Conservation in the news: 24-30 October 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, follow @conserwatch on Twitter.

24 October 2016

25 October 2016

What should drive conservation action: morals or money?
BirdLife News, 25 October 2016
The interactions of a myriad living organisms make our planet habitable, but it’s money that makes the world go round. At least, that seems to be the driving ethos in conservation these days. Economics would appear to offer an objective, evidential justification for conservation. By contrast, conscience-based arguments seem idiosyncratic, emotive and idealistic. Put simply, morality seems of the heart, economics of the head.
Most conservationists come from a scientific background, they regard themselves as dispassionate purveyors of fact and reason. For them the very worst allegation that can be levelled is one of emotional attachment and sentimentality. If you want to get under the skin on a conservation biologist call them a tree hugger. Conservationists are naturally more comfortable with the empirical assumptions of economics than with matters of conscience.

Snow Leopards in Search for Protection
by Jason Brusse, Apex Tribune, 25 October 2016
Snow leopards are decreasing their number because annual reports show that 450 of them are being killed. Experts claim that there are only four thousand snow leopards left. These felines are on the verge of becoming extinct because of people. This amazing creature is to be found in the mountains of Central Asia.
Their number has consistently been dropping because of revengeful farmers who kill them because valuable animals from their yard were eaten by these felines. Others have killed snow leopards through illegal hunting for their skin. It is a pity that we, people, do not value the creatures that have been created with a purpose and we kill them for a new fur coat. We are so irresponsible that we aren’t aware that we destroy an ecosystem.

The late Mark Shand’s conservation charity is helping human communities as well as elephants
By Christopher Silvester, Spear’s, 25 October 2016
Elephant Family, founded by the late Mark Shand, was born out of his ‘enlarged sense of justice’, says Ruth Powys, Shand’s former girlfriend and CEO of the conservation charity, where she has worked ‘since it was an empty room’ twelve years ago.
Shand’s perception was that the African elephant was getting all the conservation action while the Asian elephant, though less visible, was far more endangered — there are ten African elephants for every Asian elephant. There are somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants, of which around 20,000 are in India.

[Philippines] PHL further elevates biodiversity conservation bid
Philippines News Agency, 25 October 2016
The Philippines is elevating further its biodiversity conservation efforts with a new project that aims to promote sustainable mechanism for better conservation, protection and management of the country’s natural resources.
Through the 2015-2019 Philippine ICCA Project, the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and its partners will work on institutionalizing indigenous community conservation area (ICCA) as an alternative and sustainable mechanism for better conserving, protecting and managing Philippine protected areas outside coverage of Republic Act No. 7586 (National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Act of 1992).
ICCAs are traditional governance and conservation mechanisms of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the country.
“We’ll promote recognition of and support for ICCAs,” said project manager Angel Uson.
She noted the project aims meeting such goals by seeking to harmonize public policies relevant to biodiversity conservation.
“IPs will be part of the process,” she said.

[USA] African Ivory Ban Hurting Alaska Artists
By Julie St. Louis, Courthouse News Service, 25 October 2016
A U.S. senator from Alaska called a field Senate committee hearing regarding the federal ban on ivory from African elephants, which Alaska Natives say is confusing tourists and having a “chilling effect” on their legal use of walrus, mammoth and mastodon ivory products in art.
Sen. Dan Sullivan convened the field hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fishers, Water and Wildlife during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention on Oct. 21.
Immediately following St. Lawrence Island artist Susie Silook’s impassioned speech on the convention’s main stage, she stepped into a side meeting room at the Carlson Center to testify before the committee. Silook was joined by Sealalaska Heritage Institute president Rosita Worl; Arctic Slope Regional executive vice president Tara Sweeney; and Margaret Williams, managing director of the Arctic Program at the World Wildlife Fund.

26 October 2016

Logged but not out: Altered landscapes important for conservation
By John C. Cannon, mongabay.com, 26 October 2016
Ecologists have struggled to peg a value to logged forests for the plants and animals that call them home. They know, for example, that these altered landscapes don’t offer the rich habitats that old-growth forests do, but just how drastically and to what degree has remained a mystery.
Now, a study of mammal biodiversity in Malaysian rainforests published July in the journal Ecological Applications has added to our understanding of what’s happening when we thin a forest. And the conclusions reveal that we might not be giving these areas the credit they deserve.
“We still have a poor idea about the actual mechanisms of biodiversity change in logged forest,” said Oliver Wearn, an ecologist at Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London and the lead author of the paper. “Is it due to changes in habitat, in resources, or something else?”

[Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe] Herbivores, sustainability, and trophy hunting in the Matetsi
By Jeff Atkins, PLOS Ecology Community, 26 October 2016
Trophy hunting is the selective hunting and harvesting of wild game for human recreation—with the “trophy” being the portion of the animal that is kept, ranging from the entire animal to the head, skin, pelt, horns, or antlers. Even before more recent controversies related to black rhinos or Cecil the lion, trophy hunting has been a contentious issue. Those for the practice point out the financial benefits to local communities and to conservation efforts, while opponents question the morality of the practice or the motives of the hunters, along with the supposed conservation benefits. Much work has focused on the impacts of trophy hunting on large predators. Victor Muposhi, from The School of Wildlife, Ecology and Conversation at Chinhoui University of Technology in Zimbabwe and his co-authors recently published a study in PLOS One on the temporal dynamics of trophy quality and harvesting patterns of wild herbivores in central Africa.
In their article, Trophy Hunting and Sustainability: Temporal Dynamics in Trophy Quality and Harvesting Patterns of Wild Herbivores in a Tropical Semi-Arid Savanna Ecosystem, Muposhi and his co-authors focus on wild herbivores, including the Cape buffalo, African elephant, greater kudu, and sable. These species of herbivores were selected as they are among the most commonly hunted species and complete data about trophy size, quota allocations, etc. were available.

Oil drilling underway beneath Ecuador’s Yasuní national park
By John Vidal, The Guardian, 26 October 2016
Ecuador has confirmed that oil drilling has begun under the country’s Yasuní national park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
But the government claims that there has been only minimal disturbance to the Unesco biosphere reserve in the Amazon rainforest since extraction of 23,000 barrels of oil a day began last month.
Ecologists, environmentalists and political groups in Ecuador and elsewhere condemned president Rafael Correa when in August 2013 he scrapped a pioneering conservation plan to leave oil under the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) area of the park, in return for $3.6bn (3bn) compensation.

Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Might Save Indonesia’s World Heritage Sites
By Ratri M. Siniwi, Jakarta Globe, 26 October 2016
With three of Indonesia’s national parks having been included in the World Heritage in Danger list since 2011, the Indonesian government and the Unesco World Heritage Committee have been scrambling to find a way to save them.
The parks in question are the Mount Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, which all form part of the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS), one of the biggest conservation areas in Southeast Asia.
Among the measures undertaken by the government and the Unesco World Heritage Committee to get the TRHS out of danger is with a five-year action plan, known as the Desired State of Conservation. The plan involves a monitoring program and corrective measures.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, seven main indicators listed in the action plan must be prioritized to save the parks.

Saving Madagascar’s rainforests
Birdwatch, 26 October 2016
Madagascar’s Tsitongambarika Forest is one of the nation’s few remaining regions that supports significant areas of lowland rainforest. However, deforestation rates there have been among the highest in the country. But things are set to improve, says BirdLife International.
The main cause of deforestation is changes in cultivation by poor subsistence farmers who lack alternative land on which to grow food crops. Desperate to lay claim to land, they do so by clearing forest. Further threats come from logging hardwoods and hunting.
Since 2005, BirdLife Partner Asity Madagascar has been working with local people to help conserve the forest as part of BirdLife’s Forests of Hope programme. The project’s Senior Manager, Roger Safford, commented that local farmers are “too often portrayed as the villains of tropical deforestation,” adding that they “can be the best conservationists, so long as their needs are properly considered and they take part in and benefit from management”.

27 October 2016

Experts Offer Solutions Integrating Conservation and Economic Development
By William L. Wang, The Harvard Crimson, 27 October 2016
Three experts in conservation science discussed conservation strategies that both protect biodiversity and encourage economic development at a Harvard University Center for the Environment panel Thursday evening.
More than 100 students, professors, and graduate students attended the event. The panel was held in the Northwest Building as part of a seminar series entitled “Ecological Systems in the Anthropocene.”
The panel included former Chief Scientist of the World Wildlife Fund Jon Hoekstra; Peter Karieva, director of the Institute of Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Conservation International Executive Vice President M. Sanjayan. The event was moderated by Elizabeth M. Wolkovich, a professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.

[Nepal] Security of buffer zone communities stressed
myRepublica, 27 October 2016
Lawmakers have demanded that security of the people residing in the buffer zone should be guaranteed.
Taking part in the deliberations on the amendment bill (fifth) relating to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act-1973 at a meeting of the Environment Protection Committee that held at the Singha Durbar today, lawmakers present called for granting the rights of the buffer zone communities.
Lawmaker Rajaram Syangtan said any cutoff on the facilities entitled to the buffer zone people would make them agitated and this must be kept in mind while amending the Act.
Lawmaker Bir Bahadur Balayar said people residing near the parks, wildlife reserves and other protected forest areas are continued to fall prey to attacks of wild animals, underlining need of guaranteeing their security through the fifth amendment to the Act.

Nigeria’s Superhighway Threatens Local Communities, Elephants, And Gorillas
Wildlife Conservation Society, 27 October 2016
A proposed superhighway in Nigeria’s Cross River State will displace 180 indigenous communities and threaten one of the world’s great centers of biodiversity if completed, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).
In response, WCS is launching an international campaign to encourage decision makers in Nigeria to pursue alternative development options to either reroute the proposed highway away from the protected areas and community forests along the border area with Cameroon, or to rehabilitate existing highways. The campaign has generated 41,786 petitions since October 14.
The process of clearing a corridor for the project has already begun but has been temporarily halted as a result of protests from local communities, which helped to initiate an environmental impact assessment, but work on the highway could restart at any time.

Conserving mangrove forests in Senegal
africanews.com, 27 October 2016
Mangrove forests are one of the world’s richest ecosystems. The trees and shrubs which usually grow in salty waters are home to a variety of flora and fauna.
In Joal, a fishing town located in the south east- of Senegal’s capital Dakar, the mangrove ecosystem is under threat.
The UN estimates that Senegal has lost about 40% of its mangrove forests since the 1970s. With this in mind, there have been concerted efforts to preserve the remaining areas.
“The mangrove is very important, in relation to fishing.There are a lot of animals like monkeys, hyenas which live in the mangrove,” said Abdou Karim-Sall, President, Management Committee of Marine Protected Area in Joal.

28 October 2016

Sixth mass extinction? Two-thirds of wildlife may be gone by 2020: WWF
By Ben Westcott, CNN, 28 October 2016
More than two thirds of the world’s wildlife could be gone by the end of the decade if action isn’t taken soon, a new report from the World Wildlife Fund revealed on Thursday.
Since 1970, there has already been a 58% overall decline in the numbers of fish, mammals, birds and reptiles worldwide, according to the WWF’s latest bi-annual Living Planet Index.
If accurate, that means wildlife across the globe is vanishing at a rate of 2% a year.
“This is definitely human impact, we’re in the sixth mass extinction. There’s only been five before this and we’re definitely in the sixth,” WWF conservation scientist Martin Taylor told CNN.

In palm oil, Liberia sees economic boom — but forests may lose
By Sophie Bertazzo (Conservation Internation), Thomson Reuters Foundation, 28 October 2016
Surrounded by heavily deforested neighboring countries, Liberia resembles a green island in satellite images — yet the future of this West African country’s forests is by no means guaranteed.
Liberia views palm oil development as a huge opportunity for economic growth and international trade. But embracing the booming industry is not without its costs. Without proper oversight, the country’s vast forests could be cut down and replaced by oil palm plantations, destroying critical natural resources and the benefits they provide for the communities who depend on them.

WWF starts petition to end wildlife trade in Vietnam, decries lack of action
VnExpress, 28 October 2016
The NGO urges tough measures from Vietnam to end the trade of ivory and rhino horn.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is calling activists around the globe to come together and demand that the government of Vietnam do more to save rhinos and elephants.
The campaign, “Act Now to Save Rhinos,” urged people to join and sign a letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, asking the Vietnamese government to take “concrete action” to tackle the poaching of the two endangered species.

29 October 2016

Yes, a recent WWF report says 67 percent of wildlife may go extinct — but don’t panic yet
By Natalie Chudnovsky, AirTalk, 29 October 2016
A recent report from the World Wildlife Fund has found that two-thirds of vertebrate animals could be extinct by 2020.
Habitat loss, climate change and pollution are just a few reasons cited by the report as major contributors. Unlike previous mass extinctions where asteroids and meteors were to blame, the WWF says humans are responsible for the current state of the environment.
But some researchers are skeptical about these numbers.
Larry Mantle sat down with Robin Freeman, research fellow and Head of Indicators and Assessments Unit at the Zoological Society of London and Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University, to break down the report and assess its implications.

[Indonesia] Inspiring Mind: Life imitates art
The Jakarta Post, 29 October 2016
Fundraising photo exhibition seeks to distill the beauty of nature while inspiring love for the environment.
Art and nature are deeply interconnected. There are many artists who collaborate with nature as their muse in creating their artworks. On the other hand, beauty can also emerge naturally from the environment itself. Centuries ago, because of technological limitations, the beauty of nature could be captured only through painters’ brushes. Now, however, the world of photography, which has advanced impressively, can also be the main medium to document nature.
In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of conservation partnership collaborations in Indonesia, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Indonesia is currently conducting a photo exhibition called ‘We are the Nature Heroes’ at the Pacific Place shopping center in Central Jakarta, showcasing 200 photographs taken by Indonesian amateur photographers curated by TNC Heritage Club member Ario Wibisono as well as other TNC officers, namely Danny Lumanto and Andiyan Lutfi. The photographs are being showcased in turn at an exhibition that runs from Oct. 17 to 30.

30 October 2016

The animal smugglers
Al Jazeera, 30 October 2016
The smuggling of endangered wildlife, both dead and alive, is a billion-dollar global business, second only in size to the illegal arms and drug trades. American border control continues to see an incessant attempt at bringing hundreds of species into the United States every year – each attempt more creative than the next.
Chatuchak Market in Bangkok is one of the largest open-air flea markets in Thailand, attracting locals and tourists alike. It boasts more than 8,000 vendors selling every type of good under the sun: ceramics, antiques, furniture, clothing and endangered animals. Chatachuk has been recognised by the World Wildlife Fund as a hot spot for illegal animal trade.
“It’s really disturbing actually – there’s no telling what you’re going to find,” says Joseph Johns, prosecutor of environmental crimes at the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, of Chatachuk. “You couldn’t do this anywhere in the United States of America.”

[Malaysia] 100 world experts highlight four points to conserve, manage heritage site
By Naim Zulkifli, New Straits Times, 30 October 2016
The inaugural Belum Rainforest Summit this year (BRainS), during which 100 conservationists, scientists and policymakers worldwide discussed pressing topics on the environment, closed last Saturday with the adoption of the “Belum Rainforest Blueprint”. BRainS was held at the Belum Rainforest Resort in Pulau Banding, here from Oct 17 to Oct 22. Titled “Blueprint for Local Action to Protect and Sustainably Manage the Belum-Temengor Rainforest”, the document was the culmination of six days of expert dialogue that highlighted four areas of vital importance to the Belum-Temengor Rainforest. Pulau Banding Foundation chairman Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Mohamad said the blueprint was the main purpose of the summit and he wanted BRainS to not be a mere “talk shop” but a proper meeting of minds to ensure measurable actions would be taken as a result.

Tanzanian president call for hunting down ivory kingpins
Xinhua, 30 October 2016
Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Saturday directed a special anti-poaching unit to go after ivory kingpins, saying no one was untouchable.
The kingpins are accused of financing criminal networks behind elephant poaching activities in the east African nation.
Magufuli issued the directive after making a surprise visit to the headquarters of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
“I am behind you … arrest all those involved in this illicit trade, no one should be spared regardless of his position, age, religion … popularity,” said a statement from the president’s office quoting him.
Magufuli added: “Go after all of them … so that we protect our elephants from being slaughtered.”
Magufuli was shown 50 tusks that were seized by authorities over the weekend, plus vehicles impounded for involvement in ivory smuggling.

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