Newsletter 2021-07-01



The conservation gains we’ve made are still fragile, says Aileen Lee of the Moore Foundation by Rhett A. Butler [07/01/2021]

– When Aileen Lee took on the mantle of chief program officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, she brought substantial experience as a management consultant to a nonprofit that’s the largest private donor of Amazon conservation efforts.
– Like management consultants, she says, grant makers “will never be as close to the realities of the problems” as the groups they help, but can still help them “access resources, knowledge, and networks that might not otherwise be available to them.”
– Lee hails groundbreaking efforts in conservation and philanthropy, including the adoption of technology and greater engagement with a wider range of stakeholders, including Indigenous-led conservation groups.
– In an interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Lee discusses the Moore Foundation’s achievements in the Amazon, the impacts of recent setbacks to that work, and the role of young people in forging the future they want.

‘I am Indigenous, not pardo’: Push for self-declaration in Brazil’s census by Karla Mendes [06/30/2021]

– Brazil’s 2010 census was the first to map out the presence of Indigenous people throughout the whole country, but still maintained the term pardo, for a mixed-race individual, that Indigenous activists say has long been used to render Indigenous identities “invisible.”
– The next census is due in 2022, and activists and leaders are mounting a campaign to get all Indigenous Brazilians to self-declare as Indigenous.
– Getting a more accurate picture of the number and distribution of Indigenous people, especially in urban areas, is key to informing public policies geared toward their specific needs, experts say.
– “Everything is Indigenous,” says Júlio César Pereira de Freitas Güató, one of the Indigenous leaders promoting the campaign. “All the rest is invasion.”

Podcast: Connecting kids and ourselves to nature by Mike Gaworecki [06/30/2021]

– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we discuss the latest research showing how important it is to connect kids to nature and educate them about the environment.
– We’re joined by author and journalist Richard Louv, who created the ‘nature deficit disorder’ concept in 2005 to facilitate discussion of the impacts our disconnectedness from nature has on human health and wellbeing. His latest book is Our Wild Calling: How Connecting With Animals Can Transform Our Lives — and Save Theirs.
– We’re also joined by Megan Strauss, an editor with Mongabay Kids, who tells us about how the site delivers the news and inspiration from nature’s frontline for young readers and discusses the importance of environmental education.

In Rio de Janeiro, Indigenous people fight to undo centuries of erasure by Karla Mendes [06/30/2021]

– Rio de Janeiro holds a special place in Brazil’s history, but many of its residents are unaware of the city’s Indigenous heritage — from the names of iconic places like Ipanema and Maracanã, to the Indigenous slave labor that built some of its most recognizable structures.
– Nearly 7,000 Indigenous people live in Rio, the fourth-biggest population among Brazilian cities; a unique interactive map by Mongabay shows how they’re spread across the city, as well as their living conditions and ethnic groups.
– Despite their presence, and Rio’s famed diversity and laidback culture, Indigenous people in the city continue to face prejudice and a “silencing” of their traditions and culture that they attribute to centuries of efforts to erase them and make them invisible.
– But Indigenous people are pushing back, agitating to get their rights on the political agenda, and working through academia to unearth the Indigenous history of the city that has long been hidden.

In Boa Vista, Indigenous Brazilians retake their identity through education by Nayra Wladimila [06/29/2021]

– The city of Boa Vista near Brazil’s borders with Venezuela and Guyana is home to Indigenous groups whose ancestral range don’t recognize national boundaries, and who still continue to flow into Brazil from crisis-stricken Venezuela.
– The colonization of Boa Vista by Europeans forced the Indigenous inhabitants off their lands on the banks of the Rio Branco, and resentments simmer today over the return of some of those lands to the original owners.
– The land conflicts also killed off the use of the many ethnic languages spoken in the region, but community-led movements are seeking to bring them back, including in learning materials published by the local university.
– Higher education is seen as a life-changing opportunity for Indigenous students, not just for their personal growth but also for the avenues it opens up to advocate for and empower the wider Indigenous community.

Reckoning with elitism and racism in conservation: Q&A with Colleen Begg by Rhett A. Butler [06/28/2021]

– Long-running concerns about discrimination, colonial legacy, privilege, and power dynamics in conservation have come to the forefront with the recent resurgence of the social justice movement. But will this movement lead to lasting change in the sector?
– South African conservationist Colleen Begg says that meaningful transformation will require dedicated and sustained efforts to drive real change in conservation.
– Begg, who co-founded both the Niassa Carnivore Project in Mozambique and Women for the Environment, Africa, says that conservationists in positions of power need to open themselves to criticism and change, while creating pathways for new leaders and ideas to come forward.
– Begg spoke about these issues and more in a recent conversation with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.



Fire season intensifies in the Brazilian Amazon, feeding off deforestation by Liz Kimbrough [01 Jul 2021]
– Twenty-four major fires have burned in the Brazilian Amazon so far this year, all of them set on land previously deforested in 2020, until this week when the first major blaze was set on land cleared in 2021.
– Experts are expecting this to be a bad year for fires, owing to a historic drought, high levels of deforestation, and a lack of funding for environmental law enforcement.
– President Jair Bolsonaro signed a decree on June 23 to send Brazilian soldiers into the Amazon to curb deforestation (which often precedes fires), but one expert calls this a “smokescreen” that would allow deforestation to continue.
– Deforestation rates have been higher under Bolsonaro than any past president: in 2020, Brazil lost a Central Park-sized area of forest every two hours, and on the day with the highest rate of deforestation, July 31, an estimated 2 million trees were cut down.

Converting biowaste to biogas could power cleaner sustainable Earth future by Marina Martinez [01 Jul 2021]
– Biogas made from organic materials — including food and agricultural waste, and animal or human manure — is a renewable, sustainable, affordable and inclusive energy alternative becoming increasingly available to households, farms, municipalities and nations.
– Converting biowaste into biogas, via anaerobic digestion technology, is a strategy that could contribute to multiple U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement. Biodigesters are already in use to meet a range of energy needs around the world.
– Current limiting factors to the sector’s growth include technical and adaptive challenges, lack of awareness in many regions, and unsupportive policy instruments that can discourage biogas adoption.
– Ahead of COP26, the critically important U.N. climate meeting coming this November, the World Biogas Association is urging governments to integrate biogas into their Nationally Determined Contributions — their voluntary emissions reduction targets, as agreed to under the Paris Agreement.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for July 2021 by [01 Jul 2021]
– As heat waves hit all over the world, we’re bringing you environment and conservation videos you can add to your watchlist while you’re trying to stay cool in the shade.
– In the last month, Mongabay’s video teams have explored the intersection between tech and animal conservation, and community-led initiatives to protect natural spaces.
– Add these videos to your watchlist for the month — you don’t need a Netflix, Prime or Disney+ subscription; watch these for free on YouTube.

With growing pressures, can the Philippines sustain its marine reserves? by Leilani Chavez [30 Jun 2021]
– The Philippines pioneered a community-based approach to marine protected area management in 1974, which balanced conservation and community livelihood. This became the blueprint of the more than 1,500 marine reserves in the country today.
– While the government depends on its MPA system in protecting its seascapes and meeting its international commitments, research suggest only a third of the country’s MPAs are well-managed and only protect around 1% of the country’s coral reefs.
– With management and resource challenges, these MPAs are threatened by overfishing and illegal fishing practices as well as the worsening impacts of climate change.
– Experts say strengthening the country’s larger MPA systems, synchronizing conservation with fisheries management policies, adapting newer models, and creating a network of MPAs may help the country buffer the impacts of climate change on its rich marine resources.

Monks and wildlife come under pressure from Malaysian cement company by Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [30 Jun 2021]
– Since last December, cement manufacturer Associated Pan Malaysia Cement has been looking to evict dozens of monks and devotees from the Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery in the limestone hills of Mount Kanthan in Malaysia’s Perak state.
– APMC calls the monks unlawful trespassers on company land; the monks say the company consented to their occupying the land for decades.
– Much of Mount Kanthan has already been quarried by APMC, and the untouched southern section where the monastery is located is also home to highly endemic and critically endangered flora and fauna.
– The monks and devotees are petitioning for the Perak state government to officially designate the monastery as a place of worship and Mount Kanthan as a national heritage site.

Cambodia’s first giant muntjac sighting highlights key mountain habitat by Carolyn Cowan [30 Jun 2021]
– Camera trap surveys in Virachey National Park in northeast Cambodia have recorded the country’s first sightings of a critically endangered deer, the large-antlered muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis).
– The surveys also recorded a suite of other increasingly rare species, including critically endangered Sunda pangolins and red-shanked douc langurs and endangered Asian elephants and dholes.
– Located in the Annamite mountain range, Virachey National Park is remote and rugged, which affords wildlife some protection from human encroachment.
– Poaching and logging have been hugely problematic in Virachey National Park in the past; experts say stronger protection is needed to safeguard its unique and diverse wildlife.

Study warns of impacts of unregulated trade in Indonesian porcupines by Basten Gokkon [30 Jun 2021]
– The unmonitored illegal trade in porcupines across Indonesia has prompted calls from conservationists for stricter protection of the species’ population in the wild.
– A new study examining seizure data of porcupines, their parts and derivatives in Indonesia has found more than 450 of the animals in nearly 40 incidents between January 2013 and June 2020
– Indonesia is home five porcupine species, but only one is currently protected by under the law.
– The study’s author has recommended that all porcupines be categorized as protected species under Indonesian wildlife laws and listed under CITES to monitor the impacts of the trade on the wild population.

Climate, biodiversity & farmers benefit from rubber agroforestry: report by Erik Hoffner [29 Jun 2021]
– Rubber plantations have been a main historical cause of tropical deforestation, and are generally responsible for a range of environmental and social ills.
– But rubber grown in agroforestry systems–in combination with fruit and timber trees, useful shrubs, medicines, and herbs–is shown by a new report to increase ecosystem services and biodiversity, while sequestering carbon and diversifying farmers’ incomes.
– Additional to providing shelter and forage for a range of species, rubber trees are not shown to suffer yield declines due to implementation of the more sustainable method.
– Mongabay interviewed the three authors of the new report, “Rubber agroforestry–feasibility at scale,” to learn more.

Without room to expand, mountain gorillas’ population growth could backfire by Ini Ekott [29 Jun 2021]
– Mountain gorilla populations have grown steadily in recent decades, thanks largely to intensive conservation efforts in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– But the species’ entire population is confined to protected parks in these countries, with limited room to expand, and as the population has grown, so too has population density.
– A new study that tracked the incidence and intensity of parasitic infections across the mountain gorilla’s range suggests that greater population density correlates with greater susceptibility to parasites and other health problems.

Beef industry causes deforestation in Colombia’s Chiribiquete National Park by Tatiana Pardo Ibarra [29 Jun 2021]
– A recent investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency found that some Colombian supermarkets may be selling beef from cattle raised in Chiribiquete National Park.
– There are large gaps in the traceability of the beef produced in Colombia.
– The Colombian Agricultural Institute is responsible for vaccinating all 28 million head of cattle in Colombia and has important information that could help authorities design effective strategies to prevent cattle ranching in natural protected areas.

NGOs call for alternative routes for Bornean road to avoid wildlife habitat by Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [29 Jun 2021]
– Coalition Humans Habitats Highways has urged authorities in the Malaysian state of Sabah to adopt alternative routes to a 13-kilometer (8-mile) stretch of the Pan Borneo Highway.
– That particular stretch cuts through a protected forest reserve and overlaps extensively with heavily used elephant migration paths.
– Experts say constructing the highway as currently planned would increase wildlife-vehicle collisions, including deadly accidents involving elephants, as well as human-elephant conflict.
– It would also derail progress made by local community efforts encouraging humans and elephants to coexist in harmony.

How many times a day does a waterbuck need to drink? Candid Animal Cam by Romina Castagnino [29 Jun 2021]
– Every two weeks, 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.

Forest loss in mountains of Southeast Asia accelerates at ‘shocking’ pace by Carolyn Cowan [28 Jun 2021]
– Southeast Asia is home to roughly half of the world’s tropical mountain forests, which support massive carbon stores and tremendous biodiversity, including a host of species that occur nowhere else on the planet.
– A new study reveals that mountain forest loss in Southeast Asia is accelerating at an unprecedented rate throughout the region: approximately 189,000 square kilometers (73,000 square miles) of highland forest was converted to cropland during the first two decades of this century.
– Mountain forest loss has far-reaching implications for people who depend directly on forest resources and downstream communities.
– Since higher-elevation forests also store comparatively more carbon than lowland forests, their loss will make it much harder to meet international climate objectives.

Humans are biggest factor defining elephant ranges across Africa, study finds by Jim Tan [28 Jun 2021]
– A recently published study that analyzed movement data from 229 elephants has found that human influence and protected areas are main factors determining the size of elephant ranges.
– Protected areas alone are not large enough to provide space for elephants, and elephants living outside them are under pressure from expanding human populations.
– Finding ways for elephants to coexist with humans, including through proper planning of wildlife areas and corridors, will be key to ensuring that elephant populations have a future.

Philippine forest turtles stand a ‘good chance’ after first wild release by Leilani Chavez [28 Jun 2021]
– Researchers released a pair of Philippine forest turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis) on the island of Palawan in February, they announced this month, part of a batch of only 17 to have been successfully bred under human care in the Philippines since 2018.
– After tracking the turtles for three months following the release, the researchers say there are indications the animals can mature and reproduce if released within guarded and protected areas.
– The turtles are notoriously difficult to breed in human care and the conservation group that carried out the breeding program took 10 years before recording its first successful hatchling in 2018.
– Endemic to the Philippines, the forest turtle is threatened by poaching for the exotic pet trade, with wild-caught specimens often passed off as captive-born ones by private traders, despite the great difficulty in breeding this species in captivity.

Sri Lanka banks on the ocean to chart a green path toward a blue economy by Dennis Mombauer [28 Jun 2021]
– Coastal and marine ecosystems in Sri Lanka provide a variety of services that are vital to coastal communities and the environment.
– To protect these ecosystems while addressing national development needs, Sri Lanka is well-positioned to invest in a “blue economy” that focuses on economic growth that incorporates and protects the environment and ecosystem services.
– Officials and experts have identified a huge potential to enhance livelihoods and value chains in Sri Lanka’s coastal and marine sector without destroying local ecosystems, based on technical expertise and guidance.
– If development of the coastal sector can be achieved in harmony with ecosystem growth and conservation, proponents say, this will enhance Sri Lanka’s capacities for climate change mitigation and adaptation, supporting the resilience of its population and its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Deforestation of endangered wildlife habitat continues to surge in southern Myanmar by Morgan Erickson-Davis [25 Jun 2021]
– The Tanintharyi region of Myanmar is home to unique and endangered species, but its forests are being cleared.
– Tanintharyi’s Kawthoung district lost 14% of its primary forest between 2002 and 2020.
– New satellite data show deforestation activity spiking in many parts of Kawthoung, including in some of the last known habitat of critically endangered Gurney’s pittas.

Sri Lanka zoo lion contracts COVID-19 as reports of animal infections rise by Malaka Rodrigo [25 Jun 2021]
– Thor, an 11-year-old lion at Sri Lanka’s national zoo, has been isolated after PCR tests showed he was infected with COVID-19.
– Several lions at zoos in neighboring India have also reportedly contracted the virus, with at least two dying.
– In the case of Thor, zoo authorities in Sri Lanka suspect the lion contracted the virus from a zookeeper; subsequent tests showed a gardener at the zoo had COVID-19.
– With the increasing threat of COVID-19 impacting both wild and farm animal populations, Sri Lanka is monitoring suspected cases of animal deaths.

Brazil continues to lose an entire generation of Indigenous leaders to COVID-19 by Jennifer Ann Thomas [25 Jun 2021]
– With scant support from the federal government, Indigenous Brazilians are taking matters in their own hands when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
– For many of these communities, however, decimated by centuries of massacre and disease, the avoidable deaths of the few remaining elders mean an incalculable loss of culture and cultural memory.
– Aruká Juma, the last elder of his Juma people, died from COVID-19 in February after being treated with a cocktail of drugs promoted by the president but not proven to be effective against the illness.
– Decades of inadequate health care for Indigenous communities have also left them with comorbidities that make them particularly susceptible to death from COVID-19.

A startup deploys black soldier flies in the Philippines’ war on waste by Bong S. Sarmiento [25 Jun 2021]
– In Davao City, in the southern Philippines, a startup has introduced the use of black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) to address kitchen waste.
– The flies are fed kitchen waste, turning the food waste into compost, while their larvae, rich in protein, is touted as alternative feed for livestock.
– Proponents say insect protein is a much better alternative than commercial livestock feed made with fishmeal, associated with depleting fish populations, or soybeans, linked to deforestation and extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers.
– Treating kitchen waste with black soldier flies is also being touted as a cleaner alternative to municipal plans to incinerate the waste to generate electricity, which would contribute to air pollution.

In Colombia, end of war meant start of runaway deforestation, study finds by Nicolás Bustamante Hernández [25 Jun 2021]
– A new study analyzes the changes in forest cover in Colombia before and after the signing of a peace agreement in 2016 between the government and armed guerrillas.
– The authors found that between 1988-2012 the forest area transformed to agriculture amounted to 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres), but that in the much briefer post-conflict period of 2013-2019, the pace of conversion surged, with 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) turned into farmland.
– The researchers also identified a direct relationship between violent events and the loss of forest cover.

Development of third Sumatran rhino sanctuary advances to save species by Junaidi Hanafiah [25 Jun 2021]
– The development of a highly anticipated sanctuary for the Sumatran rhinoceros in Indonesia’s Aceh province is advancing as part of conservation efforts to save the nearly extinct species.
– The planned facility will be the third in a network of Sumatran Rhino Sanctuaries to breed the species in captivity.
– Its location in the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra means it will have access to what is believed to be the largest population of the critically endangered species.
– Indonesia is now the only home in the world for Sumatran rhinos, a species decimated by a series of factors, from poaching to habitat loss and, more recently, insufficient births.

Decades of research back the value of marine reserves to Kenya’s fisheries by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [24 Jun 2021]
– A 24-year study conducted by Tim McClanahan looked at two different interventions to address unsustainable fishing practices in artisanal fisheries along Kenya’s coast: gear restrictions, and a marine reserve that prohibited all fishing activities.
– It found both methods showed an increase of catch per unit effort (CPUE), which indirectly measures the number of target species that were caught.
– Landing sites adjacent to the marine reserve maintained steady total yields, while the gear-restricted sites declined over the study period.
– While marine reserves were shown to generate more long-term benefits, outside experts say they are not always an ideal solution and that other approaches may be more appropriate in managing fisheries.

Timber troubles fell Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister by Juliana Ennes [24 Jun 2021]
– Three weeks after being named in a second probe into alleged illegal exports of Amazon timber and facing growing opposition, Brazil’s controversial environment minister, Ricardo Salles, was ousted on June 23 “upon request,” as announced in the country’s official gazette.
– Despite his controversial remarks and heavily criticized policies that fueled deforestation rates in the Amazon, Salles enjoyed relative stability in the government, until a month ago when the legal troubles flared up.
– In a press conference in Brasília, Salles said he was resigning to allow the facilitation of the country’s environmental negotiations on the international stage and in the national agenda, which will require Brazil to “have a strong union of interests.”
– Salles has been replaced by Joaquim Alves Pereira Leite, who has been in the environment ministry since 2019 and held a board seat for more than 20 years at an agribusiness lobbying institute. While some politicians have welcomed his appointment, others have called for a shift in Brazil’s environmental policies.



Under assault at home, Indigenous leaders get a violent welcome in Brasília by Fernanda Wenzel [06/24/2021]
In Brazil’s most Indigenous city, prejudice and diversity go hand in hand by Ana Amelia Hamdan [06/22/2021]
In Scotland, the rewilding movement looks to the past to plan its future by Kieran Dodds [06/21/2021]
With Indigenous rights at stake in Brasília, a territory is attacked in Paraty by Ana Ionova [06/18/2021]