Newsletter 2019-08-29


‘We have cut them all’: Ghana struggles to protect its last old-growth forests by Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda [08/28/2019]

– Deforestation of Ghana’s primary forests jumped 60 percent between 2017 and 2018 – the biggest jump of any tropical country. Most of this occurred in the country’s protected areas, including its forest reserves.
– A Mongabay investigation revealed that illegal logging in forest reserves is commonplace, with sources claiming officers from Ghana’s Forestry Commission often turn a blind eye and even participate in the activity.
– The technical director of forestry at Ghana’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources said attempts at intervention have met with limited success, and are often thwarted by loggers who know how to game the system.
– A representative of a conservation NGO operating in the country says a community-based monitoring project has helped curtail illegal logging in some reserves, but additional buy-in from other communities is needed to scale up its results. Meanwhile, the Ghanaian government is reportedly starting its own public outreach program, as well as coordinating with the EU on an agreement that would allow only legal wood from Ghana to enter the EU market.

Death on the Brahmaputra: The rhino, the rangers, and the usual suspects by Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya [08/28/2019]

– In February 2018, a greater one-horned rhino wandered from India’s Orang National Park into the nearby Burachapori-Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary.
– In September 2018, officials lost track of the rhino. In June 2019, the rhino’s buried remains, and a bullet, were discovered close to a guard camp in Burachapori-Laokhowa.
– Officials in Burachapori-Laokhowa did not officially report the rhino missing until the matter was leaked to the press more than a month later.
– Suspicion has been cast, variously, on forest staff, illegal settlers and illegal fishers.

For Indonesia’s Kendari Bay, silting is a death sentence by Ian Morse [08/28/2019]

– Researchers say the Kendari Bay, on the island of Sulawesi, is rapidly disappearing.
– The main culprit is land clearing for development projects around the bay and the rivers the feed it. The land clearing releases sediment into the water that eventually settles on the bottom of the bay.
– The bay may be decades from filling up completely, but studies suggest hope of saving its plant and animal life may already be lost.

In the rice-rich Mekong region, will husk briquettes take hold? by Lauren Crothers [08/28/2019]

– Briquettes made from rice husks or other plant waste present a cleaner alternative to wood and charcoal in a region that collectively produces nearly 100 million tons of rice per year.
– In Myanmar, biomass from agricultural waste is being used to power small home appliances and even entire villages.

Bolsonaro expresses ‘love’ for Amazon as it burns, offers no policy shift by Thais Borges and Sue Branford [08/26/2019]

– The number of fires in the Amazon biome topped 41,858 in 2019 as of August 24 (up from 22,000 this time last year). Scientists are especially concerned about wildfires raging inside protected areas, such as Jamanxim National Forest in Pará state and Mato Grosso’s Serra de Ricardo Franco Park.
– While the Bolsonaro government blames hot weather for the Amazon blazes, others disagree. They point to the link between fires and their use to illegally clear rainforest by land speculators, who — emboldened by Bolsonaro’s lax enforcement policies —sell cleared land for 100-200 times more money than it would sell for with trees covering it.
– Preliminary data shows deforestation rising under Bolsonaro. The rate in June 2019 was 88 percent higher than in June 2018; deforestation soared by 278 percent in July 2019 as compared with July 2018. The rise, analysts say, is due in part to the dismantling of IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency.
– Bolsonaro has pledged to bring in the army to fight the Amazon blazes and deployed the first units over the weekend, while on Monday the G7 nations promised an emergency $20 million in aid to help Amazon countries fight wildfires and launch a long-term global initiative to protect the rainforest.

Indigenous communities, nat’l parks suffer as Malaysia razes its reserves by Chris Humphrey [08/23/2019]

– Forest loss appears to be accelerating in peninsular Malaysia in 2019. Much of this deforestation is happening in “permanent forest reserves,” which are supposed to be under official protection. However, Malaysian state governments have the authority to spontaneously degazette forest reserves for development. Sources say this has created a free-for-all, with loggers rushing to clear forest and sell timber.
– Satellite imagery shows logging happening right up to the border of Taman Negara National Park, which lacks the buffer zone typical around national parks in other countries. Researchers say this is likely to have detrimental impacts on the parks’ wildlife.
– Sources on the ground say deforestation is also affecting forest-dependent indigenous communities. Residents of one such community say mining – which often follows on the heels of logging in Malaysia – is also harming them.
– Earlier this year, 15 Batek residents of the village of Kuala Koh died and more than 100 others were hospitalized due to mysterious illnesses. The government claims the deaths were caused by a measles outbreak, but outside experts say extremely high and unhealthy levels of manganese in their drinking water due to nearby mining may also be to blame. Advocates say the loss of their forests make indigenous communities more vulnerable to disease and illness, referring to the deforestation of their homes as “structural genocide.”

Half a billion bees dead as Brazil approves hundreds more pesticides by Pedro Grigori – Agência Pública / Repórter Brasil [08/23/2019]

– Exposure to pesticides containing neonicotinoids and fipronil caused the deaths of more than 500 million bees in four Brazilian states between December 2018 and February 2019, according to an investigation by Agência Pública and Repórter Brasil.
– Both classes of chemicals are banned in the European Union, but the Brazilian government under President Jair Bolsonaro is clearing the way for their widespread use.
– With 290 pesticide products approved for use since the start of the year, beekeepers are bracing for an increase in beneficial insect die-off.
– The real toll on bees from pesticide use is likely much larger, given that no one knows how many wild bees have been impacted by indiscriminate spraying, including in areas beyond plantation borders.

Satellite images from Planet reveal devastating Amazon fires in near real-time by Rhett A. Butler [08/22/2019]

– While many of the images currently being shared on social media and by news outlets are from past fires, satellites can provide a near real-time view of what’s unfolding in the Amazon.
– With near-daily overflights and high-resolution imagery, Planet’s constellation of satellites is providing a clear look at some of the fires now burning in the Brazilian Amazon.
– Beyond dramatic snapshots, those images also provide data that can be mined for critical insights on what’s happening in the Amazon on a basin-wide scale.

In Cambodia, a rare acquittal in a climate of danger for green activists by Andrew Nachemson [08/22/2019]

– Deported environmental activist Alejandro-Gonzalez Davidson, who faced charges relating to protests against sand dredging in Cambodia, was found not guilty by a Phnom Penh court on Aug. 22.
– Three Cambodian activists have already served 10 months in prison over charges stemming from the same protests, and still face large fines.
– Activists working in Cambodia face grave dangers from both authorities and illegal mining and logging interests.



Calls for natural solution over man-made one in flood-ravaged rhino refuge by Azera Parveen Rahman [08/29/2019]
– Kaziranga National Park in India, the global stronghold of the greater one-horned rhinoceros, has 144 artificial highlands built to help animals find refuge during the annual floods that hit the region.
– Experts say the artificial highlands are merely temporary solutions and won’t be beneficial over the long term.
– Some say the artificial highlands will lead to more erosion and siltation in the grasslands than occurs naturally. Moreover, only rhinos seem to be using the artificial highlands, while other animals tend to move toward natural highlands in neighboring hills.
– The real solution, some experts say, lies in keeping the migration routes that the animals follow to reach their natural highlands free of human settlements and commercial establishments.

Manta rays are social creatures who are choosy about their friends by [08/28/2019]
– Researchers have found evidence of structured social relationships among wild, free-ranging reef manta rays. The rays appear to actively choose other individuals to socialize with, according to a study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology last week.
– The researchers say that certain social groups were regularly seen together at specific cleaning stations, where the rays are cleaned by cleaner wrasse and other small fish, suggesting that they may be using those sites as meet-up points. Some rays were observed returning frequently to certain cleaning stations despite the close proximity of several other sites.
– Reef manta rays are listed as Vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List, which reports that the ray’s numbers are believed to have declined by as much as 30 percent globally over the last 75 years. The researchers hope that by revealing the social lives of manta rays, they can help build public support for protection measures around the world.

Misinformation and blame spread concerning sources of Amazon fires by Jenny Gonzales [08/28/2019]
– With the global spotlight on Brazil’s Amazon fires, those in and out of government are playing a blame game, pointing fingers and often using unsubstantiated claims to target those they say set the blazes.
– Pres. Jair Bolsonaro, without evidence, has blamed NGOs disgruntled at losing international Amazon funding. He also accused state governors for not fighting the fires. One ruralist even blamed ICMBio (Brazil’s national park service) for setting the blazes, though she has since been charged with setting fires in a protected area.
– Conservationists put the blame squarely on Bolsonaro and his deregulation and defunding of government institutions, including IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency, which used to regularly fight fires and arrest perpetrators.
– IBAMA claims that, though warned days in advance of “A Day of Fire” in Pará state, it received no law enforcement backup from federal or state authorities. This allowed ruralists (radical agricultural advocates) in Altamira and Novo Progresso to set hundreds of fires on August 10-11, with little fear of fines or prosecution.

New road risks Pandora’s box of disruption in world’s most biodiverse national park (commentary) by William Laurance and Penny van Oosterzee [08/28/2019]
– We are living in the most dramatic era of road and infrastructure expansion in human history. Thousands of projects are opening up many of Earth’s remaining wild areas and biodiversity hotspots to tsunamis of human pressures.
– About nine-tenths of all new infrastructure is currently being built in developing nations, which sustain most of the world’s tropical and subtropical forests—renowned for their environmental importance.
– William Laurance, a distinguished professor and authority on infrastructure developments, and Penny van Oosterzee, a tropical researcher, argue that planned or illegal road projects are imperiling Manu National Park, one of the world’s most critical protected areas and possibly the biologically richest ecosystem on Earth.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

The Pan Borneo Highway on a collision course with elephants by John C. Cannon [08/28/2019]
– Out of the controversy surrounding the Pan Borneo Highway and its potential impacts on the environment has arisen a movement to bring conservationists, scientists and planners together to develop a plan “to maximize benefits and reduce risks” to the environment from the road’s construction.
– The chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo has called for the highway to avoid cutting through forests.
– But a planned stretch would slice through a protected forest reserve with a dense concentration of elephants.
– A coalition of scientific and civil society organizations has offered an alternative route that its members say would still provide the desired connection while lowering the risk of potentially deadly human-wildlife conflict.

With record support, rhino rays and world’s fastest sharks get new trade protections by [08/28/2019]
– Governments from around the world have voted to strictly regulate the international trade in two species of mako sharks, six giant guitarfish species, and 10 species of wedgefish — sharks and rays that have been declining rapidly in recent years.
– All 18 species have now been formally approved for listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which mandates that countries track their exports of the listed sharks and rays, and show that fishing them will not threaten their long-term survival in the wild.
– With majority of the global trade in sharks and rays and their products, especially shark fins and meat, being unregulated, conservation groups and researchers have welcomed this decision.
– The three shark and ray proposals received the highest number of co-sponsors in the history of CITES convention with 61 countries supporting at least one of the three proposals.

Jumping the Shark: The Decline of the North Atlantic’s Shortfin Mako by Megan Stannard [08/28/2019]
– Conservation scientists have recommended a total fishing ban on shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) to allow the species’ population in the North Atlantic to recover from decades of overfishing.
– The shortfin mako has a slow breeding cycle, making overfishing particularly deletirious and recovery a slow process.
– A decision on whether to ban fishing of the species will be made in October by nations that are party to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), but past decision have often veered away from scientific recommendations.

Meet the first gene-edited reptile: An albino lizard by Malavika Vyawahare [08/28/2019]
– A team from the University of Georgia, U.S., reported successfully creating an albino lizard through gene-editing, a first for reptiles.
– The mutation introduced in the unfertilized eggs of female brown anole (Anolis sagrei) lizards led to the birth of albino offspring.
– Gene editing in reptiles is considered difficult because of features like internal fertilization and sperm storage, which make it hard to predict when fertilization will take place.
– The researchers say they hope that exploring different gene functions in Anolis lizards will aid in the study of genetic defects in humans.

A healthy and productive Amazon is the foundation of Brazil’s sovereignty (commentary) by Rhett A. Butler [08/27/2019]
– Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro likes to assert that foreigners deserve no say over the fate of the Amazon because it is a national sovereignty issue. In making the argument, Bolsonaro at times lays out a grand conspiracy under which a body like the U.N. tries to “internationalize” the Amazon, claiming it as the domain of the world.
– As fires rage, some on social media are raising the idea of the Amazon being the domain of the world. But this discussion plays directly into Bolsonaro’s narrative, strengthening his hand.
– Instead, concerned people of the world should talk about how a healthy and productive Amazon actually underpins Brazil’s sovereignty by strengthening food, water, and energy security, while supporting good relations with its neighbors.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

What’s in a name? For Sri Lanka’s newest geckos, a political firestorm by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [08/27/2019]
– Researchers recently described six new species of geckos, but the discovery has been overshadowed by controversy over their naming.
– Nationalist figures accuse the researchers of dishonoring historical heroes by naming the geckos after them, with one group even filing a complaint with the police.
– The scientific community has risen in support of the researchers, pointing out that naming a new species after an individual is universally considered a badge of honor.
– For their part, the researchers say the focus should be on the new species, which are so rare and their range so restricted that they should be considered critically endangered.

Indonesia bans food labeled ‘palm oil-free,’ in move welcomed by industry by Hans Nicholas Jong [08/27/2019]
– The Indonesian food regulatory agency says there’s an implication that products labeled “palm oil-free” are healthier, which would constitute false advertising.
– But the agency has also adopted a talking point of the palm oil industry: that the labeling is a ploy by critics and competitors to undermine Indonesian palm oil.
– Authorities have already begun inspections at supermarkets to remove food products labeled palm oil-free, but an economist warns that the move could trigger a dispute at the World Trade Organization.
– The actual question of whether or not palm oil is less healthy than other vegetable oils remains murky, in part because much of the research on the issue was authored by an industry lobby group.

Michael Shellenberger’s sloppy Forbes diatribe deceives on Amazon fires (commentary) by Rhett A. Butler [08/27/2019]
– Forbes columnist Michael Shellenberger gets a few things right about the Amazon fires, but he also spreads misinformation not founded in fact or science.
– What Shellenberger gets right: The Amazon is being mischaracterized by the media as “the lungs of the planet”, the number of fires have been higher in the past, and there is a need to engage Brazilian ranchers and farmers to help curb deforestation and burning.
– What Shellenberger gets wrong: According to scientists, the big issue is that the Brazilian Amazon stores a vast amount of carbon. Increased deforestation combined with climate change is pushing the Amazon ever closer to a forest-to-savanna tipping point, triggering a large release of carbon and worsening global warming.
– Also downplayed: the role Jair Bolsonaro is playing in the crisis. Since January, he has dismantled environmental enforcement agencies and used incendiary language to incite ranchers and farmers to illegally clear forest. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Companies sourcing beef, leather from China exposed to Brazil deforestation risk, researchers say by [08/27/2019]
– An analysis of trade data reveals retailers and manufacturers using cattle products sourced from Brazil may be buying beef and leather linked to deforestation.
– The research by NGO Global Canopy linked Brazilian and Chinese companies to major brands including Adidas, Nike, DFS, Ikea, BMW, Daimler, General Motors and Volkswagen.
– Of the 15 importers in Europe and the United States included in the data, only three purchased products from Chinese companies that had made deforestation commitments.

Giraffe trade to be monitored, strictly regulated by [08/26/2019]
– Until recently, there weren’t any international regulations governing the trade in giraffes and their body parts.
– On Aug. 22, countries voted to list the giraffe under Appendix II of CITES, which would tighten the monitoring and regulation of the giraffe trade.
– Giraffe numbers have fallen by 40 percent over the past 30 years.

DiCaprio joins $5M effort to combat Amazon fires by [08/26/2019]
– In response to rising deforestation and fires in the Amazon, on Sunday actor Leonardo DiCaprio and philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth announced the establishment of a $5 million fund to support indigenous communities and other first responders working to protect the Amazon.
– The Amazon Forest Fund is the first major initiative of the Earth Alliance, which Global Wildlife Conservation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and the Emerson Collective formed in July.
– The fund’s initial grants went to five Brazilian organizations: Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida, the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, Instituto Kabu, Instituto Raoni, and Instituto Socioambiental.
– The establishment of the fund comes amid global outcry over rising deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. After years of declining deforestation in the region, forest clearing spiked in July. Then last week, smoke from land-clearing fires blackened the skies above Sao Paulo, acting as a catalyst for worldwide awareness of the issue.

The Pan Borneo Highway could divide threatened wildlife populations by John C. Cannon [08/26/2019]
– Crews are set to begin construction on a stretch of Malaysia’s Pan Borneo Highway in eastern Sabah state, involving the widening of the road from two lanes to four.
– The new divided highway will cross the Kinabatangan River and pass through a critical wildlife sanctuary that’s home to orangutans, elephants and proboscis monkeys, along with other wildlife species already hemmed in by the region’s oil palm plantations.
– Planners and politicians hope the road will stimulate local economies and bring in more tourists.
– Conservationists and scientists, however, are concerned that the highway could further section off animal populations and damage the current tourism infrastructure, unless certain mitigation measures are introduced.

‘Like spaghetti’: Worm-slurping, hopping rats discovered in the Philippines by Nanditha Chandraprakash [08/26/2019]
– The highly biodiverse island of Luzon in the Philippines has yielded up two species of rats new to science.
– Both are found high up on Luzon’s mountains, where they’ve evolved to feed on the earthworms that abound in the lush, wet habitat.
– Researchers say they hope the new discoveries, the latest of dozens made here since 2000, will help shine a spotlight on the importance of conserving Luzon’s unique habitats and wildlife.

Indonesia picks coal and oil heartland as site of new capital city by Basten Gokkon [08/26/2019]
– President Joko Widodo announced on Aug. 26 that the new capital would sit on the border area between the districts of North Penajam Pasar and Kutai Kartanegara, in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province.
– Among the reasons for choosing that location are the low risk of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and the availability of government-owned land spanning the size of London.
– Construction is expected to begin as early as 2021, with a completion date of 2024, when Widodo’s second and last term in office ends, the planning minister says.
– Environmental and indigenous rights activists are wary about the mega project’s impact on the region and the prospect of land grabs by speculators looking to cash in on the relocation of the capital.

Sumatran elephant sanctuary under threat from bridge, port projects by Taufik Wijaya [08/26/2019]
– Both the planned bridge and private port in southern Sumatra would be built in an area that includes a key wildlife sanctuary that’s home to 152 critically endangered Sumatran elephants.
– The bridge would link to an island being developed for tourism, while the port would serve a pulpwood mill operated by Asia Pulp & Paper.
– Environmentalists have called for minimal disruption to the habitat if the projects go ahead, including elevated roads and strict zoning to ensure the elephants can co-exist alongside the anticipated influx of people.
– An attempt was made in 1982 to relocate the elephants from the area to make way for a migrant colony, but the elephants moved back and the area was subsequently designated as a sanctuary.

81% of Indonesia’s oil palm plantations flouting regulations, audit finds by Hans Nicholas Jong [08/25/2019]
– An Indonesian government audit has found the vast majority of oil palm plantations operating in the country are in breach of a range of regulations.
– These include a lack of permits, encroachment into protected areas, and non-compliance with national sustainability standards.
– The findings echo the results of a 2016 audit by the anti-corruption commission that concluded Indonesia lacked a credible and accountable system to prevent violations and corruption in the palm oil industry.
– Activists say the government needs to be serious about cracking down on plantation companies, some of which are owned by top government officials, and about boosting transparency in the industry.

Greenpeace releases dramatic photos of Amazon fires by Rhett A. Butler [08/25/2019]
– Today Greenpeace Brazil released dramatic photos of fires currently burning through rainforests and agricultural land in the Brazilian Amazon.
– Some of the fires appear to be burning forests with well-developed canopy structure, suggesting that carbon-dense and biodiverse forests are being directly impacted by the fires.
– Greenpeace says its own spatial analysis indicates that 15,749 of the 23,006 hotspots it recorded in the Amazon in the first 20 days of the month were in areas that were forest in 2017.
– Those conclusions provide further evidence that the fires were set intentionally for forest-clearing purposes.

How many fires are burning in the Amazon? by Rhett A. Butler [08/25/2019]
– The fires raging in the Amazon are nearly double over last year, but remain moderate in the historical context.
– The 41,858 fires recorded in the Amazon as of Aug. 24 this year are the highest number since 2010, when 58,476 were recorded by the end of August. But 2019 is well below the mid-2000s, when deforestation rates were very much higher.
– However, this year’s numbers come with an important caveat: the satellites used for hotspot tracking in Brazil have limited capacity to detect sub-canopy fires.
– The hazy, dark skies over São Paulo have focused worldwide attention on the soaring deforestation rates in the Amazon as well as the pro-deforestation policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Amazon fires trigger protests worldwide by Jill Langlois and Elisângela Mendonça [08/24/2019]
– Tens of thousands of active fires are ravaging the Brazilian Amazon in recent weeks, sparking protests in cities across Brazil and around the world, urging effective action from far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to contain fires in the world’s largest rainforest.
– On August 23, demonstrators blocked off roads, shouting slogans and holding placards reading: “Stop killing our Amazon” in cities that included São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, London, Geneva, Paris, Berlin and Toronto. Protesters also demanded Bolsonaro and Environment Minister Ricardo Salles to resign.
– An online petition in the UK asked the European Union to sanction Brazil for its increased deforestation. Within a day, it collected over 65,000 signatures. If it reaches the 100,000 signatures mark, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.
– French President Emmanuel Macron also have called for emergency talks at the G7 summit in Biarritz to discuss the record number of fires, calling the situation an international crisis and gaining the support of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Snow leopard population overestimated in Nepal? DNA study suggests it may be by Abhaya Raj Joshi [08/23/2019]
– Researchers conducted a large-scale survey of potential snow leopard habitat in Nepal to re-estimate the species’ population density using the non-invasive technique of collecting environmental DNA from scat samples combined with standard genetic analyses.
– This method enabled the researchers to sample a larger, more representative, area than many previous studies, often conducted in prime leopard habitats; they also found that they could obtain reliable DNA from scat samples.
– Previous studies on which conservation policies have been based may have over-estimated the big cat’s population. The researchers say similar studies are needed to more accurately estimate the population of snow leopards in Nepal and 11 other range countries.

Hawaii braces for potential mass-coral bleaching event by Liz Kimbrough [08/23/2019]
– Current sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal for this time of year and have exceeded the temperatures preceding the catastrophic 2015 bleaching event.
– Bleached coral is not dead, but because the vast majority of the energy for the coral is coming from the algae’s activities, the vacated coral is severely weakened.
– People can act to alleviate coral stress by not touching, standing or anchoring on the reef; keeping chemicals such as sunscreens with oxybenzone or octinoxate out of the water; and suspending fishing for herbivorous fish.
– Visitors to Hawaiian reefs are being urged to participate in the real time monitoring of the reefs’ health using the newly launched website

Peru aims to eliminate palm oil deforestation by 2021 by Genevieve Belmaker [08/23/2019]
– Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers’ Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into a future agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production.
– The promise was secured by the US-based National Wildlife Federation, in collaboration with the local government, growers, and local independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
– If JUNPALMA honors the deforestation-free agreement, Peru will be the second country in South America after Colombia to make such a commitment.

Aimed at linking communities, Malaysian highway may damage forests by John C. Cannon [08/23/2019]
– Leaders hope that the construction of a road linking the Pan Borneo Highway between the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak will connect remote communities to markets and to each other.
– But conservationists warn that the highway will cut through some of the last remaining dense forest in Sarawak.
– In addition to the challenges of building in a rainy tropical environment, the mountainous terrain will make construction and maintenance difficult, skeptics of the road say.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 23, 2019 by [08/23/2019]
– 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.

Bid to allow sale of ivory stockpiles rejected at wildlife trade summit by [08/23/2019]
– A proposal by Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia that would have allowed them to sell their ivory stockpiles has been rejected by 101 votes to 23 at the CITES wildlife trade summit taking place in Geneva.
– Populations of elephants in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are placed in Appendix II of CITES, which allows commercial trade in registered government-owned ivory stocks, with the necessary CITES permits in place.
– But such sales are severely restricted by a legally binding annotation to Appendix II, which Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe’s proposal sought to amend.
– Several other African countries opposed the proposal, saying that the one-off sales permitted under the annotation in 1997 and 2008 had failed and sparked a poaching frenzy, negating the argument that flooding the market with legal ivory would drown out the illegal trade.

Indonesia eyes palm oil export boost to China amid mounting U.S. trade war by Hans Nicholas Jong [08/23/2019]
– Indonesia has welcomed a move by China to remove palm oil from its import tariff quota management.
– That would allow Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, to increase its exports to China, its No. 3 market.
– A senior Indonesian official said there would be no forest-clearing to support any anticipated increase in exports, with higher yields expected to come from better technology and seeds.
– The move presents a respite for Indonesia, which faces a biofuel phase-out in the EU and a likely increase in duties in India, its top two export markets.

In Sri Lanka, the sweet smell of agarwood draws calls for trade protection by Malaka Rodrigo [08/23/2019]
– Agarwood, a resinous substance produced by tree species in the Aquilaria and Gyrinops genera, is a prized source of natural perfume and incense, and is regularly smuggled out of Sri Lanka.
– Although all agarwood-producing species are already listed in CITES Appendix II, fresh calls are being made to include one of them, Gyrinops walla, found in Sri Lanka, in Appendix I to prevent its trade at least until farmed products are available in the market.
– Botanists are promoting the domestication of G. walla, pointing to the success of cinnamon, which used to be harvested from the wild in Sri Lanka but is now produced in home gardens and commercial plantations.

Australia to ban domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn by [08/22/2019]
– Australia has formally announced a plan to ban its domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.
– Sussan Ley, the country’s environment minister, said she would meet with ministers in November to ensure that steps are taken to ban domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn all jurisdictions.
– At the ongoing CITES meeting, a coalition of 30 African elephant range countries tabled a proposal asking all domestic markets of ivory to be closed. But the proposal was voted down.


Colombia: Indigenous Yukpa besieged by deforestation and armed conflict by Julián Sáenz/Semana Sostenible [08/19/2019]
Connecting an island: Traveling the Pan Borneo Highway by John C. Cannon [08/19/2019]
Madagascar: What’s good for the forest is good for the native silk industry by Edward Carver [08/16/2019]