Newsletter 2022-07-07


In Thailand’s deep south, a fight to stop quarrying in a global geopark by Kannikar Petchkaew — July 6, 2022

– Activists in the southern Thai province of Satun have for years protested against plans to open a quarry in the limestone mountain Khao Toh Krang.
– The limestone mountain sits just outside a UNESCO global geopark, notable for its Paleozoic fossils and karst landscape, and is also flanked by villages and a large school.
– Officials say the quarry will promote jobs and ensure a local source of construction material, but opponents say a group of planned quarries threaten the geopark’s UNESCO status as well as cultural and archaeological sites and the health of nearby residents.

In Brazil’s semiarid region, agrivoltaics show promise for food, energy security by Marina Martinez — July 5, 2022

– Recent studies have shown that agrivoltaic systems, which combine solar power generation with food farming, can be a sustainable development strategy in water-stressed regions.
– A pilot project in Brazil’s semiarid northeast region consists of a series of solar panels, underneath which vegetables can be grown and fish and chickens raised, offering both food and energy security for users.
– If scaled up, agrivoltaics could also generate electricity for the whole of Brazil, according to the project’s proponents, while at the same time boosting food production and allowing for the restoration of degraded or desertified land.
– The pilot project of the system, known as Ecolume, has shown promising results, but there has been little interest among Brazilian policymakers to replicate it more widely or even promote it as a solution for food and energy production challenges.

Return of the king? Pakistan moves to bring gharials from Nepal to its rivers by Abhaya Raj Joshi — July 2, 2022

– Pakistani officials have requested the transfer of hundreds of gharial crocodiles from Nepal in an effort to reintroduce a species last seen in Pakistan in 1985.
– Wildlife conservation officials in Nepal have confirmed communications on the issue, but say a decision hasn’t been made yet.
– A key obstacle to any future transfer is the concern that Pakistan may not have done enough to change the conditions that led to the gharial’s local extinction there.
– The slender-snouted crocodile once ranged west from Pakistan to Bangladesh in the east, but is now almost entirely restricted to India and Nepal, both of which run captive-breeding programs to boost the species’ population.

Disappointment and a few wins, Indigenous leaders react to Nairobi biodiversity talks by Laurel Sutherland — July 1, 2022

– Negotiation talks in Nairobi, Kenya, for the new global agreement to preserve and protect nature ended last week, but parties have not yet come to an agreement over the final draft – including proposals laid out by the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB).
– Disappointed by the progress made at the latest biodiversity meeting after two years of talks, Indigenous leaders and civil society organizations are urging parties to secure land rights, include monitoring components and strengthen the text’s language around their role in meeting biodiversity goals.
– The inclusion of gender equality and environmental defenders in the text, and their access to justice, is seen as a win for Indigenous people, women and environmental defenders. Some proposals by the IIFB are still held within the draft, though several areas are in square brackets.
– The final agreement is set to be adopted in Montreal in December, but at least one more round of negotiations is expected to take place before then. Dates are yet to be determined.

U.N. Ocean Conference ends with promises. Is a sea change coming? by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — July 1, 2022

– The second United Nations Oceans Conference took place from June 27 to July 1 in Lisbon, focusing on the protection of life under water, as dictated by U.N. Sustainable Development Goal No. 14.
– The conference was originally meant to have taken place in 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
– While nations, NGOs and other entities made hundreds of conservation commitments, including pledges to expand marine protected areas, end destructive fishing practices, and fund conservation efforts, experts say there is still a lot of work to be done to protect our oceans.
– Coalitions of small-scale fishers and Indigenous peoples also voiced their concerns about being excluded from important conservation dialogues.

Indigenous advocates sense a legal landmark as a guardian’s killing heads to trial by Karla Mendes — June 30, 2022

– For the first time in Brazil, the killing of an Indigenous land defender is expected to be tried before a federal jury — escalated to that level because of what prosecutors say was an aggression against the entire Guajajara Indigenous community and Indigenous culture.
– Paulo Paulino Guajajara, 26, was killed in an alleged ambush by illegal loggers in the Arariboia Indigenous Territory in November 2019; two people have been indicted to stand trial in the case.
– The impending trial stands out amid a general culture of impunity that has allowed violence against Indigenous individuals and the theft of their land — including the killings of more than 50 Guajajara individuals in the past 20 years — to go unpunished.
– It could also set an important legal precedent for trying those responsible for the recent killings of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous rights defender Bruno Pereira.



Under Bolsonaro policy, invaders seize control of 250,000 hectares of Indigenous lands by Caio de Freitas Paes — July 7, 2022
– On April 16, 2020, Brazil’s federal agency for Indigenous affairs, Funai, issued a regulation allowing private properties to be registered inside Indigenous lands that have not yet been demarcated, or officially recognized.
– Since then, the federal government has certified and registered more than 250,000 hectares (620,000 acres) of farms in the territories of 49 Indigenous peoples across the country.
– The state of Maranhão has been impacted the most, with 145,000 hectares (360,000 acres) of farmland registered within Indigenous reserves; the Porquinhos Indigenous Territory, home to the Apãnjekra Canela people, is the worst hit, with 69,000 hectares (170,000 acres) of land registered to outsiders.
– The Funai regulation is part of the Jair Bolsonaro administration’s wider refusal to demarcate Indigenous lands, and has resulted in an increase in invasions even in states with regularized territories, such as Mato Grosso, Pará and Roraima.

Myanmar wildlife trade remains opaque, despite focus on border hubs by Carolyn Cowan — July 7, 2022
– Myanmar supports some of the last refuges of rare and threatened species, such as tigers, leopards and pangolins, but lax law enforcement and porous borders make it a hotbed of illegal wildlife trade, imperiling the country’s remaining biodiversity.
– While a lot is known about flagrant trade in notorious markets in towns bordering China and Thailand, much of the trade with Myanmar remains opaque, new research shows.
– One-quarter of prior studies on the country’s wildlife trade have focused on just two border trade hubs, while little is known about patterns of domestic wildlife trade and consumption.
– The researchers call on authorities to establish a central wildlife crime database to promote data sharing of enforcement and research knowledge; further research on poaching motives; and improved enforcement of existing wildlife laws.

On hazardous mine tailings dams, ‘safety first’ should be the rule (commentary) by Jan Morrill — July 6, 2022
– A mine tailings dam in Madagascar has failed at least twice this year, sending hazardous wastewater into a lagoon relied on by locals for drinking and subsistence fishing, killing hundreds of fish.
– Rio Tinto refuses to accept responsibility for the fish or water pollution, and this is not an isolated incident: tailings dams are failing with increasing frequency and severity all over the world.
– “Safety First” is a new set of guidelines toward more responsible tailings storage that prioritizes safety over cost, which companies and investors should heed, a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Scientists strive to restore world’s embattled kelp forests by Elizabeth Devitt — July 6, 2022
– Kelp forests grow along more than one-quarter of the world’s coastlines, and are among the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems. But these critical habitats are disappearing due to warming oceans and other human impacts.
– Sudden recent wipeouts of vast kelp forests along the coastlines of Tasmania and California highlighted how little was known about protecting or restoring these vital marine ecosystems.
– Scientists are finding new ways to help restore kelp, but promising small-scale successes need to be ramped up significantly to replace massive kelp losses in some regions.
– Global interest in studying seaweed for food, carbon storage and other uses, may help improve wild kelp restoration methods.

Tree plantations in Patagonia are the site of wildfires and land dispute by Denali DeGraf — July 6, 2022
– For decades, Argentina has subsidized the clearing of native forest and planting exotic species, primarily pines, on land often claimed by Indigenous peoples.
– A recent standoff over a land dispute led to gunmen shooting two young Indigenous Mapuche activists, one fatally.
– Pine plantations increase wildfire risk, contributing to several major fires in recent years.
– Wildfires also encourage invasion by pines into native forests, leading to a feedback loop that threatens both native forests and human settlements.

Fish-farming practices come under scrutiny amid surge in aquaculture by Nick Rodway — July 6, 2022
– A recent investigative report claims to reveal for the first time the poor conditions, including mistreatment of fish, in some Indonesian fish farms.
– While activists and industry figures are at odds over the magnitude of the problem, both agree that aquaculture throughout Asia needs to be better managed while supporting small-scale farmers to address the issue of fish welfare.
– Production of farmed fish grew by 527% worldwide from 1990-2018; production of wild-caught fish during the same period rose by just 14%.

As dry season starts in Indonesia, risk of fires — and haze — looms by Hans Nicholas Jong — July 6, 2022
– There’s a degree of risk that Southeast Asia may see the return of transboundary haze this year from forest fires in Indonesia, according to a new report by a Singaporean think tank.
– The key driver of that risk is the currently high price of palm oil on the world market, which could pose an incentive for farmers in Indonesia, the world’s top producer of palm oil, to expand their plantations, including by clearing land with fire.
– In anticipation of the dry season, which starts in July, some local governments in Indonesia are putting in place policies to prevent fires, including sanctions for companies using fire to clear their concessions.

Rubber used by leading European tire makers linked to forest loss in Africa: Report by Malavika Vyawahare — July 6, 2022
– A new report investigates deforestation and land rights abuse allegations in central and western Africa by companies that supply top European tire makers like Michelin and Continental.
– The EU is home to the world’s top tire manufacturers, even though it does not produce any natural rubber, and rubber imports are currently not subject to the European nations’ deforestation regulations.
– Between 2000 and 2020, 200 square miles of forested area was likely destroyed to make way for industrial rubber plantations in six African countries, which together exported $503 million worth of natural rubber to the EU in 2020.
– Emphasizing the role of the EU, the report describes how rubber plantation owning companies are also heavily financed by European banks like Rabobank, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank.

Traditional communities rally behind ecotourism to conserve their forests by Andrea Vega — July 6, 2022
– In the Amanalco-Valle de Bravo region of central Mexico, Indigenous and local communities responsible for more than 8,000 hectares (19,700 acres) of forests have banded together to develop and promote ecotourism projects.
– They offer a wide range of activities and workshops to both generate revenue for the community and to educate visitors on their way of life and the importance of nature.
– On top of creating jobs, the communities want to encourage a type of tourism that combines conservation of their forests, lakes and waterfalls.

Net-zero commitments must include more anti-deforestation policies, UN tells private sector by Maxwell Radwin — July 5, 2022
– Many companies with net-zero commitments have made little, tangible progress against tropical deforestation, according to a recent report from a U.N. climate change task force.
– Approximately a third of carbon emissions released each year are absorbed by forests, making tackling deforestation a key part of the fight to keep global temperatures below 1.5°C (2.7°F).
– Many companies, even ones that have implemented other effective net-zero commitments, have fallen short on deforestation, meaning their carbon footprint may end up being larger than they hope.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for July 2022 by — July 5, 2022
– Mongabay’s videos from June show communities in Mexico and Jordan taking up landscape restoration and reforestation projects to protect native ecosystems, and how a group of Indigenous women in the U.S. have started farming sugar kelp to fix nitrogen pollution.
– Mongabay series Problem Solved explored technology in conservation to protect endangered species from extinction. Another Mongabay series Candid Animal Cam gives us a glimpse into the lives and habits of the black bears in North America.
– 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.

‘The volume of water is beyond control’: Q&A with flood expert M. Monirul Qader Mirza by Abu Siddique — July 5, 2022
– An early start to the monsoon and unusually heavy rains have caused massive flooding in northeastern Bangladesh, leaving millions of people stranded in floodwaters.
– The Meghna River Basin is accustomed to these flash floods, but the scale of the disaster this year has been compounded by human encroachment and development in the watershed region, said M. Monirul Qader Mirza, a water management expert.
– In an interview with Mongabay, Mirza emphasized the need for infrastructure planning to consider river and rainfall dynamics to mitigate flood risk, and to have an early-warning system in place to minimize damage.
– Mirza also said that identifying the role of climate change in the problem is complex and requires extensive studies and modeling, but added it’s indisputable that rainfall patterns have become increasingly erratic.

Construction begins on controversial water project inside Lake Malawi National Park by Charles Mpaka — July 4, 2022
– The government of Malawi has initiated construction works for a water project inside Lake Malawi National Park, despite court challenges and sustained protests from conservationists who say the project threatens the park’s UNESCO-recognized biodiversity and archaeological sites.
– Eyewitness reports say construction vehicles are currently blasting rocks, bulldozing boulders and uprooting trees, ripping through a pristine forest.
– The project is expected to bring potable water to around 93,000 people in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, and enjoys political support both locally and nationally.
– Conservationists say they don’t object to the project itself, but call on the government to locate it outside of the park’s boundaries.

Habitat loss, climate change send hyacinth macaw reeling back into endangered status by Jenny Gonzales — July 4, 2022
– The hyacinth macaw, the world’s largest flying parrot, is closer to return to Brazil’s endangered species list, less than a decade after intensive conservation efforts succeeded in getting it off the list.
– The latest assessment still needs to be made official by the Ministry of the Environment, which is likely to publish the updated endangered species list next year.
– Conservation experts attribute the bird’s decline to the loss of its habitat due to fires in the Pantanal wetlands and ongoing deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes.
– Climate change also poses a serious threat, subjecting the birds to temperature swings that can kill eggs and hatchlings, and driving heavy rainfall that floods their preferred nesting sites.

Peru’s Amazon rainforest is threatened by an ecosystem of environment crime (commentary) by Carolina Andrade and Robert Muggah — July 4, 2022
– While Brazil attracts more attention, deforestation is also substantial in the Peruvian Amazon, where forest clearing is on the rise.
– Carolina Andrade and Robert Muggah of Igarapé Institute, a Brazil-based think tank, write that “the scale and breadth of the assault” currently underway in Peru’s rainforest is “unprecedented”. They chalk up much of the damage to “resource pirates”.
– But while challenging, the situation isn’t without hope, argue Andrade and Muggah. “Resource pirates can be confronted,” they write. “Fostering closer cooperation between the many-layered and often competing oversight institutions could help focus government policy and action.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Protecting Brazil’s Amazon could be a bargain — if the government were willing to pay by Lais Modelli — July 4, 2022
– A new study shows that conserving 350 million hectares (865 million acres) of the Brazilian Amazon — 83% of the biome — would cost between $1.7 billion and $2.8 billion a year.
– That’s a fraction of the $5.3 billion that the European Union spends every year maintaining its 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of protected areas.
– Current protected areas cover 51% of the Brazilian Amazon, which experts say isn’t enough to maintain the biome’s biodiversity and must be expanded.
– While the cost for protecting the Amazon is hundreds of times cheaper, hectare for hectare, than in the EU, it’s much higher than what the Brazilian government allocates for environmental conservation.

Raise-and-release program keeping Nepal’s gharials alive can be improved, study says by Abhaya Raj Joshi — July 3, 2022
– A new study has recommended ways to improve the success rate of a program that releases captive-raised gharial crocodiles into the wild in Nepal.
– The study looked at the growth of gharials released under the program going back 10 years, and identified the first two years in the wild as the most critical for the animals’ chances at surviving.
– It recommended timing the releases with periods when fish are more abundant in rivers, allowing the crocodiles to pack on weight while minimizing their energy expenditure.
– The study authors also call for addressing threats to the critically endangered species from dams, riverbed mining and fishing, and for closer cross-border conservation efforts between Nepal and India, where some of the released gharials have ended up.

Exploring the deep wildlife photography legacy of Bruce Kekule (commentary) by Gregory McCann — July 1, 2022
– The conservation world has lost a top wildlife photographer—Lawrence “Bruce” Kekule—an American who had lived in Thailand since 1964.
– Beside documenting the rare creatures of his adopted home, Bruce also traveled abroad to favorite destinations like India: wherever he went, he raised awareness about the plight of endangered species via photography.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Data from droppings: Researchers draw up a genetic ID map for chimps by Charles Mpaka — July 1, 2022
– As part of a broader project studying the cultural and genetic diversity of chimpanzees across Africa, researchers have used fecal samples from 48 sites across the continent to create a genetic identity data set of chimpanzees across the species’ range.
– The data set supports the division of chimpanzees into the four currently recognized subspecies, as well as shedding light on historic gene flow between subspecies and between chimpanzees and bonobos.
– The data set can help conservationists determine the genetic origin of chimpanzees confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade and identify poaching hotspots, researchers say.

In Sri Lanka, a waterbird flips the parenting paradigm on its head by Malaka Rodrigo — July 1, 2022
– Pheasant-tailed jacanas practice a system of polyandry that sees each female maintain a “harem” of males, each tasked with looking after a clutch of eggs.
– That’s led to unusual parenting roles that see the males incubate the eggs and care for the young, and the females play the leading role in defending against attacks by predators.
– These behaviors have been documented for the first time in a study that looked at jacanas in the Anawilundawa Sanctuary in Sri Lanka, one of six Ramsar wetlands in the country.
– Researchers posit that the species evolved this system of polyandry to maximize the number of chicks that grow into adulthood, given the high mortality rate from predation in the open habitat of the wetlands.

World Bank approves $200 million IFC loan for industrial agriculture in Brazil’s Cerrado by Maxwell Radwin — July 1, 2022
– A $200 million loan was granted to Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), an industrial soy and corn producer, for monoculture work in Brazil’s Cerrado, a grassland biome that has lost nearly 80% of its habitat cover.
– The loan was granted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a sister organization of the World Bank that’s tasked with private sector finance in developing countries.
– Corn, soy and cattle ranching have been connected to a long list of human rights violations, as well as the acceleration of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

Indonesia to issue quota-based fisheries policy in July, sparking concerns by Basten Gokkon — July 1, 2022
– The Indonesian government will issue a decree that manages the country’s marine fisheries based on capture quotas, prompting concerns from experts that the new strategy may threaten the sustainability of fish stocks.
– Several marine observers note that more than half of fishing zones in Indonesia are already “fully exploited.”
– They also take issue with the small portion of the quota reportedly being allocated for traditional and small-scale fishers, warning of a widening income gap and social conflicts as a result.
– Indonesia’s wild capture fisheries employ around 2.7 million workers; the majority of Indonesian fishers are small-scale operators, with vessels smaller than 10 gross tonnage.

‘Beenome’ project aims to boost bee conservation with genetic mapping by Liz Kimbrough — June 30, 2022
– Scientists have announced a plan to map the genomes of at least 100 bee species, representing each of the major bee taxonomic groups in the U.S., to help them determine which bees are more vulnerable to climate change and pesticides.
– A recent study found that of 46 U.S. bumblebee species on record, most had been negatively affected by temperature change over the past 120 years, more so than by precipitation and floral resources.
– A recent court ruling in California allows insects to be covered by the state endangered species act, protecting four native bumblebee species and setting a precedent for similar insect protections in other states.
– At the individual level, you can help bees by cultivating bee habitats, avoiding pesticide use, and planting pollinator-friendly plants in your own yard.

A conservation failure in Sumatra serves a cautionary tale for PES schemes by Cassie Freund — June 30, 2022
– A World Bank-funded conservation project in Indonesia led to higher rates of deforestation after the project ended, a new study shows, serving as a cautionary tale about the risks of failing to sustain such initiatives over a long enough time period.
– The payment for ecosystem services project was supposed to reward villages for halting deforestation and taking up sustainable livelihoods from 1996-2001.
– In the years after the project ended, however, participating villages that had received the payments lost up to 26% more forest cover from 2000-2016 than non-participating villages, the study shows.

Andean eagles have managed to adapt to fragmenting habitats — for now by Maxwell Radwin — June 30, 2022
– A new study looked at black-and-chestnut eagles’ (Spizaetus isidori) ability to survive in fragmented forests in the Andean regions of Colombia and Argentina.
– Researchers found that the eagles were able to fly between fragmented forests on different mountain ranges and survive better than terrestrial predators
– However, juvenile eagles had higher mortality rates than their adult counterparts, suggesting that conservation efforts should be focused on ensuring young eagles survive into adulthood.

Amazon rainforest activist under threat in Brazil plans to flee his home by Shanna Hanbury — June 30, 2022
– Erasmo Theofilo, an agroecologist, founded a farmers’ cooperative in one of the most hostile corners of the Amazon to defend landless and poor rural workers and promote sustainable farming practices.
– He has been the target of death threats, ambushes and attempts on his life for his work in the municipality of Anapu, in Pará state, where U.S.-born nun Dorothy Stang was killed for her activism in 2005.
– Since President Jair Bolsonaro took office at the start of 2019, land conflicts and deforestation in the Amazon have surged, with a recent report showing that Pará is the most dangerous for land rights defenders.
– Theofilo told Mongabay he believes he will never be safe in Anapu again, even if the land conflicts are resolved, and is planning to leave for good with his family.



Parrots of the Caribbean: Birding tourism offers hope for threatened species by Peter Kleinhenz [06/29/2022]
How marine conservation benefits from combining Indigenous knowledge and Western science by Mike Gaworecki [06/28/2022]
Mongabay’s new-look makes finding the right tree-planting project easier by [06/28/2022]
In Brazil, an Indigenous land defender’s unsolved killing is the deadly norm by Sarah Brown [06/27/2022]
Home away from home: Researchers trial artificial nests for Lilian’s lovebirds by Charles Mpaka [06/27/2022]
We’re winning with climate activism, ‘just not fast enough,’ says Goldman Prize winner Julien Vincent (commentary) by Julien Vincent [06/24/2022]