Newsletter 2020-11-12



Satellites, maps and the flow of cattle: Brazilian solutions for reducing deforestation are already in use by Naira Hofmeister, Fernanda Wenzel and Pedo Papini [11/12/2020]

– Complete tracking of the cattle supply chain from calving to slaughter would guarantee that the beef produced in the Amazon is untainted by illegal deforestation.
– The largest meatpackers have been promising to track their indirect suppliers since 2009. Now, under pressure from investors, they have set a deadline of 2025.
– The tracing technology and data already exist. But a lack of integration between information systems, concerns over data confidentiality and resistance from the sector are slowing progress.

Podcast: Lemur love and award-winning plant passion in Madagascar by Mike Gaworecki [11/11/2020]

– We’ve got recordings of indri lemurs and the architect of 11 new protected areas that aim to protect Madagascar’s rich biodiversity of plant life on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
– We’re joined by Jeannie Raharimampionana, a Malagasy botanist who has identified 80 priority areas for conservation of plant life in her country and has already turned 11 of those areas into officially decreed protected areas.
– We’re also joined by Valeria Torti, who uses bioacoustics to improve conservation of critically endangered indri lemurs in Madagascar’s Maromizaha forest. She plays for us a number of recordings of the primates’ songs.

One year on: Insects still in peril as world struggles with global pandemic by Jeremy Hance [11/11/2020]

– In June 2019, in response to media outcry and alarm over a supposed ongoing global “Insect Apocalypse,” Mongabay published a thorough four-part survey on the state of the world’s insect species and their populations.
– In four, in-depth stories, science writer Jeremy Hance interviewed 24 leading entomologists and other scientists on six continents and working in 12 nations to get their expert views on the rate of insect decline in Europe, the U.S., and especially the tropics, including Latin America, Africa, and Australia.
– Now, 16 months later, Hance reaches out to seven of those scientists to see what’s new. He finds much bad news: butterflies in Ohio declining by 2% per year, 94% of wild bee interactions with native plants lost in New England, and grasshopper abundance falling by 30% in a protected Kansas grassland over 20 years.
– Scientists say such losses aren’t surprising; what’s alarming is our inaction. One researcher concludes: “Real insect conservation would mean conserving large whole ecosystems both from the point source attacks, AND the overall blanket of climate change and six billion more people on the planet than there should be.”

Conservationists replant legal palm oil plantation with forest in Borneo by Jeremy Hance [11/09/2020]

– A small project in Malaysian Borneo aims to create a forest corridor between two large protected areas.
– The reforested land comprises an old, legal oil palm plantation, which the Rhino and Forest Fund (RFF) is working to replant with native tree species.
– The corridor is expected to help threatened species move between the Tabin and Kulamba wildlife reserves, including Bornean elephants and banteng, a type of wild cattle.
– RFF says it hopes the project will serve as a blueprint for large-scale oil palm restoration and encourage the “urgently needed restoration of many crucial areas for biodiversity conservation and climate protection.”

Chinese demand and domestic instability are wiping out Senegal’s last forests by Louise Hunt [11/05/2020]

– After a decade of intensive illegal logging, endangered Pterocarpus erinaceus rosewood trees are becoming increasingly scarce in Senegal’s southern region of the Casamance, which borders the Gambia.
– Despite logging its own rosewood to extinction years ago, the Gambia has become a major trading hub for rosewood and was China’s third-largest source of the rare, valuable timber in 2019.
– An investigation has revealed the rate of trafficking across the border has worsened over the past two years, despite an export ban enacted in 2017.
– A recent move by shipping lines to stop exporting rosewood has led to a lull in trafficking activity; however, observers expect this will only be temporary.

Brazilian and international banks financing global deforestation: Reports by Sue Branford, Thais Borges and Diego Rebouças [11/05/2020]

– According to a new report, some of the world’s biggest Brazilian and international banks invested US$153.2 billion in commodities companies whose activities risked harm to forests in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and Central and West Africa since 2016 when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed.
– These investments were made primarily in forest-risk commodities companies that include beef, soy, pulp and paper, palm oil, rubber and timber producers. The big banks are failing to scrutinize and refuse loans to firms profiting from illegal deforestation, said several reports.
– Banco do Brasil offered the most credit (US$30 billion since 2016), for forest-risk commodity operations. BNDES, Brazil’s development bank, provided US$3.8 billion to forest-risk companies. More than half of that amount went to the beef sector, followed closely by the pulp and paper industry.
– “Financial institutions are uniquely positioned to promote actions in the public and private sector and they have an obligation with their shareholders to mitigate their growing credit risks due to the degradation of natural capital and their association with industries that intensively produce carbon,” said one report.



Conservation must be primary goal of great ape tourism, despite COVID-driven recessions (commentary) by Trang Chu Minh [12 Nov 2020]
– The months-long closure of national parks and continued travel restrictions due to COVID-19 has disrupted a critical revenue source for great ape conservation: sustainable tourism.
– Countries which rely on tourism as a significant source of their GDP must continue to place biodiversity principles at the heart of recovery efforts, and explore alternative livelihood options for local communities.
– Where great ape tourism is concerned, conservation must always be the primary goal of any endeavor.
– This article is a commentary, the views expressed are not necessarily those of Mongabay.

Palm oil giant Korindo accused again of illegally burning Papuan rainforest by Hans Nicholas Jong [12 Nov 2020]
– An independent investigation based on satellite imagery has concluded that palm oil giant Korindo deliberately set fires to clear rainforest in its concession in Indonesia’s Papua province.
– Researchers from the University of London’s Forensic Architecture group and Greenpeace found that the spread and speed of the burning matched the pattern of land clearing, and didn’t appear as random as fires on neighboring concessions.
– The finding is the latest allegation of illegal burning by Korindo, which is accused of having cleared a Chicago-sized area of rainforest in Papua.
– The company accuses nearby villagers of setting the fires, but the villagers’ accounts of Korindo employees starting the fires matches with the burn periods determined by the analysis.

Scientists in Costa Rica are growing new corals to save reefs by Ashleigh Papp [12 Nov 2020]
– For three years scientists with Raising Coral Costa Rica has been snapping off coral pieces from existing reefs to grow them in an underwater nursery.
– The team is using tested techniques and experimental ideas to grow coral and revive ancient reefs in Golfo Dulce, southwestern Costa Rica.
– Their findings are helping to restore local ecosystems, and could help researchers who hope to revive reefs in nearby countries. The species of the Golfo Dulce, when compared to a lot of the world’s reefs, may hold extraordinary clues about resilience to changing ocean conditions.
– As the race to save our oceans against a changing climate accelerates around the world, knowing how to rebuild one of its foundational components, coral reefs, may be one way that scientists can help them survive in a warming world.

Entangled: How a global seaweed ‘plague’ threatens West Africa’s coastline by Richard Arghiris [11 Nov 2020]
– For nearly a decade, vast quantities of Sargassum seaweed have been washing ashore on either side of the Atlantic.
– The seaweed hampers the activities of coastal communities and damages ecosystems.
– Researchers are working to better understand the phenomenon, which may be linked to wind and ocean currents shifted by climate change, to nutrient-rich discharge from the Amazon and Congo rivers, or iron-laden dust from the Sahara.
– The seaweed comes from a new perennial bloom that may be a permanent feature of the Atlantic Ocean.

The crypto-creature from the deep: Researchers get rare video of bigfin squid by Malavika Vyawahare [11 Nov 2020]
– Five squids from the Magnapinna genus, known as bigfins for their distinctive flappy fins, were spotted in deep-sea surveys over the course of three years off southern Australia.
– These cephalopods are usually found thousands of meters under the sea’s surface, in underexplored waters across the globe.
– To date, however, not a single adult specimen has been captured, and sightings are uncommon, making the newly obtained survey videos a rare window into their mysterious lives.
– Scientists believe that despite the remoteness of their habitats, these understudied creatures could still be susceptible to the impacts of a changing climate.

As energy needs drive demand for minerals, forests face greater threats by Victoria Schneider [11 Nov 2020]
– Rising demand for energy, especially from renewable sources, looks set to increase pressure on the world’s forests, as many of minerals used in solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage are mined in sensitive forest areas.
– A World Bank concept called “forest-smart mining” claims to mitigate the negative impacts of mining on forests, but given the complex nature of the extractive industries, its real-life applicability has come into question.
– While poor governance is often the biggest challenge to efficient forest management, experts emphasize that only a radical reflection of human energy consumption can bring real change.

Road-paving project threatens a wildlife-rich reserve in Indonesia’s Papua by Asrida Elisabeth [11 Nov 2020]
– The Indonesian government plans to pave a stretch of highway running through an ecologically important wildlife reserve in the country’s Papua region.
– Experts warn the paving will encourage greater encroachment into Mamberamo Foja Wildlife Reserve, which is home to at least 332 bird species and 80 mammal species.
– Another section of the Trans-Papua Highway was constructed through Lorentz National Park earlier, and studies show it’s already having an impact in terms of increased deforestation.

Whale zone ahead: A cetacean speed trap tags ships going over the limit by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [10 Nov 2020]
– North Atlantic right whales, a critically endangered species with fewer than 366 remaining individuals, face two main threats: fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes.
– Many ships do not obey voluntary or mandatory speed restrictions in areas where North Atlantic right whales are present, raising the risk of fatal collisions.
– A new tool called Ship Speed Watch provides information on vessels that are not obeying speed restrictions.
– Conservationists say they hope it will help build awareness and strengthen regulations surrounding ship speeds.

Technology innovations look to change the cacao landscape in Colombia by Aurora Solá [10 Nov 2020]
– Cacao holds promise as a “peace crop” in Colombia, providing smallholders with a viable alternative to coca.
– Two projects — EcoProMIS, led by Agricompas, and COLCO, led by Satellite Applications Catapult — are developing technology applications to build on cacao’s potential in Colombia and ensure transparency and traceability.
– A combination of apps, smart devices and data analytics could help farmers produce more per hectare, refine their post-harvest process, and fetch fairer prices, all while improving transparency and traceability.
– Boosting yields per hectare is an important goal for Colombia given that it has committed to ensuring zero deforestation in the cacao supply chain.

Honoring children and protecting the planet: An interview with musician Raffi by Rhett A. Butler [10 Nov 2020]
– If you were born in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s in the United States or Canada, there’s a good chance you are familiar with the song “Baby Beluga.” The song, which is about a young whale swimming in the ocean with its mother, was written by Raffi Cavoukian.
– That was a big hit, but Raffi turned down lucrative opportunities to commercialize the song and convert it into a franchise. Decisions like that reflect Raffi’s deeper concern about the well-being of children, which extends to the environment upon which they depend.
– In the 40 years since “Baby Beluga” was released, Raffi has developed a comprehensive philosophy on how to create a “humane and sustainable world by addressing the universal needs of children.”
– Raffi discussed these issues and more during a November 2020 interview with Mongabay Founder Rhett A. Butler.

What makes chimps unique? Candid Animal Cam meets our close relatives by [10 Nov 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.

Philippine resort owner hit with environmental charges as Boracay cleans up by Jun N. Aguirre [10 Nov 2020]
– The owner of two resorts on the Philippine holiday island of Boracay has been arrested for alleged violations of the country’s environmental laws.
– The owner was previously given leeway to self-demolish establishments encroaching on the easement zone along the shore, but failed to do so, leading to the arrest, the National Bureau of Investigation said.
– Boracay has been under a massive rehabilitation effort since 2018, when President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island shut. It has since been reopened for limited numbers of tourists, while rehabilitation is ongoing.
– Twenty-one other resorts charged with similar violations will be subjected to the same action should they refuse to follow environmental laws, the investigations bureau said.

A new conservation project is created in Costa Rica thanks to COVID-19 by Milan Sime Martinic [09 Nov 2020]
– Hugo Santa Cruz is a photographer contributing to a new Netflix documentary about nature and coping with COVID-19.
– A Bolivian currently stuck in Costa Rica due to the pandemic, he has turned his camera lens on the local landscape, which has helped him deal with his separation from family and friends.
– Many hours spent in the rainforest have given him solace and also an idea to aid the rich natural heritage that he is currently documenting.
– Santa Cruz is now a co-founder of the new Center for Biodiversity Restoration Foundation, which will work to restore and connect natural areas in the region.

As fire season ends, Brazil cited for failed Amazon and Pantanal policies by Jenny Gonzales [09 Nov 2020]
– The Brazilian Amazon saw devastating fires from August to October 2020, while the Pantanal suffered losses of 28% of the entire wetland biome. Critics contend that Jair Bolsonaro’s Amazon Council and the Brazilian armed forces, sent to the Amazon to combat deforestation and this year’s fires, failed to perform either task effectively.
– Meanwhile, Brazilian President Bolsonaro has made more major cuts to IBAMA and ICMBio, the nation’s two funding-strapped principal environmental agencies, while Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has held back the grand majority of the ministry’s environmental policies budget this year.
– Millions of dollars in funding earmarked for the Army’s Green Brazil Operation 2 this year was reportedly spent not on controlling deforestation or Amazon fires, but on military barracks improvements at bases located well outside the Amazon region. Other Amazon operations were delayed and/or poorly coordinated and executed.
– Critics also argue that IBAMA firefighting resources arrived far too late to the Pantanal, or were poorly focused by the Army in the Amazon. The military, however, claims it gave out large fines for environmental crimes; but environmental fines in Brazil are rarely if ever paid.

Environmental democracy in Ecuador promotes anti-mining agenda by Vincent Ricci [09 Nov 2020]
– A court ruling in Ecuador allowing a community referendum on proposed mining projects could embolden communities across the country mounting similar opposition to mines.
– The ruling in favor of Cuenca, the capital of Azuay province and the third-largest city in Ecuador, was prompted by concerns over two gold mines, although those operations will not be affected by the outcome of the referendum.
– City officials want to delay the referendum to February because of the cost, but activists are pushing to hold it as soon as possible, before more mining companies are granted operating licenses.
– Cuenca sits in the hydrologically sensitive páramo ecosystem of the Andean highlands, where the impacts of mining are little understood but likely to be significant, a 2016 report warns.

A warming Arctic is changing animal migrations, decades of tracking shows by Liz Kimbrough [09 Nov 2020]
– The newly launched Arctic Animal Movement Archive (AAMA) includes 28 years of terrestrial and marine animal tracking studies on more than 96 species across the Arctic, Arctic marine, and subarctic (including boreal forests and taiga).
– “The Arctic is undergoing some of the most rapid climate change on the planet,” one author said. The resulting warmer winters, earlier spring snowmelt, and the loss of ice are affecting animal movement.
– Researchers conducted their first case studies using the AAMA and found large-scale patterns in the way caribou, moose, wolves, golden eagles, and bears are responding to climate change. The findings were published in the journal Science.
– In their analyses, researchers found that the northernmost herds of caribou have begun giving birth earlier in the spring. After mild winters, immature golden eagles arrived earlier in the spring to breeding grounds than adult birds.

Peru prosecutors probe Amazon deforestation linked to Mennonite communities by Yvette Sierra Praeli [06 Nov 2020]
– Satellite images show a sudden surge in deforestation in areas settled by Mennonite communities in Peru’s Ucayali and Loreto regions.
– Those cases are among the rare instances of large-scale forest loss that has occurred in the Peruvian Amazon.
– Prosecutors say the clearing was unpermitted and illegal, and have launched an investigation.
– A lawyer for the Mennonites says they have complied with an injunction against forest clearing since last December, and that any deforestation that occurred this year is the work of outsiders.

Mongabay’s most popular conservation news stories in October 2020 by [06 Nov 2020]
– Last month Mongabay’s readership was up 16% over a year earlier. Year-to-date traffic amounts of 121 million pageviews. The following are the most popular articles on during October 2020.
– Note: the traffic data presented below is only for the month of October and therefore doesn’t include traffic in prior months for stories published earlier than October.

Frustration as Antarctic conservation summit fails to declare marine sanctuaries by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [06 Nov 2020]
– A proposition to establish three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in East Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea was not approved at a recent meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which was held online in the last week of October.
– Conservation experts who attended the meeting reported there was limited time for negotiations, and that discussions focused more on fishing renewal authorizations and the issue of a Russian vessel suspected of illegally fishing, rather than the MPA designations and climate change action.
– On the other hand, many delegates signed a pledge of support for the formation of the three MPAs, and the Weddel Sea MPA and East Antarctica MPA gained new co-sponsors.

In Brazil’s Sooretama, a piece of the Amazon thrives in the Atlantic Forest by Leonardo Merçon [06 Nov 2020]
– Sooretama Biological Reserve, one of the last remaining refuges of the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil, is also a unique site where vestiges of Amazonian species can be found.
– Even though the biomes lie 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) apart, there’s plenty of evidence to show that the Atlantic and Amazon rainforests were once connected.
– Common Amazonian species that can be found in Sooretama include the birds like the collared trogon and ringed woodpecker, and the spot-legged wood turtle.
– But the reserve is under threat from the planned widening of the BR-101 highway, which cuts through the reserve and its surroundings and is already responsible for the deaths of 20,000 animals a year as roadkill.

Podcast: Saving the singing rhino by [05 Nov 2020]
– Sumatran rhinos are one of the most endangered large mammals on the planet, with no more than 80 left in the wild.
– Small in stature and docile by nature, they sport a coat of fur and sing songs reminiscent of a whale or dolphin.
– To shed light on the animal’s precarious situation, this episode of the Mongabay Explores podcast series speaks with conservation biologist Wulan Pusparini and Mongabay senior correspondent Jeremy Hance about the unique challenges of conserving the creatures.
– They discuss the history of failed efforts, delayed actions, breakthroughs in conservation and breeding practices, and impactful efforts that are currently holding the line for this extremely vulnerable mammal.

Uganda environment authority greenlights clearing of Bugoma Forest by Thomas Lewton [05 Nov 2020]
– Sugarcane companies have begun clearing land within the Bugoma Forest in Uganda after gaining title to the area under controversial circumstances.
– The country’s forestry authority contends that Hoima Sugar Limited and MZ Agencies obtained the titles after the Ministry of Land erroneously declared that the land fell outside the bounds of the forest reserve.
– A forestry official says the case is emblematic of similar claims being filed over land in environmentally sensitive areas across Uganda.
– Part of the disputed land in the Bugoma Forest is considered a key area for conservation, home to chimpanzees and mangabeys.

Land and language: Indigenous cultures key to protecting Amazon biodiversity by Miguel Pinheiro [05 Nov 2020]
– Languages are going extinct at a breakneck pace: Of the nearly 7,000 languages in the world today, around 25% are now in danger of disappearing, a higher percentage than extinction among mammals (21%), reptiles (15%) or birds (13%).
– Specific knowledge is often held by the shrinking Indigenous communities, such as knowledge of medicinal plants and cures, or the identification of plants and animals not yet known to science.
– When a language is not learned by the next generation, the knowledge of the natural and cultural world encoded in it typically fails to be transmitted.
– Community-led approaches such as Indigenous biocultural heritage territories can provide more equitable, effective and low-cost alternatives to protected areas.



REDD+ carbon and deforestation cuts in Amazon overestimated: Study by Peter Yeung [11/02/2020]
In mangrove restoration, bespoke solutions trump one-size-fits-all approach by Mark Hillsdon [10/30/2020]
Peruvian Indigenous groups thwart oil drilling in their territory — for now by John C. Cannon [10/30/2020]
Esri co-founder Jack Dangermond: ‘People and planet are inextricably linked’ by Rhett A. Butler [10/30/2020]