Conservation Watch’s round-up of the week’s news on national parks, protected areas and conservation in the Global South.
For regular updates, follow @conserwatch on Twitter.
10 October 2016
UN report highlights impact of conservation efforts on world’s indigenous peoples
Rainforest Foundation UK, 10 October 2016
“Protected areas have the potential of safeguarding the biodiversity for the benefit of all humanity; however, these have also been associated with human rights violations against indigenous peoples in many parts of the world.” So begins the July 29th report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
The report cites a wealth of research on conservation and indigenous rights, including the Rainforest Foundation UK’s (RFUK) recent and comprehensive study, Protected Areas in the Congo Basin: Failing Both People and Biodiversity?
The UN report describes the “forced displacement” of indigenous peoples resulting from top-down conservation efforts. The report also points out that “50 per cent of protected areas worldwide have been established on lands traditionally occupied and used by indigenous peoples.”
RFUK’s Research and Policy Coordinator, Joe Eisen, recently sat down with the UN Special Rapporteur at the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i to discuss the UN report. Below is an excerpt of that interview.
Saving the elephant: don’t forget local communities!
By Ross Harvey & Alexander Rhodes, The Ecologist, 10 October 2016
The last decade has seen the African elephant systematically wiped out for its ivory tusks, with the world losing roughly 27,000 savannah elephants a year.
According to the Great Elephant Census report, there are just 352,271 left across 18 African states, with many protected areas suffering heavy losses and the hardest hit areas being Tanzania and Mozambique.
Since the survey covered only 93% of relevant land, a full count would probably put the number at closer to 400,000 – still an appallingly low figure. Meanwhile, forest elephants are at serious risk of being decimated.
Tiger Poaching Is Showing No Sign of Slowing
By Shreya Dasgupta, Pacific Standard, 10 October 2016
Tiger poaching is showing no sign of slowing down, according to a new report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Between 2000 and 2015, a total of 801 tiger seizures — equivalent to at least 1,755 tigers — were reported across 13 tiger range countries, the report has found. This is indicative of a minimum of 110 tigers being seized annually or more than two tigers being seized every week.
[Fiji] Officers ready to battle illegal activities
By Losalini Raoqosoqo, Fiji Times, 10 October 2016
Twenty Fiji government officers are ready to battle illegal logging, unlawful pollution and other environmental hazards following an intensive course from leading Australian experts last week.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with financial backing from the Global Environment Facility and in partnership with the Ministry of Forests, supported the training, which is in its second year.
“Fijians depend on the land for their food and income, and we have to stop any person or business who threatens those benefits by misusing the land,” said Conservator of Forests Eliki Senivasa.
“With this training, our teams are ready to do just that,” he said.
[India] Do not touch national park, say greens
By Manoj Badgeri, Times of India, 10 October 2016
Environmental activists have red-flagged the Thane-Borivli ropeway plan as it involves intruding on the territory of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). The plan has been called “bizarre” and a “tender-driven concept” that would forever damage the forests zone’s ecosystem. The MMRDA, the planning authority, has however claimed that the project will have minimal impact on wildlife and the national park’s ecosystem.
“The plan seems to be nothing but an absurd exercise as the wildlife board will never approve it. Why is the MMRDA bent on bulldozing all green zones in the city instead of conserving them?” said conservationist Stalin Dayanand.
[Mozambique] #ShockWildlifeTruths: Mass poisoning in Limpopo National Park
By Don Pinnock, traveller24, 10 October 2016
The ongoing Asian demand for lion bones has led to an horrific wildlife poisoning in the Limpopo National Park, just over the Mozambican border from Kruger Park.
A mere two kilometres from the Machampane tourist camp, a research team came across the carcases of two nyala, a warthog and an impala laced with what they describe as a black granular poison. Lying nearby were two lions, 51 vultures, three fish eagles, a yellow-billed kite and a giant eagle owl. There was evidence of a leopard but its body was not found.
The lions had been dismembered, their bones removed, and 22 vultures had been decapitated, their heads presumably to be used for muti. Snares had also been set around the poisoned carcases. The team from the Limpopo Transfrontier Predator Project burned all the poisoned carcasses.
11 October 2016
It’s time to get real about conservation
By Aaron M. Ellison, Nature, 11 October 2016
How can scientists protect biodiversity? In the wake of August’s Great Elephant Census, which revealed a precipitous decline in numbers throughout Africa, there were the usual calls from researchers for more and better data. Only if we know where and how many of each species there are, this argument goes, can we hope to conserve them. This is nonsense.
Better data will not save elephants, rhinos or any other species. An enormous number of individuals, academic institutions, local, state and national governments, and multinational and non-governmental organizations have been collecting, assimilating and organizing such data for decades, essentially fiddling while our biological heritage burns.
The world’s vanishing wild places are vital for saving species
By Bill Laurence, The Conversation, 11 October 2016
In science, it’s rare that a new idea comes along that stops people in their tracks. For ecologists, this has just happened, in a paper that found that species living in wild places have more genetic diversity than the same species living in areas dominated by people.
Why is this big news? For starters, it’s a completely new reason to worry about the decline of wilderness.
My colleagues and I showed recently that wilderness areas have shrunk by a tenth globally in just the past two decades. Large wild areas are now mostly confined to cold, dry or otherwise inhospitable parts of the planet such as the far north and big deserts. Biologically rich rainforests have been destroyed the fastest.
Pangolins and parrots among winners at largest-ever meeting on wildlife trade
By Daniel Cressey, Nature, 11 October 2016
Elephants, pangolins and parrots are among the species that were given stronger trade protections at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which ran from 24 September to 5 October in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The 17th meeting of the CITES convention was its largest ever, attended by more than 3,500 people, including representatives of 152 governments. Delegates took decisions on 62 trade-restriction proposals in what John Scanlon, secretary-general of CITES, said was “a game changer for the planet’s most vulnerable wild animals and plants”.
Here, Nature picks out some of the most significant and keenly anticipated decisions — including whether particular species should be listed in Appendix I or Appendix II of the CITES treaty.
[Belize] Putting a pricetag on conservation
By Katja Döhne, Deutsche Welle, 11 October 2016
Project goal: Biofin wants to find out how much it costs to protect biodiversity in Belize. Efforts are also underway to find possible alternative financing.
Project budget: Biofin is part of theInternational Climate Initiative (IKI) and funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) with 17,300,000 euros.
Project implementation: Hannah St. Luce Martinez is country coordinator for Biofin in Belize and has been charged with establishing how much financing is needed where to protect biodiversity.
Project size: The whole of Belize. The Chiquibul Jungle, with its 1,700 square kilometers of forest, is one of the main areas of implementation.
Biodiversity: The Chiquibul Jungle is considered one of the most biodiverse areas in Belize.
Jamaica to Relocate Planned Port Facility
Maritime Executive, 11 October 2016
Conservation groups have hailed a decision by the Jamaican government to relocate a planned transshipment terminal outside of the Portland Bight Protected Area, an environmental preserve that is home to one of the world’s most endangered species.
Since 2013, the government has been developing a plan for a port complex on Great Goat Island, which lies within the reserve. The protected area contains the last known population of the ultra-rare Jamaican iguana, whose numbers have been decimated by habitat destruction and non-native predators. None of the lizards remain on Goat Island, but biologists involved in the species’ preservation would like to reintroduce them there after eradicating invasive species. The construction of the port facility would have made this impractical; in addition, conservationists said that it would have a detrimental effect on sea life and fisheries in the area, which sustain local communities.
[Kenya] Maasai, lobby call for for new SGR route to spare national park
By Ramadhan Rajab, The Star, 11 October 2016
The Maasai community and conservationists yesterday proposed a new route for phase two of the standard gauge railway to save Nairobi National Park.
This comes as public resistance mounts to the government’s favoured plan that would bisect the park but run above it on a bridge supported by pillars.
The new proposal would spare the park and adjacent land that acts as a dispersal area for wildlife.
According to the proposed route seen by the Star, the SGR line would be diverted from Konza City, skirt further south behind Kitengela town, then run down to Isinya to Corner Baridi to Ngong. “Re-routing the SGR South of Nairobi means the line can head either East or West of Ngong Hills,” the proposals says.
[United Arab Emirates] Sir Bani Yas: The most wonderful story of eco-tourism
By Silvia Radan, Khaleej Times, 11 October 2016
Sir Bani Yas is home to about three million different trees, including ghaf, palm trees, cedar and miswak, the toothbrush tree, as well as six mangrove forests. The emirate’s first wildlife conservation projects started here.
Eco tourism is the winning card of any environmentally protected area; it brings in the cash needed for wildlife conservation projects and creates awareness of why these areas need protection among visitors.
Defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and creates environmental awareness and education, eco-tourism has massive scope in Abu Dhabi, which has six main protected areas with just one eco-resort exists – Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resorts.
12 October 2016
[India] Goa clears proposal to declare wildlife sanctuaries as tiger reserve
Business Standard, 12 October 2016
Goa State Board for Wildlife today cleared a proposal declaring all protected areas notified as wildlife sanctuaries in the state as tiger reserve.
The Board also decided to submit a proposal to this effect to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
“The Board cleared the proposal to declare as tiger reserve all the protected areas in Goa which are notified as wildlife sanctuaries. The proposal would be submitted to NTCA,” Forest Minister Rajendra Arlekar told PTI after the Board’s meeting at Secretariat here.
[India] Mumbai can choke. BJP wants to kill off national park for political gain
By Ashwin Aghor, Catch News, 12 October 2016
It seems the Bharatiya Janata Party in Mumbai will go to any lengths for political gain. It now wants to kill off the lungs of Mumbai – the Sanjay Gandhi National Park – in order to gain political mileage ahead of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) elections.
The BJP-led state government, which has taken many populist decisions at the cost of the environment in the past, maintains a studied silence. But if the state party leadership has its way, the illegal slums and other structures built on forest land surrounding the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) will soon be regularised.
Mesoamerica: The protection of forests and biodiversity is not a crime
Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques, 12 October 2016
Water, soil, wood and minerals. The richness of the fertile Mesoamerican lands, rivers and forests is cause of violence, persecution and death for those who defend it.
The most important Mesoamerican forest reserves are currently protected by indigenous and traditional communities: Mayan Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, Río Plátano Reserve in Honduras, Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua, Talamanca-La Amistad Reserves in Costa Rica and the Darien National Park in Panamá.
From Mexico to Panama, those who raise their voice to defend the forests and their biodiversity are suffering all kinds of violence, persecution and criminalization: police and judicial harassment are common place for environmental leaders, who should be protected by their respective governments, not pressured and killed.
A 13-day journey through the national parks of Nepal
By Phil Marty, Chicago Tribune, 12 October 2016
When you think of Nepal, you generally think of Mount Everest and trekking the Himalayas, not jungles and wildlife. But the latter are the focus of a new trip in Peregrine Adventures’ Limited Edition series. National Parks of Nepal is a 13-day/12-night journey that explores Shuklaphanta, Royal Bardia and Chitwan national parks. The journey begins March 26, 2017, in Kathmandu, where there’s a tour of the city and an optional flight ($203) over Everest. From there, it’s on to the national parks, where you’ll spend three nights each. Park visits will include walks, as well as game drives by safari vehicle. Among the wildlife that may be sighted are elephants, the endangered one-horned rhino, Bengal tigers, leopards and monkeys. On a dugout canoe excursion on the Rapti River in Chitwan there might be a chance to see mugger crocodiles and hippos. The trip is priced from $3,430 per person, double occupancy, which includes lodging, tours, breakfasts and an internal flight.
[Peru] Minister in favor of Tropical Pacific Reserve
By Alvero Tassano, Peru This Week, 12 October 2016
Minster of the Environment, Elsa Galarza, said that the proposal for the creation of Tropical Pacific Reserve located in Piura and Tumbes is in “stand by” until they finish conversations with the oil companies occupying the area.
In an interview with Gestion, she explained that talks began this year. “This is important because I believe that the oil sector should take the lead on this,” Galarza said.
Meanwhile, Ronald Egúsquiza, president of the Peruvian Society of Hydrocarbons (SPH) mentioned that he has already approached the Ministry of Environment. He has also showed interest in developing environmental standards for these exports.
13 October 2016
World body that could protect elephants—decides not to
By Carl Safine, National Geographic, 13 October 2016
Earlier this month the nations of the world met to decide on how to deal with the sale of wild animals and their parts. Yes, that is still the relationship we have with them. Highest on many minds was the most acute driving force behind the most talked-about, most widely cared-about conservation issue on Earth at the moment: how to save elephants. How to stop the bloodshed and precipitous decline of Africa’s elephants due to killing for their tusks.
The nations decided to do almost nothing.
Ivory is about elephants. Elephants that are intelligent and sensitive and social and live with their families and need their mothers. But for many people and many governments, ivory is about “trade.” Sales. Commerce. Enforcement. Money.
Ivory suppliers challenge global ban
By Pete Guest, Raconteur, 13 October 2016
Several Southern African countries want to be exempted from a 35-year old global ban on ivory trading, threatening a hard-won consensus on the trade in products from endangered animals.
Behind a swing door in a nondescript office in an industrial building in Hong Kong’s Hung Hom district, two ivory cutters are bent over their workstations, turning small cylinders of tusk into delicate roses.
Lise Carving and Jewellery Factory owner Daniel Chan Chun-bo has been in the trade since the mid-1970s. The business, already dwindling, is now under threat of extinction, as the city prepares to ban all sales of ivory, after pressure from conservation groups who believe that the legal, domestic trade is fuelling the illegal, international smuggling of ivory, which is decimating elephant populations in Africa.
Raconteur, 13 October 2016
The UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples says that the human rights implications of climate change and conservation initiatives are being ignored.
Indigenous peoples across the world have fought long and often bloody campaigns for recognition and rights to their ancestral lands. As economic development pushes deeper and deeper into frontier territories, particularly in Latin America, Africa and South-East Asia, the pressure on their lands has grown, sparking conflicts between indigenous communities and governments and companies.
It’s a bear, it’s a cat; no, it’s a binturong and it’s threatened
By Carly Nairn, mongabay.com, 13 October 2016
It has been said that the binturong is part bear, part cat, and has a monkey’s tail. Indeed, it does seem a bit like a composite animal, with parts gathered from here and there. But truly, it is in a class by itself — or at least, a genus all its very own.
The binturong (Arctictis binturong) is a medium-sized mammal, also known as a bearcat, of the Viverridae family, which includes civets, linsangs and genets. Its nine subspecies are the sole occupants of the genus Arctictis.
While the binturong does have ancestral ties to the Felidae family, bearcats don’t possess any link to modern cat species (even though the animal has eight-inch-long white whiskers, sometimes purrs, and grooms its coat by licking and rubbing its face with its paws).
The Illegal Wildlife Trade and Infectious Disease: The Deadly Risk to Humans
By William B. Miller Jr, Rare Disease Report, 13 October 2016
Although climate change is often in the headlines, the potential for consequential shifts in infectious diseases that could result receives scant attention. As plants, animals and microbes continuously adjust to ecological stresses, there is a corresponding increased risk for the emergence of novel infectious diseases that should rightfully be among our primary concerns.
Certainly, the exact extent of man’s influence on the extent or rate of climate change may remain controversial. However, there is an alternate form of direct human intervention on a planetary scale that is unequivocal and equally significant.
This is the rapidly growing illegal trade in exotic wildlife as either pets, consumption as food, imagined medicinal purposes, ivory for ornaments or skins for decoration. Much of this illicit commerce intentionally concentrates on endangered or nearly extinct species. Want to own a baby tiger? It can be shipped with ease. In fact, according to the World Wildlife Fund, there are more tigers in American back yards than there are in the wild.
A win in the ground war against elephant poachers in Africa
By Peter Canby, The New Yorker, 13 October 2016
Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, in northern Republic of Congo, consists of sixteen hundred square miles of Central African rain forest and is jointly administered by the Congolese ministry of forests and the Wildlife Conservation Society, of the Bronx. Lying just east of the Sangha River, the park is home to significant populations of western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, giant forest hogs, and, above all, to some five thousand forest elephants. Like elephants everywhere in Africa, those in the park are, increasingly, under siege. Two years ago, when I visited, the park’s technical adviser, Tomo Nishihara, told me that the numbers of elephants in the park and its surrounding buffer zones had fallen from ten thousand to five thousand in just five years. “That gives us five more years before they’re gone,” he said.
Take two: Gabon’s lone lion makes another on-camera appearance
By Ethan Shaw, Earth Touch News, 13 October 2016
Gabon’s only known lion has once again showed off his handsome maned mug for camera traps in Batéké Plateau National Park.
The encouraging images come via the Aspinall Foundation, a wildlife charity that partners with the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology and the big-cat conservation group Panthera on ecological monitoring in the national park, which is located in Gabon’s far southeast.
The latest released footage, taken September 1, shows the male lion highly alert in ringing night woodland. At the end of one clip, he abruptly starts – apparently spooked – and trots quickly off frame.
[India] Wildlife Board proposes to declare all 6 protected areas as Tiger Reserve
Herald, 13 October 2016
The State Wildlife Board on Wednesday decided to declare all of the State’s protected areas – its wildlife sanctuaries – as tiger reserves. A proposal in this regard will be moved to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The Wildlife Board, headed by Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, noted that the Forest Department had spotted five tigers moving in the protected areas, especially Mhadei wildlife sanctuary. The census was conducted using th ecamera trap technique in 2015.
14 October 2016
New Law Takes Aim at Poachers, Saving Endangered Animals
Bronx Voice, 14 October 2016
President Barack Obama signed a law, sponsored by a Bronx Congressman, which strengthens laws to prevent poaching of endangered animals.
Obama has signed into law H.R. 2494, The Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016, for which Congressman Eliot Engel was the lead Democratic sponsor. The law, which passed the House and Senate in late September with bipartisan support, will strengthen wildlife trafficking laws and bolster traffic enforcement efforts to further protect endangered species that have been targeted by poachers.
Philippines minister wants to ban new mines as clampdown deepens
By Enrico Dela Cruz and Manolo Serapio Jr, Reuters, 14 October 2016
The Philippines’ mining minister wants to prolong a ban on new mines and will review all environmental permits previously granted to the minerals industry, ramping up a campaign to clamp down on damage from the sector in the Southeast Asian nation.
Miners criticized the proposals made on Friday by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez, saying she seemed determined to put the “industry to sleep”.
The Philippines is the world’s top nickel ore supplier and an environmental audit that has halted a quarter of its 41 mines, and the risk that 20 more maybe shuttered has spurred a rally in global nickel prices.
“I want to put a moratorium on any new mining,” Lopez told a media briefing.
15 October 2016
Bhutan blamed for devastation in Manas National Park
By Mubina Akhtar, Assam Times, 15 October 2016
The Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve suffered huge loss as flood waters of river Beki inundated 60 per cent of the Park since the last four days. Floodwaters entered the Park breaching the embankment at Panchmile under the Bansbari Range and submerged large areas of National Park on Wednesday night. The release of waters from the Kurichu dam by Bhutan has been attributed to the untimely disaster. “The waters have receded now but have left a trail of devastation. The flood breached the embankment at three sites making the Park all the more vulnerable, besides damaging most of the roads making movement almost impossible,” Dharanidhar Boro, deputy director of the Park said. “The bridge at Lata jhar was washed away cutting off road communication to Bhutan. The picturesque Mathanguri, main attraction for tourists, remains cut off as the road to Mathanguri was also washed away. Many animals took shelter on narrow strips of highlands. However, there were no reports of animal casualties. The forest beat camps in the Park—Bispaani, Burha-burijhar, Latajhar, Kuribeel, Bhatgali, Kahibari, Katajhar were reeling under 5/6 ft of flood water.,” Boro added.
16 October 2016
[India] Delhi promotes research in wild life, environment conservation
Business Standard, 16 October 2016
That it provides relief to Delhiites from tiresome drudgery is well known, what is not is that the National Zoological park here has also branched into research, offering internship and field training in wild life and environment conservation.
“Delhi zoo is providing internship training to Bachelor of Veterinary Science (B.V.Sc) students from Haryana Agricultural & Veterinary University, Hissar. The Indian Forest Service probationers from Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA), Dehradun, and trainee officers of Diploma in Wild life Management from Wild Life Institute Of India also visit the zoo for their field training,” Riyaz Khan, zoo curator said.
[India] Madhya Pradesh: 9 tigers killed in Mowgli’s national park in 1 year
Onmanorama, 16 October 2016
As many as 13 tigers have died in the past one year due to poisoning and electrocution, besides other reasons in two national parks of Madhya Pradesh.
Replying to an RTI query, state forest department said nine tigers have died in Pench national park–known as home to ‘Mowgli’, a fictional character and protagonist in English writer Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’–whereas four died in Bandhavgarh national park.