Newsletter 2023-01-12


Deforestation ‘out of control’ in reserve in Brazil’s cattle capital by Ana Ionova — January 11, 2023

– Forest destruction has ravaged Triunfo do Xingu, a reserve earmarked for sustainable use that has nonetheless become one of the most deforested slices of the Brazilian Amazon.
– Fires burned swaths of the reserve in recent months and forest clearing has surged, with satellite images showing even the most remote remnants of old-growth rainforest were whittled away last year.
– Advocates say the forest is mainly giving way to cattle pasture, although illegal mining and land grabbing are gaining ground.
– The destruction, facilitated by lax environmental regulation, is placing pressure on nearby protected areas and undermining agroforestry efforts in Triunfo do Xingu, advocates say.

Podcast: At COP 15, biodiversity finance, Indigenous rights, and corporate influence by Mike DiGirolamo — January 11, 2023


– Mongabay editor Latoya Abulu joins the Mongabay Newscast to discuss her visit to the United Nations conference on biodiversity in Montreal that occurred in December 2022.
– Latoya shares the details on the landmark Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework, which nearly 200 nations agreed to, toward halting and reversing global biodiversity loss by 2030.
– While the historic agreement has been lauded as a victory, particularly for its inclusion of the acknowledgment of Indigenous rights, biodiversity experts, advocates and Indigenous leaders alike have reservations.
– Latoya speaks about all this as well as corporate influence over the final text, such as the inclusion of “biodiversity credits,” which also raise some concerns.

Protecting canids from planet-wide threats offers ecological opportunities by Sean Mowbray — January 10, 2023


– Five species within the Canidae family are considered endangered. These species, while found far apart in North and South America, Asia and Africa, often share similar threats, including habitat loss, persecution, disease and climate change.
– For some at-risk canid species, loss of prey, particularly due to snaring, is a significant concern that can also exacerbate human-wildlife conflict. Ecosystem-level conservation that protects prey species populations is required to protect canids and other carnivore species, experts say.
– Conservationists and researchers emphasize that canids play important roles in maintaining the habitats in which they live. That makes protecting these predators key to restoring and maintaining functional ecosystems.
– In the face of widespread global biodiversity loss, some canid reintroductions are taking place and proving successful. These rewilding efforts are offering evidence of the importance of canids to healthy ecosystems and to reducing various ecosystem-wide threats, even potentially helping curb climate change.

Rumors and misconceptions threaten tokay geckos in Bangladesh by Rafiqul Islam — January 10, 2023


– Widespread misconceptions about the medicinal benefits of tokay geckos are leading to these common nocturnal lizards being hunted across Bangladesh.
– Wildlife traffickers set an exorbitant price on trapped geckos, based on rumors about their international demand. There is no documented evidence that buyers pay a high price for geckos.
– In the last five years, more than 250 geckos were recovered and more than 30 suspected wildlife smugglers arrested. In Bangladesh, a study found that gecko populations are estimated to have declined by 50% due to trade on the international market based on claims that the species holds medicinal qualities.
– Tokay geckos maintain ecosystem balance by preying on invertebrates, including moths, grasshoppers, beetles, termites, crickets, cockroaches, mosquitoes and spiders.

In Ecuador, communities protecting a ‘terrestrial coral reef’ face a mining giant by Liz Kimbrough — January 9, 2023


– For nearly 30 years, communities have worked to conserve, restore and defend the cloud forests of the Intag Valley in Ecuador, in what locals say is the longest continuous resistance movement against mining in Latin America.
– The tropical Andes are considered the world’s most biodiverse hotspot, ranking first in plant, bird, mammal and amphibian diversity; however, less than 15% of Ecuador’s original cloud forests and only 4% of all forests in northwestern Ecuador remain.
– Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, plans to open a mine in the Intag Valley that would destroy primary forest and lie within the buffer area of Cotacachi Cayapas National Park — a plan that experts say would be ecologically devastating and not worth the cost.
– Communities are using the presence of two threatened frog species — previously thought to be extinct — at the mining site to challenge the project under the “rights of nature,” Ecuador’s constitutional guarantee that natural ecosystems have the right to exist, thrive, and evolve.

From deforestation to restoration: Policy plots path to Amazon recovery by André Schröder — January 6, 2023


– Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s new president, took office and promised to halt deforestation and to restore degraded land but plans to regenerate deforested areas remain unclear.
– The Science Panel for the Amazon at the COP27 climate summit provided the scientific basis to guide debates and decisions around the large-scale recovery of deforested and degraded areas.
– The most significant opportunity for large-scale and low-cost restoration is concentrated in public forests, protected areas and Indigenous lands that have suffered recent degradation.
– For areas with high levels of degradation, especially on private lands, productive restoration models capable of providing sustainable economic development are the main bet.



Harpy eagle: the challenge of protecting the Amazon’s largest bird of prey by Sibélia Zanon — January 12, 2023
– Monitoring, research, tourism, photography and environmental education are the tools to protect Brazil’s largest bird of prey, which currently has large and diverse populations only in the Amazon.
– The Harpy Eagle Project has spent 25 years monitoring more than 60 nests in the Amazon, the Cerrado region and the Atlantic Forest; one of its programs aims to approach conservation in an integrated way, by returning to nature every bird that is capable of not remaining in permanent captivity.
– Habitat loss, hunting and collision with high voltage wires are the main threats to the species; it is also common for people to shoot a harpy out of mere “curiosity.”
– Researchers point out that with the worsening of climate change, the harpy eagle will have a reduced distribution and may disappear from regions such as the Arc of Deforestation, at the edge of the Amazon.

El Salvador poised for big year of roadbuilding, despite environmental concerns by Maxwell Radwin — January 12, 2023
– El Salvador has prioritized refurbishing and expanding its road system, in many cases destroying habitats for vulnerable species.
– 2023 looks to be yet another ambitious year for roadbuilding, with the government announcing several “large-scale” infrastructure projects throughout the country.
– One of the biggest projects, the Los Chorros Highway, requires removing thousands of trees in an area frequented by migratory birds and several endangered species. It would also relocate nearly 199 families.

Dammed, now mined: Indigenous Brazilians fight for the Xingu River’s future by Andrew Johnson — January 12, 2023
– Canadian mining company Belo Sun wants to build a huge gold mine in the Big Bend of the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon, but faces opposition from Indigenous communities.
– In addition to the environmental impacts, experts warn of the risk of the proposed tailings dam rupturing, which could flood the area with 9 million cubic meters (2.4 billion gallons) of toxic waste.
– The same region is already suffering the impacts of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, which diverts up to 85% of the flow of the Xingu River, leading to a mass decline in fish that traditional riverside dwellers and Indigenous people rely on.
– The Belo Sun project was legally challenged last year, prompting supporters to harass and intimidate those who oppose the mine’s construction; tensions in the region remain high.

Venezuela’s Yapacana National Park suffering increasing mining deforestation: report by Maxwell Radwin — January 11, 2023
– Satellite imagery analyzed by NGO Amazon Conservation revealed that illegal mining operations in Yapacana National Park, located in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas, are clearing protected forest much faster than previously thought.
– Over 750 hectares (1,870 acres) of deforestation took place between 2021 and 2022 in the mining area of the park.
– Although law enforcement carried out raids in the area last December, many experts believe the problem will persist amid government complacency.

Murdered Belize environmentalist helped boost marine conservation through technology by Maxwell Radwin — January 10, 2023
– Jon Ramnarace, who worked on protected area patrol and marine conservation technology, was shot and killed alongside his brother David in Belmopan on December 31.
– The main suspect, police corporal Elmer Nah, was taken into custody in January and charged with two counts of murder and attempted murder, deadly means of harm and dangerous harm.
– Ramnarace dedicated his life to protecting land and marine habitats in Central America, most recently in the Turneffe Atoll off the Belizean coast.

Weakening of agrarian reform program increases violence against settlers in Brazilian Amazon by Andrew Johnson — January 10, 2023
– Residents of a landless workers’ settlement in Anapu, Pará state, in Brazil’s Amazon region, accuse the federal government of favoring large landowners, land-grabbers and corporations at the expense of poor and landless peasants.
– This year, the settlers have already suffered three attacks by landowners, with houses set on fire and a school destroyed.
– In 2021, Incra, the Brazilian federal agency responsible for addressing the country’s deep inequalities in rural land use and ownership, made an agreement with the mining company Belo Sun, which ceded 2,400 hectares (5,930 acres) of an area reserved for agrarian reform for gold exploration in exchange for equipment and a percentage of mining profits.
– In protest, landless peasants occupied one of the areas included in the agreement; since then, they have been threatened and intimidated by Belo Sun supporters and armed security guards hired by the mining company.

Indonesia’s biofuel push must go beyond palm oil to reduce risk, experts say by Hans Nicholas Jong — January 10, 2023
– Indonesia faces deforestation, energy and security risks from its overreliance on palm oil as a feedstock for its biofuel transition program, observers say.
– The government will in February increase the biofuel blend in diesel to 35%, from the current 30%, with an eye on a 50:50 blend by 2025 — and eventually fossil-free biodiesel.
– But the program calls for a massive increase in palm oil production — and with yields largely stagnant, this will almost certainly mean clearing more land to establish new oil palm plantations.
– Experts say the government should diversify its sources of biofuel feedstock to curb the expansion of plantations into forests and to reduce the other risks that comes from relying on a single feedstock.

Accelerating biodiversity-positive impact: A conversation with Silverstrand Capital’s Kelvin Chiu by Rhett A. Butler — January 10, 2023
– Last month, delegates meeting at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference reached agreement on a plan to protect and restore 30 percent of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. The accord was widely seen as a positive development for efforts to address the global extinction crisis, which often struggles to attract the public’s attention and investment relative to climate change.
– Recognizing the importance of accelerating investment and innovation in biodiversity conservation, Silverstrand Capital–a Singapore-based family office–last year launched a program that provides capital, in-kind services and coaching, and other forms of support to companies and organizations that are developing “biodiversity-positive” solutions.
– “Climate action is important, but climate is just one aspect of planetary health,” said Silverstrand Capital’s Founder Kelvin Chiu. “Collectively we should widen our perspectives beyond carbon. Nature is inherently complex, and biodiversity as a metric captures such complexity more holistically than carbon.”
– Chiu recently spoke with Mongabay about the importance of biodiversity, obstacles in bringing biodiversity solutions to scale, and creating biodiversity-positive impact.

‘Funai is ours’: Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency is reclaimed under Lula by Karla Mendes — January 9, 2023
– Some 300 people reunited at the headquarters of Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency, Funai, in Brasília to mark a “new era” for the institution and its “reopening” under the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
– Under the government of former president Jair Bolsonaro, Funai’s officials said they were “forced to not fulfill our mission” regarding Indigenous peoples’ rights.
– Joenia Wapichana, who was the first ever Indigenous woman elected to Brazil’s Congress played a central role thwarting Bolsonaro’s bid to undermine Funai, has been appointed the president of the institution.
– Funai’s formal name has also been changed from the National Indian Foundation to the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples — a request from Native peoples leaders accepted by Lula and issued on his very first day in office.

Is Indonesia serious about stopping climate change and boosting renewable energy? (commentary) by Firdaus Cahyadi — January 9, 2023
– Is Indonesia serious about making a renewable energy transition?
– A new op-ed argues that it is not, as the government and banks continue to permit and fund electricity sources reliant on fossil fuels.
– “Will we as citizens remain silent when the government is not serious about carrying out the energy transition agenda?” the writer wonders.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Indonesia prosecutors decry ‘lenient’ sentences in palm oil corruption case by Hans Nicholas Jong — January 9, 2023
– An Indonesian court has found a top trade ministry official, a prominent economist and three palm oil executives guilty for violating requirements to ensure supplies of palm oil for the domestic market.
– The five were convicted of conspiring to export crude palm oil to the international market, where prices are higher, rather than allocating it for the Indonesian market, where the government had imposed a price cap.
– Executives from three companies — the Permata Hijau Group, Wilmar Nabati Indonesia, and Musim Mas — were among those jailed.
– Prosecutors and anticorruption activists say the sentences and fines imposed by the court are far too lenient in light of the suffering they caused to the public; prosecutors say they will appeal for stronger sentences and higher fines.

For Philippines’ unprotected hotspots, new conservation window beckons by Keith Anthony S. Fabro — January 9, 2023
– Scientists have identified 228 key biodiversity areas in the Philippines, but only 91 are currently part of the country’s network of protected areas.
– Conservationists see an opportunity in the adoption of the new Global Biodiversity Framework, which commits signatories like the Philippines to protecting 30% of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030.
– However, experts caution that protecting biodiversity is not as simple as creating new protected areas on paper, and that care needs to be taken to protect the rights and interests of Indigenous and local communities.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for January 2023 by — January 6, 2023
– Mongabay’s December videos covered an investigation of land grabbing in Brazil, a biomass producer outed by a whistleblower in the U.S., farmers facing drought in India, rising seas in Sierra Leone, and more.
– While the Chasing Deforestation episode shows us how a religious group is clearing the Amazon in Peru, the latest Mongabay Explains episode throws light on why bottom trawling is so controversial.
– Watch how monoculture has degraded the soil in Brazil, how the government means to secure fast-eroding islands in India, how cocoa plantations in Brazil helped recover degraded land, and India’s experiments with cage-based aquaculture.
– Get a peek into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

Sumatran tiger arrives at Tacoma captive-breeding program by Jeremy Hance — January 6, 2023
– A male Sumatran tiger has arrived at a captive-breeding program in Tacoma, Washington state, where it’s hoped more of the critically endangered cats will be born.
– Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers survive in the wilds of Sumatra today, where forest loss is pushing many of the island’s species, including tigers, into smaller pockets of habitat.
– This article was produced in collaboration with McClatchy News.

Locals fight to save ‘a piece of the sea’ in Venezuela’s Andes by María Fernanda Rodríguez and Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez Torres — January 5, 2023
– Urao is the only brackish continental lagoon in Latin America, significant for its minerals and the livelihoods it supports, but threatened by encroaching development in the Venezuelan state of Mérida.
– Fundalaguna, an Indigenous- and community-led NGO, has since 2016 worked to restore the shrinking lagoon by getting it designated as a Ramsar wetland, which would bring some measure of international protection.
– As part of its advocacy, the NGO holds eco talks at local schools to educate young people about the importance of saving the lagoon.
– At the same time, reforestation efforts and two very rainy years have saved the lagoon for the moment and brought back fish and migratory birds, but advocates say further hydrological works are needed to bring Urao back to its original state.

Island conservation should focus on land-sea links for most impact, paper says by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — January 5, 2023
– A new perspective piece in PNAS explores the idea that people, wildlife and the environment of islands thrive when conservation efforts focus on restoring both the land and sea together.
– One way to restore land-sea connections on islands is to eradicate invasive species, such as rats, which can harm native island species like seabirds and crabs.
– Research has shown that terrestrial and marine ecosystems reap benefits when invasive species are eliminated from islands.



Mongabay’s most impactful investigations of 2022 by — December 30, 2022
Top mangrove news of 2022 by Morgan Erickson-Davis — December 30, 2022
From declining deforestation to quitting coal, Indonesia marks a pivotal 2022 by Isabel Esterman — December 30, 2022
In Brazil’s Amazon, land grabbers scramble to claim disputed Indigenous reserve by Ana Ionova — December 29, 2022
Top 15 species discoveries from 2022 (Photos) by Liz Kimbrough — December 29, 2022
What happened in the world’s rainforests in 2022? by Rhett A. Butler — December 29, 2022