Newsletter 2022-02-03


Standing Rock withdraws from ongoing environmental assessment of Dakota Access Pipeline by Laurel Sutherland [02/02/2022]

– The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has withdrawn as a cooperating agency from the U.S Federal government’s ongoing environmental assessment of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) operations, citing lack of transparency by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the pipeline operators, Energy Transfer.
– Standing Rock tribal leaders have raised concerns about the oil spill emergency response plans made available to them and believe that Energy transfer has understated how big the potential of an oil spill might be.
– Janet Alkire, the newly elected Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairperson, has called on the Army Corps to address the issues they have highlighted in the emergency response plans or to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline immediately to safeguard the lives of tribal members.

‘A bigger deal than it sounds’: Coconut crabs are vanishing, island by island by Cassie Freund [02/01/2022]

– Despite being widespread across the Pacific and Indian oceans, coconut crabs are disappearing across their range, according to a new conservation assessment that warns they’re vulnerable to extinction.
– The species, the largest land crab in the world, is threatened by habitat destruction for coastal development and agriculture, as well as by harvesting for the seafood trade.
– The harvesting is also impacting reproductive outcomes for the crabs, given the preference among both consumers and female crabs for bigger male crabs.
– Some conservation groups are already working on the ground in places like Indonesia’s West Papua province to educate community members, tourism operators, guides, and tourists about the importance of coconut crabs.

Ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin: Indigenous knowledge serves as a ‘connective tissue’ between nature and human well-being by Rhett A. Butler [01/31/2022]

– As a best-selling author, the co-founder of the award-winning Amazon Conservation Team, and an acclaimed public speaker, Mark Plotkin is one of the world’s most prominent rainforest ethnobotanists and conservationists.
– His experiences in Amazonian communities led Plotkin, along with Costa Rican conservationist Liliana Madrigal, to establish the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) in 1995. ACT took a distinctly different approach than most Western conservation groups at the time: It placed Indigenous communities at the center of its strategy.
– ACT’s approach has since been widely adopted by other organizations, and its philosophy as a whole is now more relevant than ever as the conservation sector wrestles with its colonial roots.
– Plotkin spoke of his work, trends in conservation, and a range of other topics in a January 2022 interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.


As world drowns in plastic waste, U.N. to hammer out global treaty By: Charles Pekow [02 Feb 2022]
– After years of largely neglecting the buildup of plastic waste in Earth’s environment, the U.N. Environment Assembly will meet in February and March in the hopes of drafting the first international treaty controlling global plastics pollution.
– Discarded plastic is currently killing marine life, threatening food security, contributing to climate change, damaging economies, and dissolving into microplastics that contaminate land, water, the atmosphere and even the human bloodstream.
– The U.N. parties will debate how comprehensive the treaty they write will be: Should it, for example, protect just the oceans or the whole planet? Should it focus mainly on reuse/recycling, or control plastics manufacture and every step of the supply chain and waste stream?
– The U.S. has changed its position from opposition to such a treaty under President Donald Trump, to support under President Joe Biden, but has yet to articulate exactly what it wants in an agreement. While environmental NGOs are pushing for a comprehensive treaty, plastics companies, who say they support regulation, likely will want to limit the treaty’s scope.

New study highlights hidden scale of U.S. illegal tiger trade By: Carolyn Cowan [02 Feb 2022]
– A new study highlights the previously underestimated role of the U.S. in the illegal tiger trade: According to newly compiled seizure data, tiger trafficking in the U.S. from 2003 to 2012 corresponded to almost half of the global tiger trade reported for that period in prior studies.
– By analyzing hundreds of U.S. tiger trafficking incidents, the researchers uncovered noteworthy routes from China and Vietnam into the country, with the vast majority of seizures involving traditional medicines.
– They also found significant legal trade in captive-bred tigers into the country, mainly for use in roadside zoos and circuses; experts say the patchwork of U.S. federal, state and local laws that govern the roughly 5,000 captive tigers in the country is insufficient to safeguard them from the illegal trade.
– Experts are calling on U.S. legislators to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a bill that would improve the welfare and protection of tigers in captivity and therefore strengthen the country’s integrity on international tiger conservation matters.

Tukupu: The women of the Kariña community, guardians of Venezuela’s forests By: Astrid Arellano [02 Feb 2022]
– Tukupu is Venezuela’s first Indigenous forest business, sustainably managing and reforesting 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of the Imataca Forest Reserve in the south-east of the country.
– The business is led mainly by women who have used their ancestral knowledge to restore over 312 hectares (770 acres) of forest, reforest another 113 (280 acres) and dedicate 189 (468 acres) to agroforestry.
– According to the FAO, the equivalent of more than 23 million tonnes of carbon emissions have been avoided, either directly or indirectly, through the project.
– One of the key points of the project has been to figure out how the resources from the forest can be commercialised in a sustainable way that also benefits members of the community.

Have we reached peak palm oil? (commentary) By: Mark Gregory [02 Feb 2022]
– Palm oil prices have rocketed since the outbreak of COVID-19, but the surge in deforestation that usually accompanies this isn’t happening.
– Mark Gregory asks whether the market for one of the biggest drivers of tropical deforestation in the world is waning, and what it means for the fight to protect forests.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Vietnam’s timber legality program not making a dent in risky wood imports By: Carolyn Cowan [02 Feb 2022]
– Despite new regulations to clean up Vietnam’s timber sector, importers continue to bring large volumes of tropical hardwood into the country from deforestation hotspots in Africa and Asia for use in products sold domestically.
– In 2018, Vietnam signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the EU to eliminate illegal timber from the country’s supply chains and boost access to the strictly regulated European markets.
– However, importers say the new legality requirements introduced in 2020 to verify the legitimacy of timber brought into the country are “too confusing,” and customs data indicate few signs of a reduction in high-risk timber imports from countries including Cambodia, Cameroon, Gabon, Laos and Papua New Guinea.
– Although Vietnamese authorities are taking steps to improve the situation, meaningful change is expected to take time; a switch by domestic consumers to products that use sustainable, locally grown timber instead of imported tropical hardwoods could solve many underlying problems, experts say.

Safe havens for coral reefs will disappear as oceans warm, study says By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [02 Feb 2022]
– A new study found that coral reef “refugia” — places that have historically protected coral reefs from thermal stress — will decline substantially when global heating reaches 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels; at 2°C (3.6°F), most coral reef refugia will disappear.
– A loss in refugia will expose corals to thermal stress that they will likely be unable to cope with, most likely leading to large-scale loss of coral reefs that will threaten marine biodiversity and food security.
– The authors suggest that management efforts should be refocused to help coral reefs adapt to a warming ocean and to assist in their migration to more hospitable locations.
– However, efforts to help corals adapt to rising temperatures may be futile as long as carbon emissions continue to rise.

Tech revolution holds world of promise for conservation, but challenges persist By: Caitlin Looby [02 Feb 2022]
– Technology has rapidly changed the face of conservation and is now at a critical juncture where cutting edge tools are available, but aren’t necessarily as accessible or affordable as they need to be.
– A recent survey by WILDLABS, an online platform connecting conservation technology experts, shows that environmental DNA, networked sensors and artificial intelligence tools are the fields that hold the most promise.
– Yet despite the progress that’s been made, there are still many barriers to accessibility for local and Indigenous communities.
– Experts say collaboration and partnerships between conservationists, tech developers and local and Indigenous communities will be key to ensuring that conservation tech can continue having an impact.

Indigenous hunter-gatherers in Cameroon diversify food sources in the face of change By: Laurel Sutherland [01 Feb 2022]
– In southeastern Cameroon, zoning and settlement policies have forced the Indigenous Baka people to slowly transition away from their hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the rainforest, to one that relies more on farming and fishing in order to guarantee their food security.
– The community relies heavily on diverse food sources in and without the forest in order to compromise a diet of about 60 animal species, 83 wild edible species, six species of fish, 32 crops and 28 varieties of plantain.
– According to Yon Fernández de Larrinoa, chief of the FAO’s Indigenous Peoples Unit, the Baka’s sustainable way of life should be considered by the government when implementing policies that will challenge the resilience of the group’s food system.
– This article is one of an eight-part series showcasing Indigenous food systems covered in the most comprehensive FAO report on the topic to date.

Links between terrorism and the ivory trade overblown, study says By: Ashoka Mukpo [01 Feb 2022]
– As killings of elephants in Africa spiked in the early 2010s, some conservation organizations claimed the ivory trade was financing armed groups like al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
– According to a study published in Global Environmental Politics, those ties were overstated and strategically pushed by NGOs in order to attract funding for anti-poaching efforts.
– Despite shaky evidence for some of the claims, they helped frame wildlife trafficking as a global security issue and were subsequently repeated by policymakers from the U.S. and elsewhere.
– The study said the confluence of conservation and security policy has had “material outcomes for marginalized peoples living with wildlife, including militarization, human rights abuses, enhanced surveillance, and law enforcement.”

A royal release: Cambodia returns 51 rare turtles to the wild By: Grace Hansen [01 Feb 2022]
– Conservation authorities in Cambodia released 51 critically endangered southern river terrapins into the country’s Sre Ambel River last November.
– The program is part of wider efforts to bring back a species that was previously thought to be extinct in Cambodia.
– The terrapin, known locally as the royal turtle, was historically hunted as a delicacy, but is also threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation and sand dredging.
– The latest released batch of 31 females and 20 males have been tagged to keep track of their behavior in the wild.

Indonesia, Malaysia to hold joint patrols against illegal fishing By: M Ambari [01 Feb 2022]
– Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to hold joint patrols against illegal fishing in the waters that connect the two Southeast Asian countries.
– The patrols are expected to beef up maritime security against illegal fishers in the Malacca Strait and the North Natuna Sea, as well as protectthe rich marine biodiversity there.
– Illegal fishing by foreign vessels inflicts losses of up to $1.4 billion a year in Malaysia, and $2 billion a year in Indonesia.

Podcast: ‘Carbon cowboys’ and illegal logging By: Mike DiGirolamo [01 Feb 2022]
– Papua New Guinea has been the world’s largest tropical timber exporter since 2014. More than 70% of the timber produced in the country is considered illegal.
– Despite two government inquiries finding the majority of land leases on which logging occurs to be illegal, these land leases still remain in force today.
– While carbon trading has been touted as a solution, activists, journalists and even a provincial governor have expressed concerns over its economic benefits and the continued loss of customary land rights.
– For this episode of Mongabay Explores we interview Gary Juffa, governor of Oro province in Papua New Guinea, and investigative journalist, Rachel Donald.

In prioritizing conservation, animal culture should be a factor, study says By: John C. Cannon [01 Feb 2022]
– Research has shown that culture exists in myriad animal species, allowing information to be shared between generations, leading to occurrences of tool use and potentially affecting animals’ adaptability to changes to their environment.
– In a new paper, scientists propose a stepwise process to account for and protect animal culture in conservation efforts.
– They advocate an approach to conservation that integrates culture with conventional considerations such as genetic diversity, rather than using it as a “stand-alone” tool.

Indonesia on track with peatland restoration, but bogged down with mangroves By: Hans Nicholas Jong [01 Feb 2022]
– Programs to restore areas of degraded tropical peatland and mangroves had mixed fortunes in their first year, with the former racing to 25% of its four-year target, and the latter achieving less than 6%.
– Officials and experts say a key obstacle to the mangrove restoration program is the opposition of the communities clearing the mangrove forests to establish shrimp and fish farms.
– Lack of funding was also an issue, with the mangrove budget slashed and redirected toward Indonesia’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
– Experts say the government needs to find a middle ground with shrimp and fish farmers, including by helping them boost their productivity so they can operate smaller farms and dedicate a greater area to rehabilitation.

Malaysian officials deny deforestation drives deadly human-wildlife conflict By: Rachel Donald [31 Jan 2022]
– Following a tiger mauling that killed an Indigenous Temiar man in Malaysia’s Kelantan state, officials, conservationists and Indigenous advocacy groups have been in a heated debate over the causes of human-wildlife conflict in the state.
– Indigenous communities and academics point to deforestation for logging, agriculture and infrastructure projects as the root cause of tiger attacks.
– State officials deny there is any link between deforestation and increasing contact between people and wildlife; one official even claimed that deforestation is good for tigers.

Sixty of one, half a dozen of the other: Rare magnolias get a new start in Ecuador’s Chocó By: Liz Kimbrough and Maxwell Radwin [31 Jan 2022]
– Currently, only 60 Magnolia canandeana trees are known in the wild, and for Magnolia dixonii, only six. These rare magnolia species inhabit Ecuador’s Canandé Reserve in the Chocó, where scientists and locals are working to help conserve the rainforest.
– However, illegal loggers, exporters of balsa wood, the palm oil industry, cattle ranchers and farmers have steadily pushed in on the forest, leading to high rates of deforestation and a decline in biodiversity that threatens the rare magnolias. Only 2% of the original Chocó remains.
– Faced with limited resources and the global pandemic, conservation groups have needed all the help they can get, even asking one of their cooks to lead germination research.
– Efforts to revive the populations are underway, but the future of the newly planted trees is uncertain while the forest remains at risk from further deforestation.

For the Year of the Tiger, a shared vision for the future of the iconic cat (commentary) By: Coalition for Securing a Viable Future for the Tiger [31 Jan 2022]
– As the Year of the Tiger begins on February 1, a coalition of six top NGOs is committing to a cooperative approach to save the iconic big cat.
– In the past 12 years, tigers increased significantly in some areas but disappeared from others: a close assessment of these trends is key in advance of the next Global Tiger summit in September 2022.
– The authors from IUCN, FFI, WCS, WWF, Traffic and Panthera argue that ambition must increase but also that funders must support collaborative efforts instead of the status quo/competitive model of funding conservation.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Displaced and deprived, Indigenous communities suffer from hunger in Nicaragua By: Maxwell Radwin [28 Jan 2022]
– Colonos, or colonists, have been pushing into rural parts of northern Nicaragua for decades, drawn to the potential for unregulated gold mining and cattle ranching.
– The area legally belongs to Mayangna and Miskito Indigenous communities, who have sustainably managed the area for crop cultivation.
– But many families have been driven away by the colonos’ threats of violence and destruction of the forests and water sources they depend on for sustenance.
– With nowhere to go, the Indigenous communities are now experiencing food insecurity and malnutrition as they attempt to grow crops on small plots of unclaimed land.

California redwood forest returned to Indigenous guardianship, conservation By: Laurel Sutherland [28 Jan 2022]
– Ownership of a 215-hectare (532-acre) redwood forest along California’s north coast was returned to Sinkyone tribes and has been renamed Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ.
– The InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council is working with Save the Redwoods League, which donated the land, to protect California’s remaining old-growth forest, along with endangered species such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.
– The 30-year conservation plan and land transfer deal is funded by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) in order to offset habitat loss that may result from the company’s activities.
– Indigenous forest conservation principles, such as controlled burnings, will be included in the tribal protected area – an inclusion that should be seen in the 30×30 initiative to protect 30% of lands and ocean by 2030, says Save the Redwoods League and the tribal council.

Full steam ahead for Tren Maya project as lawsuits hit judicial hurdles By: Maxwell Radwin [28 Jan 2022]
– The Mexican government is building a multibillion-dollar tourist train line that will run 1,525 kilometers (948 miles) across the Yucatán Peninsula.
– The government agency overseeing construction says the project will bolster the rural economy in southern Mexico by creating jobs, and claims an 80% approval rate in many communities.
– However, the construction allegedly threatens to destroy one of the most biodiverse areas of the country, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and will lead to the relocation of many Indigenous communities.
– Advocacy groups helping communities file 25 lawsuits against the project say that judicial hurdles and a rebranding of the project as being a “national security” matter complicate their chances of success.

The Years of the Tiger: The demand for tigers and the price they pay (commentary) By: Chris Slappendel [28 Jan 2022]
– Trade in tiger parts as medicine has been historically significant in China for many decades, and the traction and beliefs have only increased with the wealth of the nation.
– Having initiated tiger farms in their own country, and influencing other countries to open farms, China has long been making promises to phase out the farms following CITES’ regulations.
– As the Year of the Tiger approaches, many brands and businesses have started marketing campaigns with themes featuring the charismatic animal, but are yet to comprehend the price that tigers pay for their popularity.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Raid against Sumatran official uncovers use of slave labor on oil palm farm By: Hans Nicholas Jong [28 Jan 2022]
– A district head in Sumatra could face human trafficking charges after he was found to have imprisoned 48 men at his compound who worked for no pay at his oil palm plantation.
– While police and other government authorities have been reluctant to declare this a case of modern-day slave labor, advocacy groups say the evidence against Terbit Rencana Perangin Angin, the head of Langkat district in North Sumatra province, is indisputable.
– Terbit also faces charges of corruption (the raid on his compound was associated with a bribery allegation), and illegal wildlife possession (the raid also uncovered an orangutan and other protected species being kept as pets).
– While the case has captured national attention, watchdog groups say the problem of labor violations in the palm oil industry are widespread, and have called for the swift passage of a bill to boost protections for workers.

What went wrong with conservation at Kahuzi-Biega National Park and how to transform it (commentary) By: Deborah S. Rogers [27 Jan 2022]
– The Coercive Conservation paradigm prevents local communities from accessing their lands, leading to human rights abuses, corrupt resource extraction, and loss of habitat and wildlife.
– Kahuzi Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which expelled Indigenous Batwa people in 1975, is now overrun by refugees, militias, and mining, while ecoguards reportedly burn villages and kill indigenous people.
– We can transform conservation by supporting Protected Areas that integrate human well-being, are designed and managed by local communities, and are protected by local people with support from security forces, upon request.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.


Innovative sewage solutions: Tackling the global human waste problem by Sean Mowbray [01/25/2022]
Young environmentalists ‘plant the future’ in Colombia’s Amazon by Dimitri Selibas [01/24/2022]
Amazon to Alps: Swiss gold imports from Brazil tread a legal minefield by Fernanda Wenzel and Olivier Christe [01/21/2022]
We’ve breached Earth’s threshold for chemical pollution, study says by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [01/19/2022]
Chemical defoliants sprayed on Amazon rainforest to facilitate deforestation in Brazil by Jenny Gonzales [01/19/2022]