Newsletter 2023-03-02



Himalayan catfight looms as tigers, leopards venture into snow leopard land by Abhaya Raj Joshi — February 28, 2023


– A warming climate threatens to push Nepal’s three big cat species — tigers, leopards and snow leopards — into closer proximity to each other, with unknown consequences for the survival of each.
– Conventional wisdom says tigers prevail in the country’s southern plains, leopards in the mid-country hill region, and snow leopards in the Himalayas.
– But both tigers and leopards have been observed at elevations above 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), well within snow leopard territory, although conservationists say tigers are less likely to persist at these altitudes over the long term.
– A complicating factor is the role of humans, with human settlements also moving up in altitude in search of more suitable conditions, and putting all four apex species in direct competition.

As livelihoods clash with development, Vietnam’s Cần Giờ mangroves are at risk by Lam Nguyen and Danielle Keeton-Olsen — February 28, 2023


– Cần Giờ, a coastal district of Ho Chi Minh City, is home to a 75,740-hectare (187,158-acre) mangrove forest, planted and maintained as part of post-war reforestation efforts.
– The district’s residents largely depend on aquaculture, shellfish gathering and small-scale ecotourism for their livelihoods.
– The government and developers hope to market the area as an ecotourism city based on its natural beauty and post-war success story, but major projects could disrupt Cần Giờ’s precarious balance between ecosystems and livelihoods.
– All names of sources in Cần Giờ have been changed so people could speak freely without fearing repercussions from authorities.

In Brazil, criminals dismantle one of the best-preserved swaths of the Amazon by Ana Ionova — February 23, 2023


– The Terra do Meio Ecological Station spans 3.37 million hectares (8.33 million acres) in the Brazilian Amazonian state of Pará and is home to hundreds of wildlife species, including many threatened with extinction.
– Despite its protected status, Terra do Meio has come under growing pressure, with data showing deforestation doubling in 2022, reaching 4,300 hectares (nearly 11,000 acres).
– Environmentalists say the destruction within Terra do Meio is being driven by illegal loggers, miners and land speculators — and they fear a new road slicing through the reserve could usher in more destruction.
– Advocates are placing their hopes in Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has promised to crack down on invasions into protected reserves and rein in sky-high deforestation rates.


‘During droughts, pivot to agroecology’: Q&A with soil expert at the World Agroforestry Centre by Kang-Chun Cheng — February 28, 2023
– As the unabating drought in Kenya persists, pastoralists in the region are struggling as millions of their livestock perish and vast swaths of crops die. About 4.4 million people in the country are food insecure.
– International food agencies are calling it a dire humanitarian situation and highlight the vital need to build communities’ resilience to adapt and cope with drought.
– Mongabay speaks with David Leilei, a Kenyan soil biologist at the World Agroforestry Centre, on the agroecological techniques and strategies pastoralists and the government can use to restore healthy soils to promote productive farming.
– Mary Njenga, a research scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre who works with 1,200 households in northern Kenya, also speaks with Mongabay on climate-resilient strategies.

Herders turn to fishing in the desert amid severe drought, putting pressure on fish population by Kang-Chun Cheng — February 28, 2023
– As Northern Kenya’s unabating drought continues, a growing wave of pastoralists are finding it challenging to keep their livestock alive and are switching to fishing in Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake.
– However, environmentalists, fishing authorities, and some fishers worry that potential overfishing and increased pressures on fish populations will cause a collapse in fish stocks and the lake’s ecosystem.
– Authorities are also concerned about the rampant use of illegal fishing gear, such as thin mesh nets that catch undersized fish in shallow breeding zones, and an illegal tilapia smuggling network draining the lake by the tons.
– Though no studies have yet been done to assess fish populations, some environmentalists and fishers are calling for better enforcement of regulations to keep livelihoods afloat.

Yanomami crisis sparks action against illegal gold in the Amazon by André Schröder — February 28, 2023
– Brazilian Attorney General Augusto Aras requested the Federal Supreme Court to overturn a law establishing the concept of “good faith” of gold buyers, which eases illegal gold laundering.
– Under the law, passed in 2013, the word of gold traders is enough to ensure that the mineral came from a legal mine, opening a route to the illegal gold extracted from protected areas and Indigenous territories, such as the Yanomami reserve.
– The Federal Police and the Public Ministry are investigating authorized gold trading companies, known as DTVMs, suspected of laundering the Amazon’s illegal gold.
– Indigenous federal deputy Célia Xakriabá is trying to speed up the vote of a new bill that establishes new rules for the gold trade in Brazil, including overriding the “good faith” concept.

Indonesian palm oil billionaire gets 15 years for corruption by Hans Nicholas Jong — February 28, 2023
– A Jakarta court has sentenced palm oil tycoon Surya Darmadi to 15 years in prison for corruption that allowed him to establish illegal palm oil plantations in Indonesia’s Riau province.
– The court also ordered him to pay more than $2.7 billion in fines and restitution for the environmental and social damage caused by the illegal plantations, believed to be the costliest corruption case in Indonesia’s history.
– Surya fled Indonesia in 2014 after being charged in another corruption case, and only surrendered to the authorities last year.
– Palm oil from his plantations was exported to six countries: India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Kenya, Italy and Singapore.

Chinese investment continues to hurt Latin American ecosystems, report says by Maxwell Radwin — February 28, 2023
– China has taken a special interest in deepening ties with Latin America over the last twenty years, providing billion in loans for mines, electric grids, trains and roads. But many of the country’s projects ignore regulations protecting the environment and local and Indigenous peoples.
– A report delivered this month to the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights explores 14 cases from nine Latin American countries in which there was some example of an environmental or human rights violation.
– The cases include mines, hydroelectric dams, oil fields, trains and animal processing plants across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

‘Locals want their resources to last’: Q&A with marine ecologist Vilma Machava-António by Malavika Vyawahare — February 28, 2023
– Ocean Revolution Mozambique (ORM), a recipient of the UNDP’s Equator Prize for 2022, promotes marine conservation in the East African nation by supporting Mozambican researchers in their quest for knowledge.
– “You cannot talk about ecosystem conservation without talking about people,” says Vilma Machava-António, a researcher who benefited from an ORM scholarship.
– The marine ecologist spoke to Mongabay about what attracted her to mangroves, the role these unique coastal systems play in climate adaptation, and what explains the success of some community-led efforts to preserve them.
– Mangroves stash carbon efficiently and are critical to adapting to climate impacts, especially in Mozambique, which is hit by cyclones with distressing frequency.

‘You don’t kill people to protect forests’: New Thai parks chief raises alarm by Kannikar Petchkaew — February 27, 2023
– After playing a key role in an anti-corruption sting operation that toppled the head of Thailand’s department of parks and wildlife, senior forest officer Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn was promoted to head of Thailand’s office of national parks.
– Human rights activists say the appointment raises serious concerns, citing a string of abuses that occurred while Chaiwat was head of Kaeng Krachan National Park.
– Cases against Chaiwat during this period include two murder charges and a corruption investigation.
– Chaiwat’s tenure in his new post will likely be short: He faces mandatory retirement in less than two years, as well as a reopened murder case and an ongoing corruption investigation.

For tigers in Nepal, highways are a giant roadblock best avoided by Abhaya Raj Joshi — February 27, 2023
– A new study indicates that the presence of roads, and vehicle traffic, in tiger habitats could take a toll on the big cats’ behavior and long-term fitness and survival.
– A tiger fitted with a GPS collar in Nepal’s Parsa National Park was found to avoid crossing roads by day, but to cross more often during the country’s 2021 COVID-19 lockdown.
– This suggests the animals can adapt quickly when traffic volume eases, pointing to measures that can be taken to mitigate road impacts not just on tigers, but on wildlife in general.
– Researchers say the findings should give planners in Nepal something to consider as they look to double the number of lanes on the East-West Highway that runs through both Parsa and Bardiya national parks.

Scientists confirm plastic is a new threat to the Andean condor in Peru by Yvette Sierra Praeli — February 27, 2023
– Researchers have found high levels of plastics in the diets and regurgitated pellets of Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) in Peru.
– The scientists conducted research in two protected areas — the San Fernando National Reserve, on the Peruvian coast; and in the buffer zone of the Pampa Galeras Barbara D’Achille National Reserve, in the Andean region of Ayacucho.
– The results show that 100% of the samples collected in the marine-coastal zone and 85% of the samples from the Andes contained plastic.

Treacherous pits and lakes left in the wake of Cameroon’s abandoned mining sites by Yannick Kenné — February 24, 2023
– Inactive mining sites in Cameroon are continuously abandoned without restoration by foreign companies, leaving behind huge pits in the ground that later form into artificial lakes which endanger local populations and damage ecosystems.
– In January, a 13-year-old boy drowned in one of these lakes near Yaoundé, left behind by the quarry company Transatlantique Cameroon Ltd, a subsidiary of the Chinese consortium Cameroon Meilan Construction Conglomerate (CMCC).
– In 2021 and 2022, the Cameroonian NGO Forests and Rural Development (FODER) identified more than 700 mining pits in Cameroon, including 139 which had become artificial lakes, claiming the lives of more than 200 people.
– Cameroonian legislation obligates mining companies to refill mining pits after their operations. Despite this, the law is not being adhered to or enforced.

Carbon market intermediaries act with little transparency, according to report by John Cannon — February 24, 2023
– A new report reveals that few of the brokers, resellers and cryptocurrency vendors that act as intermediaries in the voluntary carbon market reveal the commissions and markups on the credits they buy and sell.
– This lack of transparency makes it difficult, if not impossible, to accurately assess how much money from these purchases is finding its way to climate mitigation efforts.
– The report calls on intermediaries to disclose their fees and on supporting organizations to share more information about these transactions, with the goal of illuminating the true potential impact of the voluntary carbon market on climate change.

Newly described DiCaprio’s snake and others threatened by mining in Ecuador and Panama by Liz Kimbrough — February 23, 2023
– Researchers have described five new species of snail-eating snakes from the upper Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador and Colombia and the Chocó-Darién forests of Panama.
– Three of the new species were named by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, conservationist Brian Sheth, and the NGO Nature and Culture International to raise awareness about the threats these snakes face due to mining and deforestation.
– Ecuador and Colombia saw an increase in illegal gold mining along rivers and streams during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have affected populations of these fragile snakes and has led to conflict and division within communities.
– Snail-eating snakes are arboreal and depend on wet environments to survive, so deforestation and mining pollution, including illegal gold mining, affect both the snakes and the snails and slugs that they rely on for food.

France seeks EU okay to fund biomass plants, burn Amazon forest to power Spaceport by Justin Catanoso — February 23, 2023
– As the European Union finalizes its third Renewable Energy Directive (REDIII), France is seeking an exemption to enable the European Space Agency and French Space Agency to build and operate two biomass power plants in French Guiana. An estimated 5,300 hectares of Amazon rainforest would need to be cut and biomass crops grown on the cleared land to service the power plants.
– The biomass would be burned to help power Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. The exemption request — which would allow EU and French public subsidies to flow to a France-based bioenergy plant builder — comes as the EU moves toward banning commodities contributing significantly to global deforestation.
– This latest move by France comes soon after it won an appeal of a 2021 court ruling in French Guiana that blocked massive Amazon clearcutting for croplands to provide liquid biofuels for three new, large power plants to make energy for the Fr. Guiana populace. Decisions on the REDIII exemption and liquid biofuels plan could come in March.
– Environmentalists are decrying the French Guiana biomass plans — and French President Emmanuel Macron’s passive support of them — not only for the Amazon deforestation it will cause, but because biomass burned to produce energy has been scientifically shown to release higher levels of carbon emissions than coal.

Bangladesh bans suckermouth catfish in light of threats to native fish species by Abu Siddique — February 23, 2023
– Considering its aggressive breeding nature and the threats the species poses to native fish populations, the Bangladesh government has recently banned suckermouth fish.
– The suckermouth catfish is mainly an aquarium species that was imported into Bangladesh in the 1980s as an ornamental fish and later introduced into water bodies that are home to the country’s main sources of native fish.
– However, in recent years, the number of suckerfish has increased manifold as local fish species have decreased.
– Earlier, in 2002, Bangladesh banned two other fish species: African catfish and piranhas.

Machine learning makes long-term, expansive reef monitoring possible by Basten Gokkon — February 23, 2023
– Conservationists can now monitor climate impacts to expansive marine ecosystems over extended periods of time, a task that used to be impossible, using a tool developed by scientists in the U.S.
– The machine learning tool, called Delta Maps, provides a new way to assess which reefs might be best suited for survival, and which play a key role in delivering larvae to others, and therefore should be targeted for preservation efforts, according to the scientists.
– The scientists used the tool to examine the impacts of climate change on connectivity and biodiversity in the Pacific Ocean’s Coral Triangle, the planet’s most diverse and biologically complex marine ecosystem.
– The authors also noted that the Coral Triangle had more opportunities for rebuilding biodiversity, thanks to the region’s dynamic climate component, than anywhere else on the planet.

Forests & finance: A lawsuit, an import ban, and restoring Zambian forests by — February 23, 2023
– Campaigners sue Ghana’s government to block mining of Atewa Forest biodiversity hotspot.
– Conservationists assist a forest reserve in Zambia to restore itself.
– Forest certification is expanding rapidly across the Congo Basin.
– EU bans imports of products linked to deforestation.



Amid war, Ukrainian biologists fight to protect conservation legacy by Marlowe Starling — February 22, 2023
Podcast: Goodbye to blue skies? The trouble with engineered solutions by Mike DiGirolamo — February 21, 2023
Finland’s debate over Indigenous identity and rights turns ugly by John Last — February 21, 2023
‘They’re everywhere out there’: Three new nautilus species described by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — February 21, 2023