Newsletter 2022-02-17


Jordan scrambles to save rare Red Sea corals that can withstand climate change by Marta Vidal [02/14/2022]

– In Jordan, researchers, activists and fishers are hopeful that their coral reefs — and the life they support — can survive climate change.
– Corals in this northern part of the Red Sea have been shown to be far more resilient to warming ocean temperatures than corals elsewhere.- Even though they cover only 0.2% of the ocean floor, coral reefs support about 25% of all marine life.

A mayor in the Philippines took on a mine, and lost her job over it by Keith Anthony S. Fabro [02/11/2022]

– When nickel mining firm Ipilan Nickel Corporation began felling trees in a protected forest in its concession area in Brooke’s Point, Palawan, Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano moved aggressively to stop them.
– After sending cease-and-desist orders and failing ultimately to prevent the felling of 7,000 trees, she used her authority to shut down the company’s operations and demolish onsite facilities.
– The company fought back, claiming it had the legal right to cut trees on the concession, and that Feliciano’s actions amounted to an abuse of authority.
– The Philippine Ombudsman sided with the company, ruling in July 2021 that Feliciano be suspended without pay for a year.

Malaysian officials dampen prospects for giant, secret carbon deal in Sabah by John C. Cannon [02/10/2022]

– The attorney general of the Malaysian state of Sabah has said that a contentious deal for the right to sell credits for carbon and other natural capital will not come into force unless certain provisions are met.
– Mongabay first reported that the 100-year agreement, which involves the protection of some 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) from activities such as logging, was signed in October 2021 between the state and a Singapore-based firm called Hoch Standard.
– Several leaders in the state, including the attorney general, have called for more due diligence on the companies involved in the transaction.
– Civil society representatives say that a technical review of the agreement is necessary to vet claims about its financial value to the state and its feasibility.

Air pollution makes it tough for pollinators to stop and smell the flowers by Liz Kimbrough [02/10/2022]

– Common air pollutants such as those found in car exhaust fumes react with floral scents, leading to reduced pollination by insects, according to new research.
– Researchers used a fumigation facility to control levels of pollution over an open field of mustard plants and observed the effects of these pollutants on pollination by local, free-flying insects.
– The presence of air pollution resulted in up to 90% fewer flower visits and one-third less pollination than in a smog-free field. The largest decrease in pollination came from bees, flies, moths and butterflies.
– The link between poor air quality and human health is well known, but this research points to another way in which air pollution may affect the systems that humans and all other life rely upon.


Indigenous Comcáac turtle group saves sea turtles in Mexico’s Gulf of California By: Astrid Arellano [17 Feb 2022]
– The Grupo Tortuguero Comcáac, the Sea Turtle Group of the Comcáac people, in El Desemboque de los Seris is fighting to increase the population of sea turtles, a sacred animal, in the Gulf of California.
– In the past five years they have managed to release more than 8,000 olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) hatchlings along 14 kilometers (9 miles) of the Mancha Blanca and El Faro beach.
– State funding for the project is limited, however the turtle rescue group does not see this as a stumbling block, at times working 12 hour shifts to guard turtles, monitor the area and manage logistics.

Belize shows how fishers and researchers can collaborate to protect sharks By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [17 Feb 2022]
– A new study found that Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) experienced a decline between 2009 and 2019 at Glovers Reef Marine Reserve, a marine protected area off the coast of Belize.
– The researchers theorized that the decline had to do with legal shark fishing that had been permitted on the edges of the MPA since 2016.
– The researchers worked with government officials and the fishing community to implement no-take zones that extended 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) around Glover’s Reef Atoll, as well as around two other sites: Lighthouse Reef Atoll and Turneffe Atoll.
– While it’s too early to tell if the new restrictions are having a positive impact, experts say they’re hopeful that Caribbean reef sharks will bounce back.

A conservation paradigm based on Indigenous values in DR Congo (commentary) By: Sushil Raj & Dr. Albert Kwokwo Barume [17 Feb 2022]
– Colonialism and the gazettement of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern DRC led to the evictions of Batwa Indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands and a number of human rights abuses that continue today.
– To seek to address historical and contemporary injustices, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is emphasizing Indigenous values and entering a partnership with the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) to take actions that ensure that the rights of the Batwa peoples are respected and protected.
– This commentary is written by the Executive Director of Rights + Communities at the WCS, and a Congolese Lawyer and former Chairperson of the U.N. Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

When Indonesia retook land from developers, it gave them a solid case to sue By: Hans Nicholas Jong [17 Feb 2022]
– The Indonesian government’s decision to revoke permits for plantation firms to operate in forest areas could lead to lawsuits filed by the companies, environmental law experts say.
– The permits were rescinded at the start of the year, not because of any environmental violations, but rather because the concession holders were deemed to be moving too slowly in exploiting the resources.
– But the unilateral revocations have set up an unprecedented legal mess, observers and industry representatives say, with no clarity over whether a company that has lost a permit can still operate on the basis of the other permits it still holds.
– Contributing to the confusion is the government’s persistent refusal to publicly release any data on the permits and the companies that hold them, in direct violation of a Supreme Court ruling ordering it to do so.

ReconAfrica pushes ahead with Namibia oil exploration amid claims of violations By: Victoria Schneider [17 Feb 2022]
– Canadian oil and gas company ReconAfrica has announced it will enter a second phase of petroleum exploration in Namibia.
– Campaigners and community members say the company has not conducted the environmental impact assessments necessary to extend its operations.
– The company has been accused of violating several laws by encroaching on people’s land and into untouched forests.
– Opponents of the company’s activities say they will consider legal action if the violations continue.

Bringing back large mammals boosts restoration of entire ecosystems: Study By: Carolyn Cowan [17 Feb 2022]
– Large mammals play crucial ecological roles by influencing the behavior of other animals in the food chain and shaping the structure and composition of their environments.
– A new study that looks at global opportunities for the restoration, reintroduction and rewilding of large mammals across the world’s terrestrial ecoregions found that just 15% of the world’s land area supports intact large mammal assemblages.
– The study suggests that returning just 20 large mammal species to their historic habitats could restore intact large mammal communities across almost one-quarter of the Earth’s land area.
– The scientists behind the study recommend large mammal rewilding be incorporated into area-based conservation targets being considered under the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework and into restoration efforts under the U.N.’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

Podcast: Defending New Guinea’s forests with birds-of-paradise and ecotourism By: Mike DiGirolamo [16 Feb 2022]
– The island of New Guinea is home to 44 species of unique birds-of-paradise that are found nowhere else on Earth.
– The EcoNusa Foundation in Indonesia and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have partnered on a campaign called “defending paradise,” using the birds as ambassadors for the island’s biodiversity and communities.
– Home to the third-largest tract of tropical rainforest in the world, of which 80% is still intact, New Guinea is in a unique position to conserve its forest cover as part of an economy that serves its local inhabitants, rather than extracting from and deforesting these communities.
– For this episode of Mongabay Explores, we interview Bustar Maitar, founder and CEO of the EcoNusa Foundation, and Edwin Scholes, head of the Birds-of-Paradise Project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Nepal’s gharials deserve attention and protection (commentary) By: Zach Fitzner [16 Feb 2022]
– Gharials are one of the world’s largest crocodilians and one of the rarest, having been extirpated from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Bhutan.
– Their long, thin jaws evolved to help them catch fish in the rivers where they still live.
– With a river diversion project moving forward and with more wildlife tourists pouring into the region, Nepal’s gharials inside Bardia Park are at an important crossroads and need attention, a new commentary argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Red seas and no fish: Nickel mining takes its toll on Indonesia’s spice islands By: Rabul Sawal [16 Feb 2022]
– Fishermen in Indonesia’s Obi Islands blame the nickel mining and smelting industries for the depletion of fish in their traditional fishing grounds.
– Researchers say the pollution has turned the coastal waters into a “mud puddle” because of the high levels of heavy metal contamination.
– One of the main mining companies there had previously proposed dumping 6 million tons of waste a year into the sea, but backed down following protests.
– The company is now proposing clearing a forest area to build a tailings dam — a plan that activists and fishermen say is no better because of the persistently high risk of environmental contamination.

Field school teaches young Indigenous Indonesians how to care for their forests By: Wahyu Chandra [16 Feb 2022]
– The Marena Indigenous group on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi are among a handful of communities who have obtained title to their ancestral forest following a landmark 2013 ruling by the nation’s Constitutional Court.
– For years the forest was managed by outside companies, but now Indigenous advocacy groups are training the community’s youths about the traditional ways of sustainably exploiting the forest and its resources.
– Organizers say the main goal of this field school program is to train the community’s young generation to be able to understand the forest and its potential.
– The community has used its power to terminate a contract with a sap production company that was originally brought in by the central government, striking a new deal with the company on more favorable terms.

The chimp doctor will see you now: Medicating apes boost the case for conservation By: Manon Verchot [16 Feb 2022]
– Researchers in Gabon’s Loango National Park observed chimps applying insects to their own wounds, as well as the wounds of other individuals.
– Researchers identified 76 instances of this behavior being repeated on 22 different chimps.
– Experts say these findings could help guide conservation efforts for not just these endangered great apes, but also their entire ecosystem.

Study suggests tropical forests can regenerate naturally — if we let them By: Luís Patriani [16 Feb 2022]
– A study carried out by scientists in 18 countries found tropical forests to be more resilient than once believed and largely capable of regenerating over just a few decades.
– The study analyzed 2,200 patches of forest in West Africa and Central and South America, including areas of the Atlantic and Amazon rainforests.
– In the areas studied, soil richness was restored about 10 years after deforestation; after 25 years, the forests’ structure and function had fully returned.
– However, biodiversity took longer to fully return, at an average of 120 years.

‘There’s hope’ for North Atlantic right whales: Q&A with filmmaker Nadine Pequeneza By: John C. Cannon [16 Feb 2022]
– The documentary “Last of the Right Whales” seeks to bring the plight of these gentle giants to audiences that are largely unaware of how close to extinction the species is today.
– North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) were historically decimated by hunting, but the biggest threats to the species today are ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.
– There are an estimated 336 of the animals remaining, more than 80% of which have experienced entanglement in ropes tethered to fishing gear on the sea floor.
– Documentary director Nadine Pequeneza spoke with Mongabay about bringing these threats to public attention, the importance of engaging with and not vilifying fishers, and why she holds out hope for the whale’s future.

In Canada, Indigenous communities and scientists collaborate on marine research By: Moira Donovan [15 Feb 2022]
– The Apoqnmatulti’k project combines Indigenous knowledge, Western science and local knowledge holders to gather information about three important marine species in two ecosystems in Nova Scotia, Canada’s easternmost mainland province.
– The project comes at a time of increased urgency over management of marine species, as many fish stocks are on the decline, while access to lucrative fisheries has sparked conflict.
– Project partners say the project’s collaborative approach will provide information that could help direct stewardship and conservation of species that are important to many communities.
– As important as that new data is, project participants say the greatest insight of the project may be that forging the trusting relationships required for collaborative research takes time, which doesn’t always correspond to standard academic deadlines.

Why farmers, not industry, must decide the future of cocoa (commentary) By: Sam Mawutor [15 Feb 2022]
– As companies, NGOs, and experts look to agroforestry to solve many of the sustainability challenges facing the cocoa sector, Mighty Earth analyst Sam Mawutor argues that the cocoa agroforestry ‘revolution’ must be one led by farmers
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

New photo guide is most comprehensive yet on Sri Lanka’s amphibians By: Malaka Rodrigo [15 Feb 2022]
– A new photographic field guide featuring all of Sri Lanka’s known living amphibians is expected to fill a long-felt need for a simple updated guide to help identify the country’s amphibians.
– Not merely serving as a field guide, the book delves into historical records about amphibians’ current conservation status and historical tidbits.
– Sri Lanka is a global hotspot of amphibians, with 120 species, 90% of them endemic, but has also seen the highest number of amphibians go extinct in recent decades.
– The new field guide may need updating soon; recent research makes the case for adding half a dozen new frog species, with more discoveries expected to continue coming.

Could abandoning protections save South African abalone? By: Victoria Schneider [15 Feb 2022]
– A new report exposes multilayered damages associated with the abalone poaching industry between South Africa and East Asia.
– The illegal trade is embedded in South Africa’s deeply unequal society.
– A highly organized supply chain has led to the near-depletion of the species, the corruption of state institutions, and fuelled gang violence in impoverished communities.
– With decades of anti-poaching efforts failing to curb the illicit trade, the authors of the report suggest a radical change of policy: letting the abalone go commercially extinct.

Giant anteaters lead biodiversity resurgence in Argentina’s Iberá By: Oscar Bermeo Ocaña [15 Feb 2022]
– In 2007, the first pair of giant anteaters was reintroduced into Argentina’s Iberá reserve, a region from which it had gone extinct decades earlier.
– The success of that program created the blueprint for reintroducing other native species, including Pampas deer, giant river otters, and red-and-green macaws.
– The reintroduction program rescued anteaters from hunters and people keeping them as pets in northern Argentina.
– Today, more than 200 anteaters live free in four population centers in the Iberá reserve.

Crackdown on villagers highlights heavy hand of Indonesia’s ‘strategic’ projects By: Hans Nicholas Jong [14 Feb 2022]
– The heavy-handed arrest of 67 people, including 13 children, by police in Indonesia has shone a spotlight on long-simmering opposition to a planned mine in Central Java province.
– Those arrested are residents of Wadas village, the site of a planned mine that would provide the rocks needed to build a nearby dam.
– The villagers have opposed the mining plan for years, citing environmental and social concerns.
– Rights groups and legal aid advocates accuse the police of using excessive violence, but the government says the project will go ahead regardless.

Indonesia to tighten regulation of tuna harvest in bid for sustainability By: Basten Gokkon [14 Feb 2022]
– Indonesia plans to develop a nationwide harvest strategy for its world-leading tropical tuna fishery.
– The fisheries ministry says having a set of rules in place under such a strategy will be crucial to protecting the country’s wild tuna stock.
– The move will also help the government’s ongoing push to achieve sustainability certification for its fisheries and subsequently open them up to the growing global demand for eco-labeled seafood.
– Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of tuna, but its fisheries have long been plagued by poaching and destructive fishing practices.

As Australia faces new fire reality, forest restoration tactics reevaluated By: Grace Dungey [14 Feb 2022]
– More than 24 million hectares (59 million acres) burned during Australia’s devastating “Black Summer” bushfire season of 2019-2020, which formed part of a confirmed climate change-driven trend of worsening fire weather and larger, more intense forest fires.
– Scientists are still assessing the extent of the damage and are calling for a greater focus on understanding the effects of fires. Bushfires in Australia have been worsening for more than two decades as escalating drought places pressure on forest resilience and recovery.
– Since 2003, alpine ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) and mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnens), the world’s tallest flowering plant, have been the focus of Victoria state’s largest post-fire reseeding effort ever. But the Black Summer fires caused foresters to reevaluate the effectiveness and future of this initiative.
– With future wildfires expected to see ferocity equal to the 2019-20 fire season, forest managers are questioning traditional tree restoration approaches, with some even wondering if regrowing forests is viable. Researchers are actively testing more interventionist approaches, such as replanting seeds and seedlings with genetically fire-resilient traits.

John Deere and Brazilian bank team up to equip farmers deforesting the Amazon By: Andressa Santa Cruz, Naira Hofmeister & Pedro Papini [14 Feb 2022]
– Farmers whose properties have been embargoed by environmental authorities in Brazil for deforestation have still been able to access government-subsidized loans to buy John Deere tractors, an investigation has found.
– The five farmers identified in the investigation received a combined 28.6 million reais ($5.4 million) in loans under a program administered by the state-owned Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and underwritten by John Deere Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of the U.S. farm equipment manufacturer.
– Under Central Bank rules, farms that have been embargoed for deforestation are barred from accessing credit, but a loophole allows the farm owners to apply on the basis of a different property; in some cases, lender oversight was so lax that the farmers didn’t need to resort to this subterfuge.
– In addition to being embargoed, some of the farmers also had outstanding fines for environmental violations; one of them still owed 18 million reais ($3.4 million), yet went on to receive 11 million reais ($2.1 million) in loans.

January deforestation in the Amazon highest in 14 years By: [11 Feb 2022]
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon last month was the highest of any January dating back to 2008, reports Brazil’s national space research agency INPE.
– According to data released today, 430 square miles of rainforest was chopped down in January, a 400% rise over January 2021.
– However, month-to-month deforestation recorded by INPE’s alert system can be highly variable, especially during the rainy season from November through March when cloud cover obscures vast areas of the Amazon.

UK trophy hunting import ban not supported by rural Africans (commentary) By: Dr Malan Lindeque, Gail Thomson, Hilma Angula, Kenneth Uiseb & Rosalia Iileka [11 Feb 2022]
– While a UK bill to ban the import of hunting trophies enjoys popular support there, rural Africans directly affected by such decisions are voicing opposition.
– Researchers tasked by the Namibian government surveyed local people and conservation leaders with insight on the challenges and benefits of elephant conservation.
– Animal rights campaigners “must take responsibility for the damages caused by elephants. They should come and experience what is happening on the ground. It is not easy to live with wild animals and not benefit from them,” one respondent argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Winds of change: Detecting species from airborne DNA just got real By: Carolyn Cowan [11 Feb 2022]
– In recent years, environmental DNA has enabled conservationists and citizen scientists to study entire ecosystems and to monitor elusive species that would otherwise evade detection.
– A suite of new research studies demonstrates that eDNA extracted from thin air can be used to identify a variety of plants and animals.
– Airborne DNA technology is potentially a valuable new tool for monitoring biodiversity, with particularly promising applications for monitoring rare and endangered species and providing early warning of invasive organisms.
– While a lot of work to hone the technique remains, experts are hopeful that prior advances in other eDNA technologies will help to accelerate the development of airborne DNA sampling so that it can be used in the field.

Seychelles embraces transparency in fisheries, but gaps in data and action remain By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [11 Feb 2022]
– Launched in 2015, an enterprise known as the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) is working to make fisheries more transparent and sustainable.
– The Seychelles joined FiTI in 2017 and recently released its second report to the initiative, which details its government’s efforts to increase public access to information about the management and direction of its fisheries.
– The information released in this report has substantially increased fisheries transparency in the Seychelles, and elucidated the national and foreign fishing interests that are straining local stocks, including yellowfin tuna.
– However, experts say there are still many information gaps and issues that need to be overcome in fisheries management in the Seychelles.

Scientists’ secret weapon to monitor the Southern Ocean? Elephant seals By: [11 Feb 2022]
– Southern elephant seals living on Kerguelen Island, a sub-Antarctic island, are helping to gather information about the Southern Ocean with data-logging devices attached to their hair.
– For instance, the elephant seals have helped gather data on sea ice formation, ocean and ice shelf interactions, and frontal system dynamics.
– The Southern Ocean provides many ecosystem services for the planet, but the region is rapidly changing due to climate change.

Tiny plastic particles accumulating in river headwaters: Study By: Claire Asher [10 Feb 2022]
– Researchers modeled the journey of microplastics released in wastewater treatment plant effluent into rivers of different sizes and flow speeds, focusing on the smallest microplastic fragments — less than 100 microns across, or the width of a single human hair.
– The study found that in slow-flowing stream headwaters — often located in remote, biodiverse regions — microplastics accumulated quicker and stayed longer than in faster flowing stretches of river.
– Microplastic accumulation in sediments could be the ‘missing plastic’ not found in comparisons of stream pollution levels with those found in oceans. Trapped particles may be released during storms and flood events, causing a lag between environmental contamination and release to the sea.
– A few hours in stream sediments can start to change plastics chemically, and microbes can grow on their surfaces. Most toxicity studies of microplastics use virgin plastics, so these environmentally transformed plastics pose an unknown risk to biodiversity and health.

Indonesian government says no to reclassifying oil palm estates as forests By: Hans Nicholas Jong [10 Feb 2022]
– The Indonesian government has rejected a proposal made by a prominent university to reclassify oil palms as a forest crop.
– The proposal was ostensibly meant to resolve the problem of illegal plantations operating inside forest areas, and would have redefined plantations as forests, and new plantings as reforestation.
– The environment ministry says it has no plans to adopt such a plan because it has its own program, the social forestry scheme, to get local communities to switch from illegal oil palm plantations to more sustainable, and profitable, agroforestry systems.
– A decade earlier the government had tried to reclassify oil palms as forest crops, but the effort lasted just a month before it was scrapped in the face of widespread criticism.

Fears of oil spills as ExxonMobil seeks to drill at the mouth of a Brazil river By: Mariama Correia/Agência Pública [10 Feb 2022]
– U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil is seeking to drill 11 wells in a marine area near the estuary of the São Francisco River in eastern Brazil.
– In the event of an accident, at least 52 conservation units would be affected, including a barrier reef that’s a priority for conservation.
– The company is still awaiting an environmental license, but has already started to train local fishing communities on how to deal with possible oil spills.
– Communities, meanwhile, say they have been largely excluded from consultations on the project, which regulators have held online despite the lack of internet connectivity in the most affected areas.


Politicized Indigenous affairs agency puts Brazil’s uncontacted groups at risk by Shanna Hanbury [02/09/2022]
Ecuador’s top court rules for stronger land rights for Indigenous communities by Kimberley Brown [02/09/2022]
Journeying in biocultural diversity and conservation philanthropy: Q&A with Ken Wilson by Rhett A. Butler [02/08/2022]
How a ‘dirty gambling company’ may have set the standard for habitat destruction in Cambodia by Gerald Flynn & Andy Ball [02/08/2022]
Preventing the next pandemic is vastly cheaper than reacting to it: Study by Sharon Guynup [02/04/2022]