Newsletter 2023-07-20



Sweet solution: Armadillo-friendly honey helps Brazil beekeepers, giant armadillos by Sarah Brown — July 14, 2023


– Giant armadillos in Brazil have been spotted destroying bee hives in search of larvae, causing economic losses to beekeepers and consequent retaliatory killings.
– The species has a low population growth rate, meaning human-wildlife conflicts like these significantly threaten their survival.
– One NGO promotes coexistence between beekeepers and giant armadillos by certifying beekeepers who use mitigation measures to prevent attacks on beehives, allowing them to sell armadillo-friendly honey at a higher price.
– The armadillo-friendly honey project has been applied within the Cerrado savanna and is now being implemented within the Amazon Rainforest region, zeroing armadillo killings in the apiaries involved in the scheme.

A just energy transition requires better governance & equity in the DRC by Mike DiGirolamo — July 19, 2023


– The global energy transition has increased demand for critical minerals involved in the making of products such as lithium-ion batteries, solar panels and other renewable energy sources.
– In the Democratic Republic of Congo, this demand has fueled a poorly regulated mining sector that has forced Indigenous communities off their land, polluted water and air, and given little back in the way of infrastructure or development.
– The DRC has also recently opened 27 blocks of land for oil exploration under the auspices of lifting the nation out of poverty, but our guests say the handling of these other mineral revenues doesn’t bode well for an equitable oil boom.
– Joseph Itongwa Mukumo, an Indigenous community member of Walikale in the North Kivu province and director of ANAPA-DRC, and Christian-Géraud Neema Byamungu, Francophone editor at the China Global South Project, speak with Mongabay about the impacts of mining on local and Indigenous communities and what DRC residents need for a just energy transition.

Virtual fences can benefit both ranchers and wildlife by Ruth Kamnitzer — July 19, 2023


– Virtual fencing manages livestock using GPS-linked collars to train animals to stay within a set boundary, similar to an invisible dog fence.
– Coupled with the removal of existing barbed-wire fencing, it could open up whole landscapes for wildlife by removing injurious barriers for migratory herds, reducing mortality from fence strikes for numerous bird species, and protecting sensitive habitats from trampling by cattle.
– Virtual fences are easily moved with a tap on an app, and can be used to improve pasture management through rotational grazing, reduce wildfire risk, and other benefits.
– These systems are cheaper than building and maintaining physical fences, and are already in use in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Norway.

Divided by mining: Vale’s new rail track fractures an Amazon Indigenous group by Maurício Angelo and Sarah Sax — July 17, 2023


– In 1985, mining giant Vale opened a railroad that cuts through the Mãe Maria Indigenous Territory in the Brazilian Amazon.
– Since being built, the railroad has driven away game, cut off access to important water bodies and disrupted the Indigenous peoples’ way of life by introducing compensation money paid by Vale into the daily life of the villages.
– Now, the mining giant has secured permission to build a second railroad track.
– Indigenous leaders say that not only will the railroad extension cause greater environmental damage, but also that the company reached the agreement by using “divide and conquer” tactics over the years and by applying other maneuvers they consider unethical.

Forests in the furnace: Cambodians risking life and liberty to fuel garment factories by Gerald Flynn & Andy Ball — July 13, 2023


– Entire villages in parts of Cambodia have turned to illegal logging of natural forests to supply the firewood needed by garment factories churning out products for international fashion brands.
– Mongabay spoke with several people who acknowledged the illegal and dangerous nature of their work, but who said they had no other viable means of livelihood.
– The work pits them against rangers they accuse of heavy-handed tactics, including the seizure or destruction of their trucks and equipment, arrests, and extortion.
– This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network where Gerald Flynn was a fellow. *Names have been changed to protect sources who said they feared reprisals from the authorities.


Cambodian conglomerate sparks conflict in Botum Sakor National Park by Gerald Flynn & Meng Kroypunlok — July 20, 2023
– For decades Cambodia’s Botum Sakor National Park has been carved up and the land handed out to companies as economic concessions, at the expense of the ecosystem and local communities.
– In 2021, a massive swath of the park, including its densest expanse of forest, was handed over to the Royal Group, led by politically connected business tycoon Kith Meng.
– While the companies developing the national park promised jobs, as well as homes with running water and electricity, and access to schools and health centers, none of this has materialized, affected residents say.
– Royal Group’s presence, and the threat of more companies grabbing a piece of the park, has instead sparked disputes that residents acknowledge they’re likely to lose.

Drought cycles erode tropics’ ability to absorb CO₂, study finds by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — July 19, 2023
– A recent study finds that tropical carbon sinks have become increasingly vulnerable to water scarcity since 1960, and are consequently less able to absorb carbon dioxide.
– These findings suggest that tropical ecosystems are less resilient to climate change than previously thought.
– While the study doesn’t necessarily make projections for the future, the findings suggest that an acceleration of climate change, which is very likely to bring more drought, could further limit the ability of tropical ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide, which, in turn, would worsen climate change.

Scientists: Fishing boats compete with whales and penguins for Antarctic krill by Francesco De Augustinis — July 19, 2023
– Scientists and campaigners recently documented huge krill fishing vessels plowing through pods of whales feeding in Antarctic waters, a permitted practice they say deprives the whales of food.
– As Antarctic waters warm due to climate change, krill numbers are declining, stressing wildlife that rely on the small crustaceans at the bottom of the food chain.
– The intergovernmental body in charge of regulating the krill fishery, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), has taken specific steps to protect penguins and seals but not whales.
– At the same time, CCAMLR has stalled on the establishment of new marine protected areas and the adoption of new conservation measures. A special meeting to advance protected areas concluded June 23 with no progress.

Aviation’s climate conundrum: More than sustainable fuels needed by Sean Mowbray — July 19, 2023
– Critics and researchers caution that pinning aviation’s carbon-cutting hopes on sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) is problematic. These fuels, derived from liquid biofuels, along with synthetic fuel options such as green hydrogen, have been produced in only miniscule amounts at high cost compared to what’s needed.
– Scaling SAFs up to cover all of the aviation industry’s carbon-reduction goals while avoiding environmental harm will be a mammoth technological and economic challenge, and may not be achievable in the time available as climate change rapidly escalates, say experts.
– Other solutions will almost assuredly be required: Hydrogen-powered or electric planes may be on the horizon for private or short-haul flights. But reducing emissions from commercial, long-haul flights remains a far greater challenge.
– A mixture of technological solutions, increased efficiencies in airplane design, better airport management, and new innovative policies, including controversial ideas to curb customer demand for air travel, are likely needed to cap and significantly bring down commercial aviation’s emissions fast.

Element Africa: A ‘disaster’ pipeline, an oil-field spill, and a mining pit tragedy by — July 19, 2023
– A report by Human Rights Watch based on interviews with displaced families says an oil pipeline running from Uganda to Tanzania will be disastrous for the people in its path.
– Farms and streams in southern Chad have been contaminated after another spill at an oil installation owned by Anglo-French oil player Perenco.
– Three boys have drowned in a rain-filled mining pit in Ghana, highlighting the dangers that thousands of these pits, abandoned by illegal gold miners, pose to nearby communities.
– Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin rounding up brief stories from the commodities industry in Africa.

Infrastructure defines the future: Chapter 2 of “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” by Timothy J. Killeen — July 19, 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 “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” link atop this page to see chapters 1-13 as they are published during 2023.

Migrating orangutan males imitate locals to learn about food: Study by Basten Gokkon — July 19, 2023
– Male orangutans that resettle to a new area appear to be imitating the behavior of a local individual in an effort to survive and find a future home range, a new study says.
– The researchers have dubbed the behavior learning skill as “peering” and describe it as when migrant male orangutans intensively observe over a period of time a certain local they have chosen as a role model.
– The scientists analyzed data of hundreds of Sumatran and Bornean orangutans in research stations in Aceh and Central Kalimantan.
– Indonesia is home to the world’s three orangutan species: Sumatran, Tapanuli (P. tapanuliensis) and Bornean orangutans.

São Paulo students plant mini-forests on school grounds as urban oases by Sibélia Zanon — July 18, 2023
– Four thousand students planted nearly 10,000 trees on public school grounds in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, in 2022, and another eight mini-forests will be planted in 2023.
– The project, created by the NGO formigas-de-embaúba, could be implemented at 650 public schools in the city, according to a MapBiomas study.
– Guarani leaders from the Jaraguá Indigenous Territory participate in the project, which was inspired by Indigenous knowledge and cosmology.
– Specialists see mini-forests at schools as a strong strategy for creating a democratic network of “cooling places” or urban oases in the face of intensifying global warming.

Expanding agriculture could worsen flooding in South American plains, study says by Maxwell Radwin — July 18, 2023
– The South American plains, including Las Pampas and the Gran Chaco, have seen agricultural activity expand drastically to meet international demand.
– A new study published last month in Science found that agriculture is exacerbating flooding in the region, which could disrupt food supplies and prices in the future.
– The study said dedicating more space to deeper-rooted forests and developing crop rotations with more flexible water table depths could stave off disaster.

Peace: A new tool for reducing deforestation in the Colombian Amazon by Sarah Sax — July 18, 2023
– In the almost seven years since Colombia signed a peace agreement with FARC, its largest rebel movement, farmers, miners, loggers and armed groups have accelerated deforestation, often in tandem with environmental conflicts.
– The Colombian government has responded to this uptick with militarization, which has done little to quell deforestation and has often stoked more violence.
– Now, a new group of researchers from the Del Rosario University in Colombia are piloting a different approach, developing a toolbox that communities and local governments can use to reconcile environmental and social conflicts as a way to stop deforestation and bring more peace to the region.

Forests & Finance: Cameroon raw log ban expands and Nigerian villagers act against ‘forest bandits’ by — July 18, 2023
– Cameroon expands limits on raw log exports, with a view to a total ban.
– Nigerian villagers step up to protect nearby forests from illegal logging.
– Forests & Finance is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin of news from Africa’s forests.

Clean me a river: Southeast Asia chokes on Mekong plastic pollution by Juliette Portala — July 18, 2023
– New research shows that the drift of microplastics from the Mekong River to the coastlines of countries around the South China Sea depends on variable factors, including seasonal changes in winds and ocean currents.
– The Philippines is most exposed to plastic waste that mainly drifts from the Mekong River to the sea during the monsoon season, with 47% of the stranded particles ending up on its coast, followed by Indonesia at 24%, Vietnam at 17%, and Malaysia at 8%.
– Environmental advocates say the findings of this study underscore the importance of international cooperation in combating plastic pollution, which harms marine biodiversity and coastal economies.

Sustainable aviation fuels: Potential lagging behind reality by Sean Mowbray — July 18, 2023
– The aviation sector is booming, with the number of flights in 2023 expected to outstrip the industry’s 2019 peak. Commercial aviation is already responsible for 2-3% of global carbon emissions. With the renewed surge in air travel, those emissions are only likely to increase in coming years.
– Current efforts to reduce aviation carbon emissions focus on the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), which include both liquid biofuels (made from algae, food crops and food waste) and synthetic options (such as green hydrogen or synthetic kerosene).
– SAFs, while they emit equivalent carbon as fossil fuels when burned in flight, offer a potential means for reducing emissions due to their far greener life cycle as compared to fossil fuels, say experts. But SAFs come with myriad caveats: risks of environmental harm, high costs, and currently limited supply.
– Ramping up SAF production while reducing environmental harm to ensure these fuels are truly sustainable is the goal. However, most experts agree that even if SAF production is scaled up, the most promising biofuels in current scenarios won’t likely provide enough emissions savings to stem aviation’s climate impacts.

West African fishers strike for fair wages and ‘respect’ on EU-owned vessels by Malavika Vyawahare — July 18, 2023
– African fishers, mostly from Senegal and Ivory Coast who work on dozens of EU vessels that operate in West Africa and the Indian Ocean, took part in a strike that lasted from June 5-8, alleging wage violations.
– Vessels owned by EU companies are allowed to fish in foreign countries’ waters through agreements between the EU and the host nations. However, a third of such vessels operating in West Africa use flags of other countries and evade labor rights provisions agreed to under these pacts.
– Fishers who participated in the strike told Mongabay they were fighting for more than fair wages, saying that African sailors were not treated with respect on European boats despite doing some of the most arduous jobs.
– Seafarers’ unions called off the strike after the Senegalese government initiated negotiations with vessel owners and unions. Talks are expected to conclude in five months.

From cardamom to carbon: Bold new Tanzanian project is regrowing a rainforest by Ryan Truscott — July 18, 2023
– Farmers in eastern Tanzania are regrowing rainforest trees on part of their land.
– The farmers receive payments from the sale of carbon credits to supplement their incomes and to compensate them for loss of land and cash crops.
– So far, close to 270,000 trees have been planted on 200 hectares (494 acres) of farms located on the flanks of the Nguru Mountains.
– Nguru’s forests, home to a wealth of unique animal and plant species, are under increasing pressure from farmers who fell trees to grow crops, including valuable cardamom spice.

Indonesia claims record-low deforestation, but accounting raises questions by Hans Nicholas Jong — July 18, 2023
– Official data show Indonesia lost an area of forest two-thirds the size of London in 2021-2022, marking a third straight annual decline.
– The government attributes the continued drop to various forest protection policies, such as permanent ban on new permits to clear primary forests and peatlands as well as forest fire mitigation.
– However, data from the University of Maryland show Indonesia’s primary tree cover loss actually increased by 13% in 2022 compared to 2021 data — the first increase since 2017.
– The disparity in data comes from differences in methodology and definitions of deforestation and forests adopted by UMD and the Indonesian government.

The value of mountains: Q&A with Tanzanian herpetologist John Lyakurwa by Ryan Truscott — July 18, 2023
– John Lyakurwa grew up fascinated by the chameleons he found on his family’s coffee farm on Mount Kilimanjaro.
– That passion inspired him to study conservation science, to specialize in herpetology, and to research a unique group of forest toads in remote parts of Tanzania.
– Lyakurwa’s research takes him regularly to the Eastern Arc Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot threatened by agriculture.
– He says raising awareness about the unique and diverse creatures that live in the mountains and their forests can help to preserve them and the benefits they bring to humans.

What can solve growing conflicts between agricultural giants and communities in Cameroon? by Yannick Kenné — July 17, 2023
– Tensions between local communities and large-scale agriculture companies are running high in Cameroon and disputes over land and environmental impacts have increased over the years.
– The Cameroonian government views industrial agriculture companies as drivers of future economic development and is encouraging the sector’s development, but their establishment is marred in land issues arising from colonization.
– The government’s adopted solutions to conflicts have proved ineffective, and it is struggling to implement adequate measures to curb disputes.
– Civil society groups and organizations are calling for the reform of Cameroon’s land policy as communities turn to popular protests as a way to meet their demands.

On burning-prone Borneo, planners work to fireproof Indonesia’s new capital by Mongabay Haze Beat — July 17, 2023
– The developers of Indonesia’s new capital city, Nusantara, have begun preparations to protect the site from the threat of wildfires and smoke pollution.
– City planners are to launch drones to monitor the estate for wildfires and hope to operate a dedicated fire brigade from next year.
– Nusantara faces lower wildfire risks owing to its east-coast location and distance from Borneo’s flammable peatlands, but officials nonetheless stress the need to build an early-warning system for wildfires around the site.

Sheep offer a livelihood for Kenyan farmers, and a lifeline for a rare bird by Caroline Chebet — July 17, 2023
– Farmers and conservationists in Kinangop, a grassland plateau in Kenya, are rearing sheep to conserve a bird species that’s restricted to the grasslands.
– The 77,000-hectare (190,000-acre) Kinangop Plateau is the global stronghold of the endangered Sharpe’s longclaw (Macronyx sharpei), a bird found only in Kenya.
– The grasslands are composed almost entirely of privately owned land, and the latest survey shows that less than 1% of what remains is suitable habitat for Sharpe’s longclaw.

New research shines a light on Sri Lanka fireflies by Malaka Rodrigo — July 15, 2023
– Until recently, there had been a significant absence in research on Sri Lanka’s fireflies; previous work was by British scientists a couple hundred years ago, but now a new surge in research has led to new findings in the pipeline for publication.
– Recent research has led to the rediscovery of Luciola nicolleri, a firefly not seen since its description 100 years ago, and Curtos costipennis, a new discovery in Sri Lanka.
– Glowworms are the larval stage of fireflies, and folklore has it that once stung by them, treatment would require mud from the depths of the ocean and stars from the sky, indicating a difficult cure — shot down by experts as myth, confirming fireflies do not harm human life.
– A beautiful and common sight just a decade ago, fireflies are fast disappearing from urban landscapes due to loss of habitat, increasing temperatures and pollution levels, affecting their reproduction signals in the form of bioluminescent lights.

Drug trafficking fuels other deforestation drivers in the Amazon: report by Maxwell Radwin — July 14, 2023
– The 2023 report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime looks at the impact of organized crime on deforestation and pollution in the Amazon rainforest.
– While coca cultivation is often discussed as the main driver of deforestation connected to drug trafficking, the report argues that it has a minimal impact compared to some other peripheral activities.
– Drug trafficking is intimately connected to cattle ranching, illegal mining, wildlife trafficking and land grabbing, all of which have major environmental footprints in the Amazon.

Popular aquarium fish from Thailand and Myanmar is new-to-science species by Liz Kimbrough — July 14, 2023
– Redtail garras, known for their bright orange tails and elongated snouts, are popular aquarium fish, but information about their biology has been scarce until recently — when they were described as a new species.
– Redtail garras primarily eat algae and arthropods by scraping them off rocks using specialized mouthparts. They have unique features like a snout covered in tubercles, which are hardened scales used as weapons.
– The species was named in honor of Nonn Panitvong, a Thai businessman and naturalist recognized for his efforts in biodiversity conservation.
– The late recognition of the redtail garra emphasizes the need to better understand biodiversity in understudied areas, and reflects the underestimate of fish diversity in Southeast Asia.

Forests & Finance: Wood export bans and short-staffed regulators by — July 14, 2023
– Uganda has announced a ban on timber exports, but environmentalists warn deforestation is driven by other activities, mostly agribusiness.
– Kenya’s president lifts a ban on logging in state and community forests, raising fears forest loss will accelerate.
– Understaffed authorities are struggling to curb deforestation in the Angolan municipality of Nambuangongo, where felling trees for farmland is seen as a culturally sanctioned tradition.
– Forests & Finance is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin of news from Africa’s forests.

Tag team effort brings tech to aid leatherback turtle conservation by Abhishyant Kidangoor — July 14, 2023
– In Puerto Rico, scientists and conservationists are deploying drones and satellite tags to gather data about leatherback sea turtles.
– Leatherback sea turtles, the largest species of turtles in the world, have seen their populations decline due to poaching, habitat loss and bycatch in fishing nets.
– Two teams are now collaborating to use drones to identify nesting sites in Maunabo in Puerto Rico.
– They’re also tagging the animals to understand more about their migration patterns once they leave the nesting beach.

Sharks deserve our appreciation and protection (commentary) by Assaf Levy — July 13, 2023
– Shark Awareness Day is celebrated on July 14 every year: though widely feared and sometimes vilified, sharks actually play a key role in ocean health and are rarely a threat to humans.
– “We must all take action to protect sharks, and raising awareness and educating others about the importance of sharks is a great spot to start,” a new op-ed argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

New Tree Tech: Real-time, long-term, high-tech reforestation monitoring by Claire Asher — July 13, 2023
– This four-part Mongabay mini-series examines the latest technological solutions to help tree-planting projects achieve scale and long-term efficiency. Using these innovative approaches could be vital for meeting international targets to repair degraded ecosystems, sequester carbon, and restore biodiversity.
– Many people see reforestation as a quick fix to the climate emergency, but tree-planting projects often fail to put in place the monitoring programs needed to track newly planted forests. Traditionally, forest monitoring has been done by hand, one tree at a time, which is extremely expensive and time-consuming.
– Satellites are mapping and remapping the entire planet daily, providing real-time data that can be used to monitor forests remotely. Drones can fly over or through forests to collect data on tree growth, bridging the gap between on-site measurements and distant satellites.
– Sensors can be installed to monitor individual trees directly, while people can collect and analyze the data electronically from a safer and easier-to-access location. Multiple sensors can form a distributed network that returns detailed information on the growth of each tree within huge reforestation plots.

Despite lawsuit, Casino Group still sells beef from Amazonian Indigenous territory by Fábio Bispo / InfoAmazonia — July 13, 2023
– A new investigation shows that farms located in the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau Indigenous Territory in the Brazilian Amazon supplied two JBS meatpacking plants that sell beef to brands of the French supermarket giant.
– In most cases, animals were not transferred directly from ranches in the Indigenous land to JBS, but went through different farms before arriving at slaughterhouses, when it was no longer possible to differentiate between cattle from the Indigenous land and others.
– This maneuver is known as ‘cattle laundering’ and aims to hide any potentially illegal origin of the animals.
– Casino said its suppliers are required to detail the supply route and that it directly rechecks all farms, but it’s up to meatpackers to monitor indirect suppliers; meanwhile, the meatpacker says it has no control over indirect suppliers.

Current policy approaches in the Amazon: certainly necessary, but are they sufficient? by Timothy J. Killeen — July 13, 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.



Meet the kipunji: A rare primate success story in Tanzania by Ruth Kamnitzer — July 5, 2023
New Tree Tech: Cutting-edge drones give reforestation a helping hand by Claire Asher — July 12, 2023
Forests in the furnace: Can fashion brands tackle illegal logging in their Cambodian supply chains? by Gerald Flynn & Andy Ball — July 12, 2023
Biological field stations: Indispensable but ‘invisible’ by Mike DiGirolamo — July 11, 2023
Forests in the furnace: Cambodia’s garment sector is fueled by illegal logging by Gerald Flynn & Andy Ball — July 11, 2023
Poverty-fueled deforestation of Nigerian reserve slashes hope for rare chimps by Orji Sunday — July 10, 2023
Agroecology schools help communities restore degraded land in Guatemala by Aimee Gabay — July 7, 2023