Newsletter 2021-04-08


Red flag: Predatory European ships help push Indian Ocean tuna to the brink by Malavika Vyawahare [04/08/2021]

– The Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock is teetering on the verge of collapse and some experts say the EU, which has profited the most from the fishery over decades, should do more to save it.
– EU-controlled ships, including those flagged to smaller coastal states like Seychelles, haul in the lion’s share of Indian Ocean tuna, supplying a market worth billions of dollars.
– Overfishing by these vessels, and the EU’s less-than-ambitious proposal to restore the yellowfin stock, has led to allegations of a “neo-colonial” plunder of resources that many developing nations depend on.
– This is the first story in a two-part series about the effect European tuna fishing has on the economy and marine environment of Seychelles, an archipelagic nation in the Indian Ocean.Though humanity exceeds key ‘planetary boundaries’ there are many solutions by Mike Gaworecki [04/08/2021]

– On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with two recent contributors to our “Covering the Commons” special reporting project who wrote pieces that deal with the concept of Planetary Boundaries and how we can build a more sustainable future.
– Claire Asher tells us about her recent article detailing the nine Planetary Boundaries, the four environmental limits we’ve already exceeded, and the chances 2021 offers us to make transformative change.
– Andrew Willner discusses his recent article on how a “New Age of Sail” might soon transform the international shipping industry, the sixth-largest source of carbon emissions in the world.

Government inaction prompts voluntary REDD+ carbon credit boom in Brazil by Fernanda Wenzel [04/06/2021]

– With the Bolsonaro government largely indifferent to participating in a carbon credit market, and amid intensifying pressure from clients and investors, a voluntary carbon credit market is booming in Brazil. The country, however, still doesn’t have any regulation about how and by whom credits can be issued.
– REDD+ projects that issue carbon credits for reforesting or avoiding deforestation have caught the attention of financial market players. Amid the new carbon credit trading firms, such as financial technology company Moss, and other initiatives, Brazilian projects offer both examples of success and failure in forest preservation.
– REDD+ supporters argue Brazil’s voluntary carbon credit market is allowing small-scale farmers and Indigenous and traditional people to get in the game, benefiting them financially, and helping conserve forests and protect the Earth’s climate.
– But critics say it’s difficult to ensure that forest conservation promises made today can be kept in the future, especially in a nation notorious for illegal deforestation and record forest fires. Also, protecting one area can simply drive the deforestation to another area.

“Activism gives you hope”: Q&A with Wallace Global Fund’s Ellen Dorsey by Rhett A. Butler [04/06/2021]

– Ellen Dorsey, a veteran of the anti-apartheid movement, has used her activist experience and her leadership position at the Wallace Global Fund to push for divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
– The Wallace Global Fund has supported the fossil fuel divestment movement from its inception. By 2021, the movement had propelled divestment of over $14 trillion in assets from universities, pensions cities, faith groups and more.
– Dorsey launched Divest Invest Philanthropy, a coalition of over 200 foundations to divest their endowments from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions. She says foundations can still do more to invest their endowments in climate solutions, and shouldn’t be “hoarding acorns” in this “moment of urgent need.”
– In an interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Dorsey talks about how the divestment movement makes financial sense, the futility of engaging with the fossil fuel industry to drive change from within, and how “everyone has to be an environmental activist if we’re going to save the planet.”

Helping Papuans protect Indonesia’s last frontier: Q&A with Bustar Maitar by Rhett A. Butler [04/05/2021]

– Bustar Maitar’s storied career in environmental activism began in the Indonesian region of Papua, the land of his birth and today the coveted target of extractives and industrial agriculture companies.
– In his time at Greenpeace International, Maitar led a forest conservation campaign that pressured major corporations like Nestlé and Unilever to commit to zero deforestation in their supply chains.
– Maitar’s new venture, the EcoNusa Foundation, brings him back to Papua, where it all began, to push for protecting the forests, waters and other ecosystems of this last pristine frontier in Indonesia.
– In an interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Maitar talks about bridging international NGOs with local communities, ecotourism as a development model for eastern Indonesia, and the revival of the kewang system of traditional environmental stewardship in the Maluku Islands.

Life and new limbs: Creative thinking, 3D printers save injured wildlife by Laurel Neme [04/05/2021]

– Prosthetics for injured animals are becoming increasingly possible and accessible thanks to 3D printing. Historically, artificial devices for wildlife have been expensive and very time-consuming to produce. 3D printing is changing that calculus by making it easier to design and build better-fitting prosthetics.
– A team of dedicated caregivers with vision, creativity and persistence is often the common thread that is key to helping injured animals.- While 3D printing of animal prosthetics allows for multiple iterations that helps improve the device so that the animal can function more normally, size and materials can limit their use.
– Today, the use of 3D printers to aid animals is expanding beyond prosthetics, with veterinary anesthesia masks for small primates and other experimental uses being tried.

Rare captive-bred crocodiles develop new, ‘odd’ habits in Philippine wild by Erwin M. Mascariñas [04/02/2021]

– Crocodile experts in the Philippines have discovered new habits among the critically endangered Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) that could help them better understand how to protect and repopulate the species in the wild.
– Since 2013, the Philippines has taken steps to reintroduce captive-bred juvenile crocs into the wild.
– Eight years on, experts have discovered that the crocodiles can climb steep hilly slopes and that they’re nesting several months out from the previously understood breeding period.
– Conservationists have also welcomed two juvenile Philippine crocodiles bred at Cologne Zoo in Germany, the first of a batch of 12 from an international captive-breeding program.



Captive lions kept in ‘stressful conditions’ create perfect recipe for disease, experts say by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [08 Apr 2021]
– Researchers have identified that captive and wild lions carry 63 pathogens that could result in about 83 diseases and clinical symptoms.
– Drawing on this research, conservationists have named five diseases that have the potential to spill over into the human population and impact public health: human ehrlichiosis, human babesiosis, toxocariasis, trichinosis, and African sleeping sickness.
– Animal welfare advocates say that captive lion facilities in South Africa tend to keep lions in unsanitary, stressful conditions that provide the perfect environment for disease.
– With this in mind, conservationists are advocating for the South African government to shut down the captive lion industry.

As Brazil’s military pulls out of the Amazon, its legacy is in question by Caio de Freitas Paes [08 Apr 2021]
– On April 30, the Brazilian government will officially end Operation Green Brazil, a military-led campaign that started in August 2019 to combat the peak of illegal fires in the Amazon.
– In that time, the military has gained increasing power in environmental policies implemented in the Amazon, even undercutting federal environmental agencies in their enforcement work and filling key positions in the agencies.
– Experts have criticized the operation’s high costs — five times higher than the budget for the environmental protection agency — which has gone mainly into enforcement in already demarcated or registered areas while ignoring disputed lands, which are more susceptible to illegal exploitation.
– At the same time, the federal government is implementing its national development plan for the Amazon, which focuses on expanding industrial activity, citing “modernity and progress” as “the order of the day.”

Civil society’s push to advance conservation in China: Q&A with Jinfeng Zhou by Rhett A. Butler [07 Apr 2021]
– Efforts to advance biodiversity conservation in China is generally not well understood in the West. But with China set to host the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) this October, China’s conservation initiatives are likely to receive more attention.
– One of the most established NGOs in China’s conservation sector is the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF), which was founded in 1985 and now operates several programs ranging from public interest litigation to community conservation areas to environmental education.
– As secretary general of CBCGDF, Jinfeng Zhou has played a central role in CBCGDF’s work around the CBD and beyond. Zhou says that China has been doing “an impressive amount of work” on conservation domestically in recent years.
– In an interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Zhou talks about shifting mindsets in China, the impact of the pandemic on efforts to combat the wildlife trade, and Western misconceptions about China’s relationship with nature and the environment.

Reveling in complexity: Remembering a man who ‘truly lived’ conservation (commentary) by Gregory McCann [07 Apr 2021]
– Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Michael “Elmo” Drilling had a career in conservation that took him across the world.
– From the jungles of Indonesia to the swamps Mindanao in the Philippines and beyond, he specialized in agroforestry–a farming technique that increases farmer resiliency and biodiversity while sequestering carbon–by incorporating woody perennials like trees into farms.
– He died suddenly in January 2021 at the age of 66 doing what he loved best, working outdoors with trees, and his friends and colleagues remember him in this feature for Mongabay.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Mongabay’s most popular articles in March 2021 by [07 Apr 2021]
– During the month of March, Mongabay published more than 400 stories, which attracted nearly 11 million pageviews, across its bureaus.
– Here’s a look at the ten most visited on the global English site during the month.
– Interviews and camera trap-related stories accounted for half of the top ten.

‘Opening the lid’ on toilet innovation: Q&A with author Chelsea Wald by John C. Cannon [06 Apr 2021]
– A new book, “Pipe Dreams: The Urgent Global Quest to Transform the Toilet,” published on April 6, looks at the environmental and public health case for developing better solutions to deal with human waste.
– Science writer Chelsea Wald examines the impacts of human sanitation on our climate, ecosystems and each other around the world, from rural communities to cities swelling with human populations.
– In this “quest,” Wald finds solvable problems, if society as a whole can come together to find solutions tailored to specific contexts.

Beef giant JBS vows to go deforestation-free — 14 years from now by Aurora Solá [06 Apr 2021]
– JBS, a giant company implicated in multiple cases of large-scale forest clearing in Brazil, recently made a commitment to achieve zero deforestation across its global supply chain by 2035. Environmentalists argue this pledge is grossly insufficient.
– In a new Soy and Cattle Deforestation Tracker, JBS scores just a single point out of 100. Its nearest competitors, Minerva and Marfrig, have scores of 46/100 and 40/100 respectively.
– Tagging and tracking systems to ensure transparency along the entire beef supply have long been proposed, but JBS has resisted disclosing its full list of suppliers.
– Under present conditions, Brazil is losing forest cover at the fastest rate in more than a decade, and this deforestation is driven largely by the meatpacking industry.

Spiny new chameleon species described from Bale Mountains of Ethiopia by Liz Kimbrough [06 Apr 2021]
– Researchers have described a new chameleon species from the Bale Mountains of south-central Ethiopia and say it’s likely that more will emerge.
– Wolfgang Böhme’s Ethiopian chameleon is around 15 centimeters (6 inches) long and has a distinct crest of large spiny scales along its back and tail.
– It lives in bushes and small trees, often at the edges of the forest in the Bale Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot that’s also home to the endemic Ethiopian wolf as well as lions, leopards and warthogs.
– The conservation status of the new chameleon is unknown, but due to its small distribution range and human-caused habitat disturbance and agriculture in the area, it is likely that it will be classified as threatened.

Australia’s pivot to plantations may be too late for nearly extinct parrots by Nick Rodway [05 Apr 2021]
– Critically endangered swift parrots are threatened by ongoing deforestation in the Australian state of Tasmania, with recent estimates suggesting there may be fewer than 300 left in the wild.
– Under legal agreements between state and federal governments, forestry operations are exempt from seeking federal environmental approvals in Australia, unlike other industries.
– Environmentalist and former leader of the Australian Greens, Bob Brown, recently issued a legal challenge to forestry legislation, in a case centred around threats to swift parrot habitat. Brown’s conservation foundation argued that the forestry agreement between the Tasmanian and federal governments was invalid, which was dismissed by the Federal Court.
– While Brown and his foundation seek leave for an appeal in the High Court, the future of native forest harvesting in Australia is in question as states transition towards plantation products over native timber.

Palm oil waste is latest item declared non-hazardous by Indonesia by Hans Nicholas Jong [05 Apr 2021]
– A powdered clay used to clarify palm oil has been removed from Indonesia’s list of hazardous wastes, prompting warnings from environmental activists about an increase in dumping of untreated waste.
– The delisting by the government follows years of lobbying by businesses who say the treatment costs are onerous and want to be allowed to sell the waste, known as spent bleaching earth (SBE), to cement producers and the construction industry.
– Environmentalists say the delisting will lead to laxer safeguards and more haphazard management of the waste.
– The regulation that removed SBE from the list of hazardous waste also delisted the ash left over from coal burning, again at the behest of industry.

Java’s mangroves pay a high price for stopping plastic flowing out to sea by Julia John [05 Apr 2021]
– Mangroves are known to trap plastic waste and stop it entering the sea, but this defense comes at a high cost to mangrove forests themselves, a new study shows.
– Researchers working in Indonesia’s Central Java province found plastic carpeting half of the mangrove floor across their study area, covering roots and sediment layers and starving the trees of oxygen.
– The plastic accumulation could also harm mollusks, crabs and other soil-dwelling organisms forming the coastal food web’s foundations, which could trigger cascading impacts for larger animals.
– The study authors called for a reduction in plastic waste through education and policies such as bans on single-use plastic packaging.

Frustration over light penalties for coal mine that polluted Indonesian river by Della Syahni [05 Apr 2021]
– In February, a coal-slurry spill in a river in Indonesian Borneo killed thousands of fish and forced downstream municipalities to cut off water supplies.
– The local government issued a decree requesting that the company repair embankments, establish a system of inspections, develop a rapid response plan, and replace the dead fish.
– Activists say the official response is too light, noting that Indonesian law allows for criminal prosecution for environmental destruction, as well as penalties such as revoking mining licenses.

In Malaysia, the fate of a peat forest hinges on a powerful state official by Fatima Qureshi [05 Apr 2021]
– The government of Malaysia’s Selangor state appears intent on rescinding protected status for the remnants of a once-sprawling peat forest that’s home to Indigenous people and threatened wildlife.
– It wants to allow a “mixed development project” on 931 hectares (2,300 acres) of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve (KLNFR), which has drawn widespread opposition from Indigenous people, environmental organizations, and a former environment minister.
– Environmental activists point to prevailing regulations that they say should shield the area from being degazetted, but state laws largely favor the powerful leader of Selangor, Amirudin Shari.
– As chief minister, Shari heads both the state government and the board of one of the companies pushing for the development project, and has so far stood his ground against critics of the plan.

Deforestation rises in Colombia’s Chiribiquete National Park as cattle invade by Antonio José Paz Cardona [02 Apr 2021]
– Chiribiquete National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest continental protected area in Colombia, comprising more than 4 million hectares (40,000 square kilometers or 17,000 sq miles) of land in the Colombian Amazon.
– For the past several years, the Colombian Amazon has been hit harder by deforestation than any other region in the country, according to the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEAM).
– Satellite data from the University of Maryland registered an “unusually high” number of deforestation alerts in Colombia’s Chiribiquete National Park in January.
– A report by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) revealed that over 1,000 hectares inside Chiribiquete National Park were deforested between September 2020 and February 2021.

Empowering Indigenous peoples crucial to climate, biodiversity crises: Study by Dimitri Selibas [02 Apr 2021]
– A new report by the U.N. based on a review of more than 300 studies over the last 20 years argues that Indigenous and tribal communities in Latin America and the Caribbean are the best guardians of the region’s forests.
– Supporting these communities is highly cost-effective, with titled Indigenous territories in the Bolivian, Brazilian and Colombian Amazon avoiding between 42.8 million and 59.7 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year — valued at $25 billion to $34 billion and the equivalent of taking between 9 million and 12.6 million vehicles out of circulation for one year.
– There are enormous potential savings considering that forests in Indigenous territories contain almost 30% of the carbon stored in Latin America’s forests and 14% of the carbon in the world’s tropical forests.
– There are already many examples of empowered Indigenous communities that are governing their territories, and Indigenous peoples’ organizations argue that the most effective means to funding climate and biodiversity projects would be working with and investing directly in these communities.

Exposing organized crime in the Amazon: Q&A with Robert Muggah of the Igarapé Institute by [02 Apr 2021]
– Relentless deforestation has pushed the Amazon to the brink of an ecological shift from rainforest to savannah with potentially devastating consequences for climate change and biodiversity.
– Home to most of the world’s tropical forest land, almost all logging in the Amazon is thought to be illegal, yet few penalties are imposed on offenders.
– To address the culture of impunity, a new data visualization platform, Ecocrime, has been developed by the Igarapé Institute, which seeks to expose the organized criminal networks that sustain illicit trade in the Amazon.

Drinking coffee in the U.S.? Worry about forests in Vietnam, study says by [02 Apr 2021]
– The U.S.’s thirst for coffee drives forest loss in central Vietnam, while Germany’s craving for cocoa is doing the same in West Africa, a landmark study that tracks the drivers of deforestation across borders found.
– The paper foregrounds international trade as a culprit for deforestation by calculating countries’ deforestation footprints based on their consumption and trade patterns.
– The world’s wealthiest countries are, in essence, outsourcing deforestation by consuming goods that pose a high risk of deforestation, especially in tropical countries, many of which are biodiversity hotspots.
– More data is needed to link clearly the demand for specific commodities in one country and its impact on forest loss in other countries, the study authors said.

Coffee sustainability check: Q&A with Sjoerd Panhuysen of Coffee Barometer report by [01 Apr 2021]
– Coffee enjoys a reputation as a sustainable crop, but for many of the people who cultivate it, it’s a “poverty crop” that’s economically unviable, says Sjoerd Panhuysen, lead author of the annual Coffee Barometer report for Ethos Agriculture.
– Panhuysen says that while the coffee industry as a whole is booming, most of the profits are concentrated at the retail end of the chain, with exporters making less than a tenth of the revenue.
– Another inequity is that while women perform much of the production activities, men tend to benefit more from training in sustainable production practices, income and other benefits derived from coffee sales, he says.
– In this Q&A with Mongabay, Panhuysen identifies the growth regions for sustainable coffee, the need for clear indicators of sustainability progress, and the importance of developing solutions from the bottom up.

Two new species of endangered screech owls identified from Brazil by Liz Kimbrough [01 Apr 2021]
– Two new species of tiny screech owls from the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests in Brazil have been described by science.
– Prior to the discovery, the new owl species were grouped together with two other South American species, but by closely examining their calls, DNA, and appearance, scientists determined that there were enough differences to classify two new species.
– Although the owls are new to science, they are at risk of extinction, and will likely be classified as critically endangered.

Cerrado’s maned wolves, squeezed by humans, may be picking up mange from dogs by Dimas Marques/Fauna News [01 Apr 2021]
– Eight maned wolves losing their fur have been seen along the border between the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais in Brazil in recent years.
– They were diagnosed with sarcoptic mange, or canine scabies, an infestation by a burrowing mite that also occurs in domestic dogs.
– Researchers suspect the infestation is the result of contact with domestic dogs, which increasingly come into contact with wildlife as human settlements and activities eat into the wolf’s habitat.
– The transformation of the species’ native Cerrado habitat for soy cultivation and cattle ranching, combined with the clearing of dense vegetation in the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests, have pushed the maned wolf into these latter landscapes in recent years.

East Africa deploys huge volumes of ‘highly hazardous’ pesticides against locust plague by Leopold Salzenstein [01 Apr 2021]
– More than 95% of pesticides now being used in East Africa to fight locust swarms are scientifically proven to cause harm to humans and other organisms such as birds and fish.
– Half of the anti-locust pesticides delivered in East Africa since the beginning of the infestation in late 2019 contain chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to brain damage in children and fetuses, which is banned in the EU.
– Experts including a former FAO official concede the pesticides being used “are not pleasant things,” but say the lack of safer alternatives and the intensity of the locust plague leave them with little choice.

Mixed fates for captive elephants sent back to villages amid Thai tourism collapse by Carolyn Cowan [01 Apr 2021]
– With tourism collapsing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2,700 captive elephants used for tourism purposes in Thailand faced a crisis.
– Many elephants and their keepers trekked back to their owners’ native villages, where it was hoped they could forage naturally. Others remained in camps, often in chains and with fewer staff to care for them.
– The welfare of elephants in villages depends greatly on the amount of intact forest available to them. But experts say welfare monitoring is difficult.
– Campaigners are calling on the Thai government and tourism industry to make systemic changes to improve conditions and reduce the number of elephants used for tourism.



East Africa deploys huge volumes of ‘highly hazardous’ pesticides against locust plague by Leopold Salzenstein [04/01/2021]
Mixed fates for captive elephants sent back to villages amid Thai tourism collapse by Carolyn Cowan [04/01/2021]
‘What other country would do this to its people?’ Cambodian land grab victims seek int’l justice by Gerald Flynn, Phoung Vantha [04/01/2021]
Madagascar: Businesses drive disappearance of a wetland ‘reed forest’ by Rivonala Razafison [03/31/2021]
In Sumatra, a vulnerable, ‘mythical’ wild goat lives an unknown life by Ian Morse [03/31/2021]
Global forest loss increases in 2020 by Rhett A. Butler [03/31/2021]
Brazil prosecutors cite Mongabay probe in new legal battle against palm oil firms by Karla Mendes [03/26/2021]
Chinese ‘fishing fleet’ anchored on Philippine reef raises tensions by Leilani Chavez [03/26/2021]