Newsletter 2022-03-31


In Benin, the line between conservation and counterinsurgency blurs by Ashoka Mukpo [03/29/2022]

– On Feb. 8-10, a series of roadside bombings in northern Benin’s W National Park killed seven employees of the conservation group African Parks, including four rangers and a French anti-poaching trainer.
– The attack is suspected to have been carried out by Islamist militants based in the forests of neighboring Burkina Faso, raising fears that violence in the Sahel is spilling over into Benin, with the country’s national parks as its front line.
– Over the border in Burkina Faso, militants have targeted forestry and conservation officials, hoping to capitalize on local discontent over park restrictions and gain new recruits.
– According to some researchers, African Parks has been thrust into the uneasy role of border security and “counter-terrorism” in northern Benin.

It’s a girl: Super rare Sumatran rhino born in captive-breeding center by Basten Gokkon [03/28/2022]

– Indonesia has reported the birth of a Sumatran rhinoceros in a captive-breeding program targeted to save the critically endangered species from extinction.
– The new calf is the first child of captive rhino Rosa at the Way Kambas Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, and Andatu, a male who was himself born at the sanctuary in 2012.
– This new captive birth of a Sumatran rhino has rekindled hopes among experts and officials for more newborns in the future.

FSC-certified Moorim Paper linked to massive forest clearing in Indonesia’s Papua by Hans Nicholas Jong [03/28/2022]

– A subsidiary of South Korean paper company Moorim has cleared natural forests a tenth the size of Seoul in Indonesia’s Papua region over the past six years, a new report alleges.
– The report, published by various NGOs, alleges that the cleared areas consisted of primary forests serving as a habitat for threatened species and a source of livelihood for Indigenous Papuans.
– Moorim’s Indonesian subsidiary, PT Plasma Nutfah Marind Papua (PNMP), which holds the concession to the land, also allegedly cleared the forests without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous and local communities.
– Moorim has denied the allegations, but the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which certifies its paper products as being sustainably sourced, says it has begun assessing the case to determine whether there’s enough substantial information to indicate a violation of its policies.

‘Giving up’: Amazon is losing its resilience under human pressure, study shows by Liz Kimbrough [03/25/2022]

– The Amazon Rainforest is losing its ability to bounce back from repeated disturbances, according to a new study.
– Researchers found that three-quarters of the Amazon has lost some resilience, or ability to regain biomass after disturbance. This loss of resilience is especially high in regions close to human activity and with less rainfall.
– As the forest is slashed, burned and degraded, it’s left with less vegetation, which means less evapotranspiration, leading to less rain. And less rain leads to further droughts, fires, tree death and forest degradation — a feedback loop of destruction and loss of resilience.
– The lead author describes the findings as “depressing” but also says that “having an early warning of this gives us a chance to do something about it … Rather than focusing on the trajectory the Amazon is on, we can instead try and change it.”

On a Honduran island, a community effort grows to protect its precious reefs by Sandra Weiss [03/25/2022]

– On the tourism-reliant island of Roatán in Honduras, a homegrown environmental organization has allied with local communities to ensure the natural beauty that draws visitors remains safe.
– Roatán sits along the Mesoamerican Reef, and is home to rich corals and lush mangroves, which face threats from the tourism boom.
– The Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA) takes a three-pronged approach to its work, focusing on science, institutional support for the authorities, and community work.
– The group’s success over the years is unusual in Honduras, which routinely ranks among the most dangerous countries for environmental activists.

Deforestation on the rise as poverty soars in Nigeria by Morgan Erickson-Davis [03/24/2022]

– Akure-Ofosu Forest Reserve was established to help protect what is now one of largest remaining tracts of rainforest in Nigeria, and is home to many species.
– But fire and logging is rampant in the reserve, with satellite data showing it lost 44% of its primary forest cover in just two decades; preliminary data indicate deforestation may be increasing further in 2022.
– Sources say poverty is the driving force behind the deforestation of Akure-Ofosu and other protected areas in Nigeria.
– According to the World Bank, 4 in 10 Nigerians – about 80 million people – were living below in poverty in 2019, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing another 5 million people below the poverty line by 2022.


Best-preserved part of Brazil’s Amazon, home to isolated tribes, faces ‘decimation’ By: Lais Modelli [31 Mar 2022]
– An area of forest larger than England could be cleared by 2050 in one of the best-preserved parts of the Brazilian Amazon, a new report warns.
– It says the main drivers of deforestation in the Middle Purus region of Amazonas state are illegal logging, neglect by government institutes, and the paving of the BR-319 road.
– The Middle Purus region is home to two areas where isolated Indigenous people were recently discovered, the Jacareúba-Katawixi Indigenous Territory and the Mamoriá Grande River region, but both have been without formal protection since temporary decrees were allowed to expire last year.
– The road-paving project, revived by the Bolsonaro administration in 2020 after being shelved in 1988, also threatens a surge in the deforestation rate, giving land grabbers and illegal loggers greater access to previously remote areas of forest.

That dead whale on the beach? Let it be, study says. Or at least don’t blow it up By: Shreya Dasgupta [31 Mar 2022]
– When marine mammals wash ashore, government agencies often set about removing the carcass.
– Strategies include burying the body, transporting it to a landfill or incinerator, towing it out to sea, and in at least one misguided case, detonating it.
– But in removing dead, stranded cetaceans from beaches, we may be overlooking the environmental benefits they offer, according to a new study.
– The researchers recommend leaving carcasses to rot in place whenever possible, where the environmental benefits they offer include supporting communities of scavengers, such as threatened species like polar bears and California condors.

Food security framing increases relevance of biodiversity negotiations to less industrialized nations (commentary) By: Jean Wiener [30 Mar 2022]
– Biodiversity is key in less industrialized nations, where 1 in 3 jobs depends on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
– As preparations end in Geneva before formal negotiations on the Convention on Biodiversity next month, a Goldman Prize-winning Haitian environmentalist argues that biodiversity is a matter of food security and livelihoods, and must be put in that context to drive the urgency and progress this moment requires.
– A “shift to the language of food security and protecting livelihoods can open biodiversity dialogue to developing nations in ways the current conversation is not,” he writes.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

WWF casts a wide net to save dugongs in the Great Barrier Reef By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [30 Mar 2022]
– In an effort to protect dugongs and other threatened species, WWF-Australia bought a commercial gillnet fishing license for a swath of ocean in the northern Great Barrier Reef, to establish a de-facto marine sanctuary spanning more than 100,000 km2 (38,600 mi2).
– Dugongs, turtles, dolphins and other marine animals are easily caught in gillnets, and experts say many fatalities go unreported.
– The newly protected region is an important feeding ground for dugongs, supporting a local population of about 7,000, experts say.
– WWF-Australia says it hopes the Australian and Queensland state governments will establish more permanent protections for dugongs on the Great Barrier Reef, and that Traditional Owners can use the area for sustainable fishing and tourism.

Rare mammals caught on camera highlight value of Annamite Mountains By: Carolyn Cowan [30 Mar 2022]
– Camera-trap surveys in the Annamite mountain range between Laos and Vietnam have provided an overview of two incredibly rare and elusive mammals that occur nowhere else on the planet: the Annamite striped rabbit and Annamite dark muntjac.
– Understanding the distribution and habits of rare species is crucial to guide the development of effective conservation measures, the study authors say.
– The study found that Annamite dark muntjac are more likely to live in high-elevation forests, and in remote locations far from villages, while Annamite striped rabbits were found across a range of elevations throughout the region.
– Experts say snare removal will be key to securing the mammals’ long-term survival, and the results of the study will now help conservation managers to focus often limited resources on areas critical for biodiversity.

Online trade in rare silvery pigeon is cause for concern, researchers say By: Sean Mowbray [30 Mar 2022]
– Little is known about the silvery pigeon, a critically endangered bird endemic to western Indonesia and Malaysia that may number anywhere between 50 and 1,000 individuals.
– Yet despite being rare and a protected species, the silvery pigeon continues to be offered for sale online in the international pet trade.
– Researchers say there needs to be swift conservation action to prevent the currently low-level trade from growing out of control.

Indonesia’s gasification plans could be costly for budget and environment By: Nithin Coca [30 Mar 2022]
– Indonesia has broken ground on a $2.1 billion coal gasification plant, and plans to build 10 more.
– In supporting coal gasification, Indonesian officials aim to bolster coal production even if export demand diminishes.
– A new analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis concludes that coal gasification will require massive government subsidies to be commercially viable in Indonesia.
– Advocates for renewable energy say any funds that might be used to support coal gasification would be better spent on supporting renewable energy projects.

Making room in the Atlantic Forest for the largest primate in the Americas By: Bernardo Araújo and Duda Menegassi for ((o))eco [30 Mar 2022]
– The destruction of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has created countless isolated forest patches surrounded by pastures, cities or monoculture plantations, with serious consequences for northern muriquis, the largest primate in the Americas.
– Considered critically threatened, northern muriquis depend on connectivity between different groups to survive; when females reach sexual maturity, they migrate to other groups, ensuring the species’ genetic diversity.
– In Minas Gerais state, a pioneering project by the Muriqui Institute of Biodiversity and Comuna do Ibitipoca is working to rescue isolated muriquis, release them into a restored forest area, and create forest corridors to allow them to move around.
– Conservationists say private landowners, such as Comuna do Ibitipoca, will be key to creating these corridors, given that 80% of the remaining patches of Atlantic Forest lie within private lands.

The ocean is a cacophony of fish talk, study shows. We just can’t hear it By: Rachel Teng Ruiqi [30 Mar 2022]
– Advances in evolutionary understanding have given researchers a deeper appreciation of a very sonorous underwater world.
– From finding a mate to defending their territory, fish employ a variety of innovative mechanisms to produce sounds, like vibrating their swim bladders or snapping their tendons.
– Researcher Aaron Rice says fish are much more dependent on sound for communication than we realize, given that sound production has evolved independently several times.
– The findings mean marine noise pollution presents a big potential threat to the health of marine and freshwater ecosystems.

Dams on Brazil’s Jamanxim River: The advancing assault on the environment and Indigenous peoples in the Tapajós basin (commentary) By: Philip M. Fearnside [29 Mar 2022]
– Brazil’s electrical authorities have given the go-ahead for studies to prepare for building three large Amazonian dams that would flood Indigenous lands and protected areas for biodiversity.
– The decision shows that Brazil’s presidential administration is confident that the National Congress will approve the bill submitted by President Bolsonaro to open Indigenous lands to hydroelectric dams, and probably also allow dams to continue to be built without consulting impacted Indigenous peoples.
– The decision also shows that Brazil’s electrical authorities continue to ignore inconvenient information on climate change, the financial viability of Amazonian dams and their many social and environmental impacts, as well as the country’s better energy options.
– This text is translated and expanded from the author’s column on the Amazônia Real website. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Opium production down as communities in Mexico’s Golden Triangle turn to forestry By: Rodrigo Soberanes [29 Mar 2022]
– Four communities in Mexico’s state of Durango, located within the ‘Golden Triangle’, an area known for the presence of the Sinaloa Cartel and opium and marijuana production, embarked on a sustainable forestry project to reduce dependence on illegal crop production.
– The project has helped lift the Tamazula municipality, where the four communities are located, off the state’s poverty list, raise their income above the minimum wage and contain narcotrafficking, according to UCDFI Topia.
– The mountainous region of temperate forests, diverse species of conifers and deep-cut ravines has a long legacy of sustainable forest management, which the communities hope to revive to relieve stigmatization.
– However, the communities are very isolated and surrounded by long dirt roads, meaning journeys to sell their wood are often arduous and costly.

Indonesian bill turns coal-derived fuels clean by ignoring true scale of emissions By: Hans Nicholas Jong [29 Mar 2022]
– A bill being considered by Indonesia’s parliament defines fuels derived from coal as being “new energy” with “minimal” carbon emissions.
– Energy experts have slammed this dissonance, pointing out that producing and burning gasified coal, for example, emits more emissions than simply burning the solid coal for the same amount of energy.
– The bill also calls for the adoption of costly and largely unproven technologies to help coal-fired power plants run “cleaner,” including carbon capture and storage.
– But experts say it would be far more cost-effective to invest in truly renewable energy, and call into question Indonesia’s commitment at last year’s climate summit to phase out coal from its energy mix.

EU response to palm oil is opportunity, not threat (commentary) By: Andre Barahamin [29 Mar 2022]
– Policy moves by the EU to more closely scrutinize palm oil over its links to deforestation have been portrayed as a smear campaign in Indonesia and Malaysia, the top two producers of the commodity.
– But for Indonesia, this presents an opportunity to devise more careful and detailed definitions of criteria for sustainable palm oil, covering all relevant environmental, social, labor and human rights issues, argues Andre Barahamin, a forest campaigner at the NGO Kaoem Telapak.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Madagascar’s insistence on using seized rosewood rattles conservationists By: Malavika Vyawahare [29 Mar 2022]
– Since CITES banned the global trade of Malagasy rosewood in 2013, the country has faced a dilemma: what to do with the illegally harvested timber in government custody?
– This month Madagascar proposed using seized rosewood, which it claims is secure, domestically, effectively removing it from CITES oversight.
– Though the plan concerns a small fraction of the stockpile, it could set a dangerous precedent, opening the door for the remaining timber to be unlawfully funneled into the global market and drive illegal logging, anti-trafficking campaigners said.
– The proposal came up for discussion at the CITES standing committee meeting this March, but CITES parties are expected to reach a decision at the next summit in November.

As the Horn of Africa heats up, the risks of insecurity are rising (commentary) By: Robert Muggah, Peter Schmidt, and Giovanna Kuele [28 Mar 2022]
– World leaders are increasingly concerned about the complex connections between climate and insecurity, including the risk that climate disruption is a “conflict multiplier.”
– The threat is particularly acute in the Greater Horn of Africa, where populations already grappling with food insecurity and armed conflict are experiencing some of the fastest-warming conditions in the world.
– Noting that “the fortunes and stability of this region of 365 million people now look to be at the mercy of weather-driven mayhem”, Robert Muggah, Peter Schmidt, and Giovanna Kuele of the Igarapé Institute draw attention to various efforts already underway in the region to build resilience and call for stepped-up support from global powers.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

‘Marine conservation talks must include human rights’: Q&A with biologist Vivienne Solís Rivera By: Kimberley Brown [28 Mar 2022]
– An open letter signed by environmentalists, scientists and human rights advocates worldwide called for the clear inclusion of human rights in the emerging global biodiversity goal to conserve 30% of land and ocean by 2030 (30×30).
– Signatories fear the expansion of exclusive marine protected areas will lead to denied fishing access to small-scale fishers who rely on fisheries for their livelihood and partake in sustainable use of marine resources.
– The letter was addressed to government representatives meeting in Geneva this month who will be finalizing the new biodiversity framework, which will be presented at the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) conference in China this April.
– Mongabay spoke with Vivienne Solís Rivera, representative of Costa Rica-based human rights and conservation organization, CoopeSoliDar, about the open letter and the rights of small-scale fishers while she was attending CBD negotiations in Geneva.

Coalition against online wildlife trafficking shares little evidence of success (analysis) By: Toby McIntosh [25 Mar 2022]
– Officials from the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online say progress is being made, but the evidence is minimal, a new analysis shows.
– The Coalition’s three NGO partners – TRAFFIC, IFAW and WWF – divide up primary “point of contact” duties with big online platforms like eBay where wildlife and illegal animal products can be found for sale.
– Critics call the Coalition “a black box” from which little light emerges, allowing member companies like Facebook to say they’re part of the solution by pointing to their Coalition membership.
– This post is an independent analysis by the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Oil spill contaminates wildlife, beaches and protected areas in Peru By: Yvette Sierra Praeli [25 Mar 2022]
– On Jan. 15, a refinery owned by Spanish oil company Repsol spilled nearly 12,000 barrels of oil into the sea off Lima, Peru, as it was pumping the oil from a tanker.
– Experts have questioned why the refinery of La Pampilla was operating that day, when there were unusually high waves caused by the Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami.
– Peru’s Environmental Evaluation and Enforcement Agency (OEFA) has fined Repsol for similar spills on at least three prior occasions, and this time the company could be hit with more than $37 million in fines.
– The spill has spread beyond the Lima coast and out toward islands that are part of a network of protected nature reserves, posing serious threats to marine life and to artisanal fishermen.

The Great Barrier Reef is bleaching — once again — and over a larger area By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [25 Mar 2022]
– The Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing its sixth mass bleaching event, and the fourth event of this kind to happen in the past six years.
– Based on aerial surveys that were concluded this week, bleaching has affected all parts of the Great Barrier Reef, with the most severe bleaching occurring between Cooktown, Queensland, and the Whitsunday Islands.
– Sea surface temperatures around the Great Barrier Reef have been higher than normal, despite the region going through a La Niña climate pattern, which usually brings cooler, stormier weather.
– Climate change remains the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs around the world, experts say.


From land mines to lifelines, Lebanon’s Shouf is a rare restoration success story by Elizabeth Fitt, Karl Wehbe [03/23/2022]
In Rio de Janeiro, a forest slowly returns to life, one species at a time by Daniele Bragança and Duda Menegassi for ((o))eco [03/21/2022]
Fourth round of U.N. talks fail to finalize a treaty to manage the high seas by Elizabeth Fitt [03/21/2022]
‘Studying a ghost’: In Cape Town, urban caracals give researchers lots to ponder by Grace Hansen [03/21/2022]
Researchers turn to drones for that big-picture view of the forest canopy by Caitlin Looby [03/21/2022]
2021 Amazon deforestation map shows devastating impact of ranching, agriculture by Maxwell Radwin [03/21/2022]
Probe finds palm oil firm illegally clearing forest in Sumatra wildlife haven by Hans Nicholas Jong [03/18/2022]
NGOs alert U.N. to furtive 2-million-hectare carbon deal in Malaysian Borneo by John C. Cannon [03/17/2022]