Newsletter 2022-08-25


Podcast: Top wildlife photography requires ethics, patience, and kindness by Mike DiGirolamo — August 23, 2022


– More than 100 wildlife photographers have come together for the latest “Prints for Wildlife” campaign, a conservation funding effort that sells unique animal photos at a reduced rate.
– Their upcoming, third campaign builds on the $1.75 million that they already raised for the conservation NGO African Parks.
– Freelance photographer Marcus Westberg is part of the effort and joins the podcast to talk about the project, conservation philanthropy, photography, and the ethics behind the shots he captures.

Niger Delta mangroves in ‘grave danger’ from oil spills, poverty, invasive species by Orji Sunday — August 22, 2022


– Southern Nigeria’s vast Niger Delta boasts Africa’s most extensive mangrove forests — and some of the world’s largest fossil fuel reserves.
– Efforts to extract oil and gas have resulted in numerous oil spills, which have damaged the region’s biodiversity, as well as the livelihoods of coastal communities.
– Niger Delta mangroves are also affected by logging, farming and urban expansion, and are being replaced by invasive nipa palm.
– Research suggests Niger Delta’s mangroves could be gone within 50 years at the current rate of loss.

Sri Lanka fuel shortage takes massive toll on efforts to save wildlife by Malaka Rodrigo — August 19, 2022


– Sri Lanka continues to face the brunt of the worst economic crisis in the country’s history, with depleted foreign reserves resulting in acute fuel shortages nationwide.
– The shortages and limited rations are affecting conservation efforts, including the timely treatment of wild animals, regular patrolling to thwart poaching, and mitigation actions to limit human-elephant conflict.
– Fuel allocations for the wildlife conservation department have been halved, and both wildlife and forest officials say this has made operations extremely difficult.
– The threat of forest fires also looms as the dry season gets underway, which typically calls for more patrols to prevent burning by poachers and forest encroachers.

Regenerative agriculture in Mexico boosts yields while restoring nature by Dimitri Selibas — August 19, 2022


– Chiapas is Mexico’s second-most biodiverse state and provides 30% of the country’s freshwater, but has lost 55% of its forests for farmland and livestock pasture.
– Now, an unlikely alliance of conservationists, farmers and cattle ranchers is working to incorporate 2.5 million hectares (6.2 million acres) of land into sustainable management schemes, focusing on soil health and aiming to restore and reforest 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres).
– The initiative intends to restore soil health and in the process store carbon, free up more land for conservation, and maintain jobs in rural areas.

Snares: Low-tech, low-profile killers of rare wildlife the world over by Laurel Neme — August 18, 2022


– Snares are simple, low-tech, noose-like traps that can be made from cheap and easily accessible materials such as wire, rope or brake cables. Easy to set, a single person can place thousands, with one report warning that snares “are a terrestrial equivalent to the drift nets that have devastated marine and freshwater biodiversity.”
– Used throughout the tropics, one estimate says 12 million snares are present in protected areas of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, with the number likely far greater across the wider Southeast Asian region. Snaring is also common in Africa.
– While many hunters target smaller game to eat or sell, snares are indiscriminate, and often maim or kill non-targeted animals such as elephants, lions and giraffes, and endangered species including gorillas, banteng, dhole and saola. One report calls snares “the greatest threat to the long-term presence of tigers in Southeast Asia.”
– Snaring is difficult to stop. Hunters hide snares from their prey, which makes them hard to spot, though rangers are known to collect thousands. It’s “like a game of hide and seek,” says one expert. “Forest rangers hasten to dismantle snare lines even as poachers reconstruct them at other locations.” Behavior change is one solution.

In Gabon, camera-trap developers find the ideal proving ground for their craft by Manon Verchot and Sanshey Biswas — August 18, 2022


– Rich in forests and biodiversity, the Central African country of Gabon has long proved a fruitful testing ground for camera-trap technology.
– Snapshots of species once thought extinct in the country, such as lions, have helped inform conservation policy, including the establishment of national parks and protection of vast swaths of forest.
– The wealth of data generated means there are large data sets from various projects that researchers just don’t have the resources or time to sift through — which is why Gabon has also become a testing ground for artificial intelligence tools to aid in that task.
– Key limitations remain the cost of camera traps and the fact that many forms of data capture and analysis simply can’t be done by camera traps or AI, and still require human involvement.

As their land and water turns saline, Kenyan communities take on salt firms by Anthony Langat — August 18, 2022


– Between 1977 and the 1990s, the Kenyan government allocated thousands of hectares of land to salt mining companies along the country’s north coast.
– People had been living on that land for generations, despite its being officially gazetted as public land by the government.
– Following the allocation of land, local people have complained of harassment and violent evictions by the salt companies, as well as soil and waters rendered too salty to farm, drink, or fish.
– In 2020 groups representing these communities filed a lawsuit against the companies and government that consolidates many complaints and aims to provide recourse for loss of land and livelihoods and damage to the environment. The case is due before a judge in October.



Study paints ‘bleak picture’ for nearly all marine life without emissions cuts by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — August 25, 2022
– New research published in Nature Climate Change has found that nearly 90% of assessed marine life would be at high or critical risk by 2100 if the world continues upon a high-emissions pathway.
– It found that the risks would be more concentrated in the tropics, and that top predators would be more at risk than species lower down the food chain.
– However, if countries drastically reduce their emissions, the study found that climate risk would decrease for more than 98% of these species.

Big Oil’s capture of IPCC assessment for policymakers ‘shakes our faith’ (commentary) by Lindley Mease — August 25, 2022
– Although the IPCC’s technical summaries on climate change are a key resource for assessment and future projections, the group’s recent recommendations for policy makers appear to have been influenced by fossil fuel stakeholders.
– “The public needs to know that representatives from oil and gas industries, as well as fossil fuel-dependent governments, were writing this report,” a new op-ed states.
– With billions of dollars moving toward technology-driven carbon removal schemes that benefit the fossil fuel industry’s favored status quo, climate philanthropy must increasingly support climate justice, a just transition to renewable energy, and grassroots activism.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Scientists develop AI that can listen to the pulse of a reef being restored by Cassie Freund — August 25, 2022
– Scientists have developed a machine-learning algorithm that can distinguish healthy coral reefs from less healthy ones by the soundscape in the ecosystem.
– Previous studies had established that the sounds of life in a successfully recovered reef are similar to those from a healthy reef, but parsing all the acoustic data was slow and labor-intensive.
– The new algorithm has been hailed as “an important milestone” for efficiently processing acoustic data to answer the basic question of how to determine the progress of a reef restoration program.
– Researchers say follow-up work is still needed, including to check whether the algorithm, tested in the Pacific Coral Triangle, also works in reefs in other parts of the world.

Gharials, most distinctive of crocs, are most in need of protection, study shows by Abhaya Raj Joshi — August 25, 2022
– Slender-snouted gharials are among the most distinctive of the world’s crocodilians, and thus the most in need of conservation action, a new study suggests.
– The study authors scored all 28 existing crocodilian species from around the world — from the Chinese alligator to the Orinoco crocodile — on their functional distinctiveness and threat ranking to arrive at a metric.
– Known as EcoDGE (ecologically distinct and globally endangered), the metric suggests a third to a half of crocodilian functional diversity could be lost over the next century.
– Conservation scientists say the study highlights a new perspective of identifying the crocodilian species most in need of urgent conservation action.

Sumatra villagers protest iron mine allegedly operating despite stop order by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 25, 2022
– An iron ore mining company in Indonesia’s Sumatra Island has continued operating despite the local government telling it to halt its activities, local villagers say.
– An inspection by provincial authorities had found the company, PT Faminglevto Bakti Abadi (FBA), to be lacking permits and posing risks to the environment and nearby communities.
– The company’s reported violation of the order has prompted locals to set up camp outside the concession as an act of protest.
– The villagers are demanding the government to revoke the concession, citing ongoing and potential damage to the environment and their livelihoods.

A 13-year fight against gold mining in Colombian community marches on by Maritza Palma Lozano / La Cola de Rata — August 24, 2022
– The Embera Karambá Indigenous community in Quinchía, Colombia, near Medellin, has been resisting large-scale gold mining activities in their region for 13 years.
– The Miraflores mining company began holding meetings with the Embera Karambá community as part of the prior consultation process in 2015; six years after it started exploration activities in the area.
– The governor of the community and a member of the Indigenous Guard have received anonymous death threats and unidentified people surveilling their homes. Since 2019, the Indigenous governor has been receiving protection from the National Protection Unit of the Colombian national government.
– According to the mining company’s communications director, the mining company is making every effort to reach an agreement with the community and guarantee their right to prior consultation. However, consultation should not be used as a tool for opposition, he says.

It’s time to center African people in the conservation agenda (commentary) by Gail Thomson — August 24, 2022
– The African Protected Areas Congress was launched to position African protected and conserved areas within the broader goals of economic development and community well being.
– As the first Congress of its kind, APAC is an important step away from ‘fortress conservation’ approaches and towards African-driven biodiversity conservation.
– Developing a unified African voice and vision is key to influencing global conventions relating to climate change, biodiversity conservation and wildlife trade: now that the congress is over, it is up to us to make this new African vision for protected and conserved areas a reality, a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Urban farming in Indonesia addresses food needs and climate crisis by Sri Wahyuni — August 24, 2022
– Grassroots initiatives in several Indonesian cities have sprung up aimed at achieving food security through urban and family farming.
– Proponents say this is a great way to diversify food variety and cushion the impact of rising food and commodity prices.
– They also tout its ecological benefits, including lower emissions and healthier soil than with commercial farming.

Video: Biodiversity underpins all, as California is finding out the hard way by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — August 24, 2022
– A new episode of “Mongabay Explains” delves into the biodiversity crisis in California, which is known to be one of the most biodiverse states in the U.S., hosting about 6,500 animal species, subspecies and plants.
– California has been bearing the brunt of climate change in recent years as wildfires and drought transform the land.
– The film focuses on three species that are being negatively affected by the climate crisis: California tiger salamanders, acorn woodpeckers, and monarch butterflies.
– The filmmaker says California is the “poster child of what’s happening to our ecosystems around the world.”

The stork and the farmer: A conservation parable with lessons from Nepal by Abhaya Raj Joshi — August 24, 2022
– Woolly necked storks, a near-threatened species, tend to be at ease in the presence of farmers in Nepal’s southern plains, a study shows.
– Experts say this is because farmlands in Nepal “have always been important habitats for birds as they provide a mosaic of habitats, from wetlands to trees and grasslands.”
– Threats to the birds include the cutting down of the tall trees where they prefer to nest, and the expansion of urban centers into their habitats.
– But researchers say there’s hope for the species thanks to traditional farming: “Woolly necked storks will live on as long as South Asian farmers continue doing what they are doing.”

‘Cursed’ dam project in orangutan habitat claims 16th life in less than 2 years by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 24, 2022
– A tunnel collapse at the site of a planned hydroelectric dam in Sumatra has killed a Chinese construction worker, bringing the death toll at the project site to 16 in the space of less than two years.
– The project is already hugely controversial because it sits in the only known habitat of the Tapanuli orangutan, a critically endangered species that scientists warn will be pushed further toward extinction if their habitat is fragmented by the dam.
– Opponents of the Chinese-backed project have long argued that the site’s topography and location near a fault line make it “wholly unsuitable” for a large-scale infrastructure project, and that the developers should abandon it.

Seeing through the swarm: How hawks hunt bat prey by Liz Kimbrough — August 23, 2022
– How do hawks and raptors hunt prey that flock, school or swarm? A new study suggests that rather than homing in on one animal, they aim toward a fixed point in space within a swarm.
– Researchers observed Swainson’s hawks and other raptors hunting amid swarms of nearly a million Mexican free-tailed bats as they left their roosting cave in the Chihuahuan desert in New Mexico, U.S.
– The researchers positioned high-definition video cameras around the mouth of the cave, allowing them to reconstruct in 3D the trajectories of the hawks’ attacks on the bats from the 2D video recordings.
– This study offers an explanation of how large groups of prey that appear confusing to human eyes because of their erratic movements don’t necessarily result in a confusion effect in predators.

‘Remix it and let it evolve’: Q&A with FieldKit developer Shah Selbe by Abhishyant Kidangoor — August 23, 2022
– Conservation technologist Shah Selbe’s plan to unveil his new environmental sensor platform FieldKit went awry because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global supply chain crisis.
– The supply chain crisis has impacted companies big and small across industries — from Ikea to McDonalds — and been particularly harsh on smaller operators like Selbe, who don’t have the purchasing might of tech giants like Apple that are scrounging for the same scarce components.
– Selbe says that while the situation has improved somewhat, it’s still going to be hard on the conservation technology community: “Don’t build a hardware product during a pandemic,” he laughs.
– He also emphasizes the need for conservation technology to be open source to promote sharing of information: “I want people to be able to take FieldKit and mix and match and create some version of their own and build on it.”

Poverty-fueled deforestation threatens Kenya’s largest water catchment by Keit Silale — August 22, 2022
– Mau Forest is East Africa’s largest native montane forest and Kenya’s largest water catchment.
– Olpusimoru Forest Reserve is one of Mau Forest’s protected areas, but its forest cover has been greatly reduced by logging, fuelwood collection and other poverty-driven human pressures.
– Beginning in 2018, thousands of families that had established themselves inside the forest reserve’s boundaries were evicted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, part of a wider push that saw more than 30,000 people evicted from the broader Mau Forest Complex.
– Despite government intervention and civil society initiatives to assuage poverty in the region, signs of fresh logging, charcoal burning and overgrazing are evident in Olpusimoru Forest Reserve.

Sri Lankan researchers bring little-studied ‘flowerpot’ snake to light by Malaka Rodrigo — August 22, 2022
– Sri Lanka is home to 10 known species of blindsnakes, a family of soil-burrowing snakes so small that they’re often mistaken for earthworms.
– The most widespread of these is the flowerpot blindsnake (Indotyphlops braminus), which is also the most widely distributed invasive snake in the world, having accidentally hitched rides as far as North America, Africa and Australia in flowerpots for the exotic plant trade.
– A 2020 study, and its 2021 follow-up, proposed moving the species from the genus Indotyphlops to the new genus Virgotyphlops because of its reproductive characteristics that are different from those of other Indotyphlops species.
– But a new study by Sri Lankan researchers, building on field surveys carried out since 2007, says such a move isn’t warranted, and that the flowerpot blindsnake i s simply an “exceptional” member of its genus.

Fighting extractive industries in Ecuador: Q&A with Indigenous rights activist María Espinosa by Maxwell Radwin — August 22, 2022
– Human rights defender Lina María Espinosa has been an outspoken critic of Ecuador’s push for increased mining and oil development. But her work has also made her a target of death threats.
– This year, national protests by Indigenous communities pushed the government to revoke a decree that would have expanded oil investment. It also announced major reforms to the country’s mining plan.
– But Espinosa and members of CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) say the government needs to do more. This month, they’ll sit down with government officials to negotiate future policies.

Traditional communities’ prize-winning coffee and cachaça at risk from Brazil mine by Rafael Martins — August 22, 2022
– Brazil Iron’s mining operations in Bahia state have silted up springs and spread toxic dust across coffee and sugarcane fields belonging to traditional communities.
– The coffee beans grown in Piatã municipality have won prestigious international awards, while the cachaça sugarcane liquor made in neighboring Abaíra municipality has earned a designation of origin seal because of its exceptional quality.
– But now both coffee growing and cachaça making — sources of cultural and economic importance in the region — are under threat from the contamination of fields and water sources.
– Brazil Iron’s activities in the region were shut down in April because of a string of violations; a monitoring committee that the company subsequently set up, composed of community representatives, is a token gesture that won’t allow them to voice their complaints, residents say.

Encircled by plantations, a Sumatran Indigenous community abides changing times by Suryadi — August 22, 2022
– Residents of the village of Talang Durian Cacar on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island are struggling to earn decent incomes from unproductive oil palm trees.
– Jakarta-based NGO Kaoem Telapak described the community’s switch to growing oil palm trees as an “ecological, social and cultural consequence of their marginalization.”
– The community, part of the Talang Mamak Indigenous group, can access its customary forest through a corridor bisecting oil palm plantations.

The Socorro isopod: Endangered but important (commentary) by Nick D’Onofrio — August 19, 2022
– The Socorro isopod is an endangered crustacean endemic to the thermal water of a spring in the state of New Mexico.
– Its population is relegated to just three small habitats, like a concrete pool built by the state to collect the hot water the isopods live in.
– “There is lot of attention paid to what are called charismatic megafauna [but] the Socorro isopod that is native to a spring that is smaller than most people’s offices doesn’t get the news or the attention grabbing headlines that some of the others do. But their plight is the same.”
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

New voyage checks in on Darwin’s species, nearly 200 years after Beagle by Suzana Camargo — August 19, 2022
– On Sept. 12, 2021, French documentary maker Victor Rault set sail from Plymouth, England, aboard his sailing ship, the Captain Darwin.
– His goal is to retrace the same route taken by famed naturalist Charles Darwin nearly 200 years earlier and assess how the species he described in the 19th century are faring today.
– Rault has already made stops in Brazil, in the same places that Darwin visited, and recorded a mixed picture as a result of widespread deforestation: a decline in sloth numbers, but a boom in the population of leafcutter ants.
– At the end of his four-year voyage, Rault plans to write a book and make a documentary: “My aim is to predict what the world will look like if we decide to take action as a global community now, and not wait for the extinction of all the species.”

Commodity kings Cargill, Bunge buying soy from stolen Indigenous land, report says by Maxwell Radwin — August 19, 2022
– Commodity-trading giants Cargill and Bunge source some of the soy used in products like chicken feed and pet food to land where Indigenous communities have suffered violence and displacement, according to a new report from Earthsight, an organization investigating environmental and social injustices.
– The companies have ties to a 9,700-hectare (24,000-acre) soy farm in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul that operates on the ancestral land of the Guarani Kaiowá, an Indigenous group that has spent the last several decades fighting forced eviction.
– Earthsight has documented supply chain links between soy from the Brasília do Sul farm and chicken retailers like KFC, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi and Iceland, as well as German supermarket chains like Rewe Markt, Netto Marken-Discount, Lidl, Aldi and Edeka.
– Earthsight said Cargill and Bunge need to take a firmer stance on Indigenous rights rather than passing off responsibility to intermediaries or deferring to legal loopholes.

As Europe eyes Africa’s gas reserves, environmentalists sound the alarm by Ashoka Mukpo — August 19, 2022
– In the wake of an energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European countries are turning to Africa for its natural gas reserves.
– The move is a turnaround from recent years, when many of the same countries vowed to stop financing fossil fuel projects on the continent.
– Some African heads of state, along with their allies in industry, have welcomed the change, saying gas extraction will help finance the transition to renewables.
– But environmental advocates on the continent are pushing back, saying that a new era of fossil fuel extraction will create more misery and harm the climate.

‘Amped-up citizen science’ to save the world: Q&A with Conservation AI Hub’s Grant Hamilton by Abhishyant Kidangoor — August 19, 2022
– Conservation AI Hub uses drones and artificial intelligence to detect koalas that survived the Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020.
– The initiative is now working with communities in Australia to train them on using the technology by themselves.
– Director Grant Hamilton says it’s imperative to make technology more accessible so that more citizens can engage and participate in global conservation efforts.

How a rare Colombian flower cultivated with Indigenous know-how is changing lives by Soraya Kishtwari — August 18, 2022
– The Inírida flower, known as flor de Inírida, grows in a small area along the Colombian-Venezuelan border.
– An Indigenous leader and botanist successfully worked together to domesticate this rare and little-known flower.
– Its conservation helps ensure the long-term protection of other species while offering potential bioremediation against contaminated soil.
– Inírida’s commercialization plays a vital role in the region’s green economy, bringing in revenues for Indigenous families.



Let it grow: Q&A with reforestation and land restoration visionary Tony Rinaudo by Erik Hoffner — August 17, 2022
An emerald-green hummingbird lost to science reemerges in Colombia by Liz Kimbrough — August 16, 2022
In Sumatra, rising seas and sinking land spell hard times for fishers by Tonggo Simangunsong — August 16, 2022
In Brazil’s Pantanal, early flames signal a ‘new normal’ by Ana Ionova — August 15, 2022
Amazon deforestation on pace to roughly match last year’s rate of loss by Rhett A. Butler — August 12, 2022
Climate change and overfishing threaten once ‘endless’ Antarctic krill by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — August 11, 2022