Newsletter 2022-05-12


Thai gold mine blamed for sickening local villagers is set to reopen by Kannikar Petchkaew [05/10/2022]

– The Chatree mining complex, owned by a subsidiary of Australia’s Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd., began operations in 2001 and was closed by Thailand’s ruling junta in 2017.
– Villagers say the environment and their health has suffered as a result of the operations; mass blood tests found that the majority of children and adults tested exhibited elevated levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, manganese and cyanide.
– The mining company denies allegations that its operations have caused health problems, and in 2017 sued the Thai government for shutting down the mine, seeking “very substantial damages.”
– In January 2022, the government gave permission for the mine to reopen.

Bull run: South Africa marks latest rhino relocation to boost populations by Charles Mpaka [05/09/2022]

– Four black rhinos were translocated to the Bonamanzi Game Reserve in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province in April, part of wider efforts to repopulate the species’ former range and boost their gene pool.
– Black rhino populations fell from nearly 40,000 in the 1970s to just 2,400 in the early ’90s, due to poaching driven by strong demand for rhino horn in Asia and civil strife in and the flow of weapons across Southern Africa.
– More effective protection and measures to support population growth have helped black rhino populations rise to around 5,600 today.
– Translocation helps reestablish rhino populations in parts of their former range where they’ve been extirpated as well as allowing existing populations to continue to breed.

Can celebrities and social media influencers really ‘rewrite extinction’? by James Fair [05/09/2022]

– A new conservation fundraising group, Rewriting Extinction, aims to increase awareness about the biodiversity crisis by reaching out to new audiences.
– The group has raised about $180,000 for a range of different schemes in South and Central America, Europe and Asia.
– Critics accuse it of misleading supporters as to how conservation really works and making exaggerated claims on what its fundraising can achieve.
– The real cost of tackling wildlife declines runs into the tens of billions of dollars, and some experts say Rewriting Extinction is selling a false narrative, while others support Rewriting Extinction’s efforts to raise awareness among people who would otherwise be indifferent to the issue.

Human disturbance is pitting wolverines against an unlikely competitor: Coyotes by Grace Hansen [05/09/2022]

– New research finds that when coyotes and wolverines come into contact, the rarer wolverines lose out.
– Human impacts, such as roads and fossil fuel infrastructure, are pushing both of these predators into closer contact, harming wolverine populations.
– Researchers suggest improving landscape management to take into account wolverines’ needs.

Lessons from panda conservation could help Asia’s other, overlooked, bears by Spoorthy Raman [05/09/2022]

– Asia is home to five bear species: giant pandas, Asian black bears, sun bears, sloth bears and brown bears.
– Giant pandas garner far more attention than the four other species, and this has paid off for the former: Millions of dollars are spent on its conservation every year, leading to an improvement in its conservation status in 2016.
– By contrast, the other species receive little funding, and conservation and monitoring efforts are limited even as populations dwindle.
– Experts say successful panda conservation efforts indicate that the other Asian bear species could also rebound — but that being charismatic helps.

Fisher groups are the marine militia in Indonesia’s war on illegal fishing by Basten Gokkon [05/06/2022]

– Indonesia has a vast maritime area, but not enough personnel to patrol and monitor for illegal and destructive fishing.
– To address this gap, in recent years the government has incentivized fishers and other coastal communities to form monitoring groups that are responsible for patrolling their local waters.
– In the Raja Ampat archipelago in the country’s east, Mongabay meets some of the people who have volunteered for the task of protecting their waters from blast fishing and cyanide fishing, among other violations.

“Indigenous people are fighting to protect a natural equilibrium”: Q&A with Patricia Gualinga by Astrid Arellano [05/06/2022]

– Increase in legal and illegal mining in the Ecuadorian Amazon, along with the emergence of carbon credit system that bypass Indigenous people, are posing a challenge to Amazonian communities.
– Patricia Gualinga is a Kichwa leader in Ecuador and member of Amazonian Women (Mujeres Amazónicas), a coalition of women environmental and land defenders.
– In an interview with Mongabay, Patricia Gualinga talks about Indigenous resistance in the face of extractive threats and the popularity of carbon credits in the Amazon rainforest.


China-funded dam could disrupt key Argentine glaciers and biodiversity By: Maxwell Radwin [12 May 2022]
– Two dams are being built on the 380-kilometer (236-mile) Santa Cruz River in Argentina’s Patagonia, threatening glacier movements and endemic wildlife that rely on the surrounding wetlands.
– Several Indigenous Mapuche communities, who consider the area to be important to their cultural heritage, say officials failed to consult with them before starting the project.
– Despite protests, lawsuits and court orders to pause construction, work on the complex, part of the China-funded Belt and Road Initiative, has continued.

Conservation win for Bangladesh as efforts to halt vulture decline pay off By: Abu Siddique [12 May 2022]
– Concerted conservation actions since 2010 have helped halt the decline in vulture populations in Bangladesh.
– The country was previously home to seven vulture species, but one — the red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) — has now gone locally extinct, and two others are considered critically endangered.
– A key threat to the birds was the excessive use of veterinary drugs used in cattle, which proved deadly for the scavengers, but which have since been banned.
– Bangladesh has also declared several “vulture safe zones” across the country, where officials work with local communities to raise awareness about the importance of vultures to the environment and to protect breeding sites and habitats.

Indonesia cancels fisheries infrastructure projects in Maluku region amid lack of funds By: Nurdin Tubaka [11 May 2022]
– Indonesia doesn’t have the money to build the National Fish Bank or a new Ambon port, two infrastructure projects the national government had promised in the province of Maluku, a minister announced last month.
– The obstacle for the National Fish Bank project relates to its chosen location, near an underwater volcano and abandoned mines from World War Two.

Missing the emissions for the trees: Biomass burning booms in East Asia By: Justin Catanoso [11 May 2022]
– Over the past decade, Japan and South Korea have increasingly turned to burning wood pellets for energy, leaning on a U.N. loophole that dubs biomass burning as carbon neutral.
– While Japan recently instituted a new rule requiring life cycle greenhouse gas emissions accounting, this doesn’t apply to its existing 34 biomass energy plants; Japanese officials say biomass will play an expanding role in achieving Japan’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by 2030.
– South Korea included biomass burning in its renewable energy portfolio standard, leading to 17 biomass energy plants currently operating, and at least four more on the way.
– Experts say these booms in Asia — the first major expansion of biomass burning outside Europe — could lead to a large undercounting of actual carbon emissions and worsening climate change, while putting pressure on already-beleaguered forests.

Food for all: Q&A with Michel Pimbert of the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience By: Anna Lappé [11 May 2022]
– Founded in 2014 at Coventry University, the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) is teaching the next generation of agroecology researchers and practitioners.
– Agroecology is a biodiversity-positive and climate change-fixing suite of agricultural techniques, which the recent IPCC climate change report mentioned repeated times as being a key solution to the climate crisis.
– In a wide ranging interview with CAWR’s director, author Anna Lappé discusses how this practice can provide food for all while solving other crises the planet faces.
– Pimbert says it’s exciting to see the growing recognition of agroecology and its benefits, but notes that funding for agroecology remains “pitifully small” compared to the billions being poured into industrialized agriculture.

In oil palm-dominated Malaysia, agroforestry orchards are oases of bird life: Study By: Grace Dungey [11 May 2022]
– Demand for agricultural land threatens Peninsular Malaysia’s remnant native forest cover, and with it, Malaysia’s rich bird life.
– A recent study has found that agroforestry and polyculture plantations — those with a greater number of tree species — provide a more complex habitat for bird life and are better structured to support biodiversity.
– The study suggests that the introduction of fruit trees that encourage bird life into monoculture croplands would benefit farmers through the restoration of ecological functions, such as reducing the need for pest control through bird diet without compromising yield.

Podcast: She’s here! Rare Sumatran rhino calf born at rhino sanctuary By: Mike DiGirolamo [11 May 2022]
– Indonesia’s environment ministry in March reported the birth of a Sumatran rhino calf.
– This calf is the first one born in captivity in nearly six years, stoking optimism for the captive-breeding program in Sumatra’s Way Kambas National Park.
– This bonus episode of the Mongabay Explores podcast features senior staff writer Basten Gokkon on the still-unnamed female rhino calf, and what this means for the future of this critically endangered mammal.

Biologist fighting plastic pollution to save sea turtles wins ‘Green Oscar’ By: Kaleab Girma [11 May 2022]
– Estrela Matilde, a conservation biologist and executive director of the NGO Fundação Príncipe, has won a Whitley Award, for her work to save sea turtles in the tiny African nation of São Tomé and Príncipe.
– Fundação Príncipe has been working since 2015 to conserve the island of Príncipe’s biodiversity by working with the local community to develop alternative livelihoods that reduce pressure on resources and protect wildlife.
– Matilde’s attention has turned to documenting and tackling plastic pollution after a conservation initiative that put cameras on sea turtles revealed just how much plastic Príncipe’s marine life encounters.
– She plans to use the award money to document via GPS the tides of plastic pollution reaching Príncipe, and to scale up a livelihood project in which local women make trinkets out of the plastic that washes up on the island’s beaches.

WCS CEO to depart conservation group for the Bezos Earth Fund By: [11 May 2022]
– Cristian Samper, the President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), will step down to join the Bezos Earth Fund.
– Samper, who has led WCS for the past decade, will be the Managing Director of the $3 billion “Nature Solutions” portfolio at the Bezos Earth Fund.
– The Bezos Earth Fund was launched by founder Jeff Bezos in 2020 to “drive climate and nature solutions.”

Deforestation-neutral mining? Madagascar study shows it can be done, but it’s complicated By: Malavika Vyawahare [11 May 2022]
– The Ambatovy mine in Madagascar achieved no net forest loss by curbing deforestation in its biodiversity offsets, an analysis in the journal Nature Sustainability concluded.
– Project developers create biodiversity offsets, sites where they undertake conservation work, to make up for environmental destruction caused by their extractive operations.
– Ambatovy, which operates an open-pit nickel mine in Madagascar, carved out four biodiversity offsets to make up for biodiversity loss in its mining site, located in the species-rich eastern rainforest of the island nation.
– By slowing deforestation in these four offsets, the mine made up for forest loss in its mining concession; however, there isn’t enough data to ascertain how the measures impacted biodiversity, and previous research indicates that the mine’s offsets reduced impoverished communities’ access to forest resources.

Newly described plant is latest fruit of Sri Lankan botanists’ collaboration By: Malaka Rodrigo [10 May 2022]
– Researchers in Sri Lanka have described a new-to-science species of flowering plant, categorizing it as critically endangered because of its small and declining population and restricted range.
– Impatiens jacobdevlasii is named in honor of Dutch botanist Jacob de Vlas, co-author of a series of illustrated guides on the more than 3,000 known flowering plants of Sri Lanka.
– Sri Lanka is among the six global hotspots of impatiens plants, but many of its endemic species are threatened with extinction, with one considered possibly extinct after not having been seen in nearly a century.
– The new discovery also highlights the spirit of collaboration among a young cohort of Sri Lankan botanists, whose work is inspiring greater interest in the island’s plant life, and a growing body of new discoveries.

Himalayan musk deer talk to each other through poop, but poachers are also listening By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [10 May 2022]
– A new study has indicated to scientists what poachers in Nepal may have long known: that Himalayan musk deer use their defecation sites as a sort of message board to communicate with one another.
– The endangered species is typically solitary and has limited vocalization, but its varied behavior at latrine sites — defecating, browsing, sniffing, scrapping and covering, and ignoring — appear to show efforts to convey messages to the other deer using the sites.
– Poachers may have long known about this behavior, and accordingly set their snares near latrine sites, where they target the male deer for their scent glands — prized for making perfume and traditional medicine.
– The authors of the new study say this finding could help improve conservation activities, including ensuring mating success for captive-breeding efforts.

Scheme to stop ‘conflict minerals’ fails to end child labor in DRC, report says By: Amindeh Blaise Atabong [10 May 2022]
– Much of the world’s supply of coltan, tin and tungsten minerals is extracted using child and forced labor, despite an industry mechanism meant to guarantee responsible supply chains, a new report alleges.
– The investigation by campaign group Global Witness found major failures in the chain of custody for minerals produced in the provinces of North and South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– The findings, which align with previous investigations by Congolese NGOs and the United Nations, point to large amounts of ore from unvalidated mines entering the supply chain, including from areas known to be under control of militias and rogue army units.
– The International Tin Supply Chain Initiative says the report is inaccurate and fails to account for progress made in recent years, but has not yet refuted any of the evidence provided.

Indonesia’s revocation of palm oil, mining permits marred by ‘maladministration’ By: Hans Nicholas Jong [10 May 2022]
– Indonesia’s environment ministry may have committed maladministration in announcing the revocation of nearly 200 permits for logging, plantation and mining concessions, the country’s office of the ombudsman says.
– If the concession holders were negligent in managing their concessions, as the ministry claimed, then the problem should have been detected much earlier and dealt with case by case, indicating a failure by officials to periodically review the permits, the ombudsman says.
– It adds that the environment ministry has no authority to revoke oil palm concessions, whose final permits fall under the remit of the land ministry to do so.
– Environmental law experts had warned shortly after the revocations were announced in January that the government had left itself wide open to lawsuits from the affected companies; at least one coal-mining company has already filed suit for the return of its concessions.

Boom and bust on Lake Victoria: Q&A with author Mark Weston By: John Cannon [10 May 2022]
– In a new book, British author Mark Weston examines an environmental crisis on East Africa’s Lake Victoria that’s been a century in the making and stems from the introduction of the non-native Nile perch to the lake in the 1950s.
– Weston lived on Ukerewe, the lake’s largest island, for two years, and relates the knock-on legacy of the fish’s introduction through the experiences of the people he met there.
– The boom and bust of the fishery brought about a surging population, deforestation, declining land fertility, and increased pollution in the lake.
– With Nile perch catches down precipitously and little else to sustain the economy of Ukerewe, residents struggle through poverty, lack of opportunity and a trickling exodus from the once-prosperous community, in search of a better life for themselves and their families.

What’s popping? Humpbacks off South Africa, new acoustic study finds By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [09 May 2022]
– Researchers recently recorded humpback whales making popping sounds like a gunshot at the Vema Seamount off the coast of South Africa.
– It’s not currently known why humpbacks make these sounds, but researchers suspect it has to do with mating or feeding.
– The Vema Seamount is an important feeding ground for humpbacks and other species, leading experts to call for the region to be protected.

Bangladesh power bill mounts amid plan to supersize already bloated capacity By: Abu Siddique [09 May 2022]
– Bangladesh is paying hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives to private electricity producers every year for electricity that’s going unused, a government report indicates.
– The country’s grid has the capacity to supply nearly 60% more electricity than consumers demand, which the government must pay for even if it means paying producers to remain idle.
– Despite the glut, the government is embarking on several large-scale power projects, including seven coal-fired plants and up to two nuclear plants, which will nearly double its total capacity by 2030.
– Energy policy observers say this building spree is “ridiculous” and pushes the country into risky territory as the costs of incentives and subsidies balloons.

Amazon deforestation surges in April By: [06 May 2022]
– Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon exceeded 1,000 square kilometers in April, the highest total since 2008 and roughly twice the level of April 2021, according to data released today by Brazil’s national space research institute INPE.
– The loss — which only accounts for the first 29 days of the month — put deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon through the first four months of 2022 at 1,953 square kilometers as the region heads into the peak deforestation season.
– Last year deforestation topped 13,000 square kilometers for the first time since 2006.
– Scientists have warned that the Amazon may be approaching a tipping point where vast areas of rainforest transition to a woody savanna.

For more fish and healthier coral in Bali, focus on communities and connectivity: Study By: Carolyn Cowan [06 May 2022]
– A new review highlights improvements that can be made to the conservation of Bali’s coral reefs, which face multiple local stressors alongside warming waters and coral bleaching.
– While there are more coral-focused conservation initiatives in Bali than elsewhere in Indonesia, not all of them are successful, the authors say, leaving much room for improvement, particularly regarding design and management of protected areas.
– The authors recommend a more coordinated approach to marine protected area management to create networks that effectively safeguard mobile species, like turtles, sharks, rays and other fish.
– The review warns that despite the successes of local initiatives, climate change remains the biggest threat to coral reefs in Bali and around the world.

‘They died from the spill: The animals that couldn’t escape Peru’s oil slick By: Michelle Carrere [06 May 2022]
– Of the 147 birds — mainly Guanay cormorants, Peruvian boobies and Humboldt penguins — rescued from an oil spill off Lima and brought to the city’s Parque de las Leyendas zoo for treatment, only 79 have survived.
– Mongabay Latam joined officials from SERNANP, Peru’s protected areas agency, as they scoured the oil-hit area around the Guano Islands, Islets and Capes National Reserve System to record the number of affected animals, dead and alive.
– The Jan. 15 spill resulted in 11,900 barrels of oil pouring into the sea, with the company responsible, Spain’s Repsol, reportedly failing to take containment measures immediately.
– The spill has also devastated local fishers, who until then had been recognized by the Peruvian government for their environmentally responsible fishing practices.

DRC logging contracts suspended as audit uncovers serious violations By: Lawon Olalekan [06 May 2022]
– The publication of an audit of forestry contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo has exposed serious management failures.
– The audit cites serial breaches of the country’s forest code and more than a dozen violations of a 2002 moratorium on new concessions.
– The DRC’s environment minister announced the immediate suspension of forestry contracts deemed illegal by the audit, saying that where a special commission confirms the Inspectorate General of Finance’s findings, those contracts will be canceled.
– The audit is the first requirement to access a $500 million fund for protection of the Congo Basin pledged by funders last November, but the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), which is leading the funding process, has not reacted publicly to the negative findings.

To gauge impact of nitrogen pollution, Sri Lanka project looks to lichens By: Malaka Rodrigo [06 May 2022]
– Researchers in Sri Lanka are studying how atmospheric nitrogen pollution affects lichens as a proxy for vegetation, to better understand how plants and soil are coping with the increasing volumes of nitrogen humans are releasing into the atmosphere.
– South Asia is a global hotspot for atmospheric nitrogen pollution, caused mainly by fertilizer emissions, as well as the burning of fossil fuels.
– Ammonia and nitrous oxide, the “reactive” forms of nitrogen in the atmosphere, are up to 300 times more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, but also have direct impacts on human health, plant growth, and soil nutrient balance, with potentially severe impacts on food security.
– A U.N.-sponsored campaign, launched in Colombo in 2019, aims to halve nitrogen waste by 2030.

Citizen participation: a key achievement at the first COP to the Escazú Agreement By: Oscar Bermeo Ocaña [05 May 2022]
– The first conference of the parties to the Escazú Agreement concluded with the approval to include the public in the board of directors and finalize the rules surrounding a committee that will oversee compliance with the treaty. These were described as some of the greatest achievements of the conference.
– The Escazú Agreement is a regional treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean that promotes access to environmental information, compliance with environmental laws and environmental justice. It is also known as a treaty that addresses the protection of environmental defenders.
– Indigenous and youth groups played a large role in the conference which announced a task force focused on monitoring the situation surrounding environmental defenders in the region.
– Elections for the positions of public representative to channel citizens’ demands will be held in August and any citizen of a country which ratified the Escazú Agreement can register to run.

“We are on the front line”: Q&A with Indigenous land defender Adiela Jineth Mera Paz By: Maria Fernanda Lizcano [05 May 2022]
– Adiela Jineth Mera Paz is an Indigenous leader and coordinator with the Cuiracua Mai Yija, the Indigenous Guard of the Siona people’s Buenavista reservation in Puerto Asís, Putumayo, on the Colombia-Ecuador border.
– Indigenous communities have experienced water contamination from nearby oil extraction since 2014, affecting the communities’ health and wildlife corridors, says Mera Paz.
– In this interview with Mongabay, Mera Paz discusses leadership roles taken on by Indigenous women and the growing risks her community faces from armed groups, drug trafficking and the oil giant, Geopark.

Indonesian government lagging independent effort to recognize Indigenous lands By: Hans Nicholas Jong [05 May 2022]
– A total of 17.6 million hectares (43.5 million acres) of Indigenous territories in Indonesia, an area half the size of Germany, have been demarcated under an independent initiative that began in 2010.
– The mapping is seen as the first step for Indigenous communities in the long and complicated process of applying for official government recognition of their land rights.
– But government efforts continue to lag behind this initiative, with the state to date only recognizing 15% of the territories demarcated by the latter.
– At the local level, governments in the eastern regions of Maluku and Papua have been more accommodating of Indigenous land claims; but at the national level, a bill on Indigenous rights has been stalled in parliament for a decade now.


A new index measures the human impacts on Amazon waters by Ronaldo Ribeiro, Letícia Klein, Kevin Damasio, Laura Kurtzberg (Ambiental Media) [05/05/2022]
Wonder on wings: The fierce nature and enduring beauty of birds by Mike Gaworecki [05/04/2022]
Indigenous group fights cattle onslaught, defends uncontacted relatives in the Gran Chaco by Liz Kimbrough [05/03/2022]
Land restoration requires immediate action and Indigenous land rights, says U.N. report by Dimitri Selibas [05/02/2022]
Q&A with Whitley Award winner Sonam Tashi Lama by Abhaya Raj Joshi [05/02/2022]