Newsletter 2022-02-24


Sabino Gualinga, Amazon shaman and defender of the ‘living forest,’ passes away by Kimberley Brown [02/22/2022]

– Sabino Gualinga was a yachak, or shaman, from the Kichwa nation of Sarayaku in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest, best known for his testimony before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, where he explained the idea of the “living forest” and helped win a ruling in favor of his community.
– Gualinga, who spent his entire life in the Amazon, passed away on Feb. 8 at the age of either 97 or 103, depending on whether one consults the state or church registries.
– Gualinga had long taught the Sarayaku community that the forest is alive, which includes the flora, fauna and protective beings that look over all elements of the forest and live among humans.
– The Sarayaku community has since developed this worldview into a political declaration known as Kawsak Sacha, or “living forest” in Kichwa, demanding this sacred connection to their territory be legally recognized.

From Wall Street to the Amazon: Big capital funds mining-driven deforestation by Jenny Gonzales [02/22/2022]

– Major U.S. and Brazilian financial institutions continue to underwrite the destruction of the Amazon by financing mining companies pushing to operate in Indigenous territories, a new report says.
– The top financiers include BlackRock, Capital Group and Vanguard from the U.S., along with Brazilian pension fund PREVI, all of which have a stake in, have issued loans to or are otherwise financially invested in nine mining companies to the tune of $54.1 billion.
– The mining companies, which include Vale, Anglo American and Rio Tinto, have records of environmental destruction and human rights violations in Brazil and elsewhere, and several already operate close to Indigenous lands in Brazil, polluting rivers and harming the health of native communities.
– A bill currently before Brazil’s parliament could allow mining in Indigenous territories, which is currently prohibited under the country’s Constitution; the national mining authority, meanwhile, continues to register applications to mine in areas that overlap into Indigenous territories.

Caffeine: Emerging contaminant of global rivers and coastal waters by Sean Mowbray [02/22/2022]

– Caffeine is the most consumed psychostimulant in the world, and a regular part of many daily lives, whether contained in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, or pharmaceuticals.
– Partially excreted in urine, it is now ubiquitous in rivers and coastal waters. So much so that its detection is used to trace wastewater and sewage pollution. A new study found it to be in more than 50% of 1,052 sampling sites on 258 rivers around the globe. Another new study enumerates caffeine harm in coastal and marine environments.
– This continual flow of caffeine into aquatic ecosystems is causing concern among scientists due to its already identified impacts on a wide range of aquatic life including microalgae, corals, bivalves, sponges, marine worms, and fish. Most environmental impacts — especially wider effects within ecosystems — have not been studied.
– Soaring global use of products containing caffeine means the problem will worsen with time. Untreated sewage is a major source. And while some sewage treatment facilities can remove caffeine, many currently can’t. Far more study is needed to determine the full scope and biological impacts of the problem.

Palm oil firm hit by mass permit revocation still clearing forest in Indonesia by Asrida Elisabeth & Philip Jacobson [02/22/2022]

– An Indonesian palm oil company stripped of its permit at the start of the year has since been actively clearing forest in its concession.
– PT Permata Nusa Mandiri was among 137 palm oil firms whose permits were revoked by the environment ministry on Jan. 6, but went on to bulldoze more than 50 hectares of rainforest since then.
– Environmental activists and local Indigenous communities have long opposed the company’s presence in Papua province, but the questionable legality of the government’s permit revocations means the firm could still be allowed to continue operating.
– The land clearance is taking place in the Jalan Korea area, a popular birdwatching and tourism destination.

Ten unexpected edibles from our oceans by Shreya Dasgupta [02/22/2022]

– The world’s oceans are a source of food for billions of people worldwide, but our appetites have had a deleterious effect on marine ecosystems for hundreds of years now.
– Creative minds are increasingly finding new and more sustainable ways to feed the world via some unexpected areas of the oceans.
– Here are 10 seafoods you may never have heard of but may see soon on a menu or superstore aisle.

The small cats nobody knows: Wild felines face intensifying planetary risks by Sean Mowbray [02/17/2022]

– Around the world, there are 33 species of small wild cat that often fly under the conservation and funding radar. Out of sight, and out of mind, some of these species face the risk of extreme population declines and extinction.
– But small cat species are reclusive and notoriously difficult to study. In some cases, basic ecological knowledge is lacking, hindering conservation efforts. Their failure to garner the public attention achieved by the more charismatic big cats has left small cat research severely underfunded.
– These species, many of them habitat specialists with narrow ecological niches, face a wide array of threats including habitat degradation and loss, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, and increasingly, pollution and climate change.
– Despite these global challenges, many conservationists and researchers, hampered by low funding, are fighting to conserve small cats by partnering with traditional communities to build public awareness and reduce immediate threats.


More coffee, less gold: Sumatra farmers alarmed over revival of mine project By: Junaidi Hanafiah [24 Feb 2022]
– A recent stock exchange filing indicates that a gold mining project in Sumatra’s Gayo Highlands may soon be revived after being stalled due to popular opposition.
– The Linge Abong concession also overlaps onto the Leuser Ecosystem, the largest remaining swath of intact rainforest in Sumatra, and home to critically endangered tigers, orangutans, rhinos and elephants.
– Farming communities here who grow the world-renowned Aceh Gayo coffee, and who would be directly affected by the mine, have called on the authorities to shut down the project for good.
– “A lot of people live and prosper from Gayo coffee. Don’t let the lives they’ve built off of coffee farming be destroyed just for the sake of gold mining,” said a village head.

Podcast: Hippos, manatees, and how the sounds of African wildlife aid their conservation By: Mike Gaworecki [23 Feb 2022]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we discuss two bioacoustic studies of African wildlife and listen to recordings of hippos and manatees.
– We speak with Nicolas Mathevon, a professor at the University of Saint-Etienne in France and co-author of a report published in Current Biology Magazine last month summarizing the results of a study that determined vocal recognition is used by hippos to manage relationships between territorial groups. Mathevon tells us about the study of vocal recognition in hippos, plays us some of the hippo calls used in the study, and tells us how the study’s findings could help improve conservation measures like translocations.
– We also speak with Clinton Factheu, a PhD Student at the University of Yaoundé 1 in Cameroon and a research assistant with the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organization. Factheu recently co-authored a study published by the The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America that used passive acoustic monitoring to provide the first characterization of African manatee vocalizations. Factheu tells us about the research, explains why bioacoustic monitoring is one of the best ways to study a freshwater/marine mammal like the manatee, and plays a number of manatee calls for us.

At a Native massacre site, tribes brace for a new, lithium-driven rush By: Carly Nairn [23 Feb 2022]
– The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved an open-pit lithium ore mine in northern Nevada, despite protests by Native tribes to protect the sacred site.
– Lithium is in high demand as the key component in batteries that fuel electric vehicles and cellphones, raising environmental concerns about its extraction.
– The U.S. government is ramping up production of lithium all along the domestic supply chain to meet its clean energy goals.

Marauding monkeys on an Indonesian island point to environmental pressures By: Yogi Eka Sahputra [23 Feb 2022]
– Beachgoers and residents on the Indonesian island of Batam have complained about packs of monkeys terrorizing them in search of food.
– Conservationists say the problem is that the long-tailed macaques are being squeezed out of their natural habitat by deforestation, and have become accustomed to being given food by humans.
– Visitors to Batam’s Mirota Beach often flout the “no feeding” signs, which encourages the monkeys; food waste in trash cans outside homes also draws the animals into residential areas.
– Human-primate conflicts area common in other parts of Indonesia, including in Bali’s Monkey Forest, at the foot of Java’s Mount Semeru after a recent eruption, and in Sumatra and Borneo, where orangutans are losing their forest homes.

Brazil’s Amazon gold mining to be “stimulated” by Bolsonaro’s decree (commentary) By: Philip M. Fearnside [22 Feb 2022]
– Brazil’s notoriously anti-environmental president has issued a decree instituting a program to stimulate “artisanal” gold mining. This mining is not really done by the small-scale individual prospectors that the name implies, but rather as part of operations backed by wealthy entrepreneurs, including politicians and organized crime.
– This gold mining, known as “garimpagem,” is often done by illegally invading Indigenous lands and is one of the greatest sources of impact on Amazonian Indigenous peoples. A bill submitted to the National Congress by President Bolsonaro would open Indigenous lands to this activity, and hundreds of requests for mining licenses in these areas have been submitted to the National Mining Agency by garimpeiro cooperatives in anticipation of these areas becoming available to legal mining.
– Despite the new decree describing itself as having a “view to sustainable development,” the severe environmental and social impacts of garimpagem, as well as the inherent unsustainability of mining, make a mockery of this claim.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

In trio of storms hitting Western Europe, role of climate change is complicated By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [22 Feb 2022]
– In early February, a polar vortex caused a series of three storms — Dudley, Eunice and Franklin — to hit the U.K. and Western Europe, unleashing heavy rains and winds across the region.
– The most powerful storm was Eunice, which had wind measurements of up to 196 kilometers per hour (122 miles per hour).
– Storms striking in quick succession are not unusual for Western Europe.
– While climate change did not necessarily drive these winter storms, it likely made the rainfall and storm surge more intense.

‘They’re going to get worse and worse’: Marine heat wave persists off Sydney By: [22 Feb 2022]
– In November 2021, an unusual marine heat wave materialized off the coast of Sydney; sea surface temperatures in the area have yet to go down.
– This marine heat wave is just one of numerous events occurring across the global oceans as human-induced climate change heats up the oceans.
– While marine heat waves can be triggered by a range of atmospheric, oceanic and climatic drivers, climate change plays a key role in driving these events.

Indigenous communities uncertain over proposed change to Kenyan forest law By: Kang-Chun Cheng [21 Feb 2022]
– Under an amendment proposed by Kenya’s parliament last November, members of the public would be able to directly petition parliament for changes to forest boundaries.
– The change would effectively cut out the intermediary role currently held by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
– While some Indigenous leaders say this would make it easier for communities to contact parliament and overcome impediments the KFS may pose, others say the presence of the KFS is seen as better than nothing to halt petitioners seeking to open up forest lands for industrial or agricultural projects.
– A senior KFS official says the service doesn’t always favor forest-dwelling people living in forests, but insists that KFS’s interests and those of Indigenous communities are the same.

One fish, two fish: New goby species from the Philippines just dropped By: Carolyn Cowan [21 Feb 2022]
– Scientists recently described two new-to-science species of freshwater fish from the Philippine island of Palawan: Rhinogobius estrellae and Rhinogobius tandikan.
– The tiny, blue-spotted fish are endemic to Palawan and each is confined to freshwater pools and streams in a single location.
– The fish were collected during surveys to document freshwater fish diversity on the island; both species belong to a genus previously only known from temperate and subtropical parts of Asia, with the new discovery extending its range south into the tropics.
– Due to their restricted range, the fish are deemed highly threatened and their habitats in need of safeguards against mining, road construction and invasive species.

Drone photography raises concerns for Sri Lanka’s flamingo flock By: Malaka Rodrigo [21 Feb 2022]
– The annual migration of a flock of thousands of greater flamingos to northern Sri Lanka’s Mannar wetland draws crowds of photographers, a growing number of whom now use drones to snap the birds from above.
– Environmental activists and authorities have warned against this trend, saying the presence of drones disturbs the birds and could drive them away from Mannar altogether.
– Experts point to a worrying precedent: In the 1990s, the Bundala wetland in the country’s south was pumped full of fresh water as part of an irrigation program, killing off the shrimp and plankton that flamingos there fed on. The flamingos soon abandoned the wetland.
– In Mannar, a region impoverished by decades of civil war, the flamingos are a key tourism attraction that should be preserved to help boost the livelihoods of locals, experts say.

Afro-Colombian community safeguards pristine oceans with new protected area By: Maxwell Radwin [21 Feb 2022]
– The newly designated Isla Ají marine protected area covers over a total of 24,600 hectares (60,800 acres) of coastal, terrestrial and marine ecosystems on Colombia’s Pacific coast.
– The Naya River Delta, where the protected area is located, is home to a variety of diverse ecosystems, from tropical forests to beaches, mudflats to mangrove forests.
– The new marine protected area contributes to Colombia’s goal of conserving 30% of its surface by 2030, part of a larger global commitment made by around 70 countries to promote biodiversity through the creation of protected areas.
– Many of the communities near Isla Ají hope to transition to ecotourism to fulfill their conservation goals, but investment is still in its early stages.

Where trafficked pangolins originate is a puzzle, hobbling efforts to save them By: [18 Feb 2022]
– Trafficking of pangolin parts, especially scales, from Africa to Asia has increased in recent years, while efforts to determine where seized scales originated from have not been able to keep pace.
– These scaly anteaters are one of the most trafficked mammals globally, and trade in all eight pangolin species, four of which are found in Africa, is banned.
– Scientists at the University of Washington who developed a technique using genetic data to pinpoint where ivory originated from and now are trying to replicate it for pangolins.
– Dismantling trafficking networks may not, by itself, protect dwindling pangolin populations, experts say, as there is a pressing need to understand what is driving the illegal trade.

Mexico’s top court cancels mining concessions near Indigenous communities By: Maxwell Radwin [18 Feb 2022]
– Two controversial mining concessions on Indigenous land were canceled after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that residents were not consulted.
– The municipality of Ixtacamaxtitlán, located in the state of Puebla in central Mexico, has around 7 million ounces of gold and 1.4 billion ounces of silver that a Canadian firm wanted to extract.
– While the case is a major win for the Tecoltemi community, the ruling didn’t set a new precedent for understanding Mexico’s mining law, suggesting that similar issues could arise in other Indigenous communities near mining concessions.

Tanzania, siding with UAE firm, plans to evict Maasai from ancestral lands By: Laurel Sutherland [18 Feb 2022]
– In northern Tanzania, more than 70,000 Indigenous Maasai residents are once again facing eviction from ancestral lands as the government reveals plans to lease the land to a UAE-based company to create a wildlife corridor for trophy hunting and elite tourism.
– Maasai leaders have filed an appeal at a regional court, seeking a halt to all plans for the area and calling the renewed attempt to seize the land a blatant violation of an injunction that barred the government from evicting Maasai communities in a case that involved violent evictions.
– According to sources, the regional commissioner of the region told Maasai leaders that the leasing of the land is in the national interest to increase the country’s tourism revenue and was a tough decision for the government to make.
– Evicted residents from Loliondo will be relocated to the neighboring Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), where they will join another 80,000 evicted Maasai to share a strip of land designated for humans and wildlife.

Brazil agrochemical bill nears passage in Bolsonaro’s ‘agenda of death’ By: Sarah Brown [18 Feb 2022]
– A bill loosening regulations on agrochemicals has been approved by Brazil’s lower house of congress and now goes before the Senate, prompting concerns that it will unleash environmental destruction and threaten consumer health.
– The bill is one of several in the list of priority legislation for 2022 that environmentalists and Indigenous groups say underscore President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental and anti-Indigenous agenda.
– If approved, the slate of proposed bills would allow companies to exploit Indigenous territories for resources and further impede Indigenous people from staking a claim to their traditional lands.
– Other bills in the works include one that would effectively facilitate land grabbing, and another that would do away with environmental licenses. Bolsonaro has already issued a decree encouraging small-scale gold mining, raising further concerns for the Amazon and its Indigenous inhabitants.

In Nepal, a messy breakup with hybrid seeds is good news for organic farming By: Johan Augustin [18 Feb 2022]
– Some farmers in Nepal are slowly returning to organic farming methods using native crop varieties, after more than a decade of hybrid seeds being available in the market.
– Critics say hybrids require more intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and produce fruit and vegetables with less flavor than native or openly pollinated varieties.
– The government is also supporting the push for organic, including through subsidies for farmers, but acknowledges it’s difficult to change minds.
– Many farmers continue to prefer hybrids, despite the associated problems, because of their higher yields, which mean more income.

A shot to the gut: American eagles poisoned by lead from bullets By: Liz Kimbrough [18 Feb 2022]
– Eagles eat the entrails and remains of game animals shot and left by hunters, in the process often ingesting pieces of lead ammunition, which end up poisoning the birds.
– Scientists sampled the blood from living and dead bald eagles and golden eagles across 38 U.S. states and found that nearly 50% showed evidence of repeated lead exposure.
– Lead is a neurotoxin, and long-term exposure can lead to impaired movement, lower sperm quality, and a weakened immune system; higher doses can lead to death.
– Lead poisoning, the researchers found, is causing population growth rates to slow by 3.8% for bald eagles and 0.8% for golden eagles, annually.

DRC’s cacao boom leaves a bitter aftertaste for Congo Basin forest By: Malavika Vyawahare [18 Feb 2022]
– The DRC’s Tshopo province lost a record-breaking area of intact forests to fires in 2021, a trend researchers say is driven by agricultural expansion, as displaced people from the violence-ravaged eastern DRC move into the province.
– There’s been an increase in clearing of forests to cultivate food crops and cash crops like cacao beans, used to make cocoa for chocolate.
– Around 70% of the world’s supply of cacao beans is produced in West African countries, with Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon the biggest producers, where its cultivation has also accelerated deforestation.
– “You are aware of what has happened in West Africa in countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana,” Germain Batsi, a DRC agroforestry expert, told Mongabay. “I am afraid such scenarios will be reproduced here, something we would regret afterwards.”


Jordan scrambles to save rare Red Sea corals that can withstand climate change by Marta Vidal [02/14/2022]
A mayor in the Philippines took on a mine, and lost her job over it by Keith Anthony S. Fabro [02/11/2022]
Malaysian officials dampen prospects for giant, secret carbon deal in Sabah by John C. Cannon [02/10/2022]
Air pollution makes it tough for pollinators to stop and smell the flowers by Liz Kimbrough [02/10/2022]