Nature news stories from Mongabay


Big animals can survive reduced-impact logging — if done right by Jeremy Hance [05/22/2017]
- Employing camera traps to survey Amazonian mammals in Guyana, researchers found that large mammals and birds did not see a lower population of target species in reduced-impact logging areas as compared to unlogged areas. For some species, like jaguars and pumas, population numbers actually rose.
- The research was conducted in an unusually managed swath of forest: Iwokrama. Spreading over nearly 400,000 hectares (close to 990,000 acres) – an area a little smaller than Rhode Island – Iwokrama Forest is managed by the not-for-profit Iwokrama organization and 16 local Makushi communities.
- Looking at 17 key species in the area – including 15 mammals and two large birds – the researchers found that populations didn’t change much between logged and unlogged areas, a sign that Iwokrama’s logging regime is not disturbing the area’s larger taxa.


New soy-driven forest destruction exposed in South America by John C. Cannon [05/22/2017]
- Mighty Earth looked at updated satellite imagery from 28 sites in the Cerrado in Brazil and the Gran Chaco and the Amazon in Bolivia.
- They found evidence of 60 square kilometers of land clearing for soy production since their September 2016 investigation.
- Bunge and Cargill, the two companies that figure prominently in Mighty Earth’s latest report, argue that they are working to eradicate deforestation from their supply chains.


Federal prosecutor in Brazil calls for suspension of licensing to drill near Amazon Reef by Mike Gaworecki [05/22/2017]
- The Prosecutor made the request in a formal recommendation sent to Brazil’s Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (better known by its acronym, IBAMA), the environmental regulator responsible for environmental licensing in the country, on May 3.
- According to a statement released by the prosecutor’s office, the prospect of oil spills and other accidents that could damage the unique marine environment were not the only motives for the request. The statement also notes that a possible international conflict could be sparked should any environmental pollutants like oil be released into the ecosystem by the drilling activities.
- Some observers have suggested that it’s possible IBAMA is reluctant to make a decision one way or the other given the most recent scandal rocking a Brazilian government that has been in turmoil for months now.


New lichen database takes big picture approach to forest monitoring by Amy McDermott [05/22/2017]
- Studying lichens is one way that scientists track air pollution in forests.
- A new database from the U.S. Forest Service will gather existing lichen information into a powerful centralized tool that is freely available.
- Scientists will be able to use the database to study lichen biodiversity, air quality, pollution, and forest health.


Skewed sex ratio spells danger for rhinos in India’s Gorumara National Park by Moushumi Basu [05/22/2017]
- Gorumara National Park, in India's West Bengal State, is home to a small but steadily growing population of greater one-horned rhinoceroses, currently numbering 51 individuals.
- Despite its overall growth, the sex ratio of the park's rhino population is severely imbalanced, with more reproductive-aged males than females.
- Ideally, there should be more females than males. A male-heavy population threatens the long-term reproductive and genetic viability of the population, as well as leading to increased conflict over mates.
- Until this spring, Gorumara had been relatively free of poaching since the 1990s. However, two dead rhinos were found in April, and another suspected poaching incident was reported May 18.


Colombia’s constitutional court grants rights to the Atrato River and orders the government to clean up its waters by Bram Ebus [05/22/2017]
- The Atrato River and its tributaries are among the most polluted in Colombia.
- Semi-industrialized mining operations with illegal excavators and dredges are one of the main drivers of deforestation in Colombia's Chocó Department, where the Atrato River lives.
- In 2014, Colombia's ombudsman declared a humanitarian emergency in Chocó due to social, economic and environmental problems.
- Most threats to the environment were imposed by deforestation, active timber mafias and erosion in the Atrato watersheds.


Location, location, location goes high-tech: Facts and FAQs about satellite-based wildlife tracking by Sue Palminteri [05/20/2017]
- Satellite-based tracking tags, including ARGOS and GPS systems, collect and communicate animal locations and in some cases, acceleration and physiological data—straight to your computer, 24/7.
- ARGOS satellites use their relative position and the Doppler shift to estimate a tag’s location, which they relay back to Earth. GPS tags receive position information from multiple satellites and either store it or resend it via another communications network.
- Satellite-based tags weigh more, cost more, and demand more power than VHF radio tags. Nevertheless, they provide automated collection of thousands of point locations of an animal, which helps researchers to more precisely define home ranges, migration routes, and the relationships of these patterns to landscape features.


Indonesian governor asks president to let timber firms drain peat in his province by Lusia Arumingtyas [05/20/2017]
- West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis asked President Joko Widodo to let some timber plantation companies drain peatlands, even though Jakarta banned the practice last year.
- In a letter to the president dated Apr. 25, Cornelis makes an economic argument for allowing the companies to proceed as usual.
- Cornelis is a member of an international consortium of governors dedicated to fighting climate change; Greenpeace said his request to the president amounted to a "double standard."
- His request came just days after Jakarta sanctioned a timber firm in his province for building an illegal canal through the Sungai Putri peat swamp forest.


Rebel road expansion brings deforestation to remote Colombian Amazon by Taran Volckhausen [05/19/2017]
- The 138-kilometer road was carved illegally through rainforest and used by the FARC rebel group to transport coca, from which cocaine is produced.
- Officials from city governments have begun a project to widen and pave the road, saying it will help communities transport agricultural goods to markets.
- Conservationists decry the move, citing research finding road expansion opens “a Pandora’s box of environmental evils” that includes land-grabbing, illegal road development and accelerated deforestation.
- A Colombian governmental agency recently ordered all construction on the road stop until further environmental studies could be performed and greater restrictions applied. However, an official said construction activity has not ceased.


Guatemalan authorities destroy secret airstrip in Laguna del Tigre National Park by Sebastián Escalón [05/19/2017]
- Clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by cattle ranchers who are actually working for drug traffickers.
- After Mongabay-Latam and Plaza Pública reported on the runway’s existence, the Guatemalan Army was ordered to destroy it.
- It is unclear if the strip was abandoned or under construction, but such structures pose a threat to the health of Laguna del Tigre National Park


China’s first national park, an experiment in living with snow leopards by Wang Yan [05/19/2017]
- Sanjiangyuan National Park is expected to open in 2020 as China’s first park in its new national park system.
- As many as 1,500 endangered snow leopards (Panthera uncia) live in the area. The cats are subject to poaching and persecution in retaliation for their predation on livestock, which are edging out their natural prey.
- The new park seeks to capitalize on the reverence many local Tibetan Buddhists have for wildlife, employing a conservation model that engages the public and attempts to ease tensions between people and predators.
- The new national park system is intended to create a more effective kind of protected area than currently exists in China.


Ten good news stories for Endangered Species Day by Mongabay.com [05/19/2017]
- While the news about endangered species is often not good, there are always instances of progress and positive storylines
- From recently discovered populations of rare animals to canceled development projects, here is some good news we want to share


Government action needed on climate resiliency and food security in West Africa by Lillie Howell [05/19/2017]
- Increased extreme weather due to climate change and rising population could imperil West Africa’s food sources.
- Short-term planning and actions by non-state actors would do the least to combat hunger and climate impacts in the region.
- Burkina Faso and Ghana are already employing the study’s findings in their policies.


Meet the 2017 ‘Green Oscars’ winners by Shreya Dasgupta [05/19/2017]
- The winners include Purnima Barman from India, Sanjay Gubbi from India, Alexander Blanco from Venezuela, Indira Lacerna-Widmann from Philippines, Ian Little from South Africa and Ximena Velez-Liendo from Bolivia.
- At an awards ceremony held last evening at the Royal Geographic Society in London, each of the six winners received £35,000 (~$46,000) in project funding to help scale up their work.
- Zafer Kizilkaya, a 2013 Whitley Award winner from Turkey, received this year's Gold Award (£50,000) for his conservation project "Guardians of the sea: securing and expanding marine reserves along the Turkish coastline".


A Whitley Award winner’s 20-year battle to save the world’s largest eagle in Venezuela by Bruno Moraes [05/18/2017]
- The Whitley, which has been nicknamed “the Green Oscars,” is one of the biggest and most important awards in the conservation world.
- Alexander says he is honored to have received such recognition for his work: “I have devoted my entire life as a student and, after that, in the professional field, to the conservation of the biological diversity and to the dissemination of its importance and role as an essential element of the planet.”
- Alexander studied veterinary medicine and was determined to specialize in working with wild animals. It was while rehabilitating harpy eagles at a Venezuelan zoo that he had his first contact with these magnificent birds of prey.


A stubborn dreamer who fought to save Amazon’s Waimiri-Atroari passes by Sue Branford [05/18/2017]
- As a young man in the 1960s, José Porfírio Fontonele de Carvalho decided to resist Brazil’s brutal military dictatorship by going into the Amazon to help indigenous groups in their struggles against the military’s assault on their way of life.
- He made early contact with the warlike Waimiri-Atroari Indians, who were decimated in their struggle to block the BR-174 highway through their territory. The Indians tell of numerous atrocities committed against them by the government during this period.
- With Carvalho’s help, a new indigenous reserve, covering 2.6 million hectares (10,000 square miles), was established, along with a conservation unit — the Biological Reserve of Uatumã. Through the years, Carvalho won other concessions for the Waimiri-Atroari.
- Today, the group has increased its number to nearly 2,000, though the tribe continues fighting the government. President Temer is now determined to put a major transmission line through their lands. Most observers agree: without Carvalho’s assist, the Waimiri-Atroari would likely be extinct, and their forests gone. He died this month at age 70.


A new secret runway found in Laguna del Tigre National Park in Guatemala by Sebastián Escalón [05/18/2017]
- Such clandestine landing strips are often built in forest reserves by people who claim to be cattle ranchers, but are actually working for drug traffickers.
- These illegal structures pose a threat to the Laguna del Tigre National Park.
- What does the head of Guatemala’s anti-drug unit think about this new secret runway that has just been discovered?


Peru lost more than 1 million hectares of Amazon forest over a period of 15 years by Alexa Eunoé Vélez Zuazo [05/18/2017]
- 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian forests were lost between 2001 and 2015 with peaks of loss occurring in 2005, 2009 and 2014.
- The main causes of forest loss are deforestation and soil degradation, small and medium scale agriculture, large-scale agriculture, pasture for livestock, gold mining, coca cultivation and road construction, according to a MAAP report.
- Deforestation hotspots are concentrated in Peru’s central Amazon, in Huánuco and Ucayali, but there are also other important hotspots located in Madre de Dios and San Martín, according to a MAAP.


Goddesses of the wind: How researchers saved Venezuela’s harpy eagles by Bruno Moraes [05/17/2017]
- Venezuelan scientist Eduardo Álvarez Cordero is not only a man who knows harpy eagles: having started one of the biggest and oldest studies about the species, and taken part in the training of many of the world’s harpy specialists, he is a man to whom we owe a lot of what humankind knows about this fascinating animal.
- Currently a professor at the City College of Gainesville, Florida, Eduardo has monitored harpy eagles in Venezuela and Panama since the late 80s with a sense of urgency.
- Eduardo's PhD work, begun in 1988, eventually led to the creation of the Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. It was also the beginning of another story of unthinkable bravery, in which an ecotourism program built a more prosperous scenario for harpies, locals, and the forests upon which they both rely.


Audio: Bill Laurance on the “infrastructure tsunami” sweeping the planet by Mike Gaworecki [05/17/2017]
- We recently heard Bill argue that scientists need to become more comfortable with expressing uncertainty over the future of the planet and to stop “dooming and glooming” when it comes to environmental problems.
- We wanted to hear more about that, as well as to hear from Bill about the “global road map” he and his team recently released to help mitigate the environmental damage of what he calls an “infrastructure tsunami” breaking across the globe.
- We also welcome to the program Michelle LaRue, a research ecologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Earth Sciences. Her current work is focused on using high-resolution satellite imagery to study the population dynamics of Weddell seals in Antarctica’s Ross Sea.
- In this Field Notes segment, Michelle will also play for us some of the calls made by adult Weddell seals and their pups, which couldn’t be more different from each other and are really quite remarkable, each in their own way. But you really have to hear them to believe them.


With poaching curtailed, a new menace to Nepal’s wildlife by Alex Dudley [05/17/2017]
- Since 2011, with poaching largely under control in the country, conservationists in Nepal have been paying increasing attention to the risks of diseases spreading to wildlife from domesticated animals.
- Domesticated animals near Chitwan National Park form a reservoir of pathogens that could cross to wildlife. Veterinarians have already identified tuberculosis in a dead rhino and a suspected case of canine distemper in a leopard.
- The country currently lacks facilities to fully analyze and respond to the threat of diseases, but local and international groups are working to rapidly increase capacity.


An evolving IUCN Red List needs to be both innovative and rigorous (commentary) by Craig Hilton-Taylor [05/17/2017]
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species guides conservationists in their race against extinction by assessing the threats faced by species around the globe. Over 86,000 have been assessed so far.
- A recent Biological Conservation study suggested that using citizen science data in Red List assessments could help estimate the range bird species inhabit more accurately. When it comes to the importance of citizen science, IUCN couldn’t be more in agreement with the authors of the study.
- But just as it is important to embrace cutting-edge technologies, it is also fundamental to respect the rigorous system for assessing extinction risk for the Red List. Ramesh et al. made a fundamental error by confusing two definitions normally used in assessments.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Field Notes: Reinvigorating wild parrot populations with captive birds by Elizabeth Devitt [05/17/2017]
- Bolivia is home to 12 species of macaws, and most are thriving. Not among these healthy parrot populations, however, is the Critically Endangered Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), with less than 15 breeding pairs known to be nesting in a remote, widely dispersed range in the north of the country.
- Years of intensive effort using traditional conservation methods to protect wild Blue-throated macaws from predators, raise chick survival rates, and engage local human communities have not significantly boosted the wild population nor have new breeding pairs been discovered.
- Rethinking a long-held view that captive-bred parrots released to the wild have little hope of surviving there, James Gilardi is working with local and international partners to select and prepare captive, pet trade and confiscated macaws to join their wild counterparts.
- Although there haven’t been any releases of captive Blue-throated macaws as yet, Gilardi is confident that wild populations of the species can recover if the captive birds are carefully chosen, health screened, and fully prepared for the wild.


Microalgae genes help them adapt to harsh oceans, other species less lucky by Maxine Chen [05/17/2017]
- Researchers have long wondered how microalgae manage to survive in polar seas, where conditions are extreme and change rapidly.
- New research looking at the DNA of a diatom finds that the species likely evolved with the ability to quickly change which genes are expressed making it ready for anything.
- This research hints that diatoms may be able to adapt to climate change – but that doesn’t mean other vital species, such as krill, have the capacity to do the same.


More than 300 smuggled tortoises seized in Malaysia by Shreya Dasgupta [05/17/2017]
- Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport raided the cargo area of the airport on May 14 following a tip-off, and found the tortoises packed into five boxes labeled as stones.
- The boxes reportedly arrived on an Etihad Airways flight from Antananarivo airport in Madagascar, and were registered with a fake business address in Malaysia.
- No arrests have been made yet, but the case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, officials say.


What would you do if you had “nature’s pharmacy” in your backyard? by Kimberley Brown [05/17/2017]
- Though most cures are not medically proven and scientific experts remain skeptical of their benefits, others say that indigenous peoples’ long-accumulated wisdom of the forest and what grows in it is undeniable.
- In Ecuador, knowledge of the medicinal properties of the Amazon have been passed down throughout the generations by Yachaj, or medicine men, who spend years living with the forest, meditating and listening to nature.
- Training to become a Yachaj takes three to ten years and involves long separations from loved ones and society.


Wilmar appeals RSPO ruling that it grabbed indigenous lands in Sumatra by Rachel Diaz-Bastin [05/17/2017]
- Palm oil giant Wilmar has been involved in a land conflict with the Kapa people of West Sumatra for years.
- Earlier this year, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ruled in favor of a complaint filed against Wilmar. Wilmar said it accepted the ruling.
- Now Wilmar is appealing the ruling on procedural grounds. The company says it wasn't properly consulted during the process.
- The Forest Peoples Programme, an NGO helping the Kapa through the process, says the company is stalling, "which we see as a tactic to delay having to address outstanding human rights violations."


Kenya cracks down on illegal trade in rare and venomous vipers by Gitonga Njeru [05/16/2017]
- Early this year Kenyan authorities placed tight new restrictions on the trade and export of several snake species, including the Kenya horned viper (Bitis worthingtoni) and the Mt. Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi).
- The two snake species are regularly trafficked abroad for the pet trade as well as for luxury food and medical reseach.
- Authorities say criminal networks regularly bribe officials and are investigating whether politicians may be involved in the trade.
- Nevertheless, the Kenyan government appears to be taking a hard line against viper traffic, cracking down on smugglers and ramping up international cooperation to fight viper traffic.


Papua New Guinea moves to launch new coal mining industry by Catherine Wilson [05/16/2017]
- Two years ago, the Papua New Guinea government allocated $3 million for research into the viability of coal extraction.
- An Australian company plans to build three mixed coal power generation plants in the country.
- Proponents argue affordable and reliable electricity is needed to boost economic growth, while opponents cite environmental risks including the threat of climate change and rising sea levels.
- Analysts also question how much urban-based power plants will raise electrification rates, since most un-electrified households are in rural areas that cannot easily be connected to electrical grids.


Manmade noise pollution even more prevalent in US protected areas than researchers expected by Mike Gaworecki [05/16/2017]
- About 14 percent of the land mass in the United States has been afforded some kind of legally protected status, and noise pollution is noticeable even in these more remote areas where manmade disturbances are supposed to be kept to a minimum.
- According to a study published this month in the journal Science, the noise pollution from airplanes, highways, industry, and resource extraction is encroaching ever further into U.S. protected areas designed to preserve habitat for biodiversity.
- Using baseline sound levels for each study area established by machine learning algorithms that took into account geospatial features of the area, the researchers determined that anthropogenic noise pollution exceeds three decibels (dB), essentially doubling background sound levels, in 63 percent of the nation’s protected areas.


Burning wood: Can the EU see the forest for the trees? by Rachel Fritts [05/16/2017]
- A new report argues that forests need more protection from the biomass industry in the EU, which is deforesting the American south to produce energy abroad.
- EU policy considers burning woody biomass as carbon neutral, even though other countries and many scientists say that doesn’t add up.
- Demand for wood pellets in the EU is growing: last year, the UK imported 8 million tons. This demand is leading to high quality wood – not waste – being burned.


Son Doong Cave: Tourism and conservation coexist in one of Vietnam’s largest national parks by Michael Tatarski [05/16/2017]
- Home to the world's largest cave, Son Doong, the park gets thousands of visitors per year.
- Tourism in the area has also benefited the local economy, leading to a decrease in unsustainable use of area resources such as timber.
- Despite government plans to install a cable car for tourists, area guides remain optimistic about the future of the park and the cave.


Should we be optimistic about the future of the earth? (commentary) by Ed Warner [05/15/2017]
- After the Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit, it is clear that much can be accomplished in conservation with creative thinking
- The author of “Running with Rhinos: Stories from a Radical Conservationist” calls for more collaboration and less litigation
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Environment secretary of São Paulo faces controversies over management plans of protected areas by Ignacio Amigo [05/15/2017]
- The suspension of the implementation of MPs affects over a million hectares of marine regions and oceanic islands.
- One MP is under investigation following accusations that the secretariat surreptitiously introduced changes to decrease the level of protection for some areas.
- Critics accuse the environment secretary of putting industrial interests over the defense of the environment.


Methane mystery: fossil fuels spewing less methane, but gas continues to accumulate by Jacqueline Hernandez [05/15/2017]
- Methane levels are on the rise again after a decade-long slowdown, but scientists still don’t know why.
- New research provides a ‘top down’ estimate of methane emissions due to fossil fuels, yielding a more rigorous look at how much methane the industry is responsible for.
- Improved monitoring technology can be used to get a more accurate reading of each nation’s methane emissions – and may be able to solve the mystery of the missing methane.


Location, location, location: Facts and FAQs about radio telemetry by Sue Palminteri [05/12/2017]
- In this second of the Mongabay-Wildtech series on “What is that technology?” we examine radio telemetry, in the form of electronic tags used to monitor animals as they move about their daily lives to better understand how far they travel, what environments they use, and how to keep them safe.
- Radio-based tags and satellite-based tags, which include GPS tags, all communicate via radio signals but differ in how the signals communicate, the information they provide, and the energy needed to produce them.
- UHF and VHF radio tags–described in this post–are cheap, small, light, and long-lasting, but require human presence to receive the signals and locate the animal.
- Scientists can compile these point locations to map species’ local distributions, identify home ranges and migration patterns, and compare these with locations of water, food species, or human activity.


Drylands greener with forests than previously thought by John C. Cannon [05/12/2017]
- The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, increases global forest cover estimates by 9 percent.
- Using very high resolution imagery, the team calculated that dryland forest cover was 40 to 47 percent higher above current totals.
- The researchers calculate that 1.1 million hectares (4,247 square miles) of forest covers the Earth’s drylands.


Crabbing gone commercial: Brazilian mangroves threatened by shift in local traditions by Kayla Walsh [05/12/2017]
- A new method of crabbing is bringing indigenous people a larger catch, but requires cutting mangroves and killing crabs indiscriminately.
- Crabbers’ dependence on intermediaries is complicating the crabbing business by shackling them to informal loans and pressuring them to achieve greater harvests.
- A researcher recommends a return to more traditional crabbing techniques and organizing cooperatives to give more power to the crabbers.


50 new spiders discovered in Australia by Mongabay.com [05/12/2017]
- The two-week expedition in Australia's Cape York Peninsula involved 23 scientists, indigenous rangers and traditional owners.
- This expedition will likely result in the greatest number of new species of spiders discovered on a Bush Blitz research trip, scientists say.
- The researchers are now identifying and describing the spiders for formal scientific classification.


It’s time for the insurance industry to unfriend coal (commentary) by Peter Bosshard [05/11/2017]
- Insurance companies are supposed to protect us from catastrophic risks, and climate change is certainly the most serious risk that human society is facing. In spite of this, the insurance industry plays a critical role in enabling climate-destroying coal projects.
- Burning coal for energy is the single biggest contributor to manmade climate change, yet more than 1,000 coal-fired power plants are currently in the planning cycle or under construction around the world.
- In spite of their climate awareness and self-interest, insurance companies continue to be highly involved in financing coal and other fossil fuel projects.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.


Facing oversupply, Indonesia scales back its coal-based electricity plan by Lucy EJ Woods [05/11/2017]
- In 2014, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced plans to generate an additional 35,000 megawatts of electricity by 2019, much of it to be fueled by coal.
- Last month, energy minister Ignasius Jonan said only 15,000 additional megawatts will be required by 2019.
- Jonan cited lower-than-expected economic growth, leading to lower energy demand.


Palm oil firm pledges to stop deforesting after RSPO freezes its operations in Papua by Philip Jacobson [05/11/2017]
- Goodhope Asia Holdings, an arm of Sri Lanka's Carson Cumberbatch, is the latest palm oil company to promise to purge its operations of deforestation, peatland conversion and human rights abuses.
- Announcing such a commitment and implementing it are two different matters. Despite the growing prevalence of such pledges, no major user or processor of palm oil can say it has actually eliminated deforestation from its supply chain.
- Goodhope subsidiary PT Nabire Baru presides over what one watchdog called “possibly the most controversial plantation in Papua.”


Hong Kong Ivory traders encouraging buyers to smuggle ivory: TRAFFIC by Shreya Dasgupta [05/11/2017]
- Exporting ivory bought in Hong Kong to mainland China would involve crossing an international border, which is illegal and in violation of CITES regulations.
- But 27 of the 74 traders that TRAFFIC surveyed encouraged buyers to take ivory out of Hong Kong without obtaining CITES permits.
- While some shopkeepers suggested hiding small ivory trinkets in bags and luggage, others offered more detailed strategies to conceal purchased ivory.


Industry-NGO coalition releases toolkit for making ‘No Deforestation’ commitments a reality on the ground by Mike Gaworecki [05/10/2017]
- Numerous companies involved in the global palm oil supply chain, from producers and traders to consumer companies that use the commodity in their products, have adopted Zero Deforestation commitments — but pledging to address the deforestation and human rights abuses associated with palm oil supply chains is one thing, while making those commitments a reality on the ground is another.
- Companies have said they need more support from governments of tropical forest nations to make their Zero Deforestation commitments a reality, citing a maze of administrative and regulatory frameworks across palm oil producing countries as hampering their efforts.
- The new HCS Approach Toolkit might help address this very issue, however, as it is intended to standardize the methodology for protecting tropical forests and identifying suitable landscapes for the sustainable production of palm oil.
- The revised HCS Approach Toolkit lays out the fundamental elements of a methodology for protecting high carbon stock (HCS) forests and other high conservation value (HCV) areas such as peatlands. Simply achieving “no deforestation” is not the only goal of the revised HCS Approach, though.


In Liberia, a battered palm oil industry adjusts to new rules by Ashoka Mukpo [05/10/2017]
- Palm oil companies signed a series of large contracts between 2008-2012 to develop plantations in Liberia.
- Disputes over land ownership by rural communities and the imposition of new environmental rules have forced investors to adjust their projections.
- The ‘High Carbon Stock’ approach, endorsed by environmental advocates, will restrict expansion in some cases.


Howler monkeys booming in Belize sanctuary 25 years after translocation by John C. Cannon [05/10/2017]
- Disease, hurricanes and hunting wiped out the native howler monkeys living in the Cockscomb Basin by the 1970s.
- Between 1992 and 1994, 62 black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) were relocated from a nearby reserve.
- After surveying the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in March and April, scientists figure there are at least 170 howler monkeys – and perhaps many more – living all over the 51,800-hectare (128,000-acre) preserve.


‘Killed, forced, afraid’: Philippine palm oil legacy incites new fears by Brad Miller [05/09/2017]
- Following a rush of corporate investment in the 1960s, agroindustry company NDC-Guthrie set up camp on the Philippine island of Mindanao. The company hired a private security force dubbed the "Lost Command" to protect its oil palm plantations.
- Sources say the Lost Command used violence to expand NDC-Guthrie's land holdings in the 1980s, with allegations ranging from forcibly displacing residents of local communities and extorting business-owners to looting, rape, and even murder.
- In the 1990s NDC-Guthrie was bought by Filipinas Palm Oil Plantations Inc. (FPPI), which continues to operate in the region today. A company representative said "issues have been blown up" and that FPPI is interested in expanding further in Mindanao.
- The administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010) touted oil palm propagation as a way to elevate the national economy and even stem armed conflict. But industry watchdog groups disagree, saying palm oil's track record of conflict in the Philippine archipelago does not bode well for the future.


China flexes its new climate action muscles in Bonn; Trump administration blinks by Justin Catanoso [05/09/2017]
- At the United Nation’s mid-year climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Chai Qimin, director of international cooperation at the Chinese government’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy, joined other diplomats in warning the U.S. against pulling out of Paris.
- Chai and others firmly suggested that retribution in the form of trade deals, a carbon tariff, and possibly even military access would be on the table when the U.S. attends international forums such as the upcoming G7 and G20 summits, according Climate Change News.
- In an apparent reaction to the warnings from Chinese representatives and others, Trump administration officials have canceled a meeting in Washington, D.C., scheduled for today, in which the fate of the U.S. and the Paris agreement was to be discussed, Reuters reported.


The rise and fall of Regina Lopez, the Philippines’ maverick environment minister by Keith Schneider [05/09/2017]
- Lopez was a well-known environmental activist prior to her 2016 appointment as director of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
- During her 10-month tenure, Lopez shut down or suspended 26 mines that failed to pass environmental audits, cancelled approval of 75 proposed mines, and banned new open-pit metal mines.
- On May 3, Lopez was removed from her post by a House-Senate committee charged with rejecting or confirming political appointments. The committee included politicians with ties to the mining sector.
- President Rodrigo Duterte — a firm supporter of Lopez — appointed a former Armed Forces chief of staff to replace her.


Extremely rare bay cat filmed in Borneo by Shreya Dasgupta [05/09/2017]
- Researchers photographed the bay cat while conducting a wildlife survey in the Rungan Landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
- The forests in this landscape include peat swamps and heath, a habitat type in which bay cats have not previously been recorded, scientists say.
- The team has not released the exact location of the potentially new population of bay cats because the forest where the cat was filmed is not legally protected.




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