Newsletter 2023-03-23


Video of rare West African lion cubs sparks hope for the population by Liz Kimbrough — March 17, 2023


– New video of a West African lioness and her three cubs is exciting news for conservation as it sparks hope for the recovery of a population perilously close to extinction in Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park.
– The lioness in the video, named Florence or Flo by researchers, was the first lion fitted with a tracking collar in Senegal by Panthera and is considered NKNP’s matriarch. She had given birth to three healthy cubs while denning in the dense forest.
– West African lions are critically endangered, with only 120 to 374 remaining in the wild. Florence is the mother of an estimated nine cubs, including the first males in NKNP.
– Panthera and Senegal’s Department of National Parks have been monitoring the small West African lion population in Senegal since 2011, and after hiring anti-poaching brigades, the lion population has more than doubled from 10-15 individuals to 30. Their goal is to reach 100 lions by 2030.

Duck, duck, rice: Vermont farm models diverse method of raising sustainable grains by Cheryl Perusse Daigle — March 22, 2023


– Traditionally thought of as a warm climate crop, some varieties of rice can also thrive in temperate regions, including the northeastern U.S.
– One rice farm in Vermont has successfully implemented the agroecology method of “aigamo,” where ducks are introduced to rice paddies to provide weed and pest control, plus free fertilizer, to the grains.
– Agroecology is a sustainable agricultural technique modeled upon natural ecosystems that also applies ancient growing traditions developed by Indigenous, traditional and local communities.
– The farm is now working to train others in its methods to boost the production of rice in the region and create a “community of practice,” so farmers can support and advise each other on rice growing, paddy construction, and more.

Island-hopping cougars redraw boundaries of big cats’ potential range by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — March 22, 2023


– Scientists have documented cougars swimming long distances across the Salish Sea, which challenges former conceptions of cougar ranges and habitat connectivity.
– The research suggests that cougars could access thousands of islands in the Pacific Northwest by swimming up to about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) across the sea.
– Other experts have documented cougars swimming across rivers, strengthening the idea that cougars spend more time in the water than previously thought.

Can we fix our failing food systems? Agroecology has answers by Mike DiGirolamo — March 21, 2023


– The U.S. has an industrialized and unsustainable food system that depletes non-renewable resources such as groundwater and soil, and this model has been exported widely around the world, a top agriculture author explains on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast.
– Two regions where these impacts and depletion are being felt most are in California’s Central Valley and on America’s Great Plains.
– Consistent overproduction of commodities such as soy, milk and corn under an agribusiness model that pursues constant profits despite a local lack of demand exacerbates the problem, says Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future research associate Tom Philpott.
– An author and former food journalist for Mother Jones and Grist, Philpott joins the podcast to talk about these acute problems and what can be done to reform unsustainable food systems with practices like agroecology.


Plan to mine ‘clean energy’ metals in Colombian Amazon splits communities by Natalia Torres Garzón — March 22, 2023
– Libero Copper, a Canadian company, plans to mine copper, molybdenum and other metals in the richly biodiverse Andean-Amazon Piedmont, which has led to strong divisions within Indigenous and local communities.
– The copper and molybdenum project is framed as a green project that could contribute much-needed minerals for the country’s energy transition, a proposal that aligns with the goals of the new left-wing government of Gustavo Petro.
– However, some communities and environmental activists oppose the mining project over concerns of deforestation, landslides and loss of forest-based livelihoods in the region.
– Others support the clean energy transition and the company’s promise of jobs in the historically neglected region.

When a red snapper is more than just a fish: Q&A fisheries scientist Elle Wibisono by Basten Gokkon — March 22, 2023
– Fisheries scientist and artist Elle Wibisono recently published a children’s book, “A Snapper Tale,” that features red-colored snappers native to Indonesia’s waters.
– Equipped with her extensive knowledge and experience in marine conservation and sustainable fisheries, Wibisono uses her book to highlight the importance of fish identification, a key component of sustainable fisheries.
– Indonesia is home to one of the world’s richest marine ecosystems, with its fisheries sector supplying seafood demand from home and around the world.
– Mongabay’s Basten Gokkon spoke with Elle Wibisono recently about her book and the highlighted fisheries issues, and her hopes for the impacts it will have on readers young and old and on Indonesia’s marine conservation policies.

In Calakmul, water troughs offer possible solution to human-wildlife conflict by Sean Mowbray — March 22, 2023
– Beekeepers near the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve are working with conservationists to provide water troughs for wild animals in an effort to reduce conflicts with farmers and livestock.
– More than 70 species, including Baird’s tapir, jaguars (Panthera onca), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) and coatis (genus Nasua), have used the troughs as climate change exacerbates water shortages in the biosphere during the dry season.
– Conservationists caution that such projects must be implemented carefully so as not to introduce pathogens into the wild or create “predator traps” where wild carnivores’ prey congregate around artificial water sources.

DRC’s endangered bonobos face another threat to their survival: malaria by Ryan Truscott — March 22, 2023
– Along with humans, great apes like gorillas and chimpanzees are known to suffer from malaria, but evidence about the parasite’s effects on bonobos has been scant.
– A recent study that analyzed the feces of bonobo across the species’ range found that one bonobo population showed evidence of both malaria infection and a genetic variation that would likely protect them against severe disease.
– This genetic variation was less common in other populations, suggesting that other bonobo groups could be in trouble if climate change brings malaria-carrying mosquitoes into their habitats.

For rescued rhino calves in Nepal, return to the wild is a fraught option by Abhaya Raj Joshi — March 22, 2023
– Conservation officials in Nepal are considering what to do with three juvenile rhinos rescued from the wild after being separated from their mothers.
– One option is to return them to the wild in a national park or wildlife reserve with suitable habitat — but with the risk that they could fall prey to tigers. Rhino translocations in Nepal have a poor record — only 38 of 95 rhinos transferred from Chitwan to Bardiya National Park survive, with the rest killed by poachers or farmers.
– That leaves a third option on the table, which is to gift the animals to a foreign country, as part of Nepal’s “rhino diplomacy,” which would leave the young animals facing a lifetime in human company.

Sea level rise looms, even for the best-prepared country on Earth by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — March 21, 2023
– The Netherlands, a low-lying European country with more than a quarter of its land below sea level, has been going to great lengths to protect itself from the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and extreme weather events like heavy rain.
– But even for the Netherlands, a country with the wealth and experience to address these issues, the future remains uncertain, mainly because a range of possible scenarios could play out after 2050.
– According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a low-emissions scenario for the greenhouse gases that amplify global warming could elevate sea levels about half a meter (1.6 feet) above present levels by 2100; a higher-emissions scenario could lead to a 2-m (6.6-ft) rise by 2100 and a 5-m (16.4-ft) rise by 2150.
– Experts say that most other countries need to take the threat of sea level rise more seriously than they are, and that engineering challenges, a lack of awareness and education, sociocultural concerns, and financial constraints are hampering their preparation.

For Dutch farming crisis, agroforestry offers solutions: Q&A with Lennart Fuchs & Marc Buiter by Peter Speetjens — March 21, 2023
– The Dutch government aims to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030 by downsizing and closing farms, sparking a wave of farmer protests and a surprising win for a new agrarian political party.
– Agricultural and environmental experts are calling for the need to introduce food system solutions that both address farmer livelihoods while tackling the climate and environmental crises.
– Agroforestry, agroecology and silvopasture — climate change and conservation solutions that can be profitable — are among the solutions they say can contribute positively to the country’s nitrogen goals.
– Mongabay spoke with two Dutch agricultural experts — Lennart Fuchs from Wageningen University & Research, and Marc Buiter from the Dutch Food Forest Foundation — on how agroforestry could be part of a solution that works for both farmers and the environment.

As crop-raiding animals reach an all-time high, food-crisis hit Sri Lanka looks for solutions by Malaka Rodrigo — March 21, 2023
– Crop damage by wild animals in Sri Lanka during the first half of 2022 totaled around 144,989 metric tons of 28 types of crops, including paddy and vegetables, and 93 million coconuts resulting in an overall loss of 30,215 million Sri Lankan rupees ($ 87.5 million), according to a new estimate.
– The toque macaque tops the list of crop raiders followed by wild boar, elephant, peafowl, giant squirrel and porcupine with five types of crops most heavily damaged: coconuts, paddy, vegetables, corn and bananas.
– A high-level committee consisting of experts in agriculture, veterinary science, zoology, natural sciences and conservation ecology conclude that population control of some of these animals may have to be seriously considered.
– Experts also recommend a data-driven, science-based approach to solve the problem before it escalates further, as different regions may experience different facets of the problem, requiring diverse solutions.

UN denounces new attacks on Indigenous people in Nicaragua’s largest reserve by Maxwell Radwin — March 21, 2023
– Groups believed to be connected to cattle ranching, logging and illegal mining launched several attacks in Indigenous communities living in the largest protected area in Nicaragua.
– Settlers are pushing into the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve and the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region to pursue illegal mining, logging and cattle ranching.
– At least six Indigenous people were killed and several injured in the most recent attack, forcing numerous families to relocate, despite an existing international mandate on the Nicaraguan government to protect them.

Indonesian campaigns getting money from illegal logging, mining, watchdog says by Hans Nicholas Jong — March 21, 2023
– As Indonesia gears up for legislative and presidential elections in less than a year, authorities have warned of the pattern of dirty money from illegal logging, mining and fishing flowing into past campaigns.
– Experts say the practice of candidates taking this money from companies that exploit natural resources is common, given the high cost of running a campaign.
– This then perpetuates a tit-for-tat cycle that sees the winning candidate pay back their funders in the form of land concessions and favorable regulations.

Carbon credits from award-winning Kenyan offset suspended by Verra by Ashoka Mukpo — March 21, 2023
– The carbon offset certifier Verra told Mongabay it had initiated a “quality control review” of the Northern Kenya Grassland Carbon Project, which claims to store carbon by managing Indigenous livestock grazing routes.
– The project has been a darling of carbon market supporters, winning a series of awards at COP27 last year, where it was described as “exemplary” by Kenyan President William Ruto.
– A new report by the advocacy group Survival International said the offset was altering long-standing Indigenous herding practices and couldn’t accurately account for how much carbon it was removing from the atmosphere.
– Purchasers of carbon credits generated by the product include Netflix, Meta and NatWest.

Is it safe to eat? Bangladesh fish exposed to hormones, antibiotics and toxic waste by Rafiqul Islam — March 21, 2023
– Bangladesh has recently achieved remarkable success in freshwater fish production, with more than 1.25 million metric tons of freshwater fish produced in 2020.
– The use of antibiotics in fish culture and hormones in artificial fish breeding bring into question the safety of Bangladesh’s food supply, as exposure to high levels of these substances can harm human and environmental health.
– Research shows that 88% of fish farmers do not have proper knowledge of antibiotics use, and 81% are unaware of effective chemical dosages in fish farming.
– In addition, toxic industrial wastes containing heavy metals released into the aquatic environment may enter the food chain through biomagnification and may cause various health problems in humans.

New MPA Tic-Toc Golfo Corcovado a safe haven for blue whales in Chile by Michelle Carrere — March 21, 2023
– Chile declared some 100,000 hectares (247,100 acres) in the Gulf of Corcovado in Northern Patagonia a marine protected area, the highest category of protection.
– The area is an important feeding and breeding ground for endangered blue whales as well as home to numerous other marine mammal species.
– However, it represents only a small fraction of the blue whales’ range, so scientists say additional conservation efforts must continue.

Sagarmatha microbes may survive harsh conditions for decades by Abhaya Raj Joshi — March 21, 2023
– Researchers have found microbes on Mount Everest that can survive harsh winds and conditions at some of the world’s highest elevations.
– The research comes at a time when scientists say melting glaciers and permafrost could reawaken viruses and bacteria as the climate warms.
– However, the microbes found on Mount Everest, which were possibly transported by humans through their coughing and sneezing, are unlikely to grow and reproduce, said University of Colorado Boulder scientist Steve Schmidt, a co-author of a new study on the team’s findings.

IPCC warns of ‘last chance’ to limit climate change via drastic emissions cuts by John Cannon — March 20, 2023
– The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth “synthesis” report March 20, after its approval by world leaders at a weeklong meeting in Switzerland.
– The report’s authors conclude that immediate reductions in carbon emissions are necessary to limit the rise in the global temperature to 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
– Scientists, activists and observers are calling for an end to fossil fuel use.

A liquid biofuels primer: Carbon-cutting hopes vs. real-world impacts by Sean Mowbray — March 20, 2023
– Liquid biofuels are routinely included in national policy pathways to cut carbon emissions and transition to “net-zero.” Biofuels are particularly tasked with reducing emissions from “hard-to-decarbonize” sectors, such as aviation.
– Three generations of biofuel sources — corn, soy, palm oil, organic waste, grasses and other perennial cellulose crops, algae, and more — have been funded, researched and tested as avenues to viable low-carbon liquid fuels. But technological and upscaling challenges have repeatedly frustrated their widespread use.
– Producing biofuels can do major environmental harm, including deforestation and biodiversity loss due to needed cropland expansion, with biofuel crops sometimes displacing important food crops, say critics. In some instances, land use change for biofuels can add to carbon emissions rather than curbing them.
– Some experts suggest that the holy grail of an efficient biofuel is still obtainable, with much to be learned from past experiments. Others say we would be better off abandoning this techno fix, investing instead in electrifying the transportation grid to save energy, and rewilding former biofuel croplands to store more carbon.

Five years since the death of Sudan, new film highlights hope for rhinos by — March 20, 2023
– Though the northern white rhino is functionally extinct – following the loss of Sudan, the last known living male, five years ago this week – conservationists are finding hope in a technique that is creating new embryos using genetic material taken from him and two remaining females.
– To mark the occasion, photographer Ami Vitale has released a new short film called “Remembering Sudan,” which will be screened at upcoming film festivals.
– The film can also be viewed online, and a trailer is visible on the page below.
– “Our fate is linked to the fate of animals,” the filmmaker told Mongabay. “What happens next is in all of our hands.”

In Chile’s Patagonia, another salmon plant angers water defenders by Maxwell Radwin — March 20, 2023
– The Dumestre salmon plant near the Chilean city of Puerto Natales is receiving backlash from conservationists who say the facility will dump waste into Patagonian waters.
– The plant can process over 70,000 tons of fish per year, requiring the management of 23,000 cubic meters of industrial liquid waste and the movement of 350 ships in the Señoret canal.
– Local activists say the community wasn’t properly consulted about their needs before the plant was opened.

Sámi rights must not be sacrificed for green energy goals of Europe (commentary) by Karin Nutti Pilflykt — March 20, 2023
– Last week, the European Commission released the Critical Raw Materials Act for minerals used in renewable energy and digital technologies.
– It mandates that EU countries should be extracting “enough ores, minerals and concentrates to produce at least 10% of their strategic raw materials by 2030,” and part of that looks likely to come from mines on Indigenous Sámi land.
– Mines already sited there have caused pollution, devastated ecosystems, poisoned reindeer forage, and taken away their reindeer grazing areas. “How can this transition be sustainable if it destroys our land and violates our Indigenous and human rights?” a new op-ed asks.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Bearded pigs a ‘cultural keystone species’ for Borneo’s Indigenous groups: Study by John Cannon — March 20, 2023
– A recent study examined the impacts of ecological and sociocultural influences on bearded pig populations in Malaysian Borneo.
– The researchers found that the presence of pigs is “compatible” with Indigenous hunting in certain areas.
– The team’s findings point to the importance of a nuanced understanding of nearby human cultural values and local ecology in determining policies toward hunting.

Brazil’s plan to issue credits for recycling gets a boost, but experts call for more by Marina Martinez — March 20, 2023
– President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has launched a new recycling credit program that seeks to correct deeply flawed regulations inherited from the previous government.
– The credits will be used as a means for environmental compensation and will also allow companies to fulfill their compliance with reverse logistics targets.
– The main flaws in the previous decree, according to experts, were the failure to prioritize individuals and collectives working in informal waste collection as beneficial operators, and the ineffective criteria for measuring compliance and verification of results.
– Nevertheless, doubts remain over how far the credit system will go toward creating a sustainable and inclusive waste management system in Brazil.

On wildlife and the Metaverse, some ethical considerations (commentary) by Nikolas Kozloff — March 17, 2023
– The Metaverse may facilitate even more physical events and activities to take place online, thus cutting down on carbon emissions resulting from travel.
– But it’s also known that AI language processing models this relies on will push Metaverse carbon emissions through the roof, since they require large amounts of electricity.
– A community-driven blockchain provider and cryptocurrency option called Wild Metaverse, for example, will donate a percentage of profits to wildlife conservation. But will that be worth its overall cost to wildlife, a new op-ed wonders?
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Kenyan science interns turn Lake Victoria’s fish waste into oil and flowers by Mactilda Mbenywe — March 17, 2023
– Fish processing on Lake Victoria in Kenya generates tons of waste that harms the environment and leads to oxygen depletion and algal blooms that threaten native aquatic species.
– Science interns at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute have developed a way to extract valuable fish oil from the waste, and they are also making decorative flowers from fish scales.
– These innovations are part of a growing trend of recycling Lake Victoria’s fish waste, turning it into goods that can be sold in local communities.
– Scientists aim to reduce the environmental harms of fish waste through innovations that could eventually be scaled up to meet growing national and international demands for fish oil and other products.

Peru congress debates stripping isolated Indigenous people of land and protections by Yvette Sierra Praeli — March 16, 2023
– A new bill under debate in Peru’s congress seeks to reevaluate the existence of every Indigenous reserve for isolated peoples to determine whether to keep them or scrap them completely.
– The bill would shift decision-making power into the hands of regional governments and include economic interests in the evaluation process, changes which human rights and environmental experts call legally flawed and a human rights violation.
– Some regional governments and companies backing the proposed bill have questioned studies confirming the existence of isolated peoples and seek to place oil exploitation, logging and economic development as a priority.
– In the event of the bill’s approval, all open proceedings relating to Indigenous reserves and Indigenous peoples in isolation would be suspended.

Can gaming solve a puzzle for camera trap conservationists? (commentary) by Zhengyang Wang — March 16, 2023
– Artificial intelligence programs for camera trap image recognition have become quite good at identifying common wildlife, but they struggle with rare animals.
– Before AI can tell a badger from a raccoon, it needs to be trained with some images, but if a species is rarely seen in camera trap photos, there isn’t enough data for it to learn, and it won’t be very good at recognizing that rare species (‘rare-class categorization’).
– However, a new commentary explains that AI are able to learn from the kind of game engine-generated, hyper-realistic animal images that feature in today’s highly advanced digital games.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Brazil tackles illegal miners, but finds their mercury legacy harder to erase by Sean Mowbray — March 16, 2023
– As the details of the humanitarian crisis in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory unfold amid action to remove illegal miners, mercury left by the rampant gold mining in the area will remain a lingering toxic legacy.
– A range of solutions is needed to support communities at risk, monitor the situation, assist in the remediation of forests, and prevent continued pollution, experts say.
– New technologies that can filter mercury are under development and testing, but are still far from being viable solutions at the scale that the problem inside the Amazon calls for.

Nepal’s vultures, recovering from a poisoning crisis, fly into another by Abhaya Raj Joshi — March 16, 2023
– Poisoning continues to pose a serious threat to vultures in Nepal, where the birds’ population is only starting to recover from a massive plunge in the 1990s due to an earlier poisoning crisis.
– In most of the recent cases, the dead vultures were found to have fed on the bodies of feral dogs, jackals and big cats that had been poisoned by people, likely in retaliation for livestock losses.
– The earlier crisis, caused by the ingestion of the cattle painkiller diclofenac from the carcasses of dead livestock, ended with a ban on the drug in Nepal.
– Conservationists say the current wave of poisonings should prompt similar measures from the authorities to better regulate the sales and use of poisons, as well as awareness campaigns in poisoning hotspots.



Brazilian 3-banded armadillo benefits from community conservation in Bahia by James Hall — March 13, 2023
Most of ‘top ten’ hotspots for jaguar conservation are in Brazil’s Indigenous territories by Liz Kimbrough — March 10, 2023
Study confirms Bolivian Indigenous park as stronghold for horned curassow by Yvette Sierra Praeli — March 10, 2023
Indigenous funding model is a win-win for ecosystems and local economies in Canada by Spoorthy Raman — March 10, 2023