Forest behind bars: Logging network operating out of Cambodian prison in the Cardamoms by Gerald Flynn — May 26, 2023
– A Mongabay investigation has uncovered a logging operation being run out of Koh Kong provincial prison that gets its timber from the site of a new hydropower dam being built in Thma Bang.
– Old-growth forest in Central Cardamom Mountains National Park is being cleared to make way for the Stung Tatai Leu hydropower dam, but the environmental impacts remain opaque.
– NGOs and the Ministry of Environment provide minimal oversight to prevent illegal loggers from exploiting the project site, and former loggers detailed how bribes facilitate the illicit timber trade.
– Prison officials maintained that the timber is used in a skills development program, but former inmates alleged that officials have been exploiting prison labor to craft luxury furniture.
The state of the Amazon: Chapter 1 of “A Perfect Storm” by Timothy J. Killeen — May 31, 2023
– Mongabay has begun publishing a new edition of the book, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” in short installments and in three languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese.
– Author Timothy J. Killeen is an academic and expert who, since the 1980s, has studied the rainforests of Brazil and Bolivia, where he lived for more than 35 years.
– Chronicling the efforts of nine Amazonian countries to curb deforestation, this edition provides an overview of the topics most relevant to the conservation of the region’s biodiversity, ecosystem services and Indigenous cultures, as well as a description of the conventional and sustainable development models that are vying for space within the regional economy.
– Click the “Perfect Storm in the Amazon” link atop this page to see chapters 1-13 as they are published during 2023.
Survival and economics complicate the DRC’s bushmeat and wild animal trade by John Cannon and Didier Makal — May 30, 2023
– Hunting for bushmeat can impact the populations of rare and threatened wildlife in forests around the world.
– In the Democratic Republic of Congo, subsistence hunting is often intertwined with the trade of bushmeat and in some cases live animals to sate the demand from larger markets, which can increase the pressure on wildlife populations.
– The trade of bushmeat provides one of the few sources of income for hunters, porters and traders, as well as a source of protein for families, in the town of Lodja, which sits close to forests that are home to unique species.
– Activists in Lodja and the DRC are working to save live animals from entering the illicit trade of endangered species and encourage alternative sources of income to the commercial trade of wild meat and animals.
Indonesia eyes enrolling more ports in fight against illegal fishing by Basten Gokkon — June 1, 2023
– Only four of Indonesia’s nearly 2,500 ports implement the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), an international treaty that targets illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by denying access to vessels engaged in that practice.
– With neighboring Thailand having 26 ports that implement PSMA, the Indonesian government says it’s considering expanding coverage to more of its ports.
– The PSMA is part of a set of tools to improve fisheries transparency and traceability, which in turn would increase global trust in fish products coming from Indonesia, one of the world’s top producers of seafood.
– Indonesia’s estimated fish stock is 12 million metric tons, down almost 4% from 2017, while 53% of its fisheries management zones are considered “fully exploited,” up from 44% in 2017.
In Nepal, Chepang take up the challenge to revive their cultural keystone tree by Abhaya Raj Joshi — May 31, 2023
– In Nepal, the Chepang people have long relied on the chiuri tree (Diploknema butyracea or Indian butter tree) for timber, fuelwood and butter.
– According to folklore, the Chepang tribe, the chiuri tree and bats are all part of a three-pronged system of survival, as each helps the other two; that system — and the chiuri tree — has fallen to the wayside.
– Now, young Chepangs are trying to revive the chiuri tree and market the valuable fruits.
Palm giants Wilmar, Indofood, RGE fined over Indonesian cooking oil shortage by Hans Nicholas Jong — May 31, 2023
– The Indonesian government’s business competition watchdog has ruled seven companies, including subsidiaries of palm oil giants Wilmar, Salim Group and Asian Agri, guilty of restricting sales of cooking oil amid an acute shortage in early 2022.
– The watchdog, the KPPU, has fined the companies $4.75 million for hoarding cooking oil after the government capped the retail price in response to a price surge.
– Wilmar says it’s disappointed with the ruling and is considering filing an appeal.
– A Wilmar board member was earlier this year convicted and jailed for redirecting palm oil meant for the domestic market to the export market, where prices were higher.
Strong like an oak tree: Guardians of the Juanacatlán forest in Mexico by Adriana Navarro Ramírez — May 31, 2023
– More than two decades ago, a group of teachers, farmers, homemakers, car mechanics and other residents of Juanacatlán, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, created a civil association called “El Roble,” which gave them more tools to guard the forests and mountains that surround their community.
– Nothing has impeded the mission of those who make up El Roble — not even threats, harassment, impunity or the ineffectiveness of authorities.
– Thanks to this association and its alliances with other associations, its members have managed to confront fires, poaching and illegal logging. They have also stopped the installation of megaprojects in their territory.
Bangladesh tries fences to tackle growing human-tiger conflict in Sundarbans by Rafiqul Islam — May 31, 2023
– About 300 people and 46 tigers have been killed since 2000 in human-tiger conflicts in Bangladesh’s Sundarbans.
– Authorities here have decided to install fencing along the rivers and canals that the big cats use to cross into human settlements.
– Experts point to a successful application of this measure in the Indian Sundarbans, and say the fencing will both keep tigers out of human settlements, and humans and their domestic animals out of tiger habitat.
– The Sundarbans is the only mangrove habitat in the world that supports tigers, but the ecosystem continues to be degraded due to human and natural causes.
New index identifies marine reserves that are protected in theory only by Juliette Portala — May 31, 2023
– Marine protected area (MPA) status doesn’t guarantee that conservation efforts are effective, according to new research that looks at the de facto situation of preserved areas around the world.
– A third of the MPAs analyzed appear likely to be protected only on paper, most of them in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Oceania, and the Indian Ocean.
– Researchers created a Paper Park Index (PPI) based on interviews with local stakeholders and their perceptions of fishing levels within MPAs, with the PPI showing the difference between the theoretical goals of the MPAs and the reality on the water.
– The new methodology could help provide more realistic information about the effectiveness of MPAs and support further conservation efforts, the study suggests.
U.S. says Mexico failed to uphold international treaty protecting vaquita porpoise by Maxwell Radwin — May 30, 2023
– The United States said the government of Mexico has failed to stem the illegal harvest and commercial export of totoaba, which has directly impacted the vaquita.
– The vaquita has dwindled to around just 10 specimens in recent years, the result of getting caught in gillnets targeting totoaba, whose swim bladder is treasured on the Chinese black market.
– US law allows for an embargo on wildlife trade when a country isn’t doing enough to combat illegal activity. However, it isn’t clear that President Joe Biden will take that step.
Shipibo communities create Indigenous guard to protect Peruvian Amazon from deforestation by Maxwell Radwin — May 30, 2023
– The Shipibo-Konibo-Xetebo peoples, living in Peru’s Ucayali department, near the border with Brazil, have created an Indigenous guard that will help patrol this part of the Amazon and protect their land and resources.
– Indigenous leaders say the rainforest is being destroyed by drug trafficking, logging, oil palm plantations, oil spills, new highways, illegal fishing, and expanding Mennonite communities.
– A lack of government assistance has forced the 175 Indigenous communities to coordinate their own patrols, covering more than 8 million hectares (about 20 million acres).
– So far, the Indigenous guard has made 45 interventions against illegal fishermen, but is still in the process of organizing the various communities and fine-tuning their logistics.
Borders between Mercosur countries have become a hub for trafficking agrochemicals by Aldem Bourscheit (Brazil) and Aldo Benitez (Paraguay) — May 30, 2023
– Seizures of counterfeit, adulterated and stolen agrochemicals in Brazil have grown with the global economic impacts since the COVID-19 pandemic, with much of the contraband originating in China and arriving via neighboring South American countries.
– The trafficking in agrochemicals has been co-opted by organized crime syndicates that control the routes from Paraguay to Brazil, with most of the crimes recorded with these products also linked to drug trafficking.
– Half of the pesticide seizures in Brazil involve illicit products, up from just 5% in 2010, and involve products banned in the country yet widely used for growing soybean, corn, cotton and bean crops.
– The Brazilian market for pesticides is valued at $14.4 billion a year, yet tax and economic losses due to crimes involving agricultural inputs was almost $4 billion in 2022.
Landmark Nepal court ruling ends impunity for wealthy wildlife collectors by Abhaya Raj Joshi — May 30, 2023
– Wildlife collectors in Nepal will have to declare their collections to the government, under a landmark ruling spurred by the perceived injustice of the country’s strict wildlife protection laws.
– The May 30 Supreme Court ruling caps a legal campaign by conservationist Kumar Paudel to hold to account wealthy Nepalis who openly display wildlife parts and trophies, even as members of local communities are persecuted for suspected poaching.
– Under the ruling, the government must issue a public notice calling on private collectors to declare their wildlife collections, and must then seize those made after 1973, the year the wildlife conservation act came into effect.
– Conservationists and human rights advocates have welcomed the ruling, but say “only time will tell if the government will take this court order seriously or not.”
In Senegal, rice intensification helps farmers grow more with less by Noah Tobias — May 30, 2023
– To fight food insecurity and climate change, Senegal is increasingly employing a relatively new strategy for growing rice, known as the “system of rice intensification” (SRI).
– Developed in Madagascar in the 1960s, this method of growing rice intentionally stresses the plants, which allows the farmer to use less water, improves soil fertility, decreases methane emissions, and, most importantly, increases yields.
– Critics of the method say it’s more a list of principles than set rules, with some farmers also turning to herbicides to deal with weeding.
– Still, the method has been scientifically shown to provide numerous benefits for growing rice in drier climates.
Study: Snares claim another local extinction as Cambodia loses its leopards by Sean Mowbray — May 30, 2023
– Researchers say the Indochinese leopard is functionally extinct in Cambodia after a 2021 camera-trap survey failed to capture a single individual from what was once thought to be the country’s last viable population of the big cat.
– The study points to hunting as the most significant contributor to the decline of the subspecies, noting that the number of snares and traps observed in the study area increased despite years of law enforcement efforts.
– Experts have called for focused conservation measures in the critically endangered subspecies’ remaining strongholds in Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.
In north Bangladesh, human-elephant conflicts signal need for greater protection by Abu Siddique — May 29, 2023
– At least four people have been killed in wild elephant attacks in Bangladesh in the last few weeks, three of them in the northern Sherpur district.
– At least one elephant was also killed by locals via electrification after a herd of wild elephants roamed the area for food.
– Of the 12 elephant corridors in Bangladesh, Sherpur is the only corridor that has seen a rise in attacks, as the government and other conservation organizations focused their efforts in the southern zone, where the other 11 corridors are located.
– Conservationists blame the scarcity of adequate resources and funding for proper management of conservation activities, resulting in the continuation of conflicts and killings.
Woodpeckers for fire recovery? A new online tool tells you how by Abhishyant Kidangoor — May 29, 2023
– An online tool maps and predicts the presence of black-backed woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus) in newly burned forests in California.
– The tool aims to aid fire managers in incorporating the protection of these birds into their efforts to revive burned forests.
– Black-backed woodpeckers thrive in the diverse ecosystem left behind by wildfires, but fire suppression efforts and salvage logging often disturb their habitats.
– Through the case study of black-backed woodpeckers, the tool aims to illustrate how wildlife conservation and pyrodiversity (the variation in which fires burn landscapes) should be incorporated into fire management efforts around the world.
As one Indian Ocean tuna stock faces collapse, nations scramble to save others by Malavika Vyawahare — May 29, 2023
– Indian Ocean Tuna Commission members failed to make progress on key measures to protect declining yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), like reducing annual catches and limiting the use of harmful fish aggregating devices (FADs), during their annual meeting.
– Although the commission declared yellowfin tuna overfished in 2015, to date, the intergovernmental regional management body has failed to curb overfishing, bringing the stock closer to collapse.
– Objections from the European Union helped nullify an ambitious plan adopted by the IOTC in February to limit the use of drifting FADs: Objecting parties don’t have to implement the measure, and the EU tuna fleet, which has historically pulled in the largest yellowfin tuna catches in the Indian Ocean, is the biggest deployer of DFADs in the region.
– The commission declared the Indian Ocean bigeye tuna (T. obesus) stock overfished in 2022, and at its meeting in May parties agreed to a 15% reduction from 2021 levels in the permitted annual catch; they also adopted protective measures for seabirds and marine mammals at the meeting, but not for sharks.
Agro giants buy grains from farmers fined for using Indigenous land in Brazil by André Campos and Naira Hofmeister from Repórter Brasil and Tatiana Merlino, João Peres and Leonardo Fuhrmann from O Joio e o Trigo — May 29, 2023
– Bunge, Cargill, COFCO, Amaggi, ADM do Brasil, Viterra and General Mills bought soy and corn in an area where “grain laundering” is admitted by producers and civil servants.
– The illegal crops came from areas on the border of the Amazon Rainforest which had restrictions for production, but the real origin of the grains were concealed through paperwork.
– The revelations come from a joint investigation by the Brazilian news outlets Repórter Brasil and O Joio e o Trigo.
Sri Lanka researchers amp up mushroom studies and find new species by Malaka Rodrigo — May 27, 2023
– Recent research on Sri Lanka’s mushrooms has resulted in the discovery of two species previously unknown to science — Termitomyces srilankensis and Candolleomyces ruhunensis — and the discovery of Crepidotus striatus, a mushroom previously thought endemic to China.
– A tropical island in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is known for its rich diversity of fungi and mushrooms, but there was little research until now, making the group one of the least-studied organisms in the country.
– As deforestation, habitat degradation and climate change threaten mushroom species, researchers urge the establishment of a national fungarium to preserve fungi specimens.
– Edible wild mushrooms have been a part of Sri Lankans’ diets for centuries, but present generations have lost traditional knowledge about identifying non-poisonous mushrooms and instead rely on commercially cultivated mushrooms.
Indonesia, Malaysia deploy ministers to push back on EU palm oil restrictions by Hans Nicholas Jong — May 27, 2023
– Indonesia and Malaysia will send top officials to Brussels to voice concerns over a new regulation that bans the trading of commodities associated with deforestation, including palm oil.
– The officials will meet with European policymakers to discuss ways to minimize the regulation’s impacts on palm oil producers, particularly smallholders.
– The world’s two biggest palm oil producers have long protested EU policies against palm oil, calling them discriminatory and protectionist of Europe’s own oilseeds industry.
Nepal’s hydropower boom is killing birds via power lines by Abhaya Raj Joshi — May 26, 2023
– High-voltage power lines are emerging as one of the main killers of birds in Nepal, affecting common species such as crows all the way to critically endangered vultures.
– The country is crisscrossed by power lines that bring electricity to towns and cities from the more than 100 hydropower projects nationwide.
– But planning of the lines is haphazard, and the required environmental impact assessments are shoddy and tend to ignore birds, conservationists say.
– The problem may get even worse as Nepal continues to significantly ramp up hydropower projects and the associated power lines.
Conservationists aim to save critically endangered European eels on Italy’s Po River by Lucrezia Lozza — May 26, 2023
– European eels (Anguilla anguilla) are critically endangered, their population having plummeted by 97% since 1980.
– Illegal fishing, dams and other barriers to their migration, droughts, pollution and habitat changes are putting the eels’ survival at risk.
– These eels reproduce once in their lifetime, only in the Sargasso Sea, where they die. Their unique lifecycle and migratory pattern further complicates conservation efforts.
– In Italy’s Po River Basin, researchers are working to conserve eels through interventions including the construction of fish passages to defragment rivers, reproduction in captivity and teaching fishers to recognize and release the likeliest breeders.
Deforestation linked to less rainfall, study shows; El Niño could make it worse by Jewel S. Cabrera — May 26, 2023
– A new study shows concerning links between deforestation and reduced precipitation in tropical regions, which can in turn lead to reduced agricultural yields and food security issues.
– Now, researchers are concerned about the potential for another El Niño, which typically brings hotter, drier conditions to tropical regions, particularly in Southeast Asia, and can compound the effects of deforestation and reduced rainfall.
– The 2015-16 El Niño triggered crop losses, disease outbreaks, malnutrition and food insecurity, livestock deaths and other hardships that affected 60 million people globally; researchers say these trends signal the need for greater climate resilience in local communities.
Residents of southeast Alaskan town debate mine that’s bound to change region by Evan Bourtis — May 26, 2023
– After years of debate, a proposed mine in southeast Alaska near the Chilkat River has a permit to dig an exploratory tunnel and release wastewater.
– The mine has become a divisive topic in the town of Haines, where the Chilkat River sustains the region’s thriving fishing industry.
– Some residents are concerned about how the project could impact salmon in the river and their fishing jobs.
– Others believe the mining companies running the project will be responsible when it comes to protecting the river, while providing jobs in mining.
Flooding for hydropower dams hits forest-reliant bats hard, study shows by Carolyn Cowan — May 26, 2023
– Researchers have found that bats specialized to feed on insects within the dense canopy of tropical forests are disproportionately affected by hydropower development.
– The study in Peninsular Malaysia adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating how hydropower developments impoverish tropical ecosystems.
– Although forest-specialist bats were lost from the flooded landscape, bats that forage along forest edges and in open space were still present.
– To minimize localized extinctions, the researchers advocate a preventive rather than mitigative approach to hydropower planning that prioritizes habitat connectivity and avoids creating isolated forest patches.
Mating game: Survival of some small wildcats at risk due to housecat hybrids by Elizabeth Devitt — May 25, 2023
– Small wildcat species suffer from habitat loss, hunting and human conflicts, just like better-known big cats. But some small wildcat populations also face threats from other felines: hybridization.
– Interbreeding with domestic cats (Felis catus), and also with other wildcat species, can alter the outward appearance, behaviors and genetic profiles of wildcats, and create conservation dilemmas about how best to define and protect a species.
– In Scotland, hybridization caused the functional extinction of a subpopulation of European wildcat (Felis silvestris), but scientists and conservationists are collaborating to rebuild the genetically distinct wild population with kittens reared from selectively bred wildcats.
– To protect the African wildcat (Felis lybica) in South Africa, international partners are working to reduce interbreeding by sterilizing domestic and feral cats near the borders of Kruger National Park. Hybridization can also occur between wildcat species and raises questions about preserving genetic purity vs. ecosystem function.
Study shows Kenyan elephant shrew may be adapting to human disturbance, drought by Ryan Truscott — May 25, 2023
– The endangered golden-rumped elephant shrew has seen its population in a Kenyan forest reserve increase by 52% in a decade, upending researchers’ fears of extinction due to hunting and habitat loss.
– The latest population survey credits the rabbit-sized mammal’s high adaptability to human-disturbed landscapes, including plantations of exotic tree species.
– They also appear to be thriving amid Kenya’s long-running drought, which has caused trees to shed their leaves in large volumes, thus creating the thick carpets of leaf litter that are the animal’s favored habitat.
– Researchers say the increase may also reflect the gains made by conservation measures within the forest reserve, including a community-based conservation system known as participatory forest management (PFM) that has the support of NGOs and the government.
Women decision-makers can improve conservation and agriculture, study shows by Abdulkareem Mojeed — May 25, 2023
– A new global study shows that both conservation and farming production can improve when women farmers are more involved in decision-making.
– The study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, aimed to look at the effectiveness of paying farmers monetary incentives to protect the environment but found that such payments are not necessarily reliable; more reliable are women’s decision-making roles.
– The findings add to a growing body of research about women and decision-making in agriculture; yet, globally, women hold a minority of leadership positions, particularly in environmental sectors.
Forest conservation efforts in Peru are failing across the board, study says by Kimberley Brown — May 25, 2023
– Forest conservation initiatives in Peru in the past decades have had little to no effect, as deforestation continues to skyrocket in the country, according to a new study by the International Forestry Research Center, CIFOR.
– Peru has attracted millions of dollars in forest conservation initiatives and has 254 public and private parks and protected areas, yet deforestation has been rising steadily since 2001 by more than 326,000 acres per year. In 2020, forest loss peaked, reaching 502,000 acres of tropical forest, the equivalent of 379 football fields.
– CIFOR’s research includes a literature review of 17 studies evaluating the impact of conservation initiatives in the country over the years. REDD+ mechanisms consistently performed poorly, having the least effect both on forest cover and community economic situations.
– Researchers call for strengthening government agencies and creating a better dialogue with academics who are studying and monitoring conservation mechanisms and their impacts.
Expedition to Pacific ecosystems hopes to learn from their resilience by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — May 25, 2023
– An expedition led by National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project will voyage across the Pacific over five years to gather information about marine ecosystems needing protection.
– The Pristine Seas team will collaborate with Pacific island nation governments, communities, Indigenous and local peoples, and local scientists, to gather data and produce films.
– The first stop of the expedition will be the southern Line Islands, part of Kiribati, to understand how its reefs recovered after an El Niño triggered a large-scale bleaching event in 2015 and 2016.
Financial downturn at Enviva could mean trouble for biomass energy by Justin Catanoso — May 25, 2023
– Enviva harvests trees to manufacture millions of tons of wood pellets annually in the U.S. Southeast to supply the biomass energy demands of nations in the EU, U.K., Japan and South Korea. But a host of operational, legal and public relations problems have led to greater-than-expected revenue losses and a drastic fall in stock price.
– These concerns (some of which Mongabay has reported on in the past) raise questions as to whether Enviva can double its projected pellet production from 6 million metric tons annually today to 13 million metric tons by 2027 to meet its contract obligations. Enviva says its problems pose only short-term setbacks.
– While it isn’t possible to connect Enviva’s stock decline, or the company’s downgrading by a top credit ratings agency, with any specific cause, some analysts say that investors may be getting educated as to the financial risk they could face if the EU or other large-scale biomass users eliminate their subsidies to the industry.
– “The financial risk is there, maybe not today, but in the future, where countries may say, ‘This massive [biomass carbon accounting] loophole is making the climate crisis worse. Let’s close it.’ When that happens, Enviva and all other pellet manufacturers are out of business,” and investors would suffer, according to one industry expert.
Head of Verra, top carbon credit certifier, to leave in June by John Cannon — May 25, 2023
– David Antonioli is the founding CEO of Verra, the world’s most prominent carbon credit standards organization.
– Antonioli will leave the post in June amid increasing scrutiny of carbon markets and credits, as well as the methodologies by which they are certified to ensure they provide climate benefits that do not come at the expense of communities.
– Indigenous groups and forest communities are often key participants in restoration and protection efforts to boost carbon sequestration.
– But they say that little of the financing for climate mitigation flows directly to them, and they also want a more prominent role in the discussions about climate change mitigation projects and the future of mechanisms like carbon credits and markets.
Argentines try to stop oil and gas exploration off ‘The Happy’ tourist coast by Rodolfo Chisleanschi — May 25, 2023
– An authorization to explore for hydrocarbons in Argentine waters has the cities and towns along the coast of Buenos Aires province on edge.
– Prospecting using shots of compressed air is a threat to the hearing systems of cetaceans and other marine mammals, experts say; the possibility of spills also concerns those in the tourism industry.
– Protests in the streets and an unresolved legal conflict have delayed the start of some exploratory projects that could begin in October.
‘Anthill tiger’: Putting one of Africa’s rarest wildcats on the radar by Petro Kotzé — May 18, 2023
Climate change is no joke for Australians, says award-winning comedian Dan Ilic by Mike DiGirolamo — May 23, 2023
Book: A perfect storm in the Amazon by Mongabay.com — May 23, 2023
Overlooked and underfoot, mosses play a mighty role for climate and soil by Liz Kimbrough — May 22, 2023
WHAT’S NEW AT MONGABAY
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