Newsletter 2020-11-26



Fueled by impunity, invasions surge in Brazil’s Indigenous lands by Ana Ionova [11/25/2020]

– After a decade-long struggle, Apyterewa was officially demarcated as a protected Indigenous territory in 2007, exclusively for the use of the Paracanã people who’ve called it home for generations.
– But despite these protections, Apyterewa has lost about 5% of its forest cover since 2007 as outsiders continue to move in and clear land for pasture, mines and timber.
– Deforestation seems to have picked up pace in recent months: satellites detected 83,445 deforestation alerts between Aug. 24 and Nov. 16, with several weeks registering “unusually high” levels of forest loss.
– Civil society advocates blame the Bolsonaro administration for the surging deforestation in Apyterewa and other protected areas: “We have a scenario of a weakening of the environmental agencies, which has been really profound,” said Danicley de Aguiar, an Amazon campaigner with Greenpeace. “It’s as if we threw a knife in the heart of Brazil’s environmental policy.”

Mongabay launches in Hindi to expand environmental journalism in India by Rhett A. Butler [11/22/2020]

– More than 21 years ago I established Mongabay out of my love for nature and wildlife. Today the endeavor has grown far beyond what I could have ever imagined.
– I’m now pleased to announce that Mongabay is launching in Hindi, India’s most widely spoken language.
– If we’re looking to maximize the impact of environmental journalism globally, Hindi is critical. Spoken by over 600 million people, the language plays an important role in setting the national discourse in India, which is home to 17 percent of the planet’s population.
– I welcome all Hindi readers to Mongabay’s reporting. I hope you find real inspiration and solid information here that informs your work and helps you navigate some of the biggest questions facing our world.

Philippine ‘raptor boy’ shows it takes a village to protect a migration route by Bong S. Sarmiento [11/22/2020]

– In Glan, a town at the southern tip of the Philippines, a community has been actively protecting a migratory raptor flyway for the past five years.
– More than 160,000 raptors passed through Glan last year, an increase from previous years thanks in part to the various conservation and tree-planting efforts instigated by the community.
– The birds of prey are apex predators that keep a balanced and healthy ecosystem, feeding on farm agricultural pests on their way from Russia and East Asia to Indonesia.
– The town’s raptor conservation was triggered by a boy’s fascination with the avian visitors five years ago. Now, the town’s children are actively involved in raptor and environmental conservation.

Inside the weaving protests of West Timor by Febriana Firdaus [11/20/2020]

– Across Indonesia, hundreds of communities are in conflict with companies seeking control of their resources. In some cases, the resistance has been led by women.
– Journalist Febriana Firdaus travelled across the country to meet grassroots female activists and delve into the stories behind their struggles.
– This article is part two of a series about her journey, which has also been made into a film, Our Mothers’ Land.
– Photos by Leo Plunkett, illustrations by Nadiyah Rizki.

Bug bites: Edible insect production ramps up quickly in Madagascar by Emilie Filou [11/19/2020]

– In the last two years, two insect farming projects have taken off in Madagascar as a way to provide precious protein while alleviating pressure on lemurs and other wild animals hunted for bushmeat.
– One program, which promotes itself with a deck of playing cards, encourages rainforest residents in the northeast to farm a bacon-flavored native planthopper called sakondry.
– Another program focuses on indoor production of crickets in the capital city, Antananarivo.
– Both projects are on the cusp of expanding to other parts of the country.



A Chilean archipelago rivaling the Galápagos fends off invasive species by Barinia Montoya [26 Nov 2020]
– Juan Fernández Archipelago National Park in Chile is home to a wealth of species found nowhere else on Earth, where the proportion of endemic plants surpasses even the more celebrated Galápagos Islands.
– Among the native bird species here is the pink-footed shearwater, which breeds only on the Juan Fernández islands and another Chilean island, but is threatened by the livestock and feral dogs, cats, rabbits and coatis introduced by humans.
– To prevent these animals from destroying or stealing the shearwaters’ nesting burrows and eating the birds or their young, a fence is being built around a critical nesting site.
– These concerted efforts to save the pink-footed shearwater, including a successful rabbit cull on one of the islands, make the species the first marine bird to be protected within a national conservation plan.

Sexual harassment rife in Vietnam’s conservation sector, survey reveals by Michael Tatarski [25 Nov 2020]
– A survey by WildAct, a Vietnamese conservation organization, found that 82.5% of respondents have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the last two years.
– Those surveyed said that they feel most vulnerable while working in the field, and particularly when alcohol is involved.
– In response, WildAct has called for other organizations and government agencies in the sector to prohibit alcohol consumption during fieldwork.

Podcast: Indigenous land rights and the global push for land privatization by Mike Gaworecki [25 Nov 2020]
– We discuss the importance of securing Indigenous land rights within the context of a global push for land privatization on today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast
– Cultural Survival’s Daisee Francour joins us to discuss why land rights are so vital to the wellbeing of Indigenous communities and the cause of conservation.
– The Oakland Institute’s Anuradha Mittal discusses the think tank’s new report on the global push by governments and corporations to privatize land in the name of economic development and how that can dispossess Indigenous and local communities of their land.
– “In the midst of a pandemic and a growing climate crisis, we are seeing that governments, corporations, and international finance institutions–instead of addressing the crises–are wanting to exploit even more natural resources, like land,” Mittal says.

Clean up efforts won’t solve the plastic pollution crisis in the world’s seas by Isabella Backman [25 Nov 2020]
– A model simulating a device touted to clear plastic from the “Great Pacific garbage patch” shows that it would collect much less than 1 percent of the ocean’s plastic pollution by 2150.
– The study was the first to quantify the device’s ability to remove marine debris.
– A more comprehensive approach to reducing plastic, including holding corporations responsible, is needed in addition to efforts to scoop trash from the sea.

Indigenous leader who fought for communities and conservation mourned in Peru by Anna-Catherine Brigida [25 Nov 2020]
– Benjamín Rodríguez Grandez, a leader from the Huitoto tribe who dedicated his life to preserving Indigenous customs and the natural resources they depend on in the Peruvian Amazon, died of COVID-19 on July 16, 2020.
– Rodríguez was a key player in efforts to lobby for the creation of Peru’s Yaguas National Park, an area of 868,927 hectares (2.15 million acres) of forest home to more than 3,000 species of plants, 500 species of birds, and 550 fish species.
– He was also a teacher and a “judge of the peace,” a special title in Peru that allows community leaders to resolve certain disputes even if they don’t have a law degree.
– “If Benjamín convened the meeting, everyone attended,” one source told Mongabay. “He had that influence in the area.”

Indonesian fisheries minister arrested over graft in lobster policy by Basten Gokkon [25 Nov 2020]
– Indonesia’s fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo and other top officials have been arrested by the anti-graft agency in connection to the new lobster seed export policy that was issued in May.
– Fishery watchdogs have praised the KPK for the arrest of Edhy in connection to the lobster export policy which observers have criticized for catering more to the interests of few businesses and politicians than those of the small fishers.
– Lobsters are among Indonesia’s top fisheries commodities, but the illegal export of larvae cost the country 900 billion rupiah ($62 million) in lost revenue in 2019 alone, according to the the government’s anti-money-laundering watchdog.

Trans-Purus: Brazil’s last intact Amazon forest at immediate risk (commentary) by Philip M. Fearnside; Lucas Ferrante; Aurora M. Yanai; and Marcos Antonio Isaac Júnior [24 Nov 2020]
– Brazil’s remaining Amazon forest is roughly divided in half by the Purus River, just west of the notorious BR-319 (Manaus-Porto Velho) highway. To the west of the river lies the vast “Trans-Purus” region — intact rainforest stretching to the Peruvian border. To the east, the forest is already heavily deforested, degraded and fragmented.
– Multiple threats are now closing in on the Trans-Purus region, and expected to increase greatly with the impending “reconstruction” of the BR-319. Planned roads linked to the BR-319 would open the Trans-Purus region to land grabbers (grileiros), organized landless farmers (sem-terras) and other actors from Brazil’s “arc of deforestation.”
– A massive planned gas and oil project would also likely lead to new road connections to the other planned highways in the Trans-Purus area, opening even more of the region to invasion. Asian oil palm and logging companies are among those with a historical interest in the area.
– This last large block of intact Brazilian Amazon forest is essential for ecosystem services — maintaining biodiversity, carbon stocks, and the forest water cycling functions essential for rainfall in other parts of Brazil and neighboring countries. This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Are industrial chemicals killing rare whales and familiar dolphins? by Cypress Hansen [24 Nov 2020]
– Dozens of whales and dolphins that beached themselves on the U.S. Atlantic Coast contained high levels of pollutants and heavy metals in their blubber and liver tissues, a new study shows.
– For the first time, scientists detected the widely used antibiotic Triclosan and the popular herbicide Atrazine in rare species that spend their lives hundreds of kilometers offshore.
– While the findings suggest these toxins may contribute to the demise of marine mammals, more research is needed to determine direct cause and effect.

Amazon initiative pays farmers and ranchers to keep the forest standing by Sibélia Zanon [24 Nov 2020]
– The Conserv initiative, created by nonprofit organizations in Brazil and the U.S., is paying farmers and ranchers in the Amazon to preserve more native vegetation on their land than required by law.
– There are still more than 20 million hectares (49 million acres) of forest inside the Brazilian Amazon that can legally be cut.
– The initiative, led by the Brazil-based Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), aims to preserve 20,000 to 30,000 hectares (49,000 to 74,000 acres) of vegetation in its first phase, at a cost of $4.5 million.

How are jaguars different from leopards? Candid Animal Cam is in the Americas by [24 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.

The newest species of Philippine false gecko is the 10th (and counting) by Mavic Conde [24 Nov 2020]
– Scientists have described a new species of the Philippine false gecko, a genus found nowhere else on Earth.
– The description of Pseudogekko hungkag, from six live specimens found in the Bicol Peninsula on the central island of Luzon, brings to 10 the number of false gekkos known to science.
– Previous new Pseudogekko species were described through revisionary studies of existing literature and data, coupled with new DNA testing.
– Researchers say it’s hard to pinpoint the full geographical range of the new species, but that its discovery opens prospects for more herpetological studies in the Bicol region.

Coal stockpiles threaten public health, ancient temple, in Indonesian village by Yitno Suprapto [23 Nov 2020]
– For years, the residents of Muara Jambi village on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have had to breathe air polluted with coal dust from nearby storage facilities.
– The residents have complained of acute respiratory infections, and some have had coughs for months and have not yet recovered.
– The coal dust also threatens the Muaro Jambi temple complex, a Hindu-Buddhist compound constructed from the 7th-14th centuries and vulnerable to premature weathering because of the dust.
– To reduce the impact of coal dust, coal piles should not exceed 7 meters (23 feet) in height, but some piles in the area exceed 10 meters (33 feet). The local government says it is monitoring the situation.

Crimefighting NGO tracks Brazil wildlife trade on WhatsApp and Facebook by Peter Yeung [23 Nov 2020]
– A nonprofit, the National Network Combating Wild Animal Trafficking (RENCTAS) was founded in 1999, and since then has won international awards and acclaim for its innovative approach to tracking and combating the global illegal wildlife trade, especially the sourcing of animals in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna biomes.
– The group’s pioneering strategy: use social media to track the sale and movement of animals out of Brazil, and turn over the data to law enforcement. In 1999, it identified nearly 6,000 ads featuring the illegal sale of animals on e-commerce platforms. By 2019, it reported 3.5 million advertisements for the illegal trade on social networks.
– The most trafficked Brazilian animals currently: the double-collared seedeater (Sporophila caerulescens); a small, finch-like songbird with a yellow bill that thrives in the southern Cerrado, and the white-cheeked spider monkey (Ateles marginatus), found across the Amazon basin. Sales of animals have been tracked to 200+ illegal trafficking organizations.
– Tragically, of the millions of Brazilian animals captured, sold, resold, and transported, only an estimated 1 in 10 ever reach Brazilian and foreign consumers alive. The rest, ripped from their homes, starved and abused, die in transit.

Bottlenose dolphins could disappear from Ecuador’s Gulf of Guayaquil by Doménica Montaño [23 Nov 2020]
– The abundance of bottlenose dolphins in Ecuador’s Gulf of Guayaquil has decreased by around 50% in the last decade.
– Several rivers in Ecuador, as well as neighboring Peru, empty into the gulf, and it is one of the most productive fishing areas in the country.
– But entanglements in fishing gear, along with tourism and water pollution, are contributing to the dolphins’ decline and could lead to their disappearance altogether in the coming decades, researchers report in a new study.

Paraguay whistleblowers allege illegal deforestation cover up by Jack Davies [20 Nov 2020]
– Senior officials at Paraguay’s Environment Ministry are allegedly helping cover up illegal deforestation by the country’s cattle industry.
– Last month, London-based NGO Earthsight reported that major European automakers, including Jaguar Land Rover and BMW, were using leather linked to illegal deforestation in Paraguay.
– Damning new testimony by current and former ministry employees suggests that in many cases environmental impact assessment applications are made long after the land in question has been cleared.

France falls short in ending deforestation linked to imported soy by [20 Nov 2020]
– A new agreement signed by eight grocery store chains in France is aimed at ending the importation of soybeans grown on deforested lands.
– France introduced a national strategy to address deforestation in supply chains in 2018.
– But environmental and watchdog NGOs say the country must go beyond voluntary commitments from companies and mandate an end to trade with producers linked to deforestation.

A million hectares ablaze as forest fires sweep through Bolivia by Yvette Sierra Praeli [20 Nov 2020]
– Forest fires have led the departments of Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca to declare a state of disaster.
– The Chiquitania and Chaco ecosystems have been the most affected by the fires, while Indigenous peoples are threatened by a prolonged drought.
– Experts say only rain can mitigate the burning, but there’s little to no precipitation forecast soon amid the drought.

New rule puts Indonesia’s protected forests up for grabs for agribusiness by Hans Nicholas Jong [20 Nov 2020]
– Indonesia’s environment ministry has issued a new regulation allowing protected forest areas to be cleared for a “food estate” program.
– The program is aimed at boosting domestic crop supplies, but critics say it prioritizes the interests of agribusiness at the expense of small farmers and the environment.
– Indonesia degazetted 26 million hectares (64 million acres) of its forest over the past 20 years, primarily for large-scale agriculture, and today has 29.7 million hectares (73.4 million acres) of protected forest, an area the size of Italy.
– Observers say the food estate program, if it goes ahead, should prioritize agroforestry systems that maintain a higher level of biodiversity than monocrops like oil palms or rice.

Building a road to recovery for subtle racism in conservation (commentary) by Resson Kantai Duff (Kenya) [19 Nov 2020]
– The following stories are based on firsthand experiences, personal observations, and eyewitness accounts related to race and privilege in the conservation space in Africa.
– More than 20 African women from nearly a dozen countries, each conservation leaders in their own right, contributed to these stories.
– They came together with a desire not to pulverize the conservation space, but rather to heal it. The goal is to offer a chance for self-reflection and open conversation in a world where too many things go unsaid.
– This article is a commentary, the views expressed are not necessarily those of Mongabay.



A Philippine community sees life-saving payoffs from restoring its mangroves by Jun N. Aguirre [11/18/2020]
Deadly anniversary: Rio Doce, Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, 5 years on by Ana Ionova [11/17/2020]
More Indonesian sailors repatriated from deadly Chinese fishing fleet by Basten Gokkon [11/16/2020]
Could China become a partner in Galapagos marine conservation? Yolanda Kakabadse thinks so by Rhett A. Butler [11/16/2020]
Multiplying Amazon river ports open new Brazil-to-China commodities routes by Manuela Andreoni; Dialogo Chino [11/16/2020]
The women of Kendeng set their feet in cement to stop a mine in their lands. This is their story. by Febriana Firdaus [11/13/2020]
Activists in Malaysia call on road planners to learn the lessons of history by John C. Cannon [11/13/2020]