Conservation in the news: 12-18 September 2016

Conservation Watch’s round-up of the week’s news on national parks, protected areas and conservation in the Global South.

For regular updates, visit the “In the news” page, or follow @conserwatch on Twitter.

Special Investigation: Inside the Deadly Rhino Horn Trade
By Bryan Christy, National Geographic, October 2016
It was a five-hour drive from South Africa’s Kruger National Park, home of the world’s largest wild rhinoceros population, to Polokwane, home of the world’s most wanted man when it comes to rhino horn trafficking: a millionaire safari operator and ex-policeman named Dawie Groenewald.

12 September 2016

Hundreds of nations agree to domestic trade ban for ivory
By Natasha Geiling, Think Progress, 12 September 2016
After days of tense negotiations, nations and environmental groups called for an end to domestic ivory trading as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) congress wrapped up in Hawaii on Saturday.
Nearly all of the 217 nation states that belong to the IUCN, as well as 1,000 environmental groups, backed a statement calling for countries to end ivory trading within their borders as “a matter of urgency,” according to the Guardian.
The move is an attempt by conservationists to staunch the killing of elephants for their tusks.

Hippo teeth reveal environmental change
Phys.org, 12 September 2016
Loss of megaherbivores such as elephants and hippos can allow woody plants and non-grassy herbs and flowering plants to encroach on grasslands in African national parks, according to a new University of Utah study, published Sept. 12 in Scientific Reports. The study used isotopes in hippopotamus teeth to find a shift in the diet of hippos over the course of a decade in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park following widespread elephant poaching in the 1970s.
Study first author and U postdoctoral scholar Kendra Chritz says that her method of using hippo enamel isotopes could help scientists reconstruct past changes in vegetation in Africa’s national parks, areas with relatively little ongoing scientific observation. The results could give ecologists an idea of what could happen to Africa’s grasslands if elephants, whose populations are steeply declining, went extinct or reached near-extinction.

Indonesian environment ministry shoots down geothermal plan in Mount Leuser National Park
By Fidelis E. Satriastani, mongabay.com, 12 September 2016
The Indonesian environment ministry has denied the Aceh provincial government’s proposal to rezone part of Mount Leuser National Park for geothermal development, reacting to opposition from conservationists who argued the project would threaten key orangutan and rhino populations.
The ministry’s director for protected areas told Mongabay that the ministry had rejected a letter from Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah asking that a section of the park’s “core zone” be changed to a “utilization zone” so that a Turkish company, Hitay Holdings, could develop geothermal there.
“The minister received the letter but from socialization and [public] consultation, the result was disagreement with the rezoning, so that’s that. [The plan] stops there,” Tachrir Fathoni told Mongabay last week on the sidelines of the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu.

13 September 2016

Towards a conservation model working with indigenous peoples
By Zeenat Hansrod, RFI, 13 September 2016
Conservationists are pleading for new policies that will engage with the indigenous peoples living in protected areas instead of excluding them. They say enlisting their support is vital for ensuring their healthy survival as well as protecting wildlife
Indigenous peoples’ lands and territories cover 80 percent of the areas that are environmentally crucial for the world. These areas are the habitat they have known for generations, making indigenous peoples, arguably, vital to maintaining these ecosystems. However, history shows that indigenous peoples and local communities living in protected areas tend to be ignored in conservation policies and practices. Simon Counsell, director of Rainforest Foundation UK, explains that in the past, the rainforests of central Africa and other regions around the world have been treated as wildernesses free from human occupation and to be preserved in some kind of natural state for their wildlife: “What was ignored is that, in Central Africa for example, almost all of the landscape has long been occupied by humankind, Bantou farmers and indigenous hunting, gathering Pygmies”.

Towards a new conservation model with the indigenous peoples
By Zeenat Hansrod, RFI, 13 September 2016
Conservationists are pleading for new policies that will engage with the indigenous peoples living in protected areas instead of excluding them. They say enlisting their support is vital for ensuring their healthy survival as well as protecting wildlife.

Humans have literally decimated Earth’s wilderness, study finds
By Gretel Kauffman, The Christian Science Monitor, 13 September 2016
Ten percent of Earth’s wilderness has disappeared since the 1990s, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology.
Over the last 20 years, we’ve lost a total area amounting to twice the size of Alaska, researchers report. But, experts say, there’s still time to save the remaining wilderness areas – and they hope the recent findings will spur change.
At the moment, only about 23 percent of the world’s land area is made up of wilderness, the study found. Most of this wilderness can be found in North Asia, North Africa, Australia, and North America (primarily the northern parts of Canada). South America has experienced the greatest loss, with a 30 percent decrease since the ’90s, and Africa follows with 14 percent.

World Conservation Congress votes to protect indigenous sacred lands
By Hal Rhoades, The Ecologist, 13 September 2016
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has passed a motion declaring that all protected areas and the sacred natural sites of indigenous peoples should be ‘No-Go Areas’ for destructive industrial activities like mining, dam-building and logging.
The motion was passed as Motion 26 during last week’s World Conservation Congress, a gathering that occurs every four years and helps to set the world’s conservation agenda.

The World Conservation Congress – Talking Shop Or True Force For Change?
By Mark Jones (Born Free Foundation), Huffington Post, 13 September 2016
At the beginning of September, more than 9,000 experts descended on the Hawaii Convention Center on the Pacific island of Oahu for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s 6th World Conservation Congress. The triennial 10-day Congress is the largest global forum focussed specifically on addressing the challenges facing nature and wildlife.
Arguably best known for its assessments of the status of species for its ‘Red List‘ database, the IUCN is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. Its 1,300 members include governments, government agencies, non-governmental organisations and private sector companies. With input from some 16,000 scientists and other experts from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, the Union is universally acknowledged as the global authority on the state of nature.

Hundreds of people, thousands of discussions at the IUCN Congress Forest Pavilion
IUCN, 13 September 2016
The IUCN Forest Pavilion at the 2016 World Conservation Congress was abuzz for four days with dialogues, videos, pleas for action and reverent reflections on forests.
The four day open-forum portion of IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA was a success. From early in the morning until late in the evening each day, the Forest Pavilion was host to over 30 sessions on forest topics ranging from Forest Landscape Restoration in Brazil, discussions on indigenous rights and managing risk in locally controlled forest businesses to global level dialogues on far-reaching forest initiatives.

Mixed science panels diffuse conflict on conservation
By Inga Vesper, SciDevNet, 13 September 2016
Scientific panels comprising conservation researchers and industry representatives can overcome mistrust between their sectors to help save endangered species, a conference has heard.
The creation of such panels in Niger and Russia has resulted in action to improve habitats by some oil giants operating in these countries, IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) representatives told an event at the World Conservation Summit. They explained that the science focus of such panels has defused potential conflict between the oil industry and activists, instead providing transparent and independent advice.

Rhino horn and conservation: to trade or not to trade, that is the question
By Keith Somerville, The Conversation, 13 September 2016
Africa’s rhinos are seriously threatened by poaching, which feeds the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China. Rhino horn is a long-used ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine and is now even more eagerly sought after in Vietnam. It is a lucrative business. Rhino horn can fetch up to US$60,000 per kg on the illegal market and is worth more by weight than diamonds or cocaine.
Over the past nine years 5,940 African rhinos have been killed for their horns. Massive poaching over decades had reduced the black rhino in Africa from 65,000 in 1970 to 2,300 in 1993.

Hooded Grebe threatened by Argentinian dam projects
Birdwatch, 13 September 2016
An emergency motion was passed at the weekend appealing to the Argentinian Government to save the Critically Endangered Hooded Grebe from badly-planned hydroelectric dams.
Conservationists at the current IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, gave an international commitment on Saturday to give fresh hope for the bird species, which was only discovered 42 years ago and was immediately known to be under threat.
Hooded Grebe was already under pressure from the spread of invasive species and, with less than 500 breeding pairs remaining, is facing a new and imminent threat from the proposed construction of two hydroelectric dams on the Santa Cruz River, Argentina, warned conservation organisation Aves Argentinas.

Cambodia Rangers Get S. African Help
By Peter Olszewski, Khmer Times, 13 September 2016
Sixty Cambodian wildlife park rangers will be trained by South African experts next year, funded by video streaming content revenue generated by a partnership between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International and the Canadian-based international English-language TV channel, Love Nature.
WWF International will leverage scenes from Love Nature’s natural history series and documentaries to promote wildlife and nature conservation via social media.
In turn, Love Nature will donate unspecified proceeds from its global streaming video service to WWF International’s training programs for park rangers in two Cambodian wildlife sanctuaries – Serepok Wildlife Sanctuary and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary.

[India] Wildlife hit by connectivity loss
By Meera Bhardwa, Indian Express, 13 September 2016
A recent study on implications on biodiversity due to connectivity loss, scientists have found that with connectivity eroding in various landscapes, species have been losing out badly and there has been a decline in genetic variability. Further to this, with animals unable to adapt to new environments, it has resulted in high mortality, low reproduction and local extinctions.
In fact, with state and national highways cutting across tiger reserves and other protected areas in Karnataka and other states of the country, there has been lot of opposition, debates and court cases as it has effected wildlife movement, safety and landscape connectivity over the years.

[Kenya] KWS clears SGR construction through Nairobi National Park
Kenya Citizen TV, 13 September 2016
The standard gauge railway line will cut through the iconic Nairobi National Park. This follows an approval by the Kenya Wildlife Service, which however says this will largely depend on the outcome of an environmental impact assessment test.

Justice for our Malayan Tigers
Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers, 13 September 2016
As the country prepared to celebrate 59 years of independence at the end of August, enforcement officers from the Wildlife and National Parks Department executed a series of raids that turned up over a dozen tiger parts – our national icon.
Five raids, in five days, with 12 suspects nabbed and the skins, bones, teeth and claws of tigers seized, is a tremendous effort which the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) applauds.
As empowering as this enforcement success is, the discovery of so many tiger parts in four of the five premises raided across Kuala Lumpur and Selangor paints a very troubling picture for tigers.

[Singapore] Conservation group, RWS end tie-up earlier than planned
By Audrey Tan, Straits Times, 13 September 2016
What was meant to be a five-year partnership between a global conservation group and Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) has ended two years earlier than expected.
The partnership between the United States-based Conservation International (CI) and RWS started in 2013 and aimed to further conservation and public education efforts in areas like marine biology.
But only one project has been undertaken since then – a 10-month initiative to tag manta rays and track their movements in Indonesia, which started in September 2014. “With this work completed, and with no further initiatives planned with RWS, CI has decided to end the partnership ahead of the planned cessation in 2018,” said a CI spokesman.

Thailand: Karens to appeal court verdict legalizing their forced evictions; indigenous organizations call for effective redress
Forest Peoples Programme, 13 September 2016
Karen representatives today vowed to appeal against the recent Thai court verdict that ruled the authorities did not break the law in burning their properties to forcefully evict them from Kaeng Krachan National Park. Indigenous rights groups have called for effective redress for the affected communities saying that the ruling violated international human rights law.
On Wednesday, Thailand’s Administrative Court issued a ruling that the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation was within its rights to burn Karen properties in Bang Kloi village within the National Park in 2011. The court dismissed all the demands of the Karens, who filed the case in 2014, besides compensation for the loss of their properties. The court ordered the Department to pay compensation of 10,000 THB (approx. 287 USD) each to the six Karen plaintiffs against their initial demands of 100,000 THB each. The Department has refused to pay even the meager compensation and pledged to appeal against it.

14 September 2016

Is Africa’s rapid growth at the expense of conservation?
By Collins Mwai, The New Times, 14 September 2016
With the rapid economic growth and development experienced in Africa in recent years, civil society involved in wildlife and natural resources conservation are questioning whether the growth has been at the expense of conservation.
Conservationists fear that with the rapid development, urbanisation and industrialisation of the African continent, natural resources and ecological spaces could be at risk if rapid interventions are not made.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Investment Summit in Kigali, last week, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) president Kaddu Sebunya said countries ought to ensure sustainable ecosystems.

Six countries in Coral Triangle Initiative gather in Dumaguete for regional exchange
Philippine News Agency, 14 September 2016
Some 76 key officials and representatives from six-member nations of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) and their partners are gathered in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental for a five-day regional exchange focusing on marine protected areas (MPAs).
The CTI-CFF is a multilateral partnership among six countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, and the Philippines. It aims to protect the coastal and marine resources of the region.
At a press conference Monday evening at a local hotel in Dumaguete, Regional Director Al Orolfo of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Negros Island Region explained that Dumaguete was chosen as the host-venue/region for the 6th Marine Protected Areas Regional Exchange of the CTI-CFF because of its being “globally ahead in terms of marine protected areas.”

Rainforest Trust Announces $100 Million Initiative to Create New Protected Areas for Endangered Species
Rainforest Trust press release, 14 September 2016
Rainforest Trust has launched the SAVES (Safeguarding Areas Vital to Endangered Species) Challenge at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Hawaii. Through this initiative, Rainforest Trust has committed to raise $50 million as a challenge match that will direct a total of $100 million to create new Protected Areas throughout the tropics for the planet’s most endangered species.
This announcement coincides with President Barack Obama’s protection of Endangered species through the expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, creating the largest Protected Area on the planet. The President recently noted that conservation is critical to the world’s ecosystems, and he emphasized the urgency and importance of conservation efforts.

Militarised Conservation Threatens DRC’s Indigenous People – Part 1
By Zahra Moloo, IPS, 14 September 2016
It is late afternoon when a light drizzle begins to fall over a group of young men seated together in Mudja, a village that lies approximately 20 kilometres north of Goma on the outskirts of the Virunga National Park. Mudja is home to a community of around 40 families of indigenous Bambuti, also known as ‘pygmies.’*
One of the men holds out his arm to show an injury he received from a park ranger. Others chime in.
“Just the day before yesterday, they shot at me when I was looking for honey and firewood,” says Giovanni Sisiri. “I abandoned everything, took my tools, and ran.”
Armed paramilitary rangers from the Virunga National Park are tasked with protecting the park from poachers and trespassers, often at risk to their own lives. In Congolese law, human habitation and hunting within the park is forbidden, including for the Bambuti, its original inhabitants.

South Africa’s Kruger national park kills 350 hippos, buffalos amid drought
Associated Press, 14 September 2016
Rangers in South Africa’s biggest wildlife park are killing about 350 hippos and buffalos in an attempt to relieve the impact of a severe drought.
The national parks service says the numbers of hippos and buffalos in Kruger National Park, about 7,500 and 47,000 respectively, are at their highest level ever.
Meat from the killed animals is being supplied to poor communities on the park’s perimeter.
Parks service spokesman Ike Phaahla says the two species consume large amounts of vegetation and that many of the animals are expected to die anyway because of the drought.

[South Africa] To save rhino, we need to save the poor – SANParks scientist
By Paul Herman, News24, 14 September 2016
The key to successfully battling rhino poaching may depend on aiding poor communities living around South Africa’s national parks, a SANParks scientist told Parliament on Tuesday.
Creating economic opportunities for these people could disrupt organised crime, said Dr Sam Ferreira, large mammal ecologist for SANParks.
“Our compulsory and biological interventions are holding the fort inside our national parks. But we need to clean the parks from the outside too,” he told the portfolio committee on environmental affairs.

15 September 2016

A Legal Trade in Ivory Would Wipe Out Elephants, Study Finds
By Rachel Bale, National Geographic, 15 September 2016
Legalizing the ivory trade could more quickly make elephants extinct, a study released September 15 suggests. It finds that the demand for ivory is far greater than the amount of ivory that can be harvested sustainably.
This contradicts an earlier proposition by ivory trade supporters that a sustainable trade that could meet demand would be possible.
“There is no way to harvest sufficient ivory in a controlled way that won’t drive elephant populations to extinctions,” says Phyllis Lee, one of the study’s authors and a researcher at the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom. “Our argument is based on one of the best protected populations of elephants. If we can’t make the ivory trade model work here, it won’t work anywhere.”

Uniting Against Organized Wildlife Crime
By David Maxwell Braun, National Geographic, 15 September 2016
Law enforcement agencies, NGOs, and business leaders gathered from across the world in Washington this week to share information and expertise and organize a concerted strategy to combat the global scourge of wildlife trafficking.
The unprecedented collaboration was heralded at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters on Tuesday, at an event held against the backdrop of recent news of a catastrophic plunge in the last wild populations of African elephants and other species. The meeting also set the stage for CITES CoP17, a conference in Johannesburg at the end of this month that will bring more than a hundred governments together to review the planet’s biggest wildlife challenges and opportunities.

Earth Matters: Calling all earthlings: Planet at the crossroads
By Betsy Herbert, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 15 September 2016
I spent the past 10 days in Honolulu with some 9,500 conservationists from 192 countries, attending the IUCN Worldwide Conservation Congress, “the most important conference going on in the world today, but most people don’t know about it,” according to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
“We tend to think that the biggest threat is ISIS or interest rates … amazing that we don’t think about the state of our biosphere,” Friedman added.
Conference attendees didn’t need any convincing. The 2016 conference theme “Planet at the Crossroads” highlighted the urgent need to change humankind’s path toward irreversible climate change and unprecedented species extinction.

Why you should visit these 5 places in the world before it’s too late
AsiaOne, 15 September 2016
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced that giant pandas are no longer an endangered species on Sept 4, a much-needed validation to the conservation efforts of activists all over the world.While it is a cause for celebration, WWF cautioned that the pandas remain a vulnerable species.
As we continue to educate people on the importance of habitat conservation, Zuji Singapore looks at five other animals that are currently listed as endangered or vulnerable.These species can be found in various parts of the world – all beautiful, unique, and at risk of extinction.If you’re thinking of observing these animals, try to hurry to the following places because they may disappear very soon.

Militarised Conservation Threatens DRC’s Indigenous People – Part 2
By Zahra Moloo, IPS, 15 September 2016
The Bambuti people were the original inhabitants of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the oldest national park in Africa whose boundaries date back to 1925 when it was first carved out by King Albert of Belgium. But forbidden from living or hunting inside, the Bambuti now face repression from both park rangers and armed groups.
Other communities in the park accuse the DRC’s National Park Authority (ICCN) of expropriating land without their consent and without providing compensation, but park authorities say that rangers must undertake “legitimate defense” and take action when people in the park “recruit armed groups to secure the land.”

[Malaysia] Questions raised over conservation efforts
The Star, 15 September 2016
The deaths of seven pygmy elephants in a quarry pond, coming in the wake of the poisoning of 14 adult elephants three years ago, have again raised questions over the conservation of the sub-species.
The elephants are considered endangered and only about 1,500 are to be found in the wild – almost all in Sabah.
Although the Sabah Wildlife Department has ruled out foul play in the latest case, these gentle giants of Sabah remain under threat in shrinking forest areas in view of the severe human-elephants conflicts.

Mozambique: Nyusi Receives Award From Conservation Foundation
All Africa, 15 September 2016
The International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) announced in Washington on Thursday that it has awarded Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi its “Award of Merit in Conservation”.
Cited in a press release issued by Mozambique’s flagship conservation area, the Gorongosa National Park, ICCF President John Gantt said “President Nyusi has won this award for promoting a new concept of a national park in his country – the national park as a motor of human development”.

A mysterious dead hand driving Namibia’s poaching
By John Grobler, Oxpeckers, 15 September 2016
A mysterious, tribal totem-based network of politicians, top officials, policemen and former soldiers, dealing with a web of Chinese, Zambian and Congolese smugglers in anything from hardwoods to ivory, rhino horn and pangolins, has emerged at the centre of resurgent rhino poaching that may have killed off as much as 20% of the world’s remaining critically endangered black rhinos in Namibia.
A two-year-long investigation also brought to light that rhino poaching in Namibia may be far worse than suspected, and had started as long ago as 20 years, if not longer.
A culture of secrecy, lack of access to official information and cooperation has made it difficult to produce hard evidence, but the circumstantial case is compelling.

Wildfire in Peruvian Amazon Threatens Protected Areas
By Mitra Taj, Reuters, 15 September 2016
A wildfire burning in the Peruvian Amazon that has charred some 20,000 hectares (49,421 acres) of rainforest and destroyed crops planted by indigenous communities was raging toward a national park and another protected area, authorities said Thursday.
Firefighters battled hot spots spanning 20 kilometers (12 miles) along the Ene River in the jungle region of Junin, said Julio Jeri, an official with SERFOR, Peru’s forest service. He said the first rainfall in weeks did not appear to have contained the blaze.
Some 14 hectares of native croplands have been destroyed, and protected areas for the Ashaninka Amazonian tribe and the Otishi National Park were in the fire’s path, he said.

Mining a Better Future for the Solomon Islands
By Robyn James (The Nature Conservancy), National Geographic, 15 September 2016
The Solomon Islands are facing dramatic and imminent changes from large-scale mining across the country. Without proper planning and access to information, developments like mining will jeopardize the natural resources upon which most Solomon Islanders depend. With 85 percent of Solomon Islanders living in rural areas, they rely on their natural resources for food, shelter and income. The negative impacts of mining could change their lives forever.
Large deposits of gold, copper, nickel and bauxite have been identified across the country. Despite strong interest and intense prospecting, there has only ever been one fully operational mine in the country, which means communities and government agencies have little experience working with the mining sector. In addition, the Solomon Islands government has highlighted their limited capacity to manage the complex demands of regulating, managing and overseeing the mining development process. While mining offers opportunities for economic development, without adequate management, it also poses direct and urgent threats to livelihoods, culture and social well-being.

Somalia joins Africa-led initiative to protect elephants
Xinhua, 15 September 2016
Somalia on Wednesday signed to join The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI), an African-led program aimed at ending ivory trade.
Minister for Livestock and Pasture, Said Hussein Iid, said Somalia’s rich environmental history had for long been overshadowed by the long-drawn civil war.
“However, it is our hope that by joining the EPI, we can work to slowly rebuild this history and join together with other African nations to stop the harrowing consequences that elephant poaching and trafficking is bringing to our continent,” Hussein said in Nairobi, Kenya.

[Sri Lanka] Ocean conservation starts — but doesn’t stop — with communities
By Catherine heney, Devex, 15 September 2016
Sri Lanka was the first country to comprehensively protect all of its mangrove trees.
The wetlands of the tropics, mangroves serve as nurseries to fish that will go on to populate coral reefs, protect villages from tsunamis and hurricanes, and contribute to communities’ livelihoods. With their branching roots that arch into coastal waters, these trees are also vital in the fight against climate change. Scientists have found that mangrove forests sequester three to five times more carbon than other forests. Mangrove conservation can offer a big return on investment, but only if those investments generate the right kind of buy-in.
“People think, if they don’t cut the mangroves, there go the shrimp,” said Anuradha Wickramasinghe, the chairman of the Sri Lanka-based nongovernmental organization Sudeesa, which is providing fisherwomen with microloans in exchange for their protection of the mangroves. “But the coastal belt lagoons can get more natural shrimp if the mangroves are there.”

Vietnam must tackle rhino horn trade or face sanctions under wildlife trade treaty
WWF press release, 15 September 2016
With the rhino poaching crisis showing no signs of abating, Vietnam must crack down on its rampant illegal rhino horn trade or face sanctions, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said ahead of a critically important wildlife trade conference next week in South Africa.
As the world’s largest market for illegal rhino horn, Vietnam’s failure to shut down illegal markets, disrupt the trafficking networks and prosecute the traffickers will be in the spotlight as Johannesburg hosts the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from September 24–October 5.

16 September 2016

[Cambodia] Three New Protected Areas Listed
By Ven Rathavong, Khmer Times, 16 September 2016
The government on Tuesday created three more protected areas covering nearly 28,000 hectares to be under Environment Ministry control, according to a ministry statement yesterday.
The statement announced the creation of a national park on Koh Rong island covering 2,655.35 hectares and Prek Tub lake as a conservation area covering 16.3 hectares – both in Preah Sihanouk province – and Tbeng Mountain as a heritage area covering 25,269.41 hectares in Preah Vihear province.
“In total, there are 45 protected areas, covering 5,902,444.06 hectares which are under the control of the Ministry of Environment,” the statement said, adding that the ministry was studying areas that have natural tourism, cultural and historic potential to be protected areas.

Forests in Colombia fall victim to illegal coca plantations
By María Lourdes Zimmermann, mongabay.com, 16 September 2016
The illicit cultivation of coca leaf in Colombia grew by 39 percent between 2014 and 2015, from 69,000 to 96,000 hectares. That’s according to the country’s National Forest and Carbon Monitoring System (SMBYC), an environmental information tool created by the Colombian Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry, as well as a recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

[Kenya] Proposal to construct Standard Gauge Railway through Nairobi National Park rejected
By Daniel Wesangula, Standard Digital, 16 September 2016
A group of environmentalists on Friday held protests in Nairobi over a proposal to construct a section of the Standard Gauge Railway through Nairobi National Park. The protesters, marching under the banner of the Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and management later on presented a petition to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) hoping it will help change the government’s preferred choice of having the rail cut through the park. A move that the conservationists believe will spell death for the treasured park. “Doing this will have both short term and long-term effects to not only the park but to the residents of Nairobi too,” Kahindi Lekalhaile, one of the organisers of the demonstration said.

Youth, women, indigenous group pay the price of logging in Kenya
By David Nagi, mongabay.com, 16 September 2016
Even with two grades to go before completing high school, Vincent Kiptum has already figured out how to deal with a problem troubling his village in Kenya’s Rift Valley: truancy from school.
Once he graduates, Kiptum would like to be the Olenguruone village champion tasked with ensuring that youth enlist in school and remain there until they have a certificate to show.
But such a job will require a mix of strength and intellect if the 18 year old hopes to outwit the triple plagues suffered by the area’s marginalized communities: poverty, displacement, and exploitation by the logging industry.

[Liberia] Financial Constraints Render Elephants Vulnerable
By Edwin M. Fayia III, Liberian Observer, 16 September 2016
Financial constraints make it difficult for the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to take appropriate measures to protect Liberia’s elephants, according to FDA technical manager for conservation, Theo V. Freeman.
As a result elephants in Liberia are vulnerable to poachers who hunt them for their tusks to further the illegal ivory trade, said Freeman.
In an exclusive interview Monday with the Daily Observer at the FDA head office in Paynesville, he pointed out that Liberia does not have measures in place to stop the wanton destruction of the country’s endangered animal species.

17 September 2016

[Cambodia] Group Calls for Impact Assessment of Road Project
By Huk Reaksmey, Voice of America Cambodia, 17 September 2016
Civil society groups in Cambodia have called for an environmental impact assessment to be carried out before a highway is built leading into the at-risk Areng Valley.
Prime Minister Hun Sen personally approved the project in August, telling Uk Rabun, the minister of rural development, that construction should begin after the annual monsoon season and would promote tourism in the area.
“If there are more tourists visiting there, the loggers would be a bit scared as well. This road is not for you cutting the trees, meaning it’s for carrying tourists and facilitating the people for medical treatment,” he said.

DRC: Kahuzi-Biega National Park endangered
africanews, 17 September 2016
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is under threat. The park is a protected area near Bukavu town, and situated near the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. But this nature reserve is almost converting into a commercial venture. Nearly 1,800 tons of charcoal are extracted here every month.
Farmers have encroached the park, even though it is forbidden.
One of the biggest threats to the park is poaching and trade of gorilla babies, which has put the world’s largest ape, the eastern lowland gorilla, on the verge of extinction.

18 September 2016

[South Africa] A sense of national pride in our parks
By Edna Molewa, news24, 18 September 2016
South Africans are people of the land.
Our country is richly endowed with natural resources, including plants, animals, rivers, marine areas and mountains, unspoilt forests, parks and unique ecosystems – some of these are found only here, and nowhere else on earth.
The protection and preservation of this land are common to all of us, regardless of our backgrounds.
But historically, enjoyment of this land and all it offers had been the preserve of few. From the expanses of our great national parks to sitting on a simple park bench under the shade of a tree, this was a privilege afforded only to certain South Africans.

[USA] Protecting Hawaii’s birds a priority
By Ivy Ashe, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 18 September 2016
The International Union for Conservation of Nature concluded its World Conservation Congress in Honolulu last week having set policy goals for global sustainability in the face of climate change and increasing populations.
It also created a number of small-scale resolutions, including one aimed specifically at protecting Hawaii’s bird species.
“Every conservationist who’s paid any attention to the United States whatsoever is aware that Hawaii is a focal area of extinction,” said Russ Mittermeier, executive vice chairman and former president of Conservation International, a co-introducer of the resolution.
Hawaii’s birds “represent a significant proportion of endangered birds in the U.S., and they don’t really get resources proportionate to that,” he said.
In 2014, Mittermeier said, Hawaii received about 4 percent of all government funding directed toward bird rescue.
“It’s an immediate need,” he said. “It’s not something that can wait five, 10 years.”

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