Newsletter 2020-10-22



Public lands and parks are our common heritage: Bruce Babbitt by Rhett A. Butler [10/22/2020]

– Until recently, protecting the environment was a bipartisan issue for Americans. But in an era marked by bitter divides, this is no longer the case.
– Bruce Babbitt, former governor of Arizona and Secretary of the Interior in the Clinton Administration, believes that environmental protection can again be a unifying issue for Americans. But to get there, advocates will need to rebuild consensus around issues that have wide support, like public lands and the benefits afforded by a healthy environment, and engage stakeholders who have often been ignored.
– Babbitt’s views are grounded in his long career in public office where he had to consistently navigate political divides: first as a Democratic governor in a traditionally conservative state with a Republican legislature, then as a member of the cabinet in the Clinton Administration when Republicans controlled Congress from 1994 through 2000.
– Babbitt spoke about his work, his ideas on how to build constituencies to bridge political divides on environmental issues, and his concerns about climate change during an October 2020 interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

Colombia, ethnobotany, and America’s decline: An interview with Wade Davis by Rhett A. Butler [10/21/2020]

– Wade Davis is a celebrated anthropologist, ethnobotanist, photographer, and author who has written thought-provoking accounts of indigenous cultures around the world. Through his writing, Davis has documented the disappearance of indigenous languages and cultures, the loss of which is outpacing the destruction of the world’s rainforests.
– Davis’s newest book, Magdalena: River of Dreams: A Story of Colombia, traces the path of the Magdalena River as a vehicle to tell the story of Colombia, including the nation’s tumultuous recent past, the tenuous peace of its present, and its future promise. Colombia holds a special place for Davis: it trails only Brazil in terms of biodiversity, is geographically and culturally diverse, and has gone to great lengths to recognize indigenous rights and protect its forests.
– Davis’s research into Colombia, indigenous cultures, and other societies has given him an unusually broad perspective with which to evaluate recent developments in the United States, which he compared to a collapsing empire in a commentary he authored in August for Rolling Stone.- Davis talked about his career path, his new book, and the decline of America in an October 2020 interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

In Uganda, safeguarding chimpanzees against the scourge of snaring by Alex Dudley [10/20/2020]

– Frequent patrols in Uganda’s Kibale National Park are credited with helping reduce the risk of the resident chimpanzees falling victim to the snare traps set by poachers targeting bushmeat.
– While chimpanzees aren’t typically eaten here as bushmeat, the indiscriminate nature of the traps means they still risk being killed or severely maimed.
– A booming human population on the periphery of the park is putting pressure on the wildlife inside, with hunters not just targeting small game for bushmeat, but also forest elephants for ivory.
– The frequency at which chimps get snared here has gone down from one incident every nine months, to once in 15 months, with rangers finding and removing about 45 snare traps a month.

Putting sustainability at the center of business strategy: An interview with Paul Polman by Rhett A. Butler [10/19/2020]

– Over the past decade perhaps no major diversified consumer products company has done more to burnish its sustainability credentials than Unilever, the 91-year-old conglomerate that owns brands ranging from Dove soap to Lipton tea to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. A driving force behind this shift was Paul Polman, who took the helm of the British-Dutch company in 2009 and led it to declare a goal of decoupling its environmental impact from its growth.
– Early in his tenure at Unilever, he make bold and unconventional moves that seemed heretical to some investors accustomed to a focus on short-term profits. Polman stopped issuing quarterly guidance, warned that climate change was costing Unilever hundreds of millions of dollars annually, began requiring suppliers develop plans to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, and acquired companies known for their eco-friendly branding.
– Polman is now working to drive this mindset among a wider range of companies via IMAGINE, a social venture whose mission is “unleashing business to achieve our Global Goals” including addressing the climate crisis and widening inequality.
– During an October 2020 conversation with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Polman talked about his career at Unilever, IMAGINE, and the need for transformative change to tackle critical challenges facing the planet.

Video: The Sumatran rhino is sliding into extinction. It doesn’t have to by [10/19/2020]

– A new animated short film from Mongabay, illustrated by artist Roger Peet, depicts the Sumatran rhino’s slide toward extinction.
– No more than 80 Sumatran rhinos are believed to survive today, scattered across isolated and fragmented habitats in Indonesia.
– Driven to the brink of extinction by habitat loss and hunting, Sumatran rhinos today face an even more fundamental threat: experts fear that too few calves are being born to offset even natural deaths in the remaining populations.

Gorongosa National Park is being reforested via coffee and agroforestry by Erik Hoffner [10/15/2020]

– Gorongosa National Park is reforesting itself with the help of shade-grown coffee and other agroforestry crops.
– Marketed internationally, Gorongosa Coffee and other related ventures employ many local and indigenous people via this regenerative form of agriculture.
– The park’s plantings are beneficial to wildlife, too: in addition to birds that frequently visit the agroforests, these plots are home to numerous species including a couple new-to-science ones which have just been described, including a species of bat.
– Agroforestry is the intentional planting of crops like coffee and cashew among other woody perennials such as rainforest trees, in this example: this kind of agriculture also sequesters much carbon from the atmosphere, which helps slow climate change.



Brazil’s Amazon dam plans: Ominous warnings of future destruction (commentary) by Philip M. Fearnside [22 Oct 2020]
– Brazil’s current 10-year Energy Expansion Plan calls for three more large dams in Amazonia by 2029, and Brazil’s 2050 National Energy Plan lists many more.
– Both plans contain ominous passages explaining that the list of dams could expand if “uncertainty” is resolved regarding current regulations protecting Indigenous peoples and protected areas for biodiversity.
– Brazil’s National Congress is considering bills to eliminate environmental licensing; a bill submitted by President Jair Bolsonaro would allow dams on Indigenous lands. Brazil’s dam-building plans to satisfy 2050 energy demand extend to neighboring Amazonian nations, including Peru and Bolivia.
– The 2050 plan essentially admits that dams on Indigenous lands and within other protected areas are not necessary because the electricity could be generated by offshore wind power. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Paper giant APRIL linked to Borneo forest clearing despite zero-deforestation vow by Hans Nicholas Jong [22 Oct 2020]
– One of the world’s biggest pulp and paper producers, APRIL, is alleged to have violated its own zero-deforestation commitment by sourcing wood from a company clearing rainforest in Indonesian Borneo, a new report says.
– APRIL denies the allegation and insists it sourced zero-deforestation wood from AHL; the NGOs say the company’s claim is premised on an exceedingly narrow definition of what constitutes deforestation.
– APRIL denies the allegation and insists it sourced zero-deforestation wood from AHL; the NGOs say the company’s claim is premised on an exceedingly narrow definition of what constitutes deforestation.

The rhino in the room: 3D scan brings near-extinct Sumatran species to virtual life by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [21 Oct 2020]
– Technologist Corey Jaskolski created the world’s first 3D digital copy of a Sumatran rhino to help educate the world about the critically endangered species.
– There are only about 80 Sumatran rhinos remaining in Indonesia, and the biggest threat to the species is being so isolated that they can’t find others to mate with.
– Jaskolski’s 3D scanning and AI technology can also be used for other purposes in conservation, such as species identification and anti-poaching efforts.

Madagascar shuts down ‘illegal’ gold mine but activists remain in legal limbo by Edward Carver [21 Oct 2020]
– Earlier this month, Madagascar’s government suspended a controversial gold-mining operation in Vohilava commune in the country’s southeast.
– The project, a dredging operation in the Isaka River that allegedly uses mercury to separate gold from ore, has caused notable damage to the river, local economy, and public health, prompting near-unanimous local opposition.
– A demonstration in September against the mine prompted a visit by officials that led to the mine’s suspension.
– However, prosecutors are investigating six people for involvement in the demonstration, including one who was previously jailed as a result of his opposition to the mining project.

‘Digital land grab’ deprives traditional LatAm peoples of ancestral lands: Report by Sue Branford [21 Oct 2020]
– South American nations, including Brazil and Colombia, are increasingly using georeferencing technology for registering land ownership.
– However, if this high-tech digital technique is not backed up by traditional ground truthing surveys, it can be used by landgrabbers and agribusiness companies to fraudulently obtain deeds depriving traditional communities of their collective ancestral lands, according to a new report.
– The georeferenced process is being partly funded by the World Bank, which has provided US $45.5 million for digital registration of private rural properties in Brazil. Georeferencing is allowing the international financial sector to play a key role in converting large tracts of rainforest and savanna into agribusiness lands.
– To prevent this form of land theft, prospective landowners’ claims need to be independently verified via a centralized governmental land registration system organized to resolve land conflicts and to detect and eliminate local and regional corruption.

Ecuador Indigenous accuse state of crimes against humanity by Kimberley Brown [20 Oct 2020]
– Ecuador’s Indigenous movement has declared this month “Rebel October” to commemorate the violent 11-day anti-austerity protests last year that saw 11 people killed, 63 severely injured, and more than 1,300 protesters arrested.
– Last year’s protests ended after Indigenous leaders forced the government to promise to repeal IMF-imposed austerity measures; but one year later, the government has used the pandemic as an excuse to pass the same measures and increase extractive activities, say Indigenous leaders.
– Indigenous communities also say they have been forgotten by the state during the pandemic.
– The month is also meant to show the government the Indigenous community will continue to fight for its rights.

At-risk Cerrado mammals need fully-protected parks to survive: Researchers by Sharon Guynup [20 Oct 2020]
– A newly published camera trap study tracked 21 species of large mammal in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna biome from 2012-2017.
– The cameras were deployed in both fully protected state and federal parks and less protected mixed-use areas known as APAs where humans live, farm and ranch.
– The probability of finding large, threatened species in true reserves was 5 to 10 times higher than in the APAs for pumas, tapirs, giant anteaters, maned wolves, white-lipped and collared peccaries, and other Neotropical mammals.
– With half the Cerrado biome’s two million square kilometers of native vegetation already converted to cattle ranches, soy plantations and other croplands, conserving remaining habitat is urgent if large mammals are to survive there. The new study will help land managers better preserve biodiversity.

Data drives Bloomberg’s support for climate solutions, says Antha N. Williams by Rhett A. Butler [20 Oct 2020]
– Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation launched by businessman and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is one of the world’s largest charitable organizations.
– One of Bloomberg’s priority focal areas is the environment: specifically combating climate change by accelerating the transition to clean energy, greening the world’s cities, and protecting the health and productivity of oceans.
– Heading up the foundation’s environment program is Antha N. Williams, who got her start as a campaigner and organizer before taking up leadership roles in the world of philanthropy. Williams says Bloomberg’s strategy is to develop programs that offer the highest leverage in terms of impact.
– Williams spoke about her background, Bloomberg’s programs, and opportunities to drive progress in addressing critical environmental challenges during an October 2020 conversation with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

From the ashes of a volcano: Mexico’s Purépecha Forest by Agustín del Castillo [20 Oct 2020]
– After the Parícutin volcano erupted in the 1940s, the Mexican village of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro was rebuilt, shaping a forest management model that today has 12 community enterprises.
– In a region where forests have been cleared for avocado plantations, the community maintains a temperate forest covering around 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres).
– Bucking the nationwide increase in Mexico in deforestation, the community has actually added area to its managed forests.

Why do wombats poop cubes? Candid Animal Cam is in Australia by [20 Oct 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.

‘No other choice’: Groups push to protect vast swaths of Antarctic seas by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [19 Oct 2020]
– A coalition of conservation groups is advocating for the establishment of three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea, which would encompass 4 million square kilometers (1.5 million square miles) of the Southern Ocean, or 1% of the global ocean.
– These proposals will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is due to take place online because of the pandemic.
– Conservationists anticipate that China and Russia may not support these MPA proposals due to fishing interests in the region, although they are optimistic that the MPAs will eventually be approved.

Fire burns Pantanal’s upland heart and threatens nature’s fragile balance by Fernanda Wenzel [19 Oct 2020]
– After spreading for 9 months across the biodiverse Brazilian Pantanal wetlands, fires have reached the Amolar Mountains. This upland area is at the heart of the ecosystem and shelters traditional communities like Barra de São Lourenço.
– Humans and animals, who thrive on the Pantanal’s seasonal cycle of rising and ebbing floods, now see their way of life menaced by an unprecedented wave of drought and fire.
– The region’s inhabitants are already suffering from air and water contamination due to smoke and soot, and dread the fires’ aftermath. With the uplands devastated by the blazes, jaguars, other mammals and birds won’t have anywhere to flee during the next cycle of annual floods.
– “For me, being a ‘pantaneira’ is loving each stick, each tree, each bird. Is feeling part of it,” says resident Leonida Aires de Souza. But now that much of this remote area has burned, the future is uncertain.

Armed and dangerous, ‘murder lorises’ use their venom against each other by Liz Kimbrough [19 Oct 2020]
– A study released Oct. 19 in the journal Current Biology reveals that slow lorises use their venom not only against other species, but also against each other — a behavior that is extremely rare among animals.
– Over eight years and hundreds of capture events, 20% of all Javan lorises surveyed had fresh wounds from other lorises. Both males and females having and using weapons within the same species is also rare.
– Although it is illegal to capture, sell or own lorises in all of their range countries, they are still caught for their use in traditional Asian medicine and for the pet trade.
– The trade of lorises involves pulling their teeth and subjecting them to situations that violate animal welfare criteria. Lorises lead rich and complex lives in the forest and because they are primates, isolation from their kin can be psychologically distressing. Also, they can kill you.

Deforestation threatens to wipe out a primate melting pot in Indonesia by Hans Nicholas Jong [19 Oct 2020]
– Unique primate habitats on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are under threat from rising deforestation, according to a new study.
– The island’s isolation has allowed macaques and tarsiers there to evolve in unique ways, leading to an “explosion” of biodiversity found nowhere else across Southeast Asia.
– But logging, expansion of farmland, and infrastructure projects are driving a growing rate of forest loss, including in the “hybridization zones” that are a key factor in the island’s rich variety of primate life.
– While protected areas exist on Sulawesi, they’re concentrated located at higher elevations, while most of the primates occur in lowland forests that can be more easily cleared and farmed.

Madagascar experiments with drones for its massive reforestation effort by Rivonala Razafison [19 Oct 2020]
– Madagascar plans to acquire drones to help with its massive official reforestation campaign.
– The country aims to plant 60 million trees per year in an attempt to reconstruct its green architecture and restore ecological balance.
– It has already experimented with drones to help relief efforts during natural disasters and to deliver medical supplies in remote regions.

Philippine court upholds open-pit mining ban in Mindanao by Bong S. Sarmiento [19 Oct 2020]
– A court has upheld a ban on open-pit mining in the Philippine province of South Cotabato, home to the largest known untapped deposits of copper and gold in Southeast Asia.
– The ruling is the latest setback for Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), which holds the mining permit, coming on the heels of the municipality where the deposits are located scrapping its development permit in August.
– Supporters of SMI lodged a petition in January 2019 seeking an injunction against the mining ban that has been in place since 2010.
– But the court ruled the ban is consistent with prevailing laws and regulations, including the Philippine Constitution, in a decision widely hailed by environmental, religious and Indigenous rights advocates.

Wildlife emergency in Bolivia as fires threaten animal sanctuaries by Milan Sime Martinic [16 Oct 2020]
– More than 120 major fires have been detected in Bolivia’s Amazon rainforest and dry forests of Chiquitano since March, according to the nonprofit Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP).
– One of these fires is now threatening an animal sanctuary in Guarayos, Bolivia outside the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
– The Ambue Ari Sanctuary of Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) is being choked by haze as it is flooded with animals in need of rescue from fast-moving fires in the region.

Does trophy hunting hurt giraffe populations? A planned lawsuit says it does by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [16 Oct 2020]
– Conservation groups are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to respond to a petition seeking protection for giraffes under the nation’s Endangered Species Act, a move that would severely limit the import and trade of giraffe trophies and other giraffe products.
– Between 2006 and 2015, trophy hunters legally imported 3,744 giraffe hunting trophies, as well as thousands of giraffe parts and products such as skin pieces, bones and bone carvings.
– While some conservationists say trophy hunting is having a large impact on the global giraffe population, others say it is not a major threat, especially when compared to other issues such as poaching, human-wildlife conflict, and habitat loss and fragmentation.

Video: Captive-reared scarlet macaws get a second chance at life in the wild by Liz Kimbrough [16 Oct 2020]
– Newly shared video shows the release of 26 young scarlet macaws (Ara macao) into the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala.
– These birds are part of an ongoing effort by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Guatemala’s National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) to increase scarlet macaw populations in the reserve, where an estimated 300 individuals remain in the wild.
– The 26 birds released by WCS and CONAP were “low weight” chicks, or third or fourth laid eggs collected from nests in the wild and raised in the protection of the lab. Typically, these smaller chicks and late eggs would not survive in the wild.
– For these young birds, the team hopes to learn if they can survive and join the wild population on its migration to Mexico; a better understanding of their habits and habitats could help to target conservation efforts.

In Guatemala, refugees find new calling as park rangers by Antonio José Paz Cardona, Ashoka Mukpo [16 Oct 2020]
– In recent years, the number of migrants and refugees entering Guatemala after fleeing violence at home has grown.
– FUNDAECO, a local conservation NGO, has partnered with UNHCR and other groups to find jobs for some refugees working as park guards in Guatemalan biodiversity hotspots.
– Fifty-five refugees have been employed in the “Green Jobs” program so far, with FUNDAECO hoping that number will reach at least 100.



Can an art museum drive sustainability? Q&A with MOCA’s Klaus Biesenbach by Dave Martin [10/14/2020]
Which version? Confusion over environmental fallout of Indonesia deregulation law by Hans Nicholas Jong, Philip Jacobson [10/13/2020]
The post-COVID opportunity for the environment: An interview with the GEF’s Carlos Manuel Rodriguez by Rhett A. Butler [10/12/2020]
In Bali, the pandemic unravels a hard-won campaign to save Benoa Bay by Alaine Johnson [10/12/2020]
New Indonesian law may make it harder to punish firms for haze-causing fires by Philip Jacobson [10/09/2020]
Singapore embarks on a million-tree planting spree to protect its future by Claire Turrell [10/09/2020]
In a drier Amazon, small farmers and researchers work together to reduce fire damage by Leticia Klein and Thiago Medaglia [10/08/2020]
The murky process of licensing Amazonian meat plants by Flávia Milhorance / Diálogo Chino [10/08/2020]