Newsletter 2020-08-06



How do we save charisma-challenged species? Start with a story by Jeremy Hance [08/06/2020]

– The bulk of wildlife conservation funding goes to charismatic species, but there are ways to push charisma-challenged species as well.
– Researchers say that telling a species’ story including photos can help inspire people to save the small and forgotten species.
– Zoos have also proven critical in protecting less charismatic species, but will this change in our COVID-19 world?

Why are some endangered species ignored? by Jeremy Hance [08/03/2020]

– Many critically endangered species receive no conservation action because they are deemed ‘uncharismatic’ and fail to attract funding.
– Charisma challenged species are often small, less colorful, and little known to the public.
– Scientists have long argued that umbrella species protect uncharismatic species, but is that true?

Ornithologists discover more rare hornbills than thought on Philippine island by Leilani Chavez [07/31/2020]

– A new study of the endemic and rare Visayan tarictic hornbill (Penelopides panini) on Negros Island in the Philippines shows that the population of the endangered bird may be double the previous estimate of the IUCN.
– A 2001 assessment by the IUCN estimated the total number of tarictic hornbills on the islands of Negros and Panay at 1,800; this new study finds nearly 3,600 hornbills in Negros alone.
– Hornbills are among the most threatened bird species in the Philippines; a subspecies of the taritic hornbill was the first first hornbill in the country to be declared extinct, in 2013, after it disappeared from the island of Ticao.
– The study is the first to establish an existing population of tarictic hornbills for the island of Negros and the first to identify bird populations in each remaining forest area on the island.

In syntropic agriculture, farmers stop fighting nature and learn to embrace it by Sandra Weiss [07/30/2020]

– Brazilian-based Swiss agronomist and cocoa farmer Ernst Götsch has created a model of organic farming that he says can replace the Green Revolution that was driven by advances in agrichemistry.
– His syntropic farming system imitates nature and is based on successful agroforestry methods.
– It is climate-friendly, ecologically sustainable and above all cost-efficient, attracting a growing number of soy farmers in Brazil interested in implementing it.



Indonesian fishers who fought off tin miners prepare to battle all over again by Nopri Ismi [Thu, 06 Aug 2020]
– Fishers in the Indonesian region that’s a key source of the tin used in iPhones and other electronics have protested a new zoning plan that will allow mining on an important fishing coast.
– The Toboali area of Bangka Belitung province was only just cleared of small-scale mining in 2018, following similar opposition by fishers, but the new plan threatens to introduce larger-scale operations.
– Tin mining is the backbone of the Bangka Belitung economy, but has also proven deadly for workers and damaging to coral reefs, mangrove forests and local fisheries.
– The government insists the zoning plan was approved by consensus and that the interests of the fishing communities were taken into account.

Analysis: Vietnam’s leadership flex shows how to drive electricity reform by David Brown [Thu, 06 Aug 2020]
– Vietnam’s Communist Party leadership has instituted a top-down reform of the country’s electricity sector in response to the need to shift away from coal and its growing list of associated problems.
– The country’s new energy strategy puts greater emphasis on renewables, including wind and solar, abandoning a decade-long commitment to investing in and subsidizing coal.
– The move is also helped by recent technological developments that have made generating renewable power at scale more economically feasible than ever.

Understaffed and under threat: Paraguay’s park rangers pay the ultimate price by Aldo Benítez [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– Protected areas in eastern Paraguay are beset by illegal marijuana cultivation and logging. Government interventions have had limited success, with clearing resuming shortly after agents leave an area.
– Park rangers tasked with monitoring the country’s reserves and parks say they routinely encounter hostile criminal groups when on patrol. These encounters can take a violent turn – several rangers have been murdered over the past decade while patrolling protected areas for illegal activity.
– According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the ideal number of park rangers is one for every 1,000 hectares. However, in Paraguay, there is just one park ranger for more than 38,000 hectares.
– Rangers say they need more resources and support to do their job safely and effectively.

To flourish, Sri Lanka’s whale-watching industry must operate responsibly (commentary) by Ranil P. Nanayakkara [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– Whale watching in Sri Lanka picked up in 2005, and the end of the civil war in 2009 ensured wider access to some of the finest coastal beaches in the Indian Ocean island.
– Expeditions that highlighted Sri Lanka as one of the top whale-watching destinations sparked an ever-expanding industry, giving rise to concerns about irresponsible public conduct and the need to minimize harm to marine mammals.
– In response, awareness-raising initiatives are being taken by various groups with emphasis on responsible whale watching according to existing guidelines and codes of conduct.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

More than 500 dams planned inside protected areas: Study by Liz Kimbrough [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– More than 500 dams are either under construction or planned within protected areas over the next two decades, according to a new study.
– The study found that more than 1,200 large dams already exist within protected areas.
– The authors strongly encourage governments to avoid constructing dams in or near protected areas and instead to look toward renewable energies such as wind and solar.
– The researchers express concerns about ongoing rollbacks to environmental protections, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brazil dismantles environmental laws via huge surge in executive acts: Study by Jenny Gonzales [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– Between March and May 2020, the government of Jair Bolsonaro published 195 infralegal acts — ordinances, normative instructions, decrees and other measures — which critics say are an indirect means of dismantling Brazil’s environmental laws and bypassing Congress. During the same period in 2019, just 16 such acts were published.
– In April, 2020 Environment Minister Ricardo Salles suggested that the administration “run the cattle” which experts say, within the context Salles used the phrase, is a euphemism for utilizing the COVID-19 crisis as a means of distracting Brazilians from the administration’s active undermining of the environmental rule of law.
– A partial study of the 195 acts has found that they, among other things, allow rural landowners who illegally deforested and occupied conserved areas in the Atlantic Forest up to July 2008 to receive full amnesty for their crimes. Another change pays indemnities to those who expropriated properties within federal conservation units.
– Shifts in administration management responsibilities have also resulted in what experts say is a weakening of regulations granting and managing national forests, and the relaxation of supervision over fisheries that could allow increased illegal trafficking in tropical fish. A study of the repercussions of all 195 acts is continuing.

New Guinea has the most plant species of any island by Rhett A. Butler [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– New Guinea is the planet’s most speciose island when it comes to plants, reports a comprehensive assessment of vascular plant species published in the journal Nature.
– The research concludes New Guinea has 13,634 species of plants from 1742 genera and 264 families. That gives New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, the highest plant diversity of any island on Earth, surpassing Madagascar (11,832 species), Borneo (11,165 species), and Sumatra (8,391 species).
– New Guinea’s flora is also highly unique. The study finds that more than two-thirds of its plants are endemic, meaning they are only found on the island.
– But time may be running short for New Guinea’s biodiversity, since 2002 the island lost 1.15 million hectares of primary forest and nearly 2 million hectares of total tree cover. New Guinea’s high degree of endemism makes its flora particularly vulnerable.

Vietnam approves $9 billion development within mangrove reserve by Tim Rist [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– Vietnam’s $9.3 billion Can Gio Tourist City was recently approved for construction within the buffer zone of a UNESCO Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in Ho Chi Minh City.
– Developed by Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, the project will require the reclamation of a huge amount of land along Can Gio’s coast.
– Environmentalists and activists have petitioned the government to reconsider the project, but Vingroup is a key part of the country’s drive toward industrialization and home-grown world-class companies.

New land snail species discovered in Hawaii offers ‘gem of hope’ by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– Scientists recently announced a new species of land snail, Auriculella gagneorum, which was found living in the Waianae Mountains in O‘ahu, Hawaii.
– There are three known populations of Auriculella perpusilla on O‘ahu, and a small number of snails were selected for a captive-breeding program to help conserve the species.
– Hawaii once had 752 species of land snails, but more than half of them are believed to have gone extinct due to habitat loss and invasive species.

‘Meaningless certification’: Study makes the case against ‘sustainable’ palm oil by Hans Nicholas Jong [Wed, 05 Aug 2020]
– Three-quarters of oil palm concessions in Indonesia and Malaysian Borneo certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil occupy land that was forest and/or wildlife habitat as recently as 30 years ago, a new study shows.
– While not the initial drivers of deforestation in those areas, these plantations shouldn’t be certified sustainable if that history is accounted for, the study authors say.
– “The fact that someone else did deforestation just a few years before does not absolve the palm oil plantation’s owner and definitely does not justify a sustainability label by a certification scheme,” says co-author Roberto Cazzolla Gatti.
– He adds the RSPO’s failure to account for past deforestation means that “every logged area ‘today’ could be certified as a sustainable plantation ‘tomorrow,’ in an infinite loop of meaningless certification.”

Helping the poor can protect forests too, Indonesian welfare program shows by Hans Nicholas Jong [Tue, 04 Aug 2020]
– A study has found that a poverty-alleviation program in Indonesia was just as successful as dedicated conservation programs in reducing deforestation.
– The researchers attribute this to the program serving as a sort of insurance against harvest failures, by guaranteeing rural communities cash transfers and making it less likely they will cut down forests as a source of income.
– The study calculates that the economic benefit from the avoided carbon emissions alone could be (at maximum) 10 times greater than the cost of administering the program.
– The researchers have called for similar studies to be done in other tropical rainforest countries, and insist that poverty alleviation and forest conservation aren’t mutually exclusive goals.

In California, forest fires spark a babel of birdsong, study shows by Jennifer Ann Thomas/Veja [Tue, 04 Aug 2020]
– In California, a group of researchers mapped the sounds of the hermit warbler (Setophaga occidentalis) and analyzed the impacts caused by forest fire on the birds’ songs.
– The researchers found that the diversity of sounds increased in areas that had been affected by forest fires. Three factors impacted the songs: the fires; the massive effect of bird dispersion, which makes room for individuals from other groups to insert their “dialects”; and the time interval due to migration.
– “The result was that some areas have birds singing in more than one dialect, resulting in a complex diversity of sounds in California,” says the study’s lead author.

Podcast: From parks to payments, which conservation strategies work best? by Mike Gaworecki [Tue, 04 Aug 2020]
– This is the 100th episode of the Mongabay Newscast! We revisit Mongabay’s groundbreaking Conservation Effectiveness reporting project in order to see what developments there have been since we did the initial reporting three years ago.
– Joining us today are Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler, who tells us about the impetus for the series of reports that would become Conservation Effectiveness, what the main findings were from the project, and the new developments over the past three years that might help fill the gaps in our understanding of conservation impacts.
– We also speak with Sven Wunder, a principal scientist at the European Forest Institute in Barcelona, Spain as well as a senior associate at the Center for International Forestry Research, or CIFOR. Wunder actually spoke with me back in 2017 for the piece I wrote about PES as part of the Conservation Effectiveness series, and we’ve spoken again for this episode of the podcast so he can fill us in on the latest research into the impact of a variety of conservation strategies.

Amazon gold mining wipes out rainforest regeneration for years: Study by Taran Volckhausen [Tue, 04 Aug 2020]
– New research looking at Amazon artisanal gold mining in Guyana has found that the destroyed Amazon forest at mining sites shows no sign of recovery three to four years after a mine pit and tailings pond are abandoned, likely largely due to soil nutrient depletion.
– In addition, mercury contamination at the sites drops after a mine is abandoned; mercury is used to process gold. Mercury being a chemical element, it does not break down but can bioaccumulate, so its onsite disappearance means the toxin is possibly leaching into local waters, entering fish, and poisoning riverine people who eat them.
– The solution would be the proper restoration of mine sites, especially the proper filling in of mine holes and tailing ponds imitating replacement by natural topsoil. Better regulations, much bigger fines and other penalties, along with enforcement of mining laws would also help seriously curb the problem, say researchers.
– But so long as the price of gold continues topping $1,700 an ounce (as it did during the 2008 U.S. housing crisis), or $2,000 an ounce (its current price during the still escalating COVID-19 pandemic), it seems likely that there is little that can curb the enthusiasm of poor and wealthy prospectors alike for digging up the Amazon.

Facial recognition tech for chimps looks to bust online ape trafficking by Colin Sytsma [Tue, 04 Aug 2020]
– Much of the illegal trade in apes now takes place online, with traffickers posting pictures of baby animals for sale.
– ChimpFace, a newly developed software, uses an algorithm to determine if chimpanzee faces in images posted by traffickers match up with images later posted to social media accounts.
– Its creators hope the matches the program turns up will aid Interpol or local law enforcement in tracking and prosecuting people illegally buying and selling wildlife.

In Bogotá, communities weave an unlikely wetland success story by Genevieve Glatsky [Tue, 04 Aug 2020]
– Around 27 years ago, a community on the northwest border of Bogotá launched a concerted campaign to defend the Conejera wetland against a city and business sector that saw it as disposable.
– The success of their efforts launched a long-standing community movement of wetland defenders in an otherwise urbanized city, where 98% of its original wetlands have been wiped out.
– Today the Colombian capital’s 15 official wetlands are home to dozens of endemic species, including 202 species of birds, and take up about 727 hectares (1,800 acres).

Illegal trade of Philippine pangolins is surging, report shows by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [Tue, 04 Aug 2020]
– A new report published by TRAFFIC found that the illegal pangolin trade in the Philippines increased nine-fold in the last two years, with the authorities confiscating an estimated 6,894 pangolins between 2018 and 2019.
– Data included seizures of pangolin scales and retrievals of live pangolins that escaped from wildlife traffickers.
– TRAFFIC researchers also conducted ad hoc surveys around Manila to discover pangolin meat being served at restaurants and shops selling pills made from pangolin derivatives.
– It’s estimated that Philippine pangolins, a critically endangered species of the pangolin, have declined up to 95% in the last 40 years.

Is a Sunda clouded leopard a leopard? Candid Animal Cam heads to Southeast Asia by [Tue, 04 Aug 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.

The Large-antlered muntjac — Southeast Asia’s mystery deer (Commentary) by Joel Berger and Minh Nguyen [Mon, 03 Aug 2020]
– 12 species of muntjac, the so-called barking deer because of its unique auditory calls, are found only in Asia. The Large-antlered muntjac is Critically Endangered with members of its scant, rarely seen population inhabiting the rugged Annamites Range bordering the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Vietnam and Cambodia.
– One of the biggest dangers to muntjacs is snaring, a hunting method used widely across Indochina. No one knows how many tens or hundreds of thousands of snares clutter Southeast Asia. But rangers in one Cambodian national park found 27,714 snares in 2015 alone — 7 snares per square kilometer, or 17.5 per square mile.
– If muntjacs are to be preserved, greater public awareness of their plight is required. On Vietnam’s Dalat Plateau and in Lao’s Nakai–Nam Theun National Protected Area, conservation appears possible, and scientists hope to garner better population density estimates in relation to the snaring threat. Captive breeding may be needed.
– This story is the second in a series by biologist Joel Berger written in conjunction with colleagues in an effort to make seriously endangered animals far better known to the public. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Saved from poisoning, these rare African vultures take wing again by Ed Holt [Mon, 03 Aug 2020]
– Three white-backed vultures rehabilitated at a specialist center after being poisoned late last year have been released back into the wild in South Africa.
– The birds were among those rescued from mass poisonings that killed 51 others across northern KwaZulu-Natal province late last year.
– Many vulture populations across Africa are in steep decline; poisoning by farmers aimed at other predators is a leading cause.
– Swift reporting of poisoning enables sites to be decontaminated, limiting the number of vultures and other species affected.

Say hello to Madagascar’s newest mouse lemur, a pint-sized primate by Malavika Vyawahare [Mon, 03 Aug 2020]
– A new species of mouse lemur, considered the tiniest primates in the world, has been described from Madagascar.
– Microcebus jonahi is named for prominent Malagasy primatologist Jonah Ratsimbazafy, who has dedicated his life to studying and protecting Madagascar’s endemic lemurs.
– Scientists fear the species is already at risk of disappearing like almost all of the 107 other species of lemurs, primates that are native to Madagascar.
– Jonah’s mouse lemurs are found in an area half the size of Yosemite National Park, in a region where forests are fast disappearing.

Deaths of Yanomami babies from COVID-19 bring anguish to mothers by Jennifer Ann Thomas [Mon, 03 Aug 2020]
– Three indigenous babies from the Yanomami Indigenous group who died with suspected COVID-19 infection were buried in a cemetery in the city of Boa Vista, in Brazil’s Roraima state, far from their villages.
– Their mothers don’t speak Portuguese and likely had no understanding of what would happen to their children’s bodies.
– It is a Yanomami tradition to cremate their dead, and the ritual can take more than a year to complete.
– Indigenous people are now reluctant to seek medical treatment for fear that their bodies will not be returned to the community if they die. A local NGO says the handling of the case shows continued disrespect for Indigenous culture.

Forest crimes persist in Peru following Indigenous leader’s murder by Yvette Sierra Praeli [Mon, 03 Aug 2020]
– The leader of an Indigenous community in Peru’s Huánuco region was murdered when he went fishing earlier this year. Despite this, criminal groups have reportedly continued to operate in the area.
– The death of Arbildo Meléndez Grandes is one of a series of environmental crimes reported since the COVID-19 state of emergency began in Peru.
– Operations against illegal mining and logging have been carried out in the Madre de Dios, Loreto and Ucayali regions in recent months.

Business risk and COVID-19 are pushing Asian financiers away from coal by Nithin Coca [Mon, 03 Aug 2020]
– Three major Japanese banks have announced plans to divest from coal projects, while South Korea’s ruling party has pledged a similar policy proposal.
– The moves are part of a growing investor backlash against the fossil fuel, seen as an increasingly risky financial bet because of the costs of building and operating coal power plants amid sluggish electricity demand.
– The COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic shutdowns it prompted around the world, have contributed to a fall in thermal coal prices, with global demand for coal expected to decline by 8% this year.
– Environmental activists have welcomed the move away from coal, but say pressure must be sustained to ensure divestments out of coal projects that are planned or in pre-production.

No choice: Why communities in Paraguay are cutting down forests to survive by Aldo Benítez [Fri, 31 Jul 2020]
– Illegal deforestation for marijuana cultivation is a growing problem for eastern Paraguay’s protected areas.
– Sources say much of the clearing is done by indigenous community members and small farmers who are beset by poverty and have no other options.
– A joint project between the Paraguayan government and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations seeks to provide more opportunities for rural communities, but has been stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kaavan, a Sri Lankan elephant living in captivity in a Pakistani zoo to be set free by Malaka Rodrigo [Fri, 31 Jul 2020]
– In a historic move, the Islamabad High Court has ruled that Kaavan, a Sri Lankan elephant given to Pakistan’s Islamabad Zoo 35 years ago, be relocated to a sanctuary in Cambodia due to the zoo’s poor conditions and the impact on the elephant’s welfare.
– Elephants are social animals that live in herds in the wild. Animal rights groups have criticized the conditions in which they are kept in captivity, leading to renewed calls for both improved living conditions in zoos and, more broadly, an end to the practice of holding them in captivity.
– Back in Sri Lanka, Kaavan’s home country, experts have raised concern about the welfare of captive elephants, as they are often chained, controlled with bull hooks and not properly managed in general.

Double blow to Colombian Amazon and Indigenous groups from armed militants, COVID-19 by Dimitri Selibas [Fri, 31 Jul 2020]
– Staff from the National Nature Parks of Colombia (PNN) have been forced by former FARC rebels and other illegal armed groups to abandon 10 Amazonian parks that cover nearly 9 million hectares (22 million acres) and are home to an estimated 43,000 undiscovered species.
– The absence of PNN staff has negatively impacted surrounding campesino and Indigenous communities, as well as the monitoring of natural resources, threatened species, and climatic and hydrological information, which are all vital for decision-making and generating alerts.
– Indigenous communities in Colombia’s Amazon play a vital conservation role, but COVID-19 has been especially devastating to them.
– Infections have been reported among 33 of the region’s 60 Indigenous groups, 13 of which were already in danger of physical and/or cultural extermination.

Amazonia’s people domesticated crops on ‘forest islands’ 10,000 years ago: Study by Liz Kimbrough [Fri, 31 Jul 2020]
– Early Amazon human inhabitants domesticated and grew crops more than 10,000 years ago, making the region one of the world’s earliest centers of plant domestication for food, a study has found.
– These early people left behind thousands of artificial raised forest islands in what is now the Llanos de Moxos savanna in northern Bolivia.
– Researchers tracked glass-like microfossils to reveal evidence that these early farmers grew squash, corn and cassava.
– The new research helps dispel a persistent myth that the Amazon long existed as a sort of wilderness paradise, largely untouched by human influences. Instead, it is now thought that humans have been profoundly altering the landscape of Amazonia for thousands of years, with lasting consequences for species conservation and habitats.

Endangered and endemic: Madagascar’s lemurs susceptible to coronavirus infection by Rivonala Razafison [Fri, 31 Jul 2020]
– Certain species of lemurs in Madagascar share a similar enzyme receptor to humans that could make them susceptible to contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, a study shows.
– Following calls from the scientific community both on the island and abroad, an emergency unit is being set up to strengthen the protection of lemurs in the face of the virus.
– To date, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in lemurs.
– The possibility of the virus spreading among lemurs, most of which are endangered species, worries researchers.

Guardians of Mexico’s community forests confront climate change by Pablo Hernández Mares [Fri, 31 Jul 2020]
– Droughts, insect infestations, and fires are increasingly common in Mexico’s forests.
– Communities whose residents manage these forests can develop strategies to protect their forests and ecosystems, which are critical in the fight against climate change.
– The community forest management strategy can also provide livelihoods and boost economies, experts say.

New assessment shows 74% of Sri Lanka’s freshwater fish threatened with extinction by Malaka Rodrigo [Fri, 31 Jul 2020]
– A recent conservation assessment of Sri Lanka’s freshwater fish has come up with a total of 139 species, of which 61 are found nowhere else on Earth.
– The new assessment showed that 74% of endemic freshwater fish are threatened with extinction: 12 are critically endangered, 24 endangered, and nine vulnerable.
– Many of Sri Lanka’s freshwater fish groups have undergone significant changes and the new study sheds much needed light on their taxonomic diversity.
– Most of Sri Lanka’s freshwater fish are found outside protected areas and are thus affected directly by all the major drivers of biodiversity loss such as habitat loss and degradation, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species, and climate change.

For tool-wielding chimps of Ebo Forest, logging plan is a ‘death sentence’ by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [Thu, 30 Jul 2020]
– Ebo Forest is the largest intact forest system in southwestern Cameroon, spanning more than 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres), and providing refuge to a multitude of rare species, including Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, drills, and a tiny and enigmatic population of western gorillas.
– The Cameroon government recently approved a logging concession for Ebo Forest, which would allow trees in 68,385 hectares (169,000 acres) of the region to be harvested, despite opposition from conservationists and local communities.
– Ebo Forest was previously slated to be transformed into a national park, an effort spearheaded by WWF, but plans were dashed in 2013, reportedly because of lack of funding.
– Conservationists worry that logging, and any concomitant activities, such as illegal forest destruction and poaching, will place considerable pressure on endangered and critically endangered species, and that the biodiversity of the forest would be compromised.

Does coconut oil really threaten more species than palm oil? No, it doesn’t. (commentary) by Asa Feinstein [Thu, 30 Jul 2020]
– A brief study recently published by the journal Current Biology examines the environmental impact of different oil crops like oil palm and coconut by quantifying the number of species that have been threatened by each.
– The study and the media coverage that followed appeared to show that coconut oil is far more damaging to global biodiversity than palm oil, but this argument is not supported by the data: according to the IUCN, palm oil production has actually threatened five times more species than coconuts.
– The Current Biology authors have since stated that “we want to be very careful not to say that coconut is actually a greater problem than palm oil.” Here, a coconut industry CEO explains how the brief study arrived at its conclusions, and what makes coconuts more sustainable.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Photo Essay: In search of Sri Lanka’s vanishing tuskers by Rajiv Welikala [Thu, 30 Jul 2020]
– Sri Lanka is home to an estimated 7,500 elephants, which is about 10% of elephants that live in Asia. They live on about 2% of the country’s land area, and a little more than 7% of male elephants bear tusks.
– Tuskers are exposed to more harm than other elephants, even though poaching for ivory is not common in Sri Lanka. As time has passed, seeing tuskers in the wild parts of Sri Lanka has become a rarity.
– More than 400 elephants have died in Sri Lanka in the past year. The country has the world’s highest number of elephant deaths and the second-highest number of human fatalities due to human-elephant conflict after India. Nearly two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s elephants live outside protected areas.
– The views expressed in this essay are those of the photographer, not necessarily Mongabay.

Goldminers overrun Amazon indigenous lands as COVID-19 surges by Jenny Gonzales [Thu, 30 Jul 2020]
– Reports filed by NGOs including the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA) and Greenpeace Brazil say that a major invasion of indigenous reserves and conservation units is underway, prompted by miners well backed with expensive equipment supplied by wealthy elites.
– Miners are emboldened, say the NGOs, by the inflammatory anti-indigenous and anti-environmental rhetoric of the Jair Bolsonaro administration which has sent a clear signal so far, that it has no major plans of stopping the invasions or penalizing the perpetrators.
– Through June of this year, deforestation by mining within conserved areas represented 67.9% of total tree loss in Legal Amazonia. From January to June, illegal mining destroyed 2,230 hectares (5,510 acres) of forest inside conservation units (UCs) and 1,016 hectares (2,510 acres) inside indigenous territories (TIs).
– The miners’ onslaught also poses a serious COVID-19 threat. The virus has so far infected at least 14,647 indigenous people and caused 269 deaths on indigenous lands. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro is pressing for passage of legislation authorizing mining on indigenous lands; presently the bill is stalled in the house of deputies.

Anticipated new restrictions on wildlife trade in Vietnam fall short of a ban by Michael Tatarski [Thu, 30 Jul 2020]
– Earlier this year, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc called for the drafting of a ban on wildlife trade and consumption by April 1.
– After a delay of several months, on July 23, the government finally released a directive aimed at strengthening enforcement of existing rules governing the wildlife trade, but not banning the trade outright, as conservationists had hoped.
– Conservationists expressed support for the directive as a major step forward, but cautioned that much work remains, particularly in terms of enforcement.



2019 was the deadliest year ever for environmental activists, watchdog group says by Ashoka Mukpo [07/29/2020]
Brazilian Amazon drained of millions of wild animals by criminal networks: Report by Sharon Guynup [07/28/2020]
Marijuana farms expand in Paraguay reserve despite gov’t crackdowns by Aldo Benitez [07/27/2020]