Newsletter 2019-08-08


Indonesian flooding disaster bears the hallmarks of agriculture and mining impacts by Ian Morse [08/07/2019]

– Last June, North Konawe, a land of hills and valleys on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, was struck by devastating floods, displacing thousands of people.
– In the wake of the disaster, a public debate has ensued over the cause. Some government agencies have concluded that deforestation by plantation and mining companies exacerbated the floods.
– Some villages, including the riverside community of Tapuwatu, were almost completely washed away.

Photo essay: Madagascar’s disappearing dry forests (insider) by Rhett A. Butler [08/07/2019]

– Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his visit to the dry forests of western Madagascar last month.
– The dry forest of western Madagascar is famous for its wildlife and baobab trees, including the tourist destinations of Baobab Alley, Tsingy de Bemaraha, and Kirindy Forest.
– Rhett traveled to Madagascar for the annual Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting. Ahead of the conference, he used the opportunity to visit the Menabe region of western Madagascar to investigate some GPS points identified via Global Forest Watch’s GLAD alert system as potential recent deforestation.
– This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.

Amazon indigenous groups feel deserted by Brazil’s public health service by Thais Borges and Sue Branford [08/05/2019]

– Until recently, hundreds of Cuban doctors staffed many remote indigenous health facilities in the Brazilian Amazon and around the nation, an initiative funded by the More Doctors program set up by President Dilma Rousseff in 2013.
– But far-right President Jair Bolsonaro radically restructured the program, and Cuba — calling Bolsonaro’s demands unreasonable — pulled its doctors out.
– That withdrawal heavily impacted indigenous groups. Of the 372 doctors working within indigenous communities, 301 were Cuban. The Ministry of Health says 354 vacancies have since been filled by Brazilian doctors, but indigenous communities say many new doctors are unwilling to stay long in the remote posts.
– Bolsonaro has hindered rural health care in other ways: 13,000 indigenous health workers have remained unpaid since February or April, depending on the region, after the Brazilian Minister of Health stopped providing resources to the 8 NGOs contracted to provide health services to 34 Special Sanitary Indigenous Districts.

Life on the Amazon oil frontier: From exploration to ecotourism by Kimberley Brown [08/02/2019]

– Petroamazonas’s entry into the region in 2013 divided the community, with some saying it brought opportunities, while others say it destroyed the environment and way of life, and failed to deliver on promised jobs.
– Many expect ecotourism to be their only hope for economic salvation as the oil industry expands in the Amazon rainforest. Particularly among indigenous communities here, It is an increasingly common perspective.
– While the idea of turning to ecotourism is an increasingly common view among indigenous communities here, experts say the industry is complicated, and that to work it must be managed by the community itself, with conservation in mind.



Forests and forest communities critical to climate change solutions by John C. Cannon [08/08/2019]
– A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the importance of land use in addressing climate change.
– The restoration and protection of forests could be a critical component in strategies to mitigate climate change, say experts, but governments must halt deforestation and forest degradation to make way for farms and ranches.
– The IPCC report also acknowledges the role that indigenous communities could play.
– The forests under indigenous management often have lower deforestation and emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Protecting the strange sea pangolin and other animals: Q&A with deep sea biologist Chong Chen by Shreya Dasgupta [08/07/2019]
– Creatures living in deep-sea hydrothermal vents lead a unique life that researchers are only now beginning to understand. Yet these animals are at risk of disappearing because of deep-sea mining before we even learn about them.
– A deep-sea hydrothermal vent mollusk, the scaly-foot snail (Chrysomallon squamiferum), for example, debuted as endangered on the IUCN Red List this year because of threats from mining.
– Mongabay spoke with deep-sea biologist Chong Chen, who has been assessing deep-sea hydrothermal vent species for the IUCN Red List, about his work and why listing these species on the IUCN Red List matters.

Bolsonaro can bully on deforestation, but he can’t hide from satellites (commentary) by Rhett A. Butler [08/07/2019]
– In response to rising international criticism over a surge in forest clearing since the beginning of the year, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and officials in his administration have recently stepped up attacks on scientists at the country’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) for continuing to report transparently on deforestation in the Amazon.
– The expectation among civil society groups is that the Bolsonaro administration will soon stop releasing or start manipulating INPE’s deforestation data.
– But if Bolsonaro thinks that approach will pacify critics, he is gravely misleading himself: Bolsonaro will not be able to hide what’s happening in the Amazon from the rest of the world.
– From Planet’s constellation of satellites to NASA’s Landsat to the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Sentinel-1, today there are many eyes in the sky looking down at the Amazon.

The wolf of Bangladesh: A true story by Jeremy Hance [08/07/2019]
– The last wolf in Bangladesh was seen in 1949 – until this year.
– The wolf, an adult male, was killed by local villagers in the Sundarbans, a suboptimal habitat for wolves.
– But could there be more wolves in the Sundarbans? Is there a breeding population? Time will tell.

‘The forest is our life’: Hope for change in Guyana’s forests (commentary) by Gaulbert Sutherland [08/06/2019]
– Forestry is big business in Guyana. The sector contributed 2.27 percent to Guyana’s GDP in 2016, with total forest products exports valued at $41.9 million. Approximately 20,000 people, mainly in the rural and hinterland areas, are employed in the sector.
– Guyana’s laws provide for indigenous villages to obtain titles for the land they occupy and, currently, indigenous peoples own 14 percent of the country’s land. However, the process of granting legal ownership has been cumbersome and villages have complained of mining and forest concessions being granted on land they have customarily used for farming, hunting, and other activities, all without them being informed.
– Guyana’s forests have sustained people for generations. For this commentary, Gaulbert Sutherland traveled deep into the country’s hinterland to hear of the pressures that locals face, and their hopes for change.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Audio: Environmental justice and urban rat infestations by Mike Gaworecki [08/06/2019]
– Today we speak with Dawn Biehler, an associate professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, whose research focuses on the history and public health impacts of rats and other pest species in Baltimore.
– The issue of urban pests like rats in Baltimore has been in the news lately due to tweets sent by US President Donald Trump about the city being “rat and rodent infested.” Trump isn’t the first American politician to use this kind of rhetoric to target communities that are predominantly made up of people of color, while ignoring the fact that policies deliberately designed to marginalize communities of color are at the root of the pest problems in many cities.
– Biehler, who is also the author of the 2013 book Pests in the City: Flies, Bedbugs, Cockroaches, and Rats, joins us on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast to discuss how rat infestations in cities are actually an environmental justice issue and how they can be dealt with in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Indonesia agrees to attempt Sumatran rhino IVF with eggs from Malaysia by Basten Gokkon [08/06/2019]
– Conservationists have welcomed a long-awaited agreement by Indonesia and Malaysia to move ahead with assisted reproductive technology for the captive breeding of the nearly extinct Sumatran rhino.
– Indonesia has long balked at sending rhino sperm to Malaysia for use in artificial insemination, but has now agreed to accept eggs from Malaysia to carry out in vitro fertilization.
– If successful, the program would give the species a much-needed boost in genetic diversity.
– Scientists in Germany last year used IVF to successfully produced embryos — though not a baby — of white rhinos, an African species.

Haze from fires, Indonesia’s national ‘embarrassment,’ are back by Hans Nicholas Jong [08/06/2019]
– Indonesia is experiencing its worst annual fire season since 2015, with the cross-border spread of haze once again threatening to spark a diplomatic row with neighbors Malaysia and Singapore.
– The government has acknowledged that measures adopted in the wake of the 2015 fires to prevent a repeat of that disaster may have fallen short, including efforts to restore drained peatlands and drill wells to provide water for firefighters.
– President Joko Widodo, scheduled to visit Malaysia and Singapore later this week, says he feels embarrassed by the return of the fires and haze, and has ordered the firing of officials found to have failed to tackle the problem.
– At the local level, however, governors of the affected provinces appear to be taking the matter lightly: saying the haze isn’t at a worrying level, offering a reward for shamans who can summon rain, and proposing questionable theories about the causes of the fires.

New orchid species from Japan lives on dark forest floor, never blooms by [08/05/2019]
– Researcher Kenji Suetsugu of Kobe University has found flowering plants of a new species of orchid on Japan’s Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima islands, now named Gastrodia amamiana.
– G. amamiana belongs to a group of mycoheterotrophic orchids that live on dark forest floors, do not use photosynthesis to get their nutrients, and steal nutrition from fungi instead.
– Researchers have already found evidence of tree thinning close to where G. amamiana was discovered, and they worry that logging could dry the soil and consequently the fungi that the orchid depends on.

Forestry companies warned over environmental policies by James Fair [08/05/2019]
– Sustainable timber operations have the potential to protect huge swaths of tropical rainforest, but the majority of companies do not have adequate safeguards for the forest holdings they control.
– New analysis investigates the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies of 97 companies that manage an area of rainforest greater than the whole of California.
– Companies with good policies are more likely to attract investment because they are protecting their assets over the long-term

Future of Amazon deforestation data in doubt as research head sacked by Karla Mendes [08/05/2019]
– The Brazilian government and the world have relied on the INPE (Brazilian National Institute of Space Research) satellite monitoring system to track deforestation since 1988, without controversy. INPE’s data gathering program has been hailed as one of the best such operations in the tropics.
– However, after INPE reported a major uptick in the rate of Brazilian Amazon deforestation in June and July 2019, as compared with the same months in 2018, the Bolsonaro administration responded angrily by accusing the agency of manipulating data, of lying, and of being in conspiracy with international NGOs.
– On August 2, the president fired Ricardo Magnus Osório Galvão, the head of INPE, leaving officials inside the institution concerned for the future of the satellite monitoring program. The government has repeatedly said it plans to develop a costly, privatized deforestation tracking system which would replace INPE.
– Galvão’s removal triggered an outcry from scientists, NGOs and Brazilian federal prosecutors who are concerned over the threat to the future accuracy of Amazon deforestation monitoring. The Bolsonaro administration plans to announce a replacement shortly.

Hornbill heroes: A conversation with a top Indonesian bird conservation NGO by [08/05/2019]
– With their ostentatious bills, raucous calls, and unusual behavioral traits, hornbills are arguably one of the most charismatic groups of birds in the tropics. No country is home to more species than Indonesia, which has 13.
– Hornbills in Indonesia are particularly under threat due to habitat destruction. Some species are also targeted by the wildlife trade, including, most notably, the helmeted hornbill, whose dense casque is made up of “hornbill ivory” that’s highly sought in China.
– Until very recently, the decline in hornbill populations in Indonesia has been relatively under-appreciated. But that changed in 2013 when Yokyok “Yoki” Hadiprakarsa, founder of Rangkong Indonesia, published a report estimating that the wildlife trade killed 500 helmeted hornbills a month in West Kalimantan alone.
– In June 2019, Mongabay interviewed Yoki Hadiprakarsa and Dian Hardiyanti from Rangkong Indonesia about their work to protect hornbills in Indonesia.

Stunning new wrasse species underlines need to protect deeper-lying reefs by Nalisha Adams [08/05/2019]
– A new species of wrasse discovered in mesophotic reefs off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania, underlines how little is known about marine environments.
– Deeper-lying reefs are just as threatened by climate change and other human impacts as shallow reefs and need greater protection.
– Mesophotic reefs could be an important and under-recognised source of fish larvae that supports coastal fisheries.

New toolkit identifies multiple species from environmental DNA by Sue Palminteri [08/03/2019]
– Researchers have developed a DNA analysis toolkit designed to speed the identification of the multiple species in a biological community by analyzing environmental DNA from a sample of water or soil.
– To confirm the presence of a species at a site, the tool compares its genetic barcode (short DNA sequence) to barcodes of known species in one of several reference databases.
– The toolkit’s advantage is its ability to quickly process many barcode sequences, at multiple analysis locations on the gene, that enable it to identify the species of the DNA sequences of many organisms at the same time.

As Amazon deforestation in Brazil rises, Bolsonaro administration attacks the messenger (commentary) by Philip M. Fearnside [08/03/2019]
– Officials in the Bolsonaro administration have attacked the credibility of the National Institute for Space Research’s system for tracking deforestation.
– But an analysis indicates their criticism of INPE is flawed.
– Nonetheless, the Bolsonaro administration is taking measures against the agency, including firing INPE’s director Ricardo Galvão on Friday.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

When rich economies cut emissions, poor ones stand to benefit, study says by Ashoka Mukpo [08/03/2019]
– If higher and middle-income countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, reduced demand could lower oil costs and boost economic growth for low-income countries, according to a study published in the journal Climatic Change in April.
– To benefit from that cheaper oil, low-income countries would have to be exempted from emissions requirements until they reach middle-income status.
– However, emissions last year hit an all-time high, and without drastic emissions reductions, low-income countries currently face economic, social and environmental catastrophe.

July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth by [08/02/2019]
– UN secretary general António Guterres announced that July 2019 was the hottest month on record in a press conference yesterday.
– In his remarks to the press, Guterres noted that the record-breaking July temperatures follow the hottest June ever recorded, adding: “This is even more significant because the previous hottest month, July 2016, occurred during one of the strongest El Niño’s ever. That is not the case this year. All of this means we are on track for the period from 2015 to 2019 to be the five hottest years on record.”
– The impacts of global climate change are being felt around the globe, perhaps nowhere more dramatically than in the Arctic, where high temperatures have caused sea ice levels to collapse. June 2019 saw near-record lows in Arctic sea ice extent.

Red flags as Indonesia eyes relocating its capital city to Borneo by Basten Gokkon [08/02/2019]
– The Indonesian government will build a new capital city on the island of Borneo within the next five years, and without clearing any protected forest, the planning minister says.
– The exact location for the so-called forest city hasn’t been announced yet, but the plan has already raised fears about the impact to the environment and to local communities who are dependent on the region’s dwindling forests.
– Mining, logging, and oil palm cultivation have already taken a heavy toll on Borneo’s rainforests and wildlife, including critically endangered orangutans.
– The influx of migrants from other parts of Indonesia has historically been a flash point, sparking sometimes deadly conflicts with indigenous communities, and activists fear an escalation in both conflicts and land grabs as more people move to the new capital.

Africa’s largest reserve may lose half its area to oil development by Stephen Leahy [08/02/2019]
– The Termit and Tin Touma National Nature Reserve in Niger was Africa’s largest when it was established in 2012.
– Just seven years on, however, the government is considering redrawing its boundaries and slashing its size by nearly half.
– The move comes in response to a push by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which has exploration rights in a small section of the reserve, to expand its operations significantly.
– Conservation groups, including the NGO that manages the reserve, say the move would impact areas of high biodiversity, threatening species such as the critically endangered addax and dama gazelle.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 2, 2019 by [08/02/2019]
– 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.

Some turtle embryos can influence their own sex, study finds by Shreya Dasgupta [08/02/2019]
– The sex of some turtle species is influenced not by genes but by the temperatures they experience in the nests. Embryos of the Chinese pond turtle, however, can move inside the eggs toward cooler or hotter spots and influence their own sex, at least to some extent, a new study has found.
– This is good news because it means that, at least in theory, the turtles might be able to buffer some of the predicted shifts in the sex ratio because of climate change.
– But while the embryos seem to be influencing their sex under ideal conditions, researchers say that it may not be enough to counter the rapidly changing climate brought about by human activities.

The challenges of campaigning against wildlife trafficking in Vietnam by Michael Tatarski [08/01/2019]
– “Be Their Bodhisattva,” a striking anti-wildlife trafficking campaign, was organized in Vietnam from Jan. 25 to March 25 this year.
– The campaign caught the attention of both the public and prominent national media outlets.
– However, record-breaking seizures of wildlife parts destined for Vietnam in the months since demonstrate the breadth and depth of the problem.



Logging, mining companies lock eyes on a biodiverse island like no other by Gianluca Cerullo [07/31/2019]
Fuel trafficking sustains illegal mining in Peru’s Madre de Dios by Vanessa Romo [07/31/2019]
Travelogue: Visiting an indigenous rainforest tribe in Borneo (Insider) by Rhett A. Butler [07/31/2019]
Peru’s crackdown on coca pushes illegal growers toward protected areas by Vanessa Romo [07/30/2019]