Newsletter 2020-03-26



Biodiversity boon for Niue, the world’s first ‘dark sky nation’ by Monica Evans [03/25/2020]

– This month the tiny Pacific island of Niue became the world’s first “dark sky nation.”
– The International Dark-Sky Association made the designation to recognize the visibility and clarity of Niue’s starry nights, and the country’s commitment to protecting its nocturnal environment by mitigating artificial light pollution.
– The move provides additional protection to the country’s unique biodiversity, including nocturnal species like flying foxes and coconut crabs.

National parks pay the price as land conflicts intensify in Colombia by Taran Volckhausen [03/24/2020]

– Last month, authorities extinguished a fire in Sierra de la Macarena National Park that nearly reached the banks of the Caño Cristales river. A well-known tourist attraction, the Caño Cristales provides habitat to a sensitive species of underwater plant called Macarenia clavigera, which explodes into a living rainbow of gold, olive green, blue, black and red for a few months every year.
– The Colombian Ministry of Defense and Reuters reported the blaze was set by FARC guerrillas who have rejected the peace process, known by the government as “FARC dissidents,” as they attempted to expand coca cultivation in the region. However, local sources suspect small farmers called campesinos or cattle ranchers set the fires to protest the government’s recent anti-deforestation operations that have been blamed for the displacement of families residing within the country’s national parks.
– Satellite data show deforestation is intensifying in Sierra de la Macarena, as well as in two adjacent national parks: Tinigua and Cordillera de los Picachos. This trend is not limited to these parks, with a new study finding dramatic increase in deforestation in the majority of Colombia’s protected areas and buffer zones following the demobilization of the FARC in 2016. The study said armed groups, especially FARC dissidents, are consolidating within national parks such as Tinigua, assigning land to farmers and promoting livestock and coca crops as an economic engine of the colonization process. Local sources say areas without FARC presence are being invaded by large-scale landowners.
– Meanwhile, the Colombian government has reportedly given the go-ahead to petroleum exploration projects in and around Tinigua and Cordillera de los Picachos national parks, attracting criticism for launching offensives against small farmers while greenlighting extractivist industries.

New player starts clearing rainforest in world’s biggest oil palm project by The Gecko Project and Mongabay [03/24/2020]

– A company owned by a politically connected Indonesian family and an investor from New Zealand has begun clearing rainforest within an area slated to become the world’s largest oil palm plantation.
– The project will push industrial agriculture deep into the primary rainforests of southern Papua, but has been plagued by allegations of illegality.
– While the new investors represent a break from those allegations, the government’s failure to investigate them has ongoing consequences.

Overworked, underpaid and lonely: Conservationists find a new community online by Jeremy Hance [03/23/2020]

– Created by a 26-year-old Australian, a new online community called Lonely Conservationists is bringing together young and struggling conservationists.
– Members post about their experiences, including unpaid jobs, financial woes, mental health issues, and, of course, loneliness.
– The community has succeeded in creating a space for candid, sympathetic conversations about the difficulties of working in conservation.

Amazon indigenous put at risk by Brazil’s feeble Covid-19 response: Critics by Sam Cowie [03/20/2020]

– Brazil’s indigenous movement is vigorously reorganizing its tactics in response to what it sees as the government’s ineffective response to the coronavirus. Indigenous leaders have also been forced to cancel the April Free Land Encampment in Brasília, at which they annually publicize their grievances to a large international audience.
– The cancelation was carried out to prevent activists from contracting Covid-19 in the city and carrying it back to Brazil’s remote Amazon indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples in Brazil historically have little resistance to new infectious diseases, and particularly respiratory diseases.
– Especially now at risk are isolated peoples in the western Amazon. Such groups are extremely susceptible to disease, but analysts fear that Bolsonaro will end the government’s “no contact” rule, practiced successfully for the past thirty years. If contacted, isolated groups could easily be infected and decimated by Covid-19.
– The indigenous movement is swiftly adopting new communication strategies, utilizing technology and social media to press forward with online meetings and awareness campaigns. There are grave disease concerns in Amazonas and Mato Grosso do Sul states, which have the biggest indigenous populations in Brazil.



National parks in Africa shutter over COVID-19 threat to great apes by Malavika Vyawahare [Thu, 26 Mar 2020]
– Wildlife authorities in some parts of Africa have effectively locked down parks that are home to gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos, amid concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic could make the jump to great apes.
– Humans and great apes share more than 95% of the same genetic material, and are susceptible to many of the same infectious diseases, ranging from respiratory ailments to Ebola.
– Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo shut its doors to tourists this week, while in Rwanda all parks hosting gorillas and chimpanzees were also shut; Uganda is considering doing the same, with its parks de facto closed because of a drop in tourist arrivals.
– Even if the apes avoid COVID-19, the loss of tourism revenue for the parks and potential loss of income for people who work to protect these species could cause enduring damage to conservation efforts, experts say.

The next great threat to Brazil’s golden lion tamarin: Yellow fever by Peter Yeung [Thu, 26 Mar 2020]
– Once critically endangered due to extremely high levels of poaching, the golden lion tamarin — a primate endemic to Brazil’s Atlantic Forest — was down to just a few hundred by the 1980s, holding out in forest fragments 80 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro city. Intensive conservation efforts restored that number to 3,700 by 2014.
– But now, yellow fever, transferred from people via mosquitoes, is putting the tamarin’s recovery at risk. In May 2018, the first tamarin death due to yellow fever was recorded in the wild following an outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease across Brazil. An astonishing 32% of the population has disappeared in the year since.
– Dr. Carlos Ruiz, President of the Golden Lion Tamarin Association, told Mongabay that the disease could set back conservation efforts thirty years. However, another Brazilian researcher is pioneering a possible yellow fever vaccine for the primate. The approval application is currently being considered by the Brazilian government.
– While trafficking continues, that risk has been much reduced. Experts today believe that a combination of climate change and deforestation (drastically reducing tamarin habitat) is largely driving the devastating yellow fever epidemic.

Indonesia ends timber legality rule, stoking fears of illegal logging boom by Hans Nicholas Jong [Thu, 26 Mar 2020]
– Indonesia’s trade ministry has scrapped a requirement for wood exporters to obtain licenses verifying their wood comes from legal and sustainably managed sources.
– The SVLK verification system took a decade to develop and implement and has been accepted by some of the most stringent market regulators for timber legality, including the EU.
– Scrapping the licensing requirement constitutes a major setback for Indonesia’s timber industry and could open the door to more illegal logging, experts warn.
– The forestry ministry, which oversees the logging industry and the SVLK system, was not consulted about the trade ministry’s decision, and says it will ask for the new rule to be revised.

Idea that electric cars might produce as much emissions as fossil-fueled vehicles ‘essentially a myth’ by [Wed, 25 Mar 2020]
– A team led by researchers at the Netherlands’ Radboud University looked at the emissions of electric versus petrol-fueled vehicles and found that driving an electric car produces lower overall emissions in about 95% of the world.
– In countries like Sweden and France, where electricity is generated mostly through nuclear and renewable energy sources, average lifetime emissions from electric cars are as much as 70% lower than gas-powered cars.
– It’s only in a few places where electricity generation is still heavily dependent on coal, such as Poland, that electric cars do not confer any climate benefits, the researchers found.

Palm oil giant Olam under scrutiny again over Gabon plantations by James Fair [Wed, 25 Mar 2020]
– The World Rainforest Movement says Olam’s oil palm operations in Gabon do not meet voluntary zero-deforestation pledges and fail local communities.
– Olam says its plantations are fully sustainable and have been developed in full cooperation with local people.
– The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is set to investigate the sustainability of the plantations this year following a separate complaint lodged in 2016.

In Kenya, the indigenous music of Afro Simba promotes environmental stewardship and peace by David Njagi [Wed, 25 Mar 2020]
– Afro Simba is a 10-year old band that explores the music of 9 indigenous coastal communities of Kenya, collectively called the Mijikenda.
– Now based in the capital Nairobi, the group’s Kombo Chokwe Burns spoke with Mongabay about their music that accentuates environmental stewardship and peace.
– “When artists write original music that is cultural and rooted in Kenya, it is not played on air by the country’s broadcasters. It becomes very difficult to pass on messages about the environment and climate change,” he said.
– The band’s debut album “Pandizo” was aimed at redefining & reintroducing Mijikenda music to Kenya and the rest of the world.

First possible COVID-19 indigenous cases detected near key Amazon reserve by Thais Borges and Sue Branford [Wed, 25 Mar 2020]
– It is widely suspected that Brazil’s indigenous people will be very vulnerable to COVID-19, as they have shown little resistance to Western respiratory illnesses in the past. Isolated indigenous groups, lacking all healthcare support, would be particularly defenseless.
– In fact, the epidemic may already be arriving. Suspected indigenous cases have been reported in Atalaia do Norte in western Amazonas state — gateway to the vast Javari Valley Indigenous Reserve, home to the world’s largest number of isolated peoples. Though tested, the affected family’s samples have yet to be evaluated.
– Also, on 13 March, FUNAI potentially opened a new route for disease spread as it weakened its “no contact” isolated indigenous group rule, broadening sole decision-making power for contact from its central authority to 39 regional coordinators. Outcry quickly caused FUNAI to reverse itself, reinstating the “no contact” policy.
– Experts are very concerned about the indigenous harm coronavirus could cause, especially due to Jair Bolsonaro’s weakening of the rural public health service. Some analysts worry the health and social chaos COVID-19 would bring could cause ruralists and land grabbers to exploit the situation, seizing indigenous lands.

Chilean authorities eye controversial Cruz Grande port project by Michelle Carrere [Wed, 25 Mar 2020]
– The marine conservation NGO Oceana has requested that the environmental permit for the Cruz Grande port project in Chile be revoked for not complying with a deadline for starting work on-site.
– The project may also be damaging threatened plants at the project site, violating the terms of the permit.
– Scientists say that the Cruz Grande port project has an inadequate environmental baseline development analysis.
– Therefore, the port is endangering one of the most biodiverse marine protected areas in the country.

In race for a sustainable alternative to plastic, Indonesia bets on seaweed by Johan Augustin [Wed, 25 Mar 2020]
– A local government initiative to revive seaweed farming off Bali comes amid growing interest in the crop’s promise to tackle environmental problems ranging from carbon emissions to plastic waste pollution.
– Cultivated at scale, seaweed can grow up to 60 times faster than land-based plants, making it an important carbon sink.
– Local startups are also exploring its potential to make bioplastic that is naturally degradable and even edible, for use in food packaging and other applications to replace plastic.
– For the new generation of seaweed farmers in Indonesia, the plant also offers revenue streams through ecotourism.

New evidence suggests Ivorian timber merits tougher EUTR due diligence (commentary) by Brad Mulley [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– Limited resources for EUTR due diligence need to be allocated strategically to ensure that enforcement has maximum impact. This means that imports from countries with relatively low production volumes like Ivory Coast may be subject to less stringent due diligence compared to imports from high-volume countries.
– However, a simple low-cost document-based evaluation in Ivory Coast reveals several risk factors, some of which could have been easily detected through cursory risk assessment.
– We recommend that EUTR actors work more closely with independent forestry sector monitors (IFMs) to develop more cost-effective techniques to help ensure broad geographic coverage of stringent due diligence.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Keeping gorillas safe amid COVID-19 concerns by Liz Kimbrough [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– Gorillas are vulnerable to human diseases, including respiratory illnesses, and may be susceptible to infection by COVID-19.
– Researchers and trackers working for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a conservation nonprofit in Rwanda, are taking special precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the gorillas they study and protect in the wild.
– Economic turmoil from COVID-19, including loss of tourism revenue, could spell trouble for gorilla conservation.

Goldman Prize-winning Cambodian activist arrested, released in Cambodia by Lauren Crothers [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– Leading Cambodian forest defender Ouch Leng and three others were arrested in mid-March and questioned after a South Korean company they accuse of illegal logging filed a complaint with the police.
– The company says the activists were trespassing; the activists say the company is plundering part of the Prey Lang forest and that one of them was beaten by security guards.
– Although released, the activists fear further retribution for their work monitoring economic land concessions near the forest.

Koalas vs climate change: Q&A with John Zichy-Woinarski by Romina Castagnino [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– Mongabay spoke to John Zichy-Woinarski, Co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Australian Marsupial and Monotreme specialist group, to examine the marsupial’s current status in the aftermath of the Australian bushfires.
– Woinarski says that probably the single factor that could make the most improvement to koala conservation is tighter control on land clearing.
– “I think it would be prudent now to re-assess the conservation status of the species as a whole under Australian legislation, and this is likely to happen. Without wishing to pre-empt the process, I’d foreshadow that an Australian-wide listing of vulnerable would be the likely outcome from any national re-assessment – this is the status we concluded in our IUCN assessment.”
– Treating koalas as a ‘flagship’ species is tricky though, he says: koala losses help convey the magnitude of biodiversity loss associated with these fires, but less charismatic species have been far more affected by fires and there has been far less funding available for them. Nonetheless, some of the supported actions for koalas may have some collateral benefits for other species.

Action plan to save Bolivia’s red-fronted macaw awaits its reboot by Yvette Sierra Praeli [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– Nature reserves involving the participation of indigenous communities have developed tourism projects for bird-watching and succeeded in curbing the capture of the red-fronted macaw, a critically endangered species that is often caught up in the illegal wildlife trade.
– The Bolivian government has been promoting an action plan to conserve the species, which was expected to be approved last year.
– Following President Evo Morales’s removal from office and the subsequent change in government late last year, the plan is still awaiting approval.

Scientists call for independent review of dam project in orangutan habitat by Hans Nicholas Jong [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– A controversial hydropower project being built in the only known habitat of the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan has been put on hold indefinitely over the coronavirus outbreak.
– Conservationists say this is the perfect time to carry out an independent scientific assessment of the project’s impacts on the environment, and in particular on the world’s rarest and most threatened great ape species.
– But the project developer has refused to do so, claiming other developments in the Batang Toru ecosystem of northern Sumatra also pose a threat yet haven’t been asked to cease operations pending a study.
– The $1.6 billion project is also at risk of not getting the funding it needs, thanks to studies and campaigns highlighting its potentially devastating environmental impact and virtual redundancy in a region that already has sufficient electricity.

From vegetable plots in a Sri Lankan swamp, a forgotten eel emerges by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– New specimens of Sri Lanka’s only endemic swamp eel, locally known as vel anda (Monopterus desilvai), from vegetable plots in the island’s west highlight the need for further study of the coastal floodplains.
– The endemic brown eel is able to breathe air, which it stores in a pair of primitive lung-like pouches, live in oxygen-poor environments and survive outside of water, as long as its skin remains moist.
– Researchers have called for the urgent conservation of the species’ habitat and identified landfilling as the main threat to its conservation.

Candid Animal Cam YouTube show Episode 4: Coatis by [Tue, 24 Mar 2020]
– Every Tuesday, Mongabay will bring you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our new show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.
– Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife.

Chinese government reportedly recommending bear bile injections to treat coronavirus by [Mon, 23 Mar 2020]
– The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) reported today that a list of recommended treatments for the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 published by the Chinese government earlier this month includes injections of a traditional medicine called “Tan Re Qing,” which contains bear bile.
– Last month, China adopted a comprehensive ban on trade and consumption of wildlife in response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak, which scientists believe originated in a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan where wild animals and bushmeat are sold. But the ban does not prohibit the use of wildlife products in traditional Chinese medicine or as ornamental items.
– EIA wildlife campaigner and China specialist Aron White noted the irony in the country recommending a treatment that relies on trade in wildlife in response to a global disease pandemic born from the wildlife trade.

Shell of bioluminescent shrimp not only glows but detects light by Edward Carver [Mon, 23 Mar 2020]
– Many deep-sea creatures that emit light to help find prey or avoid predators do so using small organs called photophores.
– A recent study of deep-sea shrimp shows that photophores can also detect light, acting like rudimentary eyes all over the body.
– The finding adds to a growing body of research documenting photosensitive organs outside the eyes in a variety of animals, and is the first demonstration in deep-sea creatures.

Peru uncovers organized crime network laundering illegally mined gold by Yvette Sierra Praeli [Mon, 23 Mar 2020]
– A massive operation involving more than a thousand law enforcement officers in five regions has led to the arrests of 18 people accused of belonging to a criminal network called Los Topos, or The Moles, laundering illegally mined gold.
– Four of those under investigation are listed in the mining formalization registry,with their documents used to legitimize the transport of large quantities of gold.
– The Peruvian Ministry of Energy and Mines says those who abuse their mining formalization status will be removed from the registry.
– But law enforcers investigating the network say the government’s repeated extension of the deadline for miners to register allows opportunity for more such abuses of the system.

Oil exploration at odds with peatland protection in the Congo Basin by John C. Cannon [Mon, 23 Mar 2020]
– A new report details an investigation led by the investigative NGO Global Witness into the exploration for oil in the world’s largest peatlands, found in Central Africa’s Congo Basin.
– The Republic of Congo and the company licensed to search for oil in a block containing more than 6,000 square kilometers (2,300 square miles) of peatlands argue for the right to extract the oil for the benefit of the country, and they say they are following strict environmental guidelines.
– But Global Witness found that the environmental impact assessment for the block is dated July 2013, nearly a year before scientists discovered the existence of the peatlands.
– The authors also point out that an agreement worth $65 million to protect the peatlands and the Republic of Congo’s other tropical forests doesn’t require that the carbon-rich peatlands be legally protected until 2025.

‘Unbridled exploitation’: Mining amendments a boon for Indonesia’s coal industry by Hans Nicholas Jong [Mon, 23 Mar 2020]
– A deregulation bill currently working its way through Indonesia’s parliament could ring in “unbridled exploitation” of the country’s coal reserves, experts warn.
– The bill offers a slate of incentives to coal miners and cuts various safeguards and oversight mechanisms, including taking away local governments’ authority to issue permits.
– Observers question whether the government will be able to keep the industry in check under the proposed changes, given its failure to fully enforce environmental obligations under the current laws.
– They also warn of the “destruction” of regions with previously unexploited coal reserves, including Papua.

New assessment shows Sri Lanka’s amphibians being pushed to the brink by Malaka Rodrigo [Mon, 23 Mar 2020]
– A recent global IUCN Red List assessment of the amphibians of Sri Lanka has highlighted that 72 of them are threatened with extinction, with 20 critically endangered.
– Evaluators identified the rapid loss of wet-zone cloud forests as the most immediate threat to the island’s amphibians, and highlighted three priority sites that are uniquely important for their conservation.
– In recent years, Sri Lanka has recorded the highest number of amphibian extinctions in the world and rediscovered only three of 21 amphibian species previously considered extinct, highlighting the need for more research and strategies for amphibian conservation.
– Though a small Indian Ocean island, Sri Lanka is recognized as an amphibian hotspot, with 116 species, 90% of them found nowhere else on Earth.

COVID-19 prompts closure of Indonesian parks, and a chance to evaluate by Basten Gokkon [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– Dozens of Indonesian national parks and conservation sites have been closed temporarily to visitors in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
– Some of the affected sites include popular national parks such as Mount Leuser, Komodo, Rinjani and Way Kambas.
– Conservationists have welcomed the temporary closure, calling it an opportunity for authorities and park operators to evaluate the impacts of tourism on the ecosystems in these areas.
– Indonesia has reported 369 positive cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, and 32 deaths as of March 20.

Indonesian activists denounce a road being built illegally in leopard habitat by Basten Gokkon [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– Environmental activists and residents have demanded a road project in Indonesia’s West Java province be scrapped because it lacks the required permits and could exacerbate floods and landslides.
– The road will cut through a protected forest on Mount Cikuray, home to Javan leopards and other threatened wildlife.
– District authorities have admitted they began clearing forest for the project before obtaining the necessary permits from the central government.
– The national parliament and the environment ministry have also weighed in on the issue, with the latter saying it will investigate and may order the project stopped.

Tree plantations are not a climate solution (commentary) by Global Forest Coalition [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– It’s such a simple idea: plant a tree, let it grow, and each year it will capture more and more carbon from the atmosphere.
– This is the logic behind a proposal by the investment company Arbaro Fund to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), an entity under the United Nations climate body that is designed to aid developing countries. But Arbaro’s plans are on a far larger scale: using $200 million from GCF and other (largely public) sources, the company aims to create 75,000 hectares (more than 185,000 acres) of commercial tree plantations across seven countries, including Paraguay, Ghana, and Uganda.
– The case against GCF’s involvement in the Arbaro Fund is overwhelming: Arbaro’s carbon mitigation claims are highly questionable and over frankly laughable timescales, its existing investments paint a worrying picture of damaging eucalyptus plantations being used to support carbon-intensive industries, and there is no public accountability to ensure that impacts on communities and biodiversity are avoided.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico down by more than half by [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– The number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico is down by more than half this year, according to new survey results.
– The area of forest inhabited by monarchs in Mexican forests is used as a proxy for estimating the monarch butterfly population. The survey found that the area of forest occupied by monarch butterflies during the 2019-2020 winter season was just 7 acres (2.83 hectares), a 53% decrease from the 2018-2019 season, when monarchs covered 15 acres (6.05 hectares) of forest.
– In a statement, Jorge Rickards, the managing director of WWF-Mexico, said that the decline in the monarch butterfly population wintering in Mexico is not necessarily a cause for alarm, but added that “we must remain vigilant and not allow it to become a trend in the coming years. Conservation is a long-term job.”

Response to one pandemic, COVID-19, has helped ease another: Air pollution by Liz Kimbrough [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– Air pollution has significantly decreased over China amid the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, signaling unanticipated implications for human health.
– It is estimated that air pollution caused an extra 8.8 million premature deaths globally in 2015 alone, representing an average of a three-year shortening of life expectancy across the human population, and shortening lives on a scale greater than malaria, war and violence, HIV/AIDS, and smoking.
– The two-month drop in pollution may have saved the lives of 4,000 children under the age of 5 and 73,000 adults over the age of 70 in China, according to environmental resource economist Marshall Burke — significantly more than the global death toll from the COVID-19 virus at the time of calculation.
– Burke says we should not think of this as a “silver lining” or a “benefit” of the pandemic, given that COVID-19’s impact on public health and the broader disruption it is causing — lost incomes, inability to receive care for non-COVID-19 illnesses and injuries, etc. — could have far-reaching implications.

Wealth fund divests from Peruvian firm after indigenous group complaint by Lauren Crothers [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) withdrew more than $12 million from Alicorp SAA on March 5, 2020.
– In 2019, the Shipibo-Konibo indigenous group said a palm oil company in Alicorp’s supply chain had destroyed 70 square kilometers (27 square miles) of community forest.
– NBIM said it expects the companies it invests in to have strategies in place to mitigate deforestation but that reasons for divestment are usually financial.

Chile: Expedition to the end of the world, where humpback whales are thriving by Barinia Montoya [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– Mongabay Latam joined an expedition to the Francisco Coloane Marine Park near the southern tip of Chile, where the humpback whale population has risen dramatically — from 40 individuals in 2003 to 190 in 2019.
– The park, established in 2003, remains without a management or administrative structure, but that is changing with the development of a conservation and sustainable development plan underway.
– Although the whale population in the area is growing, threats remain, including entanglement in fishing gear, contamination from nearby salmon farms and ship traffic and noise pollution from coal mines.

To save Cross River gorillas, EU-funded program aims to empower communities by Linus Unah [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– The Cross River gorilla, which lives in the mountainous border area of Nigeria and Cameroon, is Africa’s most threatened ape, with a population estimated at fewer than 300 individuals.
– The European Union will provide 2 million euros ($2.19 million) over four years to help support programs aimed at protecting Cross River gorillas by supporting sustainable livelihoods for people living near gorilla habitat.
– The funding will support work led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Nigeria National Park Service.
– It will allow existing WCS livelihood programs in Cross River state to be expanded to more areas and communities, aimed at preventing locals from deforesting the area in search of a livelihood.

Three new species of chameleons emerge from centuries-old entanglement by Malavika Vyawahare [Fri, 20 Mar 2020]
– Three new species of soft-nosed chameleons endemic to Madagascar were described in a recent paper in Vertebrate Zoology.
– Calumma emelinae from the east coast of Madagascar, C. tjiasmantoi from the southeast, and C. ratnasariae from the north officially joined the ranks of more than 90 species of chameleon that are endemic to Madagascar.
– A co-author described them as “tiny chameleons with funny noses,” because of the horn-like rostral appendage they sport.
– The discovery of distinct species within the species complex calls for the re-evaluation of their conservation status, according to the authors of the study.

Spix’s macaw returns to Brazil, but is overshadowed by controversy by Suzana Camargo [Thu, 19 Mar 2020]
– Twenty years after the species was officially declared extinct in nature, 52 Spix’s macaws (Cyanopsitta spixii) arrived in Brazil’s Bahia state for eventual reintroduction back into their native habitat.
– But controversy surrounds the program, stemming from the organization providing the captive-bred birds: the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots, whose founder, Martin Guth, has been accused of running a private collection linked to wildlife trafficking and organized crime.
– The ACTP is footing the bill for the Spix’s macaw reintroduction program, including building a $1.4 million facility in Bahia, but it’s not clear where the money is coming from. The Brazilian government, as a partner in the program, has also not provided details about the terms of the agreement, and is reportedly pressuring local breeders to send their birds to the ACTP in Germany.
– The birds are slated for release into the wild in 2021, after a process of adaptation, into two conservation areas established specifically for the Spix’s macaw in Bahia.

China’s revised forest law could boost efforts to fight illegal logging by Ashoka Mukpo [Thu, 19 Mar 2020]
– In the first revision to the country’s Forest Law in over twenty years, China has banned trade in illegal logs. But will the change be enforced?
– On December 28, 2019, Chinese legislators revised the country’s Forest Law to ban “purchase, process or transport” of illegal logs.
– China is the world’s largest importer of legal and illegal timber, and if the change is enforced it could boost efforts to fight the illegal logging trade.
– Advocates say that the true measure of the changes will be how they are implemented and enforced.

In reporting on COVID-19, the front line is the screen in front of you (Commentary) by Amantha Perera [Thu, 19 Mar 2020]
– Reporting the first universal, social media-dependent emergency of this generation, the COVID-19 pandemic, has compelled journalists to adapt to drastically altered working conditions.
– Dealing with mass anxiety and personal fears can leave a strong impact, especially for those on the front line of the story, including journalists.
– The various electronic devices used by journalists for gathering and disseminating news is also the door to a cesspool of fake news, disinformation and a major trauma trigger.



Bringing Christ and coronavirus: Evangelicals to contact Amazon indigenous by Sue Branford [03/17/2020]
Brazil sets record for highly hazardous pesticide consumption: Report by Jenny Gonzales [03/12/2020].