Newsletter 2022-01-20


In Sri Lanka, a wild cat thrives in the unlikely urban jungle of Colombo by Malaka Rodrigo [01/17/2022]

– Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo, is home to the only known urban population of fishing cats throughout their global range.
– Using tracking data, scientists are studying how these felines, about twice the size of a domestic cat, are navigating this built-up environment in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth.
– They’ve found that the urban cats have a smaller range than their rural counterparts, and raid fish ponds and poultry pens for food.
– The adaptability of Colombo’s fishing cats has given researchers optimism about the species’ survival in an increasingly urbanized world, but further studies will be needed to aid in their conservation.

By cultivating seaweed, Indigenous communities restore connection to the ocean by Claudia Geib [01/14/2022]

– In many places, Indigenous communities are working to restore seaweed species that have been traditional food sources or supported traditional diets.
– From kelp farms in Alaska to seaweed-focused community education in Hawai‘i, the projects take many forms.
– These Indigenous groups are reemphasizing the ability of marine algae and plants to support food sovereignty, climate resilience, and connections to tradition.

Brazil’s illegal gold rush is fueling corruption, violent crime and deforestation by Robert Muggah [01/14/2022]

– Once the epicenter of the global trade in gold, illegal mining is once again surging across the Amazon.
– Its extraction and trade is not only fueling corruption, money laundering and criminal violence – it is accelerating deforestation in the world’s largest tropical forest, says Robert Muggah, co-founder of the Igarapé Institute.
– Muggah details a range of challenges facing efforts to rein in the gold mining sector. He says political leadership is critical to make progress on the issue: “Absent political will from the top, however, Brazil’s gold chain will continue to resemble the wild west.”


For pharmaceuticals fouling wastewater and wildlife, solutions exist (commentary) By: Cate Twining-Ward and Colin Chapman [18 Jan 2022]
– Humanity’s heavy daily reliance on pharmaceuticals has unsettling effects on water quality and wildlife.
– Studies highlighting the impacts of pharmaceuticals on wildlife have been focused on aquatic organisms, especially fish. Given the current lack of data, additional research this area is clearly warranted.
– Advanced treatment methods can reduce the concentration of harmful pharmaceutical compounds in wastewater up to 95%. So the question is, are we willing to adapt treatment so that a safe and equitable future for both people and wildlife is possible, a new op-ed asks.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

‘Central African Forests Forever’: Meindert Brouwer’s book looks to solutions By: Désiré Nimubona [18 Jan 2022]
– “Central African Forests Forever” is a new, 17-chapter book by independent conservationist and writer Meindert Brouwer.
– One unique aspect of the book is the author’s focus on how Chinese pioneers in sustainable forest management have put forth solutions to safeguard the rainforests of Central Africa, the world’s second-largest after the Amazon.
– Brouwer’s book is available in French, English, and Chinese, and is free to download online.

‘Huge blow’ for tiger conservation as two of the big cats killed in Thailand By: Carolyn Cowan [18 Jan 2022]
– Authorities in Thailand have arrested five suspects for killing two Indochinese tigers in a protected area in the country’s west; the suspects said the tigers had been killing and eating their cattle.
– Authorities seized the two tiger carcasses, which had been stripped of their skins and meat, raising suspicions among experts that financial motives, namely selling the tiger parts in the illegal market, may have driven the killing.
– Indochinese tigers have been declared extinct in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in recent years, and while several breeding populations persist in Thailand’s protected area networks, they number no more than 200 individuals.
– The killing on Jan. 8 comes days before officials from Thailand and other tiger range countries are due to meet to discuss progress toward an ambitious goal set in 2010 to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022.

Here’s how science is trying to conserve the monarch butterfly’s forests By: Thelma Gómez Durán [17 Jan 2022]
– A team of Mexican scientists are developing a successful experiment that allows for the recovery and maintenance of endemic trees in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve that provide a habitat for monarch butterflies every winter.
– The team is employing a mix of natural restoration, soil conservation and active reforestation that has so far achieved a survival rate of 83 to 84 percent, at least three times more successful than some government reforestation programs.
– According to Dr. Cuauhtémoc Sáenz-Romero, one of the researchers of the project, forests where monarch butterfly colonies are located are becoming more susceptible to climate events through unusual foliage loss and increased woodland mortality.
– Researchers have started to implement the “assisted migration” of oyamel firs (Abies religiosa) to higher altitudes in the reserve, where they can best resist changing climatic conditions.

In Kathmandu, a struggle for water amid worsening floods By: Johan Augustin [17 Jan 2022]
– In Kathmandu, residents face the dual challenges of freshwater aquifers running dry, and increasingly unpredictable monsoons causing flash floods.
– The combination of climate change and a rapidly growing urban population is straining an already overwhelmed municipal water system, forcing many residents to have to buy water by the tank at high prices.
– An ambitious project to pipe water to the city from a nearby river was shut down within months of its long-delayed start — a victim of the monsoon floods that destroyed a dam and water treatment plant.
– Another solution being explored is rainwater harvesting, which proponents say should be complemented by restoration of Kathmandu’s green areas and restrictions on drawing groundwater.

Bare-faced curassows return to Argentina’s Iberá after 50-year absence By: Oscar Bermeo Ocaña [17 Jan 2022]
– After being missing for 50 years from the Iberá region of Argentina, three bare-faced curassow chicks were born there last year thanks to a reintroduction program that also works with other native species.
– Scientists are also working to reintroduce the curassow into the country’s Chaco forests to strengthen the small wild populations of the bird that remain.
– The main threats to the bare-faced curassow are hunting and loss of habitat due to deforestation.

Greater Mekong primates struggle to cling on amid persistent threats: Report By: Carolyn Cowan [17 Jan 2022]
– The Greater Mekong region is home to 44 species of non-human primates, including gibbons, lorises, langurs, macaques and snub-nosed monkeys, several of which were first described within the last few years.
– Habitat loss and hunting driven by the wildlife trade and consumption have driven many of the region’s primates to the brink of extinction, with many species now only existing as tiny populations in isolated, fragmented pockets of habitat.
– Experts say controlling the illegal wildlife trade is complicated by the presence of legal markets for primates, often for use in biomedical research.
– Despite the challenges, conservation action at local levels is achieving results for some primate species in the region while also enhancing livelihoods and ecosystem services for local communities.

In hot water: Ocean warming hits another record high on climate change By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [14 Jan 2022]
– A new study has found that, for the sixth year in a row, the world’s oceans have been hotter than they’ve ever been in recent history due to human-induced climate change.
– The research team found that last year, the upper 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) in all oceans absorbed 14 zettajoules more of human-made energy than the previous year, equal to about 145 times the world’s electricity generation in 2020.
– A warming ocean creates a multitude of issues, driving extreme weather events, accelerating sea level rise, disrupting marine biodiversity, threatening global food security, and melting polar ice shelves.
– Experts say the best way to reduce ocean climate impacts is to lower carbon emissions and meet the Paris Agreement goal of not allowing global warming to surpass 1.5°C (2.7°F) over preindustrial levels.

A jaguar refuge in Mexico is an ecological island in the midst of threats By: Agustín del Castillo [14 Jan 2022]
– The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve is home to one of the most studied dry tropical forests in Mexico, with work being carried out at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s biological station.
– The natural protected area was founded in the 1970s after a French-British billionaire purchased land along the Jalisco coast for conservation projects.
– The reserve is a refuge for jaguars, pumas and other species of wildlife.
– However, they’re under constant pressure from deforestation and the expansion of tourist projects.

Grounded by conflict and COVID, Colombia’s bird tourism struggles to soar By: Genevieve Glatsky [14 Jan 2022]
– In Colombia, the landmark 2016 peace accords with the FARC heralded hopes of ushering in bird-watching tourism in previously inaccessible, biodiverse regions.
– Birding tourism has unique advantages, including dedicated bird-watchers who will pay good money to go to remote locations.
– But the pandemic, protests, and the persistent perception of insecurity has stymied the country’s bird tourism industry from reaching its full potential.

Total’s oil pipeline gets go-ahead from Ugandan MPs despite secret terms By: Thomas Lewton [14 Jan 2022]
– Uganda’s parliament has passed a bill approving the construction of a controversial pipeline that will cut through high-biodiversity areas and displace thousands of people.
– Critics say the bill was rushed through parliament to pave the way for a secretive agreement between the government and French oil giant TotalEnergies, the pipeline’s operator.
– The $3.5 billion heated oil pipeline will run 1,445 kilometers (898 miles) from Uganda’s Lake Mwitanzige, in the Albertine Rift, to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga in Tanzania.
– The new bill that undergirds it holds “supremacy” over all existing legislation other than Uganda’s Constitution, making it “very difficult” for laws that offer environmental and social protections to be upheld in the event of a conflict.

Ecuador to announce creation of Hermandad Marine Reserve off Galapagos (commentary) By: President Guillermo Lasso [13 Jan 2022]
– “Ecuador is proud to announce the creation of the Hermandad Marine Reserve in the coming days,” the country’s president announces in a statement shared with Mongabay.
– Safeguarding the critical migration routes of vital species like whale sharks and sea turtles will result in healthier and more abundant populations, he says.
– Covering an additional 60,000 square kilometers near the Galapagos, in addition to the existing 138,000 square kilometers, the new reserve will ensure a safe pathway for creatures traveling to and from Costa Rica’s Cocos Island.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Analysts point to logging and mining to explain Solomon Islands unrest By: Rachel Donald [13 Jan 2022]
– In November 2021, Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, was wracked by riots that left three people dead and the city’s Chinatown in ashes.
– The unrest was stoked by the prime minister’s decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan and instead side with Beijing, stirring up anti-Chinese sentiment, as well as tensions between Guadalcanal province, where the capital is located, and Malaita, the country’s most-populous province but also one of its least-developed.
– However, some analysts say the true causes of discontent lie in the cozy relationships between officials and the foreign logging and mining firms that are ravaging the country.

Indonesian research center for medicinal plants displaces incense harvesters By: Barita News Lumbanbatu [13 Jan 2022]
– Incense harvesters in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province say the construction of a new center for research into medicinal plants threatens their livelihoods.
– The government says the center will boost Indonesia’s food and drug security, and maximizing the economic potential of Indonesia’s wealth of medicinal plants.

Podcast: With the passing of two icons, who will lead the conservation movement? By: Mike Gaworecki [12 Jan 2022]
– This is the first episode of the Mongabay Newscast of 2022, and sadly we’re starting the new year on a somber note as the conservation world recently lost two renowned conservation biologists: Tom Lovejoy and E.O. Wilson both passed away at the end of 2021.
– Here to discuss the legacies both conservation icons leave behind and where we might look to find the next generation of conservation leaders is Rebecca McCaffery, North America president of the Society for Conservation Biology and a wildlife biologist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). McCaffery tells us about the overarching influence of E.O. Wilson on the world of conservation biology and why she doesn’t necessarily think we need new conservation icons to lead us into the future.
– We also speak with Mongabay staff writer Liz Kimbrough, who interviewed E.O. Wilson just a couple months before his passing. Kimbrough tells us about her conversation with Wilson, what his works have meant to her as both a science writer and a PhD-holding biologist, and where she sees the big ideas and leadership for the conservation biology space coming from in the future.


The thick of it: Delving into the neglected global impacts of human waste by Sean Mowbray [01/11/2022]
Wild release marks return of giant forest tortoises to Bangladesh hills by Carolyn Cowan [01/10/2022]
Tom Lovejoy’s enduring legacy to the planet by Jeremy Hance [01/07/2022]