Newsletter 2022-08-11


Photos: Meet the Indonesians on the front lines of human-elephant conflict in Sumatra by Fieni Aprilia — August 11, 2022

– At the northern tip of Sumatra, villagers deal with herds of elephants entering their villages and eating their crops.
– Incidents of human-wildlife conflict have intensified as more of the elephants’ habitat is razed for oil palm plantations and other developments.
– In the village of Cot Girek, locals have formed their own patrol team to head off these incursions.

‘Chased from every side’: Sumatran elephants pinned down by forest loss by Dyna Rochmyaningsih — August 10, 2022

– Sumatran elephants in Indonesia’s North Aceh district are being increasingly pinned down in shrinking patches of forest amid the ongoing destruction of their habitat, primarily for oil palm plantations.
– This is driving an increase in human-elephant conflict, with the animals forced into more frequent encounters with villagers, who resent them for destroying their crops and homes.
– Conservationists say deforestation in the district overlaps with the elephants’ migration routes and could grow worse under local government policies.

‘Birds are messengers’, says BirdLife’s Patricia Zurita by Rhett A. Butler — August 10, 2022

– Next month BirdLife International, a global partnership of 115 organizations working to protect birds and their habitats, will mark its 100th anniversary by holding the BirdLife World Congress in London.
– BirdLife has a lot to celebrate on its 100th birthday. It counts more than 2.5 million members across its partner organizations, which include the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Audubon Society, and the American Bird Conservancy, among others. It has also identified and documented more than 13,000 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) – “places of global significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity” – and helped protect 2,000 high priority conservation sites around the globe.
– But with bird populations and habitats declining worldwide, BirdLife still has much to do.
– BirdLife’s CEO Patricia Zurita spoke with Mongabay’s Founder Rhett A. Butler about the Birdlife’s work, how conservation is evolving, and her own experiences as an Ecuadorian economist who took the helm of BirdLife in 2015 as the first woman from a middle income tropical country to lead a major international conservation organization.

Podcast: Blockchain for conservation? Maybe, but leave the crypto out by Mike DiGirolamo — August 8, 2022

– The increasingly popular blockchain technology is being used for conservation finance purposes, but it comes with some significant downsides, both functional and environmental.
– The “mining” process for popular cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, is highly energy intensive, comparable to the annual electricity usage of entire nations.
– Journalist Judith Lewis Mernit and author Brett Scott join the Mongabay Newscast to discuss these environmental impacts, complications, and the relationship of our financial systems with our ecological ones.

Saving Sumatran elephants starts with counting them. Indonesia won’t say how many are left by Dyna Rochmyaningsih — August 8, 2022

– Efforts to save the Sumatran elephant have been hamstrung by the Indonesian government’s delay in releasing an updated conservation plan, which includes the latest population estimates.
– The last estimate, from 2007, put the population at 2,400-2,800 elephants, but that was based on data from the early 2000s.
– Mongabay has obtained a copy of the updated plan, meant to be released in 2019, which gives a population estimate of 924-1,359 — a precipitous decline of 52-62% from the 2007 figure.
– Conservationists, including one who worked on the plan, have called for its publication to inform conservation measures, and note that similar plans for other iconic threatened species — including Sumatran tigers and orangutans — have also been delayed.

Jumbo task as Malawi moves 263 elephants to restock a degraded national park by Charles Mpaka — August 5, 2022

– Over the last month, 263 elephants were relocated from Liwonde National Park to Kasungu National Park, both in Malawi.
– Liwonde, managed by African Parks, an NGO, hosts some 600 elephants, more than its ecosystem can support.
– Kasungu’s elephant population was previously decimated by poaching, but officials say the park is ready to host more elephants after years of anti-poaching and community engagement efforts.


Indonesia backtracks on plan criticized for ‘privatizing’ fisheries resources by Basten Gokkon — August 11, 2022
– Indonesia will not go ahead with a plan to allow foreign and domestic fishing companies to operate for up to 30 years under a contract system.
– The plan was widely criticized by small-scale fishers and marine experts, who said it threatened to turn a public resource into a private one for the highest bidders.
– The fisheries ministry now says it will revert to a quota-based system for allocating fishing permits, under which new investors will be eligible for “special permits” of up to 15 years.
– Experts say details of the new fisheries management system must be made public, given that the “special permit” scheme looks suspiciously like the axed contract system.

No critical examination of flawed environmental assessments in Nepal, experts say by Abhaya Raj Joshi — August 11, 2022
– Nepal has for decades required an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be conducted for development projects, but their quality and monitoring has been largely ineffective, experts say.
– The issue came to light earlier this year when the top court canceled an airport project in part because of its flawed EIA, which included entire passages lifted directly from a hydropower project’s EIA.
– Experts say the laws and monitoring mechanisms are in place to ensure the EIA process is effective in mitigating harm to the environment, but that the political will is lacking.

Analysis: Pesticides are creating a biodiversity crisis in Europe by Juliet Ferguson – Investigate Europe — August 11, 2022
– We are in a biodiversity crisis with insects particularly in trouble. Insects that were once commonplace just a few decades ago are today a rare sight.
– After climate change, industrial-scale agriculture, with its heavy reliance on pesticides, must take much of the blame. One obvious solution is to make farming more sustainable.
– The EU had a plan – its Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy – that includes a new regulation to halve pesticide use by 2030. Then came the war in Ukraine, and with fears over food security politicians started to lose their nerve.
– Investigate Europe explored what happens when plans for sweeping reform come up against mighty business interests.

Photos: Meet the Indonesians on the front lines of human-elephant conflict in Sumatra by Fieni Aprilia — August 11, 2022
– At the northern tip of Sumatra, villagers deal with herds of elephants entering their villages and eating their crops.
– Incidents of human-wildlife conflict have intensified as more of the elephants’ habitat is razed for oil palm plantations and other developments.
– In the village of Cot Girek, locals have formed their own patrol team to head off these incursions.

Cambodian government cancels development of Phnom Tamao forest amid outcry by Gerald Flynn and Vutha Srey — August 11, 2022
– Cambodia’s prime minister has intervened to stop the destruction of a forest outside the country’s capital, but not before developers managed to clear between 500 and 600 hectares (nearly 1,250-1,500 acres) in a week.
– More than half of the Phnom Tamao forest had been parceled out to politically connected tycoons, prompting widespread condemnation from conservationists, environmental activists, and the general public.
– Environmental activists and local communities have welcomed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order canceling all the developments in the forest, but say the damage already done is extensive.
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.

Love ‘em and loathe ‘em: Mediterranean grapples with tasty, voracious invasive crabs by Guia Baggi — August 10, 2022
– Two invasive blue crab species have recently settled in the Mediterranean.
– Both species are voracious predators that disrupt bottom habitats, shred fishers’ nets and ruin their catches. They’re also edible.
– Mediterranean countries are considering whether to target the invasive crabs to control them, or embrace and even protect them as a new socioeconomic resource for the future.
– This story was produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center.

Overlooked and at risk, seagrass is habitat of choice for many small-scale fishers by Basten Gokkon — August 10, 2022
– Seagrass meadows, rather than coral reefs, are the fishing grounds of choice for many fishing households in four countries in the Indo-Pacific region, a new study shows.
– Fishers in Cambodia, Tanzania, Indonesia and Sri Lanka identified seagrass meadows as being more easily accessible than coral reefs, often without the need for a boat, and less likely to damage equipment such as nets.
– However, seagrasses around the world are disappearing at rates that rival those of coral reefs and tropical rainforests, losing as much as 7% of their area each year.
– The study makes the case for better-informed management of these marine habitats, to ensure their sustainability for the marine life and people who depend on them.

Study highlights elusive Cameroonian gorillas, and the threats encircling them by Ryan Truscott — August 10, 2022
– Ebo Forest in southwestern Cameroon hosts a rare and enigmatic population of western gorillas.
– A new study analyzes how gorillas use the forest, finding they primarily inhabit just 2,200 hectares (5,400 acres) within the 200,000-hectare (490,00 acre) forested area, and seem to spend much of their time in small patches of grassland rather than forest.
– Experts say they hope the findings will help guide conservation efforts for the critically endangered species.
– While not directly targeted for hunting, the gorillas face a multitude of threats, including gathering of forest products, a road construction project, and the secondary effects of other species in their habitat being hunted for bushmeat.

Private road sparks fears for Cameroon’s Ebo Forest by Amindeh Blaise Atabong — August 10, 2022
– Bulldozers have opened around 40 kilometers (25 miles) of dirt road into the heart of the biodiverse Ebo Forest in southwestern Cameroon, raising fears this will accelerate illegal logging and poaching.
– A group of local politicians and businessmen is backing the road, which is being built without consultation with communities around the forest, an environmental impact assessment, or planning permission.
– Cameroonian and foreign conservation groups have written an open letter to the EU, the U.S. and other donors asking them to intervene.
– Cameroon’s minister for forests and wildlife has reacted by ordering the ministry’s regional representative to carry out an immediate investigation — though senior government officials in the area attended a launch ceremony for the project in May.

In Brazil’s Amazon, traditional midwives push for greater recognition by Luís Patriani — August 10, 2022
– Aptam was created in 2018 as the first and only association of traditional midwives in Brazil’s Amazonas state, where it works to counter negative perceptions of midwives, which come mostly from the medical profession.
– In remote areas of the Amazon, where there’s a lack of government presence, midwives work on the front lines to help unassisted women give birth in places where doctors will not go.
– Amazonas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Brazil, along with onerous restrictions on midwives working in hospitals, which midwives say denies women access to holistic care during childbirth.
– Aptam and its supporters are calling for greater recognition of the role of midwives in community health, as well as official support for their work.

‘Sherpas’ real stories are seldom written’: Q&A with authors Ankit Babu Adhikari & Pradeep Bashyal by Abhaya Raj Joshi — August 9, 2022
– The Indigenous Sherpa communities living in Nepal’s Himalayas find themselves at the forefront of climate change, say the authors of a recent book about the legendary mountaineers.
– Mountaineering has brought a steady source of income for communities living in harsh conditions, but it has also brought with it unprecedented challenges.
– Climate change is making climbing mountains harder and affecting the raising of yaks, considered the lifeline of Sherpa communities.
– To mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Mongabay spoke to the co-authors of the new book, Sherpa: Stories of Life and Death from the Forgotten Guardians of Everest, about the people who live, work, adapt and survive on the roof of the world.

New Brazil bill puts cattle pasture over Pantanal wetland by Sarah Brown — August 9, 2022
– A bill loosening restrictions on cattle ranching in the Pantanal wetland has been approved by the Mato Grosso’s state legislature, prompting concerns it could lead to the loss of thousands of hectares of native vegetation.
– The Pantanal is a major transitional area between the country’s other major biomes — the Amazon Rainforest, the Atlantic Forest, and the Cerrado grasslands — and its wet area has already shrunk 29% since the 1980s.
– Advocates say they hope the new bill will bring an additional 1 million head of cattle to the Pantanal and improve declining socioeconomic parameters, but critics have warned of long-term environmental impacts.
– Another bill, currently being heard in Congress, aims to cut the state of Mato Grosso out from the country’s legally defined Amazon region, further reducing the protection of the biomes within the state.

Bangladesh struggles to protect the last of its last wild elephants by Rafiqul Islam — August 9, 2022
– Habitat loss, forest degradation and encroachment into forest reserves are driving Asian elephants into human habitats in search of food, increasing human-elephant conflicts.
– In 2016, there were only 268 resident Asian elephants in Bangladesh; more than 50 have been killed in the past five years, 34 of them in 2021 alone.
– Bangladesh has 12 identified elephant corridors, although at least one no longer serves that function due to forest degradation, human settlements, grabbing of forest land and unplanned development.
– The Forest Department has designed a new conservation project to protect the endangered species, including through stronger law enforcement and habitat restoration.

Lack of timely rains, fertilizer hits rice farmers in Nepal’s granary by Abhaya Raj Joshi — August 8, 2022
– The annual monsoon rains have failed to arrive in Nepal as anticipated ahead of the rice-planting season, leaving farmers facing another season of loss and the country bracing for a food shortage.
– A senior government meteorologist says it’s still too early to link the lateness of the monsoon to climate change, but what’s certain is that climate change is already wreaking havoc with rainfall patterns in Nepal.
– Last year, a prolonged monsoon brought unexpected flash floods that cost farmers $93 million in damages.
– A decline in rice production this year could put Nepal’s already strained finances under even more pressure by forcing the country to import rice.

Study warns of increased poaching if road through Brazil’s Iguaçu is reopened by Suzana Camargo — August 8, 2022
– A recent study validates environmental groups’ concerns that reopening a long-closed road through Brazil’s Iguaçu National Park would lead to an increase in environmental violations in the protected area.
– Two bills currently before Congress call for reopening the Estrada do Colono, or Settler’s Road, which was shut in 2001 and has since been reclaimed by the jungle.
– The study found that reopening it would expose at least 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to wildlife poaching, illegal fishing, and extraction of juçara palm heart.
– Between 2009 and 2019, more than 1,300 notices of environmental violation were issued in the park; with the road reopened, the study projects a 10% increase in illegal fishing and a nearly 15% increase in palm heart harvesting.

‘Spiderwebs’ to the rescue for Indonesia’s coral reefs by Agustinus Wijayanto and Warief Djajanto Basorie — August 7, 2022
– A small-scale project in Indonesia is seeing success in efforts to restore coral reefs damaged by blast fishing.
– Lightweight cast-iron rods form underwater “spiderwebs” that are placed onto existing reefs, with new coral grafted onto the structure.
– Proponents of the project say the benefits are already tangible, but add that to make them last, there needs to be an end to destructive fishing practices.

Amid haggling over deep-sea mining rules, chorus of skepticism grows louder by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — August 5, 2022
– This week, the International Seabed Authority, the intergovernmental body tasked with overseeing deep-sea mining in international waters, concluded its recent set of meetings, which ran from July 4 to Aug. 4, 2022.
– The purpose of these meetings was to progress with negotiations of mining regulations, with a view that deep-sea mining will start in July 2023 after the Pacific island nation of Nauru triggered a rule that could obligate this to happen.
– While many countries appear to support the rapid development of these regulations, an increasing number of other countries have expressed concern with this deadline, indicating a possible turn of events.

Hundreds of iconic Barbary macaques feared dead in Morocco forest fire by Anna Majavu — August 5, 2022
– A wildfire has burned through half of the Bouhachem Forest Reserve in northern Morocco, one of the few remaining refuges of the Barbary macaque.
– The fire forced the evacuation of more than 900 families from 15 villages in this region of the Rif mountains, destroying homes and crops and killing livestock.
– In recent months, exceptionally hot, dry conditions have prevailed in Morocco and around the Mediterranean and Western Europe, with observers saying climate change is exacerbating the conditions that produce forest fires in the region.
– The largest trees in the Bouhachem reserve have largely survived, but the burning of the forest understory will have a massive impact on the availability of grazing for villagers’ livestock, as well as food for macaques and other species.

In Indonesia’s forest fire capital, the dry season brings yet more burning by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 5, 2022
– The onset of the dry season in Indonesia’s Riau province has seen flare up and multiply, some of them believed to have been set deliberately.
– More than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of land has burned so far this year, a sharp increase from the 169 hectares (417 acres) in the first three months of 2022.
– The number of fires has prompted the provincial government to declare an emergency status and call for urgent measures, including cloud seeding to induce rainfall.
– Police have arrested nine people for suspected arson; although the practice is banned by law, farmers and plantation operators often use fire as a cheap tool to clear their concessions of vegetation ahead of planting.

Billions rely on wild species for food, energy and more: IPBES report by John Cannon — August 5, 2022
– A recently released summary of an assessment from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reveals that people rely on 50,000 wild species of plants, animals, algae and fungi.
– But it warns that the global biodiversity crisis threatens the sustenance and services that these species provide.
– According to the assessment, more than 10,000 wild species alone provide humans with food, and 2.4 billion people rely on fuelwood, often from wild-growing trees, to cook.
– Leaders of the assessment say they expect their findings to contribute to biodiversity conservation discussions at the U.N. biodiversity conference in December.

We’ve crossed the land use change planetary boundary, but solutions await by Liz Kimbrough — August 4, 2022
– According to experts, we have passed the planetary boundary for land systems change — the human-caused loss of forest — and risk destabilizing Earth’s operating systems.
– Scientists calculate we must retain 85% of tropical and boreal forests, and 50% of temperate forests, to stay within Earth’s “safe operating” bounds, but the number of trees worldwide has fallen by nearly 50% since the dawn of agriculture.
– From 2001 to 2021, forest area roughly half the size of China was lost or destroyed across the planet; in 2021, tropical forests disappeared at a rate of about 10 football fields per minute.
– Despite these losses, solutions abound: Some of the actions that could bring us back into the safe operating space are securing Indigenous land rights, reforestation and landscape restoration, establishing new protected areas, redesigning food systems, and using finance as a tool

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for August 2022 by — August 4, 2022
– Mongabay’s July videos show how Indigenous communities in Brazil are recovering native crops, why a coastal developmental project in India is facing protests, how the weather can be used to control forest fires in the Amazon, and other issues globally.
– Two Mongabay YouTube series — Chasing Deforestation and Mongabay Webinars — released new episodes, about Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem and about how to cover oceans and fisheries, respectively.
– 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.



Violence persists in Amazon region where Pereira and Phillips were killed by by Sarah Brown — August 2, 2022
Delectable but destructive: Tracing chocolate’s environmental life cycle by by Sean Mowbray — August 1, 2022
Nepal was supposed to double its tiger population since 2010. It tripled it by by Abhaya Raj Joshi — July 29, 2022
Indigenous Shuar community in Ecuador wins decades-long battle to protect land by by Maxwell Radwin — July 28, 2022