Newsletter 2020-04-02



Tax exemptions on pesticides in Brazil add up to US$ 2.2 billion per year by Mariana Della Barba and Diego Junqueira from Repórter Brasil and Pedro Grigori from Agência Pública [04/01/2020]

– Aside from saving from generous discounts or total exemptions on taxes, multinational giants in the pesticides sector also receive millions in public resources to fund research through the Brazil’s National Development Bank.
– The amount that the Brazilian government fails to collect because of tax exemptions on pesticides is nearly four times as much as the Ministry of the Environment’s total budget this year (US$ 600 million) and more than double what the nation’s national health system [SUS] spent to treat cancer patients in 2017 (US$ 1 billion).
– Tax exemptions related to pesticides are upheld by laws passed decades ago, which view these products as fundamental for the nation’s development and that, because of this, need stimulus—like what happens with the national cesta básica [basket of basics] food distribution program.
– The scenario that benefits pesticide companies could change, as the Federal Supreme Court [STF] is expected to soon judge a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality comparing pesticides to categories like cigarettes, harmful to health and which generate costs that are paid by the entire population—and for which reason are subject to extra taxes instead of tax breaks.

Inside the fight to save the Niger Delta red colobus by Orji Sunday [03/31/2020]

– The Niger Delta red colobus (Piliocolobus epieni) is a critically endangered monkey that numbers as few as 500 in the wild, confined to a small patch of marshy forest in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state.
– Conservationists hoping to protect the species’ habitat by establishing it as a national park have been thwarted by the dire security situation in the region, which is home to armed militant groups.
– So they’ve turned to community-based conservation, engaging local residents in efforts to safeguard the forest and take on loggers and bushmeat hunters.

Indonesian anti-graft enforcers set their sights on a new target: corporations by Ian Morse [03/31/2020]

– Indonesia’s anti-graft agency, the KPK, is widely recognized for its prowess at catching corrupt government officials.
– The agency has been less successful, however, at prosecuting companies on the other side of that corruption.- Recently, the KPK has begun to rethink its approach, with potential implications for natural resource firms that pay bribes in exchange for permits.

As COVID-19 rages, evangelical pastor may contact remote Amazon tribes by Sam Cowie [03/30/2020]

– U.S. Christian Baptist evangelical missionary Andrew Tonkin, from Frontier International, is allegedly planning to contact and convert isolated indigenous groups in the Javari Indigenous Reserve in western Amazonas state, Brazil — an accusation Tonkin denies. Ethnos360, another evangelical group has similar plans.
– Missionary work among isolated indigenous peoples is currently banned by FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency. Marubo and Mayoruna indigenous leaders made the accusation against Tonkin, who has invaded the Javari Reserve, flaunting FUNAI regulations, in the past.
– Brazil’s independent federal prosecutor’s office (MPF) has asked federal police to investigate Tonkin’s alleged plan of an illegal expedition to an area known as Igarapé Lambança, populated by isolated Korubo tribespeople. However, it is as yet unknown what action the federal police will take.
– The risk of evangelicals unknowingly spreading coronavirus is just one threat to Javari Reserve inhabitants. Major invasions by traffickers, illegal miners and loggers, along with an upswing in violence are well underway there, while President Jair Bolsonaro continues planning to open indigenous reserves to large-scale mining.

Coconut farmers in Southeast Asia struggle as palm oil muscles in on them by Nithin Coca [03/30/2020]

– Indonesia and the Philippines account for most of the world’s coconut production. But as the palm oil industry expands, helped along by generous government subsidies, coconut farmers are struggling to adapt.
– In 2010, palm oil overtook coconut oil as the top-selling oil in most Philippine grocery stores. Most of it was imported from Indonesia or Malaysia, but now the Philippines is trying increase its own production.
– Oil palm is a much more industrialized crop than coconut, which is dominated by smallholders. But while the low price of palm oil has given it an advantage, demand has risen for high-quality coconut products due to health and sustainability concerns.
– Some coconut farmers say they need the same kind of support from the government that palm oil companies get if they are going to survive.



‘Titanic challenge’ for an Italian hospital rescuing sea turtles from plastic by [Thu, 02 Apr 2020]
– A sea turtle hospital in Brancaleone, Italy saves around 50 sea turtles every year.
– One out of every two of the turtles they save has ingested plastic, the team says.
– Every year, an estimated 5 million to 13 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans.

Indonesia road graft case lands Papua official, contractor in prison by Hans Nicholas Jong [Thu, 02 Apr 2020]
– A court has sentenced the former head of the public works department in Indonesia’s Papua province to five and a half years in prison for corruption in a $5.3 million road project.
– The road between Kemiri and Depapre in Jayapura district has been damaged for years, with locals complaining that it’s dangerous to drive on.
– Mikael Kambuaya, the former provincial public works chief, was convicted of conspiring with contractor David Manibui to inflate the project cost by $2.5 million.
– David, whose company was awarded the contract despite not meeting the technical requirements, was also convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.

As pangolin trade heats up, Nigeria urged to do more to crack down by Linus Unah [Thu, 02 Apr 2020]
– Authorities seized 113 tonnes of pangolin scales originating in Nigeria between 2016 and 2019, more than half of global seizures.
– Enforcement and prosecution of laws against wildlife trafficking remains weak, say experts, who emphasize the need to treat the matter as a transnational crime rather than as a conservation issue.
– Training of Nigerian officials and exchanges with their customs counterparts in destination countries including China and Vietnam are expected to improve intelligence sharing and curb trafficking.

Game changer? Antarctic ice melt related to tropical weather shifts: Study by Gloria Dickie [Wed, 01 Apr 2020]
– Scientists predominantly believe that the tropics have the largest influence on global weather. Now, new research suggests that the melting of Antarctic sea ice could impact places as far away as the equator.
– In one of the first studies to look at the link between Antarctic sea ice and tropical weather patterns, researchers found that melting sea ice in Antarctica is likely warming ocean surface temperatures, delivering more rain, and potentially creating El Niño-like effects in the equatorial Pacific.
– Earlier this year, another study found that accelerating sea ice melt in the Arctic could be linked to the intensification of Central Pacific trade winds, the emergence of El Niño events, and the weakening of the North Pacific-Aleutian Low Circulation. So it may be that Arctic and Antarctic changes are synergistically impacting the tropics.
– It’s expected that ice loss at both poles will combine to warm the equatorial Pacific surface ocean by 0.5℃ (0.9℉) and increase rain by more than 0.3 millimeters (0.01 inches) of rain per day in the region.

Road project in economically deprived Indonesian region threatens wildlife habitat by Junaidi Hanafiah [Wed, 01 Apr 2020]
– A road project at the northwestern tip of Sumatra poses the threats of deforestation and habitat fragmentation for a lowland forest that is home to critically endangered tigers, elephants and orangutans.
– Officials say the project is necessary to boost connectivity and local livelihoods in this remote part of Indonesia’s Aceh province.
– But conservationists say they fear the project will carve up important wildlife habitat and lead to greater human encroachment into this wilderness area.
– They have called on the government to review the project in light of the potential for environmental damage.

Plantation director in dispute with indigenous community is charged with illegal logging by Nurdin Tubaka [Wed, 01 Apr 2020]
– Imanuel Darusman, a director of CV Sumber Berkat Makmur, was charged by Indonesia’s forestry ministry.
– An official with the ministry’s law enforcement bureau said they began to look into the case when the arrest of 26 indigenous people by the local police for vandalizing the company’s equipment made headlines across the Maluku region in February.
– Most of the indigenous people were quickly freed, though two of them were formally charged with vandalism.

Anglo American seeking to mine on indigenous lands in Brazil’s Amazon by Maurício Angelo [Tue, 31 Mar 2020]
– Anglo American, one of the biggest mining companies in the world, and its two Brazilian subsidiaries have submitted nearly 300 applications to dig for gold and other minerals inside indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, records seen by Mongabay show.
– The most recent applications, dating from 2017 to 2019, target the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Reserve, home to the Munduruku people, who have taken the initiative to start demarcate their territory in a bid to stave off invaders.
– But such efforts may prove in vain as the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro pushes for legislation that would allow mining in indigenous lands.
– Also at stake is the Renca national reserve, a massive protected area that Bolsonaro has indicated he wants reduced or stripped of its status in order to allow mining.

For nesting hawksbill turtles, this Philippine community is a sanctuary by Erwin M. Mascariñas [Tue, 31 Mar 2020]
– For centuries, hawksbill sea turtles have returned to a shoreline in the eastern Philippines to lay their eggs, even as the human community has expanded along the same stretch of beach.
– Hawksbill sea turtles’ low survival rates in the wild are caused by natural predators and, recently, exacerbated by rising sea levels. Another key threat is poaching for their meat and shells.
– Despite the lack of financial support, locals continue to look after the eggs, coming up with their own ways to protect them until the hatchlings are ready to be released back into the sea.

Audio: The links between COVID-19, wildlife trade, and destruction of nature with John Vidal by Mike Gaworecki [Tue, 31 Mar 2020]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with acclaimed environmental journalist John Vidal about the coronavirus pandemics’ links to the wildlife trade and the destruction of nature.
– As the current coronavirus pandemic spread across the world, Vidal penned an article co-published by The Guardian and non-profit media outlet Ensia that looks at how scientists are beginning to understand the ways that environmental destruction makes zoonotic disease epidemics more likely.
– We speak with Vidal about what we know about the origins of COVID-19, what he’s learned while reporting from disease outbreak epicenters in the past, how the destruction of nature creates the perfect conditions for diseases like COVID-19 to emerge, and what we can do to prevent future zoonotic disease outbreaks.

New snake discovery in Sri Lanka is latest twist in slow-burning mystery by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [Tue, 31 Mar 2020]
– Sri Lanka’s southwestern mountains have yielded a new snake species, Dryocalamus chithrasekerai, based on specimens collected in 2009 and 2017.
– Chithrasekara’s bridle snake, named in honor of local conservationist Nagamulla Hewage Chithrasekara, is the latest species in its genus, which researchers say should be kept taxonomically distinct from another genus of very similar snakes, Lycodon.
– The researchers also make the case that a previously recorded Dryocalamus species, D. gracilis, was identified incorrectly and doesn’t actually occur in Sri Lanka.

Mining activity in Indonesia takes a hit from COVID-19 pandemic by Hans Nicholas Jong [Tue, 31 Mar 2020]
– The COVID-19 pandemic has slammed the brakes on manufacturing activity in China, which has rippled through to the coal, nickel and tin miners in Indonesia that rely on the Chinese market.
– At least one nickel smelter project has been put on hold in Indonesia, while production at existing facilities is down.
– Coal miners, meanwhile, face a one-two blow from slowing Chinese demand and an anticipated domestic slowdown in Indonesia.
– The decline in manufacturing activity in China has led to a decrease in air pollution there, but activists warn the effect may be short-lived, with manufacturers expected to go into overdrive to make up for lost revenue after the pandemic peaks.

Puma or cougar? Candid Animal Cam Ep 5 takes you to the Americas to meet this wild cat by [Tue, 31 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.

Seychelles extends protection to marine area twice the size of Great Britain by Malavika Vyawahare [Mon, 30 Mar 2020]
– The archipelago in the Indian Ocean has committed to protecting 400,000 sq km (154,000 sq miles) of marine area, about 30% of its waters.
– Conservationists say it is a step in the right direction, but the bigger challenge will be for the government to effectively manage the vast network of marine protected areas (MPAs).
– A ‘debt-for-nature’ deal allowed the country to restructure its sovereign debt and leverage $21.6 million to fund the creation of the MPAs and adaptation to climate change.
– Seychelles hosts giant tortoises, nesting sites for turtles, and fragile coral reef ecosystems that the new MPAs aim to protect.

Indigenous people are most vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus in Latin America by Yvette Sierra Praeli [Mon, 30 Mar 2020]
– Indigenous people are a high-risk group in the face of the coronavirus due to malnutrition, disease and poor health services.

Indonesia risks timber trade with EU after scrapping license rules by Hans Nicholas Jong [Mon, 30 Mar 2020]
– The European Union says a move by Indonesia to no longer require that wood exports be verified as coming from legal sources threatens the timber trade between the two sides.
– The EU has since 2016 put its trust in Indonesia’s timber certification scheme, the SVLK, to ensure that the wood it imports from the Southeast Asian nation isn’t illegally logged.
– But Indonesia’s trade ministry says it’s scrapping the SVLK requirement for exporters in a bid to boost business amid a slowdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
– Industry experts have slammed the move, saying it undermines hard-won gains for the reputation of Indonesian timber and weakens the country’s position in trade negotiations.

Housing project puts São Paulo’s remaining Atlantic Forest at risk by Tiffany Higgins and Tommaso Protti [Fri, 27 Mar 2020]
– São Paulo gave Tenda construction company a permit to cut down 528 trees, part of native Atlantic forest in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It felled 522 trees on Jan. 30. In response, the Guarani Mbya people established a vigil to prevent more of what they call “environmental crime.”
– Tenda’s lot directly adjoins the Jaraguá indigenous reserve with 620 Guarani inhabitants. The Guarani charge that international law dictates their prior consultation, and demand an immediate environmental impact study with an indigenous component.
– Since January 30, the Guarani have maintained a vigil at the entrance of Tenda’s lot to prevent workers from entering and cutting down more trees; a public hearing on the subject is scheduled for May 6.

Camera traps in trees reveal a richness of species in Rwandan park by Liz Kimbrough [Fri, 27 Mar 2020]
– Camera traps set high up in trees in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park captured 35 different mammal species over a 30-day period, including a rare Central African oyan (Poiana richardsonii), a small catlike mammal that has not previously been seen in the park.
– Arboreal camera traps are a viable method for conducting mammal surveys, especially when partnered with ground cameras.
– Understanding what animals are present in an area is a first step toward protecting them.

BR-319 illegal side road threatens Amazon protected area, indigenous land (commentary) by Philip M. Fearnside; Lucas Ferrante and Maryane B. T. de Andrade [Fri, 27 Mar 2020]
– Brazil faces a critical decision on licensing Highway BR-319, in the Purus / Madeira river basins of Amazonas state, which would “chop the Amazon rainforest in half.”
– The highway would bring deforesters to vast areas of intact Amazon rainforest. Protected areas along the route have been created to avert spread of deforestation.
– However, an illegal side road is already being built connecting with the BR-319, and accessing one of those protected areas, while also threatening indigenous and traditional riverine communities.
– The construction of this illegal road dramatizes the fiction that governance measures would control on-the-ground events if the completed highway is licensed. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Ending illegal deforestation is good for our health (commentary) by Kerstin Canby [Fri, 27 Mar 2020]
– The threat of COVID-19 has led humanity to curl up into a little ball, blind to the continued ravaging of what’s left of the planet’s tropical forests—and the resulting surge in contact between people and animals that leads to new viruses, from avian bird flu to zika, when the trees are gone.
– Without forests as a buffer, hunting, mining, and logging exposes people to animals. These interactions lead to the spread of animal diseases to humans, known as “zoonotic diseases.” We’ve seen this with Zika, Avian Bird Flu, Ebola, and SARS, as well as Nipah, which leads to respiratory problems similar to those from COVID-19, and Kyasanur Forest Disease, spread by ticks.
– Ending illegal deforestation offers a solution for safeguarding forests for the sake of human health. Countries that both supply and import products stemming from unlawful forest loss—whether it’s beef, soy, palm oil, or wood products—must act to end this trade. Producers, traders, and sellers of illicit products also have a role to play.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Conservationists urge reforms in Bolivia after environmental, political crises by Yvette Sierra Praeli [Fri, 27 Mar 2020]
– Bolivia lost 50,000 sq km of forest during an unusually destructive fire season in 2019. Researchers say policies enacted in July 2019 that encouraged agricultural expansion contributed to the fires.
– In November 2019, Evo Morales resigned from presidency after a fraught and contested election. The coronavirus pandemic has delayed a planned repeat of the election process in 2020. Meanwhile, the Bolivian government under interim president Jeanine Áñez is trying to deal with the aftermath of the fires and policies set under the Morales administration.
– Conservationists say some progress has been made under the Áñez government on the environmental front, but caution much more needs to happen to stem the harmful impacts of Morales’ legacy.

Study finds huge potential for urban gardens to feed city dwellers by [Thu, 26 Mar 2020]
– Researchers with the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield in the UK used their hometown as a case study to examine the potential for expanding food production in cities.
– The researchers mapped the “green infrastructure” — parks, gardens, roadside verges, and woodland areas — and “grey infrastructure” such as buildings across the city of Sheffield and determined that, if gardens covered just 10 percent of the city’s green spaces, those gardens could provide 15 percent of the local population with their “five a day,” the recommended five daily portions of fruits and vegetables.
– Altogether, the researchers calculated that there are about 98 square meters per Sheffield resident that could be opened up to soil-based horticulture: 71 square meters in domestic gardens and allotments and 27 square meters in other green infrastructure. If all of this green space was used to grow food, it could supply approximately 709,000 people — or 122% of the population of Sheffield — with their “five a day.”

In Sri Lanka, beguiling bloom of cat’s claw vine conceals potential trouble (commentary) by Jagath Gunawardana [Thu, 26 Mar 2020]
– A beautiful creeper known as the cat’s claw vine has become something of a springtime attraction in Sri Lanka, but its explosive growth could turn it into an invasive species.
– The exotic species, introduced as an ornamental plant from the New World, can grow up to 30 meters (98 feet), enabling it to reach even the canopies of tall trees, posing huge problems to host trees and smothering smaller plants.
– Other countries around the world, including the U.S., have categorized it as an invasive alien species — something Sri Lanka may have to consider once the plant begins to pose a threat to the native vegetation.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.



Biodiversity boon for Niue, the world’s first ‘dark sky nation’ by Monica Evans [03/25/2020]
National parks pay the price as land conflicts intensify in Colombia by Taran Volckhausen [03/24/2020]
New player starts clearing rainforest in world’s biggest oil palm project by The Gecko Project and Mongabay [03/24/2020]
Overworked, underpaid and lonely: Conservationists find a new community online by Jeremy Hance [03/23/2020]
Amazon indigenous put at risk by Brazil’s feeble Covid-19 response: Critics by Sam Cowie [03/20/2020]