Newsletter 2022-12-29



Mongabay’s top 10 stories of 2022 by Isabel Esterman — December 29, 2022

– In 2022, Mongabay published 4,900 articles, with original reporting in six languages.
– A total of 23 million readers spent more than 14.4 million hours reading Mongabay stories this year.
– Here are the posts that captured the most reader attention in 2022.

Podcast: A bittersweet bioacoustics bonanza by Mike Gaworecki — December 27, 2022


– After six years and 150+ episodes, podcast host Mike Gaworecki is putting his microphone down. The show will go on, but will miss his expertise and command of conservation science’s myriad facets.
– One of his favorite topics to cover on the show over the years has been bioacoustics, the use of acoustic recording technology to study the behavior, distribution, and abundance of wildlife.
– For his final episode hosting the Mongabay Newscast, Mike shares an array of his favorite bioacoustics interviews that illustrate the breadth and potential of this powerful conservation technology.
– Over half a million downloads later, listen to his bittersweet farewell thoughts, and the range of recordings–from forest elephants to the Big Apple’s resident dolphins–he shares, here on this page, or find the Mongabay Newscast via your favorite podcast provider.

The Netherlands to stop paying subsidies to ‘untruthful’ biomass firms by Justin Catanoso — December 23, 2022


– On December 5, 2022, Mongabay featured a story by journalist Justin Catanoso in which the first ever biomass industry insider came forward as a whistleblower and discredited the green sustainability claims made by Enviva — the world’s largest maker of wood pellets for energy.
– On December 15, citing that article and recent scientific evidence that Enviva contributes to deforestation in the U.S. Southeast, The Netherlands decided it will stop paying subsidies to any biomass company found to be untruthful in its wood pellet production methods. The Netherlands currently offers sizable subsidies to Enviva.
– Precisely how The Netherlands decision will impact biomass subsidies in the long run is unclear. Nor is it known how this decision may impact the EU’s Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) certification process, which critics say is inherently weak and unreliable.
– Also in December, Australia became the first major nation to reverse its designation of forest biomass as a renewable energy source, raising questions about how parties to the UN Paris agreement can support opposing renewable energy policies, especially regarding biomass — a problem for COP28 negotiators to resolve in 2023.



The least social of the African antelopes: the bushbuck | Candid Animal Cam by Romina Castagnino — December 29, 2022
– Every two weeks, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

2022’s top ocean news stories (commentary) by Aaron Roan, Callie Leiphardt, Douglas McCauley, Neil Nathan and Rachel Rhodes — December 29, 2022
– Marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, share their list of the top 10 ocean news stories from 2022.
– Hopeful developments this past year include the launch of negotiations on the world’s first legally binding international treaty to curb plastic pollution, a multilateral agreement to ban harmful fisheries subsidies and a massive expansion of global shark protections.
– At the same time, the climate crises in the ocean continued to worsen, with a number of record-breaking marine heat waves and an accelerated thinning of ice sheets that could severely exacerbate sea level rise, underscoring the need for urgent ocean-climate actions.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

For Nepal, 2022 was a roaring Year of the Tiger by Abhaya Raj Joshi — December 29, 2022
– Nepal was home to 121 tigers in 2010, the same year that it and 12 other tiger range countries agreed to double the big cat’s global population by 2022.
– Since then, Nepal has nearly tripled that figure, and is now home to 355 tigers, As the number of tigers has increased, cases of attacks on humans and livestock have also gone up, raising concerns over the price that local communities are paying for tiger conservation success.
– Overemphasis on tigers may also be leading to neglect of other important species that are just as threatened, experts warn. Despite the success, threats remain: government plans to build roads and railways through important habitats could severely affect tiger populations, a study has found.

Mongabay’s top Amazon stories from 2022 by Alexandra Popescu — December 29, 2022
– Violence against activists and Indigenous people in the Amazon has made world headlines, with little progress on tackling impunity.
– The victory of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil’s presidential race and a more prominent role in the government for Indigenous representatives have brought more hope around slashing deforestation and preventing the Amazon from reaching a point of no return.
– Infrastructure and mining projects have continued sprouting across the Amazon basin, threatening the livelihoods of Indigenous people and driving more forest loss.
– Deforestation rates in Brazil dropped by about 11% in 2022, but an overview of President Jair Bolsonaro’s term shows the worst forest loss in decades.

Brazilian archbishop is threatened for defending Indigenous peoples — even during Mass by Elizabeth Oliveira — December 28, 2022
– Dom Roque Paloschi, president of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) and archbishop of Porto Velho in the state of Roraima, Brazil, has been under attack because he denounced Indigenous people’s rights violations.
– It has always been risky to live in Amazonia and defend social-environmental issues, but Paloschi says the situation has worsened greatly in the last four years — the period that coincides with Jair Bolsonaro’s administration.
– In 2021, 355 attacks against Indigenous people were reported in Brazil — the most since 2013, according to a CIMI report.

Amazon’s tallest tree at risk as deforestation nears by Sarah Brown — December 28, 2022
– Paru State Forest in the state of Pará was Brazil’s fifth-most deforested conservation unit in October, sparking concern for the region’s giant trees — including the tallest in the Amazon.
– The Paru State Forest is the world’s third-largest sustainable-use tropical forest reserve and, together with other conservation units in the region, belongs to a 22 million-hectare (54.3 million-acre) protected mosaic known as the Calha Norte of the Amazon River.
– Deforestation caused by cattle ranchers, illegal land-grabbers and gold miners is advancing in and around the conservation unit, which experts say shouldn’t be happening due to the region’s protected status.
– A new advisory board was formed this November to protect the Paru State Forest for the next two years by monitoring the use of natural resources and deforestation in the area.

Video: In Brazil’s Amazon, Quilombolas fight major palm oil firm for access to cemeteries by Karla Mendes — December 28, 2022
– Areas along the Acará River in northern Pará state are at the center of a six-year legal battle where Quilombolas — descendants of Afro-Brazilian runaway slaves — accuse Agropalma, the country’s second-largest palm oil exporter, of land-grabbing over their ancestral lands, including cemeteries, as revealed by Mongabay’s yearlong investigation.
– One of these areas is Our Lady of Battle Cemetery, where Mongabay witnessed in November 2021 Quilombolas celebrating the Day of the Dead for the first time in decades. They say access to the area was hampered since it became Agropalma’s “legal reserve” — the proportion of land that the Brazilian legislation obliges a private property owner to maintain in its natural state — in the 1980s.
– In this video, Mongabay exhibits what is called a “historic moment” and firsthand footage and interviews with Quilombolas going to this cemetery for the first time. This video also has impressive images of palm trees just a few steps from the graves at Livramento Cemetery, completely surrounded by Agropalma’s crops. Quilombolas accuse Agropalma of destroying three-quarters of its area to make way for its plantations; the company denies.
– “To support future lawsuits,” prosecutors in Pará state have cited the Mongabay investigation in their procedures looking into the conflicts between Quilombola communities seeking recognition of their territory and areas occupied by Agropalma.

Hunting for future-proof marine plants in the acidic waters bathing a volcano by Guia Baggi — December 28, 2022
– The naturally acidic seawater near an underwater volcano in Italy mimic pH levels that according to worst-case climate projections will be common by the end of the century and beyond.
– Scientists are studying local seagrass and seaweed responses to the acidic conditions.
– One question is whether they could be used for restoration purposes in other places that may become more acidic in a not-so-distant future.
– Even so, some researchers point out that these carbon-sequestering marine plants face more immediate challenges from pollution, habitat degradation and warming waters that need addressing for restoration to succeed.

Mongabay’s 10 most popular videos of 2022 by Lucia Torres — December 28, 2022
– Here we rewatch the top 10 favorite videos of 2022 on Mongabay’s YouTube channel.
– Indigenous communities and wildlife are among the main characters of the most-watched videos of the past year.
– Mongabay launched two new video series called “Chasing Deforestation” and “Consumed.”

Top 10 notable Indigenous stories of 2022 by Latoya Abulu — December 28, 2022
– This year was a historic one for many Indigenous communities around the world that marked many ‘firsts’ with successful land rights rulings, both on the global and national level.
– As Indigenous rights, roles and contributions in biodiversity conservation gain more attention, underreported and critical issues impacting Indigenous peoples were thrust into the spotlight this year.
– To end this impactful year, Mongabay rounds up its 10 most notable Indigenous news stories of 2022.

Illegal orchid trade threatens Nepal’s ‘tigers of the plant world’ by Abhaya Raj Joshi — December 28, 2022
– Roughly 500 orchid species grow in Nepal’s forests, including a rare pale purple beauty that attracts thousands of pilgrims each April.
– Orchids are among the most diverse and charismatic plant groups in the world, and they are threatened by illegal and unsustainable trade, largely for Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
– Kathmandu-based NGO Greenhood Nepal has a project that outlines key steps for government agencies to take in efforts to curb illegal and unsustainable trade in Nepal’s orchids.

As dry season looms, Sumatra villagers hope their peat restoration pays off by Hans Nicholas Jong — December 27, 2022
– Community-led efforts to restore degraded peatlands in Indonesia’s Riau province could be put to the test in early 2023 as the dry season sets in.
– Riau is the perennial epicenter of the burning season on Sumatra Island, and is expected to have a more intense dry season after three consecutive years of wetter-than-usual conditions due to La Niña.
– A broad coalition of local governments, communities, researchers and NGOs have been working to restore peatlands that had been drained in preparation for planting, with the hope that restoring water levels will prevent burning.
– As part of the restoration programs, communities are also adapting their farming practices, learning to prepare the land without the use of fire, and picking crops that are suited for the wetter soil conditions.

Himalayan community takes initiative to help dogs, wildlife and itself by Abhaya Raj Joshi — December 27, 2022
– Feral dogs have long proved problematic to people, livestock and wildlife in Nepal’s Annnapurna region.
– Studies have shown a high prevalence of canine distemper among the dogs, which are also suspected of carrying other diseases that could be passed on to domestic animals, wildlife or even people.
– A project to vaccinate and neuter the dogs helped slow their population growth, but was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Since then, however, locals have revived the initiative on their own, and the success of their efforts have drawn requests for assistance from other Himalayan communities dogged by dogs.

Zero-deforestation commitments can push agriculture to other rich biomes, study warns by Maurício Brum and Sílvia Lisboa — December 27, 2022
– Zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) made by the palm oil industry and adopted by producers of other crops as well focus on preserving rainforests, while leaving other biomes unprotected.
– New research by the University of York shows that even if current ZDCs are fully met, around 167 million hectares of mostly tropical grassy and dry forest would remain open for agricultural expansion.
– Often confused with degraded areas that emerge after clearing the rainforest, those biomes are actually rich and biodiverse and also play a role in storing and capturing carbon.
– New EU legislation approved in December adds extra protection for rainforests, but could push even more agricultural production to other biomes, most of them in Africa and Latin America.

‘We’re not going to give Lula a free pass’: Q&A with Indigenous leader Beto Marubo by Jaqueline Sordi — December 27, 2022
– Despite his criticisms of the previous Workers’ Party (PT) administrations when it came to environmental issues, Beto Marubo, an Indigenous leader from Brazil, says he believes that the incoming president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, will be able to make Brazil a major player on the world stage in climate and environmental matters again from 2023 onward.
– Beto says he believes that pressure from civil society is more important than ever in ensuring the government-elect reassumes environmental protection commitments and in preventing the agribusiness lobby from sabotaging advances, as happened in Lula’s previous administrations.
– In an interview with Mongabay, Beto, a member of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), condemned the current government for the increases in deforestation and criminality in his region under its watch and reaffirmed his call for justice for the brutal murder of his friend Bruno Pereira and the journalist Dom Phillips in June this year.

In Indonesia’s Flores, a lifelong bamboo flautist looks to the next generation by Ebed de Rosary — December 27, 2022
– Flautist Marselus Selu has started a music collective on the island of Flores to foster traditional wind instruments made from native bamboo.
– The 64-year-old taught himself to build and play the instruments as a teenager.
– In nearby Langagedha village, Margaretha Dae has become the first woman to plant bamboo, contributing to improved water storage and reducing carbon emissions.

Of Yetis and extinct turtles: Top wildlife discoveries in Nepal in 2022 by Abhaya Raj Joshi — December 26, 2022
– Throughout 2022, Mongabay reported on new species discoveries in Nepal, some of them new to science and others spotted for the first time in the country.
– From busting the Yeti myth to highlighting important biodiversity hotspots in need of conservation, the stories helped bring the Himalayan country’s little-known wildlife to a wider audience.
– These are the top six stories related to important scientific discoveries in Nepal this past year.

Shadows of oil in Peru: Shipibo people denounce damage, contamination left by company by Enrique Vera — December 26, 2022
– Community members guided a team of journalists to the creeks and land of Canaán de Cachiyacu and Nuevo Sucre, in the district of Contamana in Peru’s Loreto region, to demonstrate how they have been affected by the various spills attributed to the Maple Gas oil company for over 25 years.
– Shipibo community members say that due to contaminated water, they still suffer from illnesses and their farms no longer produce crops. The contract established that the company must comply with environmental protection laws, but Perupetro confirmed that it simply abandoned its operations.
– Mongabay Latam traveled to two Indigenous communities on the banks of the Ucayali River and listened to the concerns of their residents regarding the serious environmental impact that they claim was caused by the operations in Block 31-B and Block 31-E.

Fighting wildlife trafficking in Peru: Q&A with prosecutor Alberto Caraza by Maxwell Radwin — December 26, 2022
– The department of Loreto, in northeast Peru, shares a nearly uninhabited border with Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil, making it ideal for illegal logging and wildlife trafficking.
– A law passed in November allows prosecutors to treat wildlife traffickers as organized crime groups with harsher sentences.
– Loreto prosecutor Alberto Yusen Caraza Atoche, who specializes in environmental crime, spoke to Mongabay about protecting the department’s vast Amazonian rainforest, and how Peru’s recent political upheaval impacts that work.

Mongabay Explains: What’s all the brouhaha over bottom trawling? by — December 23, 2022
– A new episode of “Mongabay Explains” examines the controversial fishing method known as bottom trawling, in which vessels drag a net across the seafloor to scoop up bottom-dwelling marine life.
– Ever since the 14th century, fishers who use other gear types — later joined by conservationists and scientists — have objected to bottom trawling, saying the gear takes too many fish and destroys seafloor habitat that’s essential to the functioning of marine ecosystems.
– Proponents of bottom trawling, however, argue that the practice provides an important share of our seafood as well as numerous jobs, and cannot be abandoned.
– In this video, Mongabay takes a look at bottom trawling and the reasons it’s so controversial.

‘We are digital guerrilla fighters’: Q&A with young Indigenous activist Samela Sateré Mawé by Carolina Conti — December 23, 2022
– Samela Sateré Mawé, a leading voice among Brazil’s Indigenous youth, spoke to Mongabay about the importance of social media to Indigenous peoples as a means to carry out their activism.
– Samela also spoke about the videos she produces for an Indigenous audience, which seek to tackle and explain topics that are difficult to understand through conventional media: “Making didactic videos on the internet is about trying to simplify and democratize the news, so everyone can understand what is really happening.”
– Having recently attended COP27, the UN climate change conference, Samela shared her feelings on the event as well as her perspectives for 2023.

10 notable books on conservation and the environment published in 2022 by John Cannon — December 23, 2022
– The books on this year’s list center on some of the knottiest problems facing humanity, from climate change to biodiversity loss to the spillover of viruses from other species to humans.
– But they also center on hope and solutions, gleaned from our growing but still nascent understanding of the world around us.
– The list below features a sampling of important literature on conservation and the environment released in 2022.
– Inclusion in this list does not imply Mongabay’s endorsement of a book’s content; the views in the books are those of the authors and not necessarily of Mongabay.

Guatemala landfill feeds ‘trash islands’ hundreds of miles away in Honduras by Maxwell Radwin — December 23, 2022
– An estimated 20,000 metric tons of trash from the Guatemala City landfill flows down the Motagua River into the Caribbean each year, where it washes ashore on Honduran beaches and forces residents to form cleanup efforts.
– While cleanup efforts are a good temporary solution, the root cause of the problem is poor waste management infrastructure at the landfill, something that has proven extremely difficult to address due to complex social issues and the cost of relocating waste disposal sites to other parts of the country.
– The trash also comes from illegal dumping along the river.
– As a stopgap, some stakeholders are focused on catching the trash in the rivers before it can reach the ocean.

Tobacco: Vaping and smoking drive environmental harm from farm to fingertip by Sean Mowbray — December 22, 2022
– Electronic cigarettes heavily marketed via single-use flavored products are increasingly popular. These products require disposal of large amounts of hazardous waste, including huge quantities of lithium, a resource in demand for electric car batteries and rechargeable electronics for laptops and mobile phones.
– Even as vaping use grows, an estimated 6 trillion “traditional” cigarettes are still smoked annually; 4.5 trillion are thought to be discarded into the environment each year. Researchers and activists emphasize that the tobacco industry is responsible for considerable harm to nature and human health.
– Traveling along the supply chain, tobacco production and consumption has consequences for forests, oceans, the climate, and for farmers and their families who produce the crop — all to an extent not yet fully known or understood.
– Efforts are underway to rein in some of these negative impacts against the backdrop of an industry accused of consistently greenwashing to conceal an environmental footprint that is harming both nature and public health.

Unsustainable fishing to be banned in Irrawaddy dolphin’s Bornean sanctuary by Basten Gokkon — December 22, 2022
– Indonesia’s fisheries ministry is working with a conservation NGO to draw up plans prohibiting fishing gear considered dangerous to critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mahakam River in Borneo.
– The prohibition will apply to a stretch of the Mahakam that was designated a conservation area earlier this year and that’s home to 90% of the estimated 80 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mahakam.
– Among the practices they’re seeking to ban are fishing with a type of gill net known as rengge, electrofishing, poison fishing, and fixed-net fishing known as sawaran and kombongan.
– Local fishers are said to be supportive of the plan: “They want to continue fisheries but they also want to get rid of unsustainable fishing … because they care about the dolphins as well.”



Podcast: Into the Wasteland, part 3: Buried in Europe’s recycling by — December 20, 2022
Coffee capsules: Brewing up an (in)convenient storm of waste by Elham Shabahat — December 20, 2022
Brazil’s Pantanal is at risk of collapse, scientists say by Sharon Guynup — December 20, 2022
In Vietnam, a forest grown from the ashes of war falls to a resort project by Le Quynh — December 19, 2022