Newsletter 2021-12-02


Indigenous community saves Colombia’s poison dart frog from coca and logging by Maxwell Radwin [11/30/2021]

– An Indigenous community in southwest Colombia established a protected reserve in the face of illegal logging, mining and coca cultivation being carried out by criminal groups.
– The Eperãra Siapidaarã peoples are especially interested in protecting the extremely poisonous golden dart frog, which they historically used in their darts while hunting.
– Despite establishing the reserve, the community has more work to do to fend off violent non-state armed groups.

Potty-trained cows? Teaching cattle where to urinate could help reduce greenhouse gases by Emily Moskal [11/30/2021]

– Cows can learn to control where they urinate, scientists showed in a small study.
– Urine from cattle ultimately produces nitrous oxide, a harmful greenhouse gas.
– Scaling up this training method could reduce the environmental impacts of large farms.

Forests for sale: How land traffickers profit by slicing up Bolivia’s protected areas by Eduardo Franco Berton [11/25/2021]

– Shortly after Bolivia’s Bajo Paraguá Municipal Protected Area was established in February 2021, authorities began receiving reports of invasions and deforestation in and around the new protected area.
– Local sources say land traffickers are illegally buying up plots of protected land to resell, often repeatedly, to third parties.
– Mongabay spoke with one of these third parties, a man who said he purchased access to land in Bajo Paraguá from land traffickers before being evicted by the same traffickers so that they could sell the land to someone else.
– The man said traffickers have resorted to threats of violence to intimidate local communities from reporting incursions.



El Niño takes a toll on southern right whales in the Atlantic Ocean By: Brian Phan [01 Dec 2021]
– Southern right whale populations near Argentina have suffered surprising losses during recent El Niño years.
– Intense warmings in 1997-98 and 2015-16 each killed 4 to 5 percent of right whales in the southwest Atlantic Ocean, researchers estimate.
– If El Niño events worsen, models suggest the encouraging recovery of southern right whales could stall or even reverse.

Is colonial history repeating itself with Sabah forest carbon deal? (commentary) By: Cynthia Clare Ong Gaik Suan [01 Dec 2021]
– To the surprise of Indigenous and local communities, a huge forest carbon conservation agreement was recently signed in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
– Granting rights to foreign entities on more than two million hectares of the state’s tropical forests for the next 100-200 years, civil society groups have called for more transparency.
– “Is history repeating itself? Are we not yet free or healed from our colonial and wartime histories?” wonders a Sabahan civil society leader who authored this opinion piece calling for more information, more time, and a say.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Underfunded but passionate, Native American conservationists call for more support By: Evan Bourtis [30 Nov 2021]
– While tribal nations receive less funding for conservation than state agencies, Native American wildlife biologists have dedicated themselves to protecting species, like the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), from going extinct.
– Just $5 million to $6 million is available per year for the 574 Indigenous tribes that manage more than 56 million hectares (140 million acres) of land across the U.S. to compete for as nonrenewable grants.
– Tribal conservationists say they hope the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act passes Congress after being introduced earlier this year.
– The bill aims to provide $97.5 million annually to tribal nations for protecting animals and plants from extinction.

Illegal mining threatens Indigenous land at foot of Philippines’ tallest peak By: Bong S. Sarmiento [30 Nov 2021]
– A declared protected area, Mount Apo on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao is a major ecotourism site, with much of the protected area overlapping with Indigenous land.
– The area also has rich mineral reserves, but tribal leaders say they have rejected requests to mine their land because of the adverse effects on the ecosystem and watershed their people depend on.
– In late 2020, an illegal gold mine on tribal land within the protected area was closed down after unpaid mine workers tipped off the authorities.

Geneticists have identified new groups of tiger sharks to protect By: Graycen Wheeler [30 Nov 2021]
– New genetic studies revealed at least two distinct groups of tiger sharks in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific ocean basins, plus a third smaller population near Hawaii.
– These results are a mild surprise, due to the versatility and long swimming ranges of tiger sharks.
– Fisheries managers should take precautions to protect these distinct genetic populations, researchers urge.

Allegations of displacement, violence beleaguer Kenyan conservancy NGO By: John C. Cannon [30 Nov 2021]
– The California-based Oakland Institute published a report on Nov. 16 alleging that the Kenya-based nonprofit Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) keeps pastoralists and their herds off of their ancestral grazing areas.
– The institute’s research relied on petitions, court cases and in-person interviews with community members in northern Kenya, with report lead author Anuradha Mittal alleging that NRT’s model of “fortress conservation” exacerbates interethnic tensions and prioritizes the desires of wealthy tourists over the needs of the Indigenous population.
– Tom Lalampaa, NRT’s CEO, denies all allegations that the organization keeps communities from accessing rangeland or that it has played any role in violence in the region.
– Lalampaa said membership with NRT provides innumerable benefits to community-led conservancies, which retain their legal claim to the land and decide on how their rangelands are managed.

New study reveals globe-trotting pedigree of South Asian songbirds By: Malaka Rodrigo [29 Nov 2021]
– South Asia is home to 24 different species of bulbuls, a family of songbirds for which a new genetic analysis shows an evolutionary history stretching back to the Southeast Asian archipelago and forward into Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.
– In each region where the birds occur, climatic and environmental factors have shaped their evolution, leaving some species in India with more similarities to their Southeast Asian cousins than to their South Asian counterparts.
– This diversification in the bulbul family tree didn’t stop after they moved from Southeast Asia to South Asia, and in fact continued as they dispersed across the Middle East and into Africa, as well as “island-hopped” to Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands.

The complete guide to restoring your soil: Q&A with soil expert Dale Strickler By: Liz Kimbrough [29 Nov 2021]
– Soil expert Dale Strickler’s new book, “The Complete Guide to Restoring your Soil,” covers why we should restore soil, what ideal soil looks like, practices that build better soil, and how to build better agricultural systems.
– The book is peppered with case studies from around the globe, including a section on Indigenous farming techniques, and includes many anecdotes from Strickler’s own life and experiences as a farmer.
– Strickler says many societal ills — malnutrition, disease, conquest, colonialism, warfare, famine, pestilence — can all be traced back to a root cause of soil mismanagement.
– The book offers farming techniques, strategies and practices that can be used to regenerate soil, remediate contaminated soil, and build thriving agriculture systems.

With loss of forests, Bali villages find themselves vulnerable to disaster By: Luh De Suriyani [29 Nov 2021]
– Bali’s Penyaringan village was hit by flash floods in September, which some have linked to the ongoing loss of its forest.
– While the village’s forest has been designated as a protected area, it’s still subject to encroachment by villagers for the planting of short-lived crops, a practice known locally as ngawen.
– To regulate the practice and regenerate the forest, the village formed a management body that restricts the extent and types of crops that villagers can grow and requires them to also plant trees.

Lack of resolution mechanisms allow palm oil conflicts to fester in Indonesia By: Hans Nicholas Jong [29 Nov 2021]
– An analysis of land conflicts involving palm oil companies in Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of the commodity, shows the country lacks effective mechanisms for addressing these problems.
– The analysis of 150 cases by Indonesian and Dutch academics found that existing channels for addressing conflict between villagers and plantation firms generally “fail to produce meaningful results for the affected communities.”
– They also found that most of the violence documented in these conflicts was perpetrated by the police or security forces affiliated with the palm oil companies, and that community protest leaders frequently faced arrest and imprisonment on dubious charges.
– They called on the government to set up impartial “mediation boards” or “conflict resolution desks” at the provincial or district level, something the government says it is looking into but can’t commit to just yet.

Galápagos census looks at impacts on turtles during and after COVID lockdown By: Michelle Carrere [29 Nov 2021]
– The suspension of tourism activities around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic gave researchers the chance to answer an important question: What impact does tourism have on wildlife populations?
– In Ecuador’s famed Galápagos Islands, researchers have for more than a year now been carrying out a turtle census on Tortuga Bay, a beach popular with tourists, but which was off-limits during lockdown.
– With tourists now returning, the researchers have been able to record tangible changes in the number and behavior of the turtles on the beach, although a full analysis is only expected to begin in December.

Insects and other invertebrates on tropical islands face challenges as development and tourism expand By: Brittney J. Miller [29 Nov 2021]
– Oceanic islands host 50 percent of the world’s endangered species, but human activities can greatly disturb these isolated ecosystems.
– The number and diversity of insects and other invertebrate species decrease on islands dedicated to urban development or tourism, according to a new study in the Maldives.
– Fragmented habitats take a toll on these species on urban islands, while pesticides are the suspected culprits on tourist islands.

Newly released Cambodian activists honored among Front Line Defenders awardees By: Carolyn Cowan [29 Nov 2021]
– In early November, six young activists associated with environmental advocacy group Mother Nature Cambodia were released from prison after spending up to 14 months behind bars.
– Rights groups are calling on the Cambodian government to drop all charges against the activists and to release 60 other political prisoners who remain incarcerated.
– Front Line Defenders, an international rights group, recently recognized Mother Nature Cambodia in its 2021 awards.
– The young activists say the award serves as a source of motivation for them to continue their work to expose corruption and environmental abuses, including illegal mining, deforestation and pollution.

Meet Magali, the conservation warrior rescuing Peru’s rainforest animals: Video By: Liz Kimbrough [26 Nov 2021]
– A new, award-winning short film by Nick Werber follows wildlife rehabilitator and founder of Amazon Shelter, Magali Salinas, as she discusses her work in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon.
– Magali has dedicated the past 16 years of her life to rescuing animals in a region rife with illegal logging, mining, and wildlife trade. Her center cares for up to 80 animals at once (including sloths, tortoises, parrots, monkeys and more) and releases dozens back into the wild each year.
– Amazon shelter specializes in howler monkeys and Magali releases troops of rehabilitated howlers into protected reserves away from other howler troops’ territories. Finding these places can take days to weeks of searching.
– The film builds to the release of 14 howler monkeys into the wild. “It just goes to show the difference that one person can make,” Werber said. “That was what inspired me to make the film.”

Conflict and climate change are big barriers for Africa’s Great Green Wall By: Malavika Vyawahare [26 Nov 2021]
– Fourteen years since the launch of Africa’s Great Green Wall project, only 4% of the 100 million hectares (247 million acres) of land targeted for restoration in the Sahel region has actually been restored.
– Billions of dollars in new funding announced this year have raised hopes that the initiative to combat desertification will gain momentum, but experts and the reality on the ground point to money being far from the only hurdle.
– Funding restoration activities will cost $44 billion, with every dollar invested generating $1.20 in returns, a recent study in Nature Sustainability calculates.
– But experts have echoed concerns captured in the research that conflict and climate change are complicating efforts on the ground, with nearly half of the area identified as viable for restoration falling within the orbit of conflict zones.

For tradition and nature on the Bijagós Islands, loss of one threatens the other By: Ricci Shryock [26 Nov 2021]
– Communities in the Bijagós Islands off Guinea-Bissau have for generations maintained a close spiritual connection to nature that’s been credited with the archipelago remaining a biodiversity hotspot.
– In recent years, the islands’ young people have been turning their backs on these traditions in favor of education and jobs on the mainland.
– Community elders say they worry that long-held traditional knowledge, such as of plant-based medicines, will be lost.
– But the young people haven’t abandoned the Bijagós altogether, with many returning as trained nurses, midwives and teachers, bringing much-needed services to their communities.

You can’t see them to count them, but Amazonian manatees seem to be recovering By: Sibélia Zanon [26 Nov 2021]
– Following intense commercial hunting from the 1930s to the 1950s, scientists and community members are seeing signs that the manatee population in the Amazon is growing.
– A study carried out in the Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve in the state of Amazonas shows large manatee populations nearby human communities, apparently co-existing in peace.
– Threats still remain in the form of poaching and accidental capture; calves that are orphaned or injured in these incidents are taken to rehabilitation centers, but these are low on funding and overcrowded.
– Monitoring of manatees returned to nature from these rehabilitation centers shows their work is paying off: one female being tracked since her return was later found to be pregnant.

Papua clan takes first step toward official recognition of land rights By: Hans Nicholas Jong and Natalia Laurensia Carmelia Yewen [26 Nov 2021]
– A district head in Indonesia’s West Papua province has issued a decree that recognizes the rights of an Indigenous clan to its ancestral lands and forests.
– The decree, the first in the district, serves as the first step toward the Gelek Malak Kalawilis Pasa clan getting official recognition of its customary rights from the central government in Jakarta.
– Activists have welcomed the decree, saying it gives the clan better protection against the advancement of the palm oil industry, which has long coveted the clan’s lands and forests for conversion into plantations.

Advocates welcome halt to shortfin mako shark fishing, call for longer ban By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [25 Nov 2021]
– Nations have agreed to effectively ban the fishing of endangered shortfin mako sharks in the North Atlantic from 2022 to 2023.
– Conservationists say the retention ban — which means fishers will not be allowed to land the sharks, even those caught accidentally — is a positive step, but that it’s too short to adequately help the species recover.
– It’s estimated that shortfin mako shark populations in the North Atlantic will decline by 60% over the next decade.

‘Our land, our life’: Okinawans hold out against new U.S. base in coastal zone By: Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [25 Nov 2021]
– Opponents of the planned relocation of a U.S. military base in Okinawa say they remain undeterred despite the defeat in elections last month of the opposition party that supported the cause.
– Local activists plan to continue opposing the relocation of the Futenma Marine base, from the densely populated city of Ginowan to the less crowded Henoko Bay coastal area.
– The proposed new facility and other military bases in Okinawa have been linked to toxic environmental pollution, military-linked sexual violence, and historical land conflicts between native Okinawans and the mainland Japan and U.S. governments.
– The Okinawa prefecture government recently rejected central government plans to sink more than 70,000 compacting pillars into Henoko’s seabed for construction, which would impact coral and seagrass that host more than 5,000 species of marine life.

For South Africa’s dwindling renosterveld, there’s now a ‘panic button’ app By: Ryan Truscott [25 Nov 2021]
– The renosterveld shrubland once covered the Swartland and Overberg regions of western South Africa, but its rich soils led farmers to clear it for agriculture.
– Remaining fragments continue to provide habitat for birds like endangered black harriers and vulnerable southern black korhaans, and mammals like the grey rhebok, a near-threatened antelope.
– A “panic button” app has been developed in South Africa to alert the authorities to threats facing the renosterveld, the country’s most endangered ecosystem.

Wildlife trade hub Vietnam is also hub of impunity for traffickers, report says By: Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [25 Nov 2021]
– Only one in every seven wildlife seizures made in Vietnam in the past decade has resulted in convictions, a new report by the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency has found.
– Low numbers of arrests and prosecutions highlight problems of weak enforcement and a lack of coordination between law enforcement agencies, the researchers said.
– Three-quarters of the shipments originated from African countries, they found, with numerous large-scale seizures indicating transnational organized crime.
– With pandemic-related restrictions easing, the worry is that the cross-border wildlife trade will come roaring back even as Vietnam struggles to follow up on investigations into past and current seizures.

In a warming world, deforestation turns the heat deadly, Borneo study finds By: Grace Dungey [25 Nov 2021]
– New research identifies how rising localized temperatures driven by deforestation and global warming are increasing heat-related deaths and creating unsafe working conditions in Indonesia.
– In the Bornean district of Berau, 4,375 square kilometers (1,689 square miles) of forest were cleared between 2002 and 2018, contributing to a 0.95°C (1.71°F) increase in mean daily temperature across the district, according to the study.
– It concluded climate change temperature increases in the region caused an 8% rise in mortality rates in 2018, or more than 100 deaths annually, and an additional almost 20 minutes per day of unsafe work time.
– Based on the 2018 data, a projected 2°C (3.6°F) global temperature increase in deforested areas could result in a 20%increase in all-cause mortality — an additional 236-282 deaths per year — and almost five unsafe work hours per day.

In Brazil, an agribusiness haven’s green pivot leaves many skeptical By: Fernanda Wenzel [25 Nov 2021]
– The Amacro project was conceived in early 2020 as an agribusiness hub in a heavily deforested part of the Brazilian Amazon, but a year later is being touted as a hub for sustainable business.
– Now renamed the Abunã-Madeira Sustainable Development Area (ZDS), it stretches across 32 municipalities in the states of Amazonas, Acre and Rondônia, which last year accounted for nearly a quarter of the total deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
– The ZDS project aims to attract investments into a wide range of sectors, from agroforestry and fish farming, to tourism and logistics, as well as the agribusiness, while promising to avoid deforestation through technology to help boost agricultural productivity.
– Despite these green claims, prosecutors and nonprofit researchers say the prospect of new investment is already boosting land grabbing and deforestation in the area, and argue the best way to halt deforestation is to create protected areas — something that’s not included in the ZDS project.

In Brazil’s wildlife care centers, struggles and successes go unseen By: Dimas Marques/Fauna News [25 Nov 2021]
– Responsible for saving countless wild animals but little known to the general public, Brazil’s 62 wildlife care centers face a daily routine of problems and scarcity of resources.
– In the country with the richest biodiversity on the planet, the system in place to care for wild animals rescued from traffickers and illegal captivity is not a priority for environmental authorities and depends on the effort and dedication of the staff involved, proponents say.
– In São Paulo state, overwhelmed units cannot handle the 30,000 animals seized per year; in Rio de Janeiro, 600 animals died in four months for lack of caretakers; in the whole state of Amazonas, which includes one-third of the Brazilian Amazon, there is only one unit.
– Minas Gerais is an exception: by developing partnerships between federal and state agencies and civil society, the state has been able to increase its staff and the number of volunteers to streamline its services.



Fighting climate change is a dirty job, but soils can do it | Problem Solved by Mike DiGirolamo [11/24/2021]
For world’s rarest gorillas, camera traps prove pivotal for protection by Gianluca Cerullo [11/23/2021]
Jaguars in Mexico are growing in number, a promising sign that national conservation strategies are working by Guananí Gómez-Van Cortright [11/22/2021]