Newsletter 2021-11-18



Court convenes historic hearing in Indigenous territory on land consent issue by Kimberley Brown [11/17/2021]

– Ecuador’s Constitutional Court held a hearing in the Indigenous Cofan territory of Sinangoe in the northern Amazon rainforest on Nov. 15, the first time the highest court in the country agreed to travel to Indigenous territory for a court hearing.
– The hearing is a step in a review of the country’s process for free, prior and informed consultation, and how well this process in action adheres to the rights outlined in the Constitution.
– To analyze this process, the Constitutional Court selected two previous Indigenous lawsuits, including Sinangoe’s 2018 winning lawsuit against the government for selling mining concessions on their territory without first consulting with the community.
– More than 300 Indigenous leaders arrived in Sinangoe for the hearing, traveling from all over the Amazon and other parts of Ecuador to support the consultation review process, which will also have an impact on territorial struggles across the country.

In rural Nigeria, the magic of cinema builds support for ape conservation by Orji Sunday [11/15/2021]

– Since 2006, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked with local groups to screen documentaries about apes in dozens of communities adjoining protected areas where Cross River gorillas are still found.
– The films aim to build knowledge about apes and support for conservation; conservationists say film screenings, which are still a novelty in rural areas, attract a broader audience than radio shows, town hall meetings or other outreach methods.
– Though they live close to ape habitats, for many people in these rural communities, films are as close as they will come to encountering the rare and cryptic animals that live nearby.

Carnivores avoid rush hour by taking to roads at night by Elyse DeFranco [11/17/2021]

– Large carnivores avoid people by steering clear of roads during the day, but they often travel by road at night.
– Avoiding humans is a higher priority than avoiding other carnivore species.
– Humans may also be altering predator-prey relationships by making large carnivores more nocturnal.



In Sumatra, a snare trap costs a baby elephant her trunk, then her life by Junaidi Hanafiah [17 Nov 2021]
– A female elephant calf in Indonesia has died days after her rescue and an emergency amputation by conservation authorities in Aceh province.
– Authorities link the elephant’s death to the severe wounds on her trunk believed to have been inflicted by a snare trap set by wildlife poachers.
– Veterinarians amputated half of her trunk, and reported that the elephant appeared to be recovering from the procedure. She died on Nov. 16.
– Snare traps, typically made of steel or nylon wire and usually set for bushmeat like wild boar, are indiscriminate in what they catch, resulting in the capture of non-target species, as well as females and juvenile animals.

Indonesia slashes 2021 mangrove restoration target, vows to make up in 2022 By: Hans Nicholas Jong [17 Nov 2021]
– Indonesia has scaled back its target for mangrove restoration this year, but says its longer-term goal of rehabilitating 630,000 hectares (1.55 million acres) by 2024 remains unchanged.
– It blames “technical hurdles,” including the diversion of funding for the COVID-19 pandemic response, for its decision to revise its 20201 target from 83,000 hectares (205,000 acres) to 33,000 hectares (81,500 acres).
– The country is home to more than a quarter of the world’s mangroves, an ecosystem that buffers coastal communities against storm surges and sea-level rise, stores four times as much carbon as other tropical forests, and serves as a key habitat for a wealth of marine species.
– Indonesia has lost much of its mangroves to shrimp farms and logging, which have also undone previous efforts at mangrove rehabilitation.

Primary-colored poison: Lead paint still a major threat to Indonesian kids By: Ayat S. Karokaro [17 Nov 2021]
– Nearly 70% of commercially available paints in Indonesia contain levels of lead higher than the regulatory safe limit of 600 parts per million (ppm).
– That’s the finding from an analysis of solvent-based paints in 10 Indonesian cities, which also estimates that 33 million children are exposed to lead paint on a daily basis.
– The association of paint manufacturers says it may consider adopting a safe limit of 90 ppm, the same as the World Health Organization prescribes, but that many of the small manufacturers that still use lead aren’t part of the association.
– Advocates have called for stronger regulations governing sales of lead-based paints, including lead content information to be published on paint cans.

Think that GIF of the smoking chimp is funny? The chimp wasn’t laughing By: Tina Deines [17 Nov 2021]
– While a GIF of an ape engaging in “human” behavior may seem cute, the animals used to create such images were often subjected to abuse.
– Experts also say such images can perpetuate the myth that apes make good pets, fueling the international trade in these endangered animals.
– Campaigners have successfully convinced major stock photography agencies to stop providing images of apes in unnatural situations, but popular GIF agencies still do not have specific policies against such images.

Study evaluates role of rivers in creating the Amazon’s rich biodiversity By: Luís Patriani [17 Nov 2021]
– In the 19th century, British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who developed the theory of natural selection independently of Charles Darwin, hypothesized that the large rivers in the Amazon Basin could be natural barriers influencing the diversity of life in the forest.
– While Wallace’s theory was proven through studies on vertebrates, a new study now shows how it also applies to plant species.
– The study found that the high variety of flora in the Amazon is not the result of any single factor, but rather the combination of many different factors.
– For some plants, wide rivers were an important barrier to be able to create new species; for others, seed dispersal by way of wind, water and animals was the determining factor.

‘Superstitious belief kills pangolins’: Q&A with biologist Elisa Panjang By: Caitlin Looby [16 Nov 2021]
– Elisa Panjang spends long hours in the field studying pangolin populations, using a combination camera traps, collaring and radio telemetry to monitor the elusive mammal.
– Her work has helped raise the local protection status of the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) in her home state of Sabah, Malaysia, and she says she’s hopeful that conservationists will be able to save pangolins from extinction.
– Pangolins are the most trafficked animal in the world; their scales are used in traditional medicine and their meat is a delicacy in some countries, despite no evidence to support claims that pangolin body parts have any healing properties.
– Elisa Panjang spoke with Mongabay about the challenges of fieldwork in the Bornean rainforest, the technologies that work (and don’t work) to track pangolins, and the growing global awareness about the need to protect the world’s most trafficked mammal.

For Kenyan farmers, organic fertilizer bokashi brings the land back to life By: Isaiah Esipisu [16 Nov 2021]
– Farmers in Kenya’s arid Tharaka Nithi county are growing fresh vegetables thanks to the use of an organic fertilizer known as bokashi.
– Made from a mix of farmyard waste, bokashi adds both nutrients and microorganisms to the soil, unlike chemical fertilizers that add only nutrients that are quickly consumed or washed away.
– The use of bokashi is one of many agroecological techniques being shared with smallholder farmers here by the Resources Oriented Development Initiative (RODI Kenya).
– While the cost of initially applying bokashi can be prohibitive for many small farmers, the need for it diminishes each year, and farmers are encouraged to make their own rather than buy it.

The last spotted ground thrush on Malawi’s lonely mountain By: Liz Kimbrough [15 Nov 2021]
– An expedition to Malawi’s highest mountain sought to confirm the presence of a rare subspecies of spotted ground thrush, last spotted in 2005.
– Two birds and one nest with baby birds were found in the Chisongeli forest, the biggest intact block of Afromontane rainforest left in Malawi, which experts say lacks adequate protection.
– Illegal logging and snares threaten the birds and other endemic wildlife in the Chisongeli forest, with the ground thrush expedition finding 68 hunting snares in just one 100-meter (330-foot) transect.
– The researchers say complete protection of the forest is needed to save the last spotted ground thrush and other endemic wildlife on Malawi’s Mount Mulanje.

Ambitious English rewilding project aims to give 20% of land ‘back to nature’ By: Rebecca Branford and Sue Branford [15 Nov 2021]
– Rewilding projects are multiplying in the U.K. in response to a growing awareness of the country’s serious loss of biodiversity. Britain ranked 189th out of 218 countries in the 2016 “State of Nature” report for the quality of its biodiversity and its natural condition.
– One of the most innovative projects now underway may be WildEast, which ambitiously hopes to rewild an area more than three times the size of New York City, creating interconnecting wild corridors across East Anglia, the country’s most intensely farmed region.
– The plan originated with three large estate owners, who, in addition to the commitment of their own lands, have already registered 1,000 “pledgees” for the project. However, some local residents, especially farmers, have complained that there is not enough consultation by WildEast.
– Even so, many East Anglia residents welcome the explosion in wildlife happening on the newly rewilded areas. WildEast’s long-term goal is to rewild 250,000 hectares (618,000 acres) by 2070.

Indigenous mine opponents targeted in raids during state of siege in Guatemala By: Sandra Cuffe [15 Nov 2021]
– In the midst of a long conflict and recent protest over a nickel mine in El Estor, in eastern Guatemala, police have carried out more than 40 raids and 60 arrests, and the government has declared a 30-day state of emergency.
– Indigenous Mayan opponents to the mine say they were never properly consulted about the mine and its impacts on their lands, livelihoods and lake, and protested on the town’s main road, refusing passage to mining vehicles.
– Four police were shot during the police crackdown on protests by what the government blames as armed protestors, although mine opponents say the assailants were not involved in the protest.
– There are concerns mining operations will pose environmental damages to Guatemala’s largest lake, home to diverse fish, bird, reptile and mammal species, including the endangered Guatemalan black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra).

Countries fail to agree on Antarctic conservation measures for fifth straight year By: Richa Syal [15 Nov 2021]
– Members of the multilateral body responsible for Antarctic marine conservation failed to agree on new measures to protect the Southern Ocean from overfishing.
– China and Russia blocked all proposals to establish new marine protected areas.
– This story was originally published by the Environmental Reporting Collective.

Palm oil firm that dried out its land held not liable for fires that followed By: Hans Nicholas Jong [15 Nov 2021]
– Indonesia’s highest court has upheld a ruling clearing a palm oil company of responsibility for fires in its concession in Central Kalimantan province.
– Environmental experts say this flies in the face of evidence showing that the firm didn’t have adequate equipment to tackle fires and that the fires started in areas it had recently cleared and drained.
– They warn the verdict sets a worrying precedent for future prosecutions of companies with fires on their concessions, and counters Indonesia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use.

Honey bees find food more easily in cities, thanks to abundant urban gardens By: Jude Coleman [15 Nov 2021]
– In London, western honey bees travel shorter distances to find their meals in metropolitan areas than in agricultural ones.
– A rich supply of gardens and decorative flowers provides ample nectar close to urban hives.
– Adding native flowers and similar foraging hotspots near open fields would help support bees in intensively farmed areas.

‘Standing with your feet in the water’: COP26 struggles to succeed By: Justin Catanoso [12 Nov 2021]
– As at every COP before it, negotiators at COP26 are struggling against time to reach an accord, with negotiators at Glasgow clashing over seemingly irreconcilable differences. With the science of climate change now dire, vulnerable nations are demanding strong specific language, while other nations seek to water it down.
– The group of nations dubbed the “Carbon Club” as long ago as the Kyoto Agreement negotiations in the 1990s, continues to offer the primary stumbling block. Those oil and/or coal producing nations include Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Australia, Norway, the U.K. and often the U.S.
– The United States, while it has made a major sea change since the denialism of the Trump administration, continues to be cautious about any language that would threaten oil, gas and coal industry subsidies, or antagonize Republican members of Congress or coal company baron and West Virginia Dem. Sen. Joe Manchin.
– As the clock ticks, and the last hours of COP26 slip away, with street protestors increasingly frustrated at the lack of significant movement by the negotiators, the scene remains tense in Glasgow. With the summit now gone into overtime, the outcome of COP26 remains in the balance.

Climate change means hunger in our communities, African women leaders at COP26 By: Malavika Vyawahare [12 Nov 2021]
– Activists and delegates from developing countries, including many African nations, have strained but so far failed to define the debate at COP26 as one of climate justice. They emphasize that developed nations have largely caused the climate crisis, while developing nations often suffer the worst consequences.
– In 2015 when countries signed the Paris climate agreement, the per capita emissions of Madagascar, which is facing the world’s first climate change-induced famine, stood at 0.12 tons/person, compared to 16 tons/person for the United States.
– At a COP session organized by the British philanthropy Campaign for Female Education (CEMFED) this week, delegates from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa underlined the link between climate change and hunger.
– The climate talks have come under scrutiny for poor representation from African nations, some of the most vulnerable to climate impacts.

Indigenous groups call for gov’t intervention as land grabbers invade Bolivian protected area By: Iván Paredes Tamayo [12 Nov 2021]
– Bajo Paraguá – San Ignacio de Velasco Municipal Protected Area was created on February 12, 2021, to protect 983,000 hectares (about 2,429,045 acres) of primary forest in the Chiquitania region of Bolivia.
– But despite its new protected status, residents are reporting invasions and human settlements in Bajo Paraguá, claiming the colonizers were land traffickers.
– On-site investigation and satellite data and imagery show ongoing deforestation.
– Local leaders, including those of Indigenous groups that live in Bajo Paraguá, are calling for government intervention – while also alleging connections between land grabbers and government officials.

The Amazon has highest October forest loss since at least 2007 By: [12 Nov 2021]
– On Friday Brazil reported the highest level of deforestation for any October dating back to 2007.
– According to data from Brazil’s national space research institute INPE, 877 square kilometers (339 square miles) of rainforest were destroyed in the Brazilian Amazon, a 5% increase over October 2020.
– It marks the second straight month where the rate of forest clearing has risen, but on a trailing-twelve-month basis, deforestation stands 5% lower than the same time last year.
– Brazil is expected to release its preliminary deforestation for the year ended July 31, 2021 later this month. It will likely show about a 10% decline relative to 2020.

New study helps cattle ranchers monitor ecological impact on U.S. rangelands By: Maxwell Radwin [12 Nov 2021]
– A new study lays out 20 indicators that could prove useful to U.S. cattle ranchers trying to better quantify the ecological impact of their operations on rangeland ecosystems.
– In recent years, ranchers have expressed confusion about the benefits of ecological regulatory programs, pointing to the need for a uniform methodology for understanding cattle ranching’s impact on the environment.
– Some of the indicators include soil stability, water quality, diversity of native plants and bird diversity, soil compaction, ground cover, plant productivity, rancher satisfaction with livelihood, capacity to experiment and community health, among others.
– While this study doesn’t instruct ranchers on how or why to apply these 20 indicators, they lay the groundwork for future studies that could instruct ranchers on how to best monitor their operations.

Hospital waste, not masks, are plastic scourge of pandemic: Study By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [12 Nov 2021]
– A new study has found that 26,000 metric tons of pandemic-related plastic waste has been released into the world’s oceans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemci in January 2020.
– The largest share by far of pandemic-related plastic waste is generated by hospitals, while comparatively smaller amounts are from the improper disposal of face masks, COVID-19 testing kits, and packaging from online shopping activity.
– Besides posing a threat to marine life and humans, mismanaged plastic waste may have the potential to alter Earth’s life-support systems, its dynamics and stability, researchers say.
– Plastic is one of many human-made materials included in the “novel entities” planetary boundary, which is one of nine thresholds beyond which life on Earth could become untenable.

Work starts on new sanctuary for captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos By: Basten Gokkon [12 Nov 2021]
– Indonesian conservation authorities have started building a new sanctuary for Sumatran rhinos in the Leuser Ecosystem on the northern tip of Sumatra.
– The facility will be the third in a network of Sumatran Rhino Sanctuaries (SRS), joining the Way Kambas SRS in southern Sumatra and the Kelian SRS in Indonesian Borneo.
– Conservationists plan to capture at least five rhinos from the wild in Leuser and move them to the new SRS as part of a captive-breeding program that’s seen as the best option for staving off the species’ extinction.
– There area currently seven rhinos at the Way Kambas SRS and one at the Kelian facility; in the wild, there are believed to be just 30-80 Sumatran rhinos left, all of them on Indonesia’s Sumatra and Borneo islands.

Côte d’Ivoire braces to save what’s left of its single-digit forest cover By: [12 Nov 2021]
– The Côte d’Ivoire government says it will work to pretect its remaining forests, following a national inventory that shows the country’s forest cover has declined to less than 9%.
– Forests are under pressure from expanding agriculture, including extensive cocoa and cashew plantations.
– The country’s southeastern Tanoé-Ehy forest shows a possible path forward; it’s the focus of a community-based forest management project, with efforts to declare it a voluntary natural reserve.

You can move an elephant to the jungle, but it won’t stay there, study says By: Carolyn Cowan [12 Nov 2021 ]
– Despite evidence that translocating “problem elephants” into protected forests to avoid conflict with humans can in fact exacerbate problems, it is still commonly practiced.
– A study published earlier this year revealed that elephants in Peninsular Malaysia prefer open, human-dominated landscapes over primary forests, casting further doubt over translocations, since relocated elephants will tend to gravitate back toward these “prime” habitats where conflict recurs.
– The study sparked renewed discussion among researchers on effective, long-term solutions to human-elephant conflict, the leading threat to Asian elephants, that avoid translocations.
– Experts say that people’s willingness to co-exist with elephants will be the most influential factor in the long-term survival of the species.

Legal challenge to South Africa mine expansion looks to set new landmark By: Victoria Schneider [12 Nov 2021]
– In 2016, South Africa’s minister of minerals and energy granted one of the country’s largest anthracite coal mines the right to expand and resettle 143 families.
– The decision was challenged by a local organization that filed an application against the minister, the Department of Minerals and Energy, the mining company, and others.
– If the case is won, it would be a landmark for communities affected by mining activities across the country, as the government, traditional authorities and unions have shown support for the mine.

Forest declarations are nice, but profitability determines land use in the Amazon (Book excerpt) By: Timothy J. Killeen [12 Nov 2021]
– Nearly 130 nations last week agreed to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation” by 2030. Accompanying that declaration was a commitment to allocate $19.2 billion toward that goal. But how will these resources be deployed in the Amazon?
– Some of that money is expected to go toward reforming the production systems that drive deforestation. That money would likely matched by even larger amounts of private capital in search of so-called “green investments.” How that money is channeled and who benefits will determine whether Amazonian societies address the long-standing social inequality that is also a key driver of deforestation.
– In “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon Wilderness”, Tim Killeen provides an overview of rural finance with a special focus on mechanisms designed to support smallholders. Killeen also takes a critical look at the emerging market for “green bonds”
– This post is an except from a book. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

COP26: Are climate declarations and emission reduction pledges legally binding? By: Justin Catanoso [11 Nov 2021]
– The 2015 Paris Agreement is not a treaty between nations, but rather a voluntary accord between 194 nations signed by their legal representatives. As such, it is not deemed legally binding — preventing nations and corporations from being sued to force them to take legal responsibility for harmful carbon emissions and policies.
– Or at least, that was the accepted legal precedent regarding the Paris accord, as well as declarations and agreements made since 2015 at annual COP summits. This includes this year’s Glasgow U.K. climate conference where major declarations to end global deforestation and sharply curb methane emissions were made.
– However, some 1,800 lawsuits seeking to hold nations and corporations responsible for their climate change pledges and emissions are moving through the worlds’ legal systems. At least one major case has borne fruit: In May 2021, a court in The Netherlands ordered Royal Dutch Shell to slash carbon emissions far faster than pledged.
– It wasn’t international law that decided the case, but basic tort law: a legal obligation to not knowingly injure others. “Rights-based climate litigation is not some kind of scholarly fantasy; rather, it is turning out to be one of the most important tools civil society has to force governments to move more quickly,” says one legal expert.

In Nepal, doubling down on tiger conservation looks to pay off By: Johan Augustin [11 Nov 2021]
– Nepal is the only one of 13 tiger range countries that’s on track to meet a 2022 pledge to double its wild tiger population from a 2010 baseline.
– Key to the growing tiger population is the combination of a tough anti-poaching approach and close engagement with communities living near tiger habitats.
– Those measures have had a knock-on effect in also boosting the populations of other iconic species, including rhinos and elephants, but have at the same time fueled human-wildlife conflicts.
– Programs at the community level aim to mitigate these conflicts by fencing off national parks from adjacent villages and compensating villagers for the loss of animals or crops; reducing communities’ reliance on firewood collected from inside parks; and promoting tiger tourism to drive community development.

Despite deals, plans and bans, the Mediterranean is awash in plastic By: Elizabeth Claire Alberts [11 Nov 2021]
– The Mediterranean is considered to be one of the world’s most polluted bodies of water due to waste disposal problems in many countries bordering the sea, as well as the intensity of marine activity in the region.
– There are several existing policies and treaties in place aimed at regulating plastics and reducing plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, but experts say more international cooperation is needed to tackle the problem.
– Citizen science organization OceanEye has been collecting water samples to measure the amount of microplastics present in the surface waters of the Mediterranean.

In Indonesia, a coastal town rejects ‘metropolitan’ model for mangroves By: Mahmud Ichi [11 Nov 2021]
– Sofifi, the tiny capital of one of Indonesia’s remotest provinces, has made mangrove conservation and ecotourism a central part of its development.
– The town recently inaugurated the Guraping Mangrove Tourism Forest, which officials hope will draw tourists to the town and help it develop into something greater than an administrative hub.
– Indonesia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s mangrove forests, an important ecosystem that sequesters carbon, blunt the impact of storm surges, and harbour a rich array of marine life.


Top Brazil gold exporter leaves a trail of criminal probes and illegal mines by Roberto Cataldo [11/10/2021]
Bornean communities locked into 2-million-hectare carbon deal they don’t know about by John C. Cannon [11/09/2021]
COP26: Surging wood pellet industry threatens climate, say experts by Sharon Guynup [11/09/2021]
Struggle endures for Philippine community pitted against gold miner by Karlston Lapniten [11/09/2021]
In China, agroforestry serves up tea with a spoonful of sustainability” by Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [11/08/2021]
Indigenous lands under siege as buffalo frenzy grips the Amazon by Ana Ionova [11/05/2021]
Indonesian couple stages ‘ecological wedding’ in hopes of inspiring others by Ebed de Rosary [11/04/2021]