Newsletter 2021-08-05



Address risky human activities now or face new pandemics, scientists warn by Sharon Guynup [08/03/2021]

– The new, highly-contagious Delta variant — spread with the ease of chickenpox — is causing COVID-19 cases to skyrocket across the globe as health officials respond with alarm. “The war has changed,” said a recent internal U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) document.
– Globally, numerous infectious diseases are being transmitted between wildlife, livestock and humans at escalating rates, including outbreaks of COVID-19, Ebola, dengue, HIV and others, as the threat of new emergent zoonotic diseases grows ever greater. The cost is huge in lives lost and ruined economies.
– The driver: human activities, particularly intrusion into wild landscapes and eating and trading wild animals. Bringing people, domestic and wild animals into unnatural proximity exposes all to pathogens for which they lack immunity. International travel and a booming global wildlife trade quickly spread viruses.
– Experts say that a “One Health” approach is urgently needed to prevent future pandemics — simultaneously addressing human, animal and ecosystem health, protecting humanity and nature, and incorporating disease risk into decision-making.

Old and new solutions pave way to net-zero emissions farming, studies show by Claire Asher [07/30/2021]

– Agriculture and food account for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, making these sectors critical in efforts to address our current overshoot of the climate planetary boundary. They are also having profound impacts on freshwater, biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles.
– New and emerging technologies could pave the way to net-zero emissions agriculture in the next two decades, using robotics, electric vehicles, improved crop varieties and distributed monitoring, according to a new study. Precision agriculture could cut emissions by 71% and help build soil carbon stores.
– A second study reports that microbial protein cultivation powered by solar panels could achieve up to 10 times higher protein yield per unit of land than staple crops like soybeans, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land conversion and synthetic fertilizers.
– A third report shows that Europe could feed a projected population of 600 million by 2050 with organic farming alone, by reducing consumption of animal products to around 30% of our diet, implementing crop rotations, and reconnecting livestock and cropping systems via use of manure.

Spanish farmers fight forest fires with agroforestry (and many sheep) by Monica Pelliccia [07/29/2021]

– Galicia is a dry, fire prone region of northwestern Spain, which is also the continent’s hardest-hit region in terms of wildfires, which are increasing: 2020 saw more acreage burned here than in the previous two years combined.
– A form of agroforestry where livestock are grazed among trees offers a solution, though: sheep and cattle graze the brush that often ignites during dry times, in an agricultural method called silvopasture.
– Not only do the trees provide food and cover for livestock, they also sequester carbon and provide habitat for wildlife while boosting farmers’ incomes.
– Farms that implement silvopasture have not burned during recent fires, as one researcher tells Mongabay: “Adequate management of the mountains with shepherding could be part of the solution to preventing fires.”




Indonesia’s coal phaseout is just more business as usual, report says by Hans Nicholas Jong [05 Aug 2021]
– Indonesia’s coal phaseout plan is nowhere near as progressive as the government makes it out to be, according to a new report by a think tank.
– It notes that no coal-fired power plants are actually being decommissioned early, with all plants planned to operate until their contracts expire.
– The earliest plants to be retired, in 2030, will have been in service for 50 to 60 years by then; by industry standards, their decommissioning will have been long overdue.
– The report also identifies at least 44 new coal plants with total capacity of nearly 16 GW that are expected to come online between 2021 and 2030.

For sea snakes, underwater sex is a washout more often than not by Jansen Baier [05 Aug 2021]
– A sea snake’s senses of sight and smell are greatly diminished underwater, and the added challenge of trying to stay buoyant makes underwater mating no easy feat.
– A new study has identified several distinct features unique to adult male turtelheaded sea snakes thought to help improve their chances of coupling with a female underwater, most notably a high concentration of touch receptors in key spots along the body.
– A previous study found 20 of 31 male turtleheaded snakes lost contact with the female during courtship, often then attempting to mate with nearby objects such as a diver’s fin or sea cucumber.

A world of hurt: 2021 climate disasters raise alarm over food security by Sue Branford and Glenn Scherer [04 Aug 2021]
– Human-driven climate change is fueling weather extremes — from record drought to massive floods — that are hammering key agricultural regions around the world.
– From the grain heartland of Argentina to the tomato belt of California to the pork hub of China, extreme weather events have driven down output and driven up global commodity prices.
– Shortages of water and food have, in turn, prompted political and social strife in 2021, including food protests in Iran and hunger in Madagascar, and threaten to bring escalating misery, civil unrest and war in coming years.
– Experts warn the problem will only intensify, even in regions currently unaffected by, or thriving from the high prices caused by scarcity. Global transformational change is urgently needed in agricultural production and consumption patterns, say experts.

Mennonites said to deforest ancestral Indigenous land in Colombia by La Liga Contra el Silencio, Mongabay Latam, Rutas del Conflicto [04 Aug 2021]
– Environmental authorities and Indigenous groups accuse a Mennonite community, members of an Anabaptist Protestant sect, of destroying forests and polluting water sources in the Altillanura high plains of eastern Colombia.
– Authorities say the Mennonites have burned 135 hectares (333 acres) of riverbank forest since arriving in the region in 2016.
– Indigenous Sikuani communities say the Mennonites have taken over their ancestral lands and driven away the native wildlife and fish with their farming activities and intensive use of agrochemicals.
– The Mennonite colony is one of many that left Mexico in recent years and settled in other Latin American countries, including Peru and Bolivia, where they have also been accused of environmental violations.

For Malagasy trapped in poverty, threatened lemurs and fossas are fair game by Malavika Vyawahare [04 Aug 2021]
– Half of nearly 700 households surveyed in a recent study in Makira National Park in Madagascar reported eating lemur meat and a quarter had consumed fossa meat.
– The research conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society relied on indirect questioning and revealed unusually high levels of consumption of meat from the fossa, Madagascar’s top predator.
– Hunting pressure combined with shrinking habitats could lead to the local extinction of the indri, a critically endangered species and the largest living lemur, along with three other lemur species in the park.
– WCS’s current research will feed into a “behavior change campaign” to promote alternatives to hunting like poultry and fish farming, and harvesting of edible insects.

In the Borneo canopy, life thrives in surprising ways, camera-trap study shows by Carolyn Cowan [04 Aug 2021]
– The first systematic camera-trapping survey of arboreal mammals in Southeast Asia reveals a diverse and distinct community; the researchers also recorded evidence of new behaviors and the first ever photograph of a rare flying rodent.
– The team collected more than 8,000 photographs, cataloging 57 species in total, 30 of which were detected exclusively on ground cameras and 18 exclusively in the canopy.
– Since few past studies have targeted arboreal mammals, scientists do not know how human disturbances such as logging may affect them.
– The results demonstrate that surveying in the forest canopy is “crucial to our understanding of rainforest mammal communities,” say the study authors.

Indonesia assessing fish stock health to improve sustainable planning by Basten Gokkon [04 Aug 2021]
– Indonesia is evaluating the health of its marine fisheries in 11 fishing zones around the country.
– The assessment is expected to help policymakers create a more sustainable and better-planned marine capture fisheries model to be applied across the country’s fishing zones.
– Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest producers of marine capture fisheries, and also has high marine biodiversity.

Lack of ID cards bars Indigenous Indonesians from much-needed vaccines by Elviza Diana, Sapariah Saturi, Yitno Suprapto [04 Aug 2021]
– The slow vaccination rollout in Indonesia is hitting its Indigenous communities, among the most vulnerable parts of the population, particularly hard.
– Possession of a national identity number is required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, but many Indigenous people don’t have one.
– To date, just 20,000 of the 20 million members of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, the biggest advocacy group for Indigenous Indonesians, have received their first COVID-19 shot.
– Indigenous rights advocates say the lack of an identity number has always been a problem, even before the pandemic, as it’s also required for accessing health care, voting, and other civic services.

Tesco’s meat problem (commentary) by Robin Willoughby [03 Aug 2021]
– Campaigners argue new requirements from Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in the U.K., on meat suppliers sourcing from South America are an improvement over the status quo but point to critical issues with the details of the plan.
– Meat has outsized environmental consequences. Raising meat produces more climate pollution, fouls more drinking water, and requires more land for livestock and feed globally than all other food crops combined.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

333 people rescued from slavery in Brazil mines since 2008, exclusive report shows by Maurício Angelo [03 Aug 2021]
– A breakthrough report has mapped out all the raids carried out to rescue people working in slave-labor conditions in mines across Brazil since 2008.
– A total of 333 workers were rescued in 31 raids; Pará, in the Amazon, is the state with the most raids.
– Gold mines were the most common among the mines raided; in recent years their owners have expanded their criminal networks and tried to evade inspection.
– Bureaucracy and a waning pool of inspectors has hampered efforts to ramp up the frequency of raids, officials say.

More than 250 major fires detected in the Amazon this year, despite Brazil’s ban by Liz Kimbrough [03 Aug 2021]
– There have been 267 major fires detected in the Amazon this year, burning more than 105,000 hectares (260,000 acres) — an area roughly the size of Los Angeles, California.
– More than 75% of these fires blazed in the Brazilian Amazon, in areas where trees have been cut to make way for agriculture, despite a June 27 ban on unauthorized outdoor fires by the Brazilian government.
– The first forest fires of the season have also been detected, those that have escaped pastures and burned standing Amazon rainforest, where fires are not historically naturally occurring.
– A historic drought, rampant deforestation, and lax environmental regulations mean this year is likely to be a bad year for fires, experts say.

Rare pygmy chameleon, lost to science, found in dwindling Malawi forest by Liz Kimbrough [03 Aug 2021]
– The Chapman’s pygmy chameleon, about the length of a golf tee, was first described in 1992 and not seen again in the wild by scientists until 2016.
– An estimated 80% of the rainforests of Malawi Hills, where the chameleons live, have been destroyed over the past 40 years, mostly for agriculture.
– The chameleon is listed as critically endangered and the remaining populations are isolated, leaving them are at risk of losing genetic diversity.
– The researchers are calling for more surveys and monitoring of the chameleon populations as well as conservation action to safeguard what remains of the chameleon’s habitat.

2 Sumatran tigers recovering from COVID-19 at Jakarta zoo by [02 Aug 2021]
– Two Sumatran tigers tested positive for COVID-19 at a Jakarta zoo in mid-July.
– The animals are now recovering in isolation, Jakarta’s governor announced on Sunday.
– Zoo staff are trying to determine how the tigers contracted the disease.

Corporate sustainability shouldn’t be an unknown entity (commentary) by Aida Greenbury [02 Aug 2021]
– Aida Greenbury, the former Managing Director of Sustainability at APP Group and currently a board member and advisor to several organizations including Mongabay, argues that companies need to truly embrace principles of sustainability in how they operate.
– Using the plantation sector as an example, Greenbury says companies shouldn’t view the environment and local communities well-being as “us versus them” issues, but instead opportunities for transforming how they do business.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Ending Amazon deforestation a top priority on Colombian minister’s D.C. visit by Nicolás Bustamante Hernández [02 Aug 2021]
– In an interview with Mongabay, Colombian environment minister Carlos Eduardo Correa provided insights about his recent visit to Washington, D.C., where he held meetings with U.S. government officials and conservation organizations.
– On his first international trip amid the pandemic, the minister reiterated his commitment to protect forests in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
– Colombia’s climate goals include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 51% and achieving zero deforestation by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Acquittal of Indonesian villagers protesting pollution marks rare win against SLAPP by Hans Nicholas Jong [02 Aug 2021]
– An Indonesian court has acquitted six villagers on the island of Bangka in a criminal case widely seen as an attempt to silence them by a company accused of polluting their village.
– Experts say the court ruling sets a precedent for future cases where environmental defenders are being censored, intimated and silenced through so-called SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) litigation.
– The villagers have since 2017 been fighting against a tapioca company, PT Bangka Asindo Agri, that operates near their community and produces waste that emits a pungent stench.
– The environment ministry has launched an investigation into the case and filed its own lawsuit against the company for unpermitted pollution; the company denies the charge and has lobbied parliament to intervene with the ministry to drop the case.

Sharing solutions: How a digital toolkit is strengthening Indigenous voices by Caitlin Looby [02 Aug 2021]
– The Earth Defenders Toolkit is a growing collection of apps, resources and blogs where Indigenous peoples and their allies can come together to connect and mobilize.
– The goals of the toolkit are to support local autonomy, allowing Indigenous communities to maintain ownership of data and reduce the need for outside support.
– One successful app within the toolkit, Mapeo, helps Indigenous communities around the world map and monitor environmental and human rights information.
– The toolkit keeps the needs of Indigenous communities at the forefront, overcoming barriers inherent to technology, like participation and security.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for August 2021 by [02 Aug 2021]
– In the last month, Mongabay has published videos looking at the impacts of climate change on the Arctic, flamingos and beyond.
– We also covered stories around community initiatives and the history of Indigenous people in Latin America.
– You don’t need a Netflix, Prime or Disney+ subscription to watch these videos, just check out our YouTube channel.

As blazes on embargoed Amazon land surge, links to meat industry emerge by Andrew Wasley, Elisângela Mendonça [30 Jul 2021]
– An analysis of fires on land sanctioned for illegal deforestation show the number of major fires has increased during Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.
– Brazil’s largest meatpackers have sourced hundreds of head of cattle from a farmer in Mato Grosso state linked to repeated cases of deforestation resulting in multiple embargoes and subsequent fires.
– Published in cooperation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, these findings raise serious questions about the effectiveness and enforcement of Brazil’s embargo system and undermine the “deforestation-free” claims of multinational meat companies and their international customers.

African wild dogs return to southern Malawi for the first time in 20 years by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [30 Jul 2021]
– Fourteen endangered African wild dogs were recently translocated to Malawi in an attempt to reestablish populations in Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve.
– There are currently only about 6,600 African wild dogs, including 700 breeding pairs, left on the African continent.
– Experts say the success of the translocation will hinge upon whether the dogs reproduce and form a larger population, and also if they manage to stay away from danger if they wander outside the reserve.

In Sierra Leone, two colorful land crabs rediscovered, two new species found by Liz Kimbrough [30 Jul 2021]
– An expedition to the forests of Sierra Leone, West Africa, revealed two species of crabs new to science and two species not seen in more than half a century.
– The research team found an Afzelius’s crab (Afrithelphusa afzelii), which has had no recorded sighting for 225 years (since 1796), and the Sierra Leone crab, not seen in 66 years.
– Also found were two species of crabs belonging to the genus of the common river crab in West Africa. Only one species of this genus was known to exist in Sierra Leone before now.
– The quest for crabs was sponsored by the conservation organization Re:wild, as the Sierra Leone crab is number eight on Re:wild’s 25 most-wanted lost species list. So far, their Search for Lost Species program has rediscovered seven other lost species.

New report provides road map for expanding chestnut agroforestry in the U.S. by Sarah Derouin [30 Jul 2021]
– Chestnuts were considered to be America’s “perfect tree” because of the high quality of their nuts and wood, but an imported blight nearly eradicated the species by the early 1900s.
– Resistance has been bred back into the crop, though, and it’s now being planted by farms in agroforestry systems in places like the U.S. Midwest, which sell nuts to the huge international market and, increasingly, to Americans as well.
– Agroforestry systems combine woody trees and shrubs with annual crops and livestock to create a sustainable agriculture method that increases farms’ economic resilience, boosts biodiversity, stems soil erosion, and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere to slow the effects of climate change.
– A new report, “Overcoming bottlenecks in the Eastern U.S. chestnut industry,” by agroforestry experts with the Savanna Institute offers a roadmap for farmers and marketers who wish to join this growing global market.

Arboreal camera traps add ‘tons of value’ to forest canopy research by Carolyn Cowan [30 Jul 2021]
– The burgeoning field of arboreal camera trapping is revealing new knowledge about tree-dwelling species.
– Recent advances in camera technology, climbing techniques and safety equipment have brought the forest canopy more easily within researchers’ reach.
– A new study compiles knowledge from 90 arboreal camera-trapping studies in 24 countries across six continents to help future researchers plan, design and execute surveys.
– The study provides a foundation from which to develop standardized arboreal camera-trapping approaches that will allow researchers to compare data across projects and locations and reveal important global biodiversity patterns.

One of South America’s most abundant felids: Geoffroy’s cat | Candid Animal Cam by Romina Castagnino [30 Jul 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.

Lessons from Brazil’s São Paulo droughts (commentary) by Philip M. Fearnside [30 Jul 2021]
– São Paulo is increasingly facing severe droughts, as is the case in 2021. In 2014 the city came close to having its reservoirs run dry. Brazil’s agriculture and hydropower also depend on reliable rains.
– Anthropogenic climate change is increasing the fluctuations in ocean surface water temperatures, and the frequency is increasing of the combination of warm water in the Atlantic and cold water in the Pacific off the coasts of South America, a combination that leads to droughts in São Paulo.
– The trends in ocean temperatures are expected to worsen these droughts, but what could make them truly catastrophic is the prospect of this variation being combined with the impact of deforestation depriving São Paulo of the water that is recycled by the Amazon forest and transported to southeastern Brazil by the “flying rivers.” The lessons are clear: control global warming and stop deforestation.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

U.S., Argentine investors tied to illegal land deals, deforestation in Brazil by Caio de Freitas Paes/Agência Pública [29 Jul 2021]
– Reporting by Agência Pública has revealed how investors including U.S. pension funds and an Argentine agribusiness giant may be linked to illegal land deals and deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado region.
– The investors hold large stakes in BrasilAgro, a company that specializes in buying up land and selling it to agribusiness operators.
– Under Brazilian legislation that restricts land sales to foreign entities, the acquisitions by the largely foreign-controlled BrasilAgro have come under suspicion, with an investigation launched in 2016.
– While the probe is still ongoing, it has identified what experts say is a common practice of using shell companies and other legal subterfuges to skirt the restrictions.



Ethnic communities in Myanmar opposing a coal plant see their fight get harder by Robert Bociaga [07/29/2021]
Podcast: ‘Stubborn optimism’ for elephants fuels Indigenous conservation effort by Mike Gaworecki [07/28/2021]
Canadian miner looms large as Nauru expedites key deep-sea mining rules by Ian Morse [07/27/2021]
Global restoration now has an online meeting point by Liz Kimbrough [07/23/2021]
Betting big on bioacoustics: Q&A with philanthropist Lisa Yang by Rhett A. Butler [07/22/2021]