Newsletter 2022-04-07


Shell of a comeback: New app, awareness campaigns bring hope for hawksbill turtles by Carly Nairn [04/06/2022]

– Hawksbill turtles are due for a status assessment on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
– One of the largest threats to global hawksbill recovery is the continued illegal tortoiseshell trade in Japan, a major consumer, and Indonesia, a top exporter.
– Conservation successes include a dramatic decrease in tortoiseshell sales in Colombia, previously one of the largest shell sellers in the Western Hemisphere.

The amazing — and unknown — diversity of insects living in the Amazon canopy by Suzana Camargo [04/05/2022]

– A new study collected tens of thousands of insects from the rainforest canopy in the Brazilian Amazon and found that 60% of the specimens occur at a height of 8 meters (26 feet) and higher.
– Most of the species, and even entire genera, have not yet been described by science, pointing to an unfathomable richness in insect diversity in the Amazon.
– This survey differs from conventional research on insects, which are usually conducted at ground level, because it pays more attention to the vertical diversity of the forest, from the ground to the treetops.

All coked up: The global environmental impacts of cocaine by Sean Mowbray [04/04/2022]

– Cocaine is one of the most widely used illicit drugs in the world, consumed by an estimated 20 million people in 2019, mostly in North America and Europe.
– Production, transit and consumption of the drug are exacting a heavy environmental toll, impacting tropical forests, freshwater and estuary ecosystems. Some of these effects, such as pollution impacts on eels and other aquatic species, have been documented, but most are still poorly understood, with many unresearched.
– Indigenous peoples are often at the front lines of criminal gangs’ activities in producer and trafficking countries. Often, when new narco-trafficking transport routes are established, like those in Central America, those same routes are used for other criminal activities such as wildlife and weapons trafficking.
– Researchers argue that detaching the environmental harm caused by the cocaine trade from the long-lasting war on drugs is not possible. Solutions implemented to deal with the drug problem, such as the aerial spraying of illegal coca crops, while locally effective in curbing illegal cultivation, also cause deforestation and biodiversity damage.

They outlived the dinosaurs, but Brazil’s araucaria trees might not survive humans by Aldem Bourscheit [04/04/2022]

– The araucaria tree of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest could go extinct within the next 50 years due to permissive state policies allowing them to be cleared.
– While the species is listed as critically endangered, and there’s a ban on illegal logging of araucaria, the state governments of Paraná and Santa Catarina states still allow them to be felled in the thousands for public works projects.
– Araucaria forests today occupy just 2% of their historic range, scattered in fragments of forests measuring just 3,600 km2 (1,400 mi2).
– The species has been around for more than 200 million years, surviving the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs, but could meet its own doom thanks to human-driven climate change.

Reaching the Paris Agreement without protecting Indigenous lands is “impossible”, says report by Dimitri Selibas [04/01/2022]

– A new report by the Forest Declaration Assessment says that fulfilling the Paris Agreement won’t be possible without acknowledging and supporting the crucial role of Indigenous peoples and other local communities’ (IPLCs) in protecting lands.
– About 90% of IPLC lands are carbon sinks, say the report authors, Climate Focus and the World Resources Institute (WRI), which analyzed the IPLC lands in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.
– Each hectare of IPLC land sequesters an average of 30 metric tons of carbon every year, about twice as much as lands outside IPLC protection. This equates to about 30% of the four nation’s Paris Agreement targets.
– Countries should facilitate the titling of all IPLC lands, ensure consent to development projects, commit to protecting environmental defenders and make sure IPLCs are included in U.N. targets, says the report.

Climate crisis forecasts a fragile future for wildflowers and pollinators by Spoorthy Raman [04/01/2022]

– A first-of-its-kind experimental study has found that climate change reduces the abundance of wildflowers and causes them to produce less nectar and fewer and lighter seeds.
– These changes also impact pollinating insects visiting the flowers: they have to visit more flowers, more frequently, to gather the required food.
– Fewer flowers imply reduced reproductive fitness in plants, as well as fewer food resources for invertebrates that rely on these plants for food, habitat and shelter.
– Overall, climate change may disturb the composition of wildflower species and their pollinators, impacting agricultural crop yields, researchers say.

Traditional knowledge guides protection of planetary health in Finland by Jane Palmer [03/31/2022]

– Undisturbed peatlands act as carbon sinks and support biodiversity. Finland has drained 60% — more than 60,000 km2 (23,000 mi2) — of its peatlands, releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and destroying entire ecosystems.
– But scientists and Finnish traditional and Indigenous knowledge holders are collaborating to rewild and protect peatlands and associated forests and rivers, turning them into carbon sinks again, while bringing back wildlife and supporting fishing, hunting, and even tourism, offering economic benefits to local communities.
– These Finnish collaborations are already serving as both inspiration and guide to those seeking to use rewilding to curb climate change, enhance biodiversity, create sustainable land use systems, and restore forest, freshwater and wetland ecosystems, while supporting traditional communities.
– “Rewilding is very much about giving more freedom to nature to shape our landscapes, and looking at nature as an ally in solving socioeconomic problems,” says Wouter Helmer former rewilding director of Rewilding Europe. “It’s a holistic way of putting nature back on center stage in our modern society.”

Wild bison, taking over Europe and North America, will once again roam England by Claire Turrell [03/31/2022]

– This year, a $1.4 million project is about to release a herd of bison in an ancient English woodland, bringing back an animal that hasn’t been in the country for millennia.
– The European bison is expected to help regenerate the forest and boost insect, bird and plant life.
– Bison rewilding projects are springing up across Europe, contributing to the species’ conservation status improving from vulnerable to near threatened.
– North America is also rewilding with its bison species, including on Native America lands, helping to revitalize not only the ecosystem but Indigenous culture and heritage.


Countries that sanctioned Myanmar’s junta are still buying their timber: Report By: Carolyn Cowan [07 Apr 2022]
– Despite sanctions imposed following the February 2021 coup, Myanmar exported more than $190 million worth of timber, including to countries that have sanctions on the country’s state-controlled timber monopoly, according to a new report from Forest Trends.
– The continued trade highlights the challenges of effectively enforcing sanctions, the report authors say; a lack of reporting on the timber trade from within the country also emphasizes the military regime’s purposeful lack of transparency.
– The authors call on countries to do more to cut off the junta’s access to natural resource revenues by extending financial sanctions to the banking sector.
– According to the report, effective implementation of sanctions is one of the most important actions the international community can take to support the citizens of Myanmar.

Podcast: Afield at last, researchers head out for a new season By: Mike Gaworecki [07 Apr 2022]
– On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we check in with a couple field researchers to find out what they’ll be working on during the upcoming season.
– For many, it’s the first field season after a rather long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.
– Meredith Palmer’s field work involves developing new prototypes for wildlife monitoring technologies like BoomBox, an open‐source device that turns camera traps into Automated Behavioral Response systems.
– We also speak with Ummat Somjee, a field researcher based out of the Smithsonian Tropical Institute in Panama who uses insects as models to understand the evolution of extreme structures in large animals, like the tusks of elephants and antelope horns.

How much does air travel warm the planet? New study gives a figure By: Liz Kimbrough [06 Apr 2022]
– Researchers calculated that aviation contributes around 4% to human-induced global warming, more than most countries do.
– When jet fuel burns, it produces CO2 as well as non-CO2 emissions including nitrogen oxides, soot, water vapor and sulfate aerosols, all of which interact with the atmosphere and have an effect on the climate in different ways and at different time scales.
– Although the development of sustainable aviation fuels has received much attention and funding, many experts say it’s not feasible to create the amount of fuel needed and it’s not the best use of land.
– Curtailing emissions will require “a portfolio of solutions,” but the most effective solution to reducing both the climate and health impacts of aviation is to fly less.

Photography, nature, truth and war: Q&A with top photographer Ami Vitale By: Erik Hoffner [06 Apr 2022]
– Mongabay contacted award-winning photographer and former war correspondent Ami Vitale to hear her thoughts about the power of photography at this pivotal time in places like Ukraine.
– In a new interview, Vitale shares her views and also news of a photography sale that she and other National Geographic photographers have donated prints to, toward providing relief to victims of the war.
– “Photography can remind us all that we have a lot more in common than we often realize. If we…dig beneath the headlines and take the time to understand, a universal truth emerges. We are all connected to one another,” she says.

GM fish engineered to glow in the dark are found in Brazil creeks By: Sue Branford [06 Apr 2022]
– A recent study shows that genetically modified zebrafish, known as GloFish, have been found and are breeding in creeks in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest.
– GloFish, which are genetically engineered for fluorescence, are readily available for sale online in Brazil, even though they’ve been banned there since 2017.
– Brazilian biologists have called for measures to prevent these fish from escaping fish farms and entering into local bodies of water, where they compete with native species for food.
– But a U.S biologist whose own research showed that GloFish fail to compete reproductively against wild-type zebrafish says this new paper is “almost a study about nothing” and was published only because it was “sensational.”

Indonesia’s Riau province declares state of emergency ahead of fire season By: Suryadi [05 Apr 2022]
– Almost every year vast swaths of Southeast Asia are covered in toxic haze, which causes air quality to reach hazardous levels and creates major health, environmental and economic problems.
– Recorded since the early ’70s, the smoke is almost entirely a result of large forest and peatland fires in Indonesia that are often illegally started to clear land for oil palm plantations.
– The governor of Indonesia’s Riau province in Sumatra, which, along with Borneo, is a primary location of the fires, has declared an emergency alert status to increase and expedite prevention and extinguishing efforts ahead of this year’s fire season.
– A national environmental NGO says the alert status shows the government has again failed to prevent the fires, and that the existing mitigation efforts fail to tackle the root of the problem.

‘Resilient’ leatherback turtles can survive fishing rope entanglements. Mostly By: Kala Hunter [05 Apr 2022]
– Leatherback turtles are highly vulnerable to getting entangled in lobster pot fishing gear off the coast of Massachusetts.
– A new study now shows that they can largely survive these entanglements — if they’re reached by rescuers in time, and their injuries are treatable.
– However, researchers say the lobster fishery must move toward a ropeless model to ensure that leatherbacks, and other marine animals, can survive over the long term.

Climate change causes a run on banks, for crop genes (commentary) By: Marcela Santaella [05 Apr 2022]
– While the impacts of climate change are putting pressure on agriculture, they are also making the conservation of the world’s most important crops more challenging.
– Even industrialized nations like Portugal, Spain and Italy–as well as research institutes and farmers–are now requesting not only samples of food crops to breed climate change-adapted varieties, but also material for forage crops.
– In light of this, a new op-ed argues that it’s critical that governments and funders continue to invest in, and support, the work of crop genebanks.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Protecting water by conserving forests puts communities in Mexico to the test By: Marlén Castro [05 Apr 2022]
– Almost 15 years ago, the inhabitants of eight towns in southern Mexico’s Costa Chica decided to conserve an area that provides them with water by setting aside five square kilometers of their land to create an ecological reserve.
– Previously, sewage from the largest municipality in the area was discharged into the rivers that communities used for washing, bathing and drinking.
– Conflicts initially broke out between communities over sharing water and contributions to the protection of the reserve, though the project has sensitized people to conservation and increased the amount of water in the spring.
– However, according to forestry experts, Mexico’s protected natural areas have exceeded the institution’s capacity and available resources, meaning the communities that manage the conservation of the reserve receive little institutional support.

Palm oil firm that cleared Papuan forest after losing its permit is still at it By: Hans Nicholas Jong [05 Apr 2022]
– Satellite monitoring shows continued deforestation within an oil palm concession in Indonesia’s Papua province, long after the local government ordered concession holder PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PNM) to halt land-clearing activities.
– The local government issued the order because PNM was among 137 palm oil firms whose permits were revoked by the environment ministry on Jan. 6.
– The Namblong Indigenous community, whose ancestral lands overlap with the company’s concession, say they never wanted PNM in their area and have called on the government to take firm action to stop it from clearing more forest.

‘Sharing the air’ proves a challenge for new Nepal airport in bird paradise By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [05 Apr 2022]
– Conservationists and aviation officials have raised concerns about the potential for bird strikes at a new international airport set to open in Pokhara, Nepal, later this year.
– The flight path to the Chinese-funded airport crosses the habitat of vultures and eagles.
– A landfill site close to the airport also draw these birds of prey, increasing the risk of bird strikes.
– Municipality authorities tasked with relocating the landfill site have still not done so, even as construction of airport nears completion by July.

IPCC report calls for ‘immediate and deep’ carbon cuts to slow climate change By: John C. Cannon [05 Apr 2022]
– A new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that the world could face a more than 3° Celsius (5.4° Fahrenheit) increase in the global average temperature over pre-industrial levels based on current carbon emissions.
– However, the authors of the report say investment in renewable energy, green building and responsible land use could lower emissions enough to stay below an increase of 1.5°C (2.7°F), a target identified at the 2015 U.N. climate conference that scientists predict would avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
– Addressing continued global carbon emissions will require trillions, not billions, of dollars in financing from public and private sources to cut emissions, the report finds.
– Its authors also say that including Indigenous and local communities from the beginning in land-use decisions aimed at climate change mitigation is critical.

Seagrass joins other marine life in accumulating sunscreen compounds By: Sean Mowbray [04 Apr 2022]
– Ultraviolet filters typically found in sunscreen lotions can accumulate in high concentrations in seagrass rhizomes, a new study shows.
– This discovery is raising concerns about the potential effect on important seagrass ecosystems, though the full ramifications remain unclear.
– The findings indicate that such components not only end up in organisms in the coastal environment but also tend to remain there for a long time, one expert says.
– UV filters are already known to accumulate in a variety of aquatic species, such as dolphins, sea turtles, fish and mussels, and can cause harm, including birth defects and reduced fertility, as well as damage to coral reefs.

For Indonesians, palm oil is everywhere but on supermarket shelves By: Hans Nicholas Jong [04 Apr 2022]
– Indonesia is the world’s top producer of palm oil, but has in recent months been hit by scarce supplies and high prices for vegetable oil.
– The country’s business competition regulator points to indications of cartel practices by the handful of conglomerates that dominate the industry.
– But government policies may also be to blame, experts say, including incentivizing palm oil producers to sell to the government’s biofuel program instead of to cooking oil refiners.
– Parliament has called hearings on the issue, while the competition watchdog has launched a formal investigation.

PNG suspends new carbon deals, scrambles to write rules for the schemes By: Rachel Donald [04 Apr 2022]
– Papua New Guinea’s government is working to create new regulations governing voluntary carbon schemes, which are arrangements negotiated directly between developers and resource owners.
– While the new laws are developed, the country’s environment ministry has imposed a moratorium on new voluntary carbon deals in the country.
– The moratorium, and development of a stronger legal framework, comes after “significant red flags” were raised over a proposed carbon credit deal in the country’s Oro province.

‘A risky business’: Online illegal wildlife trade continues to soar in Myanmar By: Carolyn Cowan [04 Apr 2022]
– A new report from WWF shows that trade in protected wild animals and their body parts in Myanmar via the social media platform Facebook rose by 74% in 2021 compared to the previous year.
– The scale of the online trade, the purpose of the trade, and the species seen in the trade are all of major concern in terms of impacts on biodiversity and the potential risks to public health from disease transfer, according to the report.
– Posts advertising live civets and pangolins as wild meat, as well as posts referring to their commercial breeding potential are a particular concern, argue the report authors. Both species are considered to be potential vectors in passing zoonotic diseases to humans.
– The report calls on online platforms to do more to monitor their platforms and take swift action, and for greater involvement and collaboration from multiple sectors to strengthen enforcement, disrupt the illegal wildlife trade, and increase awareness of the health risks posed by illegally traded wildlife.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for April 2022 By: [01 Apr 2022]
– In March, Mongabay covered landscape restoration projects in different countries, injustice to Brazil’s Indigenous communities regarding land rights, human-elephant conflict in India due to oil palm plantations, and other issues worldwide.
– Three YouTube series — Mongabay Explains, Problem Solved, and Candid Animal Cam — released new episodes featuring coral reefs, aerosol issues, technology-critical elements, and the gray brocket deer, respectively.
– Get a peek into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

For a beekeeping couple in Costa Rica, pesticides are killing the buzz By: Monica Pelliccia [01 Apr 2022]
– For decades, Guillermo Valverde Azofeifa and Andrea Mora Montero have kept Melipona stingless bees in their garden, a task that is becoming more difficult.
– Their home has become surrounded by plantations growing monocultures of pineapple, oil palm and cassava.
– When these crops are sprayed with pesticides, the couple’s bees often die. They worry the fumes may also affect the health of their children.
– The two beekeepers have now initiated legal proceedings to save these native pollinators in Costa Rica, a country that despite its environmentally friendly reputation has one of the highest rates of pesticide use in the world.

How many orangutans does $1 billion save? Depends how you spend it, study finds By: Jim Tan [01 Apr 2022]
– A recent study evaluating spending on orangutan conservation, calculated to amount to more than $1 billion over the past 20 years, found wide variations in the cost-effectiveness of various conservation activities.
– The study found habitat protection to be by far the most effective measure, followed by patrolling.
– By contrast, habitat restoration; orangutan rescue, rehabilitation, and translocation; and public outreach were found to be less cost-effective.
– The study relied on building a model that correctly accommodated numerous factors, something both the researchers and outside experts highlight as a challenge.

Saving Nigeria’s gorillas was also meant to help communities. It hasn’t (analysis). By: Orji Sunday [31 Mar 2022]
– In this analysis, Mongabay contributor Orji Sunday reflects on conversations with people living in and around Nigeria’s Cross River National Park, established in 1991 to protect Cross River gorillas and other threatened species.
– For many people in the area, conservation, whether under British colonial rule or since independence, has been experienced as a loss of autonomy and livelihood, and as a string of broken promises of prosperity.
– With few alternatives and a growing population, people describe becoming ever more dependent on forests and wildlife to survive, regardless of their personal feelings about conservation and apes.
– Well-designed and monitored alternative livelihood initiatives show some chances of success, but scaling them up, and consistently monitoring them, remain challenging.


In Benin, the line between conservation and counterinsurgency blurs by Ashoka Mukpo [03/29/2022]
It’s a girl: Super rare Sumatran rhino born in captive-breeding center by Basten Gokkon [03/28/2022]
FSC-certified Moorim Paper linked to massive forest clearing in Indonesia’s Papua by Hans Nicholas Jong [03/28/2022]
‘Giving up’: Amazon is losing its resilience under human pressure, study shows by Liz Kimbrough [03/25/2022]
On a Honduran island, a community effort grows to protect its precious reefs by Sandra Weiss [03/25/2022]
Deforestation on the rise as poverty soars in Nigeria by Morgan Erickson-Davis [03/24/2022]