Newsletter 2022-06-09


Indigenous agroforestry dying of thirst amid a sea of avocados in Mexico by Monica Pelliccia [06/08/2022]

– A rich tradition of cultivating and collecting medicinal plants in Mexico’s Michoacán state is at risk, as the Indigenous community behind it loses access to water.
– Avocado farms–mostly supplying the U.S. market–dominate water resources in the town of Angahuan, forcing Indigenous P’urhépecha healers to buy clean water by the gallon from shops to keep their medicinal plants alive.
– These healers, known as curanderas, have for generations grown a wide variety of such plants in agroforestry gardens that also combine fruits and vegetables, timber trees, and flowers.
– The P’urhépecha healers are pushing back against the spread of avocado farms by planting trees in the hills to build up water resources while launching a natural pharmacy business in town, efforts for which the collective has already won an award from the state government.

Can conservation technology help save our rapidly disappearing species? | Problem Solved by Mike DiGirolamo [06/08/2022]

– Humanity knows, in a best-case scenario, only 20% of the total species on Earth.
– Yet humans have, at a minimum, increased species extinction 1,000 times above the natural extinction rate, raising concerns among field monitoring experts who worry they may be “writing the obituary of a dying planet.”
– The establishment of protected areas often depends on the ability of conservationists to effectively monitor and track land-based species — but is this happening fast enough?- For this episode of “Problem Solved,” Mongabay breaks down three of the most innovative pieces of conservation technology and how they can advance the field of species monitoring, and ultimately, conservation.

‘Tendrils of hope’ for the ocean: Q&A with conservationist Charles Clover by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [06/08/2022]

– The latest book by Charles Clover, “Rewilding the Sea,” published by Penguin Random House UK, tells stories of what can happen when governments, scientists, conservationists and fishers work together to protect and restore the ocean, generating hope for the future.
– While the term “rewilding” usually refers to restoration efforts that take place on land, Clover argues that the sea can also be rewilded through the reinstatement of ecosystems as well as by simply allowing nature to repair itself.
– He further argues that rewilding can be achieved through new approaches to fisheries management, the creation of marine protected areas, and the protection of parts of the ocean known to sequester carbon.
– While the book acknowledges that the oceans are facing a tremendous number of pressures due to human activities, Clover calls the destruction of ocean life the “world’s largest solvable problem.”

Can wonder plant spekboom really bring smiles back to sad South African towns? by Anna Majavu [06/07/2022]

– Botanists are working on an ambitious project to restore 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of degraded land in South Africa that were previously covered by thickets of the indigenous succulent spekboom (Portulacaria afra).
– Farmers have stripped the land of its native thicket over the course of decades of commercial agriculture and livestock keeping, and following extended droughts, it’s now turning to desert.
– Spekboom, much praised for its ability to sequester carbon, is not only a resilient native plant, but its growth naturally promotes the recovery of other species.
– Carbon credits are one promising source of funding for restoration that could prove profitable for landowners and workers, though some critics say planting spekboom as an offset lacks a scientific basis.

First Nation reclaims territory by declaring Indigenous protected area in Canada by Erica Gies [06/06/2022]

– The Mamalilikulla First Nation has declared part of its traditional territory on British Columbia’s Central Coast that it lost to colonialism to be an Indigenous protected and conserved area (IPCA).
– The Nation views the declaration to be a step toward sovereignty and is seeking “co-governance” with Canadian federal and provincial governments; the latter typically talk of “co-management,” which would retain settler authority.
– Canada and British Columbia have their own policies for protecting nature, but some conservationists and Indigenous groups argue that Indigenous peoples are better at sustainable management. The area of the IPCA has been degraded by logging and fishing.
– The Mamalilikulla have a plan to restore the land and sea and are calling for a five-year moratorium on logging and immediate protection of a marine area called Hoeya Sill, home to rare corals and sponges.

A return to agroecology traditions points the way forward for Malawi’s farmers by Charles Mpaka [06/03/2022]

– Malawi’s 3.3 million smallholder farming families are the backbone of the country’s economy, but many suffer poverty and food scarcity.
– For some farmers, agroecology has proved a lifeline, allowing them to boost yields and income while reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers.
– From 2012-2017, an initiative called the Malawi Farmer-to-Farmer Agroecology project, or MAFFA, trained 3,000 farmers in Dedza district in agroecology methods, including intercropping, composting, organic pest control and soil management. Years after the close of the program, many participants report ongoing success in using the techniques they learned.
– However, obstacles to wider adoption of agroecology remain, including the long lead time required before agroecology techniques yield results, and a policy framework that has traditionally focused on subsidizing synthetic fertilizers and hybrid seeds.


For traditional peoples in Brazil’s Maranhão state, progress brings violence By: Ed Wilson Araújo [09 Jun 2022]
– Brazil’s Maranhão state is home to Indigenous peoples and traditional Afro-Brazilian communities known as quilombos, who for generations have lived sustainably off the rich natural resources of the waterlogged Amazonian plains that make up this region.
– But tensions have escalated in recent years between these communities and outsiders, including agribusiness interests and infrastructure developers, who see opportunities for livestock ranching and power transmission lines on these vast plains.
– In 2017, in the ancestral lands of the Indigenous Akroá Gamella people, the conflict culminated in a violent attack blamed on agribusiness interests that left 22 community members injured, including two whose limbs were severed; today, the survivors live with serious psychological and physical scars.
– In the wetlands, the construction of electricity towers for transmission lines has been blamed for declining fish stocks, affecting the livelihoods of traditional fishing communities. The company responsible for the works rejects this allegation.

‘Protecting snow leopards benefits other species’: Q&A with Rinzin Phunjok Lama By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [09 Jun 2022]
– Rinzin Phunjok Lama is an award-winning conservation biologist who studies one of the most elusive big cats in the world: the snow leopard.
– Based in Nepal’s Trans-Himalayan region, he puts his conservation learnings to practical use, working with local communities to minimize human-wildlife conflict, the main threat to the snow leopard.
– An evolving threat is climate change, which is pushing other top predators, including leopards and Himalayan black bears, into snow leopard territory, putting them in direct competition for prey. Lama says that while the climate threat is largely out of conservationists’ control, there’s still room to work on the human threat, including helping communities build alternative livelihoods that don’t put them in conflict with snow leopards.

Indonesia should take a leadership role in the Global Plastics Treaty (commentary) By: Aristyo Rizka Darmawan and Bella Nathania [08 Jun 2022]
– Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest producers of plastic and a top source of plastic waste in the ocean.
– The passage by the U.N. of a draft resolution toward a Global Plastics Treaty provides a key opportunity for Indonesia to take a leading role in ushering in a transition to a world without plastics, the authors argue.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Chinese pond heron spotted in Nepal for first time By: Abhaya Raj Joshi [08 Jun 2022]
– A Chinese pond heron (Ardeola bacchus) has been spotted for the first time in Nepal, bringing the total number of bird species known to occur in the country to 891.
– Photographers Raju Tamang and Prem Bomjan snapped a picture of the bird in Chitwan National Park, which is better known for its Bengal tigers and greater one-horned rhinos.
– Of the total 891 species, 650 have been found in Chitwan, which hosts important bird habitats, ranging from grasslands to hills to wetlands.

New study offers answers for why tropical birds are more colorful By: Suzana Camargo [08 Jun 2022]
– A new study has confirmed what biologists have long suspected: that tropical birds are much more colorful than their temperate peers.
– They study involved a mathematical color analysis of more than 24,000 pictures of 4,500 birds from around the world, and found that species from Amazon, West Africa and Southeast Asia were on average 30% more colorful than those in the Northern Hemisphere.
– The researchers suggest this difference may be down to energy availability: with more food year-round and more constant temperatures, tropical birds have been able to evolve more elaborate visual signals.
– Diet is another possible factor: fruits rich in organic pigments are abundant in the tropics, and this pigment tends to accumulate in the feathers of the birds that eat them.

End old-growth logging in carbon-rich ‘crown jewel’ of U.S. forests: Study By: John Cannon [08 Jun 2022]
– A recent study of the Tongass National Forest, the largest in the United States, found that it contains 20% of the carbon held in the entire national forest system.
– In addition to keeping the equivalent of about a year and a half of the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere, the forest is also home to an array of wildlife, including bald eagles, brown bears and six species of salmon and trout.
– Scientists and conservationists argue that the forest’s old-growth trees that are hundreds of years old should be protected from logging.
– They are also hoping that efforts by the administration of President Joe Biden are successful in banning the construction of new roads in the Tongass.

Why Russia should not win the bid for Bolivia’s lithium (commentary) By: Joseph Bouchard [07 Jun 2022]
– The government of Bolivia is currently negotiating with various foreign companies from countries including Argentina, the United States, China, and Russia, for the handling of its lithium extraction.
– Results of the bidding process should be announced within the next two weeks. A top contender is Russia: Moscow-based Uranium One Group has offered to extract Bolivia’s lithium reserves, operated by state-owned energy and mining giant Rosatom.
– Joseph Bouchard, a Canadian analyst focusing on geopolitics and security in Latin America, argues that Bolivia should not accept the Russian bid.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Foreign capital powers Brazil’s meatpackers and helps deforest the Amazon By: Moyra Ashford and Sue Branford [07 Jun 2022]
– To conquer the world market, Brazil’s Big Three beef packers — JBS, Marfrig and Minerva — invited in foreign capital. Today, all three are transnationals, with the original Brazilian founders owning only minority shares in their own companies.
– Foreign investors, including asset management companies and pension funds, now own large stakes, which means that ordinary citizens in the United States and elsewhere are helping fund Amazon deforestation through their investments.
– The three Brazilian families behind the Big Three have remarkable rags-to-riches histories, though with the speed of their expansion and dominance greatly assisted by the Brazilian government, keen to produce “National Champions.”
– The companies expanded rapidly abroad, but their presence in the U.S. means they are now subject to greater scrutiny from authorities and NGOs. However, most small-scale investors, including working people, have no awareness they’re investing in the destruction of the Amazon, one of the world’s most crucial carbon sinks.

Report sums up wealth of Sri Lanka’s biodiversity — and the threats it faces By: Malaka Rodrigo [07 Jun 2022]
– A new report identifies the main threats to biodiversity in Sri Lanka — river diversion, habitat loss, pollution, invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change — as well as updates the catalog of the island’s wealth of plant and animal life.
– The 6th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity is the most comprehensive analysis yet of the country’s biodiversity, with more than 100 experts from different fields contributing to the effort.
– It identifies five protected area clusters and recommends systematic interventions to link and expand these areas, while also stressing the need to safeguard biodiversity outside protected areas.
– It further recommends establishing a supervising body with wide powers to coordinate the activities of various government departments that currently manage wildlife, forests, biodiversity and marine environments separately.

In the DRC’s forests, a tug-of-war between oil and aid By: Ashoka Mukpo [07 Jun 2022]
– At the COP26 climate summit, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Féelix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced a $500 million aid package to protect forests in the Central African country.
– Part of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, the announcement was one of the top headlines at the summit.
– Now, with the DRC set to auction off oil blocs in carbon-rich peatlands, questions are being raised about whether the package addresses the threat posed by industrial logging and oil drilling.

Noise pollution spooks whales the way predators would, study finds By: Grace Hansen [07 Jun 2022]
– Whales appear to react to human-made noise in the ocean, such as naval sonar, in a similar way to which they respond to the sounds of their predators like killer whales, according to recent research.
– The authors of the study played the sounds of sonar and killer whales when whales from four species were present.
– The whales responded by breaking off their feeding forays, leading scientists to conclude that noise pollution in the ocean could leave them weaker and more vulnerable to predation.
– The researchers also suggest that marine mammals in the Arctic may be especially at risk as climate change alters their environment in ways that may make them more vulnerable.

Indonesian official charged, but not jailed, for trading in Sumatran tiger parts By: Junaidi Hanafiah [07 Jun 2022]
– A local politician previously convicted of corruption has been charged in Indonesia for allegedly selling Sumatran tiger parts.
– Ahmadi, 41, the former head of Bener Meriah district in Aceh province, was arrested on May 24 with two alleged accomplices — but he wasn’t detained, pending an investigation.
– Critics say the authorities’ refusal to jail him is emblematic of a core problem in Indonesian wildlife conservation, which is the impunity that powerful politicians and officials enjoy when keeping and trading in protected species.
– Aceh province, at the northern tip of Sumatra, is believed to hold about 200 of the world’s remaining 400 Sumatran tigers — the last tiger endemic to Indonesia following the extinction in the last century of the Bali and Javan subspecies.

Does citizen ownership of natural resources hold the key to realizing deforestation commitments? (commentary) By: Han Overman [06 Jun 2022]
– The approaches to COP26’s global commitment to stop deforestation by 2030 may be inadequate, as they can only partly address the major drivers of deforestation.
– An additional approach based on transparent economic data disclosure and mobilization of public awareness could be a promising addition to that commitment.
– Such approaches that emphasize citizen ownership of natural resources, and which quantify net owner shares, losses, and the very large prospective societal returns, could work, a new op-ed argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

‘Strange’ giraffoid fossil shows giraffes evolved long necks to win mates: study By: Malavika Vyawahare [06 Jun 2022]
– The discovery of the fossil of Discokeryx xiezhi, an ancient cousin of the present-day giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) that roamed the earth around 17 million years ago, suggests long necks win giraffe mating wars.
– Evolutionary biologists have long debated which of the two processes —natural selection or sexual selection—plays a more important role in the evolution of the ungulate’s long necks.
– The new paper does not definitely settle the debate but adds more weight to the idea that longer necks evolved, in part, due to sexual competition and not just as a means to feed on taller trees.

Common goals ensure forest restoration success in northern Thailand By: Carolyn Cowan [06 Jun 2022]
– Twenty-five years ago, the Hmong community of Ban Mae Sa Mai village in northern Thailand began a collaboration with researchers and national park authorities to restore agricultural fields to natural forest.
– Between 1997 and 2013, they honed methods of assisted regeneration while restoring 33 hectares (82 acres) of upland evergreen tropical forest in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.
– Monitoring teams documented the return of biodiversity and ecosystem services to the restored land, and participants founded a tree nursery that continues to supply thousands of native tree seedlings each year to nearby initiatives inspired by the Ban Mae Sa Mai model.
– However, the Hmong community face the prospect of eviction from their ancestral land, which lies within a protected area. Experts warn that disputes between authorities and the community, coupled with an increasing risk of fire due to climate change, could jeopardize the survival of the recovering forest.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for June 2022 By: [06 Jun 2022]
– Mongabay’s May videos show how communities in the Philippines and Jordan are restoring landscapes to fight climate change, and how India’s landscapes are changing and affecting communities around rivers and coasts.
– Watch the sloths in Costa Rica using bridges, humans fighting for bees’ rights, and how renewable energy is helping with women empowerment in India.
– 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.

Study: Regenerative farming boosts soil health, yielding more nutritious crops By: Liz Kimbrough [03 Jun 2022]
– Researchers compared the nutritional content of the food crops grown using conventional versus regenerative farming practices — those that build the soil by using cover crops, a diverse rotation of crops and minimal tilling
– Food grown on the regenerative farms contained, on average, more magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc; more vitamins (including B1, B12, C, E and K), and more phytochemicals.
– “Most notably, soil health appears to influence phytochemical levels in crops,” the authors write, “indicating that regenerative farming systems can enhance dietary levels of compounds known to reduce risk of various chronic diseases.”
– The regenerative farms also had overall healthier soil with more carbon content.

Bangladeshi coastal communities plant mangroves as a shield against cyclones By: Abu Siddique [03 Jun 2022]
– Bangladesh’s southwestern coastal districts are prone to tidal surges, which can become extreme during cyclone seasons, with surges as high as 3 meters (10 feet).
– The coasts have embankments built across to keep the seeping seawater from reaching the coastal settlements, but as cyclones get more severe under a changing climate, these embankments aren’t enough, and losing houses to cyclonic floods has become the norm for coastal communities here.
– As a protection measure, the Bangladeshi government and several NGOs, with the communities’ participation, have initiated large-scale planting of mangrove trees along the embankments to act as a natural shield against tidal surges.
– The NGOs have provided the initial financial and technical support to the communities and are encouraging a self-reliant process of planting native mangrove species.

Indonesia teams up with Germany on Sumatran rhino breeding efforts By: Basten Gokkon [03 Jun 2022]
– Indonesia and Germany will team up on advancing the science and technology for captive-breeding of critically endangered species in Indonesia, starting with the Sumatran rhino, to save them from extinction.
– The agreement, signed in May between Indonesia’s Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) and Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), will see a newcenter for assisted reproductive technologies and a bio bank established at IPB.
– The initiative between the two research institutes also welcomes government officials, scientists, NGOs and private sector experts from around the world to get involved.
– Indonesia is the last refuge for the Sumatran rhino, whose total population may be as little as 30 individuals.

Protect Persian leopards, and their defenders, for World Environment Day (commentary) By: Jane Goodall and Hedieyeh Tehrany [03 Jun 2022]
– For World Environment Day 2022 on June 5, Jane Goodall and 50 other conservationists published a letter urging protection for Persian leopards and and clemency for seven scientists imprisoned for their work studying the cats.
– In an open letter, the scientists highlight the impact of current conflicts, sanctions, and political tensions on the conservation of the leopard, whose range spans 11 countries, including Iran. It was in Iran where nine conservationists associated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation were arrested in January 2018, accused of spying because they were using camera traps. One of the conservationists, Kavous Seyed-Emami, who died in jail. The rest still sit in prison.
– Goodall and her colleagues call for the release of the imprisoned scientists and actions to facilitate international cooperation beyond recent political circumstances.
– This letter is a commentary containing the opinions of its writers and signers, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Video: Indonesian villagers missing out on spoils from palm oil boom By: Philip Jacobson [02 Jun 2022]
– BBC News recently aired a documentary about Indonesia’s palm oil smallholdings program, produced as part of a joint investigation undertaken with Mongabay and The Gecko Project.

California court ruling opens door for protection of insects as endangered species By: Liz Kimbrough [02 Jun 2022]
– A court ruled this week that the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) can apply to invertebrates, including insects.
– This means legal protections will be in place for four native, endangered bumblebee species in California.
– The decision marks the end of a court battle between conservation groups and a consortium of large-scale industrial agricultural interests.
– An estimated 28% of all bumblebees in North America are at risk of extinction, with consequences for ecosystems and crops, as one-third of food production depends on pollinators.

A year since X-Press Pearl sinking, Sri Lanka is still waiting for compensation By: Malaka Rodrigo [02 Jun 2022]
– The sinking a year ago of the cargo vessel the X-Press Pearl was responsible for the single worst incident of plastic marine pollution in the world, according to a committee assessing the damages from the disaster.
– The ship caught fire off Colombo and eventually sank, leaking its cargo that contained 25 metric tons of nitric acid and some 50 billion plastic pellets.
– A year later, pellets are still washing up on shore and being cleared away by volunteers, while Sri Lanka tries to claim damages from the ship’s Singapore-based operators.
– It has received $3.7 million as initial compensation, but experts say the full compensation for the environmental damage could be as high as $7 billion — a figure that would be a lifeline for Sri Lanka as it experiences the worst economic crisis in its history.

Canada mining push puts major carbon sink and Indigenous lands in the crosshairs By: Spoorthy Raman [02 Jun 2022]
– A massive mining project called the Ring of Fire is being proposed in Canada’s Hudson Bay lowlands, a region that houses one of the biggest peatland complexes in the world and is home to several Indigenous communities.
– According to the federal and provincial governments, this region hosts one of the “most promising mineral development opportunities,” which is expected to generate jobs and revenues in the remote region.
– Environmentalists say the proposed development threatens to degrade peatlands, which act as a massive carbon store, and could lead to an increase in emissions; First Nations communities have also voiced concerns about mining impacts on traditional lands and livelihoods.
– Many of the affected First Nations have issued moratoriums against the project or have taken the provincial government to court, citing treaty violations and lack of consultations by the governments prior to greenlighting the project and issuing mining claims.


Opaque infrastructure project ‘a death sentence’ for Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary by Gerald Flynn|Andy Ball|Vutha Srey [06/01/2022]
Rehabilitation research returns orphaned cheetahs to the wild by Sean Mowbray [06/01/2022]
A look at violence and conflict over Indigenous lands in nine Latin American countries by Astrid Arellano, Yvette Sierra Praeli [05/31/2022]
Year of the Tiger: Illegal trade thrives amid efforts to save wild tigers by Sharon Guynup [05/31/2022]
Chinese companies linked to illegal logging and mining in northern DRC by Gloria Pallares [05/31/2022]
A hidden crisis in Indonesia’s palm oil sector: 6 takeaways from our investigation by Mongabay | The Gecko Project | BBC News [05/31/2022]
Large-scale logging in Cambodia’s Prey Lang linked to politically-connected mining operation by Gerald Flynn|Andy Ball|Vutha Srey [05/26/2022]