Newsletter 2022-05-26


In Sierra Leone, local fishers and foreign trawlers battle for their catch by Ashoka Mukpo [05/24/2022]

– At wharfs across the Freetown peninsula in Sierra Leone, local fishers say in recent years it’s become harder to get a good catch. They blame foreign trawlers for overexploiting the country’s fish stocks.
– Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources says it has systems meant to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, but enforcement remains a challenge.
– In 2019, China signed a fisheries agreement with Sierra Leone that includes a promise to build a $55 million harbor, but some fishers say boats owned by its citizens are among the worst offenders.

For reef mantas, Indonesia’s Komodo National Park is a ray of hope by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [05/24/2022]

– A new study has found that Komodo National Park in Indonesia has an aggregation of 1,085 reef manta rays, currently classified as a vulnerable species.
– Experts say that locations such as Komodo will play an important role in safeguarding the species from extinction.- Manta rays are under pressure from fishing activity, including targeted fishing and bycatch.
– However, experts say the species is also impacted by tourism and the changing dynamics of the ocean.

Devastated by a typhoon, community foresters in the Philippines find little support by Keith Anthony S. Fabro [05/23/2022]

– The Macatumbalen Community-Based Forest and Coastal Management Association, based in the Philippine province of Palawan, has replanted and managed 1,850 hectares of local forests since 2002.
– When Typhoon Rai struck Palawan in December 2021, the community’s forest was devastated, harming not just the ecosystem but also the livelihood of local people, who depend on agroforestry and harvesting of forest products like honey and rattan.
– Four months after the typhoon struck, the community organization has been left largely on its own as it attempts to resume restoration and replanting.

‘The promise was a lie’: How Indonesian villagers lost their cut of the palm oil boom by Mongabay | The Gecko Project | BBC News [05/23/2022]

– An investigation by Mongabay, BBC News and The Gecko Project estimates that Indonesian villagers are losing hundreds of millions of dollars each year because palm oil producers are failing to comply with regulations requiring them to share their plantations with communities.
– The “plasma” scheme was intended to lift communities out of poverty. But it has become a major source of unrest across the country, as government interventions fail to compel companies to deliver on their commitments and legal obligations.
– Palm oil from companies accused of withholding profits from communities is flowing into the supply chains of major consumer goods firms like Kellogg’s and Johnson & Johnson. Some have pledged to investigate.

Researchers compile largest-ever photo database of Amazon wildlife by Liz Kimbrough [05/20/2022]

– Researchers have compiled more than 154,000 records of camera trap images form the Amazon Rainforest, recording 317 species of birds, mammals and reptiles.
– This is the first study to compile and standardize camera trap images from across the Amazon at this scale, and covers Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
– The authors say this camera trap data set opens up opportunities for new studies on forest fragmentation, habitat loss, climate change, and the human-caused loss of animals “in one of the most important and threatened tropical environments in the world.”

As biomass burning surges in Japan and South Korea, where will Asia get its wood? by Annelise Giseburt [05/19/2022]

– In 2021, Japan and South Korea imported a combined 6 million metric tons of wood pellets for what proponents claim is carbon-neutral energy.
– Large subsidies for biomass have led Japan to import massive amounts of wood pellets from Vietnam and Canada; two pellet giants, Drax and Enviva, are now eyeing Japan for growth, even as the country may be cooling to the industry.
– South Korea imports most of its pellets from Vietnamese acacia plantations, which environmentalists fear may eventually pressure natural forests; South Korea wants to grow its native production tenfold, including logging areas with high conservation value.
– Vietnam may soon follow Japan and South Korea’s path as it phases out coal, and experts fear all this could add massive pressure on Southeast Asian forests, which are already among the most endangered in the world.


Poor planning, persistent farming undermine mangrove restoration in Tanzania By: Amindeh Blaise Atabong [25 May 2022]
– Tanzania’s government has been working since the 1990s to replant mangroves in the Rufiji Delta, one of East Africa’s most significant mangrove sites.
– New research indicates that efforts to restore degraded mangroves have been undermined by rice farming as well as by a lack of systematic planning and analysis of site and species suitability.
– However, the research found that despite these flaws, replanted areas were regenerating faster than areas left to regrow on their own.

U.N., rights groups flag potential violations in $3b Indonesian tourism project By: Hans Nicholas Jong [25 May 2022]
– The U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has again raised concerns about alleged violations against local and Indigenous communities who are being moved for a tourism development project in Indonesia.
– The Indonesian government envisions building a “New Bali” in the Mandalika region of the island of Lombok, including resorts, hotels and a racetrack, for which it is relocating 121 households.
– Special rapporteur Olivier De Schutter says there are concerns around four issues: the conditions under which the community members are being moved; whether they’ve even consented to doing so; the amount of compensation the government is offering; and the conditions of their resettlement.
– NGOs have called for the $3 billion Mandalika project’s main funder, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), to stop financing the project in light of these allegations of rights violations.

For wildlife on Brazil’s highways, roadkill is just the tip of the iceberg By: Dimas Marques/Fauna News [25 May 2022]
– More than 400 million wild vertebrates are estimated to be run over on Brazil’s highways every year, but roadkill is only one of the impacts from building roads through biodiverse areas.
– Road construction also entails deforestation, as well as chemical, noise and light pollution, and the introduction of invasive species — all of which pose threats to native species.
– To minimize the impacts, experts call for better planning in building new roads, such as viaducts for the passage of wildlife, acoustic barriers, and changes in the composition of the asphalt to reduce noise.

Meet the 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners By: Liz Kimbrough [25 May 2022]
– This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors one grassroots activist from each of the six inhabited continents.
– The 2021 prize winners are Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez from Ecuador; Chima Williams from Nigeria; Julien Vincent from Australia; Marjan Minnesma from the Netherlands; Nalleli Cobo from the United States; and Niwat Roykaew from Thailand

Sri Lankan wins Linnean Medal, the ‘Nobel Prize for naturalists’ (commentary) By: Rajith Dissanayake [24 May 2022]
– Today the Linnean Medal was awarded at a London ceremony to the first Sri Lankan in its history: since 1888, the medal has been given annually to a botanist or a zoologist, or to one of each, in the same year.
– The list of winning scientists–from Alfred Wallace to Stephen Jay Gould–is long, yet the 2022 honoree in the zoology section is not a scientist in the formal sense, but rather a Sri Lankan author, educator and taxonomist, Rohan Pethiyagoda, who formerly served as deputy chair of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.
– “His impact on biodiversity research in Sri Lanka and beyond through his output and catalytic influence cannot be overestimated,” the award committee wrote, and the author of this commentary explains why this is so.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Caribbean incursion into Amazon sparked a flurry of life, with lessons for the future By: Fernanda Wenzel [24 May 2022]
– The vast wetland that used to sit in the heart of where the Amazon lies today received a more recent pulse of seawater than previously thought, a new study confirms — a phenomenon that contributed to the region’s species richness, including its iconic river dolphins.
– The study also says the likeliest source of these marine incursions, some 23 million to 8.8 million years ago, was the Caribbean Sea, with the water surging inland down what is today the Orinoco River Basin in Venezuela.
– Researchers say investigating the distant past of the Amazon can yield clues about its near future, given that the late Miocene was a period of global warming, with temperatures far higher than the 2°C (3.6°F) rise that the Paris Agreement is trying to prevent.
– But the current rate of global warming is taking place on an exponentially shorter time scale, and combined with record rates of fires and deforestation, it gives animal and plant species no time to adapt, scientists say.

Tale of two pandemics as mining thrived while communities faced restrictions By: Sandra Cuffe [24 May 2022]
– The power imbalance between mining companies and communities in Latin America deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report published May 24.
– The report details how the pandemic presented companies with a window of opportunity to continue or even ramp up their activities, while communities opposed to mining projects faced pandemic restrictions and violence.
– Indigenous Mapuche-Tehuelche community leaders from Argentina traveled to Guatemala in May to meet with Indigenous Xinka communities affected by the same mining company.

Efforts bloom to save southern Brazil’s last butiá palm groves By: Aldem Bourscheit [24 May 2022]
– Targeted by the expansion of agriculture and urbanization, the last butiá palm landscapes continue to cling to life in Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
– Of the 21 known butiá species in South America, 19 occur in Brazil — all of them under threat.
– An experimental project proposes a rotating cattle management method in butiá areas as a way to protect the shoots of the young palms from being eaten.
– Other efforts to protect the trees include creating a tourism circuit linking butiá groves in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and publishing a book of butiá fruit recipes.

In the Mekong’s murky depths, giants abound, new expedition finds By: Carolyn Cowan [24 May 2022]
– An underwater expedition into the deepest pools in the Mekong River has confirmed the presence of giant freshwater fish, fish migration routes, and high volumes of discarded fishing gear and plastic waste.
– The international team of underwater explorers, local fish biologists and fishermen used deep-sea camera technology to document the ecological value of the unique area in northeastern Cambodia, which is characterized by 80-meter-deep (260-foot) pools, flooded forests and braided river channels.
– But just as researchers reveal the value of its biodiversity, food security and fisheries livelihoods, the area faces a new threat: earlier this year, feasibility surveys began for a hydropower dam planned for directly upstream of the deep-pool habitats.
– According to the expedition team, construction of the Stung Treng dam would have “devastating ecological effects and could seriously threaten local food security in an area of the world already impacted by changing climate.”

Tiger-centric conservation efforts push other predators to the fringes By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [24 May 2022]
– Nepal and India have made huge strides in boosting their tiger populations over the past decade, but these conservation actions may have come at the expense of other predators, research shows.
– In Nepal, species such as leopards and sloth bears have been pushed to the fringes of conservation areas that have been optimized for tigers, leading to increased human-wildlife conflict.
– The current approach of burning tall grasses and rooting out tree shoots to give deer and antelope fresh grass, and tigers fresh prey, isn’t even working in the tigers’ favor, one study shows.
– Conservationists say there needs to be a habitat management approach that accommodates a wider range of both prey and predator species.

200 mysterious sea turtle deaths: Q&A with Kenyan fisherman and turtle rescuer Daniel Katana By: Anthony Langat [23 May 2022]
– Near the town of Marereni, smack in the middle of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline, a group of local volunteers has been protecting sea turtles and planting mangroves for nearly two decades.
– In the past two years, however, the Marereni Biodiversity Conservancy has documented alarming spikes in sea turtle deaths and in turtles with fibropapilloma tumors, as well as a decline in sea turtle nests.
– While the causes have yet to be determined, conservancy members suspect the sea turtles’ problems may be associated with pollution from nearby salt mines.
– Mongabay interviewed the group’s CEO, Daniel Masha Katana, about how it is responding to the current threats to sea turtles.

Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ 60 years on: Birds still fading from the skies By: Sharon Guynup [23 May 2022]
– Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” catalyzed the modern environmental movement and sparked a ban on DDT in the U.S. and most other nations, though DDT has since been replaced by a growing number of other harmful biocides.
– Now, 60 years later, birds may face more threats than any other animal group because they live in — or migrate through — every habitat on Earth. Birds are impacted by land-use changes, pollution (ranging from pesticides to plastics), climate change, invasive species, diseases, hunting, the wildlife trade, and more.
– The 2022 update to the “State of the World’s Birds” report notes winners and losers amid increasing human alteration of the planet, but documents a continuing downward trend.

Stained by oil: A history of spills and impunity in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia By: Alexa Eunoé Vélez Zuazo and Vanessa Romo [23 May 2022]
– The reporting alliance ManchadosXelPetróleo (StainedByOil) tracked down government records of oil spill cases and fines against companies working in the Amazon of Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador between 2011 and 2021. In Colombia, information was also requested for the Orinoquía.
– One constant in the investigation was a lack of information and transparency, especially in Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.
– The database constructed from government documents revealed there were at least 282 cases against 72 oil companies in Peru and Colombia, and that around half have been fined for more than $55 million.
– In all four countries, oil lots overlap with Indigenous territories and protected areas. There are 1,646 communities and 52 protected areas that partially or completely overlapping with extractive activities.

Investors force Home Depot to review wood-sourcing policy over logging concerns By: Maxwell Radwin [23 May 2022]
– Some of Home Depot’s plywood is allegedly sourced from vulnerable forests in Ecuador’s Chocó region and the Brazilian Cerrado, and conservationists and investors have pressured the home improvement giant to clean up its supply chain.
– At the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting last week, a proposal passed requiring Home Depot to reevaluate policies related to sustainability certifications of wood suppliers.
– Although the proposal doesn’t technically force the company to change its policies, conservationists are confident it will lead to tangible action.

Ecotours aimed at saving monkeys are likely stressing them out, study finds By: John Cannon [23 May 2022]
– A recent study reveals that tourist boats approaching troops of proboscis monkeys in Malaysian Borneo cause the animals stress, even when the boats travel at slow speeds.
– The research reveals something of a universal response, closely tracking similar findings from ecotourism operations focused on other animals such as birds and whales.
– Wildlife tourism is increasingly seen as a way to raise awareness around conservation issues and provide local communities with a source of income that’s contingent on the protection of ecosystems.
– Scientists say this type of research can form the basis for guidelines aimed at minimizing the effects of ecotourism on animals, especially as its role in conservation grows.

Easing of crackdown sees Vietnam boats encroach into Indonesian waters By: Basten Gokkon and Yogi Eka Sahputra [20 May 2022]
– Illegal fishing by Vietnamese vessels in Indonesian waters has ramped up this year, with locals and fisheries observes blaming a dearth of patrols by Indonesian authorities.
– Vessel-tracking data and satellite imagery showed more than 100 instances of Vietnamese fishing vessels in the North Natuna Sea, inside Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), between February and April.
– At the same time, enforcement against illegal fishing appears to have eased, with no Vietnamese vessels seized in Indonesian waters so far this year, compared to 54 between 2020 and 2021, and 234 between 2015 and 2019.
– Fishers and observers say these incursions threaten fish stocks that had recovered during the period of strict enforcement, and have called on the government to boost patrols.

That ‘killer’ spider story you read online? Fake news, most probably By: Cassie Freund [20 May 2022]
– Media coverage of human encounters with spiders is rife with misinformation, according to a study by more than 60 scientists around the world.
– They compiled a database of more than 5,300 news articles from 81 countries about these encounters, and found 47% had factual errors and 43% were sensationalistic.
– They also found stories that quoted spider experts tended to be more accurate than those that quoted medical experts of pest control specialists, who don’t receive the same level of training.
– Negative media portrayals of spiders, snakes and other animals that many people tend to dislike hurt efforts to conserve species that play an important role in the ecosystem, the study authors say.

A whiz and a buzz: Bee attacks at Sri Lanka rock fortress point to need for toilets By: Malaka Rodrigo [20 May 2022]
– A leading bee expert in Sri Lanka has attributed seemingly unprovoked bee attacks on visitors at the Sigiriya rock fortress to poor toilet habits by the latter.
– With no toilet facilities at the popular tourist site, visitors urinate in a concealed corner of the fort, leaving puddles that the bees are drawn to for the sodium and sugar content.
– Wasantha Punchihewa says providing toilet facilities at Sigiriya would be a positive step toward ending the attacks, and a welcome change from authorities’ repeated efforts to eradicate the bee colonies.
– “Bees are not evil, and we can coexist if we can maintain a healthy distance and avoid unnecessary close encounters,” he says.

The price of oil spills in Peru and Colombia? Millions of dollars in fines By: Cristina Fernández Aguilar [20 May 2022]
– The journalism alliance ManchadosXelPetróleo (StainedByOil) requested information on sanctions against oil companies operating in the Amazon regions of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia, as well as the Colombian Orinoquía.
– After analyzing cases from 2011 to 2021, it was revealed that there were 282 cases of oil spills, with 72 companies involved; half of the companies have been fined.

In Singapore, a forensics lab wields CSI-like tech against wildlife traffickers By: Claire Turrell [20 May 2022]
– A wildlife forensics laboratory launched in Singapore last year is making breakthroughs in tracking down criminal syndicates trafficking in wildlife.
– Singapore is a major transit point for the illegal ivory trade; the nation impounded 8.8 metric tons of elephant ivory in July 2019 — evidence from which led to the arrest of 14 people in China.
– The researchers use the same method to capture poachers that authorities in California used to arrest the Golden State Killer.
– Elephant ivory and pangolin scales account for the bulk of the new lab’s workload; figuring out how traffickers accumulate this material from two species could uncover much of their methods.

Drivers of Colombia’s peacetime deforestation weave a complex web By: Gianluca Cerullo [20 May 2022]
– When the Colombian government signed a historic peace accord with the paramilitary group FARC in 2o16, conservationists waited to see what peace would mean for the environment.
– New research shows how the forces driving deforestation in both war and in peace varied across the Colombian countryside between 2001 and 2018.
– Researchers found that cattle ranching, coca cultivation, and the size of municipalities were strong predictors of forest loss across this period, but that their respective importance varied across localities.
– Researchers say that considering the local drivers of forest loss can help improve both peacebuilding and environmental outcomes.

Cambodia: Development threatens a last refuge of wildlife rescued from illegal trade (commentary) By: Greg Mccann [20 May 2022]
– A 2,300 hectare forest, where animals rescued from the wildlife trade in Cambodia are rehabilitated and released, is in danger of clearance under a new government scheme.
– The details of what might replace this forested 2,300 hectares an hour outside the capital city of Phnom Penh are unclear, but the wildlife rehabilitation center adjacent to it is appealing to authorities to reconsider the plan and have suggested a sustainable alternative plan.
– Sambar deer, a species whose status is said by the IUCN to be vulnerable to extinction, have also been photographed in impressive numbers in the forest.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Results of mining tax for reforestation in the DRC leave more questions than answers By: Didier Makal [19 May 2022]
– Mining and logging companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are liable to pay a deforestation tax to restore areas impacted by their activities.
– However, after about twenty years since the tax was implemented, reforested areas are few and far between.
– Environmentalists and locals question what the taxes collected from mining companies is being used for, with corruption and financial mismanagement seen as a source of the problem.
– The National Forest Fund (FFN), environmental ministry and political officials did not respond to Mongabay requests for comment.

Conflict over resources in Kenya hits deadly highs with firearms in play By: Kang-Chun Cheng [19 May 2022]
– Increased droughts, floods and invasive species are fueling violent conflicts between pastoralists over livestock in Kenya’s central Baringo county, the intensity of which is exacerbated by the proliferation of illegal firearms in the region.
– Firearms trafficked from civil conflicts in the Horn of Africa have made their way into the hands of pastoralists who now see it as the only way to defend themselves and their cattle during raids and conflicts over grazing land.
– In 2021, there were 16 deaths from 19 livestock raids; in the first four months of 2022, there have been 39 fatalities from 24 violent clashes, half of them due to livestock raids.
– Violent conflicts in Baringo are linked to insecurity in neighboring counties, and drought along with politics only heighten the precarious situation.


Podcast: Vandana Shiva on the agroecology solution for the climate, biodiversity crisis and hunger by Mike Gaworecki [05/18/2022]
‘It’s just a bird’: Online platforms selling lesser-known Indonesian species by Sean Mowbray [05/17/2022]
Indigenous village harvests seeds to slow deforestation in Brazil’s Cerrado by Daniel Grossman and Dado Galdieri [05/16/2022]
In Brazilian Amazon, Indigenous lands stop deforestation and boost recovery by Lais Modelli [05/13/2022]
Slender-snouted crocodile savior: Q&A with Whitley Award winner Emmanuel Amoah by Mohamed Fofanah [05/13/2022]
As tiger numbers in Nepal and India grow, their freedom to roam shrinks by Abhaya Raj Joshi and Sahana Ghosh [05/13/2022]