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.
28 November 2016
How the Ivory Trade Is Shaping Elephant Evolution
By Kate Wheeling, Pacific Standard, 28 November 2016
Poaching is not just driving African elephants toward extinction; it’s altering the course of their evolution: Increasingly more African elephants are now born without any tusks at all, the Independent reports.
Poachers kill an estimated 30,000 elephants per year, disproportionately targeting those with tusks to fuel the multi-billion dollar ivory trade.
[Botswana] The amazing safari destination you’ll have all to yourself
By Mike Unwin, The Telegraph, 28 November 2016
Visitors who first enter Botswana via its capital city Gaborone might, as I did, find themselves a little disappointed.
Alighting one sweltering morning at the railway station after the long overnight journey from neighbouring Zimbabwe, I stepped out into what appeared to be a huge construction site. Like other first-time tourists, I had been dreaming of the Okavango and the Kalahari. Instead, the country appeared to be nothing but cranes, traffic and shopping malls.
Admittedly, this was 25 years ago. Yet today, in the 50th anniversary year of Botswana’s independence, most visitors still head directly for the safari riches of the country’s north, barely aware of Gaborone and the towns further south. With some 38 per cent of the nation’s land given over to national parks, it is perhaps hardly surprising that history and culture are not a top priority for visitors.
Thailand failing to stop illegal trade in apes, says monitor
Asia Times, 28 November 2016
Two new reports have raised concern about Thailand’s inability to stop its illegal trade in orangutans and other non-native apes.
One report, produced by the wildlife trade monitor TRAFFIC and based on a survey of 57 wildlife attractions across Thailand, recorded 51 orangutans on display but found records for only 21 in the 2014 International Studbook of the Orangutan.
The numbers of non-native apes observed were also much higher than those recorded as being legally imported. The database of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has only five orangutans being imported into Thailand since 1975 and no records of the Western Gorilla or 14 crested gibbons found during the survey.
29 November 2016
Lupita urges Kenyans to fight against SGR construction through the National Park
By Sheila Kimani, SDE, 29 November 2016
Hollywood superstar Lupita Nyongo ranks highly as one of the most successful actresses from Kenya. Having championed many causes, she recently asked Kenyans on social media to unite against the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway through the Nairobi National Park.
Lupita who is an elephant ambassador urged Kenyans to send petition letters to the Director of NEMA saying:
“We as Kenyans are so fortunate to be the custodians of a large biodiversity that exists in our national parks. And we also boast having the ONLY capital city in the WORLD to have a national park within it, a major tourist attraction. But The Nairobi National Park is being threatened: there are plans to build a new railroad through it.
30 November 2016
[Angola] Meet the man who took on poachers, guerillas and mantraps to save a species
By Martin Fletcher, The Telegraph, 30 November 2016
The Duke of Cambridge honoured Sir David Attenborough for his services to wildlife this evening, but perhaps the real star of the annual Tusk conservation awards ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum was a diminutive Angolan of indeterminate age who cannot read, has lived most of his life in the bush, and had never left his country before this week.
Manuel Sacaia, winner of the Tusk Wildlife Ranger Award, has spent nearly half a century protecting the giant sable, a critically endangered antelope with magnificent five-foot horns, despite being captured by guerillas during Angola’s long civil war, attacked by armed poachers and caught in a mantrap.
[Fiji] Clan protects forest
By Luke Rawalai, Fiji Times, 30 November 2016
The decision to conserve 402 hectares of forest for a period of 99 years in Kilaka, Kubulau, Bua, is not an easy decision, says 84-year-old Nadicake clan leader Farasiko Naulu.
Receiving a tabua (whale’s tooth) presented to his people by the Wildlife Conservation Society last Thursday as a sign of appreciation for their decision to conserve their forests, Mr Naulu said the effort was a challenge.
Mr Naulu said the clan was made up of five landowning units that had their fair share of skeptics.
[Malaysia] Yebet Binti Saman: A pillar of strength protecting customary land
Land Rights Now, 30 November 2016
As part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, we are highlighting the work of women land rights defenders and the ways in which land rights are key for eradicating violence against women. This article is an edited extract from HerStory 3, the third in a series of book-length collections documenting stories of indigenous women change makers across Asia. The HerStory series is published by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).
Yebet Binti Saman is an Indigenous Semaq Beri elder from Kampung Mengkapur, Malaysia, who made history by becoming the first Orang Asli woman plaintiff to lead her community in a legal suit against the state authorities, in defense of her community’s customary territory.
[UK] Prince William: ‘We must all play our part to preserve the future’
By Prince William, The Telegraph, 30 November 2016
The Duke of Cambridge presented the Tusk Conservation Awards this evening, recognising three unsung heroes – Manuel Sacaia, Cathy Dreyer and John Kahekwa – each of whom has dedicated their lives to saving Africa’s wildlife. Sir David Attenborough was also honoured for his services to conservation.
Here we present Prince William’s speech in full:
I am delighted to be here once again at the Tusk Conservation Awards as we celebrate the exceptional achievements of our award winners and finalists this evening. First of all, I would like to acknowledge the invaluable support of all of Tusks’ corporate partners, in particular Investec, without whom these awards would not be possible. And, this year, I am delighted that with the addition of I.S.P.S. Handa’s support, Tusk can now stage a gathering of leading conservationists in Africa to exchange ideas and encourage greater collaboration and support.
1 December 2016
Critical conservation summit must not become a Mexican stand-off
By Carolina Hazin, BirdLife International, 1 December 2016
Ready, steady, go: the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity* opens tomorrow in Cancun, Mexico. The agenda? Nothing less than the future of the world’s species and their habitats.
Over the next 15 days, governments will be discussing international policies to tackle a variety of issues. These include: the creation and management of protected areas, the protection of oceans, the restoration of degraded habitats and, of course, the funding needed to promote these activities.
However, this time around the elephant in the room will be the economy. The world is yet to find ways to align development and nature conservation. Policy wonks call it “biodiversity mainstreaming” – making sure that the value of biodiversity is taken into account by productive sectors.
Awareness of the Ivory Crisis is Taking Shape
By John F. Calvelli, Huffington Post, 1 December 2016
In recent years, African nations with large elephant populations such as Kenya, Mozambique, and the Republic of Congo have made powerful statements by publicly burning their stockpiles of ivory confiscated from poachers and illegal wildlife traffickers. At the CITES Conference of the Parties this past October, 182 governments around the world agreed to a resolution calling for the closure of all domestic ivory markets.
Field Notes: Boosting biodiversity by studying human values, gender
By Elizabeth Devitt, mongabay.com, 1 December 2016
The number of Bengal tigers is growing in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park — a United Nations World Heritage Site. The endangered cats have become healthier, and their population is flourishing along with the forests that local communities have actively protected. These community forests create important buffer zones that surround protected areas of the terai; a plains region with wetlands, scrub savanna, and sal forests where the big cats live.
Unfortunately, this conservation success story has led to a growing number of human-wildlife conflicts. The rise in tiger population has been accompanied by a growing number of people being injured or killed by the animals. From 1998 to 2006, 65 people were killed, compared with just six human deaths in the preceding nine years.
Africa Uses Sports to Fight Environmental Degradation
By Moki Edwin Kindzeka, Voice of America, 1 December 2016
Activists are using the women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Cameroon to campaign for the protection of the continent’s forests and animal species.
The campaign, called “Sports for Nature,” is spearheaded by conservationist groups who say some of Africa’s natural resources are on the verge of going extinct.
In Yaounde, birds sing at a makeshift park near the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium, one of the sites of the 2016 women’s football African Cup of Nations.
Conservationist Nevielle Tanyi points toward a crocodile walking nearby and describes the danger it poses to workers trying to maintain a pond.
Protecting Gorillas at All Costs: Meet the Fearless Park Rangers of the Congo
By Thomas Nicolon, Pacific Standard, 1 December 2016
I came out of my room and a park ranger was standing just outside the door with an AK-47 in his hands.
“You don’t have to worry, Monsieur, the base is totally secured,” he said.
I actually wasn’t worried at all: I just wanted to have a nice cold beer before going to bed.
Park Ranger Janvier (who didn’t give his last name) and I started taking a walk around the base, toward the only spot where there was decent phone reception. I asked him what he was defending me — and the base — against. Was it Mai-Mai rebels? Poachers? Bandits?
[Fiji] Plan to address sustainable development in province
By Luke Rawalai, Fiji Times, 1 December 2016
Compared with the 13 provinces in Fiji, Bua still has a lot of intact forests and lesser sedimentation problems in its river systems.
In a statement, Wildlife Conservation Society director, Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai said developing an integrated management plan for the whole province right now was critical.
Dr Mangubhai said there was a real opportunity for Bua Province to find the balance between protecting its natural resources and the ecosystem services it provides people, and development for economic gain.
“The plan is a bottom up process and builds on each of the districts’ management plans, six of which were launched recently in the province,” she said.
[India] UP: Oldest rhino at Dudhwa National Park dies
The Indian Express, 1 December 2016
Bankey- the oldest rhino at the Dudhwa National Park here who fathered most of the Park’s rhino population- has died. 50-year-old Bankey died at the Rhino Rehabilitation Park at Dudhwa yesterday.
He was one of the five rhinos who was brought to Dudhwa in 1984 from Assam under the ambitious rhino relocation programme. Among the 32 rhinos in Dudhwa at present, most rhinos are offsprings of Bankey.
“The founder member of rhino family, Bankey, was found dead in RRA on Wednesday,” Deputy Director Dudhwa, Mahavir Kaujlagi said.
[India] Telangana: New airport planned in Kinnersani wildlife sanctuary, seriously!
By U. Sudhakar Reddy, Deccan Chronicle, 1 December 2016
The Kothagudem airport is facing hurdles as the proposed airport site falls in the Kinnersani wildlife sanctuary and the Punukuduchelka reserve forest and is unlikely to get clearances as the stringent process involves the Supreme Court, the Central Empowered Committee, the Central Board for Wild Life, the Union forests and environment ministry and the State Wildlife Board.
The sanctuary, which now falls in the Bhadradri-Kothagudem district, is a known habitat of leopards, sambars, spotted deer and gaur. It used to have tigers. Though the Union civil aviation ministry in September last week had given site clearance for the Telangana State Indu-strial Infrastructure Cor-poration project, the airport can be constructed only if it get all the clearances.
Sapphire boom propels thousands into Madagascar rainforest
By John C. Cannon, mongabay.com, 1 December 2016
Some 45,000 people have descended on an area of forest in eastern Madagascar since October in search of sapphires, which on occasion have reportedly topped out at more than 100 carats, or a bit smaller than a golf ball.
In November, the Australian news site, The Conversation, reported on a recent trip by gemologist Rosey Perkins to an upstart sapphire mine not far from the city of Ambatondrazaka. Despite its remoteness, Perkins estimates that perhaps 1,000 new miners were arriving at the makeshift settlement every day when she was there in October.
The destructive nature of the mining process, as well as the repercussions that such a sudden influx can have on the environment, has conservationists and scientists worried. In this sort of mining, miners typically pull up standing trees so they can sift the sapphires from the gravel. Often, they will also fell standing trees for firewood or charcoal and shelter.
Is the pilot national park in Tibet a golden opportunity or a big mistake?
By Wang Yan, Scoll.in, 1 December 2016
Wildlife is flourishing in this remote area of the Tibetan plateau, but loss of local Buddhist and nomadic culture spells trouble for the future.
The family of Luo Zhu, a 43-year-old Tibetan nomad, owns four horses, and over 40 yaks on the high plateau pastureland in Angsai, China’s western Qinghai province. In the 1990s, his family had many more animals, he said, sitting in his tent in late August.
“We used to have 100 sheep, 50 goats and over 120 yaks on the same pastureland, but now our major income is from the harvesting of Chinese caterpillar fungus so we do not need so many animals,” Luo explained.
[UK] Prince William presents Sir David Attenborough with wildlife conservation award
By Sophie Jamieson, The Telegraph, 1 December 2016
Prince William has presented Sir David Attenborough with an award for his contribution to wildlife conservation.
The Duke of Cambridge attended the Tusk Conservation Awards at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The 34-year-old, who is patron of the conservation charity Tusk, met the finalists as well as Tusk supporters and sponsors before presenting an award in his name for Conservation in Africa.
[USA] glassybaby and Conservation International Renew Partnership to Save Elephants
glassbaby press release, 1 December 2016
glassybaby, maker of one-of-a-kind, handblown glass votives and drinkers, today announced that it will donate 10% of it’s December web sales (excluding single giving colors) to Conservation International in support of elephant conservation efforts in northern Kenya. The $100,000 contribution will support the Sarara Initiative, a visionary partnership that focuses on conserving the Kenyan wilderness and uses a community-centered model to protect elephants, their habitat and other wildlife — while helping to boost the economy of the Samburu people.
In addition, glassybaby is launching a new votive titled ‘silver lining’ to donate 10% of its sales to Conservation International throughout the year. ‘silver lining’ joins two other glassybaby, ‘home’ and ‘mother earth’, in supporting Conservation International.
[USA] When Wilderness Was Strictly Whites-Only
By Louise Fabiani, Pacific Standard, 1 December 2016
However tempting it is to trace racist fervor in the United States to the slave trade, white supremacy ideologies reared their head earlier, in the founding of the country. When the early European explorers arrived, and began pushing against the frontier, the native peoples they encountered appeared so wild and “other” to them that they seemed to them to be part of the wildlife — hardly fellow humans at all. As colonies sprang up and agriculture spread, newcomers perceived “the wilds” (peopled or not) as impediments to progress — like physician and ethnologist Josiah C. Nott, who portrayed race as a biological category, and wrote in his 1844 book that a Native American is “a beast of the forest like the Buffalo.”
In an irony that plays out to this day, racism didn’t manifest only when white people wanted to subdue the wild, but also when they sought to conserve it. In Vanishing America: Species Extinction, Racial Peril, and the Origins of Conservation, Miles A. Powell examines U.S. environmental history’s long track record for racism and classism. Citing environmental literature from the 19th century to the present day, as well as private correspondence exchanged by the conservationist figures he studies, Powell, an assistant professor of environmental history at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, finds shocking examples of both involving some of the biggest names in 19th- and 20th-century biological conservation.
2 December 2016
Nations need to conserve biodiversity or they will miss targets: WWF
By Ravi Mandalia, Top Examiner, 2 December 2016
The World Wildlife Fund has warned that if governments around the world do not implement necessary measures to conserve biodiversity, there is an increased likelihood that they will miss their targets, which in turn will spell a disaster globally.
According to the WWF, there is a need to urgently implement the collective commitments to global biodiversity conservation as agreed upon in 2010. 196 countries agreed to take steps to improve the condition of major natural systems including freshwater, forests and oceans as well as supporting wildlife around the world.
[India] Karnataka CM to review decision to withdraw ‘conservation reserve’ tag of Kappatagudda
The Hindu, 2 December 2016
The government will reconsider its decision to withdraw the notification declaring 17,872 ha of the reserved forest areas of Kappatagudda Hills in Gadag district as ‘conservation reserve.’
A committee headed Chief Minister Siddaramaiah himself will soon review the decision and take appropriate action soon after the end of the winter session of the legislature.
This assurance was given to a delegation of more seers of more than 15 religious institutions from North Karnataka region led by Siddhalinga Swami of Tontadarya Mutt, Guru Siddharajayogendra Swami of Moorasavira Mutt and Jayamrutyunjaja Swami of Kudalasangama, who made a common appeal to protect the conservation reserve tag for the forest area, now threatened by the government’s notification issued on Nov.4.
[USA] California court upholds ban on ivory and rhino horn
By Shreya Dasgupta, mongabay.com, 2 December 2016
In October, last year, the state of California banned the sale of nearly all ivory and rhino horn. The new law makes it illegal to trade almost all ivory, including those imported prior to June 1, 1977.
But the Ivory Education Institute — a nonprofit working to enhance the understanding of ivory — challenged the state ban this year, claiming that the law was unconstitutional.
Their lawsuit stated that the new law (Assembly Bill 96; now California Fish and Game Code Section 2022) “deprives Plaintiffs of their property without compensation and is otherwise unconstitutional in that pre-1977 ivory objects legally acquired owned by Plaintiffs will be rendered worthless as of July 1, 2016.” According to Godfrey Harris, executive director of the Ivory Education Institute, the ban is an “overreaction on the part of our state legislators to heavy pressure from the animal rights groups”.
3 December 2016
[Indonesia] The Javan Rhino: Both Protected and Threatened by a Massive Volcano
By Tom Peeters, Pacific Standard, 3 December 2016
Take a piece of land the size of Louisiana, place 45 active volcanoes on it and pack it full of 140 million people. The scenario of the newest action thriller in which Tom Cruise has to rescue humanity? No, it’s the daily reality of the Indonesian island of Java.
Here, in one of the most densely populated areas on Earth, the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) fights for its survival. Listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the 60 or so remaining Javan rhinos all roam the forests of Ujung Kulon, a national park in the westernmost tail of the island. The Javan rhino is living on the edge, literally and figuratively.
[Kenya] Guarding city’s oldest conservation area
By Jan Fox, Daily Nation, 3 December 2016
Whenever I sell Nairobi to visiting friends and family, or justify to them why I choose to live here, I usually gloss over the city itself and describe how easy it is to escape from it. It’s the places around the city that keep me drawn to it — the likes of Naivasha, Nakuru, and other nearby and interesting weekend destinations. But Nairobi is unique, in that one of its best escapes lies within its sprawling limits.
The existence of a 117 square kilometre national park — populated by hundreds of species of birds and animals — within the precincts of a capital city really is remarkable. Last Sunday we decided to take advantage of this proximity, and dragged ourselves out of bed at 4:45am for an early morning game drive.
New protected area to be Mexico’s biggest
Mexico News Daily, 3 December 2016
The Mexican government will announce Monday the creation of a biosphere reserve that will be the country’s largest natural protected area at more than 5.7 million hectares.
The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve will take in virtually the entire coast of the state of Quintana Roo and include the municipalities of Isla Mujeres, Benito Juárez, Puerto Morelos, Solidaridad, Cozumel, Tulum, Bacalar and Othón P. Blanco.
The newspaper El Universal reported yesterday that President Enrique Peña Nieto will announce the reserve’s creation on Monday at the opening of COP13, the global biodiversity summit, which is being held in Cancún.
4 December 2016
The future of wildlife, according to a veteran
By Taylor Mayol, ozy.com, 4 December 2016
Happy Wildlife Conservation Day! Today we get to gaze at cute photos of animals and reflect on how humans are destroying many of their kind. But it’s not all doom and gloom, says John Robinson, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s chief conservation officer (yes, that’s a real job title). A conservation veteran, Robinson helped turn what was then the New York Zoological Society, with a small field-biology arm, into a global conservation force over the past 26 years. OZY caught up with Robinson to learn about some of the bright and not-so-bright spots in the world of wildlife preservation in the past year, what keeps him up at night and what he’s gearing up for in 2017.
[India] Sanjay Gandhi National Park erects three huts to track poachers
By Neha L.M. Tripthi, Asian Age, 4 December 2016
In order to deter production of illicit liquor and keep an eye on poachers, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) officers have come up with three observatory huts at the highest point of the areas in and around the park. A team of officers patrol the areas on a rotational basis in two shifts. This will, according to officials, also help control forest fires.
The huts have been set up at three spots in and around the national park. A team of five officers will be deputed in these huts called ghanikhachar during the daytime while twice this number will patrol the area at night.
Mozambique: Gorongosa National Park to Expand
All Africa, 4 December 2016
Gorongosa National Park, in the central Mozambican province of Sofala is about to expand with the likely conversion of an adjacent game park into an area of total protection.
According to a report in the Maputo daily “Noticias”, the management of the Gorongosa Park has signed an agreement with the Portuguese Entreposto group which runs the game park, known as “Coutada 12”.
This former hunting area covers 200,000 hectares. Under the agreement, the Gorongosa Park and Entreposto will undertake joint work of ecological assessment, surveys with the local population and an analysis of the tourism potential of Coutada 12.