Newsletter 2022-11-24


Despite pledges, obstacles stifle community climate and conservation funding by John Cannon — November 23, 2022


– As science has increasingly shown the importance of conservation led by Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), donors have begun to steer funding toward supporting the work these groups do.
– In 2021, during last year’s COP26 U.N. climate conference, private and government donors committed $1.7 billion to secure the land rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities.
– But a recent assessment of the first year of the pledge shows that little of the funding goes directly to them, often going first through international NGOs, consultancies, development banks and other intermediaries.
– Most aid intended to support IPLC-led conservation work follows this path. Now, however, donors and IPLC leaders are looking for ways to ease the flow of funding and channel more of it to work that addresses climate change and the global loss of biodiversity.

In PNG, researchers find a large pigeon lost to science for 140 years by Liz Kimbrough — November 21, 2022


– After 140 years, a lost-to-science pigeon subspecies has been spotted once again on Fergusson Island, off eastern Papua New Guinea.
– After following tips from a local hunter, researchers photographed the black-naped pheasant-pigeon, a large, ground-dwelling bird, for the first time using a remote camera trap.
– Ornithologists believe the pheasant-pigeon is extremely rare and these forests on Fergusson island in the D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago could likely be the only place they exist.
– The expedition was part of the Search for Lost Birds program, a collaboration between BirdLife International, the American Bird Conservancy, and Re:wild.

If there’s an elephant in the room, that’s because it’s not in a protected area by Jim Tan — November 21, 2022


– A newly published study shows that elephants in Malaysia prefer habitats found outside of protected areas, with most of the elephants observed having more than half their home range outside protected areas.
– The main reason for this is that their preferred foods are more abundant in the kind of disturbed landscapes that humans create, such as plantations or secondary
– The study’s findings have important implications for Asian elephant conservation, showing that the current network of protected areas alone isn’t enough and that human-wildlife conflict needs to be managed.

Where is the money? Brazil, Indonesia and Congo join forces in push for rainforest protection cash by Shanna Hanbury — November 18, 2022


– Representatives of the world’s three forest giants – Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – have signed a cooperation agreement in Jakarta calling for more funding to help protect half of the world’s rainforests.
– The statement follows a loss of 2.3 million hectares (5.7 million acres) of primary forest in the three countries in 2021, most notably due to skyrocketing deforestation rates in Brazil, responsible for almost 50% of global deforestation last year, according to data by the Global Forest Watch.
– Critics say the joint statement lacks action and real commitment. Others say it is a step in the right direction, and international cooperation is urgent to protect the world’s rainforests.
– At COP27, Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president-elect called on rich countries to pay into their 2009 promise of $100 billion for helping less developed countries face climate change and promised to reverse deforestation trends in his upcoming mandate.

Alleged macaque-smuggling ring exposed as U.S. indicts Cambodian officials by Gerald Flynn — November 18, 2022


– U.S. federal prosecutors have charged eight people, including two Cambodian forestry officials, for their alleged involvement in an international ring smuggling endangered long-tailed macaques.
– The indictment alleges forestry officials colluded with Hong Kong-based biomedical firm Vanny Bio Research to procure macaques from the wild and create export permits falsely listing them as captive-bred animals.
– One of the officials charged was arrested in New York City on Nov. 16, en route to Panama for an international summit focused on regulating the global trade in wildlife.
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn is a fellow.


Mountain gorilla reproduction slows with female transfers, study shows by Ini Ekott — November 24, 2022
– Successful conservation interventions have helped mountain gorilla populations recover from 620 in 1989 to more than 1,000 today.
– However, mountain gorilla habitat is not expanding, and a growing body of research indicates that increasing density comes with a price: More groups sharing territory leads to more frequent intergroup violence.
– A new study finds that when intergroup contact increases, so do transfers of females between groups, leading to delayed reproduction.
– The study also emphasizes that multiple factors, such as delayed reproduction and increased mortality, cascade to create a slowdown in population growth.

New app transforms data gathering for wildlife in Papua New Guinea by Abhishyant Kidangoor — November 24, 2022
– A new app, developed in-house, has made documenting biodiversity easier and more efficient for the staff of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance in Papua New Guinea.
– The Protected Areas Management (PAM) app allows staff to record observations while in the field, facilitating the use of photos and videos, and automatically logging other information such as location and elevation.
– Since its launch, the app has encouraged staff to record more species and has made it easier for female staff in a generally patriarchal society to document and share their findings.
– The TCA says its working to make the app available to other conservation organizations within the next year.

Conservationists play matchmaker to boost Argentina’s jaguar gene pool by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — November 23, 2022
– Conservationists arranged a complex operation to mate two jaguars living in two different parks in Argentina and to prepare their offspring for release into Iberá Park in the country’s Corrientes province.
– The jaguar cubs will bring genetic diversity to the small but growing population of jaguars in Iberá.
– For about 70 years, jaguars were absent from Iberá, but conservationists have been reintroducing them for the past two years.
– It’s estimated that only 200 to 300 jaguars live across Argentina.

Hunting takes its toll on Himalaya’s blue sheep, favored prey of snow leopards by Abhaya Raj Joshi — November 23, 2022
– Blue sheep in Nepal’s Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve appear to be more wary of humans than those in a nearby conservation area where hunting isn’t permitted, a new study shows.
– Researchers say the behavioral changes, apparently instigated by hunting activity — both legal and illegal — threaten the fitness and well-being of the species.
– They warn this could have a cascading effect on the ecosystem, as blue sheep, also known as bharal, are the favored prey of the region’s snow leopards.
– They also say reserve managers should engage local communities in conservation efforts and in revenue sharing, in a bid to ease the illegal hunting pressure.

Probe finds Vietnam faltering in bid to curb wildlife trade, animal suffering by Carolyn Cowan — November 23, 2022
– In recent years, authorities in Vietnam have made a series of pledges to curb illegal wildlife trade and the sale and consumption of dog meat.
– However, a new investigation by animal rights groups reveals that protected wildlife species are still being sold at wet markets, where animal suffering and public health risks are rife.
– The findings also indicate the dog meat industry shows few signs of abating, with slaughterhouses and restaurants still doing business despite calls to phase out the industry in major cities.
– Experts say sustained and coordinated efforts from provincial authorities, enforcement agencies and the public will be needed to fully curb the practices throughout the country.

Illegal bottom trawling widespread inside Mediterranean marine protected areas by Edward Carver — November 22, 2022
– A new “atlas” reveals widespread illegal bottom trawling inside Mediterranean marine protected areas.
– The atlas, an interactive online map, shows thousands of days of apparent bottom-trawling activity in areas where it is banned, in 2020 and 2021.
– Bottom trawlers can damage the seabed, destroy coral and sponge habitats, and catch unintended species at a high rate.
– The findings demonstrate “the lack of enforcement and transparency in the Med, which is the most overfished sea in the world,” an atlas coordinator told Mongabay.

COP27 boosts carbon trading and ‘non-market’ conservation: But can they save forests? by Alec Luhn — November 22, 2022
– For the first time ever at a climate summit, the final text of this month’s COP27 included a “forests” section and a reference to “nature-based solutions,” — recognizing the important role nature can play in curbing human-caused climate change. But it’s too early to declare a victory for forests.
– By referencing REDD+, the text could breathe new life into this UN framework, which has so far failed to be a game-changer in the fight against deforestation as many hoped it would be.
– COP27 also took a step toward implementing Article 6.4 of the Paris agreement, a mechanism that some see as a valid market-based climate solution, though others judge it as just another “bogus” carbon trading scheme.
– Many activists are pinning their hopes instead on Article 6.8, which aims to finance the protection of ecosystems through “non-market approaches” like grants, rather than with carbon credits.

Indonesia to build coal plants despite $20b deal on clean energy transition by Hans Nicholas Jong — November 22, 2022
– The Indonesian government will still permit the construction of new coal-fired power plants, despite recently signing a $20 billion energy transition financing deal with industrialized countries.
– The plants are accommodated in the government’s 10-year energy plan and covered by a presidential regulation.
– The newly announced Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), by contrast, doesn’t make clear what restrictions, if any, it puts in place on Indonesia building new coal plants.
– Activists have called for a complete ban on new coal power so that a just energy transition can happen as envisioned in the new climate finance partnership.

2022 Amazon fires tightly tied to recent deforestation, new data show by Sandra Cuffe — November 22, 2022
– Nearly 1,000 major fires burned in the Amazon during its 2022 fire season, according to the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP).
– The Brazilian Amazon accounted for the vast majority of the fires, and most burned in recently deforested areas.
– MAAP uses unique satellite data detecting aerosol emissions alongside regular heat alerts, which helps filter out small fires.
– Fires clearing logging debris are linked to soy-driven deforestation in some Brazilian Amazon areas, where many soy-trading companies have not signed zero-deforestation commitments.

Report offers a road map to restore the rule of law in the Brazilian Amazon by André Schröder — November 22, 2022
– Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will have to supercharge many of the same policies that he employed in his first two terms to bring Amazon destruction rates down from their record highs, a new report says.
– The report, by a group of development, security and conservation think tanks, lists 92 proposals for Lula when he takes office at the start of 2023, centered around ending the culture of criminal impunity that flourished under the outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro.
– Experts say the absence of law enforcement in the Amazon has strengthened a criminal ecosystem that profits from land grabbing, illegal logging, mining, and wildlife and drug trafficking.
– The Bolsonaro administration has encouraged this in large part by weakening environmental enforcement agencies and putting loyalists in their top posts.

Indigenous community in Peru losing forests to timber, drug, land trafficking by Yvette Sierra Praeli — November 21, 2022
– The Indigenous community of Santa Rosillo de Yanayacu, located in northern Peru, has been facing illegal timber, drug and land trafficking for the past several years.
– Satellite data and imagery suggest deforestation associated with these incursions has increased in 2022.
– The community lacks a communal land title to their territorial forests; experts say this is opening the door to setters who are using threats to bar regional authorities from intervening.
– Santa Rosillo de Yanayacu is one of a number of Indigenous communities in the region contending with deforestation from outsiders.

‘We go in and take Indigenous lands back from cattle ranchers’: Q&A with activist Pablo Sibar by Kimberley Brown — November 21, 2022
– Costa Rican Indigenous leader Pablo Sibar Sibar talks to Mongabay about the Indigenous land recovery movement and the plethora of death threats he’s received for his work.
– As the country’s Indigenous Law states that non-Indigenous people are prohibited from owning land on Indigenous territories, Indigenous leaders have begun recovering lands themselves following state in-action. Today, nearly half of Indigenous land is in the hands of illegal landholders.
– Since 2019, two Indigenous leaders, Sergio Rojas Ortiz and Jehry River, have been killed in what Indigenous activists suspect were deliberate murders for their part in the land recovery movement.
– State prosecutors do not see a connection between the violence against Indigenous leaders and their land rights activism.

Will shipping noise nudge Africa’s only penguin toward extinction? by Leonie Joubert — November 21, 2022
– The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is expected to go extinct in the wild in just over a decade, largely due to a lack of sardines, their main food.
– A colony in South Africa’s busy Algoa Bay is suffering a population crash that researchers say coincides with the introduction of ship-to-ship refueling services that have made the bay one of the noisiest in the world.
– They say theirs is the first study showing a correlation between underwater noise pollution and a seabird collapse.
– Current studies are investigating whether the ship noise is interfering with the penguins’ foraging behavior and their ability to find fish.

In Nepal, a turtle that rose from the dead makes another grand entrance by Abhaya Raj Joshi — November 21, 2022
– Researchers have discovered a population of black softshell turtles in a wetland in southern Nepal, raising hopes for its conservation.
– The critically endangered species was previously thought to occur in only a handful of ponds in Bangladesh and India, and was so rare that it was briefly declared extinct in the wild in 2002.
– The new discovery adds to other recent findings of the black softshell turtle in the Brahmaputra River that runs through India and Bangladesh.
– Experts say the wetland and river populations are less prone than the pond-confined ones to the threats of fungal infection and inbreeding, and can form the basis of an ecotourism industry benefiting locals.

Tunnel collapse at dam project in orangutan habitat claims yet another life by Hans Nicholas Jong — November 21, 2022
– A tunnel collapse, the second this year, at the site of a planned hydroelectric dam in Sumatra has killed another Chinese construction worker.
– The latest incident brings the death toll at the project site to 17 in the space of less than two years.
– The police have declared the death to be accidental, but the string of incidents has raised concerns over the safety of the project, which is already controversial because it threatens to fragment the only known habitat of the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan.

A new tool to peer into fishing networks: Q&A with Austin Brush of C4ADS by Melati Kaye — November 21, 2022
– Washington, D.C.-based think tank C4ADS is launching Triton, a web tool to visually display the corporate structures behind fishing vessels.
– The initial cache of data focuses on the industrial fishing fleets of five key flag states: China, Taiwan, South Korea, Spain, and Japan, which together account for most high-seas fishing.
– Understanding who owns these vessels ultimately reveals the factors driving a vessel’s movements at sea and fishing activity, according to C4ADS analyst Austin Brush.

COP27 long on pledges, short on funds for forests — Congo Basin at risk by Alec Luhn — November 18, 2022
– The world’s wealthiest nations have made grand statements and offered big monetary pledges to save the world’s tropical rainforests so they can continue sequestering huge amounts of carbon.
– But as COP27 draws to a close, policy experts and activists agree that funding so far is far too little, and too slow coming, with many pledges still unfulfilled. Without major investments that are dozens, or even hundreds, of times bigger, tropical forests will keep disappearing at an alarming rate.
– The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) offers a case study of just how dire the situation is becoming. While some international forest preservation money is promised and available, it is insufficient to stop companies from leasing forestlands to cut timber and to convert to plantations and mines.
– Some experts say that what is urgently needed is the rapid upscaling of carbon markets that offer heftier carbon credits for keeping primary forests growing. Others point to wealthy nations, who while still cutting their own primary forests, encourage poorer tropical nations to conserve theirs without paying enough for protection.

Video: Wildlife crossings built with tribal knowledge drastically reduce collisions by Alexandra Christy and Mike DiGirolamo — November 18, 2022
– The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes collaborated with the Montana Department of Transportation to design and build one of the largest networks of wildlife highway crossings in the U.S.
– Previously known as one of Montana’s most dangerous roads, Highway 93 was upgraded to include 42 wildlife crossings that were built based on Indigenous traditional knowledge and values.
– According to a 2015 study, animal collisions declined by 71%.
– Today, more than 22,000 animals use these wildlife crossings annually, camera traps show.

Ahead of polls, Nepal’s political parties, voters take heed of climate impacts by Abhaya Raj Joshi — November 18, 2022
– Climate change will be high on the agenda for voters and political parties alike when Nepal holds its general elections on Nov. 20.
– A recent spate of disasters, from a dengue fever outbreak to flooding, have highlighted the country’s vulnerability to climate change.
– Both the ruling party and the main opposition have for the first time addressed climate change and the related issues of climate change, environment and disaster management in their campaign platforms.
– On the frontline of the impacts, however, citizens are skeptical of getting the help they need, while local authorities say any lofty plans will be undermined by a lack of funds

COP27: ‘Brazil is back’ to fight deforestation, Lula says, but hurdles await by Alec Luhn — November 17, 2022
– At COP27 this week Brazil president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva pledged “zero deforestation and degradation of biomes,” a goal to be achieved by 2030.
– Lula also plans to establish a Ministry of Indigenous People, and to end “all the exploration of Indigenous lands by miners, and… to prohibit timber cutters.” Activists said Lula has sent a “strong message” at the COP27 summit, a meeting which has so far seen little climate progress.
– The president-elect has also met with Norway and Germany about restarting the Amazon Fund, which helped finance efforts to keep the rainforest intact until it was frozen in 2019 due to the anti-environmental policies of President Jair Bolsonaro.
– Lula will likely have to pursue stricter forest enforcement through executive action, as he faces a congress with many members hostile to his Amazon protection promises.

Blue jeans: An iconic fashion item that’s costing the planet dearly by Jenny Gonzales — November 17, 2022
– The production of blue jeans, one of the most popular apparel items ever, has for decades left behind a trail of heavy consumption, diminishing Earth’s water and energy resources, causing pollution, and contributing to climate change. The harm done by the fashion industry has intensified, not diminished, in recent years.
– The making of jeans is water intensive, yet much of the world’s cotton crop is grown in semiarid regions requiring irrigation and pesticide use. As climate change intensifies, irrigation-dependent cotton cultivation and ecological catastrophe are on a collision course, with the Aral Sea’s ecological death a prime example and warning.
– While some major fashion companies have made sustainability pledges, and taken some steps to produce greener blue jeans, the industry has yet to make significant strides toward sustainability, with organic cotton, for example, still only 1% of the business.
– A few fashion companies are changing their operations to be more sustainable and investing in technology to reduce the socioenvironmental impacts of jeans production. But much more remains to be done.

Millions are spent on climate research in Africa. Western institutes get most of it by Malavika Vyawahare — November 17, 2022
– More than 75% of funds earmarked for Africa-related climate research go to institutes in the U.S. and Europe, according to a study in the journal Climate and Development.
– Of the $620 million that financed Africa-related climate research between 1990 and 2020, research institutions based in Europe and the United States received most of the funding ($480 million), while those located in Africa got less than 15% ($89.15 million).
– However, the analysis only provides an estimate for financing trends because it leaves out a host of agencies that fund climate research, like aid organizations, and crucially is restricted to English-language research.
– What is equally, if not more, worrisome, is that the prioritization of countries as sites for research doesn’t align with the severity of the climate risks or impacts a country faces.



Blue jeans: An iconic fashion item that’s costing the planet dearly by Jenny Gonzales — November 17, 2022
In Kenya, a Maasai community burned by ecotourism gives it another shot by Eve Driver — November 16, 2022
Podcast: Escape into nature’s soundscapes by Mike Gaworecki — November 16, 2022
Forests & Finance: Certification for deforesters, and repression for an evicted community by — November 15, 2022
No requiem for sharks just yet as nations push to protect species from trade by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — November 11, 2022
Should more wildlife trade be legal and regulated? It’s complicated, say scientists. by James Fair — November 11, 2022