Newsletter 2023-06-22


Return of the lions: Large protected areas in Africa attract apex predator by Petro Kotzé — June 13, 2023


– It’s a critical time for lion conservation as the species declines across Africa. Globally, the lion population has dropped by 43% over the past 21 years.
– Lions are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, with the species facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. In many of the lion’s core ranges across Africa, populations have plummeted due to, among other reasons, habitat fragmentation and poaching.
– But some African lion populations are increasing, with the big cats spotted after years of absence in parks in Mozambique and Chad. The reason: the creation of vast protected landscape mosaics, with natural corridors stretching far beyond core protected lands, which consider the large areas lions need to roam seasonally.
– This strategy entails collaboration between multiple stakeholders and across varied land uses, including state lands and private property not formally protected. These examples are showing that conservation across landscape mosaics is possible in Africa, and offer the promise of wider benefits to ecosystems and people.

Miyawaki forests are a global sensation, but not everyone’s sold on them by Annelise Giseburt — June 21, 2023


– The Miyawaki method is an afforestation technique for cultivating fast-growing groves of native plants, with the dense, mixed planting intended to simulate the layers of a natural forest.
– Originally developed by Japanese ecologist Akira Miyawaki in the early 1970s for Nippon Steel, the method has been adopted by various Japanese corporations, which planted Miyawaki forests both domestically and overseas.
– Although the popularity of Miyawaki forests has skyrocketed in India, some ecological restoration practitioners question the method’s applicability to the country’s diverse ecological environments.

Communities accuse Socfin and Earthworm Foundation of greenwash in West Africa by Victoria Schneider — June 21, 2023


– A grievance assessment mission commissioned by Belgian oil palm and rubber company Socfin has been rejected by communities affected by the company’s operations in several African and Asian countries.
– Reasons include the Earthworm Foundation’s relationship with Socfin as a paying member, lack of adequate coordination with affected stakeholders, and the company’s history of refusing to enter conflict resolution suggested by third-party bodies.
– Phase one, consisting of missions to Liberia and Cameroon, has just been concluded without the participation of local groups, who say they were not included in the planning process.

‘A psychedelic renaissance’: How hallucinogens can aid conservation by Mike DiGirolamo — June 20, 2023


– Mind-altering substances from plants and fungi, such as ayahuasca, are having a moment in popular culture, but they’re also starting to gain attention from the medical and conservation communities.
– Famed ethnobotanist, conservation advocate and best-selling author Mark Plotkin joins the Mongabay Newscast to talk about what he dubs the “psychedelic renaissance” and how this moment can be a hook to inspire conservation.
– Many Amazonian plants and fungi have medicinal properties understood by traditional healers, but can also be frequently abused if applied improperly.
– Plotkin talks about the importance of protecting this traditional ecological knowledge, both for the responsible application of these plants, and for realizing their potential as a vehicle for conservation.


Indonesia to cut tuna harvest in bid for more sustainable fishery by Basten Gokkon — June 21, 2023
– Indonesia will reduce its overall tuna catch by 10% over the course of three years, citing unsustainable current levels of fishing.
– The government is also pushing for more tuna fisheries in Indonesia to obtain sustainable certification and eco-labeling, as part of wider efforts to show that it can manage the species within its waters.
– Fisheries experts have welcomed the move to protect the world’s tuna populations, but say other countries in the region should also be encouraged to reduce their catch to make it effective.
– Indonesia catches more tuna than any other country, accounting for about 16% of the world’s total tuna supply.

‘No future’: Iceland cancels whale hunt over animal welfare concerns by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — June 21, 2023
– Citing animal welfare concerns, Iceland has suspended its whale hunting season until Aug. 31.
– This decision follows the release of a government-commissioned independent report that found that many whales suffer immensely after being harpooned.
– Iceland had been set to kill around 200 fin whales, up from the 148 it killed in 2022.

No new mining operations on Yanomami land after raids and deaths by Sarah Brown — June 21, 2023
– The alerts of illegal mining in the Yanomami Indigenous Land have zeroed for the first time since 2020, according to satellite monitoring by the Brazilian Federal Police.
– Military operations continue in the region to drive out the last of the illegal miners and federal operations are also underway to remove criminal activity in the Karipuna and Munduruku Indigenous Territories.
– At least 15 people have been killed in the Yanomami land since April and evidence suggests one of South America’s most powerful mafias is operating in the region, putting the safety of federal agents and Indigenous people at risk.
– On June 14, the Brazilian Senate unanimously approved a set of solutions to tackle the Yanomami health disaster, which critics said focuses more on legalizing development in the region than on addressing the humanitarian crisis.

For Central America, climate bill could top hundreds of billions annually by Dimitri Selibas — June 21, 2023
– Climate change impacts on Central America’s forests could cost the region between $51 billion and $314 billion per year by 2100, according to a new study.
– For some of the countries in region, the loss of ecosystem services provided by forests could lead to losses equivalent to more than three times their GDP.
– This is the first time ecological and economic measurements have been assessed together for climate change impacts in Central America and could help to inform conservation activities like defining protected areas, establishing biological corridors and restoring degraded landscapes.
– While the impacts of climate change are being felt by communities in the region, breakthroughs in computing power as well as collaborations between European universities and Central American research institutions and companies is promoting increased innovation in ecosystem restoration.

Sugarcane: The monoculture that transformed southern Quintana Roo by Adriana Varillas and Alejandro Castro — June 21, 2023
– The sugar cane area of the municipality of Othón P. Blanco reflects the results of decades of government policies that have privileged agriculture and livestock over jungles and forests.
– Starting in the 1970s, the federal government promoted sugar cane cultivation in the region. Although many sugar cane fields have been established since the ‘80s, this monoculture has continued to take over hectares inside and outside the sugar cane area. The sugar mill, to this day, marks life in the southern zone of Quintana Roo.
– In the entire municipality of Othón P. Blanco, since 2010, 75,364 hectares (186,228 acres) have been left without tree cover, equivalent to 109 times the area of the Chapultepec Forest located in Mexico City.

Norway cites ‘green transition’ in move toward embracing deep-sea mining by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — June 21, 2023
– Norway has announced its intention to open 281,200 square kilometers (nearly 108,600 square miles) of its nearby ocean to deep-sea mining.
– The country’s parliament could still overturn the decision, but most political parties in Norway currently support moving forward with deep-sea mining.
– Critics of deep-sea mining say Norway needs to pay attention to the warnings of its own scientists about the dangers of deep-sea mining.

In Bangladesh, microplastic threat to frogs is also concern for rice farming by Farhana Parvin — June 21, 2023
– Researchers have found microplastics in 90% of frogs sampled from the Bengal Delta in Bangladesh.
– The finding raises concerns about the freshwater ecosystem health and rice cultivation, given that frogs are a key “natural insecticide” keeping pest numbers in check.
– The study adds to a growing body of literature on the prevalence of microplastic pollution in Bangladesh.
– Nearly a tenth of the 8,000 metric tons of trash generated daily in the country is plastic waste, for which there’s no proper disposal.

Alleged torturers roam free as Indonesia struggles to bring charges in palm oil slavery case by — June 21, 2023
– Prosecutors in Indonesia have still not charged the majority of men implicated in a slave-labor scandal at a local official’s oil palm plantation.
– The New York Times reported that only 13 of some 60 men, including military and police officers, remain free despite dozens of victims and witnesses accusing them of human trafficking and torture.
– The official, Terbit Rencana Perangin-angin, was jailed last year in a bribery case but never charged in the human trafficking case for enslaving the victims under the guise of a drug rehabilitation program.
– Prosecutor said a reliance on local police investigators whose own colleagues had participated in the forced-labor scheme had impeded their work.

Palm oil giants face corruption charges as Indonesia probe widens by Hans Nicholas Jong — June 20, 2023
– Indonesian prosecutors have charged three palm oil giants with corruption relating to a cooking oil shortage across the country last year.
– Permata Hijau, Wilmar International and Musim Mas are alleged to have benefited from the criminal actions of their executives, who were convicted earlier this year in the same case.
– The executives were found to have bribed a top trade ministry official to issue the companies with permits to export their palm oil for a high price rather than sell it domestically at a capped rate.
– Industry watchdogs have welcomed efforts to prosecute the companies, but say these must be accompanied by an overhaul of the industry in general.

Forest ecology and carbon dynamics in the Amazon by Timothy J. Killeen — June 20, 2023
– Mongabay is 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.
– This is part of chapter 1 of “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” see the bottom of this page for links to all the excerpts.

Chile government faces backlash after U-turn on copper mine by Boris van der Spek — June 20, 2023
– In April 2023, Chile’s government approved the extension of Los Bronces, a major copper mine near the capital, Santiago, after having rejected it last year over environmental concerns.
– As part of the approved plan, Anglo American, the majority owner of Los Bronces, has committed to replacing 70,000 wood-burning stoves used in households across Santiago with electric burners — but critics say this is unrealistic.
– The mine extension project faces a backlash from environmental activists and local and regional authorities, who say they plan to take the matter to court.
– They cite potential impacts to air quality, as well as dust pollution that would darken glaciers in the region and speed up their melting, thus threatening a key water supply for Santiago residents.

Palm oil: The crop that cuts into southeastern Mexico’s jungles and mangroves by Aminetth Sánchez — June 20, 2023
– When deforestation caused by oil palms expanded in Indonesia or Malaysia, Mexican federal and state officials did everything they could to encourage planting these native African palms around the Lacandon Jungle.
– Between 2014 and 2019, at least 5,400 hectares (13,343 acres) of forests and jungle were lost due to the expansion of oil palm in Chiapas, Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz, according to cartographic analysis carried out by the authors of the study “Cultivation of Oil Palm in Mexico.”
– At least 4,000 ha (9,800 acres) of oil palm are found inside the La Encrucijada Biosphere Reserve, a protected natural area on the Chiapas coast. The most remarkable monoculture expansion has occurred in the last 10 years.

Despite billions tied to clean supply chains, China’s Cofco still turns to deforesters by Sasha Chavkin — June 20, 2023
– Cofco is a state-run Chinese company with a mission of importing enough food to feed the country’s 1.4 billion people.
– In recent years, it has made bold pledges about combating deforestation and has adopted a series of policies to clean up its supply chains, receiving billions of dollars in reduced-interest loans to carry out these promises.
– But Cofco’s supply chains are still not free of deforestation, an investigation by investigative outlet Repórter Brasil produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network has found.

Palm oil company in Ecuador operates illegally on ancestral land, community says by Maxwell Radwin — June 19, 2023
– The community of Barranquilla de San Javier, located near the northern border with Colombia, is trying to reclaim ancestral land that’s being used for palm oil cultivation by a company called Energy & Palma.
– Since entering the area in 2006, Energy & Palma’s plantations have diminished the quality of the land residents rely on for subsistence farming and polluted local rivers and sources of drinking water with agrochemicals, according to community leaders.
– Faced with a peaceful sit-in by the community, Energy & Palma sued seven residents for negatively impacting their profits. The community has also started a case to reclaim the ancestral land taken by the company.

Indigenous and local communities see big gains in land rights, study shows by Dimitri Selibas — June 19, 2023
– Land legally designated or owned by Indigenous, Afro-descendant and local communities increased by 102.9 million hectares (254 million acres) between 2015 and 2020, according to a new report released by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
– The report analyzed land increases across 73 countries and showed increases in 21 countries, though a handful of countries, like Kenya and Liberia, drove most of the significant gains.
– At least 1.3 billion hectares (3.3 billion acres) of ancestral lands have not been recognized under national laws and regulations.
– Many industrially developing countries are experiencing an increased demand for land, including Indigenous lands, and prioritize these sectors that achieve economic and industrial development or national climate and conservation targets over Indigenous land claims.

Over a third of conflicts over development projects affect Indigenous people: Study by Sandra Cuffe — June 19, 2023
– Roughly one-third of all environmental conflicts documented in an online crowd-sourced atlas affect Indigenous peoples, researchers have found.
– The mining of transition minerals has been linked to hundreds of allegations of abuse with multi-faceted impacts on the environment and communities, according to a new report.
– Some Indigenous organizations are calling for Indigenous rights and free, prior and informed consent to be central to the transition to a green economy in light of the global rush to secure clean energy minerals.

Volunteers, First Nations work to bring back a disappearing oak prairie by Spoorthy Raman — June 19, 2023
– The rain-shadow regions of North America’s Pacific Northwest, stretching from British Columbia to Oregon, are home to a unique carbon-rich oak-prairie ecosystem dominated by Garry oaks and several species of grasses and shrubs, including endemic plants.
– The ecosystem also holds a special significance in the way of life for the Indigenous peoples in the region, who have stewarded it for millennia and depended on it for food.
– In the past few centuries, however, rapid urbanization, agricultural expansion, development along the coast and proliferation of invasive plants have destroyed more than 95% of the ecosystem, pushing it toward near-extinction.
– Communities, partnering with different national and regional agencies, First Nations and nonprofits, are working to restore and preserve the remnants using various strategies, many of which have borne fruit.

Climate change, human pressures push Bangladesh’s ‘national fish’ into decline by Abu Siddique — June 19, 2023
– Bangladesh’s all-important hilsa fishery is declining amid pressures from human-driven factors and climate change, experts and authorities warn.
– The fish, Tenualosa ilisha, contributes around 12% of the total fish catch in Bangladesh, and the fishery employs at least 2.5 million people across the country.
– Several government conservation initiatives, including declaring six hilsa sanctuaries and two fishing bans during the year, have helped boost production in the past two decades.
– However, pressures persist, including rising salinity levels in the rivers where the fish spawn, discharge of pollution and agricultural runoff, and disruptions to water flow as dams are built upstream.

‘Tree islands’ boost diversity in oil palm plantations, study finds by Sean Mowbray — June 19, 2023
– Having “islands” of trees peppered across oil palm plantations can boost the biodiversity of the landscape while maintaining crop yields, a new study shows.
– Researchers found that biodiversity and ecosystem functioning improved within five years of planting these tree islands, with larger patches providing greater benefits for species such as birds and bats.
– Though these islands can boost biodiversity, the study authors underline that they are no replacement for protecting natural forests.
– “It is very important for conservation to maintain natural forest and avoid deforestation as the top priority,” said first author Delphine Clara Zemp.

Penguins ‘enrich our lives’: Q&A with Pablo Borboroglu, protector of penguins by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — June 16, 2023
– Pablo Garcia Borboroglu, a marine biologist from Patagonia, Argentina, was recently awarded the 2023 Indianapolis Prize for his work in protecting penguins around the world.
– Penguins face many threats, including pollution, human disturbance, and the impacts of fisheries and climate change.
– Borboroglu has helped protect penguins through various actions, including establishing marine and terrestrial protected areas, conservation research programs, and educational programs.

Not so fast, experts warn as Dhaka tries to clear the air with car tax and bus ban by Kamran Reza Chowdhury — June 16, 2023
– With one motor vehicle for every one of its more than 20 million inhabitants, Dhaka has grown into one of the most polluted and congested cities in the world.
– Policymakers want to change this with a pair of proposals: Slapping a carbon tax on multiple car ownership, and removing aging buses and trucks from the city’s roads.
– However, experts and studies point out that the biggest contributor to the city’s dire air quality isn’t vehicle emissions, but the burning of straw for brick kilns.
– They also warn that abruptly slashing the city’s bus fleet would severely impact residents, for whom the bus network is the main mode of transportation.

Avocados: The green gold that wipes western Mexico’s forests from the map by Agustín del Castillo — June 16, 2023
– In Jalisco, avocado orchards are spreading and dominating the landscape: In 2010, there were about 8,400 hectares (about 20,750 acres) of this monoculture, and by 2021, that area had tripled.
– Satellite images show what is lost with the expansion of the Persea americana monoculture: Since 2019, at least 5,160 ha (12,750 acres) have turned from forests to avocado orchards.
– The loss of forest cover could continue indefinitely, especially after the United States government authorized the commercialization of avocados harvested in Jalisco in July 2022.

Forests & finance: communities turn to tree-planting, zero-logging, and mushrooms to protect forests by — June 15, 2023
– Communities in Gabon and Kenya organise to protect forests against logging.
– Renewed forest restoration efforts by a local council in Cameroon’s East region.
– Mushroom profits may help protect Tanzania’s forests.

Element Africa: offshore oil threatens fisheries, gold mining topples homes and forests by — June 15, 2023
– Mesin Gold’s mine at Bibiani threatens Ghanaian villagers’ health and homes.
– Fishers fear impacts of cross-border oil and gas exploration in waters shared by Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.
– Illegal miners in a forest reserve in Ghana are brazenly shooting back at law enforcement agents.
– Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin of brief stories from the extractives industry in Africa.

Several reef sharks at greater threat of extinction than thought, study shows by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — June 15, 2023
– A new study found that five key reef shark species — gray, blacktip, whitetip and Caribbean reef sharks, and nurse sharks — declined by 60-73% worldwide.
– It also indicated that all five species would qualify as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
– Early results from the study were used to escalate the status of two of the five species to endangered, but the others are still considered to have a lower extinction risk.
– The study also showed that well-governed or protected reefs had healthier shark populations.

Southern African caterpillar that feeds millions may be next climate casualty by Ryan Truscott — June 15, 2023
– A new study projects a significant loss of habitat for an edible caterpillar, known as the mopane worm, in Southern Africa in the coming decades.
– Mopane worms are a key source of seasonal protein for millions of people throughout Southern Africa, but they also face pressures from overharvesting and deforestation.
– Species distribution models devised by a group of scientists project that even under a moderate climate change scenario, some regions will lose 99% of suitable habitat for the caterpillars.
– The scientists behind the study say their projections should be seen as a call to protect regional food security by preventing both climate change and biodiversity loss.

Soy: The agro-industry that devastates the Maya jungle by Mayela Sánchez — June 15, 2023
– Hopelchén is today one of the leading soybean producers in the country. Occupying that place has had a very high cost for biodiversity. In 20 years, this municipality in Campeche lost at least 153,809 hectares (380,070 acres) of tree cover, representing three times the area of Cozumel island.
– The expansion of soybeans in that region has gone hand in hand with processes of leasing and privatization of lands that were previously communal lands under collective ownership and government subsidies that benefit, above all, large producers.
– In the last seven years, the environmental authorities have not authorized any change in the use of forestland in Hopelchén. Clearing continues and has intensified in recent years, according to satellite images.

Indonesian coal giant Adaro’s ‘sustainable’ smelter slammed as ‘greenwashing’ by Hans Nicholas Jong — June 15, 2023
– Indonesia’s largest coal miner, Adaro, has been criticized for plans to build coal-fired power plants for a new aluminum smelter, contradicting the company’s claim of a green transition.
– Adaro is marketing the smelter project as a flagship green, renewable development for Indonesia, a move that environmentalists describe as “greenwashing.”
– Adaro is reportedly struggling to secure financing for the project due to the greenwashing allegations as more banks steer clear of fossil fuel projects.
– Adaro has denied the report, saying five banks are committed to funding the project, but hasn’t named them.

Meet the tech projects competing for a $10m prize to save rainforests by Abhishyant Kidangoor — June 15, 2023
– Thirteen teams took part in the semifinals of a $10 million competition that aims to identify technologies that would automate the assessment of rainforest biodiversity.
– During the semifinals in Singapore, a wide array of projects that incorporated drones, robots and machine learning were tested by the teams.
– The teams that move to the next round, to be announced in July, will get one year to improve their projects ahead of the finals in 2024.


Learning to live with — and love — bears and eagles in Colombia’s cloud forest by James Hall — June 8, 2023
Mycorrhizal fungi hold CO2 equivalent to a third of global fossil fuel emissions by Liz Kimbrough — June 13, 2023
Ethiopia’s largest community conservation area brings Indigenous communities into the fold by Kaleab Girma — June 13, 2023