Newsletter 2019-09-05


Transforming African conservation from old social cause into next-gen growth market by Rhett A. Butler [09/03/2019]

– Africa’s conservation challenges are daunting: on the surface it would seem that time is running short for African wildlife.
– One Ghanian entrepreneur sees conservation as one of the great opportunities for Africa, though: Fred Swaniker, the Founder and CEO of the African Leadership Group, has won accolades for his efforts to transform higher education in Africa.
– One of his latest ventures is African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation, which aims to help Africans use their knowledge, experience, and big ideas to “own and drive” the conservation agenda in Africa.
– Ahead of ALU’s Business of Conservation Conference taking place September 8-9 in Kigali, Rwanda, Swaniker spoke with Mongabay about equipping conservation leaders with business, managerial, and leadership skills “to transform a generations-old social cause into a next-generation high-growth market.”

Giant Norway pension fund weighs Brazil divestment over Amazon deforestation by Zoe Sullivan [09/03/2019]

– KLP, Norway’s largest pension fund, with over US$80 billion in assets, is saying it may divest from transnational commodities traders operating in Brazil such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill, if they work with producers who contribute to deforestation. KLP has $50 million in shares and loans with the firms.
– KLP is also reaching out to other investors to lobby them to use their financial influence to curb Amazon deforestation via supply chains. On August 28, Nordea, the largest asset management group in the Nordic region announced a temporary quarantine on Brazilian government bonds in response to this year’s Amazon fires.
– International investment firms play a pivotal role in preserving or deforesting the Amazon. A new report found that mega-investment house BlackRock ranks among the top three shareholders in 25 of the largest public “deforestation-risk” companies, firms dealing in soy, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber and timber.
– The Amazon deforestation process is complex. But it often proceeds by the following steps: land speculators invade the rainforest, illegally cut down and sell the most valuable timber, then set fire to the rest; they then can sell the land for 100-200 times its previous worth to cattle ranchers, who may eventually sell it to soy growers.

A tiger refuge in Sumatra gets a reprieve from road building by Rod Harbinson [08/31/2019]

– Sumatra’s Kerinci Seblat National Park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), which has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger since 2011.
– UNESCO has noted particular concern about a spate of road projects planned for Kerinci Seblat and other protected areas within the TRHS.
– According to park officials, Indonesia’s forestry ministry has refused permits for all new roads within the park; the sole project to receive permission is the upgrade of an existing road.
– The park still faces immense pressure from encroachment for agriculture, logging, mining and poaching.

Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires grows by Sue Branford [08/30/2019]

– As a result of international concern and media attention, along with pressure from within his own nation, Jair Bolsonaro decreed a 60-day ban on the setting of fires in the Brazilian Amazon on Wednesday, 28 August. The order came as experts warned that the worst fires this year may be yet to come.
– To avoid international attention, Brazil’s House of Deputies put on hold a plan to pass sweeping legislation that would abolish significant existing environmental protections for 1,514 quilombolas (communities of runaway slave descendants), 163 as yet un-demarcated indigenous territories, and 543 protected areas.
– Both the House and Senate proposed inquiries into the Amazon fires. Also, 400 IBAMA personnel signed an open letter demanding qualified professionals run the environmental agency, that past budget and staffing levels be restored, and that security squads again be deployed with IBAMA teams fighting deforestation.
– Even as South American nations organized a meeting to combat deforestation, Bolsonaro moved ahead with a plan to privatize deforestation satellite monitoring in Brazil. The new system, experts warn, could end real time monthly monitoring, needed to apprehend illegal deforesters.

‘Not a pretty picture’: South China’s forests vanish as tree farms move in by Michael Standaert [08/29/2019]

– Forests in South China have been increasingly replaced by monoculture ecalyptus plantations grown for wood fiber for the pulp and paper industry. Even forests under official protection haven’t been spared. Xidamingshan Forest Reserve is one of these, losing so much of its native forest over the past decade that it was delisted by the World Database of Protected Areas in 2018.
– Central government-led environmental inspections in 2016 found that the Guangxi region lost 6.9 percent of its nature reserve areas over a five year period between 2011 and 2015, with the loss primarily due to unclear borders and the ensuing environmental damage from economic activities such as plantation agriculture and mining.
– The Guangxi government set about trying to determine the borders of the Xidamingshan Nature Reserve in 2016, with the final determination coming on Jan. 31, 2019. However, where those borders will actually be depends on the outcomes of negotiations between Guangxi and local governments, and their implementation is at the mercy of a protracted bureaucratic process.
– Meanwhile, forests continue to be lost at a fast pace, with satellite data showing large areas of tree cover loss in 2019.

A remote Indonesian district juggles road building with nature conservation by Basten Gokkon [08/29/2019]

– The Indonesian government plans to build or upgrade thousands of kilometers of roads in Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo Island.
– Proponents of the project say infrastructure upgrades are necessary to support a growing population, will boost economic growth, and will provide better access to services.
– But conservationists are concerned these roads will fragment and degrade some of the island’s last remaining intact ecosystems.
– This summer, Mongabay traveled the length of one such project in East Kalimantan province, into a remote region already undergoing changes as a result of current and planned road upgrades.

Latin America saw most murdered environmental defenders in 2018 by Yvette Sierra Praeli [08/29/2019]

– Colombia was the deadliest of these, with 24 killings in 2018, followed by Brazil with 20, Guatemala with 16, and Mexico with 14.
– These killings are driven primarily by conflicts over mining; other causes include conflicts over agriculture and the defense of water sources.


New monkey species found in Amazon forest area that’s fast disappearing by Shreya Dasgupta [09/05/2019]
– From a stretch of the Amazon forest lying between the Tapajós and Jamanxim rivers in the Brazilian state of Pará, researchers have described a new-to-science species of marmoset.
– The marmoset, with its distinct white tail, white forearms with a beige-yellowish spot on the elbow, and white feet and hands, has been named Mico munduruku after the Munduruku, an indigenous group of people who live in the Tapajós–Jamanxim interfluve.
– At the moment, given the scarcity of information on M. munduruku, the researchers recommend listing the marmoset as data deficient on the IUCN Red List.
– However, the Amazon forest that’s home to the newly described species is being rapidly cut for agricultural expansion, logging, mining, and infrastructure development.

Protected areas best conserve mammalian diversity when connected with corridors, biologged weasels show by Emi Kusayanagi [09/04/2019]
– For protected area (PA) networks to be an effective conservation tool, they should be well-connected to allow species movement through unprotected landscapes, but questions remain on what configuration of natural features can best facilitate animal movement.
– A recent study compared three theories of animal movement (structurally intact corridors, least-cost paths, and stepping stones) by analyzing the fine-scale movements of GPS-tagged fishers, a member of the weasel family. They found the tagged fishers consistently moved along structurally intact, natural corridors across a PA network.
– With the Aichi 2020 Biodiversity Targets in mind, the authors highlight that simply increasing the number of protected areas alone may not achieve the objectives of the protected area network amidst an increasingly fragmented landscape; the conservation of natural corridors between PAs may be equally important, something for future planners to consider.

Audio: Rev. Lennox Yearwood on why he’s ‘excited’ about the urgency and energy behind climate action by Mike Gaworecki [09/04/2019]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, a non-profit group based in the US that advocates for social and environmental justice.
– Reverend Yearwood and the Hip Hop Caucus will have a big presence at the upcoming UN Climate Action Summit as well as in the streets outside the summit and the UN general assembly occurring the same week.
– Yearwood talks about participating in the week-long Global Climate Strike during the UN meetings; providing a platform for indigenous leaders, people of color, and young people to speak on climate issues that affect them; and his “suites to the streets” approach to climate activism.

New report reveals northern Ecuadorian region has lost 61 percent of forests by Antonio José Paz Cardona [09/04/2019]
– The Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve maintains only 61 percent of its original plant cover. The area’s ecological significance is partly due to its sitting in a transition zone between humid tropical forests and seasonally dry forests.
– In Cotacachi-Cayapas Park, a high level of conservation success represents a source of hope. Now the challenge is to connect the park to private reserves to guarantee protection of the most-threatened lowland forests.

‘Holy grail’: Nest of extremely rare bird captured on video in Russia by Shreya Dasgupta [09/04/2019]
– In a remote part of the Russian Far East, researchers have for the first time filmed a nesting Nordmann’s greenshank, a bird that researchers know very little about.
– While the Nordmann’s greenshank forages along the coast where it can be seen more easily from boats, it goes deep into larch forests in very remote locations to nest.
– While the observed nest failed, the team managed to tag seven adult greenshanks and eight chicks with unique leg bands, which will help them track each individual bird as they fly across Asia and back.
– There are believed to be fewer than 2,000 Nordmann’s greenshanks living in the wild today, with the species facing different threats in the various countries and territories through which it passes on its winter migration.

New species of giant flying squirrel brings hope to one of the world’s ‘most wanted’ by Nanticha Ocharoenchai [09/04/2019]
– Scientists have discovered a new species of giant flying squirrel in China belonging to one of the world’s rarest and most mysterious genera.
– The first species in the genus, the Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi), was described in 1981 and hasn’t been seen since.
– A second species, the Laotian giant flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus laoensis), was described in 2013, but also from just a single specimen.
– Researchers believe the conservation outlook for the new species, the Mount Gaoligong flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus gaoligongensis), is better than for its relatives, given its greater abundance in the wild and prospects for community and government involvement to protect it.

A Philippine island employs a rare cockatoo in its fight against mines by [09/03/2019]
– The Philippine island of Homonhon in best known as the first site in Asia where Ferdinand Magellan set foot on his historic circumnavigation of the globe.
– Today, the island is home to open-pit mines that have been operating for decades to get valuable deposits of chromite and nickel.
– Locals opposed to the mines now have a new weapon in their fight: a recent assessment of the island’s flora and fauna, showing that it houses threatened and endemic species, in particular the critically endangered Philippine cockatoo.
– The regional environment department has recommended that in light of this finding, the entire island be declared a critical habitat, which would protect the identified species from mining and other activities.

Indonesian court cancels dam project in last stronghold of tigers, rhinos by Junaidi Hanafiah [09/02/2019]
– A court in Indonesia’s Aceh province has ordered an end to a planned hydroelectric project in Sumatra’s unique Leuser Ecosystem.
– Environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Aceh government and the dam’s developer earlier this year over potential environmental destruction and violation of zoning laws.
– The area is the last place on Earth that’s home to wild tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants — all critically endangered species whose habitat would be flooded and fragmented by the dam and its roads and power lines.
– Villagers in the region were also widely opposed to the project, which they say would have dammed up the river on which they depend and forced them to relocate to make way for the reservoir.

Brazil’s satellite agency resumes releasing deforestation data by [09/01/2019]
– Brazil’s National Space Research Institute INPE resumed releasing deforestation data after nearly a month-long hiatus that followed the firing of the agency’s director.
– The newly released data estimates that more than 1,400 square kilometers of forest were cleared in the Brazilian Amazon between August 1 and August 26, 2019. That rate is running well ahead of last August.
– Year-to-date, INPE data puts forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon at 5,884 square kilometers through August 26, up more than 75 percent over last year.
– INPE reported an increase in burn scars in the Amazon, rising from 794 square kilometers last August to 1,259 square kilometers for the first 26 days of last month. For the year, INPE has recorded 46,825 hotspots in Amazonia, more than twice the number of a year ago.

‘No place to hide’ for illegal fishing fleets as surveillance satellites prepare for lift-off by Gavin Haines [08/30/2019]
– A low-cost satellite revolution is paving the way for real-time monitoring of fishing vessels using synthetic-aperture radar (SAR).
– SAR allows researchers to monitor ‘dark vessels’ that aren’t transmitting Automatic Identification Signals (AIS) location data.
– Disabling or manipulating AIS transmitters is a tactic commonly used by vessels engaged in illegal fishing activity.

Madagascar no longer insisting on selling its seized rosewood, for now by Malavika Vyawahare [08/30/2019]
– Madagascar has withdrawn its demand to be allowed to sell illegally harvested rosewood timber that it had previously seized.
– The move aligns Madagascar’s position more closely with that of the international community, which wants the country to crack down on the illegal logging and timber trade before a relaxation or lifting of the ban is even considered.
– However, the government hasn’t ruled out seeking permission for a sale in the future, raising concern among observers about the message this could send to illegal traders and to other countries also seeking to offload stockpiles of trafficked contraband.

With new protections, saiga antelope may continue to be a symbol of Central Asia (commentary) by Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba [08/30/2019]
– Saiga antelope are classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN “Red List” of threatened species. Disease and poaching have taken their toll on this ancient animal.
– With potential disease threats, saiga cannot withstand the additional challenges of poaching and illegal trade. Saiga males are targeted and killed for their horn, which is used in traditional medicine in Asia. With the total remaining saiga population in Mongolia standing at less than 3,000, we are deeply concerned about both illegal trade and any potential commercial trade.
– The majority of the 183 governments that are Parties to CITES gathered this week for their global meeting to regulate or prohibit commercial trade in threatened and endangered species. Given the high demand for saiga horn and this animal’s susceptibility to disease resulting in high levels of mortality across the population, the action taken in Geneva this week to strengthen saiga’s global protection was essential.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, August 30, 2019 by [08/30/2019]
– 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.

The end of the road: The future of the Pan Borneo Highway by John C. Cannon [08/30/2019]
– The construction of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of road for the Pan Borneo Highway across Malaysian Borneo holds the promise of spurring local economies for its proponents.
– But from the outset, conservationists and scientists voiced concerns that the road would displace people, harm sensitive environments, and threaten Borneo’s splendid diversity of wildlife.
– As construction moves forward, these groups are working with planners to find a way for the highway’s construction to avoid the worst environmental damage.

Humans have been transforming Earth for thousands of years, study says by Shreya Dasgupta [08/30/2019]
– Some 3,000 years ago, our human ancestors were already substantially transforming Earth’s surface by farming and grazing livestock, according to a new study that crowdsourced the expert knowledge of more than 250 archaeologists from the around the world.
– This massive collaboration, termed the ArchaeGLOBE project, has helped build the first ever global picture of how human activities were altering the planet’s surface from 10,000 years ago right up to 1850.
– These estimates of the spread of agriculture and pastoralism suggest that humans were significantly transforming the planet earlier than what some recent studies and databases show, the researchers say.
– The ArchaeoGLOBE project dataset, however, has several data gaps and presents only part of our planet’s history.


‘We have cut them all’: Ghana struggles to protect its last old-growth forests by Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda [08/28/2019]
Death on the Brahmaputra: The rhino, the rangers, and the usual suspects by Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya [08/28/2019]
For Indonesia’s Kendari Bay, silting is a death sentence by Ian Morse [08/28/2019]
In the rice-rich Mekong region, will husk briquettes take hold? by Lauren Crothers [08/28/2019]
Bolsonaro expresses ‘love’ for Amazon as it burns, offers no policy shift by Thais Borges and Sue Branford [08/26/2019]
Indigenous communities, nat’l parks suffer as Malaysia razes its reserves by Chris Humphrey [08/23/2019]
Half a billion bees dead as Brazil approves hundreds more pesticides by Pedro Grigori – Agência Pública / Repórter Brasil [08/23/2019]
Satellite images from Planet reveal devastating Amazon fires in near real-time by Rhett A. Butler [08/22/2019]
In Cambodia, a rare acquittal in a climate of danger for green activists by Andrew Nachemson [08/22/2019]