Conservation in the news: 26 December 2016 – 1 January 2017

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.

26 December 2016

[India] Integrated tiger habitat conservation project launched in Karnataka
By R. Krishna Kumar, The Hindu, 26 December 2016
Wildlife conservation has received a boost with the launch of an integrated tiger habitat conservation project around M.M. Hills and Cauvery wildlife sanctuaries in Chamarajanagar district, with support from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
The project aims to conserve forest habitats by assisting in the sustainable development of communities living in and around the protected areas. It is being implemented by the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru, and the Wildlife Trust of India in association with the Forest Department.
“The project seeks to build community support to conserve wildlife habitats in this area by helping them reduce reliance on forest-based fuel wood by providing alternative sources of energy such as solar water pumps in villages,” said a senior conservationist.

27 December 2016

Cheetah ‘more vulnerable to extinction than previously thought’
The Guardian, 27 December 2016
Urgent action is needed to stop the cheetah – the world’s fastest land animal – becoming extinct, experts have warned.
Scientists estimate that only 7,100 of the fleet-footed cats remain in the wild, occupying 9% of the territory they once lived in. Asiatic populations have been hit the hardest, with fewer than 50 surviving in Iran, according to an investigation led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have plummeted by 85% in little more than a decade.
The cheetah’s dramatic decline has prompted calls for the animal’s status to be upgraded from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

2016: The Year Biodiversity Got Back On The Climate Map
By Kelli Barrett, Ecosystem Marketplace, 27 December 2016
In late 2015, the administration of US President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum pledging to streamline biodiversity protection policy and ratchet-up private investment in conservation and wildlife. The move, as expected, has had a significant spillover effect into 2016.
In March of this year, for instance, 11 organizations – some public, though mostly private – committed over $2 billion to water, wildlife and land investments. It’s a commitment that the White House quickly labeled one of the biggest non-federal investments in conservation ever.
“Policy consistency and clarity across the board really ratchets up the opportunity for large-scale private investment in conservation,” George Kelly, who is Chief Markets Officer of Resource Environmental Solutions (RES), a Texas-based restoration company and one of the 11 entities pledging millions towards conservation activities, said in March.

How A ‘Wildlife Soap Opera’ Hopes To Change The Face Of Conservation
By Nikta Nilchian, Uproxx, 27 December 2016
I sat staring, my jaw hanging open. No more than 10 feet from me, Xongila, an adolescent female leopard, was practicing pouncing on a lifeless impala. The prey was still fully intact — its fur gleaming, its black eyes open, and its mouth gently pulled back. It was clear that this was a fresh kill, hunted just hours earlier.
Xongila paced away a few feet, then turned her head and stared at the carcass. She moved slowly towards her prey a second time — back arched, shoulder blades protruding. With a swift move, she was on top of the impala, biting directly into its neck. I glanced around our jeep at the other passengers — Angeli Gabriel, writer and host with National Geographic and Alex Goetz and Justin Grubb, winners of the company’s “Wild to Inspire” film contest. Everyone wore the same expression: “I can’t believe I’m watching this right now.” We all cringed in unison as bones cracked like hard candy under Xongila’s bite.

[Fiji] Deep in the land
By Alumeci Nakeke, Fiji Times, 27 December 2016
The village headman in Nabalasere in Saivou, Ra, blew his sonorous conch shell to invite everyone in the village to be present to hear about Wakatu Fiji, a campaign to revive the land that has provided for Fijians for generations.
Men and women streamed into the village hall to hear not a talk from any expert, but six community leaders from Naitasiri, who had descended from the hills and mountains of Tomaniivi to share a message they felt was critical to their village’s future.
“We are blessed with what we have in the uplands. Everything we need for our daily living is right beside us. We have clean water, food from our farms, fish and prawns, fresh air and trees to build our homes and medicine when we are sick,” said Setariki Seru, who spoke first.

[Pakistan] Illegal trade of wildlife rife in country: survey
The Express Tribune, 27 December 2016
Illegal trade of wildlife, including of freshwater turtles, is rife in the country, a survey has revealed.
This was disclosed by Rab Nawaz, the senior director of programmes at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pakistan in a statement on Monday.
Nawaz said that WWF-Pakistan had conducted an undercover survey of markets in 23 selected cities across Pakistan to determine scale of illegal wildlife trade in the country.
At all markets that they surveyed, Nawaz said, illegal trade in wildlife, including freshwater turtles, was rife.

28 December 2016

The Best Way to Protect the World’s Forests? Keep People in Them
By Gabriel Popkin,, 28 December 2016
To preserve a natural landscape, kick people out. That was the guiding philosophy of American conservationists in the late 1800s, when they established the first National Parks. This conservation model is enshrined in the U.S.’s 1964 Wilderness Act, which defined wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” To see its effects, one has only to visit the unpeopled landscapes of now-renowned parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite.
This “guns and fences” paradigm of conservation, in the words of researcher Andrew Davis of the San Salvador-based organization Prisma, relies on drastically restricting what people living in an area can do—or even displacing those people altogether. And it has spread around the world: In recent decades, environmentalists alarmed by tropical deforestation have leaned heavily on the “Yellowstone model” to convince governments to restrict human activities in remaining forests in an attempt to preserve them.
But in many cases, this philosophy may be misguided, argue a growing chorus of experts.

More TLC needed for giraffes
By Ilanit Chernick, IOL News, 28 December 2016
It’s summer, you’re visiting a local game reserve and one of the first animals you spot is a giraffe. After seeing one or two and cooing over a baby and its mom, you turn your head and don’t stop as you encounter more further on your journey.
Perhaps it’s time to make a fuss over them, to give it just as much attention as leopards or bontebok, which are some of South Africa’s vulnerable mammals.
Earlier this month, the continent’s population of giraffes was listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) while the South African Red List, published by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi), listed South Africa’s population as least concern.
As concerns mount over Africa’s declining giraffe population, South Africa’s giraffes haven’t felt the pinch like the rest of the continent, in fact they are increasing.

China seizes massive amount of illegal pangolin scales. Are conservation efforts working?
By Weston Williams, Christian Science Monitor, 28 December 2016
Chinese customs officials say they have seized more than 3 tons of illegally trafficked pangolin scales from a single boat that arrived in a port in Shanghai. The contraband was hidden among a shipment of wood products from Nigeria.
Pangolins are highly endangered, largely because of human poaching. Despite a crackdown on the shipment of their scales and meat in the international community earlier this year, their meat and scales continue to fetch extremely high prices on the black market.

[Cambodia] Conservationists Concerned as Code Allows Wildlife Farming
By Aisha Down, Cambodia Daily, 28 December 2016
With Cambodia’s Environmental Code set to be finalized by the end of this week, conservation NGOs expressed deep frustration that their repeated appeals to take the farming of wild animals out of the new law have gone unanswered.
“Wildlife farming is still in there,” Suwanna Gauntlett, country director of Wildlife Alliance, said on Tuesday. “We tried to get it out, but it didn’t work.”
The draft Environmental Code allows for farms that breed non-domesticated animals, as long as operators obtain a permit from the Environment Ministry, avoid particularly threatened species and do not capture animals from the wild, instead sourcing their stock from other farms.

29 December 2016

[India] Wildlife conservation body says 95 tigers died, 22 skins seized this year
By Nihi Sharma, Hindustan Times, 29 December 2016
India lost 117 tigers this year, says the official website of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), with ninety-five deaths so far and the seizure of 22 skins.
There has been a 24% increase in fatalities as compared to last year’s figures, which has left wildlife activists concerned. In 2015, the country lost 70 tigers due to various reasons and 10 skins were seized, making it a total of 80 tigers.
As per statistics on, the highest tiger mortality was reported in Madhya Pradesh, which lost 29 striped cats, followed by Karnataka (17), Maharashtra (15), and Tamil Nadu (seven). Other states — Assam, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Kerala — also lost its tiger population, taking the total to 95 tigers that died of infighting, electrocution, natural causes, drowning, accidents, poisoning, eliminated by authorities, and even poaching.

[USA] Religious Communities: Partners in Countering Wildlife Trafficking
By Shaun Casey, U.S. Department of State, 29 December 2016
Combating wildlife trafficking likely brings to mind images of park rangers confronting poachers, customs officials scrutinizing goods being transported across borders, law enforcement officers monitoring illicit financial transactions or identifying organized criminal networks, or wildlife advocacy organizations promoting awareness and conservation efforts. While these are essential parts of comprehensive efforts to limit wildlife trafficking, religious groups also play an important, yet often unrecognized role.
Many religious communities have at their core an ethos of stewardship that values the creatures and biodiversity of the world. Religious leaders and institutions have a unique voice in their communities to inspire social and behavioral change, and many are stepping up to be part of the solution to wildlife trafficking. We see religious actors from various traditions mobilizing grassroots religious networks to promote the protection of wildlife, monitor poaching, and resist smuggling.

30 December 2016

China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching
By Edward Wong and Jeffrey Gentleman, New York Times, 30 December 2016
China announced on Friday that it was banning all commerce in ivory by the end of 2017, a move that would shut down the world’s largest ivory market and could deal a critical blow to the practice of elephant poaching in Africa.
The decision by China follows years of growing international and domestic pressure and gives wildlife protection advocates hope that the threatened extinction of certain elephant populations in Africa can be averted.
“China’s announcement is a game changer for elephant conservation,” Carter Roberts, the president and chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund, said in a written statement. “With the United States also ending its domestic ivory trade earlier this year, two of the largest ivory markets have taken action that will reverberate around the world.”

[WWF] China to ban domestic ivory trade by 2017
WWF, 30 December 2016
WWF and TRAFFIC welcomed today’s historic announcement that China will close down its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017, signalling an end to the world’s primary legal ivory market and a major boost to international efforts to tackle the elephant poaching crisis in Africa.
The General Office of the State Council of China announced that China will “cease part of ivory processing and sales by 31 March 2017 and cease all ivory processing and sales by 31 December 2017”.
Lo Sze Ping, CEO of WWF-China said: “WWF applauds China’s decision to ban its domestic ivory trade so swiftly, underlining the government’s determination and strong leadership to reduce demand for ivory and help save Africa’s elephants.”

[India] 10-km area around Maha tiger reserve eco-sensitive
Free Press Journal, 30 December 2016
The Environment and Forest Ministry on Thursday notified area up to 10 kilometres from the boundary of Melaghat Tiger Reserve and surrounding Gugamal National Park, Wan, Ambabrwa and Narnala sanctuaries spread over the districts of Amravati, Akola and Buldana as eco-sensitive zone, prohibiting constructions and polluting industries.
The eco-sensitive zone covers villages in the talukas of Dharni, Chikhaldara, Chikali, Motala, Khamgaon, Akot, Buldhana and Sangrampur, the notification said, spreading that it is spread over an area of 1.27 lakh hectares with an extent from 2.2 km to 14.85 km from the boundary of the Melghat Tiger Reserve. These extents are, however, applicable only to Maharashtra as a separate eco-sensitive zone shall be considered with regards to the boundary adjoining Madhya Pradesh.
The notification directs the Maharashtra Government to prepare a zonal master plan for the eco-sensitive zone within two years but in consultation with the local people, municipals and panchayats.

[Nepal] Wild elephants cause menace in Bardiya
Kathmandu Post, 30 December 2016
A woman was trampled to death while two men were critically injured when a herd of marauding wild elephants entered the Parsinepur village located in the buffer zone area of the Bardiya National Park early Wednesday morning.
Three wild elephants believed to have entered the market area from the bordering Indian side at around 6am left the villagers terrorised, according to Ramesh Thapa, chief conservation officer at the BNP.
“It was a foggy morning with poor visibility. Some villagers who saw the elephants coming started panicking and made frantic moves to drive them away. The disturbance caused the tuskers to go on a rampage, killing and injuring people, livestock and destroying houses,” said Thapa.

31 December 2016

1 January 2017

[India] High alert in Rajaji national park over hunting fears
The Tribune, 1 January 2017
A high alert has been sounded at Rajaji Tiger Reserve following inputs of the possibility of hunting of wild animals in the park zone.
To check poaching and any other illegal activity in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve and nearby forest terrain, special patrolling is being done by park security employees.
Elephant-borne squads are also carrying out intense patrolling in dense park forest terrain with trained jumbos. Radha, Rangili and Raja are carrying out patrolling operations in the morning and evening.
Chila range ranger Subash Ghildiyal said as precautionary measure and also taking into account the past year’s records of movement of wild animal and wood tusker during New Year time, additional security had been put into place.

[Indonesia] W. Java conservation center educates public about function of tropical rainforests
By Theresia Sufa, Jakarta Post, 1 January 2017
Why are tropical rainforests important? This question will be answered by the Bodogol Nature Conservation Education Center (PPKA), which is ready to educate people about the function of tropical rainforests, especially those who live in areas around the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park (TNGGP).
PPKA Bodogol head Tangguh said the center educated people through education and ecotourism programs with various themes, such as useful plants, mammals in tropical rainforests and the origin of water. Local residents are trained to guide visitors who want to walk around PPKA Bodogol areas.
“We want our people to learn about conservation directly from nature because the animals found in Bodogol adequately represent the kinds of species living in the TNGGP,” said Tangguh.

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