Newsletter 2023-01-19


Australian niobium mining project instills 16 years of anxiety for Malawi communities by Charles Mpaka — January 18, 2023


– In 2006, Australian mining firm Globe Metals & Mining began exploring for rare earth metals niobium and tantalum in Malawi’s Kanyika hills, confirming in 2012 its intention to begin commercial mining.
– The metals will be used in the manufacture of high-tech equipment like electric vehicle batteries and gas and wind turbines.
– For villagers being relocated for the mine, these high-tech goods hold little appeal when compared with the loss of their land, and with the 16 years they have been living in limbo while awaiting relocation.

At a rubber plantation in Liberia, history repeats in a fight over land by Ashoka Mukpo — January 17, 2023


– Last year, Mongabay visited the Salala Rubber Corporation in Liberia, which has been accused of sexually abusing women working on its plantation and grabbing community land.
– Salala is owned by Socfin, the French-Belgian agribusiness giant that operates rubber and palm oil plantations across West and Central Africa.
– In 2008, Salala received a $10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation, which advocates say was used to clear community land.
– In 2019, 22 communities in and around Salala’s plantation filed a formal complaint with the IFC, but the investigation has dragged on for years.

Poisoned by pesticides: Health crisis deepens in Brazil’s Indigenous communities by Aimee Gabay — January 16, 2023


– A recent report reveals communities in Brazil’s Mato Grosso region are contaminated by the agriculture industry’s increasing use of pesticides. About 88% of the plants collected, including medicinal herbs and fruits, on Indigenous lands have pesticide residue.
– Samples discovered high levels of pesticides in ecosystems and waters far from crop fields, including carbofuran — a highly toxic substance which is banned in Brazil, Europe and the U.S.
– Experts blame the lack of control by government officials for widespread environmental damage and an escalating health crisis among Indigenous populations, as communities report growing numbers of respiratory problems, acute poisonings and cancers.
– A spokesperson for the biggest agrochemical companies operating in Brazil disputes the findings of the report and numbers of people far from crop regions affected by pesticide usage.

For Indigenous Brazilians, capital attack was ‘scenario of war’ akin to deforestation by Karla Mendes — January 13, 2023


– The morning after protesters attacked government buildings in Brazil’s capital, Mongabay spoke with Indigenous Congresswoman Célia Xakriabá, who compared the act of vandalism to forest destruction: “This is this scenario of war when you deforest.”
– * Célia Xakriabá had just returned from seeing the damage to the National Congress building: “When they [the rioters] were there also in the Green Room, it made me remember that it is this scenario of war when the repossession takes place in the [Indigenous] territory.”
– One of the immediate effects of the attack was the temporary suspension of the official inauguration of longtime activist Sonia Guajajara as Brazil’s first minister of Indigenous peoples and Anielle Franco as minister for racial equality.
– The two women were finally sworn in on Jan. 11 at the Presidential Palace, despite the missing glass on the walls, the destroyed gallery of photos of former presidents, and a swath of destruction throughout the building. “[This] is the most legitimate symbol of this secular Black and Indigenous resistance in Brazil!” Sonia Guajajara said.


Reciprocal Water Agreements protect millions of hectares of Bolivian forest by Michelle Carrere — January 19, 2023
– In return for committing to protect their water producing forests, farming families living in upper watersheds receive incentives to help them develop sustainable production initiatives and to connect their homes to drinking water.
– These incentives are mainly funded by the municipality and from water service providers via a monthly payment made by service users.
– The model has expanded rapidly in Bolivia and is beginning to be replicated in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Mexico.

Understanding reptile intelligence can aid conservation and safeguard ecosystems (commentary) by Deyatima Ghosh — January 19, 2023
– Reptile intelligence has long been considered inferior to that of birds and mammals. But recent studies in reptile cognition show reptiles have a profound understanding of their environment.
– Reptiles’ understanding of their surroundings and their evolution of learning can play a part in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service provisioning, especially on agricultural lands.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

For threatened seabirds of NE Atlantic, climate change piles on the pressure by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — January 18, 2023
– A new report shows that puffins and other seabird species in the Northeast Atlantic are at risk from climate change.
– It warns most seabird species would lose a substantial amount of their current breeding sites and available prey due to climate change, but each species has unique challenges.
– The authors describe potential interventions that conservation experts can enact to protect the species, including the relocation of seabird breeding sites, supplementary feeding, and providing resources that help seabirds deal with extreme weather events such as flooding and heat waves.

Biodiversity, human rights safeguards crucial to nature-based solutions: Critics by Sahana Ghosh — January 18, 2023
– Nature-based solutions (NbS), a hotly debated concept, gained significant political traction throughout 2022, even as challenges and concerns over the failure to implement biodiversity and human rights safeguards in current and future NbS projects have increased among Indigenous peoples and NGOs.
– Recent global policy instruments have recognized NbS, including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in December 2022, and the U.N. climate summit cover decision agreed to in November. In March 2022, the U.N. Environment Assembly adopted a multilaterally agreed definition of NbS.
– Despite NbS policy advances, skepticism continues to swirl around the potential for misuse and abuse of nature-based solutions as a greenwashing mechanism by businesses to offset their ongoing carbon emissions, but without curbing them, and as a market mechanism to commodify and put a price tag on nature.
– Experts emphasize that there can be no successful nature-based solutions without the preservation of biodiversity and human rights. Therefore, projects that are a detriment to conservation, and involve monocultures, land grabs or human rights abuses, should be disqualified and rejected for not meeting the NbS definition.

Bird strike warnings resurface amid probe into deadly Nepal plane crash by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 18, 2023
– A bird strike by a plane approaching Nepal’s Pokhara International Airport the day after the deadly Yeti Airlines crash has focused attention on the possible cause of the accident.
– Mongabay has previously reported about conservationists’ concerns over the large number of birds, especially vultures, that frequent the area near the airport, and the risks posed to both aviation safety and wildlife conservation.
– Pilots familiar with the route have highlighted the last-minute change of approach by the pilot of Flight 691, suggesting it may have been prompted by a bird strike.
– A nearby landfill site that attracted birds was relocated before the airport’s opening, but a polluted river close by still draws scavenging birds, and will continue to do so in ever larger numbers, a conservationist warns.

Humanitarian experts report ‘cascading crises’ as climate, health emergencies soar by Mactilda Mbenywe — January 18, 2023
– Globally, humanitarian aid workers are facing complex climate and health crises that require urgent adaptations within a shrinking humanitarian space, according to a recent piece in the Lancet.
– About 274 million people worldwide are now in need of humanitarian assistance — up from 235 million in 2021 — as climate emergencies intensify.
– In Kenya, families on the shores of Lake Victoria were displaced at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and humanitarian organizations played a key role in supporting villagers to cope with the dual shocks.
– Data from Children Service Department show that currently, at least 3,420 children and 12 households in the Lake Victoria area are headed by children living in makeshift camps.

Indigenous Kogi worldview aims to change face of conservation for good by Kimberley Brown — January 18, 2023
– The Indigenous Kogi of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta in northern Colombia have been saying for decades that non-Indigenous populations are destroying the Earth, but now they want to share their knowledge about how to save it.
– Today, they are part of the very first UNESCO BRIDGES project, which focuses on finding solutions coming from communities, rather than experts bringing their idea of solutions into communities, which has long been problematic.
– The new project, called Reviving Water: Munekan Masha (“let emerge or be born”), will be led by the Kogi, teaching scientists and education experts from various universities about their conservation methods.
– Both the Kogi and non-Indigenous experts will also help develop Indigenous conservation methods for school curricula, to help Western science broaden its outlook, experts say.

‘Sustainable livelihoods go a long way’: Q&A with pangolin expert Tulshi Suwal by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 18, 2023
– Tulshi Laxmi Suwal has been studying pangolins her whole career, and today sits on the specialist group for the scaly anteaters at the IUCN, the global wildlife conservation authority.
– Suwal’s native Nepal is home to two of the eight pangolin species, the Chinese and Indian pangolins, both of which are threatened because of demand for their meat, scales and other body parts.
– A survey led by Suwal of Indigenous and rural communities across Nepal found that while awareness about the animals remains sketchy and superstitions abound, most people say they’re willing to contribute to the species’ conservation.
– Key to achieving this are education and awareness campaigns as well as access to alternative livelihoods that get people to stop hunting wildlife to eat, Suwal says.

More than half of reef sharks and rays threatened with extinction, study shows by Basten Gokkon — January 17, 2023
– More than half of known species of coral reef sharks and rays are already threatened with extinction, mostly because of overfishing, according to new research.
– The researchers reported that population trends were declining for 94 coral reef shark and ray species; of the two groups, rays were more threatened than sharks.
– Reef sharks and rays are typically caught for human consumption, and to a lesser extent for use in apparel or accessories, in aquarium displays, as food for domestic animals, and in traditional medicine.
– The study calls for urgent urgent measures to improve regional fisheries and marine protected areas management.

Corruption scandal in Thai parks agency has far-reaching impacts, activists say by Kannikar Petchkaew — January 17, 2023
– The head of Thailand’s parks department, Rutchada Suriyakul Na Ayutya, was arrested Dec. 27 after anticorruption authorities found envelopes and gift boxes in his desk containing the equivalent of nearly $150,000 in cash.
– Rutchada had allegedly demanded bribes from underlings to secure positions, as well as a cut of departmental budgets.
– Conservationists say corruption in the department, as well as recent budget cuts, has had severe implications for the country’s protected areas.

Innovators develop seaweed-based alternatives to plastic food wrappers by Jewel S. Cabrera — January 17, 2023
– Developers at Flinders University and the German biotech company one • five have created a seaweed-based coating designed to replace plastics used in fast food packaging.
– Many food containers and wrappers contain harmful plastics derived from fossil fuels that do not biodegrade and break into tiny microplastics that pollute the environment and harm marine ecosystems.
– In the Philippines, researcher Denxybel Montinola has developed another type of biofilm from mango and seaweed that he hopes to make commercially available this year.
– The development of seaweed-based bioplastics and coatings could boost the livelihoods of seaweed farmers who benefit from an industry that helps them feed their families and send their children to school.

How much of Bangladesh’s protected forests are really protected? by Mahadi Al Hasnat — January 17, 2023
– A move last year by the Bangladesh government to erase protections for a swath of reserved forest and award it to the country’s soccer federation for a training facility garnered outrage — but is only one example of how protected forests across the country continue to be degraded.
– The country has 51 protected areas that hold a combined 815,607 hectares (2.02 million acres) of forest meant to preserve biodiversity and wildlife, but state-sponsored development projects have emerged as one of the key threats to these conservation initiatives.
– In some protected areas, such as Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary, it’s firewood collection and farming by local communities that are driving much of the deforestation, prompting calls for the government to come up with alternative fuel and livelihood sources that leave the forests standing.
– The government has implemented a co-management approach to conserve forests while providing sustainable benefits to communities, but experts say this needs to be reassessed as deforestation rates are higher inside protected areas than in the surrounding areas where it’s implemented.

Q&A: Climatologist Carlos Nobre’s dream of an Amazon Institute of Technology by Jaqueline Sordi — January 16, 2023
– Three decades ago, Carlos Nobre projected a not-very-encouraging scenario for the Amazon. Today, he witnesses the beginning of the forest’s savannization, but he says he believes that the scenario can still be reversed.
– As an internationally renowned expert when it comes to the world’s largest tropical forest, Nobre is leading a project that intends to bring Amazonian countries together in developing research and educational centers focused on a “standing forest economy.”
– In an exclusive interview with Mongabay, he detailed the project of the Amazon Institute of Technology (AmIT) and spoke about what must be done to prevent the Amazon from reaching a point of no return.

More marine protected areas planned for Indonesia’s Maluku after 2022 spree by Nurdin Tubaka — January 16, 2023
– The Maluku Islands in Indonesia will protect more swaths of their seas this year, following from the designation of five marine protected areas in 2022 alone.
– The new protected areas will cover the waters around the western island of Buru, where fishing activity will be limited to traditional fishers using sustainable gear.
– Indonesia currently has 284,000 square kilometers (110,000 square miles) of marine area under protection, roughly two-thirds of its target of protecting 10% of its waters.
– The Maluku Islands sit within the Pacific Coral Triangle, an area renowned for its richness of corals and reef fish.

Fishers on Indonesia’s Batam Island suffer as mangrove cover declines by Yogi Eka Sahputra — January 16, 2023
– Fishing is becoming a meager profession in Indonesia’s industrial and resort hub of Batam.
– Satellite imagery shows that only 1.5% of the island’s landmass still retains mangrove habitat.
– Construction of dams, industrial estates and reservoirs are the primary causes of mangrove destruction, according to researchers and local environmental nonprofit Akar Bhumi.

Across the tropics, mammal activity doesn’t vary much, study shows by Liz Kimbrough — January 13, 2023
– A new study examines when and why mammals eat, sleep and move about, using 2.3 million camera trap photos from the Neotropics, Afrotropics, and Indo-Malayan tropics.
– The researchers found consistent patterns of daily activity across continents, with large carnivores and omnivores being more active during the day and larger herbivores being nocturnal. The main determining factors of daily activity were body size and diet.
– Insectivores were the exception, with larger species being more active during the day in the Americas, but more active at night in Africa and Asia. The activity patterns of carnivores match the activity patterns of their prey.
– The study results have important implications for conservation, the authors say: Knowing when and why different animals in a community are active is fundamental for protecting them, and can also help to mitigate conflicts between humans and animals.

Birds in Bangladesh find a new lease of life in community-run sanctuaries by Abu Siddique — January 13, 2023
– There are around 100 community-based bird sanctuaries across Bangladesh, built through the initiative of local bird lovers, and backed by local authorities and NGOs.
– The Bangladesh Forest Department has so far demarcated 24 wildlife sanctuaries catering to different types of wildlife species, from mammals and reptiles, to amphibians and birds.
– Bangladesh is the home to 714 bird species, more than half of them native and the rest migratory.
– Native bird populations have declined significantly in the past 30 years, from an estimated 800,000 birds in 1994, to 233,000 in 2017, and 163,000 in 2018.

The tiger in the snow: Cameras capture abundance of life in a Himalayan refuge by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 13, 2023
– Camera traps have captured tigers roaming at an elevation of 3,165 meters (10,384 feet) in eastern Nepal’s lower Himalayas — the highest they’ve ever been recorded in the country.
– Experts suggest a range of factors for this, including a growing tiger population that’s crowding some of the big cats out of the lowland plains and further uphill.
– Another set of camera trap images were captured in Dadeldhura district in western Nepal, which a previous study identified as a climate refugium, where temperatures remain relatively stable, allowing species to persist during regional and global climate changes.
– Other large mammals have also been recorded on camera trap here, including many that, like tigers, were previously thought to be confined to lower-elevation habitats.

Extreme heat takes a toll on tropical countries’ economies by Calvin Rock Odhiambo — January 13, 2023
– Extreme heat costs tropical countries more than 5% of their annual per capita GDP, new research shows, while more prosperous mid-latitude countries lose only about a 1% of GDP due to heat waves, which can even bolster economic growth in some instances.
– Poorer tropical countries suffer the worst effects of heat waves despite being least culpable and least economically capable of adapting.
– The effects of extreme heat and drought can hit hard in local communities, such as among Kenyan families who rely on cattle they can no longer feed.

Deliberate dumping of plastic trash in the Pacific: How widespread is it? (commentary) by Saam Shams — January 12, 2023
– In late August of 2022, the sea turtle conservation team of Osa Conservation in Costa Rica noticed a significant increase in plastic debris, mostly drink bottles, arriving on the beaches they patrol.
– An analysis revealed the region of their manufacture to mostly be East Asia, and the manner of their arrival suggested that this was a deliberate dumping of the plastic waste near Costa Rica, not from somewhere across the Pacific.
– This kind of illegal dumping activity has been documented elsewhere: “We need to find better ways to enforce internationally agreed laws such as MARPOL Annex V, which bans the dumping of plastics at sea,” a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.



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

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

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

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

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

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