Newsletter 2022-03-17


Podcast: Tree kangaroos may be key to New Guinea forest conservation by Mike DiGirolamo [03/16/2022]

– New Guinea is home to 12 of 14 species of the elusive, charismatic tree kangaroo.
– Conservationists in Papua New Guinea have been fighting for decades to establish protected areas using these species as a flagship species for these conservation efforts. PNG is now on the cusp of passing legislation aimed at creating a network of them.
– The Torricelli mountain range in northern PNG, home to the critically endangered tenkile tree kangaroo, has been in the crosshairs of a road project threatening to encroach upon the region, but the government is in the process of reviewing a draft proposal to halt the road for now.
– We speak with Jim Thomas of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance and Lisa Dabek and Modi Pontio of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program for this episode to explore what’s known about these intelligent marsupials, and the successes from nearly two decades working in PNG to conserve both them and the forests they inhabit.

Climate-positive, high-tech metals are polluting Earth, but solutions await by Claire Asher [03/15/2022]

– Green energy technology growth (especially wind, solar and hydropower, along with electric vehicles) is crucial if the world is to meet Paris climate agreement goals. But these green solutions rely on technology-critical elements (TCEs), whose production and disposal can be environmentally harmful.
– Mining and processing of TCEs requires huge amounts of energy. Mines use gigantic quantities of fresh water; can drive large-scale land-use change; and pollute air, soil and water — threatening biodiversity. TCEs may also become pollutants themselves when they are disposed of as waste.
– We know relatively little about what happens to TCEs after manufacture and disposal, but trace levels of many critical elements have been detected in urban air pollution, waterways and ice cores. Also of concern: Rare-earth elements have been detected in the urine of mine workers in China.
– Green mining technologies and new recycling methods may reduce the impacts of TCE production. Plant- and microbe-based remediation can extract TCEs from waste and contaminated soil. But experts say a circular economy and changes at the product design stage could be key solutions.

To fight invaders, Munduruku women wield drone cameras and cellphones by Joana Moncau and Elpida Nikou from Repórter Brasil [03/15/2022]

– Three young women from the Munduruku Indigenous group in the Brazilian Amazon run an audiovisual collective that uses social media to raise awareness about illegal invasions of their territory.
– “Many people no longer believe what we say, they only believe what they see,” says Aldira Akai, who, at 30, is the oldest member of the collective.
– The Munduruku living in the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory say the anti-Indigenous rhetoric of the Jair Bolsonaro administration has emboldened illegal loggers and miners, and put native defenders under greater risk.
– The impact of illegal logging and mining in Sawré Muybu has seen deforestation surge to 146 hectares (361 acres) in 2020, up from 105 hectares (259 acres) the previous year.

Thai tourism elephants are ‘far better off’ in forests: Q&A with photographer Adam Oswell by Carolyn Cowan [03/15/2022]

– Following the collapse of tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Thailand’s 2,700 captive elephants used for tourism trekked back to rural villages alongside their keepers, where it was hoped they could forage naturally.
– Two years later, international visitors are beginning to return to the country and a new tourism model is emerging in locations where community-managed forests are available to the elephants.
– Under the new model, elephants are granted access to community forests, where they can forage and explore their natural behaviors. Meanwhile, tourists keen to learn about elephants in a natural setting are beginning to visit, enabling people in the villages to generate income.

In Brazil, Indigenous Ka’apor take their territory’s defense into their own hands by Andrew Johnson [03/14/2022]

– In the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Territory in Brazil’s Maranhão state, the Ka’apor people have taken the defense of their land into their own hands following years of neglect and corruption by the state.
– They have created a self-defense force to retake logging sites and access roads from illegal loggers, and established a network of settlements at each site to make their gains permanent.
– The strategy has paid off: in the first three years of the effort, from 2013-2016, the Ka’apor burned 105 logging trucks and closed 14 access roads, and managed to reduce the deforestation rate in their reserve significantly.
– But the illegal loggers, part of criminal organizations linked to local politicians, have reacted with violence against the Ka’apor, resulting in attacks on villages and the murder of five Indigenous people.


In Puerto Rico, a marathon effort builds to restore mangroves and dunes By: Liz Yanira Del Valle Huertas [17 Mar 2022]
– Hurricane Maria in 2017 devastated several mangrove ecosystems in Puerto Rico, leading ecologists to start restoration efforts.
– Mangroves provide myriad benefits: storm protection, carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation and pollution filtering, among others.
– In addition to mangroves, organizations are working to restore sand dunes to add an extra buffer against tropical storms and protect turtle nesting sites.
– And while they’ve benefited from recent injections of funding and collaboration with experts from around the world, the restoration groups note that they have more work ahead than they can currently take on.

Fate of Indonesian rainforest the size of Belgium hangs in the balance (commentary) By: Sam Lawson [17 Mar 2022]
– With the sudden announcement of a mass revocation of plantation permits at the start of the year, did Indonesia just save a forest the size of Belgium? Or open the floodgates for its destruction?
– Bizarrely, no one really knows, though the answer will have big implications for the planet.
– And one giant, controversial palm plantation development in the heart of a pristine tract of forest, whose permits were among those canceled, will be a crucial test.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Can a reforestation project stop land grabs? Villagers in the DRC give it a try By: Didier Makal [17 Mar 2022]
– Kinandu village residents in southern Democratic Republic of Congo are taking part in a reforestation initiative in the miombo woodlands while land grabs are simultaneously on the rise.
– The fear of losing the land on which they were born and raised, coupled with an awareness of the environmental degradation they took part of, is inspiring residents to own forest concessions and restore the land.
– However, restoration largely depends on whether residents and stakeholders will change the way they produce essential goods, such as maize and charcoal.
– The government should continue to support the project after it ends in July 2022, says Jonathan Ilunga, professor of the University of Lubumbashi’s faculty of agronomy and deputy director of the Open Forests Urban Observatory.

New law would tie U.S. conservation funding to human rights protection By: Ashoka Mukpo [17 Mar 2022]
– Legislation has been introduced by members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources that would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to vet the human rights record of conservation grantees.
– The draft bill follows an investigation by the U.S. Congress into human rights abuses at protected areas in Central Africa and South Asia that were receiving U.S. funding.
– If it passes, the law would require groups receiving USFWS funds to set up grievance procedures and promptly investigate allegations of “gross” human rights abuses, or risk losing funding.

Pandemic hit the pause button on the discoveries of new species By: Niranjana Rajalakshmi [16 Mar 2022]
– The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the progress of species discovery and documentation due to travel bans, restricted access to technology, and limited funding, according to researchers who work in leading biodiversity inventory projects across the world.
– Identification and description of Earth’s species is critical for conserving threatened and endangered species before they go extinct.
– On the other hand, the pandemic has also been beneficial to a certain extent by giving scientists more time to review available data of specimens and familiarizing themselves with gene sequencing.
– Researchers and curators say technologies such as DNA sequencing, genetic barcoding and efficient biodiversity research centers can help ramp up species discovery and documentation as the world transitions out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can we plan for a future without trophy hunting? (commentary) By: Merrill Sapp [16 Mar 2022]
– Proposed legislation in Britain to ban the import of hunting trophies like horns, antlers, and tusks enjoys popular support.
– But in Africa, rural communities often rely on revenue from trophy hunting to support development and conservation projects.
– In response to a recent Mongabay commentary, “UK trophy hunting import ban not supported by rural Africans,” writer Merrill Sapp argues that it’s possible to have both development and healthy elephant populations, without hunting.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Behind viral story of bear visiting Nepal hospital lies bigger ailment By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [15 Mar 2022]
– A recent incident of an Asian black bear entering a hospital in eastern Nepal has highlighted the lack of conservation measures for one of the country’s least-understood megafauna.
– The onset of spring coincides with an increase in human-bear encounters, as the animals seek out easy sources of food after their winter hibernation.
– Nepal’s black bear population is estimated at around 1,000, but there’s no consensus on its global population, despite it being a threatened species.
– Already faced with threats from encounters with humans and from demand for bear bile for medicinal use, the animal could also see its range shrink by nearly half due to climate change.

Study: Indonesia’s forest-clearing moratorium underdelivered — but so did donors By: Hans Nicholas Jong [15 Mar 2022]
– The 86.9 million tons of emissions reductions that Indonesia achieved from keeping its forests standing between 2011 and 2018 represents just 4% of its reduction target under the Paris Agreement, a new study calculates.
– Even so, those carbon savings should have been worth $434.5 million under a deal with Norway, the study says, but the latter has to date agreed to pay just $56.2 million.
– The study authors say the findings make the case for both strengthening Indonesia’s forest-clearing moratorium, and finding a carbon pricing mechanism that more fairly reflects the global benefits of mitigating climate change from reducing deforestation.

Analysis: Elite power struggle sees Vietnam abandon coal, but leaves collateral damage By: David Brown [15 Mar 2022]
– Vietnam’s energy establishment attempted last year to flout top-level instructions to undo the nation’s growing dependence on coal and other fossil fuels.
– However, after more than a decade of failures by bureaucrats and managers to deliver clean energy and clean air, there is broad sentiment for maximal exploitation of Vietnam’s plentiful endowment of wind and sunshine.
– At COP26, the prime minister left no doubt which way the nation is headed: Vietnam, he pledged, will be carbon neutral by 2050.
– But the recent developments have also seen a leading advocate for the clean energy transition jailed after publishing a letter warning of the risks of clinging to coal.

Brazil Congress fast-tracks ‘death package’ bill to mine on Indigenous lands By: Sarah Brown [15 Mar 2022]
– Thousands of protesters, including celebrities, activists and 150 Indigenous people from eight ethnic groups, gathered for the biggest environment protest ever held in Brazil’s capital against a series of bills dubbed the “death package” by critics.
– Protesters say the slate of five key bills will cause unbridled environmental damage and violate Indigenous rights by encouraging commercial activities in vulnerable regions and invasions of Indigenous territories.
– While the protests were taking place, the lower house of Congress voted to fast-track one of those bills, which would allow mining on Indigenous lands — an activity that’s banned under Brazil’s Constitution.
– While some lawmakers say they oppose the bills and will vote against them, the bills enjoy the support of President Jair Bolsonaro and the powerful agribusiness lobby.

Farmers rediscover benefits of traditional small grains in Zimbabwe By: Tatenda Chitagu [15 Mar 2022]
– Farmers in southern Zimbabwe are shifting back to growing traditional small grains and maize after experiencing food shortages from the failure of their hybrid maize crops, which haven’t adapted well to the region’s dry soils and climate.
– In Bikita district, a group of 220 farmers have brought back several small grians like the traditional svoboda and a tuber called tsenza that grows in wetlands.
– Farmers find themselves at a crossroad between seeds as hybrid maize seeds are costly and further degrade dry soils with their accompanying fertilizers, while cultivating small grains is labor-intensive and doesn’t produce much foliage for animal feed and crop manure.
– Agronomists say the government should further support farmers in growing small grains to improve soil and dietary health.

Civil conflict in Cameroon puts endangered chimpanzees in the crosshairs By: Aminateh Nkemngu [15 Mar 2022]
– Declared a national park in 2009, Mount Cameroon hosts an array of biodiversity, including endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees.
– Efforts to protect the area have been complicated by an armed conflict, the Anglophone crisis, that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and pushed both refugees and armed combatants into the area’s forests.
– The conflict compounds existing conservation challenges including population pressure, land clearing and conversion, demand for bushmeat, and weak law enforcement.

Tropical deforestation emitting far more carbon than previously thought: Study By: John C. Cannon [15 Mar 2022]
– Carbon emissions due to tropical deforestation are accelerating, a new study has found.
– Using detailed maps of forest change as well as aboveground and soil carbon deposits, the researchers demonstrate that annual emission more than doubled between 2015-2019, compared with 2001-2005.
– Though the study reveals that the world has not met its commitments to stem deforestation, the authors say it also reveals that investments in forest protection and restoration are critical to addressing climate change.

Amazon deforestation starts 2022 on the fastest pace in 14 years By: [15 Mar 2022]
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is off to its fastest pace to start a year since at least 2008.
– According to data from Brazil’s national space research institute, forest clearing in the Amazon through the first two months of 2022 has amounted to 430 square kilometers (166 square miles), more than twice the average over the past ten years.
– The torrid start to the year suggests the Brazilian government is failing to rein in deforestation after a high profile pledge to do so at last year’s U.N. climate talks in Glasgow.
– The news came just days after a study published in Nature Climate Change provided more evidence that the ecological function of Earth’s largest rainforest is diminishing.

Activists vow to take EU to court to fight its forest biomass policies By: Justin Catanoso [14 Mar 2022]
– The European Union continues burning forest biomass to produce energy, a policy science has shown to be climate destabilizing, destructive to forests and biodiversity. International NGOs and their lawyers — to stop the EU going further down what they see as a path of planetary endangerment — is ready to take the EU to court.
– The plaintiffs contend that the European Union is violating its own rules dictating that European Commission policies be based in “environmentally sustainable economic practices” for companies, investors and policymakers.
– Activists argue that the EU, in creating its current bioenergy and forestry policies, has disregarded numerous scientific studies demonstrating the environmental harm done by forest biomass — the harvesting and burning of wood pellets to make electricity. Some legal experts say the activists’ bid to be heard in court is a long shot.
– A November study adds data and urgency to the ongoing battle. Researchers found that unless current policies change, global demand for biomass-for-energy will triple by 2050, further impacting intact forests ability to act as carbon sinks and undermining emissions-reduction requirements under the Paris Agreement.

Luxury wood market driving extinction of rare ipê trees, report warns By: Maxwell Radwin [14 Mar 2022]
– Demand for wood from ipê trees in the Amazon Basin could lead to their extinction if better international trade regulations aren’t implemented soon, according to a new report from Forest Trends.
– Ipê hardwood is in high demand in the luxury timber market, especially for outdoor boardwalks, decks and furniture, as well as hardwood floors.
– The Forest Trends report urges officials to list the rare species under CITES, the international convention regulating the trade of threatened species.

Nepal’s first bird sanctuary takes flight, raising hope for conservation By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [14 Mar 2022]
– The Ghodaghodi lake complex in western Nepal has been declared the country’s first official bird sanctuary.
– Conservationists and local officials have welcomed the move, which protects a Ramsar wetland that’s home to more than 360 bird species.
– Among the birds found at the site are globally threatened species such as the great hornbill, the lesser adjutant stork, and the Indian spotted eagle.

Record seizures mark Sri Lanka’s rise as a smuggling hub for star tortoises By: Malaka Rodrigo and Pragati Prava [13 Mar 2022]
– The Indian star tortoise is the most smuggled tortoise species in the world, with thousands trafficked annually smuggled out from India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan despite a 2019 total ban on the international trade in the species.
– While India continues to be the main country of origin for wild-caught star tortoises, Sri Lanka has in recent years become both a prominent source country and transit hub for trafficking networks that move the animals to East and Southeast Asia.
– Experts have called for better collaboration between law enforcement authorities in the source countries, particularly India and Sri Lanka, to curb the smuggling, which studies say has thrived due to weak enforcement and corruption.
– Herpetologists also say releasing seized star tortoises from both India and Sri Lanka inside Sri Lankan national parks threatens to wipe out the unique characteristics of the latter population, making them genetically indistinct from their subcontinental cousins.

‘No planet B’: Groups call for $60bn increase in annual biodiversity funding By: John C. Cannon [13 Mar 2022]
– A group of international conservation and environmental organizations is calling on wealthy countries to provide an extra $60 billion in funding a year to protect the planet’s species.
– They argue that the amount compensates for the toll exacted on biodiversity by international trade, which largely benefits rich nations.
– At a March 1 press conference, representatives of the organizations said the inclusion of Indigenous communities, known to be “nature’s best stewards,” would be critical, and they advocated for the bulk of the financing to be in the form of grants to these communities and other “grassroots” organizations.

Spectacular new fish species is first to be named by Maldivian scientist By: Liz Kimbrough [11 Mar 2022]
– A colorful reef fish from the Maldives is the first new-to-science species to be described by a Maldivian scientist.
– Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa has been named by Ahmed Najeeb, a biologist from the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI), after the local word for “rose.”
– Subtle physical differences and DNA analyses confirmed the rose-veiled fairy wrasse is a separate species from the already known rosy-scales fairy wrasse (Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis).
– Researchers say the newly described fish is already being sold for the aquarium trade, calling it “unsettling when a fish is already being commercialized before it even has a scientific name.”

Vulnerable Antarctic reefs reveal wealth of life as rich as tropical corals By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [11 Mar 2022]
– A research expedition led by Greenpeace identified about a dozen new vulnerable marine ecosystems in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, and documented a range of organisms, some of which were previously unknown to science.
– Researchers argue that it’s vital to protect the Weddell Sea since this region helps to regulate the global oceans.
– This week, negotiators are discussing the establishment of a U.N. treaty that would protect the high seas, which could lead to widespread ocean protection.
– In October, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will also revisit the proposal to establish three marine sanctuaries in Antarctica, including one in the Weddell Sea.

Gold rush in Ecuador’s Amazon region threatens 1,500 communities By: Aimee Gabay [11 Mar 2022]
– In the Ecuadoran Amazon, a boom in legal and illegal gold mining has sparked Indigenous land rights conflicts and water contamination in the Anzu and Jatunyacu rivers.
– Recently analyzed water samples from the region reveal high concentrations of toxic metals, such as lead and aluminum, that are up to 500% higher than permissible limits.
– In some of the sites studied, aquatic insects had disappeared, indicating high levels of pollution and serious health impacts to communities relying on the rivers for water and fish.
– Recent court hearings have ordered mining companies to offer reparations to affected communities and undertake clear consultation processes.

Patrols work, but community-based conservation needs a rethink, study shows By: Malavika Vyawahare [11 Mar 2022]
– A recent study from Uganda’s Kibale National Park found that nine mammal species, including five monkey species, have grown in abundance over the decades, suggesting that conservation efforts are working.
– Patrolling appears to deter poachers from laying down traps, which often unintentionally ensnare the park’s threatened chimpanzees and other primate species.
– But the prosperity of neighboring communities and a better relationship between park managers and people didn’t translate into a reduction in illegal activities like poaching or firewood removal.
– “In the next 10 years, we need to come up with new ways of community engagement so that conservation plans remain a success,” first author Dipto Sarkar said.

From teak farms to agroforestry: Panama tests reforestation strategies By: Colin Sytsma [10 Mar 2022]
– Panama is racing to restore 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) of forest by 2025 to meet its carbon emissions reduction targets under the Paris climate agreement. The nation’s public and private sectors have embarked on various forest restoration and reforestation efforts to meet that goal.
– The government is currently financially incentivizing teak plantations, an industry that proponents say is a win-win for the economy and environment, but which critics say pushes out native tree species, reduces biodiversity, and can indirectly even contribute to further deforestation.
– A long-running research project overseen by the Smithsonian Institute is studying agroforestry and other innovative techniques to help determine which ones offer the best ecological, social and economic silviculture outcomes.
– Included in this groundbreaking work is research into restoring tropical forests on land degraded by cattle, efforts to improve forest hydrology, and silviculture techniques that could replace teak with other more eco-friendly high value trees.

WWF report calls forests a vital public health solution By: Maxwell Radwin [10 Mar 2022]
– A new report from WWF lays out the evidence for how forests directly impact public health.
– Forests not only act as reservoirs for potentially contagious diseases, but also filter water and air pollution that can otherwise lead to illnesses like cancer and diabetes.
– The report makes a case that forests also help alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition while improving mental health, among other benefits.
– It calls on conservationists and public health experts to work more closely and view forests as a public health tool.

Moore Foundation pledges extra $300m to boost conservation of Amazon By: Laurel Sutherland [10 Mar 2022]
– The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has allocated an additional $300 million toward the Andes-Amazon Initiative to continue biodiversity and forest conservation efforts in the region until 2031.
– To date, the initiative has been successful in conserving 400 million hectares (988 million acres) of land, about half the size of Brazil, since its establishment in 2003.
– New targets include ensuring 100 million hectares (247 million acres) of freshwater and forest ecosystems, as well as Indigenous and local communities’ lands, are effectively managed.
– To safeguard the resilience and health of the Andes-Amazon region’s ecosystems, at least 70% of its historic forest cover must remain intact, a threshold the initiative will exceed if it hits its new targets, says Avecita Chicchón, program director of the Andes-Amazon Initiative.


The world says yes to a cradle to grave plastics treaty: Now the work begins by Charles Pekow [03/07/2022]
Brazil’s Atlantic Forest gets a chance at a fresh start through restoration by Taís Seibt and Duda Menegassi [03/07/2022]
In Nigeria, a decade of payoffs boosted global wildlife trafficking hub by Ini Ekott [03/04/2022]