conservationists who say the WHO’s formal backing of traditional Chinese medicine could legitimize the hunting of wild animals for their parts, which are used in some remedies and treatments.
– The WHO has responded by saying that the inclusion of the practice in the volume doesn’t imply that the organization condones the contravention of international law aimed at protecting species like rhinos and tigers.

A forest beset by oil palms, logging, now contends with a coal-trucking road by Elviza Diana [05/28/2019]
– The Harapan forest in southern Sumatra, Indonesia, faces threats from illegal logging, encroachment by oil palm growers, poaching of its wildlife, and the loss of funding for conservation initiatives.
– An indigenous community, conservation managers and activists have highlighted another danger that risks fragmenting the biodiverse lowland rainforest: a coal-trucking road that would slice through the area.
– Local authorities reviewing the project proposal have called on the company behind it to consider a road that skirts the forest instead, but the company has not yet published a revised plan.
– The forest’s Batin Sembilan indigenous group says the creation of a road will increase access into the forest, exacerbating long-simmering tensions with migrant communities they accuse of trying to grab the land.

Last male rhino in Malaysia dies by [05/27/2019]
– A Sumatran rhino affectionately known as Tam died May 27 following months of poor health.
– Tam was the last male Sumatran rhino known to survive in Malaysia. One female of the species is now living in Malaysia.
– When he was captured in 2008, researchers hoped he would contribute to efforts to breed the critically endangered species in captivity. Tam died without reproducing.

Earth’s hidden tree-microbe network mapped for the first time ever by Shreya Dasgupta [05/27/2019]
– For the first time ever, researchers have mapped the underground network of microbes connecting forest trees around the world using an enormous data set of more than 1.1 million forest plots.
– Mapping the forest microbe network required global collaboration and high computing capabilities.
– The new maps confirm patterns that have been long suspected. For example, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi dominate forests in the warmer tropics while ectomycorrhizal fungi are more widespread in colder boreal and temperate forests.
– The predicted maps are, however, limited by the geographic coverage and sampling density of trees across the world. While the coverage is good in developed countries, it is relatively poor in developing countries like India, China and countries in the tropical region, the researchers say.

Study suggests MPAs and fisheries closures can benefit highly migratory marine species by [05/24/2019]
– Conventional wisdom holds that marine protected areas don’t offer much in the way of protections to highly migratory species of marine life, given that those species are unaware of the imaginary borders humans draw on maps to delineate such areas.
– New research finds that, to the contrary, large MPAs can confer benefits on migratory marine species — but only when they are carefully designed, strictly enforced, and integrated with sustainable fisheries management.
– The study, published last month in the journal Marine Policy, explores whether or not there are any benefits of “targeted spatial protection” measures, including large-scale fisheries closures and marine protected areas (MPAs), for highly migratory species like billfishes (such as swordfish and marlins), pelagic sharks (such as blue, great white, mako, silky, and thresher sharks), and tuna — and highlights ways that spatial protection for migratory pelagic species can be improved.

Where the forest has no name by Paul Koberstein & Jessica Applegate[05/24/2019]
– North America’s temperate rainforest extends some 2,500 miles from California to the Gulf of Alaska, providing important habitat for many species and playing a big role in global carbon sequestration. However, despite its uniqueness, there is no officially recognized name for the whole of the forest.
– This forest has been beset by logging over the last century, with little unprotected old growth remaining. The Trump administration’s plans to allow logging in roadless areas in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest could ramp up its loss in the coming years.
– Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate, editors of Cascadia Times, argue an official name could help galvanize action to save this forest.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, May 24, 2019 by [05/24/2019]
– 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.

Ecuador’s isolated indigenous tribes: Stuck between oil and state neglect by Isabela Ponce [05/24/2019]
– Following the dissolution of Ecuador’s Ministry of Justice, responsibility for the country’s isolated indigenous peoples changed hands.
– It’s the latest in a series of shake-ups, yet several experts said the government has not been able to adequately protect vulnerable isolated tribes.
– They said the oil industry’s advance into the rainforest remains the greatest threat to these tribes.

Malaysia’s last male rhino is fading fast, officials say by[05/24/2019]
– Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhino, Tam, has experienced an abrupt decline in health due to old age, authorities say.
– Veterinarians and rhino keepers at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah state are providing round-the-clock palliative care, but say Tam appears to have suffered multiple organ failure.
– If he dies, Malaysia would be left with one last Sumatran rhino, a female, Iman, whose own health has weakened due to a ruptured tumor in her uterus.
– Conservationists say stakeholders, including the government of Indonesia, home to most of the remaining Sumatran rhinos on Earth, have been far too slow to work together on efforts to save the species.

Exposing coal-fueled politics: Q&A with investigative journo Dandhy Laksono by Basten Gokkon [05/24/2019]
– In the days leading up to the Indonesian presidential election in April, a documentary film exposed how the two candidates were deeply tied to the country’s coal oligarchs.
– The 90-minute film, Sexy Killers, describes the expansion of coal mines in East Kalimantan, the Bornean province known as Indonesia’s coal heartland, and how the industry has wrought environmental, financial and social damages on local communities.
– The documentary has racked up more than 22 million views on YouTube since its public release shortly before the April 17 election.
– Mongabay recently spoke with Dandhy Laksono, the investigative journalist behind the documentary, about the key revelations it raises regarding Indonesia’s political elite and the coal industry.

Tall and old or dense and young: Which kind of forest is better for the climate? by Paul Koberstein & Jessica Applegate [05/23/2019]
– Scientists say reforestation and better forest management can provide 18 percent of climate change mitigation through 2030. But studies appear to be divided about whether it’s better to prioritize the conservation of old forests or the replanting of young ones.
– A closer look, however, reconciles these two viewpoints. While young forests tend to absorb more carbon overall because trees can be crowded together when they’re small, a tree’s carbon absorption rate accelerates as it ages. This means that forests comprised of tall, old trees – like the temperate rainforests of North America’s Pacific coast – are some of the planet’s biggest carbon storehouses.
– But when forests are logged, their immense stores of carbon are quickly released. A study found the logging of forests in the U.S. state of Oregon emitted 33 million tons of CO2 – almost as much as the world’s dirtiest coal plant.
– Researchers are calling on industry to help buffer climate change by doubling tree harvest rotations to 80 years, and urge government agencies managing forests to impose their own harvest restrictions.


Former Brazilian enviro ministers blast Bolsonaro environmental assaults by Thais Borges and Sue Branford [05/23/2019]
For India’s imperiled apes, thinking locally matters by Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya [05/23/2019]
Bauxite mining and Chinese dam push Guinea’s chimpanzees to the brink by Jennifer O’Mahony [05/21/2019]
‘Resisting to exist’: Indigenous women unite against Brazil’s far-right president by Karla Mendes [05/20/2019]
Solomon Islanders imprisoned for trying to stop the logging of their forests by Louise Hunt [05/17/2019]
A new election brings little hope for Solomon Islands’ vanishing forests by Louise Hunt [05/17/2019]