Newsletter 2021-09-30



Labor rights violations at Brazil coffee farm linked to Starbucks, Nespresso by Daniel Camargos [09/30/2021]

– Workers at Cooxupé, the world’s largest coffee cooperative, had up to 30% of their wages deducted to pay for the use of portable harvesting machines that their employers should have provided for free.
– The violation occurred on the Pedreira farm in Minas Gerais state, which is owned by the family of the Cooxupé president, Carlos Augusto Rodrigues de Melo.
– Cooxupé, which sells coffee to major international brands such as Nespresso and Starbucks, nearly doubled its profit in 2020 to $61 million, on revenue of $1 billion.
– In 2020, 140 workers were rescued from slave-labor-like conditions at coffee plantations in Brazil, all of them in Minas Gerais state, according to labor inspectors.

For Costa Rica’s Indigenous Bribri women, agroforestry is an act of resistance and resilience by Monica Pelliccia [09/29/2021]

– In Costa Rica’s Talamanca region, Indigenous Bribri women are championing sustainable agroforestry practices in a tradition that stretches back for millennia.
– Known as fincas integrales, it’s a system that mimics the diversity and productivity of the forest: timber trees provide shade for fruit trees, which in turn shelter medicinal plants, amid all of which livestock and even wildlife thrive.
– One of the few matrilineal societies in the world, the Bribri women are taking back their leadership after decades of decline and social problems in the community.
– Talamanca is also home to vast monoculture plantations of crops like bananas, a completely different farming system that relies on the heavy use of pesticides — a practice that the Bribri women say destroys the land.

New Zealand developer denies key role in giant palm oil project in Indonesia by Bonnie Sumner, Melanie Reid [09/27/2021]

– A decade ago, Indonesian officials earmarked an area of rainforest in Papua province to become the world’s largest oil palm plantation.
– The entire project was initially controlled by a mysterious company known as the Menara Group, but other investors soon entered the scene. Nearly half the project is now in the hands of a New Zealand property developer named Neville Mahon and his Indonesian partners, the well-connected Rumangkang family, corporate records show, although Mahon has denied major involvement.
– A new article by the New Zealand-based news site Newsroom, re-published here by Mongabay, homes in on Mahon’s role in the project, which if fully developed would release an amount of carbon equivalent to Belgium’s annual emissions from burning fossil fuels.



Beached whale shark in Indonesia reportedly cut up by locals to eat by Mongabay [30 Sep 2021]
– Locals in Indonesia’s West Java province reportedly cut up and ate a whale shark that washed up on a beach last week.
– Authorities have deplored the incident, noting that the species is protected under Indonesian law.
– Marine animal strandings are common in Indonesia as its waters serve as both a habitat and an important migratory route for dozens of species.

Oil pipeline on Native lands ramps up as Canada honors its Indigenous people by Latoya Abulu [30 Sep 2021]
– Construction of the Line 3 pipeline by Canadian oil giant Enbridge is in its final stages of completion, and is set to carry tar sands crude from Alberta to Wisconsin via lands that Indigenous Anishinaabe people use for hunting and harvesting.
– There are concerns the pipeline will contribute to further spills in the distinctive wetlands and wild rice fields of the region, as the company has a long track record of “hazardous liquid incidents,” including the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, and failing to follow environmental laws during construction.
– Some Indigenous rights and tribal leaders view Canada’s approval and the subsequent construction of Line 3 as part of the continuing legacy of colonialism and cultural erasure, which the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, on September 30, seeks to address.

Podcast: Indigenous rights and the future of biodiversity conservation by Mike Gaworecki [29 Sep 2021]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we discuss the importance of Indigenous rights to the future of biodiversity conservation and efforts to build a more sustainable future for life on Earth.
– We speak with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a former UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples and the current executive director of the Tebtebba Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education. Tauli-Corpuz tells us about the Global Indigenous Agenda released at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, why it calls for Indigenous rights to be central to conservation efforts, and what she hopes to see achieved at the UN Biodiversity Conference taking place in Kunming, China next year.
– We also speak with Zack Romo, a program director for the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (commonly known by its Spanish acronym, COICA). Romo fills us in on the details of the motion to protect 80% of the Amazon by 2025 that was approved by IUCN members at the World Conservation Congress, the rights-based approach that Amazon protection plan calls for, and what the next steps are to making the plan a reality.

Mapping threats to land mammals, amphibians and birds: study by Liz Kimbrough [29 Sep 2021]
– A recent study uses data from the IUCN Red List of endangered species to map where threats to terrestrial mammals, birds, and amphibians occur at a global scale.
– The six major threats to biodiversity addressed in the study are agriculture, climate change, hunting and trapping, invasive species, logging, and pollution. There are large areas of the globe in which animals have more than a 50% chance of encountering these threats.
– Globally, agriculture is the greatest threat to terrestrial amphibians, mammals, and birds combined. Hunting and trapping are the most prevalent threat for terrestrial birds and mammals.
– All six of the major threats to biodiversity occur at a high prevalence in Southeast Asia, particularly the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, as well as Madagascar, where they put mammals, birds, and amphibians at risk.

Monitoring reveals Indonesia’s ‘legal timber’ scheme riddled with violations by Hans Nicholas Jong [29 Sep 2021]
– A monitoring exercise by Indigenous peoples and local communities of Indonesia’s “certified legal” timber industry has found myriad violations.
– The group reported, among other findings, logging companies cutting down trees outside their concessions, woodworking shops manipulating delivery records to obscure the origin of the wood, and exporters selling forged export eligibility certificates.
– During their monitoring, the observers faced a range of challenges, from difficulty accessing official records, to threats from armed groups.
– Their work could become even more difficult under a new government regulation that appears to change independent monitoring of the timber industry from a mandatory exercise to an optional one.

Malaysian hornbill bust reveals live trafficking trend in Southeast Asia by Carolyn Cowan [29 Sep 2021]
– The recent seizure of eight live hornbills at Kuala Lumpur International Airport confirmed experts’ suspicions that live hornbill trafficking is on the rise in Southeast Asia.
– Analysis of seizure records across Southeast Asia indicates that the incident is just the tip of the iceberg: Between 2015 and 2021, there were 99 incidents of live hornbill trafficking involving 268 birds spanning 13 species.
– Among the recent haul was a baby helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), a critically endangered species hunted to the brink of extinction for its distinctive ivory-like bill casque, which is prized by collectors in parts of Asia.
– Specialists say more information on how poaching for live trade affects wild populations is urgently required; only then, they say, will it be possible to push for stronger enforcement and close loopholes that allow the illegal trade to flourish.

When North America locked down, birds filled the gap left by people by Malavika Vyawahare [28 Sep 2021]
– Of the 82 bird species considered in an analysis, the distribution of 66 changed during pandemic-related shutdowns, and most of them grew in abundance in and around human settlements.
– The researchers gathered more than 4 million records from eBird, a community science program that relies on contributions from volunteers, both amateur and specialist birders.
– The study in Science Advances captured how sensitive birds are to human activities and highlighted how small adjustments could make areas used by humans welcoming to other species.

New study identifies regions of greatest conservation potential for species, water quality, carbon by Liz Kimbrough [28 Sep 2021]
– A new study has mapped out the regions where conservation actions can maximize the protection of biodiversity, carbon stocks, and water.
– The findings come in the run-up to global summits on both biodiversity conservation and climate change.
– The study identifies areas that would be suitable for “conservation management,” which include sustainable use under any locally appropriate form of governance, including Indigenous reserves.
– The researchers found that for conserving global biodiversity, the mountain ranges of the world are of notable importance, as are large parts of Mediterranean biomes and Southeast Asia.

Forest finance expected to advance under new TREES standard and LEAF Coalition by Aurora Solá [28 Sep 2021]
– The latest edition of the TREES standard for forest carbon crediting attempts to bring together the best of what the private sector can do and the best of what governments can do to protect forests. It is explicit about how projects can be integrated into jurisdiction-level accounting.
– While effectively directing capital to forest communities on the ground, REDD+ projects have been dogged by methodological problems and what in some cases appear to be spurious claims of climate impact.
– The designers of TREES say that with its jurisdictional scale and transparent carbon accounting guidelines, it will better address the main credibility risks so far associated with REDD+ carbon credits.
– Almost 15 years after the original REDD framework, many regard TREES and the LEAF Coalition announced in April 2021 as the first real attempt at credible REDD+ implementation at scale.

Build around the forest, not through it, study says of Sumatra trucking road by Hans Nicholas Jong [28 Sep 2021]
– Researchers have identified alternative routes for a planned mining road that will cut through the Harapan forest, the largest surviving tract of lowland tropical rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
– The alternative routes will avoid thousands of hectares of forest loss as they skirt the main forest block while traversing nearby lands that are largely deforested.
– They are also potentially cheaper than the routes planned by coal miner PT Marga Bara Jaya (MBJ) because they utilize existing road networks and improve them.
– Local environmental activists have identified similar alternative routes, but the fact that the company is proposing a more destructive path points to a lack of will to minimize deforestation, poor planning, or a deliberate attempt to cut through the middle of the forest, researchers say.

As tigers dwindle, Indonesia takes aim at poaching ring by Junaidi Hanafiah [27 Sep 2021]
– Indonesian officials recently confiscated three tiger skins from a man in Sumatra.
– They believe the perpetrator is connected to a larger ring of wildlife traffickers.

New transport infrastructure is opening the Amazon to global commerce by Timothy J. Killeen [27 Sep 2021]
– Tim Killeen provides an update on the state of the Amazon in his new book “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon Wilderness – Success and Failure in the Fight to save an Ecosystem of Critical Importance to the Planet.”
– The book provides an overview of the topics most relevant to the conservation of the Amazon’s biodiversity, ecosystem services and Indigenous cultures, as well as a description of the conventional and sustainable development models vying for space within the regional economy.
– Mongabay will publish excerpts from the Killeen’s book, which will be released by The White Horse Press in serial format over the course of the next year. In this second installment, we provide a section from Chapter Two: “Global Competition Drives Bulk Transport Systems”.
– This post is an except from a book. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

New permits for Brazilian beef exports to US could increase deforestation risk: Report by Maxwell Radwin [27 Sep 2021]
– An Earthsight report raises alarms about new sanitary permits that allow more slaughterhouses in the Amazon to export beef to the United States.
– More slaughterhouses could lead to increased deforestation since most facilities struggle to keep track of whether their cattle are sourced from land that was cleared legally or illegally.
– A bill in the U.S. Congress could impose new environmental regulations on Brazilian slaughterhouses. Still it’s unclear how effective they will be given the difficulty of tracking illegal cattle ranching in the Amazon.

Following coup, Myanmar’s Indigenous vow to protect forests ‘until the end of the world’ (commentary) by Esther Wah [27 Sep 2021]
– The Tanintharyi Region in southern Myanmar contains an expanse of rainforest, ocean, and mangroves where a range of wildlife – from tigers and elephants to tapirs – roam, and the Indigenous Karen people consider themselves stewards of this richness.
– In 2012, the Karen and the Myanmar military signed a ceasefire to end 70 years of war in their territory, allowing the Indigenous communities an opportunity to develop new institutions, campaigns, and programs to conserve their resources and forests from destruction by outside interests.
– That ended with the military coup of 2021: “Attacks by the military on Indigenous peoples and environmental defenders means that the forests are at risk – and for this reason we want to say to the world ‘this coup doesn’t just affect our country, but the future of the globe.’”
– This article is a commentary, it reflects the views of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

New Zealand developer denies key role in giant palm oil project in Indonesia by Bonnie Sumner, Melanie Reid [27 Sep 2021]
– A decade ago, Indonesian officials earmarked an area of rainforest in Papua province to become the world’s largest oil palm plantation.
– The entire project was initially controlled by a mysterious company known as the Menara Group, but other investors soon entered the scene. Nearly half the project is now in the hands of a New Zealand property developer named Neville Mahon and his Indonesian partners, the well-connected Rumangkang family, corporate records show, although Mahon has denied major involvement.
– A new article by the New Zealand-based news site Newsroom, re-published here by Mongabay, homes in on Mahon’s role in the project, which if fully developed would release an amount of carbon equivalent to Belgium’s annual emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Black-footed ferrets riding out COVID-19 with a vaccine and a lot of TLC by Rachel Fritts [27 Sep 2021]
– Black-footed ferrets were nearly wiped out by plague in the 1980s, and were only saved by a last-ditch effort to pull the 18 remaining individuals into a captive-breeding program.
– The wild population now numbers about 300 individuals, but the species remains reliant on captive breeding and sensitive to disease outbreaks — a combination that proved especially nerve-wracking during the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Luckily, black-footed ferret keepers are no stranger to disease-mitigating measures, and were able to successfully breed ferrets with the help of rigorous sanitation measures, dedicated staff, and even a vaccine.
– To date, no black-footed ferrets have tested positive for COVID-19, and after a 50% drop in the number of kits born last year, the program is back to producing its usual number of kits.

In Colombia, legal mining proves a win-win for environment, traditional communities by Dimitri Selibas [25 Sep 2021]
– As a marker of its cultural importance and low environmental impact, artisanal gold mining is permitted under Colombia’s 1991 Constitution in Afro-Colombian and Indigenous territories.
– But without formalization, a process that puts the same administrative burdens on small-scale miners as on multinational mining corporations, these miners cannot receive a fair price for the gold they sell.
– Illegal armed groups use criminal mining to fund their activities, often violating fundamental rights in the process.
– Swiss and U.S. international cooperation projects in Colombia have successfully shown how formalization of small-scale miners can protect the environment and produce legal gold, improving the incomes of the miners and boosting revenues for the state.

Bezos, Bloomberg among donors committing $5b to protect biodiversity by Maxwell Radwin [24 Sep 2021]
– Nine philanthropic organizations will provide $5 billion over the next decade for conservation efforts all over the globe.
– Donors include the Bezos Earth Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Nia Tero, Rainforest Trust, Re:wild, the Arcadia Fund, and the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation.
– The fund is intended to reach the 30×30 initiative goal of protecting 30 % of the planet’s biodiversity by 2030.
– Studies show this could protect 80% of plant and animal species and preserve 60% of carbon stocks and 66 % of clean water.

Overfishing threatens to wipe out bowmouth guitarfish in Indonesia, study says by Wahyu Mulyono [24 Sep 2021]
– A study has found that uncontrolled fishing of wedgefish, a family of rays, in Indonesia threatens to push the bowmouth guitarfish to extinction.
– The bowmouth guitarfish and the white-spotted guitarfish are the most commonly caught wedgefish species in Indonesia, with their fins supplying the shark fin trade.
– Researchers have called on the government to impose full protection of juvenile wedgefish and a reduction in catches of bowmouth guitarfish specifically to ensure their survival.
– Both the bowmouth and white-spotted guitarfish are critically endangered species, but neither is included in Indonesia’s protected species list.

Links to coal mining add to Indonesian palm oil sector’s risk for buyers by Hans Nicholas Jong [24 Sep 2021]
– Six of the top 10 palm oil conglomerates in Indonesia have coal mining businesses, and five of the top 10 coal miners have oil palm businesses, a new report shows.
– This substantial overlap means that consumer goods giants like Nestlé and PepsiCo that buy palm oil from Indonesia are potentially exposed to mining risk too, including deforestation and pollution.
– While most of the palm oil companies have zero-deforestation policies and sustainability commitments, the affiliated mining companies aren’t scrutinized as closely and have often been associated with environmental degradation, human rights abuses, and worsening climate change.
– The report authors say this poses reputational and financial risks for the consumer goods companies that buy from the palm oil firms, and for the banks and investors that fund them.

Snapshot of hatchlings raises hopes for Siamese crocs in northeast Cambodia by Carolyn Cowan [24 Sep 2021]
– Researchers have found and photographed eight Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) hatchlings in northeastern Cambodia — the first confirmed evidence that the critically endangered species is breeding in this area.
– The new breeding population significantly expands the known breeding range of the species in Cambodia; until now, most breeding was recorded around the Cardamom Mountains landscape in the southwest.
– With fewer than 1,000 adults remaining in the wild globally, the species is on the brink of extinction; threats include habitat loss, hydropower schemes, poaching, and entanglement in fishing gear.
– Wildlife experts say conservation measures, including community engagement, captive breeding and reintroduction programs, will help to ensure Siamese crocodiles’ long-term survival.

Causes for celebration, and concern, on World Gorilla Day by Isabel Esterman [24 Sep 2021]
– As conservationists across the globe observe World Gorilla Day this Sept. 24, all species and subspecies of the ape remain either endangered or critically endangered.
– It’s not all bad news for gorillas, though, as conservation strategies have led to concrete gains, including growth of some gorilla populations.
– Here, Mongabay reflects on some of the lessons from this year’s news and new research.

Philippine-UK comic anthology looks to incite action on climate change by Jen Chan [24 Sep 2021]
– Ten Years to Save the World is an upcoming online comic book anthology that puts the spotlight on 10 pressing climate change issues — five from the Philippines, five from the U.K. — and explores how each one can be addressed in the next decade.
– It’s a joint project between Komiket Philippines, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF), and Creative Concern.
– The comic book anthology will be presented to world leaders at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

Congo’s bongos are in danger, and curbs on trophy hunting could save them by Malavika Vyawahare [24 Sep 2021]
– Unsustainable hunting quotas could drive a rare African antelope to extinction in one corner of the Republic of Congo, a study by the NGO Wildlife Conservation Society has found.
– There are fewer than 30,000 bongos left today, inhabiting wooded expanses south of the Sahara in Africa, including in the Republic of Congo, which allows commercial hunting of these prized ungulates.
– The country’s hunting allotment of 15 adult males a year, at the time of the study, could lead to their disappearance within 25 years from the Bonio hunting concession, researchers say.
– Apart from trophy hunting, disease outbreaks, habitat loss and unregulated hunting also menace the eastern bongos of Congo.

For World Gorilla Day 2021, a conservation success story by Tara Stoinski [23 Sep 2021]
– The NGO that helped establish World Gorilla Day — the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund — has learned a few important lessons for the conservation of gorillas and other species over the years.
– Firstly, conservation can’t happen without local support: when community members they work with come to understand the importance of the habitat that surrounds them, the project can succeed. Another lesson is that conservation takes time, money and diversification.
– “By engaging rather than excluding communities and ensuring that local people benefit from conservation, we have found that we can protect wildlife with a footprint that is 15 times smaller than that for mountain gorillas.”
– This article is an analysis for World Gorilla Day 2021 by the chief scientific officer of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Bridge the North-South divide for a UN Biodiversity Framework that is more just (commentary) by Subhankar Banerjee [23 Sep 2021]
– The upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference (COP-15) features proposals like the 30×30 biodiversity conservation plan that we’ve all been hearing so much about lately.
– This proposal may work well for the North, including the U.S. with its “America the Beautiful” plan, but not well for the poorer nations of the global South: any effort to build a Global Biodiversity Framework must begin with sincere listening to all parties, and learning from that listening.
– “Scientists and the conservation leaders of the global North do not know how to talk to the grassroots conservationists of the global South when it comes to biodiversity conservation,” Subhankar Banerjee argues, and urges environmental justice campaigners and Indigenous rights advocates to look very closely at the current COP-15 30×30 proposal.
– The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Fires bear down on Brazil park that’s home to jaguars, maned wolves by Sarah Sax [23 Sep 2021]
– Thousands of fires caused by humans in Brazil’s Cerrado savanna region continue to spread, with several fires around and inside Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
– The park is home to dozens of rare and threatened species as well as the source of many important rivers and waterways; experts warn the intensity of the fires could permanently damage the natural vegetation.
– The fires don’t come as a surprise to many scientists who had predicted earlier this year that ongoing drought, rising rates of deforestation, and lack of enforcement would build up to a severe fire season.
– Every single month this year has seen above-average levels of fire in the Cerrado, with more than 36% of all fires in Brazil this year concentrated in this biome, even though it only covers just over 20% of Brazil’s land mass.

Jane Goodall launches effort in support of planting 1 trillion trees by 2030 by [23 Sep 2021]
– Primatologist and conservation icon Jane Goodall has formally joined a global effort to counter climate change and the extinction crisis by planting a trillion trees over the next decade.
– On Tuesday, Goodall announced Trees for Jane, an initiative that will raise money for carefully-vetted reforestation and forest conservation projects around the world.
– Trees for Jane is partnering with the Trillion Tree Campaign, an initiative led by the German NGO Plant-for-the-Planet, and, a World Economic Forum project, to reach the trillion trees goal by 2030.
– If these combined efforts realize this aim, it would increase Earth’s tree cover by about one-third relative to today. Currently we’re losing about 15 billion trees a year, mostly due to deforestation.

Forest fragmentation split up this lizard’s population. It’s no longer the same by Malaka Rodrigo [23 Sep 2021]
– A new study shows how the endemic rough-nosed horned lizard (Ceratophora aspera) found in the lowland rainforests of southwestern Sri Lanka can be actually grouped into four genetically diverse populations.
– Researchers say these genetic differences are caused by the fragmentation of rainforests due to centuries of human activity.
– The study highlights the importance of factoring in such genetic variations into conservation efforts such as reintroductions or linking forest patches aimed at conserving forest specialist species like these horned lizards.
– In addition to the slow-moving lizard species, native plants in these fragmented forests may have also developed genetic differences due to prolonged isolation, researchers say.

Remnant forests struggle to survive amid oil palm plantations, study shows by Hans Nicholas Jong [23 Sep 2021]
– Forest trees that persist in areas dominated by oil palm plantations tend not to grow to maturity, a new study shows.
– Researchers say this has important implications for biodiversity and ecosystem service conservation in these landscapes.
– Remnant trees can support secondary forests and recover biomass and biodiversity, but only if they’re allowed to grow to maturity.
– The study indicates that growing forest trees among oil palms can boost biodiversity without impacting on palm oil yields.

Novel chemical entities: Are we sleepwalking through a planetary boundary? by Claire Asher [23 Sep 2021]
– The “novel entities” planetary boundary encapsulates all toxic and long-lived substances that humans release into the environment — from heavy metals and radioactive waste, to industrial chemicals and pesticides, even novel living organisms — which can threaten the stability of the Earth system.
– Humans have invented more than 140,000 synthetic chemicals and we produce them in vast quantities: around 2.3 billion tons annually. Yet, only a few thousand have been tested for their toxicity to humans or other organisms. That leaves humanity essentially flying blind to potential chemical interactions and impacts.
– Global treaties such as the Stockholm Convention, Minamata Convention, and Basel Convention, limit production and/or trade of some environmentally persistent toxic and hazardous chemicals. But progress is slow: Decades after DDT’s impacts were reported, it is still regularly used in developing nations.
– NGOs call for an international tax on basic chemicals production, with the funds supporting countries devising and implementing regulations to protect human health and the environment. A 0.5% international fee could raise $11.5 billion yearly, vastly surpassing current global funding for chemicals management.



Nitrogen: The environmental crisis you haven’t heard of yet by Ashoka Mukpo [09/22/2021]
Small cats should be a conservation priority, says Panthera’s new board chair Jonathan Ayers by Rhett A. Butler [09/20/2021]
‘Conservation should be seen as what communities have always done’, says John Kamanga by Rhett A. Butler [09/20/2021]