Newsletter 2023-02-02


‘Grumpiest cat’ leaves its calling card on the world’s highest mountain by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 31, 2023

– The presence of the manul, a cold-adapted wild cat the size of a domestic cat, has been confirmed on the slopes of the world’s highest mountain, thanks to scat samples retrieved from there in 2019.
– The confirmation by DNA testing marks the first time the elusive cat has been formally recorded in Nepal’s eastern Himalayan region.
– The first confirmed sighting of the manul, also known as Pallas’s cat, in Nepal came in 2012, in the country’s western Himalayan region.
– Conservationists say the latest finding can help inform conservation actions for the species, including the protection of its prey.

On Sumatra coast, mangrove clearing sparks scrutiny of loophole by Teguh Suprayitno — January 30, 2023

– Last year, a 100-hectare patch of mangrove trees in eastern Sumatra was cleared to make way for an oil palm plantation.
– Residents say small landowners’ claims were packaged together to form a plantation, averting the need for environmental checks or permits required of a corporate concession.
– Mangrove restoration is a pillar of Indonesia’s climate change agenda, though the clearing of some intact forests has persisted.

Liberian courts rubber-stamp export shipment of illegal logs by Ashoka Mukpo — January 27, 2023

– On Jan. 16, a timber company won a controversial lawsuit in Liberia, when a court ordered forestry officials there to allow a shipment of illegally harvested ekki logs to be exported overseas.
– The ruling was the latest chapter in a years-long saga that environmentalists say points to a breakdown of regulation in Liberia’s forestry sector.
– An unpublished report on the case prepared by Liberia’s Ministry of Justice and obtained by Mongabay implicates senior Liberian officials in serious violations of laws meant to protect the country’s forests.
– Sources told Mongabay the seized logs have been the subject of a heated dispute behind closed doors between President George Weah’s administration and international donors.

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.


The illegal jaguar trade is thriving online. Why aren’t governments stopping it? by Maxwell Radwin — February 2, 2023
– A new report from the Wildlife Conservation Society analyzes the buying and selling of trafficked jaguar parts online, revealing that most of the activity is happening in Latin America with little or no response from law enforcement.
– Researchers reviewed online archives of popular social media sites and online marketplaces for posts related to jaguar sales between 2009 and 2019.
– Teeth and skins were the most traded parts, and were commonly destined for China and other Asian countries.

‘The Mangrove Guy’: Q&A with Kelly Roberts Banda, Kenya’s lawyer-conservationist by Calvin Rock Odhiambo — February 2, 2023
– Kelly Roberts Banda is a Kenyan property and family lawyer best known for his work as a conservationist, planting mangroves and advocating for climate justice.
– According to government data, Kenya lost 20% of its mangroves between 1985 and 2009 primarily due to overharvesting, clearing for salt mining and shrimp harvesting, pollution and sedimentation.
– In addition to planting trees, Banda and his colleagues help local communities earn money through beehives in the mangroves, which readily attract bees.
– Banda’s passion for the environment stems from a childhood incident in which his home was flooded and he witnessed the damage from heavy rainfall throughout his neighborhood.

Changing circumstances turn ‘sustainable communities’ into deforestation drivers: Study by Kimberley Brown — February 1, 2023
– Subsistence communities can drive forest loss to meet their basic needs when external pressures, poverty and demand for natural resources increase, says a new study unveiling triggers that turn livelihoods from sustainable into deforestation drivers.
– The impact of subsistence communities on forest loss has not been quantified to its true extent, but their impact is still minimal compared to that of industry, researchers say.
– Deforestation tends to occur through shifts in agriculture practices to meet market demands and intensified wood collecting for charcoal to meet increasing energy needs.
– About 90% of people globally living in extreme poverty, often subsistence communities, rely on forests for at least part of their livelihoods—making them the first ones impacted by forest loss.

‘War with weeds’ lacks ecological understanding and empathy (commentary) by Nimal Chandrasena — February 1, 2023
– ‘Weeds’ are plants with special botanical and ecological attributes that allow their rapid establishment in disturbed areas, helping to reduce erosion of soils.
– Many weedy species have also proven their usefulness as medicines and food, going back several millennia. Wildlife, too, can benefit from such plants.
– Yet these plants are often the focus of a ‘war on weeds’ which is unfortunate and misguided, the author of a new book on the topic argues. “Can weeds be appreciated for their critical ecological roles? Can they be managed in situations where they may become problematic?” he asks.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Joenia Wapichana: ‘I want to see the Yanomami and Raposa Serra do Sol territories free of invasions’ by Karla Mendes — February 1, 2023
– In this video interview two weeks before the health disaster outbreak in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, Joenia Wapichana, the first Indigenous woman named president of Brazil’s national Indigenous affairs agency, Funai, says one of her priorities at the institution is the expulsion of 20,000 illegal gold miners from the area.
– “Indigenous health is a chaos there. Children are dying of malaria and malnutrition. So, it is not simply a matter of removing the miners, but you have to take immediate action to ensure security there,” she tells Mongabay at Funai’s headquarters in Brasília.
– Joenia Wapichana says coordinated actions are required among several governmental entities with “permanent oversight” to put an end to this crisis: “It’s not simply remove [the wildcat miners] and leave no one there to protect.”
– Given Funai’s precarious budget of 600 million reais ($118 million) per year, she says cooperation agreements with other countries, a successful strategy in the past, will be key to carrying out the demarcation of Indigenous lands in the Amazon that were stalled under the government of Jair Bolsonaro.

Thai government turns its sights on illegal coral trade by Kannikar Petchkaew — February 1, 2023
– For years, Thailand has focused on curtailing its illegal trade in terrestrial wildlife.
– Recently, the country has begun trying to do the same for marine coral species, primarily those caught up in the ornamental aquarium trade.
– New laws, higher penalties for breaking them, beefed-up enforcement and a national mandate to curtail illegal coral trade are all part of Thailand’s efforts to end the trade in its corals.
– While authorities have made several arrests, they have yet to bust any high-profile coral traders.

JBS is accused of misleading investors with suspicious green bonds by Fernanda Wenzel — February 1, 2023
– The global NGO Mighty Earth has filed a complaint against the beef giant JBS with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accusing the company of misleading investors in a sustainability-linked bonds issuance that raised $3.2 billion for the company in 2021.
– The bonds were attached to JBS’ promise to reduce its climate footprint and become net-zero by 2040. According to Mighty Earth, these targets don’t include cattle enteric fermentation and deforestation, which account for 97% of JBS’ emissions.
– JBS argues it can’t measure its indirect emissions and that it has always been transparent with investors about the scope of its commitments.
– The case will probably be analyzed by SEC’s recently created Climate and ESG Task Force, which has already punished heavyweights such as the mining company Vale and the international financial group Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Western monarch populations reach highest number in decades by Liz Kimbrough — January 31, 2023
– The western monarch butterfly population reached its highest number since the year 2000, with more than 335,000 butterflies counted during the annual Thanksgiving Western Monarch Count in California and Arizona.
– Western monarchs winter in California and migrate thousands of miles every year, in a migratory cycle that takes three or four generations. They are counted annually in their by volunteers at these sites.
– The population rebound is a positive development, but the species is still considered endangered and far from its population numbers in the 1980s when millions of butterflies could be seen in the trees.
– Conservation efforts include protecting overwintering sites, planting native plants, reducing pesticide use and supporting conservation initiatives; the public can also participate in community science projects and make simple changes in their gardens and communities.

Temperature extremes, plus ecological marginalization, raise species risk: Studies by Tim Vernimmen — January 31, 2023
– In a business-as-usual carbon emissions scenario — humanity’s current trajectory — two in five land vertebrates could be exposed to temperatures equal to, or exceeding, the hottest temperatures of the past decades across at least half of their range by 2099. If warming could be kept well below 2°C (3.6°F), that number drops to 6%, according to a new study.
– More than one in eight mammal species have already lost part of their former geographical range. In many cases, this means those species no longer have access to some (or sometimes any) of their core habitat, making it much more difficult to survive in a warming world.
– When animal populations continue to decline in an area even after it has been protected, one possible explanation may be that the conserved habitat is marginal compared to that found in the species’ historical range.
– In the light of recent pledges to protect 30% of the planet’s surface, it is important to prioritize the right areas. The focus should be on conserving core habitat — which is often highly productive and already intensively used by humans — while respecting the rights and needs of Indigenous people, many of whom have also been pushed to the margins.

Indonesia and Malaysia assail new EU ban on ‘dirty commodities’ trade by Hans Nicholas Jong — January 31, 2023
– The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia have lambasted the EU regulation that will ban the trade of “dirty commodities,” including palm oil sourced from illegal plantations and deforestation.
– They argue that the regulation will harm the palm oil industry by increasing the cost of production.
– Activists, however, see the regulation as an opportunity for palm oil producing countries like Indonesia and Malaysia to have their palm oil globally recognized as legal and sustainable.

Element Africa: Lead poisoning, polluted rivers, and ‘calamitous’ mining regulation by — January 31, 2023
– More than 100,000 Zambian women and children are filing a class action lawsuit against mining giant Anglo American for decades of lead poisoning at a mine they say it controlled.
– Illegal gold mining in Ghana is polluting rivers that local communities depend on for water for drinking, bathing and farming.
– A legal case against a village head who allegedly sold off the community’s mining license to a Chinese company has highlighted what analysts call the “confusing” state of mining regulation in Nigeria.
– Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin rounding up brief stories from the extractives industry across Africa.

Mongabay Explains: What’s the difference between artisanal and industrial fishing? by — January 31, 2023
– A new episode of “Mongabay Explains” examines the difference between artisanal and industrial fishing.
– Broadly speaking, artisanal fishing is a form of traditional fishing that uses relatively small, low-powered boats to make short trips close to shore and catch relatively small quantities of fish, whereas industrial fishing uses large vessels that make longer trips farther out to sea and catch larger volumes of fish.
– There are plenty of other differences between the two fishing sectors, too, including their relative impact on the marine environment.
– In this video, Mongabay explores the differences between the two forms of fishing, including some ways people are trying to make each sector more sustainable.

Carbon markets entice, but confuse, corporations: Report by John Cannon — January 31, 2023
– A new report from the environmental nonprofit Conservation International and the We Mean Business Coalition, a partnership of climate NGOs, found that many corporations are interested in using carbon markets to address their emissions.
– The report, released Jan. 12, drew from the responses of 502 managers in charge of sustainability at companies in the U.S., U.K. and Europe.
– Carbon markets, which allow businesses and individuals to offset their emissions by supporting projects aimed at, say, reducing tropical deforestation, are seen by some as a necessary step to reducing carbon emissions globally.
– However, others see carbon markets and the credits they sell as a tool that allows companies to continue releasing carbon with little benefit to the overall climate.

Canopy bridges connect forests, wildlife, and international researchers by Liz Kimbrough — January 30, 2023
– The expansion of roads and highways has negatively impacted arboreal animals by separating them from essential resources such as food, shelter and mates.
– Canopy bridges provide a simple solution to this problem by allowing animals to cross over roads safely and maintain gene flow between populations.
– A recent special issue of the journal Folia Primatologica includes 23 peer-reviewed case studies on canopy bridge research from 14 countries, highlighting the growing interest in this topic.
– Canopy bridges can be low cost, but design and implementation can be challenging, so conservationists and practitioners must continue to work together to find efficient solutions that work for animals.

Ukrainian ecologists say nature will suffer no matter war’s result (commentary) by Oleksii Vasyliuk and Yuliia Spinova — January 30, 2023
– “As Ukrainian ecologists, we are constantly reminded of the extent to which war itself is at war with nature.”
– In a new commentary, two scientists linked to the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Work Group share their views on the current and future ecological restoration work that will be needed in their country.
– Scientists and communicators linked to the group also hail from Russia and Belarus, countries which are engaged in the conflict against Ukraine: this is unusual and touching, the authors say. “The project has a huge democratic weight: when we’re trying to do the right thing for people and for nature, nationality doesn’t matter.”
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Indigenous communities threatened as deforestation rises in Nicaraguan reserves by Maxwell Radwin — January 30, 2023
– Nicaragua’s Bosawás and Indio Maíz biosphere reserves both experienced deforestation at the hands of illegal loggers, miners and cattle ranchers last year.
– Deforestation of the country’s largest primary forests has been a violent, ugly process for Indigenous communities, who were granted land titles and self-governance in the area in the 1980s but don’t have the resources to protect themselves.
– Indigenous leaders and environmental defenders believe the situation will only get worse moving into 2023, as gold mining accelerates and the government cracks down on opponents.

Indonesia opens its ‘ocean account’ for sustainable marine management by Basten Gokkon — January 30, 2023
– The Indonesian government is designing a new scheme to measure over time the benefits provided by the country’s marine and coastal ecosystems for sustainable ocean management.
– The ocean accounting system will become the standard indicator for the government in policymaking and zoning when it comes to the country’s fisheries, conservation areas, and marine essential ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, mangrove forests and coral reefs.
– Indonesia’s ocean account initiative is also part of an international collaboration under the Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP), which aims to “develop globally recognized and standardized methods for ocean accounting by 2023.”
– Indonesia has partnered with another GOAP member, Norway, on long-term technical cooperation on ocean accounting.

Elephants promote jumbo trees, boosting the carbon stores in Africa’s forests by Malavika Vyawahare — January 27, 2023
– The dietary habits of African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) promote the survival of large, high wood density trees better at storing carbon.
– New research finds that forest-dwelling elephants browse on trees with low wood density, making space for bigger, heftier carbon-rich trees.
– The elephants also act as seed dispersers for these larger trees.
– Cautioning that determining exactly what role local elephant extinctions have played in changing forest composition is tricky, the researchers argue that elephants may boost above-ground carbon storage in Central African forests by 6-9%.

The dark side of light: Coastal urban lighting threatens marine life, study shows by Juliette Portala — January 27, 2023
– A new study finds that artificial lights in coastal megacities have come to outshine the moon for most of the year, putting marine species at risk.
– The researchers say that light pollution impacts on marine ecosystems are difficult to assess compared to other pollutants, as levels of light underwater are not only hard to detect with current instruments, but the spectrum and magnitude can change with tides and water clarity.
– Experts note that artificial light pollution needs to be addressed through mitigation plans aimed at cutting the use, duration and intensity of urban lighting, especially considering the popularity of LEDs, whose blue light penetrates the sea deeper than orange lights.

With climate change, Nepal’s leopards get a bigger range — and more problems by Abhaya Raj Joshi — January 27, 2023
– Climate change will make higher-elevation areas of Nepal suitable habitat for leopards, a new study shows.
– This is expected to push the big cats into increased conflict with humans and more competition with snow leopards.
– Most of the current and new habitat will fall outside protected areas, and the leopards’ preferred prey may not be available there, which could prompt the predators to hunt livestock.
– But the finding could also be an opportunity to conserve leopards in their potential new habitat, by educating communities there, ensuring availability of wild prey, and drawing up wildlife management plans.

U.S. mature forests are critical carbon repositories, but at risk: Study by John Cannon — January 27, 2023
– A new study quantifies the amount of carbon in a sampling of publicly held U.S. forests, demonstrating the importance of mature and old-growth stands.
– As much as two-thirds of the carbon held in the large trees in these forests is at risk because the trees lack legal protection from logging.
– In addition to the carbon benefits provided by the country’s mature and old-growth forests, which the authors say could help the U.S. meet its emissions reductions targets, the older trees found in them support vibrant ecosystems, regulate water cycles, and are resistant to fires.

In wake of ‘natural’ disasters, not reducing biodiversity loss is a big missed opportunity (commentary) by Roger S. Pulwarty — January 26, 2023
– Following the progress of the COP15 biodiversity summit, it’s time to come together to fully leverage the power of nature to build a prosperous, disaster-resilient future, a new op-ed argues.
– “Working with – and making full use of – the power of nature, and taking advantage of much existing knowledge, would prove a major step forward,” writes a NOAA senior scientist.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay or NOAA.

Indigenous Kawésqar take on salmon farms in Chile’s southernmost fjords by Francesco De Augustinis — January 26, 2023
– Sixty-seven salmon farms exist within Kawésqar National Reserve in southern Chile, an area that formed part of the Kawésqar Indigenous people’s ancestral lands, and another 66 concessions are under consideration there.
– The salmon industry claims the farms only occupy 0.06% of the reserve, which covers a marine area of 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres), and have a legitimate presence in the area.
– But Kawésqar communities accuse the farms of taking up the fjords where their sacred areas and fishing grounds are, of violating their rights on their own territory, and of compromising the ecosystem of the entire reserve through severe pollution.
– Kawésqar communities, with the support of various NGOs, are pursuing numerous legal avenues aimed at excluding salmon farms from the reserve.

Sri Lanka seeks lasting solution as human-elephant conflict takes record toll by Malaka Rodrigo — January 26, 2023
– The death toll, both human and elephant, from Sri Lanka’s long-running human-elephant conflict problem hit a record high in 2022, with 145 people and 433 elephants killed.
– With the trend worsening in recent years, the government has recently set up a committee to implement a 2020 draft national action plan to tackle the problem from various angles.
– Community fences surrounding villages and cultivated plots are considered the most viable solution over the current default of fences enclosing protected areas, which are only administrative boundaries that the elephants don’t recognize.
– But these and other proposed solutions won’t be rolled out widely; Sri Lanka’s current economic crisis means only pilot projects in two of the worst-affected districts will go ahead for now.


Logging threats loom over tree kangaroo refuge in Papua New Guinea by John Cannon — January 25, 2023
Podcast: Botanists are disappearing at a critical time by Mike DiGirolamo — January 24, 2023
Colombia’s ‘tree of life’ births a new culinary and conservation movement by Ocean Malandra — January 23, 2023
Ecotourism and education: Win-win solution for Pantanal jaguars and ranchers by Sarah Brown — January 20, 2023