Conservation in the news: 2-8 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.

2 January 2017

[India] 500 trees felled in Raisina village to make way for illegal farmhouses
Times of India, 2 January 2017
More than 500 trees have been cut in Raisina village, located about 45 km away from Delhi’s Asola Sanctuary, in the last year and a half, to pave way for unauthorised construction of farmhouses.
TOI on Sunday found out these are the same plots that were sealed by a joint district administration team, comprising officials of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB), forest and mining departments, and over 50 cops. They had razed boundary walls and gates of nearly 20 plots in the village in March 2015. Illegal borewell connections and electricity connections were also snapped by the team. Google images also showed about 60 trees were felled on every plot.

[India] Rhino population up 35 times in 107 years
By Mukta Patil, Business Standard, 2 January 2017
Here is one of India’s most successful conservation stories: From a population of barely 75 in 1905, there were over 2,700 Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) by 2012, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India), a global wildlife advocacy.
Rhinos are mega-herbivores, part of a small and disappearing group that weigh over 1,000 kilograms and include the elephant and the hippopotamus. These large herbivores are shapers of their landscape and environment, and the rhino may well be a keystone species, according to 2014 research conducted in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
By eating only certain kinds of grass — and trampling dense vegetation — rhinos indirectly affect smaller herbivores in their area, creating a cascade of effects that, in turn, affects other species, from tigers to birds. The Indian rhinoceros is also known to help in seed dispersion, moving large tree seeds from forested areas to grasslands through excreta.

2016 in Review: Indonesia’s Conservation Game, Strong
By Ratri M. Siniwi, Jakarta Globe, 2 January 2017
Home to a huge diversity of flora and fauna, Indonesia has always been in the spotlight when it comes to environmental conservation. And in 2016, Indonesia finally seemed to wake up to the fact it simply has to take on a leading role to protect the planet’s dwindling forest reserves.
And it took on the role better than expected, too, unexpectedly managing to reduce the number of forest fires across its archipelago in 2016.
The country has the third largest area of tropical rainforests in the world, and the trauma of the 2015 massive forest fires seemed to have spurred the government into action.
As they say, good things rose from the ashes, and apart from fewer forest fires, 2016 also saw more sanctions for forest arsonists and, finally, a slight hope that real environmental conservation may actually take hold in the country.

3 January 2017

The war to save African wildlife heats up, 3 January 2017
It was one of the most momentous events in the battle against poaching: 11 giant pyres of elephant tusks going up in flames in Kenya as the world looked on.
The largest-ever destruction of ivory, which took place in April, was the pinnacle of efforts to jolt mankind into stopping the slaughter of wildlife, while sending a powerful message to poachers.
As 2016 has just ended, awareness of the devastation of poaching is greater than ever and countries have turned to high-tech warfare – drones, night-goggles and automatic weapons – to stop increasingly armed poachers.

World’s smallest elephants killed for ivory in Borneo
By Jeremy Hance, The Guardian, 3 January 2017
Even the planet’s smallest elephants, tucked away on the island of Borneo, are no longer immune to the global poaching crisis for ivory.
On New Year’s Eve, wildlife officials in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, found the bones of a beloved male elephant, nicknamed Sabre for his unusual tusks that slanted downwards like the extinct sabre-toothed tiger’s canines.
The discovery of Sabre – he was probably killed in late November – came just days after wildlife officials found a freshly slaughtered male elephant with its face cut off to get at the tusks. Both Sabre and the unnamed male perished within 1.5km of one another, though a month apart.
Prior to these events, elephant poaching had not been considered a major issue in Sabah. Benoit Goossens, director of Danau Girang Field Centre in Sabah, said the grisly finds indicated a professional hunter and trader may be setting up business in Sabah.

[Dominican Republic] Eyeing political gain, deputy jumps on ecology bandwagon
Dominican Today, 3 January 2017
The fight to protect Valle Nuevo National Park from human predators on Tuesday found an unlikely ally, who’s waging a battle of his own to become president of one of the faction of the once powerful, right-wing (PRSC) party.
Deputy Víctor (Ito) Bisonó made a call to defend Dominican Republic’s protected areas as the future of the National Park in Constanza (central) hangs in the balance. “From the Reformist Party, our action has been the relentless defense of the environmental heritage with which the Dominican Republic has been blessed.”
“It was precisely the PRSC administration that created the National Parks and their protection by Law 67-1974, which corresponds to us as a historic role to raise the voice and take action around their proper conservation,” said the legislator.

[India] Uttarakhand Court denies Samir Thapar bail in trespassing case
DNA India, 3 January 2017
On Monday, a local court in Kotdwar denied bail to JCT Ltd. chairman and managing director Samir Thapar and 15 of his friends after their sensational arrest in Kolhu Chaur near Jim Corbett National Park for trespassing on forest land and illegal possession of arms and alcohol.
The 16 men were arrested after Pauri police carried out a raid on the night of December 31. During the raid, the police found that a group of nearly 60, including many women, were camping near the Lansdowne forest rest house. As the police asked them to produce permissions for putting up tents, Thapar’s accomplice Mohinder Singh was able to furnish only a booking slip for the rest houses.
The police, upon searching the rest houses, recovered two German made rifles of .300 bore and .375 bore along with 38 live cartridges, packed meat, 171 liquor bottles and eight cars have been impounded. Of the 60, the women and servants such as drivers, cooks and maids were let off while 16 men were arrested, sources said.

[Malawi] Three nabbed for killing antelope
By Mphatso Khutcha Richard, Malawi24, 3 January 2017
Police in Machinga district are keeping three men behind bars for killing a Kudu antelope at Liwonde National Park.
Machinga police spokesperson Davie Sulumba said the killed wild animal is valued at K2.5 million.
According to Sulumba, on December 30 parks and wildlife assistants received information from well-wishers that some people from Chimatiro Village had killed the protected animal.
The park assistants conducted an operation and managed to arrest the three identified as Jackson Mayere, 40, Idrissa Malizani, 19, and Peter Dinesi.
The trio will answer charges of illegal killing of protected species and illegal possession of game meat, contrary to sections 35 and 86 as read with section 110 of National Parks and Wildlife Act respectively.

Uganda: UWA Must Do More to Stop Stray Elephants
The Monitor, 3 January 2017
The Acholi paramount chief Rwot David Onen Acana II last week declared that he and his people will hunt and kill the elephants in the area that are destroying acres of farmland. The chief said the destruction by the animals has left residents hungry and without money to provide for basic needs. Of course it is worrying to hear that.
In June 2015, the National Geographic published a piece on their website, titled: “Why elephants are recovering in Uganda as they decline overall”. The story written by Brian Clark Howard said: “Elephants in Uganda have increased by 600 per cent, to more than 5,000 individuals, from a low of 700 to 800 in the 1980s.” The information was from a survey released in May the same year and done by Wildlife Conservation Society, the Great Elephant Census, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
This was such a positive step in conservation of wildlife in Uganda.

4 January 2017

Forest officers gear up to ensure compliance guidelines in national park
The Hitavada, 4 January 2017
Subsequent to the stringent action taken by Central Zoo Authority over ECZ norms violations now forest officials are geared up to ensure the compliance guidelines in national parks .‘Bhopal Run’ was organised at Van Vihar National Park vicinity on December 4 last year and hundreds of runners had participated in the marathon. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has created Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) around protected areas to prevent ecological damage caused due to developmental activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
ESZ also ensures that, these areas act as ‘shock absorbers’ to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas. As per guidelines, it is prerequisite that an inventory of different land use patterns and the different types of activities, types and number of industries operating around each of the protected areas be made.The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.

Cashing in on Jamaica’s protected areas? NEPA wants to explore idea
Loop News, 4 January 2017
Director of the Environmental and Conservation Division at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Anthony McKenzie, says Jamaica’s protected areas can contribute to the economic development of the country.
Addressing the recently held ‘Protected Areas Outreach’ event at the Holiday Inn Resort, Montego Bay, St. James – sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and NEPA – McKenzie said, “They offer many environmental services such as clean water and fresh air. The headwaters of many of Jamaica’s main rivers are located in the Blue Mountains and the Cockpit Country forest reserves. These are the primary sources of water for Kingston and the major tourist area of Montego Bay.”

5 January 2017

Human rights abuses complaint against WWF to be examined by OECD
By Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, 5 January 2017
A human rights abuses complaint against WWF, the world’s largest conservation organisation, is to be examined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) in an unprecedented step.
Anti-poaching government “eco-guards” in the Cameroon rainforests, part-funded and logistically supported by WWF, are alleged to have destroyed camps and property belonging to the hunter-gatherer Baka people. The guards are accused of using physical force and threats of violence against the Baka people over a number of years.
Survival International, which campaigns for indigenous peoples’ rights, last year submitted a 228-page formal complaint to the OECD in Switzerland, where WWF International is based, alleging that the Baka have also been denied access to their ancestral lands after the Cameroon government established protected areas “with the vital support of WWF”.

Swiss wade into complaint against WWF over tribe’s rights
By Jamey Keaten, Associated Press, 5 January 2017
Swiss authorities have taken the highly unusual step of wading into a dispute between international advocacy groups, agreeing to mediate over claims that conservation group WWF failed to do enough to stop “ecoguards” it supports in Cameroon from abusing members of an indigenous rainforest tribe.
Survival International, a London-based group that advocates for tribal peoples, on Thursday called the Swiss government’s unprecedented action a breakthrough in the case it filed last year, which pits advocates of vulnerable communities against defenders of vulnerable wildlife.
Through a $3 million to $4 million program with Cameroon’s government, WWF supports “ecoguards” in the West African country — rangers who patrol environmentally protected areas and work to help prevent poaching of forest elephants in the lush southeast, among other things.

Biologist reveals important role cities play in conservation of threatened species
University of Hong Kong press release, 5 January 2017
The exhaustive international trade of wildlife has pushed many species to the brink of extinction. Coincidentally, many of the same species have been introduced to urban centres or wilderness areas outside their natural ranges. In a recent study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, authors from Hong Kong and Australia find that these introduced populations may provide hope for these threatened species.
“Across the planet, poachers have reached into the last remote habitats to harvest wildlife populations used for clothing, eaten, or kept as pets in faraway cities,” said Dr. Luke Gibson from the School of Biological Sciences of the University of Hong Kong, who led the study.
“In some cases, the traded organisms have escaped and are now thriving in their introduced habitats,” he added.

[Malaysia] Sabah to gazette forest as protected area for orang utan population
The Star, 5 January 2017
The Sabah Forestry Department is moving to gazette a forest in central Sabah, rich in orang utan population, as a fully protected area.
The move comes in the wake of a sudden change in the ownership of the 101,000ha Forest Management Unit 5 (FMU 5), which also contains 13,000ha of flora and fauna.
Sabah Forests chief conservator Datuk Sam Mannan said the area was being classified as a first-class reserve and would become part of the Trusmadi Forest Reserve.
FMU 5, owned by logging and reforestation company Anika Desiran, was bought over by a local wood products manufacturing company, Priceworth International, for RM260mil in October last year.

Zimbabwe claims sale of elephants to China was to support conservation
The Guardian, 5 January 2017
Zimbabwe’s wildlife agency has sold 35 elephants to China, saying the measure was intended to ease overpopulation and raise funds for conservation, amid criticism from animal welfare activists that such sales are unethical.
This once prosperous country’s economy has fallen apart, and Zimbabwe’s government has said it needs to sell wildlife to support its people and conservation efforts. The government also has sought to sell its ivory stockpile for millions of dollars.
The Zimbabwe parks and wildlife management authority did not say how much China paid for the 35 elephants but said on Tuesday it was “turning to friendly countries to extract value out of our wildlife”.

6 January 2017

An “infrastructure tsunami” for Asia: Q&A with researcher William Laurance
By Isabel Esterman,, 6 January 2017
“Everywhere you look, it’s the infrastructure that’s very often the first stage in complete profound change,” explains William Laurance.
Laurance is a Distinguished Research Professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia and holds an Australian Laureate Fellowship, one of Australia’s highest scientific awards. He also holds the Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation at Utrecht University, Netherlands, is the founder and director of ALERT—the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers & Thinkers, a group that advocates for environmental sustainability, and is a member of Mongabay’s advisory board.
Laurance’s work has spanned topics ranging from climate change to land use change. In the past two decades, though, his research has primarily focused on infrastructure projects.

#CES2017: How African wildlife is protected by thermal imaging tech
Africa Times, 6 January 2017
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been working on how technology can end wildlife crime – and at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) they’re showing guests how thermal imaging is helping to protect elephants and other African animals.
Visitors to CES 2017 in Las Vegas had the chance Thursday to see how FLIR® thermal imaging products are used in the WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project, supported by a $5 million grant from Google.
FLIR’s Eric Becker offered insights into how both the heat of animals and humans can be “seen” in game preserves in Africa, by putting thermal imaging technology tools in the hands of law enforcement.

Wildlife for Sale: Jaguars Are the New Trafficking Victims in Bolivia
By Miriam Telma Jemio, Pacifc Standard, 6 January 2017
Bolivia introduced a general and indefinite ban on the wildlife trade two decades ago, but this measure has failed to stop the trafficking of wild animals. Birds, monkeys, turtles, and reptiles that are in high demand as pets remain particularly vulnerable to wildlife crime. In recent years, jaguars have also become victims of the eccentricities of foreign collectors, especially consumers in Asia looking to use animal body parts to cure diseases.
The most serious of these recent trends in trafficking is the illegal trade in jaguar fangs for the Chinese market. Between 2014 and 2016, 337 fangs were seized. Authorities estimate that at least 87 cats were killed in two areas alone: Madidi National Park and the Pilón Lajas Biosphere Reserve and Communal Lands, both in the northern department of La Paz.

Dominican Republic highlands showdown: farmers won’t budge
Dominican Today, 6 January 2017
The standoff between the government and the farming villages within Valle Nuevo National Park (central) intensified Thursday when the Environment Ministry again warned that it will remove all farming equipment and infrastructure in the protected area, once the deadline to harvest crops expires.
In response, the farmers and residents of the area warning that they will not leave the area until the Environment Ministry meets with them and “propose viable and convincing alternatives.”
The farmers, most of them with small plots of potatoes, carrots, beans, vegetables, and others, told that they’ve been living on those lands for as long as 70 years.
Meanwhile, Constanza Environmental prosecutor Fernando Quezada said the agency’s four-month deadline to people with crops or other activity to exit the National Park is irreversible.

Uganda: Wildlife Protection Is Everyone’s Responsibility
By Jossy Muhangi (Uganda Wildlife Authority), The Monitor, 6 January 2017
The year 2016 ended on a cool note for wildlife, with a powerful state in Asia declaring a total ban on the trade in ivory and associated products. This, if implemented to the dot, would provide a great relief to the endangered and flagship tourism species known as elephants particularly the iconic African elephants which are hunted for their tusks to benefit a few selfish merciless gangs.
While the world was still celebrating the total ivory trade ban notice, the media in Uganda were awash with screaming headlines quoting one of the cultural leaders threatening to incite his subjects to kill elephants which stray out of the protected areas to raid crops thereby causing famine.

7 January 2017

World rubber crisis warning as forest devastation found by Scots conservation team
By Brian Donnelly, The Herald, 7 January 2017
A Scots research team has warned a worldwide rubber shortage is looming as demand grows, costs rise and an adequate man-made substitute is yet to be found.
The natural commodity used throughout modern life is dwindling to such an extent that Royal Botanic Garden Ednburgh researchers said if farmers in Africa and Asia continue to fell trees at the current rate more than half of the world’s main source of the critical plant will be gone in 30 years.

[India] Tribals against shifting of villages from protected areas
The Hindu, 7 January 2017
Tribals residing in the core and buffer zones of the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) here on Friday alleged that the State government was bent on relocating them outside the forest which would jeopardise their livelihood sources as well as separate them from nature.
Under the banner of the Similipal Surakshya Manch (SSM), tribals and other traditional forest dwellers said the relocation move was arbitrary and not sync with the Forest Right Act, 2006.
“Five villages have been forcibly relocated outside the STR in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Right Act. Gram Sabha consents have not been taken while the families are being threatened to forgo their traditional right over forest,” said Telenga Hasa of Jamunagad village.

8 January 2017

How effective are tropical forest conservation policies?
By Jan Börner and Sven Wunder, CIFOR Forests News, 8 January 2017
Numerous types of forest conservation policies are being implemented in the tropics today. Alongside traditional instruments like protected areas, other initiatives including development programs, certification schemes and payments for environmental services (PES) are also being carried out.
Yet rigorously-quantified knowledge about what works and what does not work remains highly-fragmented, especially for incentive-based tools.
A new collection of studies that evaluate the effectiveness of tropical forest conservation policies attempt to change this. Scientists compiled new evidence and insights from 13 evaluation studies of forest conservation initiatives covering eight countries across four continents. Considering how scarce the current evidence base is, this new research provides innovative food for thought.

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