Newsletter 2020-09-17



Missing mangroves are root of contention over Philippine airport project by Leilani Chavez, Susan Claire Agbayani [09/17/2020]

– Work on a new international airport project in Bulacan, just north of Manila, has already resulted in the decimation of more than 600 mangrove trees in the Manila Bay area, residents say.
– Bulacan’s coast is a key mangrove forest and important bird and biodiversity area, and one of several sites along the bay that’s facing threats due to land reclamation projects.
– The Bulacan “aerotropolis,” a 2,500-hectare (6,200-acre) airport complex, is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s revised “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program and has been awarded to San Miguel Corporation, the Philippines’ biggest company by revenue.
– The cutting of mangroves is prohibited under Philippine law, but no one has been held accountable for the hundreds of trees cut in Bulacan — a problem that residents and environmental groups say will intensify as construction of the airport returns to full force by October.

Podcast: Great ape ‘forest gardeners of Africa’ benefit from conservation victory by Mike Gaworecki [09/16/2020]

– Great ape conservation in Africa relies on forest protection, and vice versa.- On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we take a look at two stories that illustrate how conservation of Africa’s Great Apes — chimpanzees and gorillas — often goes hand in hand with forest conservation efforts.
– We welcome to the program Ekwoge Abwe, head of the Ebo Forest Research Project in Cameroon. Abwe tells us the story of how he became the first scientist to discover Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees using tools to crack open nuts and discusses ongoing efforts to safeguard Ebo Forest against the threats of oil palm expansion and logging.
– We also speak with Alex Chepstow-Lusty, an associate researcher at Cambridge University who shares how chimpanzees were among the seed-dispersing species that helped central Africa’s rainforests regenerate after they collapsed some 2,500 years ago.

Game changer: NASA data tool could revolutionize Amazon fire analysis by Shanna Hanbury [09/15/2020]

– The Amazon has already seen more forest fires this year than in all of 2019, according to satellite data made available in August 2020 by a new NASA fire analysis tool.
– While there are several good fire monitoring satellite systems currently at work above the Amazon, NASA’s new automated system provides near real time monitoring which could allow firefighting teams on the ground to pinpoint fires in remote areas and to take action to put fires out before they spread.
– The new system also differentiates between fires in newly deforested areas, understory forest fires, grassland fires and those set by smallholders to annually clear fields. This differentiation allows authorities to zero in on large scale criminal arson committed by land grabbers, while also preventing the criminalization of subsistence farmers.
– New information provided by the innovative NASA monitoring tool can count fire carbon emissions and the location and size of burnt areas, all of which could further research on global climate change, mitigation, and biodiversity impacts.

Biologists warn ‘extinction denial’ is the latest anti-science conspiracy theory by Mike Shanahan [09/14/2020]

– There’s a growing refusal by some groups to acknowledge the ongoing global extinction crisis being driven by human actions, conservation scientists say.
– These views are pushed by many of the same people who also downplay the impacts of climate change, and go against the actual evidence of widespread species population declines and recent extinctions.
– Scientists say this phenomenon will likely spike again this week, since a major Convention on Biological Diversity report is due to be released.
– The authors of a new report on extinction denial advise experts to proactively challenge its occurrence, and present the “cold hard scientific facts.”

Can public lands unify divided Americans? An interview with John Leshy by Rhett A. Butler [09/14/2020]

– It might be hard to believe in the current political climate, but public lands were a unifying issue for Americans until quite recently. Most Americans have supported the idea of the government owning and managing large areas of land for public use, and that bipartisan consensus has culminated in the creation of vast network of national parks, forests and monuments which are collectively visited by tens of millions of people annually.
– Does that mean public lands could serve as an opportunity to bridge gaps in a polarized America? John Leshy, an emeritus professor of law at the University of California Hastings and general counsel at the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Clinton administration, thinks it’s possible.
– Leshy has spent much of the past five decades working on public lands issues. Leshy is now working on “Our Common Ground: A History of America’s Public Lands”, a forthcoming title from Yale University Press.
– During a September 2020 interview with Mongabay, Leshy spoke about how public lands could help a divided America find common ground and heal as it works to address the daunting new challenges posed by climate change.

For European chemical giants, Brazil is an open market for toxic pesticides banned at home by Pedro Grigori: Agência Pública/Repórter Brasil [09/10/2020]

– In 2018, Brazil used more than 60,000 tonnes of highly hazardous pesticides banned in the European Union.
– Three Europe-based multibillion-dollar companies control 54% of the world market.
– They include German agrochemical giants BASF and Bayer, as well as Swiss company Syngenta, one of whose pesticides still being sold in Brazil has been banned in its home country for more than 30 years.



New artificial intelligence could save both elephant and human lives by Claudia Geib [17 Sep 2020]
– RESOLVE recently debuted the WildEyes AI system, a tiny camera imbued with artificial intelligence that can be trained to recognize specific animals in the field.
– The first version of WildEyes is trained to recognize elephants, which often come into conflict with humans when they raid crops and enter villages.
– RESOLVE says WildEyes can sound an early alarm to help prepare villagers to repel elephants.
– In the future, it may also be used to notify biologists of rare or invasive species, stop poachers, or prevent illegal logging.

Beyond tourism: A call for business ideas that protect African wildlife, ecosystems by Heather Richardson [16 Sep 2020]
– The African Leadership University has launched an innovation challenge to develop new commercial ideas for rural livelihoods that protect biodiversity.
– Wildlife tourism is the best-known “conservation business,” but it’s unclear how much it directly contributes to funding conservation, even if it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Applicants to the innovation challenge will develop non-tourism business ideas that will protect ecosystems, empower communities, and convince investors they are both scalable and financially sustainable.

BlackRock, other asset managers enabling deforestation, says Friends of the Earth by Ashoka Mukpo [16 Sep 2020]
– A new report released by Friends of the Earth says that the “big three” asset managers — BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street — are enabling destruction of the world’s rainforests.
– The three firms have voted against corporate shareholder resolutions to report on or prevent deforestation a total of 16 times.
– Their portfolios include $700 billion invested in companies in the Consumer Goods Forum, a corporate consortium that’s set to fail to meet deforestation targets for 2020.

How Morgan Stanley is linked to deforestation in the Amazon by André Campos – Repórter Brasil and Piero Locatelli – Repórter Brasil [16 Sep 2020]
– Investigation shows new cases of illegal deforestation among suppliers of Marfrig and Minerva, in which the bank holds major stakes
– Increasing deforestation in the Amazon in 2020 has prompted banks and funds to promise changes in investments that affect the region.
– But some investors with strong influence in the Amazon have resisted the calls for reform, including Morgan Stanley, a shareholder in two of the three largest beef producers in Brazil.

Indonesian lobster exporters, advised by a smuggler, flout domestic requirements by Fathul Rakhman [16 Sep 2020]
– The resumption of Indonesia’s exports of wild-caught lobster larvae was supposed to be a golden opportunity for the country’s small fishers, who had been hit by an export ban imposed in 2016.
– Part of the requirements for lifting the ban was that exporting companies would partner with small fishers to set up lobster farms.
– However, this hasn’t happened, with exporters bypassing the requirement by buying directly from the fishers — in some cases not paying in full — and not investing in aquaculture farms.
– Many of the exporting companies are linked to politically influential figures, with at least one hiring a convicted lobster smuggler as a consultant.

Birthday party on ship may have led to oil spill in Mauritius, Panama regulator says by [16 Sep 2020]
– A Japanese ship that ran aground on a coral reef off Mauritius may have changed course to get a mobile data signal for a birthday celebration on board, according to investigators from Panama, the country under whose flag the vessel was sailing.
– The M.V. Wakashio crashed into the coral reef barrier on July 25 and leaked almost 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil into Mauritian waters.
– The vessel’s captain was taken into custody on Aug. 18 for endangering safe navigation as Mauritian authorities said the ship failed to respond to several calls from the Mauritian Coast Guard.
– Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), the Japanese company operating the ship, has pledged 1 billion yen ($9.5 million) for environmental preservation efforts and to shore up local fisheries.

In Brazil’s Bahia, peasant farmers and cowboys keep the Cerrado alive by Caio de Freitas Paes [15 Sep 2020]
– For over a century, communities in Brazil’s western Bahia have preserved the Cerrado grasslands through a form of communal land management that allows them to raise cattle, harvest native fruits and grow organic food crops sustainably.
– They sell their wide range of produce — from beans to flour — at farmers’ markets in nearby towns, but this activity has been curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Major soy, corn and cotton producers are also increasingly present in the area.
– Their massive plantations dry up the rivers used by the communities and contaminate the water with pesticides, threatening their sustainable way of life.

500 years of species loss: Humans drive defaunation across Neotropics by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [15 Sep 2020]
– A new study indicates that human activities, such as overhunting, habitat loss, and fires, have contributed to a more than 56% decline in species in mammal assemblages in the American tropics.
– The study drew on animal inventories at more than 1,000 Neotropical study sites, from studies published in the past 30 to 40 years, but with data going back to the time of European colonization of the American tropics.
– The Amazon and Pantanal wetland regions are considered to be relatively “faunally intact,” according to the study, but the current fires in these regions would be adversely affecting wildlife and their habitats.
– The researchers say they hope their findings can inform effective conservation policies, such as better management and policing of existing protected areas, and efforts to stop illegal hunting, deforestation and fires.

Bolivia’s jaguar seizures down as suspicions rise over new mafia by Vanessa Romo [15 Sep 2020]
– Since January 2019 there have been no seizures of jaguar parts in Bolivia. What could be behind the trend and how is the country responding?

Are red pandas related to panda bears? Candid Animal Cam meets the furry red creature by [15 Sep 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.

Stolen from the wild, rare reptiles and amphibians are freely traded in EU by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [14 Sep 2020]
– A new report illustrates that protected reptiles and amphibians are being illegally caught in their countries of origin, but then legally traded within the European Union due to a lack of internal trade barriers and controls.
– This is the third report in a series highlighting the trade of exotic pets within Europe; it shows that the trade is continuing, and has even become more extensive.
– Traders are particularly interested in rare, endemic reptiles and amphibians, and will refer to scientific papers to locate newly identified species, the report says.
– The report authors recommend that the EU adopt new legislation similar to the Lacey Act in the U.S., which prohibits the trade of species that are protected in foreign countries.

Poaching pressure mounts on jaguars, the Americas’ iconic big cat by Vanessa Romo [14 Sep 2020]
– In the past seven years, trafficking of jaguars and their body parts has become a major threat to the species, with China the main destination.
– In Peru, researchers found 102 jaguar parts being sold publicly in just four months, while in Bolivia, the number of jaguar parts seizures since 2014 totals 700.
– Efforts to protect these animals range from national governments forming new protected areas, to transboundary projects such as the Jaguar 2030 Plan.
– Scientists are keen to raise the big cat’s conservation status on the IUCN Red List from near threatened to vulnerable.

Manila’s new white sand coast is a threat to marine life, groups say by Leilani Chavez [14 Sep 2020]
– The Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources has come under fire from green groups and government officials after dumping dolomite sand, typically used in construction, on the shores of Manila Bay as part of a beautification project.
– Critics say the 389 million peso ($8 million) project has overlooked public consultations and is missing environmental assessments and certificates, which means its true impact on Manila Bay’s marine life remains unclear.
– A fisherfolk group says the project is a land reclamation bid posing as rehabilitation, joining several other land reclamation projects along Manila Bay that have already been flagged for social and environmental impacts.
– Lawyers say the move violates numerous environmental laws and circumvents a Supreme Court ruling that mandates government agencies to rehabilitate, preserve, restore and maintain the waters of the bay.

The view from above: How do we know what’s really burning in the Amazon? by Liz Kimbrough [11 Sep 2020]
– As of September 10, 2020 more than a thousand major blazes had occurred in the Amazon this year — making it one of the worst fire years ever.
– The COVID-19 pandemic means there are fewer observers, including media organizations, on the ground this year to report fires to the world, leaving the bulk of the job to satellite fire detection systems.
– This Mongabay exclusive story offers an overview of some of the top organizations doing satellite fire monitoring in Amazonia, as well as explaining the types of detection systems getting the job done — read on and you’ll learn the vital differences between “aerosol emissions” and “hot spot detection,” and much more.
– But no matter how good these observational systems become — even as they inform the world of what’s happening in the Amazon — monitoring won’t be fully useful until the Brazilian government takes effective action and uses revolutionary “near real time” fire data to protect the greatest extant rainforest on Earth.

Rise in Amazon deforestation slows in August, but fires surge by [11 Sep 2020]
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was more than 20 percent lower for the second straight month according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE. But forest loss in the world’s largest rainforest remains well above the average of the past decade.
– INPE’s analysis of satellite data indicates that 1,359 square kilometers of forest — an area 23 times the size of Manhattan — were cleared last month, a 20.7% drop from August 2019. That follows a 26.7% drop in July.
– However INPE’s deforestation data excludes forest loss from fires. More than 1,000 major fires have been registered in the region since late May. Fires in the Amazon have accelerated rapidly in recent weeks, rising to 53 major fires per day in September, up from 18 in August and 2 in July.
– Despite the relative decline during the past two months, deforestation detected by INPE’s short-term alert system has amounted to 8,850 square kilometers over the past year, 10% higher than a year ago when Amazon deforestation hit the highest level since 2008.

Oil palm plantations in Sumatran watershed worsen flooding in communities by Basten Gokkon [11 Sep 2020]
– The development of oil palm and rubber plantations in a watershed area of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island is exacerbating flooding for nearby communities, new research suggests.
– The multidisciplinary study finds that soil compaction on land cleared for planting reduces the ground’s capacity to absorb rainwater, leading to surface runoff that leads to flooding.
– The researchers also interviewed people living nearby, who blamed the drainage channels and dams built for the plantations for channeling runoff to their areas.
– The researchers call for soil protection and improved land-use planning to reduce the incidence and severity of flooding.

Amazon meatpacking plants, a COVID-19 hotspot, may be ground zero for next pandemic by Fernanda Wenzel, Naira Hofmeister, Pedro Papini and Juliana Lopes of ((o))eco [11 Sep 2020]
– The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that slaughterhouses are among the outbreak hotspots for the disease because of the low temperatures and crowded production lines.
– But slaughterhouses are also ideal locations for the emergence of new viruses due to the contact between humans and the blood and entrails of cattle.
– Nearly a third of cases where diseases spread from animals to human beings occurred because their natural environments were invaded and destroyed, which puts Brazil’s beef industry, centered in the Amazon, at particularly high risk.
– Yet despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, the financial market keeps ignoring this risk and supporting the beef companies most exposed to deforestation in the Amazon.

Threatened species caught in crossfire of ongoing land conflict in Myanmar by Aimee Gabay [10 Sep 2020]
– Conflict over how best to protect the biodiversity of Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region may be contributing to the rapid loss of its forest cover.
– Habitats of globally threatened species, including the critically endangered Gurney’s pitta and recently discovered geckos, face destruction due to logging, agriculture and other human pressures.
– Researchers fear that entire species may be driven to extinction without ever being documented if habitats aren’t protected fast.

Crisis in Venezuela: Non-governmental organizations adapt to survive by Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez Torres [10 Sep 2020]
– Many non-governmental organizations in Venezuela — which many analysts now call a failed state — have decided to reduce their operations to stay alive.
– As Venezuelan inflation rates soar, environmental NGOs are learning to skillfully juggle currency exchange rates that complicate their international funding.
– Alliances between NGOs, volunteerism, along with the efficient use of small donations from businesses, are all helping keep environmental organizations going, as they prioritize which of their programs should survive and which must be cut or passed on to other groups.

The best news of 2020? Humanity may never hit the 10 billion mark by Jeremy Hance [10 Sep 2020]
– A new study in the Lancet finds our global population may never reach 10 billion.
– A population slowdown will pose challenges, but it could also give us a better chance of avoiding ecological collapse.
– Population slowdown is not a reason for concern, but rather for celebration. Thank birth control and women’s education.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.



The best news of 2020? Humanity may never hit the 10 billion mark by Jeremy Hance [09/10/2020]
Why the health of the Amazon River matters to us all: An interview with Michael Goulding by Rhett A. Butler [09/09/2020]
In bid to protect a Philippine pangolin stronghold, little talk of enforcement by Keith Anthony Fabro [09/09/2020]
In search of the ‘forest ghost,’ South America’s cryptic giant armadillo by Suzana Camago [09/08/2020]
Experts question integrity of Indonesia’s claim of avoided deforestation by Hans Nicholas Jong [09/08/2020]
How do we avert global warming, extinctions and pandemics? New app has answers by Morgan Erickson-Davis [09/04/2020]
Mercury from gold mining contaminates Amazon communities’ staple fish by Fernanda Wenzel [09/03/2020]