Newsletter 2020-05-14



Audio: What can we expect from tropical fire season 2020? by Mike Gaworecki [05/13/2020]

– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we look at what’s driving the intense fire seasons we’ve seen around the world in recent years, what we can expect from the 2020 fire season in tropical forest regions like the Amazon and Indonesia, and some solutions to the problem.
– Australia’s fire season may have just ended, but most of the world’s tropical forest regions will soon be entering their own. We welcome three guests to the podcast today to examine the trends shaping tropical fire seasons around the world: Rhett Butler, Dan Nepstad, and Aida Greenbury.
– Wildfires have made international headlines a lot in the past few years, most recently due to Australia’s devastating bushfires, but the Amazon, Indonesia, and Congo Basin also had severe fire seasons in 2019.
– Our guests discuss the drivers and also some solutions, like investing in Brazilian farmers to incentivize fire prevention, and the High Carbon Stock Approach to stemming forest loss.

‘They never intended to conserve it’: Outcry as loggers gut Cambodian reserve by Andrew Nachemson [05/13/2020]

– Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, which stretches across five provinces in northern Cambodia, contains one of the region’s last remaining large areas of old growth rainforest.
– But Prey Lang’s forests are under attack, with satellite data and imagery showing a recent surge in deforestation.
– Sources say the reserve is being illegally logged by politically connected timber companies, with Angkor Plywood and its subsidiaries, Think Biotech and Thy Nga, the “biggest immediate threat to Prey Lang forest.”
– Prey Lang is not included on the U.N.’s World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) — an omission researchers say is deliberate on the part of the Cambodian government, which must voluntarily submit protected area information to the WDPA.

Cambodian firm accused of creating a ‘monopoly in the timber business’ by Danielle Keeton-Olsen [05/13/2020]

– A surge in deforestation alerts from Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary has raised concerns over the role of a controversial, politically-connected timber firm in illegal logging.
– While investigators say they have amassed evidence of widespread illegalities in Think Biotech’s operations in the sanctuary, its director told Mongabay the company was the victim of loggers using the its concession as a thoroughfare between the sanctuary and export destinations.
– Activists and researchers are amassing evidence of a network of organized forestry crimes in the sanctuary, but they say efforts to follow the money are stymied by government inaction or denials and overly measured responses from international NGOs.

In Colombia’s La Guajira, the native Wayuu are forgotten in the dust by Nicolo Filippo Rosso [05/13/2020]

– Synonymous in Colombia with extreme poverty and abandonment, the peninsula of La Guajira faces drought and coal dust pollution from one the world’s biggest coal mines.
– One of the main gateways for Venezuelan migrants, La Guajira’s desert is a chaotic border where smugglers operate in the open, international aid is weak, and there is little to offer to either the indigenous population or those arriving from Venezuela.
– The workers at the Cerrejón coal mine have demanded better working conditions, but measures to prevent COVID-19 have put a planned strike on hold and threaten La Guajira’s inhabitants and the Wayuu, the biggest indigenous nation in Colombia.

Yehimi Fajardo: A voice for the birds of Putumayo by Nicolas Bustamante Hernandez [05/11/2020]

– She has made censuses of the birds of her department and established bird-watching routes.
– Around 500 hundred people have attended the association’s courses and workshops.

Brazil opens 38,000 square miles of indigenous lands to outsiders by Mauricio Torres and Sue Branford [05/08/2020]

– FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous agency, has reversed a long-standing policy with a new instruction paving the way for the legitimization of outsider land claims made within indigenous territories which are still in the process of gaining official recognition.
– Brazil’s 1988 Constitution guarantees indigenous land rights on ancestral lands, but the government has delayed the process for decades. The new policy opens 237 as yet unrecognized indigenous areas, covering 37,830 square miles, an area the size of the U.S. state of Indiana — much of it still covered in rainforest.
– Critics of the Jair Bolsonaro government say that the new instruction will create legal cover for landgrabbers, ranchers, soy growers, loggers, and other outsiders to invade indigenous ancestral lands, claim permanent title to the property and exploit land vital to indigenous survival.
– The policy, say analysts, seems destined to result in close contact and clashes between outsiders and indigenous people, and is especially a threat to isolated indigenous groups, many who currently live within un-demarcated ancestral lands. There is also a high risk of indigenous infection with COVID-19.

‘It was like a church’: Ecuador’s Kichwa community mourns death of sacred tree by Johnny Magdaleno [05/08/2020]

– A Kichwa indigenous community in northern Ecuador has been in mourning since the start of 2020 after the death of a sacred tree.
– For the past century, generations buried the bodies of unnamed children around the base of the tree, which they believe protected the children’s spirits.
– Its death and subsequent funeral, which attracted more than 80 attendees ranging from government officials to residents from nearby towns, are a reminder of how the death of even a single tree can cause bereavement and lead us to reflect on humanity’s impact on the environment.



Habitat degradation threatens Amazon species; one region offers hope: Studies by Taran Volckhausen [Thu, 14 May 2020]
– Two recent studies looked into the impact of human disturbance on ecological diversity in Amazonia habitats. Another study in the Rupununi region of Guyana found how important maintaining connectivity is to maintaining ecosystem health.
– The first study investigated how forest fragmentation impacts mixed-species flocks of birds. The research found evidence that forest habitat fragmentation in the Amazon has caused mixed-species bird flocks to severely diminish and even disappear.
– A second study evaluated the impact of logging and fire on seed dispersal in tropical forest plots in the eastern Brazilian Amazon. The research team found that Amazon forests which have been heavily logged and burned are populated primarily by tree species with smaller seeds, and smaller fruits.
– The remote Rupununi region provides water connectivity between the ancient Guyana Shield and the Amazon basin. A recent study there identified more than 450 fish species within the Rupununi region. The research illustrated the value of conserving connectivity between diverse habitats.

Amazon road projects could lead to Belize-size loss of forest, study shows by Maurício Angelo [Thu, 14 May 2020]
– Scientists studying the impact of 75 road projects in five countries in the Amazon Basin have found that they could lead to 2.4 million hectares (5.9 million acres) of deforestation.
– Seventeen percent of these projects were found to violate environmental legislation and the rights of indigenous peoples.
– The total cost for the projects, which stretch a combined 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) is $27 billion, yet half of them will be financially unfeasible.
– The study’s authors cite a lack of reliable technical feasibility studies, solid data and pressure from financiers to minimalize socioenvironmental impacts.

U.S. fund that supports Sumatran rhino research faces deep cuts under Trump by Charles Pekow [Thu, 14 May 2020]
– Established in 1994, the U.S. Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation fund provides grants to support international conservation efforts.
– The fund, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, supports organizations working to protect various tiger and rhino species, including the Sumatran rhino in Indonesia.
– While the law allows for spending of up to $10 million per year, the United States Congress has historically provided about $3.5 million annually. Now, the Trump administration is pushing to slash funding to just $1.575 million.
– Previous grants have supported anti-poaching patrols in Sumatran rhino habitat, and research into Sumatran rhino genetics.

Naga tribes of Myanmar face loss of land and forest under new law by Robert Bociaga [Thu, 14 May 2020]
– Myanmar hosts more than 100 ethnic groups with their own customary systems of land and forest management.
– Recent amendments to land law conflict with those systems, however, with critics warning that the new provisions may facilitate land grabbing and displacement of tribal communities.
– Tribal members say the changes to the law contradict the spirit of the peace process, which is to allow ethnic minorities greater autonomy than under the previous military dictatorship.

Endangered bats are evolving to fight off an exotic fungal disease by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [Thu, 14 May 2020]
– Little brown bats, an endangered species, have declined by more than 90% due to white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that causes bats to wake up from hibernation, and consequently drains their essential fat reserves.
– A new study uses genetics to determine that little brown bats with certain genetic traits are more likely to survive the disease.
– Research on genetically resistant bats could help inform conservation efforts to save the little brown bat and other bat species affected by the syndrome.

Chinese boat that dumped Indonesian crews at sea was also shark-finning: Reports by Basten Gokkon [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– A Chinese fishing company under scrutiny for the deadly labor abuses of its Indonesian boat crews was likely also engaged in illegal fishing, conservationists say.
– Jakarta has demanded answers for the slavery-like conditions under which the crew members worked on board a tuna boat belonging to the Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. Ltd.
– Four of the crew members died of illness, with three of them dumped at sea; photos provided by the surviving crew indicate the boat was engaged in the illegal finning of threatened shark species.
– “[Illegal] fishing and modern slavery practices at sea are two sides of the same coin,” said Greenpeace Indonesia oceans campaigner Arifsyah Nasution.

Australia’s logging ‘madness’ fuels more fires, hastens ecosystem collapse by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– In the aftermath of the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, logging has recommenced in the Australian state of Victoria, despite intense criticism from scientists and conservationists.
– The Victorian government announced that logging in native forests will be discontinued by 2030, but conservationists say that 10 more years of logging could lead to ecosystem collapse.
– Scientists argue that logging makes a forest more vulnerable to catching fire, and they’ve drawn a direct correlation between the logging industry and the last bushfire season.
– Plantation logging offers a possible solution to native forest logging, and loggers can also be retrained to be full-time firefighters, experts say.

Scientists warn Congress against declaring biomass burning carbon neutral by Justin Catanoso [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– Some 200 U.S. environmental scientists have sent a letter to congressional committee chairs urging they reject new rules proposed in April under the Clean Air Act that would define biomass, when burned to produce energy, as being carbon neutral.
– The scientists say that biomass burning — using wood pellets to produce energy at converted coal-burning power plants — is not only destructive of native forests which store massive amounts of carbon, but also does not reduce carbon emissions.
– A long-standing UN policy, recognizing biomass burning as carbon neutral, has caused the U.S. forestry industry to gear up to produce wood pellets for power plants in Britain, the EU, South Korea and beyond. Scientists warn that the failure to count the emissions produced by such plants could help destabilize the global climate.
– The letter from environmental scientists concludes: “We are hopeful that a new and more scientifically sound direction will be considered by Members [of Congress] that emphasizes forest protections, and a shift away from consumption of wood products and forest biomass energy to help mitigate the climate crisis.”

Large indigenous territories are necessary for culture and biodiversity in Brazil, study says by Liz Kimbrough [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– New research argues that large, legally protected territories are necessary for indigenous peoples to maintain their traditional livelihoods.
– The authors were surprised to find higher population densities inside versus outside of nearly half (295) of all indigenous territories.
– Indigenous lands provide global-scale environmental benefits. Nearly one-fifth of all Amazonian plants and animals live in these territories, and these areas retain 25.5% of all carbon stocks in Brazil.
– Altering the protected status of indigenous lands or opening them up to exploitative economic activities will affect ethnocultural integrity and compromise Brazil’s commitments to climate change and biodiversity protection.

Dangerous levels of heat and humidity rising in frequency, study says by Ashoka Mukpo [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– A study published in Science Advances shows that instances of dangerous high heat and humidity doubled in frequency between 1979 and 2017.
– The study used data from nearly 8,000 weather stations across the world.
– “Wet bulb” temperatures that were previously thought to be exceedingly rare were observed nearly 80 times in the data.

With new law, Indonesia gives miners more power and fewer obligations by Hans Nicholas Jong [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– Indonesia’s parliament has passed a mining bill that activists say will lead to unbridled exploitation by a mining industry that already operates with impunity over environmental and social violations.
– The new law removes a limit on the size of mining operations and allows automatic permit extensions up to 20 years.
– Critics say the law effectively echoes the talking points of the mining industry while shutting out longstanding demands from civil society groups, villagers and others for greater reforms.
– The bill failed to pass last year in the face of massive street protests; lawmakers have been accused of exploiting the current period of social distancing restrictions to pass it largely unopposed.

Will fish boom amid pandemic-driven fishing bust? by Shreya Dasgupta [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– The COVID-19 pandemic has created an exceptional crisis for fishing communities and the fishing industry as a whole.
– Since March 11, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, global fishing activity has been down by nearly 10% compared to the 2018-2019 average, according to a new estimate, and in some places the decline has been much greater.
– But it’s difficult to tell whether the global fishing slowdown will give marine life a chance to recover, experts say.
– Factors include the duration and timing of the slowdown, as well as whether illegal fishing may rebound in the absence of enforcement.

Bats: Resistant to viruses, but not to humans by Thelma Gómez Durán [Wed, 13 May 2020]
– Despite the many benefits they provide to the planet, bats are subject to unjustified stigmas and beliefs.
– These are being further aggravated by a widespread belief that bats caused the COVID-19 outbreak.
– However, scientists say that bats are not responsible for the pandemic.
– Rather, wildlife trafficking and the destruction of ecosystems have increased the possibility of humans coming into contact with viruses present in various animal species.

Philippines bids farewell to satellite that launched enviro policy into the space age by Rosy Mina [Tue, 12 May 2020]
– Diwata-1, the Philippines’ first microsatellite, has ended its four years in Earth orbit, burning up in the atmosphere on April 6.
– The microsatellite captured more than 17,000 images of the Philippines, covering 38% of the country’s land area.
– Diwata-1 ushered in an age of Earth satellite observation in the Philippines, contributing to science-based approaches to planning, conservation, risk management, and mapping.
– Scientists involved in the program say they hope that analyses and reports culled from the country’s Earth observation technology can help in policymaking and decision-making.

Seed by seed, a women’s collective helps reforest Brazil’s Xingu River Basin by JoAnna Haugen [Tue, 12 May 2020]
– Members of the Yarang Women’s Movement in Brazil have collected 3.2 tons of seeds over the past decade.
– The native seeds are sold to rural landowners and organizations to help replenish forests that have been degraded.
– The Yarang Women’s Movement is part of a seed network collective responsible for replanting nearly 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of land in Brazil’s Xingu River Basin.
– Unpredictable changes in weather patterns have made the seed-collecting process more challenging in recent years.

Indonesia moves to end smallholder guarantee meant to empower palm oil farmers by Hans Nicholas Jong [Tue, 12 May 2020]
– Palm oil companies in Indonesia will no longer have to allocate 20% of their land for smallholder farmers, under a deregulation bill being deliberated by parliament.
– The requirement is meant to ensure the country’s palm oil boom benefits rural communities, but the government now sees it as a hindrance to investment.
– Activists and officials in regions where palm oil is a big part of the economy have slammed the proposed scrapping, saying big companies will no longer have any reason to support and empower smallholders.
– The palm oil lobby says its companies are struggling to find land for the smallholder program amid conflicting regulations and an effective ban on plantation expansion.

Amazon indigenous leader: Our survival is at stake. You can help (commentary) by Beto Marubo [Tue, 12 May 2020]
– Beto Marubo, a representative of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley, warns that indigenous peoples in the Amazon face existential threats from rising deforestation, anti-environment and anti-indigenous policies from the Bolsonaro administration, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Marubo, whose indigenous name is Wino Këyashëni, is calling upon the outside world to pressure the Bolsonaro administration to protect indigenous peoples’ rights, lands, and livelihoods.
– He’s asking for (1) the Brazilian government to evict land invaders from indigenous territories, (2) restrictions on outsiders’ access to indigenous lands, and (3) logistical and medical support.
– This article is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

What is a sun bear? Candid Animal Cam heads to Asia to meet this elusive bear by [Tue, 12 May 2020]
– Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Indonesian environmental poet and Dayak leader Yohanes Terang, 1956-2020 by Erik Meijaard [Mon, 11 May 2020]
– Biologist Erik Meijaard of Borneo Futures writes an homage to Yohanes Terang, a Dayak poet, who died May 6 in Ketapang District at the age of 63.
– Terang took up social and environmental activism long before it became a mainstream concern in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
– Terang wrote poetry in Indonesian about the relationship between people and nature, and the challenges currently faced by both humanity and nature.
– This obituary is a commentary.

Market-based solutions cannot solely fund community-level conservation (commentary) by Sinan Serhadli [Mon, 11 May 2020]
– In the last two decades, conservation and the market economy merged into what is called “neoliberal conservation,” where economic growth and the protection of nature are thought to be essentially compatible.
– However, conservation in places like North Sumatra will be last on the agenda when markets tumble and the economic system that people are now addicted to – in even the most remote places – collapses.
– Schemes like ecotourism and payment for ecosystem services should be paired with programs like sustainable local agriculture to prevent the re-emergence of poaching and illegal logging, and to ensure that conservation-oriented behaviors persist when markets fail.
– This article is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Bolsonaro revives a plan to carve a road through one of Brazil’s last untouched areas by Fernanda Wenzel/oeco [Mon, 11 May 2020]
– President Jair Bolsonaro has revived a plan, conceived in the 1970s, to extend the BR-163 highway, the main soy corridor in Brazil, north to the border with Suriname.
– The road would cross 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) over a vast forest area called Calha Norte.
– The Trombetas State Forest, one of the four conservation units the road would cut through, stores 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide — more than Brazil’s entire emissions in 2018.
– The area is also rich in biodiversity: 40% of its species are found nowhere else on Earth.

In defense of bats in a COVID world (commentary) by Enrique Ortiz [Mon, 11 May 2020]
– Bats seem to be among the least popular of all animals. Covid-19 hasn’t helped their reputation. But we’ve gotten them all wrong. As you drink a Margarita, think of why that may be.
– Through pest-control, pollination, and seed dispersal of agricultural crops, bats play a critical role in our collective well-being, yet they are commonly scapegoated and persecuted as vectors of disease, writes Enrique G. Ortiz, Senior Program Director at the Andes Amazon Fund.
– The time has come for us to recognize bats contributions and treat them as the magnificent creatures they are, he argues. We need to protect them and their habitats.
– This post is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Climate tipping point ecosystem collapses may come faster than thought: Studies by Shanna Hanbury [Mon, 11 May 2020]
– Two recent studies shine a light on a relatively new field of study: the means by which climate tipping points can lead to ecosystem collapse, and how quickly such crashes might occur.
– The first study modeled a database of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and found that large ecosystems, while seeming more stable, can collapse disproportionately faster than small ones due to a domino effect by which interrelated habitats and species within a system can impact each other, causing a rapid cascading collapse.
– Some scientists praised the study for being pathfinding, while others faulted it for looking at too few ecosystems, and then making overlarge generalizations about the crashing of large systems, like the Amazon rainforest, a biome which was not included in the study database.
– A second study found that even small changes in an ecosystem can, via evolution, ripple outward, creating bigger and bigger alterations leading eventually to a system collapse. Scientists agree that much more research will be needed to refine collapse forecasts.

Canadian company positions for mining ban lift in Argentine province by John C. Cannon [Mon, 11 May 2020]
– Yamana Gold, a Canadian mining company, has partnered with a real estate and investment firm in Argentina to handle “all environmental, social, and governance” issues associated with a potential gold mining project in the province of Chubut.
– Mining has been banned in Chubut since 2003, primarily as a result of local protests that have continued through early 2020.
– The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the movement of Argentina’s citizens, but activists say the moves by Yamana and government leaders toward a reopening of the project are taking advantage of the crisis.

New bill could legalize ‘land banking’ by Indonesian plantation firms by Loren Bell [Sun, 10 May 2020]
– Under Indonesian law, plantation permit holders must plant all of their land within six years, or risk having the land deemed “abandoned,” seized by the state and given to someone else to develop.
– Plantation companies have cited the rule as hindering their ability to set aside lands within their concessions for conservation, because the government could simply repossess the lands if they do.
– Under a bill being deliberated by parliament, the rule could be scrapped — but watchdogs warn that, if anything, this will open up the potential for land banking, where speculators stockpile huge tracts of land they have no intent to immediately put to use.

Pandemic lockdown gives Philippine province time to rethink planned split-up by Keith Anthony Fabro [Sun, 10 May 2020]
– The coronavirus pandemic has halted a planned vote on whether to split up the biodiverse province of Palawan into three smaller ones.
– Those in support of the proposal say breaking up the country’s biggest province into more manageable constituencies will allow officials to better address poverty and development issues.
– But critics say it will exacerbate bureaucratic bloat, allow the ruling elites to grab more power, and harm both the management of natural resources and welfare of indigenous peoples.
– They say the argument that the province is too big to properly manage is flawed, given how officials have largely been able to execute pandemic responses, and that the real issue is political will.

Amazon deforestation increases for 13th straight month in Brazil by Rhett A. Butler [Sat, 09 May 2020]
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon over the past 12 months has reached the highest level since monthly tracking began in 2007, according to official data released Friday by the country’s national space research institute INPE.
– INPE’s deforestation monitoring system, DETER, detected 406 square kilometers of forest loss in the “legal Amazon” during the month of April, bringing the extent of deforestation to 9,320 square kilometers for the year ended April 30, 2020, 40% higher than where it stood a year ago.
– Forest loss in Earth’s largest rainforest has now risen 13 consecutive months relative to year-earlier figures.
– The combination of rising forest clearance and abnormally dry conditions across vast swathes of Brazil is setting up the region for an active fire season.

Sri Lanka’s marbled rock frog may not be on brink of extinction, modeling suggests by Dilrukshi Handunnetti [Sat, 09 May 2020]
– Using a combination of old-fashioned field work and new-fangled computer modeling, researchers in Sri Lanka have found that the critically endangered marble rock frog (Nannophrys marmorata) occurs over a potentially much larger range than previously thought.
– In a new paper, they suggest that, pending further studies, this finding should qualify the species for removal from the critically endangered list, to which it was added in light of the much smaller range in which it was previously believed to occur.
– The researchers say the discovery should also prompt more field surveys, and raise the possibility that another frog in the genus, N. guentheri, which is considered extinct, may be rediscovered this way.
– At the same time, they also emphasize the need to protect the frogs’ habitats from threats such as the encroachment of illegal cardamom and tea plantations.

Insects decline on land, fare better in water, study finds by Liz Kimbrough [Fri, 08 May 2020]
– A meta-analysis has found that land-dwelling insect populations are decreasing by about 0.92% per year, which amounts to 50% fewer insects in 75 years.
– The numbers of insects that live in the water are on the rise by about 1.08% per year, a figure scientists attribute to effective water protection measures over the past 50 years.
– Habitat loss is associated with the decline of insects in this study.

How Indonesia’s omnibus bill may impact fisheries compliance and enforcement (commentary) by Stephanie Juwana [Fri, 08 May 2020]
– A deregulation bill currently working its way through Indonesia’s parliament proposes sweeping changes for the management of the country’s fisheries sector.
– Among the provisions is a concentration of licensing and oversight authority with the central government, and the dropping of criminal sanctions in favor of administrative ones for fisheries violations.
– Stephanie Juwana of the Indonesia Ocean Justice and Initiative argues that the proposed changes risk undermining the management and oversight of fisheries and fall short of achieving sustainable development goals.
– This post is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

World lost forest ‘the size of Libya’ since 1990, FAO says by Lauren Crothers [Fri, 08 May 2020]
– The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has released key findings ahead of its next Global Forest Resources Assessment (GFRA), which is due next month.
– The data are self-reported by 263 countries and territories, as opposed to coming from satellite imaging.
– The GFRA shows 178 million hectares (439 million acres) of forest has been lost over 20-year period, an area the FAO equated to the size of Libya.
– Nearly 4 million hectares were lost across Africa since 2010. The FAO says that in spite of this, overall rates of deforestation have been falling.

Activists challenge Indonesia deregulation bill that threatens environment by Hans Nicholas Jong [Fri, 08 May 2020]
– Environmental and legal activists are challenging a deregulation bill submitted by the Indonesian government to parliament that threatens to dismantle environmental protections in favor of facilitating business.
– The plaintiffs say that both the drafting and deliberation processes have excluded the public while embracing the business lobby, including adopting talking points from the palm oil and paper lobbies.
– The activists say that in its rush to have the bill passed, the government has submitted a product so riddled with loopholes that it won’t even serve its stated purpose of streamlining business processes.
– The sweeping deregulation would, among other points, prescribe lighter penalties for environmental violations; scrap a requirement for environmental impact assessments; vastly deregulate the mining industry; and make it easier to rezone coastal areas for development

Indonesia lifts export ban on baby lobsters aimed to protect wild population by Basten Gokkon [Fri, 08 May 2020]
– Indonesia has lifted a ban on exporting baby lobsters, previously put in place to conserve the wild population of the animal.
– The fisheries ministry has issued new requirements to regulate exports, including setting an annual quota and limiting the sites from where the lobsters can be harvested.
– But the decision has been widely criticized by conservationists and the former fisheries minister, Susi Pudjiastuti, who warn the resumption of exports threatens to deplete the wild population.
– Experts have called on the government to instead prioritize sustainable lobster aquaculture in the country, involving small-scale and traditional fishermen.

Get sick or go hungry? Workers face dilemma at Freeport’s Grasberg mine by Febriana Firdaus [Fri, 08 May 2020]
– U.S.-based miner Freeport McMoRan is continuing operations at its Grasberg mine in the Indonesian province of Papua, despite 56 of its employees testing positive for COVID-19.
– Workers say that if they opt to leave the site over health concerns, they won’t get paid and risk losing their job.
– The company says it has redoubled health protocols at the mine to a level that its CEO says is “more advanced” than in many communities in the U.S.
– The Papua deputy governor says the province may consider ordering a halt to operations if the trend worsens over the next three weeks.

For Philippine farmers reeling from disasters, lockdown is another pain point by Mavic Conde [Thu, 07 May 2020]
– Farmers in the Bicol region in the Philippines are experiencing the brunt of the lockdown, imposed since March 16 to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
– The situation is especially hard for rice farmers, most of them still reeling from the impacts of successive typhoons, drought, and cheap imported rice.
– The Philippine government has allotted a 1.17 trillion peso ($23.2 billion) stimulus package, including support for some 18 million families most affected by the lockdown. In Bicol, more than one million families are expected to receive support.
– The Philippine lockdown is expected to lift by May 15, although the government says the country may have to continue dealing with COVID-19 for the new two years.

The mining map: Who’s eyeing the gold on Brazil’s indigenous lands? by Agência Pública, Anna Beatriz Anjos, Bruno Fonseca, Ciro Barros, José Cícero da Silva, Rafael Oliveira, Thiago Domenici [Thu, 07 May 2020]
– Miners have their eyes on reserves that have been officially demarcated for 15 years and are inhabited by isolated indigenous peoples.
– Applications to mine on indigenous lands in the Amazon have increased by 91% under the Bolsonaro administration.
– The majority of applications to mine on indigenous lands are for areas in Pará, Mato Grosso, and Roraima.
– Among the applicants are mining giant Anglo American, small-scale cooperatives whose members are embroiled in a range of environmental violations, and even a São Paulo-based architect.

Authorities seize record 26 tons of illegal shark fins in Hong Kong by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [Thu, 07 May 2020]
– Hong Kong customs officials have discovered a shipment of 26 tons of shark fins from CITES-protected species, the largest of its kind ever to be seized in the region.
– Officials identified the fins as belonging to 31,000 thresher sharks and 7,500 silky sharks, which are both listed as vulnerable species by the IUCN.
– Conservationists are concerned by the large volume of thresher and silky sharks in this consignment, especially as these species are slow to reproduce in the wild.
– More than 73 million sharks enter the global shark fin trade each year, primarily to make a luxury food item called shark fin soup, although conservationists believe the demand for this soup is waning in China and Hong Kong.



Takeover of Nigerian reserve highlights uphill battle to save forests by Orji Sunday [05/04/2020]
From writing to VR, finding ways to connect to nature during isolation by Carinya Sharples [05/04/2020]
‘We are invisible’: Brazilian Cerrado quilombos fight for land and lives by Sarah Sax and Maurício Angelo [04/30/2020]