Newsletter 2019-07-25


Cocoa and gunshots: The struggle to save a threatened forest in Nigeria by Orji Sunday [07/19/2019]

– Nigeria’s Omo Forest Reserve provides important habitat for animals such as forest elephants, as well as drinking water for the city of Lagos.
– But the reserve has been severely deforested, losing more than 7 percent of its tree cover over the past two decades. Satellite data indicate 2019 may be a particularly bad year for the reserve’s remaining primary forest.
– The primary cause of deforestation in Omo is cocoa farming. Seeking fertile soil and a respite from poverty, the reserve has attracted thousands of small farmers. They’re living in the reserve illegally, but the government is hesitant to evict them as doing so would disrupt their livelihoods and require a significant amount of funding.
– Instead, the focus is on preventing more farmers from invading Omo. This is the goal of rangers who patrol Omo’s remaining forests looking for footprints and listening for chainsaws and gunshots. While they’ve been successful at preventing some encroachment, the reserve is too big for the relatively small team to effectively monitor in its entirety.

The ambitious plan to recover and rewild the feisty, dwarf cow by Jeremy Hance[07/19/2019]

– Although critically endangered, the population of tamaraw has stabilized and grown over the last two decades.
– Conservationists along with indigenous people are now planning on using the core population to rebuild and rewild other populations across the island of Mindoro.
– Conservationists say none of this would be possible without the active supoort of Mindoro’s indigenous tribal groups, who are leading efforts to restore the tamaraw.


Gabonese timber linked to illegal logging seized in Antwerp by Jim Tan[07/25/2019]
– Belgian authorities have blocked a shipment of tropical timber from Gabon after a tip-off by Greenpeace.
– Under the EU Timber Regulation, European companies have an obligation to conduct proper due diligence on the source of the timber they import.
– Greenpeace says this due diligence requirement was not met in this case, as the wood was exported by a Chinese logging firm with previous allegations of illegal logging.

FSC to keep Korindo in the fold, for now by [07/25/2019]
– Palm oil giant Korindo must “commit to reparations for past [land] conversion practices” in Indonesia or else face expulsion from the Forest Stewardship Council, the certification body announced this week.
– The precise conditions for Korindo to retain its FSC membership were not elaborated on. But the FSC said that if Korindo fails to meet them, it could be expelled from the FSC.
– Campaign group Mighty Earth called on Korindo to return customary lands to indigenous communities, restore damaged ecosystems, and more.

Where did the birds go?: Q&A with river tern researcher Bosco Chan by Shreya Dasgupta [07/24/2019]
– The river tern, a bird species that nests on sandbars, seems to have gone missing in China. Once thought to be common in Yingjiang county, Yunnan province, its population there dropped to just five birds in 2018.
– Researchers at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG), a Hong Kong-based NGO, are trying to protect this tiny population of a handful of birds.
– Mongabay spoke with Bosco Chan, head of KFBG’s Kadoorie Conservation China, about his team’s plans to save the incredibly rare species in China.

Small-scale farming is a big threat to biodiversity in the western Amazon: Study by [07/24/2019]
– Smallholder farming poses a significant threat to biodiversity in the western Amazonian forests of northeastern Peru, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, a study led by researchers at Princeton University has found.
– Small-scale agricultural operations are generally considered to be much less harmful to wildlife than the wholesale clearance and conversion of forests to pasture or cropland, but the study, published in the journal Conservation Biology in May, shows that small-scale farmers’ activities are having a substantially negative impact on wildlife and plant life all the same.
– Plans to build more roads in the northern Peru could exacerbate the situation, but the researchers say their findings have important implications for conservation policy in the western Amazon region and could help point a way towards mitigating the impact of future development.

New roads in Papua New Guinea may cause ‘quantum leap’ in forest loss by John C. Cannon [07/24/2019]
– Papua New Guinea intends to nearly double its existing network of roads between now and 2022.
– A new study raises concerns about the impacts of building these roads through tropical forest environments on local communities, sensitive habitats and vulnerable species.
– The authors of the paper, published July 24 in the journal PLOS ONE, suggest that the country would reap more benefits and avoid future debt by investing in existing roads, many of which are largely unusable because of flagging maintenance.

Protecting Antarctica beyond 2041: an interview with polar explorer Robert Swanby [07/24/2019]
– Explorer Robert Swan is the first person to walk to both the North and South Poles unassisted.
– Those expeditions inspired him to dedicate his life advocating for the protection of polar landscapes, with a special focus on the preservation of the Antarctic as the planet’s last great wilderness.
– Swan institutionalized that ambition with the founding of 2041, a foundation named for the year in which the Madrid Protocol comes up for renewal.
– Mongabay caught up with him in Singapore where he was speaking at Temasek’s Ecosperity Week ahead of his next expedition to the Arctic.

Building a global inventory of plants: Q&A with botanist Patrick Weigelt by Shreya Dasgupta [07/23/2019]
– The Global Inventory of Floras and Traits, or GIFT 1.0, is the first database of its kind, bringing together thousands of published and unpublished plant species checklists and inventories from around the world.
– It holds more than 3,800 species lists for nearly 2,900 regions around the world, covering about 79 percent of the global land surface and 80 percent (more than 315,000 species) of all plant species known to science, the researchers who created the database say.
– Mongabay spoke with Patrick Weigelt, co-developer of GIFT, about what went into creating the database, and what it can be used for.

Audio: David Quammen on ecological restoration, emerging diseases, evolutionary science, and more by Mike Gaworecki [07/23/2019]
– Today we speak with award-winning science writer, author, and journalist David Quammen about some of the most promising and fascinating trends in conservation and evolutionary science.
– In a recent piece for National Geographic, where he is a regular contributor, Quammen profiles Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. His 2014 book, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, looks at the science, history, and human impacts of emerging diseases. Quammen’s most recent book, 2018’s The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, explores the revolution in how scientists understand the history of evolution on Earth sparked by the work of Carl Woese.
– David Quammen appears on the Mongabay Newscast to discuss all of the above as well as what gives him hope that biodiversity loss and destruction of the natural world can be halted.

Secretive and colorful dryas monkey isn’t as rare as once thought by Nina Finley[07/23/2019]
– In 2014, biologists discovered a population of critically endangered dryas monkeys (Cercopithecus dryas) living 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of their only known range in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– Multi-level camera traps revealed that these stealthy monkeys are more common — and a lot weirder — than previously thought. They digest young leaves, snuggle up in impenetrable vine thickets, and sometimes boast an outrageous blue behind.
– In 2019, the IUCN downgraded their conservation status to endangered, and scientists are predicting a potentially positive future for the dryas.

Top court holds Indonesian government liable over 2015 forest fires by Hans Nicholas Jong [07/23/2019]
– Indonesia’s Supreme Court has ordered that the government carry out measures to mitigate forest fires in the country, following a citizen lawsuit filed in the wake of devastating blazes in 2015.
– The decision upholds earlier rulings by lower courts, but the government says it will still challenge it, claiming that the circumstances that led to the 2015 fires were due to mismanagement by previous administrations.
– The plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they just want the government to implement common-sense measures to prevent the fires from recurring, and which existing laws already require it to carry out.
– The fire season is already underway again this year, as companies and smallholder farmers set forests ablaze in preparation for planting.

When it comes to captive breeding, not all Sumatran rhinos are equal by Jeremy Hance [07/23/2019]
– A new partnership called Sumatran Rhino Rescue aims to capture critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceroses to reinvigorate a captive-breeding program.
– Most experts agree that captive breeding is necessary to prevent extinction; with wild populations small and fragmented, too few baby rhinos are being born to keep the species alive.
– The current plan approved by the Indonesian government focuses on capturing “doomed” or “isolated” animals in populations too small to survive in the long term.
– However, female Sumatran rhinos living in isolation are particularly susceptible to reproductive problems, leading some experts to argue that it makes more sense to focus on capturing rhinos from healthier populations where rhinos are known to be breeding successfully — perhaps at the risk of harming the survival prospects of those populations.

Making room for wild foods in forest conservation by Sarah Sax [07/22/2019]
– The first-ever FAO report on the importance of biodiversity for food and agriculture warns that the abundance of our food supply is diminishing — with worrisome consequences for global food security.
– The report also looks at the decline in wild foods, an underreported but essential component of food security, especially for forest dependent communities.
– While wild foods make up less than 1 percent of global caloric intake, they provide essential micronutrients to hundreds of millions of people.
– Acknowledging the role that wild food plays for forest-dependent communities, and the right of access to those foods, could be an important contribution to the debate around forest conservation.

Newly described pocket shark likely glows in the dark by[07/22/2019]
– Researchers have described a new species of pocket shark, a small shark measuring just 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) long, that possibly glows in the dark.
– The shark has been named the American pocket shark, or Mollisquama mississippiensis, in recognition of the biologically rich region in which it was discovered.
– Only two pocket sharks have ever been caught from the ocean. The previous specimen, M. parini, was collected from the eastern Pacific Ocean in 1979.
– The discovery of a new pocket shark species shows there is much more to learn about the Gulf of Mexico, researchers say.

Indonesia, facing a waste crisis, plans to burn it for electricity by Basten Gokkon[07/22/2019]
– The Indonesian government has targeted four cities in Java island to build incineration facilities this year to tackle the country’s plastic waste crisis.
– Environmentalists say burning waste to generate electricity is not a sustainable solution to the issue, and will only add more problems, including the emission of toxic gases.
– They instead suggest tackling the problem at the source, by reducing the amount of waste produced in the first place.
– Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest source of the plastic trash that ends up in the oceans, after China.

Fears over Indonesian president’s demand for unfettered investment by Hans Nicholas Jong [07/22/2019]
– President Joko Widodo has threatened to “chase” and “beat” anyone hampering investment in the country — a statement that activists say raises the prospect of increased exploitation of Indonesia’s forests.
– The statement marks the latest move by the president to consolidate a policy platform that relies on economic growth driven by resource exploitation.
– The president has also ordered the environment minister to “close your eyes” to prevailing regulations when issuing permits for forest concessions.
– Environmental activists say the country is headed down the same path as Brazil under the presidency of Jair Bolsonbaro, who has moved quickly to push policies permitting greater deforestation of the Amazon in pursuit of economic interests.

Conservation tech prize with invasive species focus announces finalists by Sue Palminteri [07/19/2019]
– The Con X Tech Prize announced its second round will fund 20 finalists, selected from 150 applications, each with $3,500 to create their first prototypes of designs that use technology to address a conservation challenge.
– Seven of the 20 teams focused their designs on reducing impacts from invasive species, while the others addressed a range of conservation issues, from wildlife trafficking to acoustic monitoring to capturing freshwater plastic waste in locally-built bamboo traps.
– Conservation X Labs (CXL), which offers the prize, says the process provides winners with very early-stage funding, a rare commodity, and recognition of external approval, each of which has potential to motivate finalists and translate into further funding.
– Finalists can also compete for a grand prize of $20,000 and product support from CXL.

New initiative aims to jump-start stalled drive toward zero deforestation by Sarah Sax [07/19/2019]
– Over the past decade there has been a rise in corporate zero-deforestation commitments, but very few companies have shown progress in meeting their goals of reducing deforestation in their supply chains by 2020.
– The Accountability Framework Initiative, launched by a group of 14 civil society organizations, is the latest tool to help companies make progress, and hold them accountable, on their zero-deforestation commitments.
– The Accountability Framework Initiative is expected to be especially important for markets like Europe, where demand for crops like soy has been linked to rising deforestation in places like the Brazilian Cerrado.

June 2019 was the hottest on record: NOAA by [07/19/2019]
– June 2019 was the hottest June recorded in the 140 years since the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began collecting global temperature data, the agency announced yesterday.
– On land, June’s global average surface temperature was 2.41 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average of 55.9°F, the highest June land temperature on record, beating the previous record set in 2015. At sea, average surface temperatures were 1.46 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century monthly average of 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit, tying June 2016 as the highest global average ocean temperature on record for June.
– 2019 also saw the second-smallest Arctic sea ice extent for the month of June in the 41-year record, according to an analysis of NOAA and NASA data by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. For the fourth consecutive June, Antarctic sea ice extent was also lower than average, reaching a mark 425,000 square miles, or 8.5 percent, below the 1981-2010 average.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, July 19, 2019 by [07/19/2019]
– 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.

Corrupt police caught in bust of Peruvian Amazon drug gang by Bethan John[07/19/2019]
– Three policemen were arrested after a year-long investigation into narco-trafficking in Peru’s Manú Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and top global biodiversity hotspot.
– The operation in late June seized over $38,000, more than 290 kilogramss (about 640 pounds) of cocaine, a small airplane, and two firearms. A total of 15 people have been arrested for their involvement.
– Within the Kosñipata district of Manú, production of coca increased from 338 hectares (835 acres) in 2010 to 1,322 hectares (3,267 acres) in 2014. Coca production throughout this Amazon region has increased by 52 percent.

Congo government opens Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park to oil exploration by John C. Cannon [07/18/2019]
– In 2018, the government of the Republic of Congo opened up several blocks of land for oil exploration overlapping with important peatlands and a celebrated national park.
– According to a government website, the French oil company Total holds the exploration rights for those blocks.
– Conservationists were alarmed that the government would consider opening up parks and peatlands of international importance for oil exploration, while also trying to garner funds for their protection on the world stage.

Colombian investors push Pacific port project, threatening biodiversity hotspot by Taran Volckhausen [07/18/2019]
– Colombian President Iván Duque has pushed the construction of Tribugá Port in the Pacific department of Chocó as an economic priority for the country’s coffee-growing heartland, to increase exports to international markets.
– But the plan to build the port has provoked a fierce outcry from environmental and human rights activists, as well as local tourism operators, pushing 70 organizations to sign a declaration against its construction.
– Endangered species such as hammerhead sharks, nesting sea turtles and humpback whales visit the area on an annual basis to mate, raise their young, and migrate through.

Complicating the narrative about indigenous communities and their struggles (insider) by Kimberley Brown [07/18/2019]
– Often in articles about indigenous struggles or resistance, there is a need to write about communities as being victims of the extractive sector, or warriors fighting to defend their territory. I’ve been writing about indigenous resistance in Ecuador for about three years, and I’ve often fallen into the same dynamic.
– In my case, I seek out the warriors. But what if the news media allowed indigenous people to be whole and multifaceted?
– This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.

Indonesian officials foil attempt to smuggle hornbill casques to Hong Kong by Basten Gokkon [07/18/2019]
– Indonesian authorities have arrested a woman for allegedly attempting to smuggle 72 helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) casques to Hong Kong.
– The distinctive-looking bird is critically endangered, its precipitous decline driven by poaching for its casque — a solid, ivory-like protuberance on its head that’s highly prized in East Asia for use as ornamental carvings.
– Tackling the hornbill trade will be on the agenda at next month’s CITES wildlife trade summit in Geneva.


In Madagascar, villagers oppose plans for a dam that would inundate their land by Edward Carver [07/18/2019]
Bringing back the fish: Q&A with a repentant blast fisherman by Max Radwin[07/15/2019]
Yanomami Amazon reserve invaded by 20,000 miners; Bolsonaro fails to act by Sue Branford [07/12/2019]
On a Philippine island, indigenous groups take the fight to big palm oil by Rod Harbinson [07/11/2019]
Eat the insects, spare the lemurs by Emilie Filou [07/11/2019]