Newsletter 2023-10-26


Nepal’s tiger conservation gets tech boost with AI-powered deer tracking by Abhaya Raj Joshi — October 23, 2023


– Endangered tigers in Nepal heavily rely on spotted deer as their primary prey, making their conservation crucial.
– Researchers in Nepal are using vertical cameras and AI technology to track and profile individual spotted deer (Axis axis), similar to the methods used for tigers.
– However, the project has faced challenges, including low recapture rates and difficulty in distinguishing individual deer in the wild.

With record ocean temps, is the Great Barrier Reef facing catastrophe? by Mike DiGirolamo — October 24, 2023


– The inaugural international edition of the famed South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and conference took place from October 15-22, 2023 in Sydney and Mongabay spoke with some of the most interesting presenters there.
– On this edition of the Mongabay Newscast, multiple guests working in coral reef conservation, kelp reforestation and sustainable agriculture detail their projects and challenges they’re tackling.
– Like the catastrophic Great Barrier Reef bleaching event of 2016, if the current conditions line up just right, “we could lose a huge part of the reef by February,” says guest Dean Miller of the Forever Reef Project, which is now racing to add the final coral specimens to its “biobank.”
– Guests also include John “Charlie” Veron from the Forever Reef Project, Mic Black from Rainstick, and Adriana Vergés from the Kelp Forest Alliance.

Meet Japan’s Iriomote and Tsushima cats: Ambassadors for island conservation by Annelise Giseburt — October 24, 2023


– Two rare subspecies of leopard cat, the Iriomote cat and Tsushima cat, can be found only on the Japanese islands they’re named after. With populations hovering around 100 individuals each, the cats are the focus of Ministry of the Environment-led conservation measures.
– The Iriomote cat has adapted to its isolated ecosystem by developing a more diverse diet than other felids. Following its well-publicized discovery in the 1960s, the cat has become an enduringly popular symbol of the island’s nature, and locals eagerly assist in conservation efforts.
– The Tsushima cat has faced habitat degradation caused by deforestation, canal construction and, most recently, ravenous deer. As the islands’ human population declines, local farmers are working to preserve the wet rice fields that help support the cat population.
– On both Iriomote and Tsushima, roadkill accidents are a major threat to the low wildcat populations. Conservation centers on the islands aim to raise driver awareness by providing crowdsourced info on cat sightings, posting cautionary signs at cat crossing hotspots, and educating locals and tourists.

Sound recordings and AI tell us if forests are recovering, new study from Ecuador shows by Liz Kimbrough — October 23, 2023


– Acoustic monitoring and AI tools were used to track biodiversity recovery in plots of tropical Chocó forest in northwestern Ecuador.
– The study found that species returned to regenerating forests in as little as 25 years, indicating positive progress in forest recovery.
– Acoustic monitoring and AI-based methods proved to be powerful and cost-effective techniques for assessing biodiversity levels in restored forests, including insects and animals that don’t vocalize.
– The authors hope these methods make biodiversity monitoring more transparent, accountable, and accessible to support land managers and market-based conservation mechanisms that rely on forest restoration, such as payments for ecosystem services.

Sumatran Indigenous seafarers run aground by overfishing and mangrove loss by Suryadi Tonggo Simangunsong — October 23, 2023


– Many among Indonesia’s Duano Indigenous community have hung up their fishing nets in response to recent environmental and economic shifts.
– A study published in October found that intact mangroves were associated with up to a 28% increase in fish and shellfish consumption among coastal communities.
– Duano elders say young people from the community are increasingly retiring from the community’s traditional livelihood to take up poorly paid casual work.


Intensive agriculture in the Pan Amazon: Soy, maize and other field crops by Timothy J. Killeen — October 25, 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.

Climate refugees? As the sea warms, corals thrive in Japan’s cool waters by Annelise Giseburt — October 25, 2023
– As tropical and subtropical coral reefs succumb to bleaching due to climate change in many parts of the world, the idea that they could take refuge in cooler, temperate seas has offered cause for hope.
– For a while, this is exactly what researchers thought was happening in Japan, where corals are replacing seaweed as the dominant benthos in many places, shaking up both ecosystems and coastal economies.
– But the latest research has tempered those hopes, showing that it’s mainly Japan’s genetically distinct temperate corals that have been expanding their range and edging out seaweed.
– The long-term implications of this shift are unclear, but researchers say it could take tens of thousands of years for these new high-latitude coral communities to evolve the structures, niches and symbioses necessary to support biodiversity on par with the world’s current tropical reefs.

Half of Philippines’ watersheds unprotected; policies fall short, report says by Keith Anthony S. Fabro — October 25, 2023
– A recent report finds that more than half of the Philippines watersheds are unprotected, despite the vital role they play in supporting water supplies, ecosystems and mitigation against climate change.
– “The current watershed policy and governance framework does not respond to the realities and needs of our people and our environment,” one activist says.
– According to an independent scientist, the Philippines is ahead of most of its neighbors when it comes to recognizing the importance of watersheds, but “too many legal instruments” and lack of “coordination and enforcement” lead to inadequate protection in practice.

‘Predator-proof’ husbandry could help curb human-leopard conflict in Nepal: Study by Abhaya Raj Joshi — October 25, 2023
– A study conducted in Nepal suggests that adopting predator-proofing practices for livestock can potentially reduce human-leopard conflicts and benefit both humans and leopards.
– The study identified three main drivers of leopard attacks on humans: livestock and human densities, as well as rugged terrain, and suggested measures to address these factors at the municipal level.
– Predator-proofing husbandry practices, regular monitoring of hotspot areas for leopard presence and raising awareness about potential leopard attacks were proposed as potential solutions to mitigate human-leopard conflict.

Amid socioeconomic slump, new sugar cane varieties offer hope in Sri Lanka by Manasee Weerathunga — October 25, 2023
– After 20 years of research, the Sugarcane Research Institute (SRI) of Sri Lanka has introduced four new varieties with improved sugar recovery percentages, cane yield and disease resistance.
– An interactive mobile app called Uksaviya has been introduced to assist sugar cane farmers in disease identification, cultivation advice and access to the latest knowledge.
– An institutional business framework too has been developed linking researchers and industry to improve collaboration, precision, and commercialization of cutting-edge research.
– With Sri Lanka’s agriculture hit by multiple issues, SRI’s efforts offer some hope.

Indonesia’s oil palm smallholders need both state and EU support (commentary) by Andre Barahamin — October 25, 2023
– The EU’s recently adopted restrictions on the import of commodities linked to deforestation, such as palm oil from Indonesia, has a noble intention but could have unintended impacts on small farmers, argues Andre Barahamin, a senior campaigner at Kaoem Telapak, an Indonesian NGO.
– Smallholders account for 40% of Indonesia’s palm oil production, but lack the resources and capacity to comply with the new restrictions, and so must be provided with to training, technology, financing, and certification, Barahamin writes.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Livestock farming in the Andean Amazon and the rest of the Amazon by Timothy J. Killeen — October 24, 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.

People and nature suffer as historic drought fuels calamitous Amazon fires by André Schröder — October 24, 2023
– The state of Amazonas, the largest in Brazil, recorded 3,181 fires from Oct. 1-23, an all-time record for this month, according to monitoring by Brazil’s space agency, INPE.
– Surrounded by fires, Manaus, the state capital, has been shrouded in a thick layer of smoke, increasing the number of medical emergencies for respiratory problems.
– Researchers writing in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution say fires have become the main factor in the degradation of the Brazilian Amazon, threatening to undo the results of environmental protection policies.
– Water levels in the Solimões, Negro, Madeira and other great Amazonian rivers have dropped to unprecedented levels, forcing families to live on boats and drag themselves through the mud in search of water and food.

Report: Half of MSC-certified ‘sustainable’ tuna caught with controversial gear by Shreya Dasgupta — October 24, 2023
– Tuna fisheries often rely on fish aggregating devices (FADs), floating human-made structures that fish congregate around, which makes it relatively easy to catch them, but which have also raised concerns about high rates of bycatch, capture of juvenile tuna, and pollution.
– Despite these concerns, the number of tuna fisheries using FADs that are certified sustainable under the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the largest ecolabeling scheme for wild fisheries, has soared, and FAD-fished tuna now account for more than half of all MSC-certified tuna, according to a new report from France-based nonprofit BLOOM Association.
– The report contends this constitutes a weakening of MSC standards in order to meet market demands for tuna.
– The MSC has refuted this claim, pointing to steps that certified fisheries are taking to reduce and study the impact of FADs.

Lula partially blocks anti-Indigenous land rights bill, but trouble isn’t over by Sarah Brown — October 24, 2023
– Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva partially blocked a controversial bill that dramatically violates Indigenous rights, a month after the Supreme Court ruled out its core article.
– While some Indigenous activists lament that the bill wasn’t fully rejected, many hail the partial veto as a win for human rights and the protection of the Constitution.
– The vetoed bill now returns to Congress, where Lula’s decision will be upheld or rejected; if rejected, the time frame bill will be enacted, in a major blow to Indigenous rights and environmental protection, experts say.
– The veto sparked outrage among Brazil’s powerful rural lobby, which vowed to reject Lula’s changes to the bill, although any decision made in Congress can be challenged in the Supreme Court.

New satellite readings show full extent of mining in the Amazon Rainforest by Maxwell Radwin — October 24, 2023
– A new report from Monitoring of the Amazon Project (MAAP) compiles some of the most up-to-date and extensive analysis of mining in the Amazon.
– The map show 58 instances of illegal mining in virtually every Amazonian country (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana), 49 of them illegal.
– The map also shows that there were 36 instances of mining activity overlapping with a protected area or Indigenous territory.

As population ‘flattens,’ North Atlantic right whales remain at risk by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — October 24, 2023
– A new population estimate for North Atlantic right whales found about 356 individuals left in 2022, which suggests the population trend is “flattening.”
– In 2021, scientists previously estimated there were 340 right whales, although this number was later revised to 364 to account for several newborn calves.
– Despite there not being a notable difference between the population estimates in 2021 and 2022, scientists say North Atlantic right whales are still in danger of going extinct and that urgent measures need to be put into place to protect them.

Indigenous Suruí turn invaders’ crop into high-quality Amazonian coffee by Patricia Moll — October 24, 2023
– The Indigenous Paiter Suruí people of Brazil have reclaimed the coffee farms established by invaders on their land, in the process opening up a new source of livelihood and strengthening community bonds.
– Through training and partnerships, this Indigenous community has learned how to process coffee beans to specialty standards, yielding a high-quality and highly valued product.
– Today, coffee production is a significant source of income for 132 families of various Indigenous ethnicities living in Rondônia state.
– Growing coffee has also become an opportunity for the Suruí to tell their own story, through ethnotourism and the training of Indigenous baristas like Celesty Suruí.

Oil firm Perenco eyes new blocks in DRC amid criticism of its track record by Elodie Toto — October 24, 2023
– Oil multinational Perenco has bid on two new oil blocks being auctioned off by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– Perenco operates the country’s only oil production facilities, at Muanda, near the mouth of the Congo River.
– Local and international critics accuse the oil company of polluting the environment, affecting fishing and farming, as well as residents’ health; the company denies this.

Forest conservation ‘off-track’ to halt deforestation by 2030: New report by John Cannon — October 24, 2023
– The world lost 6.6 million hectares (16.3 million acres) of forest, an area larger than Sri Lanka, and deforestation rates increased by 4% in 2022, according to a report published Oct. 24 that tracks commitments to forest conservation.
– The Forest Declaration Assessment is an annual evaluation of deforestation rates against a 2018-2020 deforestation and forest degradation baseline compiled by civil society and research organizations.
– Much of the forest loss occurred in the tropics, and nearly two-thirds of it was in relatively undisturbed primary forests, while forest degradation, more than deforestation, remains a serious problem in temperate and boreal forests.
– Despite being far off the pace to achieve an end to deforestation by 2030, a goal that 145 countries pledged to pursue in 2021, more than 50 countries have cut their deforestation rates and are on track to end deforestation within their borders by the end of the century.

Young firefighter killed battling inferno in Borneo orangutan habitat by Budi Baskoro — October 24, 2023
– Said Jaka Pahlawan, an oil palm plantation foreman, was killed on Sept. 30 while fighting a fire in Indonesia’s Tanjung Puting National Park, a key orangutan habitat.
– The 23-year-old worked for PT Kumai Sentosa, a plantation company that had been fined in 2019 by an Indonesian court over wildfires on its concession.
– The fire this time around was in the national park, where Jaka and other employees went to tackle the blaze as government firefighters responded to fires elsewhere.
– Friends of the young firefighter told Mongabay that Jaka was a dedicated professional who had participated in conservation activities in the area.

Mine in ‘world cobalt capital’ displaces locals and monks under questionable circumstances by Didier Makal and Eric Cibamba — October 23, 2023
– Local residents living in the DRC’s ‘cobalt capital of the world’ are being forced to relocate in order to make way for a mine owned by Chinese company COMMUS (Compagnie miniere de Musonie).
– The relocation process is being done under questionable circumstances, including providing compensation payments under the table which don’t always meet amounts needed to buy a decent home, contradictory statements, lack of consultation, and few traces of written documentation to fact-check claims made by local government officials, the mining company and displaced people.
– The demand for cobalt, a critical mineral for the clean energy transition, is expected to increase and lead to the eviction of communities who find themselves living above their deposits, say energy experts.
– The mining company’s lawyer says the relocation process is happening fairly, payments are calculated alongside officials and civil society groups, and the land and buildings, like schools, rather belong to the company’s owners.

More capacity building funds needed for small nonprofit conservation groups (commentary) by Gail Koelln — October 20, 2023
– Research suggests that environmental nonprofits — which include land conservation, land trusts, and wildlife protection organizations — receive just 2% of all the types of charitable donations.
– Though small conservation groups are typically efficient about converting funds into effective, on-the-ground projects, most conservation funding goes to the largest, multi-national organizations.
– “The simplest and most immediate way concerned parties with some resources, whether an individual or institution, can help is to donate more to small wildlife conservation organizations and volunteer when and where it is logistically possible,” a new op-ed argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

African NGOs seek more funds, trust, and autonomy in global partnerships by Malavika Vyawahare — October 20, 2023
– A recent report from conservation nonprofit Maliasili scrutinizes partnerships between big international NGOs and their smaller conservation-focused partners in Africa.
– The biggest pain points in these often lopsided relationships Africa appear to be money, trust, and autonomy, the report says.
– More than half of the local organizations surveyed in Maliasili’s “Rooting for Change” report cited a lack of trust as a challenge in partnerships.
– “We want a supporting relationship rather than a dictatorial partner,” John Kamanga, co-founder and director of the Southern Rift Association of Landowners (SORALO) in Kenya, told the report authors, and “a willingness to co-design and build from our ideas.”

Banana fiber sari offers sustainable, biodegradable alternative in Bangladesh by Mohammad Al-Masum Molla — October 20, 2023
– The sari, a quintessential part of Bangladeshi culture and attire, is known for its vibrant colors and intricate designs.
– However, traditional sari production is often associated with resource-intensive processes that raise environmental concerns.
– A couple of Indigenous Marma and Manipuri communities in Bangladesh have taken the Bangladeshi fashion scene by storm with their unique creation: a sari woven entirely from banana fiber, considered a sustainable and biodegradable alternative.

New Paraguay law aims to improve carbon credit market by Maxwell Radwin — October 20, 2023
– A new law in Paraguay creates a more organized, transparent carbon credit system but might also complicate the way credits are bought and sold.
– The law creates a registry for carbon credit projects and ensures land isn’t being assigned more than once.
– The Gran Chaco, South America’s second-largest forest, has been of particular interest to the carbon credit market, as there are concerns about deforestation in the area.

Deforestation surges in hotspot of critically endangered Bornean orangutans by Hans Nicholas Jong — October 20, 2023
– Deforestation within a pulpwood concession that overlaps with key orangutan habitat in Indonesian Borneo has escalated in recent months.
– Concession holder PT Mayawana Persada cleared 14,000 hectares (34,600 acres) of forest between January and August, or 40 times the size of New York’s Central Park, of which 13,000 hectares (32,100 acres) were areas identified as orangutan habitat.
– In July alone, the company cleared 4,970 hectares (12,300 acres), the highest monthly deforestation figure recorded.

Indonesia renews effort to resume controversial lobster larvae exports by Basten Gokkon — October 20, 2023
– The Indonesian government is drafting a new policy that could allow the resumption of lobster larvae exports, which were banned in 2016 to prevent overharvesting of wild stocks.
– The fisheries ministry says a resumption is necessary to boost local fishers’ earnings and develop the domestic aquaculture industry.
– However, critics say the new policy mirrors a previous attempt to resume exports in 2020, which spawned a corruption scandal that led to the fisheries minister at the time being jailed.
– The ministry says this time around the policy will be monitored and enforced more strictly, although questions still remain over how sustainably lobster larvae can be harvested from the wild.

Indonesia’s besieged Tesso Nilo National Park hit hard by yet more deforestation, satellites show by Morgan Erickson-Davis — October 19, 2023
– Sumatra’s Tesso Nilo National Park boasts one of the highest levels of lowland plant diversity known to science and harbors an estimated 3% of the planet’s mammal species.
– But industrial tree plantations, encouraged by the COVID-19 pandemic and boosted by high palm oil prices, are quickly supplanting the park’s remaining habitat.
– Satellite data show the park lost 87% of its primary forest cover between 2002 and 2022, most of which was cleared after the government expanded Tesso Nilo’s boundaries in 2009
– Preliminary data from GFW, along with satellite imagery, indicate 2023 has been another particularly bad year for the park’s remaining habitat, with clearings nearly severing Tesso Nilo’s last large tract of forest by September.

Sliver of hope as ‘mountain chicken’ frog shows resistance to deadly disease by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — October 19, 2023
– A Caribbean frog species known as the mountain chicken is on the brink of extinction due to the spread of an infectious fungal disease.
– However, a recent survey found that there were still 21 of these supersized frogs on the island of Dominica.
– Some of these frogs were found to have genes resistant to the fungal disease, raising hope for the species’ survival.

As companies buy ‘plastic credits,’ are they reducing waste or greenwashing? by Charles Pekow — October 19, 2023
– Companies and other entities are buying “plastic credits” allowing them to offset every ton of plastic they make with an equivalent amount of plastic waste collected and taken out of the environment elsewhere — often in poor nations lacking waste management programs. Several organizations now offer credits and will certify plastic collection and reuse.
– No worldwide standards or regulations govern the use of these plastic credits or assure their reliability, nor what gets done with the collected waste. Verra, which runs the world’s largest carbon credit verification system, but has come under fire for that system’s poor verification record, recently launched its own plastic credits verification system.
– Skeptics warn the plastic credit systems being created by various organizations, rather than recycling significant plastic waste, merely amount to greenwashing and allow companies to continue to make and use polluting materials, while running PR campaigns to make themselves look environmentally responsible.
– The credit system at best only deals with waste already manufactured and thrown out; it doesn’t address the need to ban the most toxic plastics, reduce production of others, or replace disposable single-use plastic with eco-friendly or reusable materials. Verra is urging that plastic credits become part of the U.N. global plastics treaty currently under negotiation.

National versus global markets – beef in the Brazilian Amazon by Timothy J. Killeen — October 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.



Fishing ban extension raises hopes for iconic Amazon pink river dolphin by Pérola de Farias Pedro — October 16, 2023
Mongabay wins prestigious 2023 Biophilia Award for Environmental Communication by — October 18, 2023
Despite severe drought, Amazon deforestation continues to slow by — October 13, 2023
‘It’s a real mess’: Mining and deforestation threaten unparalleled DRC wildlife haven by Ruth Kamnitzer — October 13, 2023