Newsletter 2022-10-13


Toxic new frog species from Ecuador named after Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane by Liz Kimbrough — October 10, 2022


– A new-to-science frog species has been found in Ecuador and named in honor of Seth MacFarlane, the U.S. film and television creator responsible for the show “Family Guy.”
– The frog was found as part of an expedition to catalog and protect species in the Andes. All told, researchers have only found four individual frogs, all within a few square meters of ridgeline atop Cerro Mayordomo, a mountain on the edge of the Amazon basin.
– The frogs’ vibrant patterns likely serve as a warning sign of their toxicity, with researchers reporting burning and tingling skin after collecting the first specimen.
– Ecuador’s forests are home to more than 600 known species of frogs, and more are being described every year. Six other new-to-science species of frogs have been found on Cerro Mayordomo alone.

Thai zoos come under scrutiny again as tourism rebounds from COVID-19 by Shannon Brault — October 10, 2022


– The welfare of rare and often threatened species in Thailand’s tourism and pet trades has long been a concern for animal rights activists.
– The conditions in which many of the animals are kept became even direr during the COVID-19 pandemic, when border shutdowns meant no visitor revenue to care for the animals.
– NGOs are working to rescue and rehabilitate some of the animals from zoos and private owners, but acknowledge that few, if any, of the animals can ever be released back into the wild.
– They add that rescue and rehabilitation is only part of the solution, and that more focus should go on protecting the natural environment and habitats of these animals over the long term.

Mongabay probe key as Brazil court rules on palm oil pesticide contamination by Karla Mendes — October 7, 2022


– Prosecutors in Brazil say the findings from a Mongabay investigation were key to obtaining a court decision this week to probe the environmental impacts of pesticides used by oil palm plantations on Indigenous communities and the environment in northern Pará state.
– On Oct. 4, the Federal Circuit Court for the First Region in Brasília approved a forensic investigation into pesticide contamination and the socioenvironmental and health impacts in the Turé-Mariquita Indigenous Territory and the production zone of the country’s largest palm oil operation in the Tomé-Açú region.
– The green light to carry out the expert report was finally issued eight years after the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) filed a lawsuit to hold palm oil company Biopalma — acquired by Brasil BioFuels S.A. (BBF) in late 2020 — accountable for environmental impacts.
– A 2017 University of Brasília study, contained in the Mongabay investigation, found traces of three pesticides (two of them typically listed among those used in oil palm cultivation) in the major streams and wells used by the Tembé people in Turé-Mariquita.

Ahead of election, deforestation increased in Brazil by — October 7, 2022


– Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is surging ahead of the presidential election in Brazil.
– According to data released today by Brazil’s national space research agency INPE, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon topped 1,450 square kilometers in September, a 48% increase over last year.
– Deforestation through the first nine months of 2022 has amounted to 8,590 square kilometers, the highest such tally on record since the current deforestation alert system was established in 2007.

Cambodia’s elites swallow up Phnom Penh’s lakes, leaving the poor marooned by Gerald Flynn and Vutha Srey — October 7, 2022


– Lakes in Phnom Penh are fast being filled in and parceled off as prime real estate to wealthy and politically connected individuals.
– Families who have for generations fished and practiced aquaculture on the lakes and surrounding wetlands face eviction and the loss of livelihoods.
– At the same time, experts warn that filling in these natural rainwater reservoirs risks exacerbating flood intensity and damage in the Cambodian capital.
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.


Panama: A ‘flag of convenience’ for illegal fishing and lack of control at sea by Mary Triny Zea and Michelle Carrere — October 13, 2022
– Why would a Chinese ship want to fly the Panamanian flag? This practice is known as flying a “flag of convenience” and although it’s legal, experts say it often lets shipowners benefit from lax auditing and is closely associated with illegal fishing because it can hide the identity of a vessel’s true owners.
– Mongabay Latam and Bloomberg Línea investigated violations and alleged crimes committed by the fleet of ships flying the flag of Panama, the country whose flag is most commonly used.
– Our analysis of an official database shows that some of the vessels operating under the Panamanian flag do business with a Chinese company that has one of the global fishing industry’s longest criminal records.

“Largest of its kind” dam in Cameroon faces backlash from unimpressed fishmongers by Yannick Kenné — October 13, 2022
– Cameroon is constructing a new 420-megawatt capacity hydroelectric dam in Batchenga, aiming to reduce the country’s significant energy deficit by 30%.
– The massive dam project is impacting several villages where fishing is an essential part of the local economy. Several professional bodies, including fishmongers, fishermen and restaurant owners, have lost their livelihoods due to the dam’s construction.
– Fishmongers in one nearby village, Ndji, are becoming increasingly desperate for proper compensation as the amounts paid by the Nachtigal Hydro Power Company is not enough to make ends meet, they say.
– Civil society organizations are also accusing Nachtigal of seriously violating environmental standards during dam construction, despite the company continuously receiving environmental compliance certificates by the government.

Wild cats threatened by ‘underrecognized’ risk of spillover disease by Sean Mowbray — October 13, 2022
– Researchers warn that disease spillover from livestock and domestic animals represents a serious conservation threat to wildlife, including felids in tropical areas around the world. Spillover is most likely to occur on rapidly advancing forest-agricultural frontiers or within fragmented habitats.
– Tracking the spillover and spread of diseases from humans and domestic animals to wildlife is extremely challenging, particularly among wild felid species, which tend to be secretive and solitary, making ongoing observation difficult.
– Possible cases of disease spillover have been documented in wild cats in India, Malaysian Borneo, Thailand, Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Russia and Nepal. These are likely the tip of the iceberg, say scientists, who believe much disease among wild species is going undetected, with case numbers and outbreaks unknown.
– Scientists stress the need for greater health monitoring of wildlife to reduce this “invisible threat.” But funding for health testing is often scant, and treatment difficult. One researcher sees disease transmission from domestic animals to wildlife as perhaps the most “underrecognized conservation threat today.”

Ecuador’s Indigenous Siekopai communities sue for title in protected area by Maxwell Radwin — October 13, 2022
– Approximately 800 Siekopai occupy territory in the Western Amazon along the Ecuador-Peru border but haven’t been able to obtain a constitutionally guaranteed title to their ancestral land in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.
– After years of requests, they decided to file a lawsuit against the government in hopes that they will finally gain control of Pë’këya, the ancestral and spiritual home of their peoples.
– The Siekopai are world renowned for their knowledge of local flora and fauna, which they use in many of their traditional ceremonies.

Thailand bets on coal despite long losing streak for communities by Kannikar Petchkaew — October 13, 2022
– Despite its declaration of ambitious emissions reductions targets, Thailand is on track to build four new coal-fired power generators by 2034.
– Two of the generators will add to an existing plant in Mae Moh, which is powered by coal from an adjacent mine.
– Residents say the Mae Moh power station and mine have caused illness and pollution, with the country’s Supreme Court ruling in their favor in 2015 and ordering the state-owned utility to pay compensation.
– Two other generators are planned for as-yet-unnamed locations in the country’s east and south.

Indonesian beauty queen founds Indigenous coffee brand in her native Lombok by Fathul Rakhman — October 13, 2022
– Beauty pageant contestant Mahniwati was born into a strong Indigenous community on Indonesia’s Lombok Island.
– During her pageant activities, Mahniwati saw that despite their wealth of natural resources, the people of her community were often cash poor.
– Seeing the potential of coffee to improve their livelihoods, she taught herself each step of the coffee value chain.
– She now shares her knowledge with farmers and promotes coffee produced by local women.

Study highlights ‘friends with benefits’ relation between gorillas and chimps by Ryan Truscott — October 12, 2022
– A new long-term study points to lasting social relationships between chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild.
– The study showed that individuals from both species actively seek out each other in a variety of contexts.
– The benefits of these interactions go beyond protection from predators, and include learning social skills and finding fruiting trees.
– But these social interactions also provide the potential for transmission of deadly diseases like Ebola, which pose as big a threat to the long-term survival of gorillas and chimps as hunting and habitat destruction.

Successes and struggles: Brazil’s 20-year Amazon reforestation carbon sink project by Marina Martinez — October 12, 2022
– The Peugeot-ONF Forest Carbon Sink project, implemented more than 20 years ago in northwestern Mato Grosso state, within the “arc of deforestation” of the Brazilian Amazon, has achieved significant ecological restoration and carbon sequestration results.
– Reforesting 2,000 hectares of degraded cattle pasture on the São Nicolau Farm in Cotriguaçu municipality, the project has been Verra certified for reducing carbon emissions, with 394,400 metric tons of CO2 sequestered to date, equal to 85,000 cars taken off the road for a year. This CO2 reduction is being traded as carbon credits on Pachama, an online marketplace.
– Today, São Nicolau Farm is a living laboratory documenting the dynamics of forest restoration and carbon capture in the Amazon. The farm also offers ecotourism, training and educational opportunities.
– But Brazil’s volatile sociopolitical context is posing major risks to the project. Threats include a rising wave of forest crime, along with weakened environmental regulations, and controversial development proposals for the rainforest biome.

‘Critically endangered’ listing for East African dugong population is needed (commentary) by Evan Trotzuk — October 12, 2022
– Though found in relative abundance in parts of northern Australia, the only known viable dugong population in East Africa calls the waters around the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park in Mozambique home.
– A new peer-reviewed paper proposes the East African dugong population be listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List to protect the last few hundred animals that are left.
– While Bazaruto’s management has reduced illegal activities in the park that endanger them, these efforts may not be enough to save East Africa’s dugongs without the support of a new ‘critically endangered’ listing, a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

A ‘super reef’ recovery raises hopes — but also questions about its resilience by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — October 12, 2022
– Experts documented the substantial recovery of coral reefs around the southern Line Islands in the central Pacific after the area was hit by a large-scale coral bleaching event in 2015 and 2016.
– Many factors may have contributed to the reef’s recovery, including the fact that the reef is seemingly untouched by human activity, which helped maintain a healthy and resilient ecosystem.
– But other experts question whether this reef would be able to recover after more frequent bleaching events, which are predicted to increase as global temperatures continue to rise.

Australian oil and gas firm Invictus awarded carbon offset project in Zimbabwe by Ryan Truscott — October 12, 2022
– The REDD+ project covers three national forest reserves near Hwange National Park and comes as Invictus has begun to drill for oil and gas in the north of the country
– Invictus says based on estimates still to be verified, the offset project could sequester 1 million metric tons of carbon per year, making its oil and gas drilling carbon neutral.
– Conservationists question the logic behind leveraging state forest reserves for REDD+ projects, saying they favor instead a “wildlife economy approach” to restoring landscapes.

Clothes sourced from plants could expand deforestation – or abate it by Ian Morse — October 12, 2022
– Cellulose fabrics are fibers extracted from plants and transformed into clothing. Fuelled in a large part by promises of higher environmental integrity, cellulose fibers are the fastest growing feedstock of the textile market.
– Companies dominating the market have brought with them systemic problems that have seen primary forests felled, peatlands drained and waste management poorly managed.
– Despite ongoing sustainability issues, the future of the market is promising, experts say, as new innovations and companies have a fighting chance to bring new materials and manufacturing processes to market.

In Brazil, a heavily fined firm is also accused of waging a ‘palm oil war’ on communities by Karla Mendes — October 11, 2022
– Escalating violence triggered by land disputes between Indigenous and traditional communities and palm oil companies has intensified in recent months in the Brazilian region that accounts for most of the country’s palm oil production.
– On Sept. 24, community leaders reported the killing of a non-Indigenous person and wounding of two Turiwara Indigenous men and a non-Indigenous by gunfire in the municipality of Acará, in Pará state. The following morning, Sept. 25, the cultural house of an Indigenous village was burned.
– Federal authorities say they’re investigating these and previous instances of violence that have intensified in the region.
– A database compiled by the journalism alliance Tras las huellas de la palma (Following the palm prints) reveals that only 44 fines were imposed against palm oil producers in the country, of which only three were paid. Most of the fines were for deforestation and pollution.

Indonesian banks prop up coal industry increasingly shunned by outside lenders by Hans Nicholas Jong — October 11, 2022
– Indonesia’s largest banks channeled a combined $3.5 billion of direct loans to the coal industry from 2015 to 2021, despite pledging to implement sustainable financial practices.
– Experts say these four banks — BNI, BRI and Bank Mandiri, which are state-owned lenders, and BCA, the most valuable company in the country — lag behind banks elsewhere when it comes to their climate commitments.
– No Indonesian banks have joined the U.N.’s Net-Zero Banking Alliance, whose members have committed to transition all of their investments that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in order to reach net zero by 2050.

The slow, toxic and sleepy life of lorises is coded in their genes by Carolyn Cowan — October 11, 2022
– Lorises exhibit many quirky evolutionary adaptations, such as exceedingly slow locomotion, the ability to hibernate (which makes them unique among Asian primates), and their capacity to deliver a highly venomous bite.
– A new study probes the genetic underpinnings of some of these unique adaptations in pygmy lorises (Xanthonycticebus pygmaeus) to find clues to their evolution in the forests of Southeast Asia.
– Pygmy lorises are endangered due to threats from forest loss and capture for the illegal wildlife trade, fueled by a booming demand for exotic pets.
– The genetic insights could boost conservation efforts to reintroduce and translocate lorises in the wild, the researchers say, and could even pave the way for advances in human medical research into genetic disorders.

With fracking promising a quick energy boost, can Colombia say no? by Dimitri Selibas — October 11, 2022
– For the first time, Colombia’s government is openly supporting a ban on fracking because of its environmental impacts, saying it plans instead to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
– According to the previous government, fracking could bring the country the equivalent of about $72 billion in additional revenue over the next 30 years; but the Colombia Free of Fracking Alliance (ACLF) says the costs to the environment and to people’s health aren’t worth the risk.
– An anti-fracking bill went through its first debate in parliament in mid-August and still needs to go through another three rounds before it goes up for a vote.
– Activists say a clear anti-fracking stance by the government could provide a very powerful message for the rest of the region.

Amazonian river communities seek to boost hard-won land rights to fight loggers by Lais Modelli — October 11, 2022
– In March, 15 traditional communities on the Rio Manicoré in the state of Amazonas were granted a collective concession for the rights to sustainably use their land — the first of its kind in the state.
– Some members of these communities have been working since 2006 to turn their territory into a sustainable development reserve, which would bring greater protection against logging and mining.
– But a hostile campaign waged by illegal loggers and miners means the push for reserve status isn’t supported by most community members.
– The Rio Manicoré region is considered one of the best-preserved parts of the Brazilian Amazon, but since 2015 deforestation rates have hit record levels.

Indonesia foresters hope Garuda poachers turn gamekeepers by L. Darmawan — October 11, 2022
– Local foresters have teamed up with bird hunters to map the biodiversity on the slopes on Mount Slamet, a habitat of the endangered Javan hawk-eagle.
– Officials say they hope the collaboration will demonstrate to bird hunters that they can build an alternative tourism economy.
– The biodiversity survey will contribute toward a management plan for 27 hectares of forest managed by the community in Banyumas district.

In Madagascar, a tree-planting business goes long on social, short on eco by Valisoa Rasolofomboahangy — October 10, 2022
– Bôndy, a young Malagasy company, has social-impact tree planting at the heart of its “business model.”
– Bôndy makes money by offering social and environmental responsibility solutions to other companies, by planting trees on farmers’ land on their behalf.
– Although it has only been operating since 2018, the company’s model is proving successful with both the rural people receiving tree-planting services and the companies financing the projects.
– Some conservationists, however, are skeptical about the environmental impacts of Bôndy’s approach, which focuses mainly on planting non-native acacia and eucalyptus trees that can be cut for fuel and timber, as well as fruit trees.

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, five inspirational conservation stories in the U.S. by Latoya Abulu — October 10, 2022
– Today, people across the U.S. are observing Indigenous Peoples’ Day, juxtaposed against Columbus Day which is celebrated at the same time, to honor Indigenous peoples and their cultures.
– From conserving some of the last old-growth redwood forests in California to halting oil drilling in the Alaska’s arctic, Indigenous tribes see their participation and knowledge as key to bringing solutions to the biodiversity and climate crises.
– To mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Mongabay rounds up five of this year’s most inspiring solutions-based stories in the U.S.

Alternatives to farmwork empower communities and save forests, study finds by Kimberley Brown — October 10, 2022
– A new study shows that human activity, especially agriculture, undertaken around biosphere reserves can lead to deforestation and biodiversity loss inside the reserves themselves.
– The main solution, say researchers, is to provide local communities with alternative livelihoods to agriculture, as expanding farming practices are the main drivers of forest loss.
– Researchers say locals don’t necessarily want to cut down trees, but they often do because of lack of other economic opportunities, or lack of infrastructure and other services nearby.

Easygoing bonobos accepting of outsiders, study says by Charles Mpaka — October 10, 2022
– Bonobos are well known for their peaceable relations within family groups, but there’s less scientific consensus about how much tolerance they extend to individuals outside of their core groups.
– A recent study set out to examine this question by observing members of habituated bonobo communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and comparing their behavior to observations of chimpanzee groups in Uganda’s Kibale National Park.
– The researchers found that, compared to chimpanzees, bonobos maintain strong and distinct core groups, but also exhibit frequent and peaceable between-group interactions.
– The findings give conservationists a better understanding of bonobo social behavior, which in turn can inform conservation actions.

Mangroves and wildlife in Bornean bay at risk from Indonesia’s new capital by Basten Gokkon and Richaldo Hariandja — October 7, 2022
– Experts and activists say the construction of Indonesia’s new capital city upstream of Balikpapan Bay on the island of Borneo fails to mitigate against damage to the marine ecosystem.
– The stretch of coast between the bay and the mouth of the Mahakam River is packed with mangroves, which host a rich diversity of marine and terrestrial life, including proboscis monkeys and Irrawaddy dolphins.
– The government has said the construction of the new capital, Nusantara, will include retaining a large swath of mangrove forest, but zoning details show most of it won’t be protected against development.
– The $33 billion planned city will in 2024 take over as the Indonesian capital from Jakarta, and its full construction will be completed by 2045, according to the government’s plans.

Brazil may fail Paris Agreement targets by 137% if Bolsonaro stays in office by Jaqueline Sordi — October 7, 2022
– Brazil could fail greenhouse gas emissions targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement by 137% in 2030 if President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies continue, according to a new study.
– Up to 23% of the Brazilian Amazon could be deforested, turning much of the region into a savanna if the current trend isn’t reversed.
– With Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, heading for a runoff against Bolsonaro in late October, specialists say the results could represent the beginning of a new era for environmental policy, but it would take an intense mobilization of civil society for a significant change.

Fished out at sea and smoked out on land, Senegal fishers take on a fishmeal factory by Lawon Olalekan — October 6, 2022
– A fishers’ collective in Cayar, east of Dakar, says a fishmeal factory there is jeopardizing livelihoods and endangering public health.
– Analysis in September of water from a lake revealed pollution by biodegradable organic matter causing deoxygenation that is harming aquatic life.
– Some residents of Mbawane, in Cayar municipality, say the fishmeal company’s operations are a good thing, making use of surplus fish which would otherwise rot on the beach.

Greenland shark, world’s longest-living vertebrate, gets long-awaited protection by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — October 6, 2022
– In September, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), an intergovernmental organization that manages fisheries, prohibited the retention of Greenland sharks in international waters.
– This ban would apply to the intentional catching of Greenland sharks as well as the retention of the species as bycatch.
– However, bycatch exceptions could be made if countries prohibit the discarding of fish.
– Greenland sharks are known to be the longest-living vertebrate in the world, reaching ages of between 270 and 500 years.



Podcast: ‘Destructive & flawed’: Claire Nouvian on bottom trawling’s many impacts by Mike DiGirolamo — October 5, 2022
The force is strong with space lasers helping researchers map the Amazon in 3D by Abhishyant Kidangoor — October 4, 2022
As Indonesia paints rosy picture for orangutans, scientists ask: Where’s the data? by Philip Jacobson — October 3, 2022
Maasai villages lose important court case as wildlife game reserve trudges on by Laurel Sutherland — October 1, 2022
Catfished: New species described from DRC after mistaken identity by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — September 30, 2022
Better management of shared waterways could benefit economy in Bangladesh, India by Abu Siddique — September 30, 2022
Cutting down the Amazon does not build prosperity for most Brazilians by Rhett A. Butler — September 29, 2022
Mangrove restorers in Haiti bet on resilience amid rising violence by Conrad Fox — September 29, 2022