Newsletter 2020-02-06



Indonesian investigative reporter and journalism advocate Tommy Apriando, 1989-2020 by Rhett A. Butler [02/04/2020]

– Tommy Apriando, an esteemed investigative journalist and chairperson of the Yogyakarta branch of Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), died Sunday at the age of 30 after being hospitalized for complications from diabetes.
– In a country where environmental reporting is potentially deadly, Apriando wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power. He took on politicians who used their connections with oligarchs to enrich themselves, exposed abuses by mining and palm oil companies, and told the complex stories that underpin entrenched land conflicts.
– Apriando won deep respect from his peers for his courageous reporting, which regularly appeared on Mongabay, China Dialogue, The Pangolin Reports, and The Wire. In 2019, he was elected to lead AJI in Yogyakarta, where he was an outspoken advocate for press freedom and the welfare of other journalists.
– Apriando is survived by his wife, Wiwid Ervita, his mother, Jamsiah, and his younger sister, Dwi Unzirzam.

American journalist Philip Jacobson freed after prolonged detention in Indonesia by [01/31/2020]

– Philip Jacobson, an award-winning American editor for the non-profit environmental news site Mongabay, was deported from Indonesia today, January 31, 45 days after authorities in the city of Palangkaraya detained him over an alleged visa violation.
– Philip was detained after attending a meeting between the Central Kalimantan parliament and the indigenous rights organization the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). Immigration alleged that his activities were “not in accordance with the intent and purpose” of his business visa.
– Despite the long detention, including a four-day stint in prison, Jacobson ultimately was not charged with a crime: the original charge against him was dismissed.

Young farmers apply ancient agroforestry practices in the heart of Sardinia by Monica Pelliccia [01/29/2020]

– The forested mountains of interior Sardinia have seen high rates of migration to cities in recent years, particularly among young people.
– But some young people are finding a new way to stay here and succeed, by using an ancient agricultural method to create better-quality products like goat cheese, by grazing their flocks under trees.
– Called silvopasture, it’s a form of agroforestry that has a long history here, and the variety of forage and abundant shade create cheeses with unique flavors. Another side benefit in this arid landscape is reduced forest fire danger due to the goats’ grazing activities.
– Like agroforestry, silvopasture effectively sequesters large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere while keeping forested landscapes intact and providing habitat for a variety of creatures.



Sandpipers on an arduous migration now have a rest stop all their own by Nanditha Chandraprakash [06 Feb 2020]
– The Rainforest Trust and the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand recently purchased 8 hectares (20 acres) of shoreland in the Gulf of Thailand to protect a vital stopover site for spoon-billed sandpipers (Calidris pygmaea).
– Spoon-billed sandpipers fly annually from Russia to parts of Southeast Asia and depend on sites like the salty coastal wetland of Pak Thale for survival.
– The species is critically endangered, with only about 240 to 456 adults globally.
– This stretch of shoreland along the Inner Gulf of Thailand is also an important migrating and wintering site for other waterbirds passing through Thailand.

Ghana’s government faces pushback in bid to mine biodiversity haven for bauxite by Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda [05 Feb 2020]
– Ghana’s Atewa Forest Reserve is home to dozens of endangered species — as well as a substantial bauxite deposit.
– Environmental impact assessments have not been completed, and conservationists and local communities reject the plan as a threat to the reserve, which is a noted biodiversity hotspot.
– The government claims it can mine the forest with minimal damage, yielding 150 million metric tons of bauxite that it will use to pay for a national infrastructure program.

Audio: Galina Angarova on the indigenous relationship to land, conservation, and the sacred feminine by Mike Gaworecki [05 Feb 2020]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Galina Angarova, executive director of Cultural Survival, an NGO based in the United States that fights for the rights of Indigenous peoples around the world.
– Indigenous peoples are widely regarded as superior stewards of the environment, and research has continually borne this assertion out. Indigenous peoples control one-quarter of the world’s land surface, and two-thirds of that land is “essentially natural.”
– Angarova appears on the Mongabay Newscast to discuss her goals for Cultural Survival, how those goals relate to environmental conservation, the biggest challenges facing indigenous peoples today, and the solutions to those challenges.

The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary) by David S. Wilcove [05 Feb 2020]
– Princeton University professor of ecology, evolutionary biology, and public affairs David S. Wilcove argues that the coronavirus outbreak in China shows that the wildlife trade imperils more than animals: It puts people at risk of zoonotic diseases.
– What do the coronavirus, HIV, and the impending extinction of the world’s rhinoceroses have in common? The answer is that they are all a result of the wildlife trade, a rapidly growing, multi-billion-dollar enterprise that is driving species to extinction, damaging ecosystems, and—increasingly—threatening human health.
– What is most urgently needed is a change in cultural norms in cities around the world, especially in Asia and Africa: a recognition that keeping wild animals as pets or selling them for products (apart from sustainably caught seafood) is both a threat to the environment and to human health.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Carbon uptake slower than expected in Amazon secondary forest: Study by Liz Kimbrough [05 Feb 2020]
– A secondary forest in a portion of the Brazilian Amazon takes up carbon at only about twice the rate of primary forest, as compared to carbon accumulation at up to 11 times in other parts of the world; that could be bad news if similar findings are confirmed elsewhere in the Amazon and the tropics, according to scientists.
– The Bragantina region of Pará state where the study occurred has been used agriculturally for hundreds of years, until today, almost no primary forest remains. It is unlikely these degraded forests will return to their original levels of carbon storage and biodiversity on “politically meaningful timescales,” the researchers said.
– The results indicate that future researchers should be more cautious in estimating the absorption capacity of atmospheric carbon by regenerating tropical forests to mitigate the impacts of climate change, as that capacity is variable depending on multiple factors and may be overestimated.
– The findings could also put in doubt Brazil’s plan to meet its Paris Climate Agreement carbon reduction pledges by replanting forest. The nation promises to restore 12 million hectares of forest by 2030. But the actual carbon storage value of these new secondary forests, including tree plantations, could be far lower than expected.

Chief Raoni, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, presides over historic meeting with over 600 indigenous leaders in Brazil by Rafael Forsetto [05 Feb 2020]
– In January, indigenous leaders from 47 tribes participated in a historic event in a Kayapó village in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Chief Raoni Metuktire called the meeting to articulate a response to the Bolsonaro administration’s incendiary rhetoric and aggressive actions against the country’s indigenous population.
– Debates and discussions lasted four days and resulted in the Piaraçu Manifesto, a four-page document that denounces the Brazilian government for its role in the threatening of indigenous populations. The manifesto not only demands respect from President Bolsonaro and the government, but also makes a clear statement that environmentally disastrous projects are not welcome in their territories.
– Raoni, one of Brazil’s main indigenous leaders, presided over the event as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. His nomination, announced in October of 2019, has the support of a strong social media campaign.

For Ecuador, a litany of environmental challenges awaits in 2020 by Antonio José Paz Cardona [05 Feb 2020]
– For its size, Ecuador has the highest annual deforestation rate of any country in the Western Hemisphere.
– Experts say they believe that slowing the spread of deforestation and improving water management systems should be national priorities in 2020.
– In addition to oil exploitation, Ecuador is also facing the expansion of large-scale mining operations in high-biodiversity areas with large numbers of endemic species and in indigenous territories.
– The country’s ongoing economic crisis and a dependence on fossil fuels will likely continue to fuel clashes with communities protecting their territories.

Mining leads to flooding in Indonesia’s coal capital Samarinda by Yovanda [05 Feb 2020]
– Upstream coal-mining operations have contributed to severe flooding in the Indonesian Bornean city of Samarinda, officials and activists say.
– Deforestation caused by the mining has reduced the upstream area’s ability to absorb rainwater, resulting in greater volumes of runoff flowing into the Mahakam River and flooding the city.
– Tailings from the mines are also washing into the area’s rivers, silting them up and restricting their flow.
– Activists say much of the mining is illegal but has been ignored for years by city authorities.

Mongabay’s 10 most popular stories for January 2020 by [04 Feb 2020]
– January 2020 was a record-setting traffic month for Mongabay with more than 11.2 million pageviews across and
– Below are the 10 stories that racked up the most traffic during the month.
– This list does not include stories from our Indonesia, Latam, India, or Brazil bureaus.

Upset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary) by Matt Finer [04 Feb 2020]
– Satellites reveal the true story of the 2019 Brazilian Amazon fires, and how to avoid a repeat in 2020.
– The common media narrative, and resulting public perception, is that large uncontrolled fires were raging through the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, causing vast destruction and deforestation. Subsequent analysis of extensive satellite imagery archives, however, has quietly revealed the opposite scenario: many of the fires were actually burning the remains of areas that were recently deforested.
– That is, the recent deforestation surge fueled the 2019 Brazilian Amazon fires. The fires were in fact a lagging indicator of recent deforestation. Such information provides a much more focused target for the world’s outcry and related policy actions than just focusing on the fires alone.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Carbon emissions from Peruvian gold mining ‘alarming,’ experts say by Ashoka Mukpo [04 Feb 2020]
– According to a new study, small-scale gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon is contributing to the climate crisis.
– The study developed a novel approach toward measuring carbon emissions through deforestation, drawing on Earth imagery from a network of nanosatellites.
– In 2017, gold mining in one part of the Madre de Dios region emitted as much carbon as nearly 250,000 cars do in an average year.
– The study’s authors say their new approach will help global efforts to monitor forest destruction and carbon emissions.

Indonesia-WWF split puts rhino breeding project in Borneo in limbo by Basten Gokkon [03 Feb 2020]
– A recent decision by Indonesia’s environment ministry to abruptly cut ties with WWF Indonesia has thrown a crucial effort to conserve Sumatran rhinos into limbo.
– WWF Indonesia had been deeply involved in an initiative to start a captive-breeding program for the species in Indonesian Borneo.
– Experts agree that captive-breeding of the species is the best way to boost a birth rate that has dropped below natural replacement levels, and the capture of wild rhinos from Borneo was seen as key to boosting the available genetic pool.
– It’s not clear how the program will now proceed, but WWF Indonesia says it remains open to supporting the government on the conservation cause.

Success of Microsoft’s ‘moonshot’ climate pledge hinges on forest conservation by Justin Catanoso [03 Feb 2020]
– One mechanism by which the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement incentivizes greenhouse gas reductions is via carbon offsets, payments that compensate nations, states and private landowners who agree to keep forests intact in order to preserve carbon storage capacity and biodiversity.
– But problems exist with forest carbon offset initiatives: corrupt landowners, lack of carbon accounting transparency, and low carbon pricing have caused wariness among investors, and failed to spur forest preservation.
– Now, in a landmark move, Microsoft has pledged to go “carbon negative” by 2030, and erase all the company’s greenhouse gas emissions back to its founding in 1975 by 2050. A big part of achieving that goal will come via the carbon storage provided by verified global forest conservation and reforestation projects around the globe.
– To achieve its goal, Microsoft has teamed with Pachama, a Silicon Valley startup, that seeks to accurately track forest carbon stocks in projects in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon, the U.S. and elsewhere using groundbreaking advanced remote-sensing technology including LiDAR, artificial intelligence and satellite imaging.

Endangered migratory birds on collision course with Philippine airport project by [03 Feb 2020]
– The ongoing construction of an international airport north of Manila may displace at least 12 endangered and threatened bird species, a bird-watching group says.
– Among these species is the endangered black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor), 24 of which were spotted last month as part of the Asian Waterbird Census — the biggest flock recorded so far in the Philippines.
– The “aerotropolis” project, a 2,500-hectare (6,200-acre) airport complex located 25 kilometers (16 miles)from Manila, will encroach on one of the largest intact coastal wetlands in Manila Bay.
– Every year, more than 50 million waterbirds, including 32 globally threatened species, travel through the Philippines by the East Asian Australasian Flyway, one of the world’s biggest migratory bird flight paths.

Dorsal de Nasca: Peru pledges to create a huge new marine reserve by Yvette Sierra Praeli [03 Feb 2020]
– In October, Peru’s environment minister pledged to make a proposed 50,000-square-kilometer (19,300-square-mile) marine protected area a reality by 2021.
– The proposed protected area, called the Dorsal de Nasca National Reserve, comprises part of a range of 93 submarine mountains that harbor more than 1,100 species, many of them endemic.
– If it is approved, it will bring the proportion of the country’s territorial waters that are protected from just 0.48% to 6.5%.
– While supporting the new proposed reserve, marine experts continue to push for the establishment of the Grau Tropical Marine Reserve in the country’s north, over pushback from the oil and gas industry.

Illegal industrial fishing hampers small-scale African fisheries by John C. Cannon [03 Feb 2020]
– A new analysis shows that industrial fishing fleets operating in the waters of African countries and territories spend an average of nearly 6% of their fishing effort inside zones set aside for small-scale fisheries.
– In some countries, foreign fleets spend the bulk of their time — more than 90% in Somalia, for example — within the prohibited zone.
– Communities along Africa’s coasts are often dependent on fish as a source of food and protein.
– But incursions by large-scale fishing vessels, called “the most common form of illegal fishing in the region,” can threaten the sustainability of the resource, create conflict over it, and endanger the lives of fishers themselves.

Wise use and wetlands: Why we need to nurture nature (commentary) by Matthew McCartney and Chris Dickens [31 Jan 2020]
– Rainforests grab the headlines, but with 87% of wetlands lost globally, it is time to nurture these immensely productive and diverse ecosystems.
– Wetlands are some of the planet’s most productive ecosystems, supporting immense biodiversity. These relatively small areas are often home to hundreds, if not thousands, of individual plant, fish, bird, reptile, and mammal species. Wetland ecosystems also provide more social benefits, per unit area, than other ecosystems, including support for farming, recreation, culture, and urban flood control. And they play a vital role in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
– We lose wetlands three times faster than natural forests, but wise use of wetlands could help reverse this trend. The central idea behind wise use is that all the benefits wetlands provide must be considered and incorporated when people make decisions that affect them.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Any illegal fishing going on around here? Ask an albatross by Shreya Dasgupta [31 Jan 2020]
– Albatrosses fitted with tiny radar-detecting trackers can help spot fishing vessels that have gone “dark” by turning off their AIS onboard tracking systems, a new study has found.
– Over a six-month period, 169 wandering and Amsterdam albatrosses fitted with GPS trackers covered more than 47 million square kilometers in the southern Indian Ocean, detecting radar signals from 353 different boats in the process.
– In international waters, 37% of the boats had no AIS signal, a clue they could be engaged in illegal activity; within countries’ exclusive economic zones, nearly 26% of the boats were without an AIS signal.
– The findings suggest the seabirds could be deployed to patrol the ocean for vessels operating illegally, complementing a growing body of detection methods.

For Ecuador’s eco agenda, 2019 was a year of setbacks and pushbacks by Antonio José Paz Cardona [31 Jan 2020]
– Unrest over environmental issues was at the fore of October’s national strike in Ecuador precipitated by economic difficulties, with strong opposition to the expansion of resource extraction.
– The country experienced a mixed 2019 on the environmental front, with indigenous groups winning court rulings to oppose large extraction projects on their land.
– There were also setbacks, however, including lack of compliance on a 2018 referendum to make greater room for uncontacted tribes in Yasuní National Park; persistent criminalization of indigenous activists and environmental defenders; and massive budget cuts for environmental agencies.

In other news: Environmental stories from around the web, Jan. 31, 2020 by [31 Jan 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.

Key cetacean site in Philippines sees drop in dolphin, whale sightings by Leilani Chavez [31 Jan 2020]
– A recent survey has confirmed a declining trend in sightings of dolphins and whales in the Tañon Strait in the central Philippines, a waterway declared an Important Marine Mammal Area by the IUCN.
– The strait is a migratory route for at least 11 cetacean species, including the vulnerable Gray’s spinner dolphin and the endangered false killer whale, but four surveys carried out since 1999 have shown a sharp decline in population and species sightings.
– One bright spot in the latest survey was the sighting of rose-bellied dwarf spinner dolphins, only the second time that the species has ever been spotted in Philippine waters.
– The strait is one of the country’s busiest sea lanes, encountering heavy fishing and tourism activities, which researchers say may be a factor for the downward trend. They call for further collaboration to enact stringent measures on fishing and tourism activities to protect the area.

Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in Bolivia by [30 Jan 2020]
– Video footage of a pack of rarely-seen bush dogs has been captured by a camera trap at a ranch in eastern Bolivia.
– The footage, was captured at San Miguelito, a ranch located about 190 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of the city of Santa Cruz.
– The video shows a group of South American bush dogs walking down a trail through the Chiquitano dry forest, an ecosystem that was heavily impacted by fires last August and September, although San Miguelito itself didn’t experience any fires.
– Bush dogs are distributed widely through lowland tropical forests in Central and South America, but are rarely seen.

Xavante tribe digs in as Brazil reneges on vow not to build a road in their reserve by Caio de Freitas Paes [30 Jan 2020]
– For more than 50 years, the Xavante indigenous group has been fighting to regain sovereignty of the Marãiwatsédé Indigenous Reserve in Mato Grosso state. The most recent obstacle is the federal government’s plan to pave BR-158, the interstate highway that cuts through the middle of the reserve.
– Marãiwatsédé is the most heavily deforested indigenous reserve in the Legal Amazon: around 75% of its native vegetation has already been cut down. The Xavante suspect that paving the dirt track is part of the federal government’s plan to authorize leasing part of the reserve to ranchers in the region.
– In 2009, the Xavante began a lengthy negotiation process with government agencies to define alternatives to the original roadway. It was decided that BR-158 would circumvent the reserve, running to the east of its borders. But the government of President Jair Bolsonaro does not support the change, resulting in a stalemate that has escalated tensions in the region.



Rare trees are disappearing as ‘wood pirates’ log Bolivian national parks by Eduardo Franco Berton [01/29/2020]
Habitat loss, climate change make for an uncertain cricket harvest in Uganda by Thomas Lewton [01/29/2020]
Young farmers apply ancient agroforestry practices in the heart of Sardinia by Monica Pelliccia [01/29/2020]
Impending Amazon tipping point puts biome and world at risk, scientists warn by Shanna Hanbury [01/27/2020]
Vale has filed hundreds of requests to exploit indigenous lands in Amazon by Maurício Angelo and Observatório da Mineração [01/27/2020]