Newsletter 2022-10-27


Wrong trend for right whales amid ‘devastating’ population decline by — October 25, 2022

– A newly released estimate suggests that only 340 critically endangered North Atlantic right whales remained as of 2021, a 2.3% decline from 2020, when the population numbered around 348.
– Fewer calves have been born in 2022 so far, corroborating research that suggests that North Atlantic right whale species are becoming less capable of reproducing.
– No adult mortalities have been recorded in 2022, but experts say that only about a third of whale deaths are recorded.

Brazil’s biggest elected Indigenous caucus to face tough 2023 Congress by Karla Mendes — October 25, 2022

– In Brazil’s Oct. 2 general elections, five self-declared Indigenous candidates were elected as federal deputies and two as senators, the highest number in the country’s history. The most celebrated victories were those of prominent Indigenous activists Sônia Guajajara and Célia Xakriabá, who were elected as federal deputies.
– Experts, activists and celebrities cheered the “Bancada do Cocar”(Feathered Headdress Caucus) to halt the escalating anti-Indigenous and anti-environmental agenda in the legislative power since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.
– The success of the Indigenous and and other left-wing caucuses will depend on the outcome of the presidential runoff on Oct. 30, given a more conservative elected Congress with more seats of supporters of Bolsonaro and the agribusiness lobby in both the lower and upper houses, experts say.

In the western Amazon, oil blocks eat away at Indigenous lands, protected areas by Yvette Sierra Praeli — October 24, 2022

– A total of 1,647 Indigenous territories and 52 protected areas are affected by encroaching oil lots in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, some of them subsumed entirely within concessions.
– Those are the headline figures from an extensive analysis by the journalistic alliance ManchadosXelPetróleo, with information gathered by the Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG).
– Oil blocks overlap with 1,001 Indigenous territories in Peru, 480 in Ecuador, 106 in Colombia, and 57 in Bolivia.
– In some cases, prevailing laws provide loopholes for oil activity in ostensibly protected areas, often on the nebulous basis of “national interests.”

Element Africa: Mines take their toll on nature and communities by — October 20, 2022

– Civil society groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo are demanding the revocation of the license for a Chinese-owned gold miner operating inside a wildlife reserve that’s also home to nomadic Indigenous groups.
– Up to 90% of mines in South Africa aren’t publishing their social commitments to the communities in which they operate, in violation of the law, activists say.
– A major Nigerian conglomerate that was granted a major concession for industrial developments in 2012 has still not compensated displaced residents, it was revealed after the company announced it’s abandoning the project.
– Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin rounding up brief stories from the commodities industry in Africa.


To get young Filipinos into farming, initiatives reach them via TikTok, school by Janine Peralta — October 27, 2022
– With the average farmer in the Philippines aged 53, and many discouraging their children from following in their footsteps, there are concerns that the country could soon face a critical shortage of people willing and able to produce the country’s food.
– Youth-led initiatives, such as Kids Who Farm and TikTok channel UrbanFarmerTV, are working to raise young people’s interest in sustainable farming techniques.
– Some lawmakers are also pushing to include agriculture studies in the high school curriculum.

For water quality, even a sliver of riverbank forest is better than none by Liz Kimbrough — October 27, 2022
– Costa Rica currently has laws in place to protect riparian zones along waterways, but they are unevenly enforced.
– Implementing these laws, even at the bare minimum of maintaining a 10-meter (33-foot) strip of riverbank vegetation, could lead to benefits for water quality and people, according to a new modeling study.
– The study shows that a small increase in forest cover around waterways can reduce nutrient and sediment runoff, especially on steeper lands and near farms and cities.
– Increases in water quality from riparian zones would improve drinking water for vulnerable populations in Costa Rica.

To save the Amazon, scientists are listening to its rich sounds by Sibélia Zanon — October 27, 2022
– An unprecedented study is analyzing biodiversity by listening to nearly 12,000 minutes of recordings made in Carajás National Forest, a protected region in the Brazilian Amazon.
– Some 230 bird species have already been recognized in 7,000 minutes of recordings, in particular the white bellbird (Procnias albus) and the screaming piha (Lipaugus vociferans), the world’s two loudest birds; the next phase of the study will focus on identification of the mammals in the region.
– The study has found that the sound samples from 14 distinct locations are similar, and that the rainforest doesn’t ever sleep, with many animals vocalizing at night.
– The rainforest’s soundscape reveals information about its biodiversity, the ecosystem services it provides, and makes it possible to evaluate conservation and climate change mitigation measures.

Survey finds thriving online market for Indonesian birds in Philippines by Danielle Keeton-Olsen — October 26, 2022
– An analysis of online sales, government seizures and trade data compiled by wildlife trade monitor TRAFFIC found evidence that birds native to Indonesia are being sold online in the Philippines, including species regulated by CITES, the global wildlife trade convention.
– Parrots native to eastern Indonesia were the most frequently identified species, and the researchers estimated that more than half of the Indonesian birds advertised in the Facebook sales groups they monitored had been caught in the wild.
– Trade data also indicate that unofficial sales continue to flourish despite anti-trafficking laws: other countries reported importing eight times as many birds from the Philippines as traders there reported having exported.

Biofertilizers cut costs and GHG emissions for Brazilian soybean producers by Juliana Ennes — October 26, 2022
– Brazilian scientists have developed biofertilizers with nitrogen-fixing microorganisms to replace the use of chemical fertilizers in the production of soybeans.
– Since the country highly depends on imports of fertilizers, the substitution has had a huge economic impact on the soybeans industry.
– Bio inputs are also more sustainable since they don’t require large amounts of energy for production, don’t pollute and are healthier for farmers and consumers.
– Pricing and supply constraints of chemical fertilizers due to the war in Ukraine are pushing for more R&D on microorganisms targeting different crops other than soybeans.

Humans are decimating wildlife, report warns ahead of U.N. biodiversity talks by Malavika Vyawahare — October 26, 2022
– Wildlife populations tracked by scientists shrank by nearly 70%, on average, between 1970 and 2018, a recent assessment has found.
– The “Living Planet Report 2022” doesn’t monitor species loss but how much the size of 31,000 distinct populations have changed over time.
– The steepest declines occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, where wildlife abundance declined by 94%, with freshwater fish, reptiles and amphibians being the worst affected.
– High-level talks under the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held in Canada this December, with representatives from 196 members gathering to decide how to halt biodiversity loss by 2030.

EU’s anti-deforestation trade rule should be more women-friendly (commentary) by Simone Lovera — October 26, 2022
– Europe’s recent move to ban “deforestation-risk commodities” from their market was welcomed by activists, but how will it affect millions of small producers in the Global South, and women in particular?
– Women represent the majority of small agricultural producers around the world, and if lawmakers take a ‘gender-blind’ approach to the regulation, it could end up marginalizing them and instead promote the interests of powerful export-oriented agricultural producers.
– This could have unintended consequences for rural and Indigenous women and deepen existing structural inequalities, a new op-ed reasons.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Attorney keeps alive legacy of murdered Pará activists, despite death threats by Elizabeth Oliveira — October 26, 2022
– Ten years after the murder of community leaders Zé Claudio da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo, attorney Claudelice dos Santos formally created an institute named after her brother and sister-in-law to support families at risk because of their social-environmental activism in Amazonia.
– Santos earned a law degree in order to fight for the issues that have become life-and-death matters for activists in southeastern Pará. In this historically violent region, Zé Claudio and Maria were fighting against the illegal activities of farm owners, loggers and land-grabbers inside the rainforest.
– Known for defending standing forests, land reform and extractive community rights, the couple had received innumerous threats before they were murdered for their activism.
– Eleven years later, the attorney still receives threats for defending this legacy and seeking justice: The two perpetrators of the crime are in prison but the man convicted of hiring them remains free.

It’s no Yeti, but Tibetan brown bear’s presence in Nepal is no longer a myth by Abhaya Raj Joshi — October 26, 2022
– A newly published study is the first to offer clear photographic evidence of the presence of Tibetan brown bears in Nepal.
– The camera-trap images were taken in 2013, but the study around them was only recently published because researcher Madhu Chetri was busy with other studies on snow leopards.
– For Chetri, the photos put to rest folklore he heard from villagers 20 years earlier about a Yeti-like creature prowling Nepal’s Himalayan region.
– Other studies have also shown, through genetic analysis, that hair and other samples attributed to the Yeti come from bears.

Playing dangerously: The environmental impact of video gaming consoles by Claire Asher — October 25, 2022
– Like other consumer electronics, game consoles require complex supply chains that rely on the mining of metals and rare-earth elements, the production of new plastics, and highly specialized manufacturing processes — linking the industry to oversized carbon emissions.
– The latest generation of consoles use around 200 watts of electricity, placing them at the upper end of household appliances. U.S. gaming consoles churn through roughly 34 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, associated with an estimated 24 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
– While the newer devices have built-in energy efficiencies, their added features and performance upgrades often eat up those savings. The rapid replacement of one generation with the next has also led to a path of designed obsolescence, which has resulted in complex waste and disposal issues.
– Awareness of gaming’s oversized environmental impact has grown, and major manufacturers have promised to reduce the environmental footprint of their consoles over the next two decades, but consumer demand for longer console life spans and greater repairability will be key.

Loss of Brazilian pines threatens Kaingáng Indigenous culture by Sônia Kaingáng — October 25, 2022
– The decline of the Paraná pine forests in the southern region of Brazil poses serious consequences for the Kaingáng culture, which uses pine trees as an important source of food, culture and resilience.
– The ecosystem is one of the most devastated in Brazil: Only 3% of its original area remains.
– The tree occupies a noble position in the Kaingáng culture, considered the third-largest Indigenous group in Brazil, with 45,000 people living in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná and southern São Paulo.
– “Efforts to revitalize Kaingáng culture must be aligned with the resurgence of araucaria planting in the territories of the Kaingáng people,” says an Indigenous expert.

‘A mollusk is as important as a tiger’: Q&A with Prem Bahadur Budha by Abhaya Raj Joshi — October 25, 2022
– Prem Bahadur Budha is Nepal’s leading malacologist, having described 18 new-to-science species of mollusks, mostly land snails, from his homeland.
– A newly published paper honors his achievements by naming a newly described snail species, also from Nepal, after him: Endothyrella prembudhai.
– In an interview with Mongabay, Budha recounts his struggle to break into the rarefied field of malacology, the threats facing Nepal’s mollusks, and the massive potential for more new species descriptions from the Himalayan country.

Broken houses and promises: residents still in poverty near massive diamond project by Anna Majavu — October 24, 2022
– More than 14 years since the discovery of the Marange diamond fields, one of the world’s largest diamond-producing projects, relocated residents and locals living near the mines are still living in poverty.
– The government and mining companies promised homes, electricity, water, employment, social services and compensation, but residents and civil society organizations say they have still not received many of these promises since Mongabay last reported on the project in 2016.
– Rivers, which residents rely on for their livestock, vegetable plots and cleaning, are polluted and silted by artisanal miners seeking additional income and opportunities to escape poverty.
– Previously, foreign companies in Zimbabwe had to either give the majority of their shares to locals or divest money into community trusts. However, this promise has fallen short since current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, reversed the law.

With FSC rule change, deforesters once blocked from certification get a new shot by Hans Nicholas Jong — October 24, 2022
– The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has adopted a number of significant changes during its recent general assembly in Bali, chief among them moving its cutoff date for eligibility from 1994 to 2020.
– With the change, logging companies that have cleared forests since 1994, but before 2020, will be allowed to obtain certification from the body, something they weren’t allowed to do before.
– To qualify, companies will have to restore forests and provide remedy for social harms done in the 1994-2020 period in their concessions.
– The decision has sparked responses from both critics and supporters, with the former saying the new rule rewards known deforesters, and the latter saying it opens opportunities for forest restoration and remedies for Indigenous and local communities.

To protect the Southern Ocean, leaders must act now (commentary) by Dona Bertarelli — October 24, 2022
– This week in Australia, global leaders have the opportunity to protect Antarctica’s vast and biodiversity rich Southern Ocean at the annual Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) meeting.
– Emperor penguins, orcas, crabeater seals, albatross, and krill are among the species that call this region home, but the latter is a key one that plays a huge role in the health of Antarctica, since it underpins the food web.
– The commercial krill fishery produces fishmeal for pets, people and aquaculture and has become concentrated in recent years, with most of the catch taken from small, nearshore areas where wildlife feed: “We need Southern Ocean MPAs and well-designed fishery measures to effectively conserve fish populations, habitats and wildlife,” a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Arctic sea ice loss to increase strong El Niño events linked to extreme weather: Study by Alec Luhn — October 24, 2022
– The frequency of strong El Niño events could increase by 35% by the end of the century as Arctic sea ice begins to melt out completely in the summer, according to a recent modeling study. El Niños — buildups of especially warm water in the eastern Pacific off of Peru — often trigger ‘devastating’ droughts, floods and cyclones around the globe.
– The findings provide more evidence that Arctic warming is affecting weather in other parts of the world — not only in the mid-latitudes, but as far away as the tropics.
– Other recent studies have found that sea ice loss is causing rapid acidification of the Arctic Ocean and more extreme precipitation and flooding in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago located between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

Bangladesh e-waste rules hang in limbo as electrical goods companies ask for delay by Maksuda Aziz — October 21, 2022
– The Bangladesh government has failed to implement electronic waste management regulations a year after introducing a new rule that was a decade in the making.
– Countries with large stakes in Bangladesh’s electrical goods market are reportedly lobbying the World Trade Organization for a one-year delay in the implementation of e-waste regulations; meanwhile, the WTO has raised several issues with the new rule, including a reduction in the standard for lead.
– As the process stalls, e-waste continues to pile up, as the Bangladesh electrical market experiences a massive boom.
– According to a 2010 report of the Environment and Social Development Organization, more than 15% of child recycling workers in Bangladesh die during and after the effects of handling e-waste each year, and more than 83% are exposed to toxic substances.

Tracking the moves of Asian forestry companies in Central Africa (analysis) by Alain Karsenty — October 21, 2022
– An array of Asia-based forestry companies operate in Central Africa, including the countries of Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
– Many of these companies subcontract their operations to third parties, making their activities difficult to track.
– An analysis of these operations sheds light on the near to mid-term future of Central African forests as government policies shift along with markets.
– This post is an analysis by a senior scientist at the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Drive for restoration and remedy behind some NGOs’ cautious support for FSC changes (commentary) by Grant Rosoman — October 21, 2022
– Earlier this month, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) held its General Assembly in Bali.
– Grant Rosoman, a senior campaign advisor to Greenpeace International, argues that decisions made at this year’s General Assembly marked “the most significant change in direction” for the certification scheme in the last 20 years.
– Rosoman specifically identifies stakeholders’ approval of Motion 37 which will allow certification of forest areas cleared for plantations after November 1994 provided the party involved commits to restore an equivalent area of natural forest.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Europe considers large-scale seaweed farming; environmental effects unknown by Ingrid Gercama, Nathalie Bertrams, Tristen Taylor — October 21, 2022
– The European Commission is planning large-scale industrial farming of seaweed across the continent’s shores.
– The goal is to farm 8 million metric tons of seaweed annually by 2030, up from the current annual farmed production of about 3,000 metric tons.
– Proponents tout a sustainable form of farming that can produce food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biofuels, and sequester carbon.
– However, the potential ecological impacts have yet to be fully assessed.

To boost fish catches, try banning fishing, new study shows by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — October 21, 2022
– A new study has found that the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai‘i, the world’s largest contiguous marine protected area, increased the catch rates of yellowfin and bigeye tunas in nearby fisheries due to a “spillover effect.”
– Between 2016 and 2019, catches of yellowfin tuna increased 54% in waters near the MPA, and catch rates for bigeye tuna rose by 12%.
– Another study found that MPAs not only increase the catches for fisheries, but also yield other benefits, like the enhancement of carbon sequestration and biodiversity.
– However, both studies suggest that the best results come from fully protected MPAs that don’t allow fishing, and that underprotected MPAs yield “little to no social or ecological benefits.”


Video: Life in the awe-and-terror-inspiring vicinity of the Sumatran elephant by Philip Jacobson — October 20, 2022
Podcast: Science that saves free-flowing rivers & rich biodiversity by Mike Gaworecki — October 19, 2022
Beef is still coming from protected areas in the Amazon, study shows by Liz Kimbrough — October 18, 2022
How an Indigenous family under siege became a symbol of resistance in the Amazon by Elizabeth Oliveira — October 18, 2022
Heat-sensing drone cameras spy threats to sea turtle nests by Liz Kimbrough — October 17, 2022
Expedition reveals the amazing nocturnal fauna in the Amazon Rainforest by Suzana Camargo — October 17, 2022
Proposal to grant the ocean rights calls for a sea change in legal framework by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — October 14, 2022
Wild cats threatened by ‘underrecognized’ risk of spillover disease by Sean Mowbray — October 13, 2022
As Brazil starts repaving an Amazon highway, land grabbers get to work by Caio Guatelli — October 13, 2022