Newsletter 2023-01-26


Logging threats loom over tree kangaroo refuge in Papua New Guinea by John Cannon — January 25, 2023


– Logging is threatening the Torricelli Mountains, a biodiversity-rich forested range in Papua New Guinea known for its tree kangaroos and other threatened species of birds and mammals.
– Community conservation efforts have helped to increase the numbers of tree kangaroos, once nearly pushed to extinction by hunting and logging, in conjunction with development projects for the people of the Torricellis.
– The Tenkile Conservation Alliance, a Papua New Guinean NGO, has led an effort to protect the area, but the government has yet to officially designate what would be the Torricelli Mountain Range Conservation Area.
– Satellite imagery shows the loss of forest and an increase in roadbuilding over the past two years. And residents of the Torricellis say that representatives of logging companies have been trying to secure permission to log the region’s forests.

Podcast: Botanists are disappearing at a critical time by Mike DiGirolamo — January 24, 2023


– The expansive field of botany could be facing a dearth of skilled experts due to a growing lack of awareness of plants, interest in studying them, and fewer educational opportunities to do so.
– Humans depend upon plants for basic survival needs, such as food, oxygen, and daily household products, but fewer students are receiving enough instruction to enable them to do much beyond basic identification.
– This lack of educational opportunities to study plants – and a general lack of interest in them – is leading to less ‘plant awareness’ and could endanger society’s ability to address existential problems like biodiversity loss and even climate change.
– The University of Leeds’s Sebastian Stroud joins the Mongabay Newscast to talk about his research highlighting this increasing lack of plant literacy, the consequences of it, and what can be done to turn it around.

Colombia’s ‘tree of life’ births a new culinary and conservation movement by Ocean Malandra — January 23, 2023


– Tamandua is a collective of families and small farmers who create food products from the nuts of the guáimaro tree, a keystone species of Colombia’s tropical dry forest, as well as from other nut-bearing native trees and other plants that can be grown in the shade.
– Guáimaro flour and other tropical dry forest products, produced through a regenerative agroforestry model that provides an alternative to cattle raising and monocropping, are beginning to enter Colombia’s culinary scene as sources of high-quality nutrition.
– This bioeconomy model could help save and expand tropical dry forests and provide a sustainable income for small farmers, proponents say.
– Colombia’s tropical dry forests are home to hundreds of plant and animal species, many of them endemic. They’re also one of the country’s most endangered forest ecosystems, occupying only 8% of their original extent.

Ecotourism and education: Win-win solution for Pantanal jaguars and ranchers by Sarah Brown — January 20, 2023


– Conflicts between cattle ranchers and jaguars are among the biggest threats to the big cat population in the Brazilian Pantanal, experts warn.
– Studies reveal that nearly a third of jaguars’ diets are cattle, causing economic losses to ranchers and consequent retaliatory killings.
– Conservationists are using new solutions, such as ecotourism, tourism fees and education, to protect both jaguars and the livelihoods of cattle ranchers.
– Empirical evidence suggests that jaguar populations in the Pantanal are now recovering, thanks to shifting perceptions of the wetland’s famous big cat.



Illegal road found in Yanomami land accelerates destruction by Dimitri Selibas — January 26, 2023
– In December, Greenpeace and the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) discovered a 150-kilometer- (93-mile-) long illegal road, as well as four hydraulic excavators in the Yanomami Territory, in Brazil’s northern Amazon region.
– While small-scale illegal miners have been active in the area for the past 50 years, the road and the use of heavy machinery could make mining activities 10-15 times more destructive.
– Currently, about 20,000 illegal miners operate across the Yanomami Territory, causing violence, health issues and child malnutrition for the region’s 27,000 Yanomami inhabitants.
– Newly elected President Lula has issued several decrees to protect Indigenous lands and the environment, most recently declaring a state of emergency in the Yanomami Territory.

Indigenous communities in Latin America decry the Mennonites’ expanding land occupation by Alexa Eunoé Vélez Zuazo — January 26, 2023
– A team of journalists followed in the footsteps of five Mennonite colonies that have been reported for clearing forests by Indigenous communities and locals in Bolivia, Colombia, México, Paraguay and Perú. Many of these cases are being investigated by prosecutors and environmental authorities.
– Authors of a recent study to understand the extension of Mennonite presence in the region say that the expansion will continue as the colonies grow in size and continue to pursue farming, creating new colonies.
– Many of these cases are being investigated by prosecutors and environmental authorities.

Banned but abundant, gillnets pose main threat to Bangladesh’s river dolphins by Abu Siddique — January 26, 2023
– Bangladesh is home to around 2,000 Ganga River dolphins and 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins, found mostly in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
– Both species, considered threatened on the IUCN Red List, run a high risk of entanglement in the gillnets used by local fishers.
– Gillnets are banned in Bangladesh, but remain popular among local fishers, with the government unable to crack down on their use.
– To conserve the freshwater dolphins, the government has embarked on a 10-year action plan that includes declaring more areas as dolphin sanctuaries and raising awareness among fishers.

To restore large carnivore populations, make people wealthier, study finds by Liz Kimbrough — January 25, 2023
– Encouraging sustainable social and economic development is the best way to prevent the extinction of carnivores such as lynx, bears and lions, according to a new study.
– Researchers found that social and economic factors, such as people’s quality of life, were more closely associated with declines of these species than purely environmental features like habitat loss or climate change. As people become wealthier, they are more likely to tolerate large carnivores.
– A key example is western Europe, where populations of grey wolves have increased by 1,800% since the 1960s due to better quality of life for people and slower economic growth on the continent.
– Rapid economic development often comes at the expense of other species, so advanced economies may need to provide financial assistance to help prevent these species from going extinct.

U.S. refuses calls for immediate protection of North Atlantic right whales by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — January 25, 2023
– The U.S. government has rejected requests to implement emergency measures to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from vessel collisions during the species’ calving season, which takes place between November and April each year.
– Some protections for right whales are already in place, but experts say urgent modifications are needed to protect pregnant females, lactating mothers and calves.
– There are only about 340 individual North Atlantic right whales left in the world, and birth rates are low.
– The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed similar protections for right whales, including the enforcement of speed limits across more extensive areas of the ocean and for the rules to apply to more vessels — but charity workers are cautious about the outcome of this proposal.

Re-carbonizing the sea: Scientists to start testing a big ocean carbon idea by Jeremy Hance — January 25, 2023
– Ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE) involves releasing certain minerals into the ocean, sparking a chemical reaction that enables the seawater to trap more CO₂ from the air and mitigating, albeit temporarily, ocean acidification.
– Some scientists believe OAE could be a vital tool for drawing down and securely storing some of the excess CO₂ humanity has added to the atmosphere that is now fueling climate change.
– Yet many questions about OAE remain, including most prominently how it would impact marine life and ecosystems.
– Several programs are aiming to spark the research needed to answer these questions, including field tests in the ocean.

Yanomami health disaster prompts outrage as Lula vows to tackle crisis by Sarah Brown — January 25, 2023
– An average of three Indigenous Yanomami infants have died every week over the past four years in Brazil from diseases that are considered treatable, an investigation shows alongside shocking pictures.
– Experts say that decades-long invasions by illegal miners in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory and the dismantling of health care systems under the administration of Jair Bolsonaro have caused a spiral of malnutrition and disease within the Yanomami population.
– Official complaints from Indigenous rights advocates and allies from at least 2018 have been systematically ignored, leading to a worsening of the problems.
– Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has called the crisis a genocide and vowed to tackle the problem with a series of immediate and long-term action plans.

Plastic works its way up the food chain to hit fishing cats, study shows by Sean Mowbray — January 25, 2023
– A recent study published in the journal Environmental Pollution found plastics in the scat of fishing cats dwelling in urban areas near Colombo, Sri Lanka.
– Different sizes of plastics, from micro to macro, were found in some samples, and were believed to have been ingested by the cats via their prey.
– Potential health effects on the vulnerable small cat species are unknown, but based on knowledge of the impacts of plastic on other species there is cause for concern, say conservationists.

Even in recovery, previously logged tropical forests are carbon sources: Study by Carolyn Cowan — January 25, 2023
– Logging of tropical forests may result in more carbon being released into the atmosphere than previously thought, according to new research.
– The study conducted in Malaysian Borneo demonstrates that logged tropical forests are a significant and persistent net source of carbon emissions for at least one decade after disturbance.
– The study authors say the amount of carbon being sequestered across the world’s tropical forests may be considerably lower than currently estimated and recommend a shift toward more sustainable logging practices and better accounting of carbon emissions and uptake.
– As the body of evidence expands demonstrating how human activity is impacting the capacity of forests to mitigate climate change, experts say reducing fossil fuel emissions is paramount.

The EU banned Russian wood pellet imports; South Korea took them all by Justin Catanoso — January 24, 2023
– In July 2022, the European Union responded to the war in Ukraine by banning the import of Russian woody biomass used to make energy. At roughly the same time, South Korea drastically upped its Russian woody biomass imports, becoming the sole official importer of Russian wood pellets for industrial energy use.
– The EU has reportedly replaced its Russian supplies of woody biomass by importing wood pellets from the U.S. and Eastern Europe. But others say that trade data and paper trails indicate a violation of the EU ban, with laundered Russian wood pellets possibly flowing through Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to multiple EU nations.
– EU pellet imports from Turkey grew from 2,200 tons monthly last spring to 16,000 tons in September. Imports from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan reportedly rose too, even though neither has a forest industry. A large body of scientific evidence shows that woody biomass adds significantly to climate change and biodiversity loss.
– Enviva, the world’s largest woody biomass producer, which operates chiefly in the Southeast U.S., may be the big winner in the Russian biomass ban. Since the war began, Enviva has upped EU shipments, and also announced a 10-year contract with an unnamed European customer to deliver 800,000 metric tons of pellets annually by 2027.

Chile’s denial of Dominga port project is a just energy transition victory and lesson (commentary) by Daniel Gajardo — January 24, 2023
– Last week, Chile rejected the Dominga copper and iron mining project and its port, proposed for a location near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve.
– Dominga’s estimated 20 to 30 years of operation would have jeopardized a marine biodiversity hotspot, along with human livelihoods and communities’ access to basic resources.
– “Dominga’s rejection is a victory for environmental justice and a lesson about the underlying tensions in the energy transition,” writes the author of a new op-ed.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Tense neighbors: Chinese quarry in Cameroon takes a toll on locals by Yannick Kenné — January 24, 2023
– Vibrations from explosive blasting operations carried out at the Chinese company’s Jinli Cameroon LLC stone quarry have impacted homes located next to the site which are beginning to show cracks.
– Local communities accuse the company of air and water pollution and not respecting its local development commitments.
– The quarry manager denies these allegations, pointing to their new road development leading to the mine which has increased the value of land in the village.
– Local authorities receive money from the quarry through taxes but are not responding to local demands to reinvest in the area.

Study identifies priority forests in Oregon for max conservation benefit by Liz Kimbrough — January 24, 2023
– The coastal temperate rainforests of Oregon are important carbon storage facilities and provide 80% of the state’s drinking water.
– A recent study is the first to combine data on drinking water sources, biodiversity, carbon storage and forest resilience to determine which forests are the highest priority for conservation.
– Most high-priority forests are on federal lands, but only 10% are protected at the highest levels, which forbids logging and other extractive activities.
– Protecting forests is important for carbon storage and water conservation, with the loss of forest cover shown to reduce water supplies by up to 50% compared to maintaining mature forests.

Sonia Guajajara: Turnaround from jail threats to Minister of Indigenous Peoples by Karla Mendes — January 24, 2023
– In this video interview a week before her official inauguration, Sonia Guajajara tells Mongabay what the four years of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s government meant for Native peoples, and she describes the turnaround preceding the creation of a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples — an unprecedented act in Brazil’s history — with a behind-the-scenes account of her appointment.
– “It was really [like a] hell. Everything we talked about was monitored,” she recalls the Bolsonaro government while speaking at her office in the newly created Ministry of Indigenous Peoples in Brasília.
– She says she never imaged herself a minister but she took the position due to the need for Indigenous peoples to participate directly in the country’s public decision-making powers, which she says she believes will also help end prejudice against Native peoples.
– After four years of consistent dismantling of Indigenous policies, she says a task force is working on the main “urgencies and emergencies,” including the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, in northern Roraima state, where a public health emergency was declared Jan. 22 given high levels of death due to malnutrition and diseases, including malaria, as a consequence of 20,000 illegal miners in the area.

FOIA lawsuit suggests Indonesian nickel miners lack environmental licenses by Eko Rusdianto — January 24, 2023
– A freedom-of-information ruling in Indonesia has indicated that two nickel miners suspected of polluting a river on the island of Sulawesi may not have all the required permits.
– The ruling, in a case filed by environmental journalists, ordered authorities in East Luwu district to publish the licensing documents for the two companies, but the authorities said some of the papers were still being processed.
– A lawyer for the environmental journalists points out that the companies should have already secured the licenses prior to operating, and that this revelation strongly points to them not having the licenses.
– The Indonesian government is pushing a massive expansion of the nickel mining and processing industries to feed the demand for electric vehicle batteries, but nickel mining in the country has long been associated with pollution and community conflicts.

From Japan to Brazil: Reforesting the Amazon with the Miyawaki method by Nieves Zúñiga — January 24, 2023
– Reforestation using the Miyawaki method seeks to restore nature to its original state with results that can be seen in around six years.
– Miyawaki works around three concepts: trees should be native, several species should be randomly planted, and the materials for the seedlings and the soil should be organic.
– The method is suitable for urban areas, which gives it a significant capacity to connect human beings with nature, with benefits for the health and well-being of the population.
– Different from other reforestation methods that may seek a financial return, like agroforestry, the motivation of the Miyawaki method is purely ecological.

Proximity to humans both boon and bane for Egyptian vultures in Nepal’s Pokhara by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 24, 2023
– Egyptian vulture populations have declined drastically across much of their range, with their status in Nepal’s Pokhara Valley looking no less dire.
– The species has long benefited from breeding and nesting near human settlements, where food in the form of dead livestock was previously abundant.
– But with the decline of livestock farming in the region, and an increase in other, unsafe, sources of food, the vultures’ proximity to humans is growing into a threat to their survival.
– A new study that highlights this threat also calls on stakeholders in the Pokhara Valley to strengthen measures to protect the species.

As sea lice feast away on dwindling salmon, First Nations decide the fate of salmon farms by Spoorthy Raman — January 23, 2023
– Increased sea lice infestations, scientists say are caused by salmon farms, threaten the already-vulnerable wild Pacific salmon populations in western Canada, worrying conservationists and First Nations.
– Three First Nations in the region are now deciding on the future of open net pen Atlantic salmon farms dotting the channels and waterways in and around their territories. They hope their decisions will pave the way to protect wild salmon, a culturally important species.
– So far, ten farms have been closed and the future of seven farms are to be decided this year, in 2023.
– The impact of the closure of the farms on sea lice and wild salmon populations is still unclear, say scientists, and more time to monitor the data is needed.

For Tanzania’s traditional beekeepers, modern hives just don’t buzz by Ryan Truscott — January 23, 2023
– Tanzanian beekeepers prefer traditional log beehives to modern hanging frame beehives, says a new study.
– Traditional beehives have a negative impact on surrounding woodlands in the country’s semiarid Chemba district, according to researchers.
– The high cost of modern hives are one deterrent to their wider adoption, but so are strong cultural attachments to traditional beekeeping.
– South African-pioneered agave log hives mimic traditional ones and could offer an alternative.

Rare case of rhino poaching jolts conservation community in Nepal by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 23, 2023
– A rare case of rhino poaching in Nepal has sent alarm bells ringing among conservationists, who say the method used could easily be replicated throughout the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park, the rhinos’ stronghold.
– Poachers appeared to have electrocuted a female rhino and her calf using a cable connected to a nearby temple’s power supply.
– Conservation officials say there’s a large number of grid-connected temples and other community buildings throughout Chitwan’s buffer zone that could serve a similar purpose.
– The incident is a rare setback for Nepal, which recorded zero rhino losses to poachers in six of the past 12 years, and only six poaching-related kills out of 165 rhinos that died in the past five years.

‘We lost the biggest ally’: Nelly Marubo on her friend Bruno Pereira’s legacy by Max Baring — January 23, 2023
– In June 2022, Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips were brutally murdered in the Brazilian Amazon. Mongabay interviewed Nelly Marubo, friend and colleague of Pereira, giving us a sense of who Pereira was from an Indigenous point of view and how he was perceived by the Indigenous people in the area where he was killed.
– Nelly says Pereira first learned from the Marubo and other Indigenous groups how they were patrolling their Indigenous territories; then he introduced modern technologies to help them in their work.
– Nelly rejects the idea that Indigenous experts like Bruno were leading Indigenous groups into conflict with the outside world; rather, he was responding to the urgent needs of the Marubo and other groups across Brazil.
– For her, Pereira has left a strong legacy among the Indigenous Marubo youth.

Updated red list raises red flags for Sri Lanka’s birds, especially endemics by Malaka Rodrigo — January 23, 2023
– Sri Lanka has published its latest assessment of the conservation status of birds, showing a worrying increase in the number of species considered threatened since the last assessment was published in 2012.
– The assessment covers 244 species, both endemic and migratory, and lists 19 as critically endangered, 48 as endangered, and 14 as vulnerable — the three “threatened” categories.
– It highlights as a key threat the loss of habitat due to climate change, which could shrink the suitable range for mountain species by up to 90%.
– The assessors have also called for aligning the national assessments for endemic species — those found only in Sri Lanka — with the global red list administered by the IUCN, with the latter identifying only eight of these species as threatened, while the former lists 20.

‘Your tiger killed my cattle’: As big cats thrive in Bhutan, farmers struggle by Heather Richardson — January 23, 2023
– Surveys suggest Bhutan’s tiger population is increasing, but so too are incidents of tigers preying on livestock.
– While Bhutan’s people have historically been tolerant of tigers and other large predators, and retaliatory killings remain infrequent, research shows financial losses and other risks posed by tigers are a major source of stress for subsistence farmers.
– A government fund to compensate farmers for lost livestock dried up in 2008; new efforts focus on community insurance schemes, protecting livestock and building conservation efforts at the community level.

EU demand for frogs’ legs raises risks of local extinctions, experts warn by Sean Mowbray — January 23, 2023
– The European Union is the world’s largest consumer of frogs’ legs from wild-caught species, most of them imported from Indonesia, according to a group of conservationists and researchers.
– A lack of transparency and environmental impact assessments connected to the trade is cause for concern and is increasing the risk of local and regional extinctions, they say.
– They note the trade also poses the threat of introducing pathogens that could affect frog populations in the importing countries.

Study aims to unmask fishing vessels, and owners, obscured by loopholes by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — January 20, 2023
– A new study reveals information about the shifting identities of the global fishing fleet, which can help tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) fishing.
– The research combines a decade’s worth of satellite vessel tracking data with identification information from more than 40 public registries to generate a first-of-its-kind global assessment of fishing compliance, foreign ownership of vessels, and reflagging.
– It found that nearly 20% of high seas fishing was likely unregulated or unauthorized, and that the reflagging of vessels, which operators may do to avoid oversight, mainly took place in ports in East Asia, West Africa and Eastern Europe.
– The researchers plan on making a broader data set publicly available soon and regularly updating this data so that authorities have access to timely information.

Murders of 2 Pataxó leaders prompt Ministry of Indigenous Peoples to launch crisis office by Karla Mendes — January 20, 2023
– On Jan. 17, 17-year-old Nawir Brito de Jesus and 25-year-old Samuel Cristiano do Amor Divino were shot dead in Brazil’s northeastern Bahia state, according to the state’s civil police.
– The crimes reportedly occurred when the two Indigenous leaders were returning to a resettlement farm, located within the limits of the Barra Velha Indigenous Territory, an area recognized in 2008 as being traditionally occupied by the Pataxó people but has since awaited its full demarcation.
– The newly created Ministry of Indigenous Peoples is setting up a crisis office to monitor land conflicts in the region with the Ministry of Justice and other authorities “to guarantee the rigorous investigation and punishment of the criminals, besides, of course, the protection of the Pataxó people.”
– Violence against Indigenous people this year is not isolated to Bahia. On Jan. 9, two Indigenous Guajajara were shot in the head in northeastern Maranhão state, near Maranwi village, close to the town of Arame, as confirmed by the state’s civil police.

Venezuela’s oil spill crisis reached new heights in 2022: report by Maxwell Radwin — January 20, 2023
– There were 86 oil spills and gas leaks in Venezuela last year, according to a report published by the Observatory of Political Ecology of Venezuela.
– The states of Zulia and Falcón had the most spills, with 31 and 29, respectfully. In both areas, the spills threatened marine ecosystems in the Caribbean and Lake Maracaibo.
– The spills are a result of aging infrastructure and a lack of regulations needed to maintain the country’s massive oil industry, the report said.

Invasive rats topple ecological domino that affects reef fish behavior by John Cannon — January 20, 2023
– A recent study reveals that the presence of invasive rats on islands can lead to behavioral changes in fish living on coral reefs offshore. A team of scientists found that damselfish have larger territories that they defend less aggressively on reefs near rat-infested islands.
– Rats and other rodents often tag along on ships. For hundreds of years, they’ve colonized islands around the world, where they feast on seabird chicks and eggs, decimating local populations.
– Seabirds deposit nutrient-rich guano on islands, some of which flows out to reefs and fertilizes the growth of algae.
– Smaller seabird numbers on rat-infested islands mean that fewer nutrients end up on reefs, and the algae there has lower nutritional value than off rat-free, seabird-rich islands. The study’s authors concluded that damselfish were less aggressive near islands with rats because it wasn’t worth the energy to defend a less valuable resource.

Violence in Brazil’s Amazon are also crimes against humanity, lawyers tell international court by Kimberley Brown — January 19, 2023
– Three organizations, including Greenpeace Brazil, filed a case with the International Criminal Court (ICC) pressing for the investigation into a network of politicians, law enforcement and business executives they suspect are responsible for systematic attacks against land defenders.
– They documented over 400 murders, 500 attempted murders, 2,200 death threats, 2,000 assaults and 80 cases of torture that occurred between 2011 and 2022.
– Former Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro is one suspect in these crimes, yet the organizations say the attacks are part of a larger system operating in Brazil, and will likely continue even when he’s out of office.
– If the criminal court choses to go forward with this case, it will be the first time they investigate crimes against humanity committed in the context of environmental destruction.

‘One of our greatest climate solutions’: Q&A with the U.S. National Agroforestry Center’s new director by Sarah Derouin — January 19, 2023
– Agroforestry is a climate solution that’s growing in popularity in the U.S., where a new leader is set to promote and support its adoption.
– The new director of the National Agroforestry Center brings decades of experience to the task, and previously served as the organization’s acting director.
– “Agroforestry is particularly appealing as it has the potential to be one of our nation’s greatest natural climate solutions, while providing so many other benefits,” Anne Marsh tells Mongabay in a new interview.

Indigenous people protect some of the Amazon’s last carbon sinks: Report by Maxwell Radwin — January 19, 2023
– A new report says forests managed by Indigenous communities tend to be carbon sinks rather than carbon sources, while areas under different management are often less predictable.
– Areas of the Amazon titled or under formal claim by Indigenous people have been some of the most secure and reliable net carbon sinks over the past two decades, sequestering more carbon than they’ve emitted.
– But Indigenous communities are feeling increasing outside pressure from economic development projects, one reason the report argues that Indigenous-managed forests must be secured.



Australian niobium mining project instills 16 years of anxiety for Malawi communities by Charles Mpaka — January 18, 2023
At a rubber plantation in Liberia, history repeats in a fight over land by Ashoka Mukpo — January 17, 2023
Poisoned by pesticides: Health crisis deepens in Brazil’s Indigenous communities by Aimee Gabay — January 16, 2023
For Indigenous Brazilians, capital attack was ‘scenario of war’ akin to deforestation by Karla Mendes — January 13, 2023