Conservation in the news: 5-12 December 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.

Scientists Produce a New Roadmap For Guiding Development & Conservation Efforts in the Amazon
Amazon Waters Initiative press release, December 2016
Scientists from WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), the Nature Conservancy, and several partners in Brazil and Peru have produced a geographic information system (GIS) “roadmap” to help guide conservation efforts at large scale in the Amazon River basin, a region roughly the size of the United States.
The new spatial framework—created with several major data sets and GIS technology—is made up of a new hydrological and river basin classification, along with various spatial analysis tools, that can be used to better understand and mitigate the synergistic effects of deforestation and new or planned highways and dams across the Amazon Basin.

5 December 2016

Biodiversity Convention Continues To Look To Mainstreaming To Halt Global Decline
By Kelli Barrett, Ecosystem Marketplace, 5 December 2016
The United Nations Biodiversity Conference, which is taking place this week and next in 80 degree weather in Cancún, Mexico, may lack the thrill and drama of prior meetings that made high-level policy decisions. However, participants say it’s critical to ensuring that the objectives laid out in those exciting decisions are actually funded and implemented, and that’s what they’re setting out to do in Cancún. The 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) runs from December 2 until the 17th.
“COP13 is a what actions do we need to take, how do we get things done and how do we get people motivated type of COP,” says Rowan Braybrook, the Senior Manager for Sustainable Development Policy at Conservation International.

Africa: WWF Cautions Governments On Biodiversity Loss
By Sylivester Domasa, Tanzania Daily News, 5 December 2016
The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has warned governments over the perilous rate at which global biodiversity is being lost.
The agency called for urgent implementation of collective commitments to conserve global biodiversity. Figures show that Tanzania is one of the megabiodiversity rich countries globally hosting six out of 25 hotspots globally.
But a report of the WWF released over the weekend shows that only ten per cent of 196 countries which agreed to a series of efforts to improve the condition of major natural systems, including freshwater, forests and oceans, will be on track to meet the convention’s objectives-collectively known as the Aichi targets.

Biodiversity conservation vital for the tourism sectors of Fiji and Tonga
Pasifik, 5 December 2016
The integration of tourism into the biodiversity sector was under the spotlight at the High Level Segment of the Thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13) in Cancun, Mexico.
For the first time the Conference brought together Ministers from Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry and Tourism to participate in this event to help ‘Mainstream Biodiversity for Well-being’.
According to the CBD, the tourism sector accounts for nine per cent of the world’s gross domestic product, six percent of exports and contributes directly or indirectly to one in 11 jobs.

[India] W(h)ither Kerala’s mangroves
By S. Gopikrishna Warrier, India Climate Dialogue, 5 December 2016
For a state that has 44 rivers and a wide network of estuaries and backwaters with tidal action, Kerala has a relatively small area under mangroves — just 25 sq. km at present, down from 700 sq. km in 1957. The mangrove patches that still survive are distributed across many coastal districts.
The mangroves in Kerala are unique in the sense that more than half are under private ownership, making conservation difficult. Mangrove conservation faces a double whammy, since private owners are not motivated enough to hold on to the unique vegetation, as it does not provide a direct and immediate economic benefit. For the state government, administering patches over which they have not control is difficult.

6 December 2016

Put people at the center of conservation, new study advises
University of Washington press release, 6 December 2016
People must be part of the equation in conservation projects. This will increase local support and the effectiveness of conservation.
That’s the main conclusion of a study published online Nov. 29 in the journal Biological Conservation. In it, an international group of scientists recognizes the need to consider humans’ livelihoods, cultural traditions and dependence on natural resources when planning and carrying out conservation projects around the world.
“We really need to think about people as we’re creating conservation initiatives. Forgetting about humans in the conservation recipe is like forgetting yeast in a loaf of bread,” said lead author Nathan Bennett, a researcher at the University of Washington, the University of British Columbia and Stanford University.

Global habitat loss still rampant across much of the Earth, 6 December 2016
As 196 signatory nations of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) meet this week in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss their progress towards averting the current biodiversity crisis, researchers from a range of universities and NGOs report in the international journal Conservation Letters that habitat destruction still far outstrips habitat protected across many parts of the planet.
The researchers assessed rates of habitat conversion versus protection at a 1 km resolution across the worlds 825 terrestrial ecoregions (areas that contain unique communities of plant and animal) since the CBD was first ratified in 1992. They showed that while there have been considerable gains in global efforts to increase the size of protected area estate, alarming levels of habitat loss still persist.
They discovered that over half the planet can be classified as completely converted to human-dominated land use, with 4.5 million square kilometers (an area two thirds the size of Australia) converted in the past two decades alone.

[Mexico] Four protected areas announced in Cancún
Mexico News Daily, 6 December 2016
Four new natural protected areas were declared by presidential decree yesterday, bringing to 91 million hectares the total of land and sea areas that have been designated for environmental conservation.
The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, whose creation was announced last week, was among four new protected areas that became official during a ceremony at a global biodiversity summit in Cancún.
The 5.75-million-hectare Caribbean reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula, and is designed to protect coastal wetlands, coral reefs and sea habitat.

7 December 2016

Silent Forests
By Mariah Wilson, WCS blog, 7 December 2016
We are standing with one of Cameroon’s first female eco-guards, Sidonie Asseme, outside of a forestry office deep in Southeastern Cameroon. She is showing us a macabre sight: a row of bones from animals that have been poached in nearby Boumba Bek and Nki National Parks. “When I see all these carcasses in the forest, it always hurts my heart. We really fight against poaching.”
She points out the larger skull – it once belonged to a young forest elephant. She shows the place where the ivory tusks were; they were removed when the elephant was killed. Sidonie and her fellow park rangers patrol these dense forests to apprehend poachers before they are able to slaughter more animals. We are following their brave work, along with other anti-trafficking efforts in the Congo Basin region, for the upcoming film Silent Forests. We will soon be filming with Wildlife Conservation Society biologist Clement Inkamba Nkulu as he studies forest elephant communication in Congo-Brazzaville.

[Cambodia] Land Grabbers Target National Park
Khmer Times, 7 December 2016
About 200 villagers have attempted to grab forestry land in Bokor National Park after being misinformed and incited by an alleged ringleader, according to Kampot provincial authorities.
Deputy provincial governor Sim Vuthea told Khmer Times yesterday that the villagers attempted to seize 3,000 hectares in the park.
“Last week, about 200 people from Kampong Speu and other provinces seized 3,000 hectares of forest land under the Environment Ministry’s control in Bokor National Park,” he said, adding that residents had divided themselves into small groups and built some temporary shacks on the land they cleared.
“They have set up their own guidelines, that if you can clear the forestry land – as much as you can – the occupied land will belong to you.”

Hunters turn protectors of threatened hornbills in northeast India
By Azera Parveen Rahman, The Third Pole, 7 December 2016
In the lush forests bordering the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, a new conservation movement is in motion to save the fast disappearing hornbills of northeast India. The tribes – who once hunted the exotic birds in large numbers – are now protecting their nests to help their numbers rebound.
The Great Hornbill is a beautiful bird, easily recognisable by its enormous, bright yellow beak. Hornbills get their name from the horn like projection on top of their beaks, called a casque. A scheduled species under the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, hornbills are hunted for their beaks, which are used to make the traditional headgear of the Nyishi tribe men. Hornbills are also hunted for their oil—believed to relieve pain — and for their meat.

8 December 2016

Conservation zones exclude indigenous people, drive deforestation
By Karl Mathiesen, Climate Home, 8 December 2016
Conservation reserves in Central America have shut indigenous peoples off from their traditional lands and driven deforestation, community leaders have told Climate Home.
Since revolution in the region started to wind down in the 1980s, there has been an internationally celebrated trend to create large conservation areas. Hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of forest have been placed within borders designed to protect them.
But according to a report released at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Mexico on Thursday, some of those areas have placed restrictions on the tribes who made their living in the forest through traditional, and what they say are sustainable, practices.

Biodiversity betrayal as nations fail miserably on conservation
By Andy Coghlan, New Scientist, 8 December 2016
Almost everyone is bottom of the class. That’s the best that can be said for countries that signed up to an ambitious plan in 2010 to save the world’s dwindling biodiversity.
The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 set internationally agreed conservation targets known as the Aichi biodiversity targets, but rich nations in particular seem to be failing miserably.
So said five major conservation charities ahead of the 13th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico, this week.
By now individual countries should have drafted detailed plans to conserve their biodiversity, but only half have done so.

Heart of Borneo initiative a success despite setbacks — Len Talif
The Borneo Post, 8 December 2016
Managing and implementing an initiative of national and international importance like the Heart of Borneo (HoB) in Sarawak that is straddled across a vast area of 2.1 million hectares deep in the mountainous terrains and thick forest has been a challenging responsibility for the state.
No doubt there would be stories of setbacks but there would always be successes worth sharing, Assistant Minister of Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh said.
“These success stories or achievements will not be possible without the strong political will of our Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan satem),” he said when officiating at the opening of HoB Seminar 2016 here yesterday.

[India] Mining Lease in Tiger Reserve to Oil India Deferred in Arunachal
By Ranju Dodum, The Citizen, 8 December 2016
A central committee has deferred a petroleum mining lease in Arunachal Pradesh to Oil India Limited and has sought clarity from the state government relating to compliance of forest protection laws.
The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change (MoEFCC) held a meeting on November 10 – the minutes of which were released recently- to discuss the prospect of granting a petroleum mining lease in favour of the chief engineer, Oil India Limited, Duliajan in Ningru extension block at Changlang district.
The state government had sought the Centre’s permission to provide the lease which would cover over 540 square km of forest land. The proposal had sought the lease without inviting any physical diversion of forest land.
However, the FAC noted in the November 10 meeting that the compliance of Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was not given.

Destination Kaza
By Steve Felton, The Namibian, 8 December 2016
Almost everybody has heard of the Victoria Falls, the World Heritage Site at the centre of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area but Kaza has yet to become as well known.
At a three day symposium for scientists, conservationists, tourism specialists and government representatives of the five states that Kaza straddles – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – putting Kaza more firmly on the map was an important part of the agenda.
Kaza has challenging objectives: “to establish a world-class transfrontier conservation area and tourism destination in the Okavango and Zambezi river basin regions within the context of sustainable development” according to its founding mission statement.

9 December 2016

Community rights: A key to conservation in Central America
By Sandra Cuffe,, 9 December 2016
Research has shown that indigenous peoples and local communities play a key role in biodiversity and forest conservation in Central America and Mexico. Drawing on case studies from across the region, a new report adds to the mounting evidence that securing and implementing indigenous and community rights to their lands and forests effectively reduces deforestation and bolsters the protection of biodiversity.
The report, Conservation and Community Rights: Lessons from Mesoamerica, was authored by the PRISMA Foundation, an environmental and development research center based in El Salvador. The publication was released yesterday in Mexico City, coinciding with the thirteenth conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity taking place December 4 to 17 in Cancun.

Humans are still destroying wildlife habitats more than protecting them
By Signe Dean, National Geographic 9 December 2016
An international study led by researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) has found that many parts of the planet are still impacted by habitat destruction due to human activity.
According to the research, published this week in the journal Conservation Letters, recent decades have seen an uptick in the establishment of protected areas, however the historical rate at which humans have taken over means there are regions around the world where we risk losing biodiversity forever.
The research team, led by James Watson from UQ, has asserted that more than half of Earth’s land can be classified as completely converted to human use.
“An area of 4.5 million square kilometres, or about two thirds the size of Australia, has been converted to human-dominated land use in the past two decades alone,” said Watson.

Giraffes are heading towards a “silent extinction”, as populations plummet
By Peter Dockrill, Science Alert, 9 December 2016
The tallest animal in the world has been brought tragically low, with new research revealing that the global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40 percent over the last 30 years.
This means the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is now officially listed as “Vulnerable” on the Red List of Threatened Species.
The Red List, which is maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), only currently recognises a single species of giraffe (G. camelopardalis), although researchers recently identified four distinct species of the animal.

[Indonesia] WWF Indonesia Urges Govt to Support Biodiversity Conservation Efforts
By Ratri M. Siniwi, Jakarta Globe, 9 December 2016
With world leaders gathering in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss global biodiversity conservation,World Wildlife Fund Indonesia has urged the Indonesian government to buck up on handling the dramatic biodiversity loss taking place across the archipelago.
Initiated by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) gathers 196 world leaders for the 13th Conference of Parties on Dec. 4 to 17 to discuss achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which includes improving wildlife conditions such as water, forests and oceans.
Indonesia’s national strategy in biodiversity conservation was implemented through the Indonesian Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (IBSAP) 2003-2020, which has been revised to IBSAP 2015-2020.
However, according to WWF Indonesia, this plan sounds a lot more “talk” than action.

[Malaysia] Reforestation of Orang Utan habitat is bearing fruits
Daily Express, 9 December 2016
An Orang Utan is nestled in a bed of evergreen leaves up on a “ketapang” tree in the Northern Ulu Segama Forest Reserve.
A few metres away, up on another tree, a recent Orang Utan nest is clearly visible.
Ten years ago, this scenario would have been a rare occurrence, but now, thanks to an initiative to rehabilitate the heavily degraded forest, frequent sightings of Orang Utan have been reported.
The rehabilitation project in the Bukit Piton Forest Reserve, which has a total area of 11,612ha, is part of the Sabah state government’s Ulu Segama-Malua Sustainable Forest Management project established on March 15, 2006 covering a total area of 241,098ha.
The Northern Ulu Segama Orang Utan habitat reforestation initiative began in 2008 through a collaborative partnership between Sime Darby Plantation Sdn Bhd (SDP) and the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD).

[Nepal] ‘Proposed roads,highways pose threat to wildlife’
The Himalayan Times, 9 December 2016
Conservationists have warned that the country might lose its flagship species like the Bengal tiger and one-horned rhinoceros very soon if all the proposed highways, link roads and local roads were constructed through core conservation areas.
Besides the East-west Highway and Postal Road, other roads including the North-south road, proposed railway, proposed BSF road of India and several local motorable roads pass through the Tarai Arc Landscape areas.
According to WWF Nepal, a conservation partner of the government, there is high risk of disappearance of the country’s endangered species if the proposed roads were constructed through wildlife conservation areas.
“The core habitat of tigers and rhinos will be fragmented into more than a dozen areas if the roads and development infrastructure are constructed as per the proposed design. In the long run, such rare species may eventually go extinct if their movement and habitat are disturbed,” said Gokarna Jung Thapa, senior GIS manager of WWF.

[Philippines] Pasonanca watershed soon to be declared protected area
By Nonoy E. Lacson, Manilla Bulletin, 9 December 2016
The House Committee on Environment has approved House Bill 124, declaring the Pasonanca watershed forest reserve here as a “protected area” under the category of natural park.
This was disclosed by Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, who hailed the approval of the bill at the committee level and expressed confidence that it will breeze through the plenary in the House, as well as the Senate.
Lobregat said that once HB 124 is passed into law, the Pasonanca natural park will become a protected area and will be provided with the necessary funding by the national government for its preservation.

10 December 2016

100 Guatemalans gold panning in Chiquibul
By Adele Ramos, Amandala, 10 December 2016
Two Guatemalans were recently detained while panning for gold in the Ceibo Grande Creek area, located in southern Chiquibul National Park, 9 kilometers away from Belize’s western border with Guatemala; but reports from Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) indicate that the total number of Guatemalans panning for gold inside Belize is now at an estimated 100, after what appeared to have been a cooling off period.
FCD’s Executive Director, Rafael Manzanero, told Amandala that in addition to the apparent uptick in illegal gold panning, chainsaws were recently heard on at least two occasions at the adjacent protected area, the Caracol Archaeological Reserve—which was the first evidence of illegal logging in the area since the murder of Special Constable Danny Conorquie by Guatemalan loggers in September 2014. No one was arrested in those illegal logging incidents.

[India] Buffer zone around Sanjay Gandhi National Park can have homes and industries
By Chetna Yerunkar, Hindustan Times, 10 December 2016
The Centre’s final notification on the buffer zone — an area meant to protect the environment — around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) up to 4km from the boundary of the park is unlikely to be any kind of defence for the city’s sole green lung against construction work .
The Union environment ministry’s notification on December 5 as well as the proposed development plan for the city reveals that affordable housing, tourism resorts and even small-scale industries can be permitted within the ESZ, along with road-widening projects and a Metro car shed.

[Malaysia] Group wants Sarawak government to turn Baram interior into national park
By Sulok Tawie, The Malay Mail, 10 December 2016
Save Rivers Network is pushing hard for an area of about 32,000 hectares with pristine forest cover in the deep interior of Baram to be gazetted as a national park, its chairman Peter Kallang said today.
He said SAVE wants this done before Tan Sri Adenan Satem steps down as Sarawak chief minister.
“We can never know what will happen if he is no longer the chief minister, and we fear that the next chief minister will re-open the area for logging activities,” he told Malay Mail Online at the sidelines of the Sarawak Festival of Rights held in conjunction with the International Human Rights Day here.
He said with the feedback from the local communities, SAVE Rivers Network and other community-based civil society movements are preparing a working paper to convert the area into a national park, which they proposed to name Taman Damai Baram, to be submitted to the state government.

11 December 2016

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