Newsletter 2022-08-04


Violence persists in Amazon region where Pereira and Phillips were killed by Sarah Brown — August 2, 2022

– Armed illegal gold miners on July 15 threatened government rangers near the site where British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were killed in June.
– Days after the threats, federal prosecutors charged three men in the killing of Phillips and Pereira, but activists and lawmakers say the investigation needs to be expanded to identify the possible involvement of criminal organizations.
– Activists say threats against government officials, including Pereira, have happened for decades, but that the situation has grown dire under President Jair Bolsonaro.
– The government’s weakening of environmental agencies and Bolsonaro’s anti-Indigenous rhetoric have created a sense of impunity, emboldening criminals in the Amazon to retaliate against activists and environmentalists who expose their illicit activities, experts say.

Delectable but destructive: Tracing chocolate’s environmental life cycle by Sean Mowbray — August 1, 2022

– Chocolate in all its delicious forms is one of the world’s favorite treats. Per capita consumption in the U.S. alone averages around 9 kilograms (19.8 pounds) per year. The industry is worth more than $90 billion globally.
– Ingredients — including cocoa, palm oil and soy — flow from producer nations in Africa, Asia and South America to processors and consumers everywhere. But a recent study reveals that large amounts of these commodities are linked to indirect supply chains, falling outside sustainability programs and linked to untraced deforestation.
– Key producers of these commodities — mostly West African countries for cocoa, Brazil for soy, and Indonesia for palm oil — have faced extensive deforestation due to agricultural production, and will likely face more in future as chocolate demand increases.
– Production, transport and consumption of chocolate also have their own environmental impacts, some of which remain relatively understudied. But researchers inside and outside the industry are working to better trace chocolate deforestation, and to make processing, shipping and packaging more sustainable.

Nepal was supposed to double its tiger population since 2010. It tripled it by Abhaya Raj Joshi — July 29, 2022

– There are officially 355 wild tigers in Nepal, according to the latest census, nearly triple the figure of 121 from 2010.
– Nepal is one of 13 tiger range countries that pledged in 2010, the last Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, to double the global tiger population by 2022, the current Year of the Tiger.
– The massive conservation success is expected to make Nepal the only one of the tiger range countries to even come close to doubling its population of the big cat.
– But Nepal’s success has also raised concerns that its tiger population may fast be approaching the limit of what the country’s protected areas can host, with implications for an increase in human-tiger conflicts.

Indigenous Shuar community in Ecuador wins decades-long battle to protect land by Maxwell Radwin — July 28, 2022

– Ecuador’s National System of Protected Areas now includes the 5,497-hectare (13,583-acre) ancestral Tiwi Nunka Forest in the country’s south.
– The Shuar Indigenous community of El Kiim, with the help of the NGO Nature and Culture International, has been fighting for decades to protect the land from cattle ranchers, loggers and miners.
– National protections mean the land is safe from exploitation by mining companies, which sometimes find ways to bypass less stringent conservation protections.


For Brazil’s Indigenous people, slavery born of colonization still hasn’t ended by Lais Modelli — August 4, 2022
– Since Brazil began recording cases of workers found working in slavery-like conditions in 2004, 1,640 Indigenous people have been rescued from these situations.
– During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 100 Indigenous people have been found working in these conditions.
– Sugarcane harvesting, which a decade ago was the worst offender in terms of enslaved Indigenous laborers, has now been eclipsed by apple harvesting in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, where native peoples endure degrading work conditions.
– Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil’s south is the state where the most people have been rescued, but numbers of Indigenous slaves are rising in the Amazon in the north, especially at the illegal mines operating inside the Yanomami Indigenous Territory.

Big banks fund the heavy machinery used for Amazon deforestation, report says by Maxwell Radwin — August 4, 2022
– A new report from investigative outlet Repórter Brasil describes how the demand for heavy machinery like bulldozers, excavators and tractors is accelerating deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.
– Heavy machinery is present at most steps of the process of nearly every activity driving deforestation, including cattle ranching, industrial agriculture and mining, among others.
– A lack of oversight by the government, manufacturers and the banks providing loans for the purchase of the machinery means that almost anyone can acquire one for any purpose.
– The report suggests that GPS tracking technologies be implemented for all heavy machinery and that banks carry out more rigorous due diligence measures.

‘It sustains us all’: IPBES report calls for accounting of nature’s diverse values by John Cannon — August 4, 2022
– A recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services calls for the integration of the variety of ways humans value nature.
– Often, many decisions are driven by market-based considerations, which has helped contribute to the global biodiversity crisis, the authors of the assessment say.
– But nature is worth more to humans than just the marketable or tangible.
– By considering these other values, such as cultural identity and spirituality, decision-makers can create policies that are more inclusive and have the potential to stem the worldwide loss of species, the scientists say.

Farmer-to-farmer agroecology: Q&A with Chukki Nanjundaswamy of Amrita Bhoomi Learning Centre by Anna Lappé — August 3, 2022
– The Amrita Bhoomi Learning Centre in southern India is one of dozens of education hubs around the world providing a space for farmer-to-farmer training in agroecology.
– In a wide-ranging interview with Mongabay, the center’s Chukki Nanjundaswamy discusses their model of agriculture, its Ghandian roots, and how it grew out of the rejection of Green Revolution farming techniques that rely on chemical inputs and expensive hybrid seeds.
– Nanjundaswamy shares some of their innovative approaches to growing food without inputs, plus clever techniques to thwart notorious pests like fall armyworm, which is also prevalent in Africa.

Sea life may downsize with ocean warming — bringing challenging impacts by Elizabeth Devitt — August 3, 2022
– A new model predicts that marine microbes could shrink by up to 30% in the future due to climate change, impacting bigger organisms that eat them including fish, potentially disrupting the food chain from the bottom up. Smaller fish would mean impacted fisheries. Smaller microbes could mean less carbon sequestration.
– Warmer oceans hold less oxygen, and the model predicts that sea life will get smaller in response to more limited oxygen. But scientists have long debated why this downsizing occurs, and some say that other factors not considered in the model could impact oceanic microbes in unexpected ways.
– Accurately predicting warming impacts on marine life could improve ocean resource management.

Water-stressed Bangladesh looks to recharge its fast-depleting aquifers by Mahadi Al Hasnat — August 3, 2022
– Water management authorities in Bangladesh have drawn up a plan to recharge, or refill, the aquifers serving Dhaka and other areas, which are being depleted by one of the highest groundwater extraction rates in the world.
– The plan calls for injecting storm water, reclaimed water, desalinated water and potable water into the aquifers, which, in the case of Dhaka, is falling by up to 3 meters (nearly 10 feet) a year.
– The country withdraws an estimated 32 cubic kilometers (7.7 cubic miles) of groundwater annually, 90% of which is used for irrigation and the rest for domestic and industrial purposes.
– Even though four of South Asia’s largest rivers run through Bangladesh, the country struggles to provide sufficient drinking water for its inhabitants, in large part because of pollution.

Indigenous activists in Borneo claim win as logging firm removes equipment from disputed area by Danielle Keeton-Olsen — August 2, 2022
– After NGOs captured satellite and drone imagery they said showed timber firm Samling operating in deep forest and culturally sensitive sites in the Malaysian Bornean state of Sarawak, Indigenous activists filed a police report and planned to mount a blockade July 16.
– According to Penan Indigenous organization Keruan, the firm removed its equipment by July 15, a move the organization counts as a win for forest conservation.
– The area is slated for inclusion in the Upper Baram Forest Area (UBFA), a new conservation project led by the government and approved by the International Tropical Timber Organization.
– Samling denies encroaching on recognized Indigenous land, and said the UBFA has not been approved by the government or discussed with the company, which holds the timber concession for the most of the forest included in the project area.

In Japanese waters, a newly described anemone lives on the back of a hermit crab by Liz Kimbrough — August 2, 2022
– A newly described anemone species has been found off the coast of Japan and appears to live exclusively on the shells of one hermit crab species.
– First-of-its-kind video recordings of the hermit crab and anemone duo show the hermit crab moving to a new shell and spending more than 40 hours poking, peeling and dragging the anemone to come along.
– Researchers believe the hermit crab and anemone are in an obligate symbiotic relationship, or that they need each other to survive.
– The anemone eats falling debris and protects the hermit crab from parasites and predators, and in turn, gets to hitch a ride to fresh feeding grounds.

‘Scale mismatch’ in conservation: Why aren’t we talking about it? (commentary) by Gillian Sawyer — August 2, 2022
– The pressure for both local level management and international conservation efforts foster a “scale mismatch,” in which the levels of governance of these two approaches feel at odds.
– “How then, as a global conservation community, can we reconcile this scale conundrum of local knowledge and stewardship with the need for more widespread protections of biodiversity across the planet?” a new op-ed asks.
– Dr. Eleanor Ostrom’s concept of polycentric governance offers one pathway to multi-scale and multi-stakeholder conservation.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

‘We’ve got to help the oceans to help us’: Q&A with deep-sea explorer Dawn Wright by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — August 2, 2022
– On July 12, oceanographer and geographer Dawn Wright descended 10,919 meters (35,823 feet) below the surface of the ocean to the deepest known part of the planet, Challenger Deep, alongside deep-sea explorer Victor Vescovo.
– Wright was the first Black person to make the voyage to Challenger Deep, where she and Vescovo documented several findings, including the discovery of a beer bottle on the seabed.
– The goal of the expedition was to test out a side-scan sonar designed to go down to 11,000 m (nearly 36,100 ft) that can take detailed images of the seafloor, which was successfully achieved.
– Mongabay’s Elizabeth Claire Alberts spoke to Wright before and after her expedition to learn more about the voyage’s personal significance to Wright, the challenges in venturing this far down into the ocean, and the significance of understanding more about the deep-sea.

Building Indonesia’s ‘green’ new capital could see coal use surge (analysis) by Chun Sheng Goh — August 2, 2022
– Indonesia is planning to construct a new capital city, known as Nusantara, in the Bornean province of East Kalimantan.
– Authorities promote Nusantara as a “green city,” but discussions of the city’s carbon footprint overlook key factors, notably the use of coal to manufacture the building materials required to construct a completely new city.
– With the new city being built in the country’s coal-mining heartland, coal is the most likely energy source for such manufacturing, putting Indonesia’s emissions reduction targets at risk, as well as casting doubt on the green commitments of funders like Japan and China.

Elevated homesteads give hope to flood-hit communities in Bangladesh by Abu Siddique — August 2, 2022
– Increasingly severe flooding in Bangladesh threatens the homes and livelihoods of some 10 million people who live on river islands known as chars.
– The rate of erosion of these chars has increased in recent years amid an intensified monsoon season that swells the volume of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers where the low-lying chars are located.
– As an adaptation measure the government and NGOs are supporting char communities to raise the height of their homesteads to protect themselves during the monsoon.

As roads and railways threaten primates, Brazil is a global hotspot by Dimas Marques/Fauna News — August 2, 2022
– A study mapping out the regions of the world where primates face the greatest risk from infrastructure such as roads, railways, power lines and pipelines has identified Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia and China atop the list.
– Of the 512 known primate species, 92, or 18%, are directly affected by roads and railways; threats come from vehicle impacts as well as the “barrier effect” that the infrastructure poses, limiting the mobility of tree-dwelling animals.
– Some 25 million kilometers (15 million miles) of roads and railways are expected to be built by 2050, of which 90% will be in less-industrialized countries, including tropical regions that are home to rich primate diversity.
– Nearly 200 million hectares (almost 500 million acres) of tropical forest have been lost over the past 20 years in regions where primates live, with Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and the Amazon considered high-priority areas for mitigation and preservation measures.

A utopia of clean air and wet peat amid Sumatra’s forest fire ‘hell’ by Suryadi — August 1, 2022
– Sadikin, a resident of Indonesia’s Riau province, converted his parents’ abandoned vegetable garden into an arboretum of peat-friendly tree species.
– In 2020, he won an award for his dedication to local firefighting efforts, including his innovation to dig shallow “hydrant” wells to speed up firefighting in peatlands.
– Sadikin and his fellow villagers have also adapted their pineapple cultivation system to include firebreaks, and use their crop to weave containers that can replace plastic bags.

In world first, Chile to ban single-use food and beverage products over three years by Rachel Teng Ruiqi — August 1, 2022
– In May 2021, Chile announced a legislative ban on single-use products in the food and beverage industry to take effect over the next three years.
– Similar bans in other countries and cities also address the crux of the plastic pollution problem — the disposable culture — but Chile’s ban extends to other materials too, including cardboard and poly-coated paper.
– In the lobbying process, the Chilean plastics association raised some concerns about the intricacies of the ban, but said it was ultimately “satisfied with the outcome.”

Organized crime drives violence and deforestation in the Amazon, study shows by Sarah Brown — August 1, 2022
– Increasing rates of both deforestation and violence in the Brazilian Amazon are being driven by sprawling national and transnational criminal networks, a study shows.
– Experts say criminal organizations engaged in activities ranging from illegal logging to drug trafficking often threaten and attack environmentalists, Indigenous people, and enforcement agents who attempt to stop them.
– In 2020, the Brazilian Amazon had the highest murder rate in Brazil, at 29.6 homicides per 100,000 habitants, compared to the national average of 23.9, with the highest rates corresponding to municipalities suffering the most deforestation.
– Experts say the current government’s systematic dismantling of environmental protections and enforcement agencies has emboldened these criminal organizations, which have now become “well connected, well established and very strong.”

No permit? No problem for palm oil company still clearing forest in Papua by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 1, 2022
– A field observation by Greenpeace Indonesia has confirmed reports that a palm oil company has resumed clearing land on its concession in Indonesia’s Papua region despite its permit having been revoked.
– As of June, the company, PT Permata Nusa Mandiri (PNM), had cleared more than 100 hectares (247 acres) of land, according to data from Greenpeace Indonesia.
– The resumption of land clearing has prompted the district head to reprimand PNM, and raised the possibility that the company is committing a crime.

Mozambique busts notorious rhino poacher by Estacio Valoi — August 1, 2022
– A sting operation led by Mozambique’s National Criminal Investigation Service has netted notorious alleged poacher Simon Ernesto Valoi and an associate in possession of eight rhino horns.
– Conservationists say Valoi and other poaching kingpins have operated freely from Massingir district to poach thousands of rhinos just across the border in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
– Valoi’s arrest, following the January sentencing of another major rhino horn trafficker to 30 years in jail, may be a further sign that Mozambique’s law enforcement authorities are successfully targeting high-level poachers.

From agribusiness to oil to nuclear power and submarines: welcome to anti-environmental Putin-Bolsonaro alliance (commentary) by Nikolas Kozloff — August 1, 2022
– Brazil’s dependence on Russian fertilizers has contributed to Jair Bolsonaro’s friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin as well as environmental impacts in the South American nation.
– In this editorial Nikolas Kozloff, an American academic, author and photojournalist, reviews some of the implications of the growing ties between the two leaders, including deforestation in the Amazon, extractive industries, and infrastructure projects.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Young Indigenous leaders demand greater say in climate solutions at global youth strike by Laurel Sutherland — July 29, 2022
– Young Indigenous activists are calling for greater inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in climate solutions as the Fridays for Future (FFF) wraps up its international meeting with a strike.
– Community land tenure is not only seen as a solution to the world’s climate change issues, but also as a way to address Indigenous rights abuses.
– Darragh Conway, lead legal counsel at Climate Focus told Mongabay that IPLCs play a crucial role in fulfilling the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.

A clean and healthy environment is a human right, U.N. resolution declares by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — July 29, 2022
– On July 28, member states of the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to adopt a historic resolution that recognizes that a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.
– While the resolution is not legally binding, experts say it can give rise to constitutional and legal changes that will positively impact the environment and human well-being.
– The resolution comes at a critical moment in human history as we face an accelerating climate crisis, unprecedented biodiversity loss, and the ongoing threat of pollution.

Kigali call to action a step forward but not far enough, Indigenous and local community leaders say by Malavika Vyawahare — July 29, 2022
– The first Africa Protected Areas Congress in Rwanda culminated in the Kigali Call to Action, which foregrounded the role of Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), women and youth, but did not fully address IPLC demands.
– A proposed massive expansion of protected areas — covering 30% of land and marine areas by 2030 — is impossible without the support and inclusion of IPLCs, who bear the highest costs, advocates say.
– The Kigali Call to Action acknowledged “ongoing injustices” experienced by IPLCs in the establishment and running of protected areas, and called for them “to be halted now and in the future.”
– Some saw the APAC event as a missed opportunity to reckon with the failures of the conservation model as it has been implemented in Africa, and say it should have been a chance to chart out a future course that’s more inclusive and just.

Brazilian miners ramp up their invasion of Yanomami land in Venezuela by Maxwell Radwin — July 29, 2022
– Indigenous Yanomami communities in Venezuela are suffering from increasing invasions by Brazilian gold miners, locally known as garimpeiros.
– One of the most impacted areas is the Alto Orinoco-Casiquiare Biosphere Reserve, a nearly 8.5-million-hectare (21-million-acre) protected area that’s home to around 15,000 Indigenous people, numerous threatened mammals and reptiles, and more than 500 endemic plant species.
– Reports from conservation and human rights groups say the garimpeiros are working in conjunction with Venezuelan officials.

For World Tiger Day, bold new commitments are needed to expand tiger ranges (commentary) by Coalition for Securing a Viable Future for the Tiger — July 29, 2022
– July 29 marks World Tiger Day for 2022, an important year for tiger conservation.
– A coalition of conservation organizations today issued a statement calling for bold action in advance of meeting next month to identify new tiger conservation commitments for the next 12 years.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Deforestation intensifies in northern Malaysia’s most important water catchment by Rachel Teng Ruiqi — July 28, 2022
– The Ulu Muda rainforest is one of the last large, continuous tracts of forest in the Malay Peninsula, providing vital habitat for countless species as well as water for millions of people in northern Malaysia.
– Satellite data indicate deforestation activities are intensifying in the greater Ulu Muda landscape, including in protected areas such as Ulu Muda Forest Reserve.
– Sources say the forest loss is likely due to legal logging.
– Conservationists worry that the loss of Ulu Muda rainforest will have detrimental impacts on the region’s biodiversity and water security, as well as contribute to global climate change.

Chimps digging wells shows learned behavior that may help amid climate change by Manon Verchot and Sanshey Biswas — July 28, 2022
– A recent study using camera traps and direct observation documented well-digging behavior in a group of chimpanzees in Uganda, initiated by a female that had immigrated into the group.
– Researchers were surprised to observe this behavior in this rainforest-dwelling population as water tends to be easily accessible in this habitat.
– The findings suggest this learned behavior may be helpful for the conservation of this group, as the chimps have picked up an adaptive measure that could help them survive a drought.



Did Wall Street play a role in this year’s wheat price crisis? by Ashoka Mukpo — July 27, 2022
Concerns over transparency and access abound at deep-sea mining negotiations by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — July 26, 2022
Beyond bored apes: Blockchain polarizes wildlife conservation community by Abhishyant Kidangoor — July 26, 2022
Palm oil producer mired in legal troubles still razing Sumatran forest by Hans Nicholas Jong — July 26, 2022
Cheetah reintroduction in Malawi brings vultures back to the skies by Ryan Truscott — July 25, 2022
Stingrays can ‘talk’ when they get riled up, new study suggests by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — July 25, 2022
Brazil’s new deforestation data board sparks fear of censorship of forest loss, fires by Sarah Brown — July 22, 2022