Newsletter 2021-03-25



A new environmental education site for kids by [03/25/2021]

– Mongabay has released a beta version of a new education site to inspire and inform kids on ecology, wildlife, and conservation. The new site is located at
– Mongabay Kids includes environmental news articles, lessons, and activities geared toward specific age groups, from elementary to middle school. The site leverages content from Mongabay’s main news site and extensive library of nature photos.
– The site’s creators, biologists Megan Strauss and David Brown, spoke with Mongabay about the project.

Podcast: Palm oil plantations and their impacts have arrived in the Amazon by Mike Gaworecki [03/24/2021]

– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Mongabay’s contributing editor for Brazil, Karla Mendes, who recently published an investigative report that found the palm oil industry’s growth in the Brazilian Amazon is driving the same deforestation and community conflicts oil palm operations are responsible for in Southeast Asia.
– We also speak with Sandra Damiani, a researcher at the University of Brasília whose study found that both above-ground watercourses and groundwater in the Turé-Mariquita Indigenous Reserve in Brazil’s Pará state were contaminated with pesticides and herbicides used on nearby palm oil plantations.
– Lastly, we speak with Felício Pontes Júnior, a federal prosecutor for the Amazon region who filed a lawsuit seven years against one of Brazil’s biggest palm oil companies, but is still fighting to do the investigation needed to prove who’s responsible for the pollution in the Turé-Mariquita Indigenous Reserve.

In Indonesia, an illegal leopard trade thrives out of sight, new study shows by Claudia Geib [03/24/2021]

– A new paper documents significant illegal trafficking of Javan leopards and Sunda clouded leopards in Indonesia.
– The research uncovered 41 seizure records, amounting to approximately 83 individual animals, from between 2011 to 2019. The authors say that these numbers likely represent only a fraction of the true trade.
– With both species facing significant population declines, any level of poaching and trading could tip the scales toward extinction.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo: Catalyzing an Indigenous-led just energy transition by Rhett A. Butler [03/22/2021]

– A Just Transition is the idea that the shift toward low-carbon economies needs to be fair and inclusive, meaning it considers the people that will be most impacted by abandoning fossil fuels.
– Among the groups most likely to be affected by the green energy transition are Indigenous communities, many of whom may be disproportionately dependent on fossil fuels for their day-to-day energy needs and livelihoods, and at the same time are also most likely to bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change.
– Recognizing the need for a Just Transition for Indigenous Peoples, Melina Miyowapan Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta founded Sacred Earth Solar in 2015 to empower Indigenous communities across Canada to adopt renewable energy.
– Laboucan-Massimo spoke about catalyzing a just energy transition for Indigenous peoples, the legacy of colonization, and more, during a March 2021 conversation with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

Myanmar’s environmental record was weak but improving. Then came the coup by Andrew Nachemson [03/18/2021]

– The February military coup in Myanmar has cast doubt on the future of environmental protection efforts in the Southeast Asian country.
– Activists and legal experts say environmental enforcement was weak under the National League for Democracy, which won control of parliament in 2015.
– They cite a weak environmental impact assessment process, lack of accountability for violators, and a prioritization of “development” over conservation.
– Despite their frustration with slow progress under the NLD, experts say they fear the situation will be far worse under a military dictatorship.



Nearly half the Amazon’s intact forest on Indigenous-held lands: Report by John C. Cannon [25 Mar 2021]
– A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC) draws on more than 300 studies from the last two decades to demonstrate the protection that Indigenous societies provide for forests in Latin America and the Caribbean.
– According to the team’s research, about 45% of the intact forests in the Amazon Basin are in Indigenous territories.
– The forests occupied by Indigenous communities in the region hold more carbon than all of the forests in either Indonesia or the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the next two biggest swaths of tropical forest after Brazil.
– The report’s authors say investing in securing land rights for Indigenous communities is a cheap and effective way to address climate change, while also helping these communities recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Palm oil firm Digoel Agri said to clear Papuan forest without Indigenous consent by Hans Nicholas Jong [25 Mar 2021]
– A palm oil conglomerate has begun clearing the ancestral forests of Indigenous tribes in Indonesia’s Papua region without the locals’ consent, a watchdog group says.
– Subsidiaries of the Digoel Agri group have cleared 64 hectares (158 acres) of forest in the first two months of 2021, according to satellite imagery analyzed by Pusaka, an Indonesian nonprofit.
– Digoel Agri had cleared 164 hectares (405) acres in 2019, before suspending operations for all of last year amid a labor dispute.
– Pusaka alleges that Digoel Agri has failed to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of local Indigenous tribes to operate in the area, which forms part of the Tanah Merah project, slated to become the world’s biggest oil palm plantation.

Turtle conservation hits the SPOT in North Cyprus by James Fair [24 Mar 2021]
– Green and loggerhead turtle nest counts have increased by 162% and 46% respectively in less than two decades on North Cyprus in the Mediterranean.
– The increase has been achieved through preventing nests being raided by dogs and foxes, and protecting the beaches from tourism development.
– Conservation begun by enthusiasts in 1983 is now organized by a local NGO, the Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT), in collaboration with scientists from the University of Exeter in the U.K. and the local Department of Environmental Protection.
– Many issues still impact the recovery of turtle populations: loggerheads are killed in fishing nets, while both species are affected by plastic pollution in a variety of ways.

Guarani Indigenous men brutalized in Brazilian ‘expansion of violence’ by Jenny Gonzales [24 Mar 2021]
– In the 1960s and 70s, the Guarani Kaiowá Indigenous group was expelled from its ancestral lands in Mato Grosso do Sul state by the Brazilian military dictatorship to expand the country’s agricultural frontier. Today, their traditional Indigenous homeland is occupied by large farms, whose owners refuse to return the property.
– A federal Supreme Court decision resulted in an order to allow the return of the Guarani Kaiowá to their former homeland where they now await the official demarcation of their territory to be approved by the federal government — an approval that still hasn’t come after the passage of ten years.
– The land dispute and standoff between the ranchers and the Guarani Kaiowá has repeatedly flared into violence over the years. In 2011, Indigenous leader Nízio Gomes was murdered in the Guaiviry community area by armed thugs.
– Violence flared yet again in Guaiviry last week when three Guarani Kaiowá men were assaulted, they say, by gunmen from the large Querência Farm. The Guarani Kaiowá say that intimidation of their community members has seriously escalated under the Jair Bolsonaro administration, which has shown hostility toward Indigenous rights.

Oil palm growers’ misdeeds allow an opportunity to save West Papua’s forests by Hans Nicholas Jong [24 Mar 2021]
– An area of forest two and a half times the size of London sits inside oil palm concessions in Indonesia’s West Papua province but can still be spared from being cleared, a government review indicates.
– Clearing the forest to plant oil palms would release the equivalent of two-fifths of Indonesia’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions, which is why leaving it intact is important, according to experts and local government officials.
– The concession holders have been prevented from developing the land because of a lack of permits and a litany of administrative and legal violations, according to the government review.
– This gives local authorities leverage to win back control of the concessions from the companies on administrative and procedural grounds, although officials say the process could take at least a year, even if the companies relinquish the land voluntarily.

81 Indigenous leaders, environmental defenders slam BlackRock in open letter by Ashoka Mukpo [24 Mar 2021]
– A letter signed by Indigenous leaders and environmental defenders from the Amazon, West Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere blasts BlackRock for failing to hold companies in its investment portfolio accountable for deforestation and land grabs.
– “While BlackRock makes pledges to ask portfolio companies to cut emissions in the future, our forests are being razed, our land is being stolen, and our people are being killed, today,” the letter said.
– Last week, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, published new guidelines related to “natural capital” and human rights, but advocates said more action is needed.
– Earlier this month, BlackRock’s former head of sustainable investing said the company’s environmental practices amounted to “greenwashing.”

Managing risk: How Sri Lankan farmers address climate threats by Dennis Mombauer [24 Mar 2021]
– Sri Lanka’s smallholder farmers are faced with increasing risks related to the impacts of climate change, which threaten their agricultural yields and livelihoods.
– Risk has always been a factor for farmers, and there are many traditional methods of risk management that have been developed over generations, including cultivation techniques, crop varieties, cascade tank systems, soil management, natural insect and pest control, integrated crop-livestock systems, and livelihood diversification.
– In addition to employing these traditional methods, farmers can benefit from technology and modern knowledge to better manage their risks on different levels, such as agro-meteorological advisory, climate projections, crop insurance schemes, value addition, micro-irrigation, mechanization, or reduction of post-harvest losses.
– Holistic risk management includes these actions as well as policy processes and the creation of an enabling and supporting environment that takes into account the needs and capacities of different actors within the agricultural supply and value chain.

Thriving population of endangered monkeys gives hope to conservationists by Veronika Perkova [23 Mar 2021]
– Delacour’s langur (Trachypithecus delacouri) is a critically endangered primate species endemic to Vietnam, with only 234-275 estimated remaining today.
– In response to habitat loss and poaching, local communities teamed up with a German primatologist to form Van Long Nature Reserve.
– Van Long has effectively protected its langur population, which has quadrupled in size since the reserve was established in 2001. With currently around 200 individuals, the reserve houses the bulk of the world’s remaining Delacour’s langurs.
– Conservationists hope that more langur habitat will be protected to safeguard other populations from poaching as well as deforestation from agriculture and limestone quarrying for cement production.

Unrelated adoptions by bonobos may point to altruistic traits, study says by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [23 Mar 2021]
– Two wild bonobos in the Luo Scientific Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were observed to adopt infants from different social groups, according to a new study.
– These are said to be the first recorded cases of great apes adopting unrelated individuals.
– While the researchers do not know why these bonobos chose to adopt unrelated infants, they speculate that it could be to strengthen current and future alliances within their own groups as well as with other social groups.

‘Like losing half the territory.’ Waorani struggle with loss of elder, and of land to oil (commentary) by Conny Davidsen, Danilo Borja, Juan Bay [23 Mar 2021]
– The long life and sudden 2020 death of Waorani elder Nenkihui Bay encapsulates his community’s struggles against territorial loss, environmental degradation, oil drilling expansion, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Leaders like him are called “Pikenanis” and are local figures of authority, territorial guardians against external threats, and teachers of traditional knowledge related to environment, cultural laws, and livelihoods.
– Increasingly impacted by oil drilling, Bay helped his community navigate the changes and struggle for their rights.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

In Indonesia, pulp and paper firms stoke demand that may drive deforestation by Hans Nicholas Jong [23 Mar 2021]
– Pulp and paper companies are expanding in Indonesia by building new mills, putting more pressure on existing pulpwood plantations to increase their production.
– According to a new NGO report, this could reverse a declining trend of pulpwood-related deforestation in recent years, with producers seen as likely to clear more forests for plantations in order to meet the demand from the new mills.
– Activists, therefore, have called on the government to provide protection foron all natural forests in Indonesia from such an expansion.

Did you know that stump-tailed macaques can go bald? by Romina Castagnino [23 Mar 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.

Indonesian campaigners triumph against a coal mine in top court by Della Syahni [23 Mar 2021]
– Indonesia’s Supreme Court has rejected a final appeal from a coal company after it and the ministry of energy and mines lost a lawsuit filed by the Indonesian NGO Walhi three years earlier.
– The company, PT Mantimin Coal Mining (MCM), had received an operating permit in South Kalimantan province without completing an environmental permit, which Walhi successfully argued was illegal.
– Walhi urged the ministry of mines to obey and implement the Supreme Court’s decision.
– Walhi has also asked President Joko Widodo to immediately evaluate problematic mining permits in the province, especially after a disastrous flood this year was tied to operating and abandoned mines.

Study calls for a marine reserve in a $500m fishing hotspot in Indonesia by Cassie Freund [23 Mar 2021]
– A new study proposes establishing a marine protected area in Indonesia’s Java Sea-Makassar Strait region, one of the top fishing grounds in the country.
– The study found that much of the commercially valuable snapper and grouper species caught in these shallow waters are juveniles, which compromises the sustainability of the species’ populations and of the $500 million fishery itself.
– Another expert says imposing an MPA in this key fishing area would be a bureaucratic challenge, and instead suggests introducing an annual close season, similar to the one for yellowfin tuna in Indonesia’s Banda Sea.
– The study authors have also called for a change in consumer behavior, noting that the desire for snappers that fit on a plate is what drives the fishing of juveniles.

On the sea’s surface, a wealth of ocean life gets its start, study finds by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [22 Mar 2021]
– A new study found that surface slicks — moving patches of smooth water that form on the sea’s surface — host an array of species in larval form off the west coast of Hawaiʻi Island.
– The researchers identified more than 100 fish species from 54 families inside these slicks, representing 10% of all fish species ever recorded in Hawaiian waters.
– Surface slicks play a pivotal role in the marine ecosystem by providing food and shelter for larvae, and transporting them into different parts of the ocean.
– In addition to larvae, surface slicks accumulate large quantities of plastic, which has been found to be infiltrating the food chain.

Secretive group found to have cleared orangutan habitat in Indonesia: Report by Hans Nicholas Jong [22 Mar 2021]
– A new report has identified the secretive Nusantara Fiber group as being responsible for the most deforestation by the industrial forestry industry in Indonesia in the past five years.
– The group’s six subsidiaries cleared a combined 26,000 hectares (64,200 acres) of forest in Indonesian Borneo from 2016 to 2020 to plant pulpwood, timber and biomass trees, according to the report by the NGO Aidenvironment.
– Little is known about the group, but historical records suggest possible ties to the pulpwood and palm oil conglomerate Royal Golden Eagle; the latter has denied any such connection.
– Aidenvironment has called for a halt to the deforestation, which has cleared habitat of the critically endangered Bornean orangutan, and for greater transparency on the ownership structures of both groups, as well as the application of zero-deforestation policies.

Oceans helped absorb our CFCs. They’re now going to emit them back out by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [22 Mar 2021]
– A new study suggests the ocean will begin emitting CFC-11 by about 2075, and that there will be detectable amounts of the chemical in the atmosphere in the first part of the 22nd century.
– Climate change will likely exacerbate the process, turning the ocean into a source of CFC-11 earlier than expected.
– Since the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, CFC-11 emissions have sharply dropped, but some studies have found that there is still a small amount of CFC-11 being released into the atmosphere each year.
– While the ozone layer is currently not threatened on a global level, experts say that more research is needed to understand future threats.

Growing concern over Okavango oil exploration as community alleges shutout by Jim Tan [22 Mar 2021]
– Public consultations are under way for 450 kilometers (280 miles) of seismic surveys, the next phase of oil exploration in northeastern Namibia.
– Critics say the consultations offer only limited public participation, preventing members of affected communities from attending or understanding the unfolding process.
– There is also concern that a series of incremental environmental impact assessments potentially obscures the full implications of ReconAfrica’s ultimate goal of oil production in this region, which may include fracking.

Pension and endowment funds linked to conflict-plagued oil palm in DRC by John C. Cannon [22 Mar 2021]
– A new report from the Oakland Institute, a policy think tank, reveals that several well-known pension funds, trusts and endowments are invested in a group of oil palm plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo accused of environmental and human rights abuses.
– Plantations et Huileries du Congo (PHC) was recently purchased by two African private equity investors, and several European development banks have invested millions of dollars in the company’s operations.
– Accusations of abuses at the hands of police and plantation-contracted security guards have dogged the company, most recently with the death of a protester in February 2021.

For International Day of Forests, an update on rainforest developments by Rhett A. Butler [19 Mar 2021]
– This Sunday is International Day of Forests as established by the U.N. in 2012.
– In recognition, here’s an update on some of the topics from Mongabay’s “Rainforests: 11 things to watch in 2021” published back in January.

BlackRock must commit to Indigenous rights — not just climate change (commentary) by David Hill [19 Mar 2021]
– BlackRock is an investment management firm reportedly with $8 trillion in assets. It is also well documented for its financing of large-scale mining, fossil fuel production and agribusiness projects across Latin America doing harm to Indigenous communities in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Brazil and elsewhere.
– The company has recently become outspoken about its position to vigorously combat climate change. But even though the United Nations recognizes Indigenous peoples as the best stewards of the environment, guardians of their lands and defenders against climate change, BlackRock remains virtually silent on Indigenous issues.
– If the company’s climate change commitment is to be taken seriously by the world, then BlackRock needs to step up now and adopt an explicit “Forest and Indigenous Rights Policy.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Anglo American won’t rule out mining on Indigenous lands in the Amazon by Maurício Angelo [19 Mar 2021]
– Anglo American has up to 86 applications pending to mine on Indigenous lands in the Brazilian Amazon — a practice that is currently prohibited but could soon be allowed under a controversial bill.
– The company has refused to commit not to mine on Indigenous lands, yet also claims it never intended to do so when it and its two Brazilian subsidiaries filed nearly 300 applications for that very purpose.
– Twenty-three of the applications target the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory in Pará state, home of the Munduruku people, while others target the Badjonkore, Menkragnoti and Kayapó reserves in Pará, and the Kayabi, Apiaká and Escondido reserves in Mato Grosso.
– Indigenous groups have demanded that Anglo American stay off their lands and have denounced the “death bill” that could eventually open up their territories to mining.

We have turned the Amazon into a net greenhouse gas emitter: Study by Liz Kimbrough [19 Mar 2021]
– In a first-of-its-kind effort, scientists have calculated the balance of all natural and human-caused greenhouse gases coming in and out of the Amazon Basin — and found that the region is now a net emitter.
– In a new study, the scientists say human disturbances, and not natural greenhouse gas emissions, are contributing to climate change.
– Carbon dioxide isn’t the only problem; fires and drying out of seasonally flooded forests release large volumes of methane and nitrous oxide, which are even more potent greenhouse gases than CO2.
– The finding suggests forests alone won’t be enough to slow climate change as long as we continue burning fossil fuels.

The art of adaption and survival: A story of Brazil’s Kadiwéu people by Sue Branford and Thais Borges [19 Mar 2021]
– The Kadiwéu Indigenous Land is located in western Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, near the Paraguay border. The protected reserve covers 539,000 hectares (1.33 million acres), spanning both the Cerrado (71%) and Pantanal (29%) biomes.
– The 1,500 Kadiwéu living in the reserve today are descended from larger Indigenous groups decimated by Portuguese and Spanish colonizers. The Kadiwéu were donated their territory by Emperor Dom Pedro II for their role in the 1864-70 War of the Triple Alliance; theirs was the first Indigenous reserve ever established in Brazil.
– The remnant Kadiwéu long seemed headed for extinction, but their culture survived and adapted. Their arts, especially pottery and body painting, were studied by international anthropologists, including Claude Lévi-Strauss. Today, the Kadiwéu are incorporating their designs into international high fashion.
– But the Kadiwéu still face challenges. Their reserve continues to be invaded by illegal loggers and land grabbers. In 2019-20, more than 40% of their reserve burned in the Pantanal biome wildfires — brought on by record drought due to climate change and irresponsible land management by ranchers. COVID-19 also looms.

Video: Communities struggle against palm oil plantations spreading in Brazilian Amazon by [18 Mar 2021]
– Palm oil, a crop synonymous with deforestation and conflict in Southeast Asia, is making inroads in the Brazilian Amazon, where the same issues are now playing out. Indigenous and traditional communities say the plantations in their midst are polluting their rivers and lands, and driving fish and game away.
– Federal prosecutors have pursued Brazil’s leading palm oil exporters in the courts for the past seven years–alleging the companies are contaminating water supplies, poisoning the soil, and harming the livelihoods and health of Indigenous and traditional peoples–charges the companies deny.
– This video was produced as part of an 18-month investigation into the palm oil industry in the Brazilian state of Pará.

As climate change brings more floods, mosquito numbers could swell: Study by Malavika Vyawahare [18 Mar 2021]
– Flooding boosts Aedes aegypti mosquito populations, a new study from Kenya has found.
– With a changing climate and extreme weather like floods expected to become more frequent and intense, this could mean more outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease such as dengue in the coming years.
– Dengue already afflicts millions of people every year, almost all of them in tropical countries, where the A. aegypti mosquito thrives.
– Though the new paper did not find a greater abundance of mosquitos leading to greater infection risk, the link between larger mosquito populations and disease outbreaks warrants further investigation, the authors said.



Cambodians fight the ‘cancer’ eating away at Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary by Gerald Flynn, Phoung Vantha [03/18/2021]
Podcast: Sumatran conservation solutions that empower kids, women and communities by [03/17/2021]
King Coal: How Indonesia became the fossil fuel’s final frontier by Nithin Coca [03/17/2021]
Traditional healers are preserving their knowledge, and with it, the biodiversity of Brazil’s savanna by Sarah Sax [03/12/2021]
Déjà vu as palm oil industry brings deforestation, pollution to Amazon by Karla Mendes [03/12/2021]