Newsletter 2020-01-23


Mongabay editor arrested in Indonesia by [01/21/2020]

– Mongabay editor Philip Jacobson was detained in Indonesia on December 17, 2019 over an alleged issue with his business visa.- Jacobson was formally arrested on January 21 and is currently incarcerated in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.- This is a press release from Mongabay about a developing situation and may be updated.

Belo Monte boondoggle: Brazil’s biggest, costliest dam may be unviable by Tiffany Higgins [01/17/2020]

– The controversial Belo Monte mega-dam in Pará state has done significant socio environmental harm to the Xingu River and the indigenous and traditional people living beside it. Now it appears the dam may not be able to produce the electricity totals promised by its builders — an eventuality critics had long warned about.- Project designers appear to have seriously misestimated the Xingu River’s flow rates and fluctuations between wet and dry seasons, while also not accounting for reductions in flow due to deforestation caused by rapidly expanding cattle ranches and soy plantations far upriver in Mato Grosso state.
– Climate change-induced droughts are also decreasing Xingu River flows and generating capacity. In 2013, an important Brazilian Panel on Climate Change report warned that global warming could drop water levels all across the Amazon basin, putting hydropower in serious jeopardy.
– As deforestation due to agribusiness and mining spreads across the basin, now driven by the development-friendly policies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the future for Amazon hydroelectric dams, their generating capacity and investment potential looks increasingly bleak.



Subsistence farming topples forests near commercial operations in Congo
– A new study has found that deforestation for subsistence agriculture often occurs nearby commercial logging, mining and agriculture operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– Shifting cultivation, which sustains most of the DRC’s farmers and their families, continues to drive much of the forest loss in the country.
– Commercial operations accounted for relatively little forest loss in the DRC between 2000 and 2015.
– But the study showed that around 12% of the forest lost as the area used for shifting agriculture expanded occurred within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of these large-scale ventures.

Audio: The sounds of tropical katydids and how they can benefit conservation
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we speak with Laurel Symes, a biologist who is using bioacoustics to study tropical katydids in Central America. She is also assistant director of the Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University in the United States.
– Symes’ research is focused on using machine learning to detect and identify tropical katydids via the sounds they produce. Katydids are grasshopper-like insects that are important to the rainforest food web, as they eat alot of plants and are in turn eaten by alot of other species, including birds, bats, monkeys, frogs, and more.
– Symes is here today to discuss how the study of katydids might benefit tropical forest conservation efforts more broadly, how machine learning is aiding her bioacoustic work, and to plays for us some of the katydid sounds that she’s captured.

Liberia expands a key elephant park again, this time with help of locals
– After the 2017 death of a forest ranger during a riot in a key national park, Liberian officials and conservation groups changed their community relations approach. Now they are working together to establish the park’s borders.
– Sapo National Park is one of the most important protected forests in West Africa.
– The park has a troubled past of illicit mining, hunting, and conflict between communities and conservation efforts.
– Now, the Liberian government is trying to work collaboratively with those communities to establish the boundaries of the park after a contested 2003 expansion.

Mexico: Community forestry boosts conservation, jobs, and social benefits
– More than 2,000 communal landholdings known as ejidos, and communities, have organized themselves to carry out sustainable management of forests in their territory.
– In states such as Oaxaca, Michoacán, Durango, Chihuahua and Quintana Roo there are examples of communities that have managed to conserve forests and their biodiversity, while generating jobs and other benefits for the population.
– Mining, organized crime, illegal timber trafficking, and the tax regime are just some of the challenges facing community forest management in Mexico.

Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worried
– A plan to plant 2.42 billion trees by the Isha Foundation along the Cauvery River has attracted the chagrin of some scientists.
– While scientists say the project is well-meaning, they don’t believe it will cure the Cauvery River’s ills as promised.
– The Isha Foundation has yet to announce a number of details of the project, including what tree species will be planted.
– India’s rivers are suffering from numerous issues, but researchers contend mass tree planting is too simplistic to fix them all.

Black-market anchovies: Report details Peru’s illegal fish meal industry
– Peru is the world’s leading producer of fish meal, made from anchovetas (Engraulis ringens) and used primarily as feed for aquaculture and livestock.
– It’s unclear precisely how much of the substance it makes because a sizeable portion appears to be off the books.
– Some 22,000 tons of fish meal are produced annually by illegal factories located in the Pisco province of southern Peru, according to a report by the NGO Oceana.
– The report identified three illegal mechanisms currently operating in Peru to produce fish meal for export and domestic use.

Madagascar launches massive planting drive, eyes 60 million trees
– Madagascar launched a national drive on Jan. 19 that aims to plant 60 million trees in the coming months to mark 60 years of independence, and in the hope of restoring the island’s forests.
– Madagascar, the oldest island in the world and the fourth-largest, is home to an astounding range of plant and animal life.
– Between 2001 and 2018, it lost about one-fifth of its tree cover, according to Global Forest Watch, driven primarily by the expansion of shifting agriculture.
– Experts say the real challenge for the campaign is in safeguarding the young trees by weaning the Malagasy people away from unsustainable agricultural practices and reducing their dependence on wood for charcoal.

Amazon’s Munduruku stage daring Christmas raid to recover sacred urns
– In 2013, during the building of the Teles Pires dam in the Brazilian Amazon, the Teles Pires Hydroelectric Company (CHTP) dynamited Karobixexe (Seven Rapids), a sacred site of the Munduruku, Apiaká and Kayabi peoples. Located just outside an indigenous reserve, it received no government protection.
– Also during construction, the firm removed funeral urns from a sacred site without indigenous permission and refused to return them. In December, 70 Munduruku occupied the Natural History Museum in Alta Floresta in Mato Grosso state, and took back the 12 funeral urns, plus other artifacts of theirs.
– The construction of the Teles Pires dam and destruction of Karobixexe both occurred without prior consultation of the Mundurku as required under law according to the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, of which Brazil is a signatory.
– Other human remains were found by CHTP and 270,000 artifacts were removed to which the Munduruku now have no access. They have also been barred from another sacred site, Dekoka’a (Monkey Hill) impacted by the construction of the São Manoel Hydroelectric Power Station, also located on the Teles Pires River.

Deforestation clips howler monkey calls, study finds
– In a recent study, scientists report that howler monkeys in Costa Rica make longer calls in forest interiors and nearly naturally occurring forest edges, such as those along rivers, than near human-created edges.
– The researchers believe that the longer howls serve as a way for male monkeys to protect their groups’ access to higher-quality food resources.
– The team’s findings indicate that this behavioral change in response to deforestation supports the protection of standing forest and reforestation along human-created forest edges.

A national park takes shape in Argentina as the forest disappears
– Officially established in October 2014, Argentina’s Impenetrable National Park partially opened to the public in early 2018.
– The park is home to an estimated 600 species of vertebrates including jaguars and giant anteaters. Conservation organizations and Argentina’s National Parks Administration are planning on reintroducing marsh deer to the park, which have been driven to local extinction in most of their Argentinian range.
– Impenetrable National Park is located in the largely semiarid Gran Chaco ecoregion. The Chaco is one of the most deforested areas on the planet, losing more than 2.9 million hectares (7.2 million acres) of its forest between 2010 and 2018. Argentina is home to 60% of the Chaco – but it’s the site of 80% of Chaco deforestation as farmers clear more and more land for cattle and soy.
– Park officials say hunting is also taking a toll on wildlife, and satellite imagery reveals wildfire burned through more than 1,000 hectares of park forest in late 2019.

One of four North Atlantic right whale calves spotted so far this breeding season struck by ship
– One of just four North Atlantic right whale calves spotted off the southeast coast of the United States so far this winter was discovered last week to have suffered deep propeller wounds to both sides of its head.
– The injured calf was photographed by an aerial survey team about 8 miles (12.8 kilometers) off the coast of the state of Georgia while swimming with its mother on January 8. The two S-shaped gashes observed by the survey team were most likely caused by the propeller of a boat, but humans will probably not be able to intervene and help the calf.
– The North Atlantic right whale population has been on the decline since 2010, due almost entirely to the impacts of human activities, especially collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, Jan. 17, 2020
– 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.

India’s yak herders face the end of ancient tradition in warming Himalayas
– The Brokpa community of yak herders in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh say they may be seeing the end of their traditions as climate and social changes make the long months of herding even harder.
– Yak herders say their animals are facing more disease as temperatures increase and snowfall becomes more irregular.
– As younger generations of the community head to school, the traditions around yak herding are no longer being passed down.

What is needed to keep Sri Lanka’s leopards roaming free? (Commentary)
– The recent killing of a leopard at a national park in Sri Lanka, apparently for its claws and teeth, has sparked a fresh debate on the protection available to these majestic animals and whether conservation efforts are capable of protecting the dwindling leopard population.
– The leopard has been a protected animal since 1964; despite this, Sri Lanka is fast losing its leopard population, estimated to be around 1,000 at present.
– Following the recent killing, there are calls to introduce practical and proactive measures to better protect leopards in the wild.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Conflict in the Chico Mendes Reserve threatens this pioneering Amazonian project
– Farmers and irregular occupants in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve in Acre are enjoying newfound political power and pressuring for the reduction of the first protected area of its kind in Brazil as it approaches its 30th anniversary in March.
– A bill in the Federal House of Representatives proposes that areas used for irregular cattle farming be removed from its perimeter, effectively legalizing the activity. Resident associations oppose the move.
– The reserve, or Resex, is a model of territorial occupation that aligns the work and income of traditional populations with keeping the forest intact. Environmentalists fear intervention will make room for changes in other areas.
– The conflict has revived the confrontation tactics from the era of the military dictatorship, when the rubber tappers emerged victorious but suffered the death of leaders like Chico Mendes, for whom the reserve is named.

A new dawn: The story of deforestation in the next decade must be different to the last (commentary)
– 2020 was to be the year when the bold commitment made by hundreds of companies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains was met. Instead, the failure to achieve this goal can be measured by the sharp rise in deforestation since 2014.
– Yet despite this bleak picture – and the need to act being more urgent than ever – there’s another story to tell about the last decade.
– It’s the story of how the pledge to eliminate deforestation from supply chains by 2020 was doomed to fail. It’s also – perhaps surprisingly – about the immense journey some companies, NGOs, and institutions have made in that time and how the path to remove the stain of deforestation from the products we consume is now clearer than ever.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Colombia’s ‘Heart of the World’: Mining, megaprojects overrun indigenous land by Taran Volckhausen [01/15/2020]
Communities in Brazilian Cerrado besieged by global demand for soy by Sarah Sax and Maurício Angelo [01/13/2020]


Mongabay is excited to support the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation’s short video contest. The deadline to submit a short film about a conservation success story, biodiversity research, opportunity, and/or optimism for tropical biology and conservation is February 10th. CLICK HERE for details.