Newsletter 2021-02-25



The Kalunga digitally map traditional lands to save Cerrado way of life by Thais Borges and Sue Branford [02/24/2021]

– The Kalunga represents a grouping of 39 traditional quilombola communities — the descendants of runaway slaves — living on a territory covering 262,000 hectares (647,000 acres) in Goiás state in central Brazil, within the Cerrado savanna biome.
– This territory has been under heavy assault by illegal invaders, including small-scale wildcat gold miners, and large-scale mining operations, as well as land grabbers who have destroyed native vegetation to grow soy and other agribusiness crops.
– To defend their lands, the Kalunga received a grant from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), supported by Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, EU, the Global Environment Facility, Japan and the World Bank. With their funding, the Kalunga georeferenced the territory, pinpointing homes, crops, soils, 879 springs, and vital natural resources.
– In February 2020, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) recognized the Kalunga Historical and Cultural Heritage Site as the first TICCA (Territories and Areas Conserved by Indigenous and Local Communities) in Brazil, making it what UNEP-WCMC calls a “Territory for Life.”

In Malaysian Borneo’s rainforests, powerful state governments set their own rules by Danielle Keeton-Olsen [02/18/2021]

– Under Malaysia’s federal system, state governments hold authority over most regulations regarding land usage and environmental protection.
– In the Bornean states of Sabah and Sarawak, home to most of Malaysia’s remaining intact forests, politicians push against perceived interference from the central government, particularly when it comes to resource management.
– Since the late 1960s, Malaysian Borneo lost much of its forest: first to timber and later to palm oil and other agricultural industries.
– Both states have laws on the books aimed at protecting and managing forests, as well as sustainable forestry and palm oil certification schemes. Experts on forest management and conservation see cause for both optimism and skepticism.

A tale of two seas: Closed season is a mixed bag for Philippine sardines industry by Bong S. Sarmiento [02/18/2021]

– Since 2011, the Philippine government has imposed a closed fishing season on various major fishing grounds during the sardine spawning season.
– Implemented during the tail end of the year until March the following year, the closed fishing season has been both a boon and bane for communities.
– In the sardine capital of the Zamboanga Peninsula in the country’s south, the ban has boosted catch sizes for artisanal fishers, while in the Visayan Sea in the central Philippines, catches have dwindled.
– Experts point to different implementations of the fishing ban in the two regions and highlight the need to assess the economic implications of the measures, particularly to marginalized fishers.



Mystery bird not seen in 172 years makes surprise reappearance in Borneo forest by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [25 Feb 2021]
– The black-browed babbler was recently sighted in Indonesia’s South Kalimantan province, on the island of Borneo, after being lost to science for 172 years.
– There is only one specimen of the species, collected sometime between 1843 and 1848.
– While little is known about the species, researchers are concerned that it might already be threatened with extinction.

Why zebras have stripes? Candid Animal Cam visits the Serengeti by Romina Castagnino [25 Feb 2021]
– 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.

We’re killing those tropical trees we’re counting on to absorb carbon dioxide by Fernanda Wenzel [24 Feb 2021]
– A pair of recent studies show that rising temperatures are shortening the lives of trees in tropical forests and reducing their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
– This phenomenon is already being observed in parts of the Amazon, where the temperature has already crossed a critical threshold of 25°C (77°F); by 2050, the same may happen in the Congo Basin, the world’s second-biggest tropical rainforest.
– Forests play a major role in fighting global warming, but the authors of the recent studies say we shouldn’t be overly reliant on them as a solution, given their diminished capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
– Instead, they say that cutting emissions is more urgent than ever.

Human impacts leave reefs short on sharks and long on moray eels by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [24 Feb 2021]
– A new study found that moray eels are more abundant on reefs where sharks are absent due to human pressures.
– The paper hypothesizes that moray eels might be benefiting from a reduction in predators and competition for food, although this hasn’t been proven.
– The authors say a lot more research is needed to assess the relationship between sharks and moray eels, and to understand the ecological role moray eels play in the marine environment.

Podcast: Is ecosystem restoration our last/best hope for a sustainable future? by Mike Gaworecki [24 Feb 2021]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we take a look at the growing movement to restore degraded ecosystems worldwide. The decade of 2021 to 2030 has been declared the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
– Author Judith Schwartz joins us to discuss her 2020 book The Reindeer Chronicles: And Other Inspiring Stories of Working with Nature to Heal the Earth, which documents numerous restoration projects around the globe and highlights the ways the global ecological restoration movement is challenging us to reconsider the way we live on planet Earth.
– We’re also joined by Tero Mustonen, president of an NGO based in Finland called the Snowchange Cooperative, who tells us about the group’s Landscape Rewilding Programme, which is “rewilding” Arctic and Boreal habitats using Indigenous knowledge and science.

Only 1 of 52 pilot whales survives mass stranding in Indonesia by [24 Feb 2021]
– Two of the three whales that initially survived later became stranded again and died.
– Researchers are trying to determine the cause of the mass stranding, just the latest one in Indonesia.

Agroforestry and land reform give Brazil cacao farmers sweet taste of success by Patricia Moll [24 Feb 2021]
– In the 1990s, witches’ broom disease, a fungal outbreak, devastated cacao crops in the south of Brazil’s Bahia state, leaving many farms abandoned.
– One of those farms was occupied by 40 families who now sell top-quality cacao to major chocolate brands.
– The community reestablished the agroecological system known as cabruca, in which farmers plant cacao trees and other crops without clearing native forest.
– Thanks to this system and their land reform efforts, the farmers have seen their monthly earnings more than double since 2008.

When seas turn rough, gleaning keeps the fish on the table for some communities by Basten Gokkon [24 Feb 2021]
– Communities living close to hard-bottomed shallow shore are more likely to catch animals for seafood consumption in the rough season when other types of fishing often aren’t possible, a new study has found.
– The study also found that shallow habitat mattered: the larger its extent, the more households glean.
– The results further suggest that worsening sea conditions due to climate change will increase the importance of coastal gleaning.
– The authors say that understanding the interactions between people and coastal ecosystems through fishing activities, such as gleaning, is essential for ensuring coastal management that supports social objectives.

“Securing Indigenous guardianship of vital ecosystems”: Q&A with Nia Tero CEO Peter Seligmann by Rhett A. Butler [23 Feb 2021]
– One of the dominant trends in conservation over the past 20 years has been growing recognition of the contributions Indigenous peoples have made toward conservationists’ goals of protecting biodiversity, wild places, and ecosystem functions.
– This view is a departure from historical conservation approaches, which have tended to marginalize, undervalue, or even criminalize Indigenous peoples. The transition unfolding across conservation is an important development for the sector, but going from talking about change to actually implementing meaningful reforms will be a challenge.
– For these reasons, Peter Seligmann – one of the best-known and most influential figures in conservation – is an important figure to watch. In 2017 Seligmann launched a new organization called Nia Tero that puts Indigenous peoples at the center of its strategy: “For us, it was clear that humanity’s fate is directly dependent upon the ability of nations, and the public, to support Indigenous territorial rights and embrace Indigenous peoples’ belief in the reciprocal relationship between all beings and the Earth.“
– Seligmann spoke about Nia Tero’s ambitions in a February 2021 interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

As Amazon forest-to-savanna tipping point looms, solutions remain elusive by Shanna Hanbury [23 Feb 2021]
– Leading scientists project that if an additional 3-8% of rainforest cover is lost in the Amazon, it may overshoot a forest-to-degraded-savanna tipping point. That shift could mean mega-drought, forest death, and release of great amounts of stored carbon to the atmosphere from southern, eastern and central Amazonia.
– Despite this warning, Brazilian Amazon deforestation hit an 11-year high in 2020. Government clampdowns on environmental crime greatly decreased deforestation in the past, but Brazil is now facing a political backlash led by President Jair Bolsonaro, resulting in agribusiness and mining expansion and deforestation.
– Market efforts to create incentives have been ineffective. A public-private plan to cut deforestation led by Mato Grosso state has not met its environmental targets, even as agricultural lands increased. Amazonas, Acre and Rondônia — Bolsonaro-aligned states — are pushing for the creation of a new agriculture frontier.
– Indigenous communities, because they’re the best land stewards, should be at the forefront of public policy to conserve the Amazon, say experts, but instead they face poverty and marginalization by the institutions responsible for securing their land rights. International response to the Amazon crisis has also lagged.

Electronic ears spy on poachers in a key Central American jaguar habitat by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [23 Feb 2021]
– The international NGO Panthera has been using acoustical monitoring systems to support their anti-poaching patrols in Guatemala and Honduras since 2017.
– The acoustical recorders can pick up gunshots, conversations and wildlife sounds, and help rangers plan their patrols to be more effective in combating illegal activities.
– Panthera is particularly concerned about protecting the jaguar, which is threatened by poaching, wildlife trafficking and habitat loss in this region.

On a Philippine volcano, an eruption-proof mouse rules the roost by Leilani Chavez [23 Feb 2021]
– In 1991, a massive eruption at Mount Pinatubo decimated natural old-growth forests, likely resulting in the natural local extinction of several species, a study notes.
– But surveys carried out 20 years after the eruption show that the landscape is regenerating and is dominated by a possibly endemic rodent species, Apomys sacobianus.
– Biologists know Ap. sacobianus from a single specimen collected in 1956; previous studies conducted by the team show it may be specific only to Mount Pinatubo.
– The rodent species is a “disturbance specialist,” meaning that unlike other Apomys species that thrive on mountaintops, Ap. sacobianus has adapted to living in the lowlands due to eruptions in the past.

New platform gathers data on Brazil’s disappearing Cerrado biome by Clarissa Beretz [23 Feb 2021]
– An online and collaborative tool created by Brazil’s Federal University of Goiás brings together the largest and oldest collection of available data available on the Cerrado biome.
– The Cerrado Knowledge Platform will be constantly updated as a national reference on the biome, consolidating information to be used by researchers working for its preservation and management.
– The bilingual platform includes figures on deforestation, land use, biodiversity and socioeconomics; users can also contribute by uploading data, maps and geospatial information.
– Its creators say they hope the website will provide solid knowledge to support researchers in making public policies or designing programs for the conservation of a biome that has already lost more than 50% of its native vegetation.

‘Everything on this planet is connected’: Q&A with WWF’s Marco Lambertini by Rhett A. Butler [22 Feb 2021]
– As the world works to emerge from the devastation and hardship brought by the pandemic, there has been much talk about the recovery being an opportunity to drive transformative change toward a more sustainable, equitable society that recognizes that human well-being is underpinned by a healthy planet.
– Much of the focus on this concept has been on cutting carbon emissions from transportation and energy production. There’s been less emphasis on protecting and restoring nature, but the “Nature Positive” campaign is working to change that. WWF, which is arguably the best known conservation group in the world, is among the NGOs leading the charge on Nature Positive.
– Marco Lambertini, the director-general of WWF International, says we’re well past the time for taking action on the loss of nature: ““Science has been telling us for decades that our activities are destroying nature at a rate far faster than it can replenish itself… Tackling nature loss requires us to fundamentally transform our productive sectors, but to do that we need a clear time-bound goal that drives ambition and that governments, businesses and consumers can all contribute to achieving and be held accountable to.”
– Lambertini discussed the Nature Positive movement, the need for change, and several other topics during a February 2021 conversation with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

Here goes nothing: Male spiders found giving females silk-wrapped zilch by Anna Nordseth [22 Feb 2021]
– Researchers describe how a South American spider species, Paradossenus longipes, uses silk-wrapped nuptial gifts in its courtship rituals.
– While other gift-wrapping spiders give potential mates edible prey or inedible leftovers, P. longipes surprised scientists by sometimes presenting females with empty gifts.
– The discovery of empty nuptial gifts in spiders raises questions about how the behavior evolved and the role it plays in sexual selection and mating success.

Gold and diamonds fail to shine as drivers of Amazon development by Maurício Angelo [22 Feb 2021]
– Gold and diamond mining in the Brazilian Amazon don’t contribute to sustained improvements in the economy, health and education, among other development parameters, a new study shows.
– The study compared these parameters in 73 Amazonian municipalities where mining takes place, against others in the region without mining.
– It found that any improvements were brief, lasting no more than five years, while the adverse environmental impacts lingered for up to seven years.
– The researchers, from the Instituto Escolhas, plan to hone their methodology by including other parameters, such as tax incentives for miners, which they predict will show that the industry is also a drain on public coffers.

Mongabay founder wins environmental journalism award by [22 Feb 2021]
– Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler has been awarded a 2020 SEAL Environmental Journalism Award in recognition of his coverage of environmental issues for the website. The honor is presented by the SEAL (Sustainability, Environmental Achievement & Leadership) Awards, an environmental advocacy organization.
– His fellow winners – at outlets ranging from The Guardian to The New York Times and The Washington Post – were selected based on each journalist’s work, a data-driven analysis of the impact and reach of their articles, and the bringing of fresh perspectives and social relevance to environmental issues, the organizers said. Butler has been publishing on Mongabay since he founded it in 1999.
– Butler established Mongabay as a U.S. non-profit news organization in 2012 and has since grown the organization to report on environmental issues in ten languages via five international bureaus which publish the work of staff writers and a network of about 800 freelance reporters in 80 countries.
– The outlet’s growth continued in 2020, reaching new heights in terms of readership – 10 million monthly readers on average.

Backing the stewards of biocultural diversity: Q&A with Indigenous rights leader Carla Fredericks by Rhett A. Butler [19 Feb 2021]
– For at least the past 20 years, conservation has been wrestling with some of the darker aspects of its historical relationship with local communities. These issues gained increased notoriety in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing last year when the Black Lives Matter movement forced a public conversation around state violence and social injustice in the United States and beyond.
– There are signs that the conservation sector is now doing more than just paying lip service to these concerns: Indigenous peoples and local communities are being more actively engaged in decision-making; leadership and boards of conservation institutions are prioritizing diversity and inclusion; and discriminatory practices are increasingly being called out as unacceptable.
– Recognizing Indigenous rights as a gap in the philanthropic space in general, the San Francisco-based Christensen Fund recently reoriented its grantmaking approach and adopted a new mission: supporting the global Indigenous peoples’ movement “in its efforts to advance the rights and opportunities of stewards of biocultural diversity.”
– To deliver on this mission, last year Christensen hired Indigenous legal expert and advocate Carla Fredericks as its executive director. Fredericks, an enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, spoke with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler during a February 2021 interview.

Madagascar: Young farmers adopt new methods to help lemurs, forests and themselves by Valisoa Rasolofomboahangy [19 Feb 2021]
– Threatened by unsustainable farming methods and hunting, the forests of Mangabe-Ranomena-Sahasarotra in eastern Madagascar, and the lemurs that live there, are in danger.
– A project aims to train young villagers in the region in sustainable farming techniques and to raise their awareness of lemur protection.
– These young people are trained to be ambassadors for the protection of the environment, who will transmit their knowledge to the next generation.

U.N. report lays out blueprint to end ‘suicidal war on nature’ by John C. Cannon [19 Feb 2021]
– According to a new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme, the world faces three environmental “emergencies”: climate change, biodiversity loss, and air and water pollution.
– U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said we should view nature as “an ally,” not a foe, in the quest for sustainable human development.
– The report draws on assessments that quantify carbon emissions, species loss and pollutant flows to produce what the authors call concrete actions by governments, private companies and individuals that will help address these issues.

Study highlights ‘terrible’ signs of species decline from wildlife trade by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [19 Feb 2021]
– A new study found that the wildlife trade has led to a near 62% decrease in species abundance, raising concerns about its impact on terrestrial biodiversity.
– The authors found there to be a paucity of literature on the subject, and were only able to identify 31 studies that compared species abundance in exploited habitats with species abundance in unexploited areas.
– The paper calls for increased protections for species and better management of protected areas.

Fake it till you save it? Synthetic animal parts pose a conservation conundrum by Claudia Geib [19 Feb 2021]
– Thanks to technological advancements, it’s now possible to make synthetic versions of animal parts like rhino horn, elephant ivory, and big cat fur, demand for which is contributing to the extinction crisis.
– Yet this practice is controversial, as some conservation groups assert that selling synthetic parts could actually promote more poaching.
– Proponents of the strategy say more conversations are needed around this possibility, including looking at the issue from an economic perspective.

Philippine quarries under scrutiny after deadly mudflow buries homes by Mavic Conde [19 Feb 2021]
– When Typhoon Goni, the world’s strongest last year, hit the Philippines in November, it triggered an avalanche of volcanic mud that buried 300 homes, killed 13 people and left three missing in the province of Albay.
– While such mudflows, known as lahar, are common in regions with high volcanic activity, experts and activists say the impact in Albay was exacerbated by the loose material left by quarrying operations.
– Quarrying of volcanic ash and debris from the slopes of Albay’s Mount Mayon feeds construction projects across the Philippines and is a key economic driver in the province.
– But watchdogs say the proliferation of mismanaged quarries is a result of a rarely scrutinized industry that is often under the watch of the local government.

Calls for accountability after coal-slurry spill in Indonesian river by Della Syahni, Sapariah Saturi [19 Feb 2021]
– A coal-slurry spill into a river in Indonesian Borneo has killed hundreds of fish and forced authorities to shut off water lines to households.
– The slurry came from a waste facility run by coal miner PT Kayan Putra Utama Coal, which has apologized for the Feb. 7 incident and promised to distribute clean water to affected residents.
– Industry watchdogs and residents say such incidents are common on the Malinau River in North Kalimantan province, where coal mining is a major industry.
– The provincial legislature has called for an investigation and criminal charges if necessary against the company.



Where oh where are the Sumatran rhinos? by [02/18/2021]
Big dream: NGO leads in creating 1,615-mile Amazon-Cerrado river greenbelt by Jenny Gonzales [02/17/2021]
‘A better world is within reach’: Q&A with Greenpeace’s Jennifer Morgan by Rhett A. Butler [02/16/2021]