Newsletter 2022-12-01


A Philippine resin trade proves sustainable for forests, but not tappers by Keith Anthony S. Fabro — November 30, 2022


– Almaciga resin, also known as Manila copal, is used as an additive in industrial products like varnish and linoleum, as well as traditionally for starting fires, caulking boats and fumigating against mosquitoes.
– If practiced responsibly, harvesting almaciga resin offers an ecologically sustainable income stream for the Indigenous people and local communities best positioned to protect the Philippines’ diminishing natural forests.
– However, a string of middlemen, little transparency about pricing, and lack of access to formal financial institutions means that the communities that rely on tapping resin for cash remain mired in poverty.

Peru is tackling water scarcity with nature-based solutions, leading the way in Latin America by Kimberley Brown — November 29, 2022


– The Peruvian city of Moyobamba is renowned for implementing a novel nature-based solution (NbS) project, charging water tariffs to locals and channeling the funds into conservation initiatives to save its local water sources.
– Peru’s Environment Ministry and other environmental organizations have been working to scale up NbS in the country, particularly to tackle water scarcity issues as in Moyobamba’s case.
– Part of Moyobamba’s success lies in including water utilities in the NbS plans, as the World Resources Institute says it’s essential to include infrastructure service providers to make scaled NbS initiatives work.
– Critics of NbS projects say they’re an inadequate response to the real drivers of climate change and could damage local communities and ecosystems, but project developers in Peru say that doesn’t have to be the case.

As shark numbers plummet, nations seek ban on devastatingly effective gear by Philip Jacobson — November 26, 2022


– The U.S. and Canada are seeking a ban in the Pacific on two fishing devices, known as wire leaders and shark lines, that have proven devastatingly effective at catching huge numbers of sharks.
– The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which governs tuna fisheries in those waters, could vote on the proposal at its annual meeting next week in Vietnam.
– The commission currently allows boats to use either shark lines or wire leaders, but not both simultaneously, but advocates for banning say that’s a loophole taken advantage of by captains and companies that ignore the rules amid scant oversight.
– Banning wire leaders and shark lines would reduce fishing mortality of oceanic whitetip sharks by 40.5% and silky sharks by 30.8%, research has found.



In first for Indonesia, government recognizes Indigenous Papuans’ ancestral forests by Asrida Elisabeth and Hans Nicholas Jong — December 1, 2022
– The Indonesian government has for the first time relinquished state forest into the custody of Indigenous communities in the eastern region of Papua, covering a combined area the size of New York City.
– Experts say this recognition of customary forests in Papua is significant as the region is threatened by increasing expansion of plantations, logging and mining operations, with Indigenous groups there having little to no legal protection against companies that covet their forests.
– With this official recognition, the government has essentially handed over its control over these forests to the Indigenous communities, and therefore no licenses for any kind of commercial activity can be issued for those areas.
– Activists have welcomed the move, but say it represents just a sliver of the millions of hectares of ancestral forest that are still waiting to be officially acknowledged in the Papua region.

To be effective, zero-deforestation pledges need a critical mass, study shows by Sarah Sax — November 30, 2022
– The importance of rapidly halting tropical deforestation to achieve net-zero emissions was a key message at this year’s climate summit, but corporate efforts to this end have stalled for decades.
– Cattle, soy and palm oil are the main commodities driving deforestation and destruction of other important ecosystems. Zero-deforestation commitments from the companies that trade in those commodities are seen as an important way to reduce deforestation globally.
– A new study compares the effectiveness of corporate commitments to reduce soy-related deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, showing that zero-deforestation commitments can reduce deforestation locally, but only if there is widespread adoption and implementation among both small and big soy traders.
– Overall, the study points to the limitations of relying just on supply chain agreements to reduce regional deforestation and protect biodiverse ecosystems, and highlights the need for strong public-private partnerships.

Indigenous youths lured by the illegal mines destroying their Amazon homeland by Victor Raison; Jean-Mathieu Albertini — November 30, 2022
– An increasing number of young Indigenous people in Brazil’s Yanomami Indigenous Territory are leaving their communities behind and turning to illegal gold mining, lured by the promise of small fortunes and a new lifestyle.
– Work in the mining camps ranges from digging and removing tree roots to operating as boat pilots ferrying gold, supplies and miners to and from the camps; recruits receive nearly $1,000 per boat trip.
– The structures, traditions and health of Indigenous societies are torn apart by the proximity of the gold miners, and the outflow of the young generation further fuels this vicious cycle, say Indigenous leaders.
– Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of authorities monitoring the area, illegal mining in the region has increased drastically, with 20,000 miners now operating illegally in the territory.

Biodiversity credit market must learn from carbon offset mistakes (commentary) by Francisco Benedito and Mariana Sarmiento — November 30, 2022
– The nascent biodiversity credit market is beginning to be used to finance measurable and positive outcomes for biodiversity.
– Not to be confused with biodiversity offsets, which compensate for the residual biodiversity impacts of development, credits have been used to conserve habitat for species such as spectacled bears and yellow-eared parrots.
– As the world looks forward to the upcoming biodiversity treaty meeting (COP15) in Montreal, “credits have a chance to learn from the mistakes of their carbon counterparts. It is critical that we get this right from the start,” two credit market CEOs argue in a new op-ed.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Dhaka’s ailing sewage system threatens human and environmental health by S.M. Najmus Sakib — November 30, 2022
– Existing sewage treatment plants in Dhaka treat only 30% of all sewage waste.
– Emerging pollutants such as antibiotics, microplastics, detergents, toothpastes, shampoos and lotion are found in Dhaka’s urban rivers and lakes.
– Microplastics are also found in fish, snails, crabs and sediments of the Buriganga River in Dhaka.
– City authorities suggest installing small treatment plants in residential buildings.

Environmental peacebuilding must pay more attention to armed groups (commentary) by Judith Verweijen — November 29, 2022
– State and non-state armed groups often play crucial roles in conflict and cooperation over natural resources.
– Environmental peacebuilding examines how addressing resource conflict and improving governance can serve as a stepping stone for broader efforts at peace.
– Though much research and programming of this sort speaks of governments and communities as the main conflict parties, armed parties should also be considered conflict actors in their own right.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

About 72% of gold miners poisoned with mercury at artisanal mining sites in Cameroon by Yannick Kenné — November 29, 2022
– A recent study reveals that 71.7% of miners at artisanal gold mining sites in Cameroon show mercury levels at concentrations above the limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
– Mercury use in artisanal mining has nevertheless been banned by the Cameroonian government since 2019 as hundreds of deaths occur yearly at mining sites.
– These fatalities result from gold mining’s uncontrolled development in Cameroon, where companies are continuously in conflict with communities and where national mining legislation has yet to come into force.

Report calls on palm oil firms to make up for nearly 1m hectares of forest loss by Hans Nicholas Jong — November 29, 2022
– Palm oil companies across Southeast Asia are liable for the recovery of a Puerto Rico-sized area of forest because of their history of environmental harm, a new report shows.
– The Earthqualizer Foundation derived the figure of 877,314 hectares (2.17 million acres) based on the deforestation that the companies continued to carry out after they became aware that an increasing number of buyers had adopted sustainability policies.
– The report also calls on buyers who bought from these suppliers to shoulder some of the liability, which it said could count toward the forest restoration goals pledged by many of the buyers, including Nestlé, Kellogg’s and Unilever.
– The Earthqualizer report highlights some palm oil companies that are already undertaking recovery initiatives, but notes that these are few and far between, and any progress will need to be assessed over the long term.

Bird declines boost case for transformative biodiversity agreement in Montreal by John Cannon — November 29, 2022
– A recent report from the conservation partnership BirdLife International reveals that populations of 49% of avian species are decreasing. That figure in the group’s last report, in 2018, was 40%.
– Habitat loss, hunting and fisheries bycatch continue to threaten birds, but newer threats, such as avian flu and climate change, are also endangering the survival of bird species.
– Scientists say the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, which begins in Montreal on Dec. 7, is an opportunity for countries to implement conservation measures, such as protecting 30% of the planet by 2030, to halt the global loss of plant and animal species.

In Bangladesh, popular eggplant comes with a side of lead. And cadmium by Abu Siddique — November 29, 2022
– New studies have highlighted potentially cancer-causing levels of chemicals such as lead and cadmium in food crops grown across Bangladesh, and in particular in eggplants, one of the most widely consumed vegetables in the country.
– Researchers attribute the contamination to excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides by farmers, as well as industrial pollution.
– Also affected are fish caught in the Buriganga River in the capital, Dhaka, and cow’s milk sold in the city.
– Regulators have acknowledged the problem, and say they’re working on efforts to reduce agrochemical use across the country and crack down on industrial pollution.

New standard brings best practices to bear in Nepal’s red panda conservation by Abhaya Raj Joshi — November 29, 2022
– The Red Panda Governance Standard has been introduced into Nepal to strengthen efforts to conserve the endangered species.
– Developed by the Red Panda Network in collaboration with one Nepali and two Australian universities, it aims to allow communities to adopt best practices for red panda conservation.
– Proponents say they hope that successful conservation initiatives being carried out in the country’s east can be translated to the more fragmented habitats in the central and western regions of Nepal.

In South Africa, a community says no after a coal miner said go by Victoria Schneider — November 28, 2022
– A South African court has ordered one of the country’s largest coal mines to redo an environmental impact assessment for expanding its footprint by nearly 18 square kilometers (7 square miles).
– The court agreed with residents of Somkhele who said that the pre-2016 public participation process to expand the mine — and extend its productive life — was seriously flawed.
– Communities around the mine are deeply divided; the traditional authority and some residents support its extension and the jobs and income this would provide, while others stand firm against the destruction of their homes and way of life.
– The new EIA process is allowing community members to raise a range of concerns about the mine’s social and environmental impacts.

‘I have anger every day’: South African villagers on the mine in their midst by Anna Majavu — November 28, 2022
– Rural families removed from their homes in Somkhele, in northern KwaZulu-Natal province, to make way for a giant coal mine are suffering from collective trauma, a new report has found.
– A psychologist evaluated members of 26 of the 220 families displaced and found alarming levels of clinical depression and suicidal feelings.
– He found they had been traumatized by witnessing the exhumation of family graveyards as well as the loss of both income and cultural space provided by cattle encosures.
– The report, commissioned by a law firm representing opponents of the mine, recommends that the mine rehabilitate polluted land and water resources and make greater financial compensation available to allow families who wish to leave to reestablish themselves elsewhere.

What can Half or Whole Earth conservation strategies do for orangutans? by John Cannon — November 28, 2022
– In a recent study, a team of researchers attempted to predict how the application of two global conservation ideas, Half-Earth and Whole Earth, would impact orangutan conservation on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
– Numbers of all three species of orangutans continue to drop due to habitat loss and killing by humans, despite an estimated $1 billion spent on conservation efforts in the past two decades.
– The researchers surveyed orangutan experts about their thoughts on the application of the two ideas on Borneo; the resulting analysis predicts continued declines for Bornean orangutans under both Half-Earth and Whole Earth paradigms, though they report that the species would fare better under Half-Earth.
– Proponents of the Whole Earth paradigm argue that the authors of the study misinterpreted some of the idea’s central tenets, however.

Fishers in Flores Sea opt to limit harvest of overexploited sea cucumbers by Wahyu Chandra — November 28, 2022
– Fishers on Indonesia’s Sapuka island have decided to regulate their sea cucumber harvests.
– Since the 1960s, sea cucumber has been an important commodity for the island, but heavy harvest pressure has pushed the fishery to overexploited status.
– Sea cucumbers play a crucial role in the marine ecosystem by providing food to other species and adding nutrients and pH balance in waters around coral reefs and other shallow-water ecosystems.

Indonesia’s Supreme Court rules President Widodo not liable in 2015 fires by Hans Nicholas Jong — November 28, 2022
– Indonesia’s highest court has ruled President Joko Widodo not liable in the 2015 fires, overturning three previous court rulings that found him to be liable for the disaster.
– The plaintiffs, a group of citizens and environmental activists affected by the 2015 fires, have lambasted the court’s decision, saying it raises questions over the government’s seriousness in tackling the annual fire problem.
– The plaintiffs also questioned the process behind the ruling, saying they hadn’t been given the chance to refute new evidence presented by the government.

Forest management tool could help rein in rampant wildlife trade in Bangladesh by Mahadi Al Hasnat — November 28, 2022
– The Bangladesh Forest Department has introduced a Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) to help stop wildlife trafficking in several of the country’s protected forest areas.
– The pilot program follows the success of SMART technology used in the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, where a University of Calcutta study shows illegal logging and poaching have dropped significantly since the introduction of the tool.
– According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, major gaps in information about wildlife trade chains hamper the government’s ability to stop wildlife crimes.
– Experts say SMART patrolling should be introduced in protected forest areas across the country.

In Nepal, officials defend detusking to reduce human-elephant conflict by Abhaya Raj Joshi — November 28, 2022
– Conservation officials in Nepal recently cut off the tusks of a young bull elephant that had attacked and killed a woman in the buffer zone of Parsa National Park.
– Proponents of detusking say the practice helps make the animals less aggressive, while critics say the effects are little-understood and detusking should be a last resort in tackling human-wildlife conflict.
– A study on African elephants shows that detusked elephants don’t appear to be at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing food, while another shows that detusked matriarch elephants command smaller herds and may be considered less reproductively fit by males.
– Back in Nepal, officials say the practice works, noting that the recently detusked male hasn’t been seen in the area since then.

Sri Lanka university aims to be the country’s first to go carbon neutral by Malaka Rodrigo — November 26, 2022
– The University of Sri Jayewardenepura (USJ) in Sri Lanka has assessed its carbon footprint under ISO standards and has now become the country’s first university to be carbon audited.
– USJ recently assessed its carbon footprint under the ISO 14064-1 standard, a process that proved to be more difficult than calculating the footprint of an industrial establishment such as a factory, which has more easily quantifiable carbon emissions than a university.
– The university intends to reach carbon-neutral status mainly through energy efficiency projects and reforestation of three forest patches managed by the university in order to offset its carbon emissions.

New protections for sharks, songbirds, frogs and more at CITES trade summit by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — November 25, 2022
– The 19th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, known as CoP19, ended Nov. 25 in Panama, after two weeks of negotiations.
– Member states agreed on new trade regulations for more than 600 animal and plant species, including the protection of sharks, glass frogs, turtles, songbirds and tropical timber species.
– Experts say that while these new regulations are essential, implementing and enforcing the rules will have the most significant conservation impact.

Words that didn’t make the cut: What happened to Indigenous rights at COP27 by Dimitri Selibas — November 25, 2022
– This year’s U.N. climate conference saw the highest participation of Indigenous peoples to date, with more than 300 delegates from around the world calling for agreements to explicitly include a human rights approach.
– Although Indigenous issues were ambitiously mainstreamed across agenda items at the start of the conference, countries began to compromise in the final days when there were a lot of topics still not concluded, say Indigenous negotiators.
– Agreements on the rules around carbon offset markets included limited language on recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples and the need to consult communities on the use of land.
– Indigenous delegates warmly welcomed the creation of a loss and damage fund which they say will greatly help Indigenous communities already impacted by climate change.

Indonesia’s orangutans declining amid ‘lax’ and ‘laissez-faire’ law enforcement by Basten Gokkon — November 25, 2022
– The widespread failure by Indonesian law enforcers to crack down on crimes against orangutans is what’s allowing them to be killed at persistently high rates, a new study suggests.
– It characterizes as “remarkably lax” and “laissez-faire” the law enforcement approach when applied to crimes against orangutans as compared to the country’s other iconic wildlife species, such as tigers.
– Killing was the most prevalent crime against orangutans, the study found when analyzing 2,229 reports from 2007-2019, followed by capture, possession or sale of infants, harm or capture of wild adult orangutans due to conflicts, and attempted poaching not resulting in death.
– The study authors call for stronger deterrence and law enforcement rather than relying heavily on rescue, release and translocation strategies that don’t solve the core crisis of net loss of wild orangutans.

Indigenous cooperative restores forests to form ecological corridor in Bahia by Sibélia Zanon — November 25, 2022
– An Indigenous Pataxó cooperative reforested 210 hectares (519 acres) of Atlantic Forest in the Monte Pascoal-Pau Brasil Ecological Corridor with species that covered the Bahian soil before the Portuguese colonization.
– The project, coordinated by the Natureza Bela Environmental Group and financed by BNDES (the Brazilian National Development Bank), included 50 hectares (123 acres) of agroforestry system planting in the Boca da Mata village, strengthening the Indigenous community.
– The Pataxó live in a constant struggle to reclaim their land: More than 50,000 hectares (123,553 acres) have already been demarcated in the Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal Indigenous Territory, but the Pataxó people are in possession of only 9,000 hectares (22,240 acres) without being able to practice their traditional activities.

In Brazilian Amazon, mining harm comes from beyond just the mines, study shows by Maurício Brum — November 24, 2022
– A new land-use-change model suggests that the indirect impacts of mining operations in the Brazilian Amazon have been grossly underestimated.
– Impacts include not only deforestation but also loss of biodiversity, contamination of water sources, and health hazards for the Indigenous peoples living in the area.
– The calculation comes after years of government attempts to change existing regulations on protected areas and open them up to exploration.
– New roads opened for mining could cause 40 times more deforestation than the mines themselves, wiping out an area almost the size of Puerto Rico in the RENCA protected area in the northern Amazon.

U.N. report calls for the ban of mercury trade and its use in gold mining by Peter Speetjens — November 24, 2022
– Small-scale gold mining is the key driver of global mercury demand, according to a U.N. report on the highly toxic metal, with South America accounting for 39% of this demand.
– Hair samples taken from Indigenous communities in the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazonian regions showed mercury levels in excess of the safe limit prescribed by the World Health Organization.
– In Brazil specifically, mercury use has risen with the boom in illegal mining that has been largely overlooked — and in some cases even encouraged — by the government of President Jair Bolsonaro.

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.



Despite pledges, obstacles stifle community climate and conservation funding by John Cannon — November 23, 2022
In PNG, researchers find a large pigeon lost to science for 140 years by Liz Kimbrough — November 21, 2022
If there’s an elephant in the room, that’s because it’s not in a protected area by Jim Tan — November 21, 2022
Where is the money? Brazil, Indonesia and Congo join forces in push for rainforest protection cash by Shanna Hanbury — November 18, 2022
Alleged macaque-smuggling ring exposed as U.S. indicts Cambodian officials by Gerald Flynn — November 18, 2022