Conservation in the news: 9-15 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.

9 January 2017

We’ll Never See These Animals Again
By Laura Smith, Mother Jones, 9 January 2017
If 2016 was a rough year for the animal kingdom, 2017 could be worse. Most scientists agree that we are experiencing a sixth mass extinction, but unlike the previous five that extended over hundreds of millions of years and occurred because of cataclysmic natural disasters, humans are responsible for this one.
Climate change, agricultural expansion, wildlife crime, pollution, and disease have created a shocking acceleration in the disappearance of species. The World Wildlife Fund recently predicted that more than two-thirds of the vertebrate population — mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles — would be lost over the next three years if extinctions continue at the current rate.

Large mammals under threat need new conservation strategies: Experts
Press Trust of India, 9 January 2017
There is a need to “rethink” conservation strategies for threatened large mammal species like elephants, wildlife scientists have said.
In an article published in the international journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Varun R Goswami and Divya Vasudev have said elephant connectivity cannot be ignored while mitigating conflict and that landscape connectivity is critical for their conservation.
“Asian elephant conservation provides the perfect example. Elephant survival in heterogeneous landscapes rests on their ability to move among habitats in search of food and space. But this movement often brings elephants into contact and potential conflict with people, especially in densely populated countries like India,” said Goswami, who heads the elephant program for Wildlife Conservation Society India.

[Dominican Republic] Military checkpoints to protect embattled National Park
Dominican Today, 9 January 2017
The Environment Ministry plans to reforest nearly 1,600 hectares in Valle Nuevo National Park, in Constanza (central), which squatters had used for crops and livestock for decades, and announced military checkpoints to enforce evictions.
In the meantime Environment minister Francisco Domínguez last week announced a ban on the entry of workers, farming implement, supplies and other agriculture items into the protected area.
Quoted by, the official said no one will be evicted, “because those who had the land in their possession have never lived in Valle Nuevo, but in Constanza.”
“There is a plan, a chronology and an established road map that has been complied with and will be enforced,” he said.

10 January 2017

Saving Our Planet: 10 Good News Conservation Stories From 2016
By Dan Kraus (Nature Conservancy of Canada), Huffington Post, 10 January 2017
Here are 10 stories from 2016, from Canada and around the world, that show how communities, governments and organizations are providing solutions that are reversing the loss of biodiversity and the ecological services that nature provides.

Newscast #9: Joel Berger on overlooked “edge species” that deserve conservation
By Mike Gaworecki,, 10 January 2017
On the first episode of 2017, we’re joined by Joel Berger, a professor at Colorado State University and a senior scientist with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, who recently wrote a commentary for Mongabay arguing that there are many large mammals living in remote regions, what are sometimes called “edge species,” that are wrongfully overlooked by conservation initiatives.

Researchers identify monarch butterfly birthplaces to help conserve species
University of Guelph press release, 10 January 2017
University of Guelph researchers have pinpointed the North American birthplaces of migratory monarch butterflies that overwinter in Mexico, vital information that will help conserve the dwindling species.
The researchers analyzed “chemical fingerprints” in the wings of butterflies collected as far back as the mid-1970s to learn where monarchs migrate within North America each autumn.
The largest percentage of monarchs migrated to Mexico from the American Midwest, but the biologists were surprised to find that the insects’ origins were spread fairly evenly throughout Canada and the United States.
“We expected the vast majority of monarch butterflies to be found in the Midwestern states,” said Tyler Flockhart, lead author and Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow at U of G.

Can Beijing’s Ivory Ban Save the Elephants?
ChinaFile, 10 January 2017
On New Year’s Eve, Beijing announced it will ban the ivory trade in China, potentially shutting down the world’s biggest ivory market. Why did Beijing decide to curb the ivory trade? Will it put enough muscle behind it to enforce the decision? What impact will the ban have on elephant poaching?

[India] New status to ensure Madayipara’s conservation
By Mohamed Nazeer, The Hindu, 10 January 2017
The Madayipara hillock, spread over 365 hectares, is an ecological niche of conservation importance and hence environmental activists and nature enthusiasts are pleased by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board’s (KSBB) move to declare the biodiversity-rich flat-topped hill, located 21 km north of the district headquarters here, as a Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS).
Madayipara, the laterite hillock surrounded by the Kuppam, Ramapuram, and Peruvamba rivers and the Kavvayi backwaters adjacent to the sea, is set to be declared a BHS as the KSBB has initiated steps to make the proposal a reality under Section 7 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, which allows the government in consultation with the local bodies concerned to identify areas rich in biodiversity and cultural importance to declare them as BHS.

Kenya’s protected areas now at greater risk, WildlifeDirect warns after SGR approval
By Gilbert Koech, The Star, 10 January 2017
WildlifeDirect communications manager Trish Sewe said this in a statement on Tuesday, adding activities such as infrastructure construction, mining, and unregulated urban and agricultural expansion have been opened up.
“The decision to route the railway through the park not only goes against public opinion but also ignores the advice of numerous science experts who have warned of its irreversible consequences,” said Sewe.
She added that allowing the railway line to pass through the park undermines the budding conservancy movement in which hundreds of Kenyans have invested.

11 January 2017

Platform to bolster biodiversity conservation launched
By Samuel Hinneh,, 11 January 2017
A learning platform piloted in four countries — including Senegal — is expected to help the West African region boost biodiversity conservation.
The project, Regions for Biodiversity Learning Platform (RBLP), is an initiative of the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4sd).
The six-month pilot phase in biodiversity conservation that also took place in Brazil, Canada and Spain ended in November 2016.

State of Private Investment in Conservation 2016
Forest Trends, 11 January 2017
New York | The private sector channeled $8.2 billion (B) of private capital into investments that seek measurable environmental benefits – in addition to financial returns – between 2004 and 2015 according to a report released today by Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace.
The report, which builds upon the 2014 report Investing in Conservation: A landscape assessment of an emerging market, tracks the burgeoning field of “conservation investing” – a component of socially and environmentally conscious “impact investing.” By the report’s definition, these conservation investments include any private capital committed for sustainable food and fiber production, habitat protection, or clean water that aim to achieve environmental conservation objectives while also delivering a financial return.

[Cambodia] Some S’ville Beaches to Be Protected Areas
By Hang Sokunthea, The Cambodia Daily, 11 January 2017
The Tourism Ministry’s new plan to develop Sihanoukville’s beaches will keep some conservation areas off-limits to development in an attempt to attract more tourists to the coastal hotspot.
Improved waste management and higher-quality vendors along the beachfront will also help, he said.
Development projects will be divided into five categories—conservation projects for research that will allow no commercial development, ecotourism for some tourist activities with limits on construction and visitors, and three other divisions that will allow for varying levels of development—according to an announcement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page on Monday.
“Currently, our bay area is rather disorganized, which affects quality and hygiene standards,” said Tang Socheat Kreasna, director of the Sihanoukville tourism department, on Tuesday. “When we have clear standards, it will help attract more tourists.”

How we discovered the world’s largest tropical peatland, deep in the jungles of Congo
By Simon Lewis and Greta Dargie, The Conversation, 11 January 2017
In the geographical heart of Africa lies a huge wetland. After years of exploring these remote swamps, our research shows that the region contains the most extensive tropical peatland on Earth.
Astonishingly, 145,500 km² of peatland – an area larger than England – went undetected on our crowded planet until now. We found 30 billion metric tonnes of carbon stored in this new ecosystem that nobody knew existed. That’s equivalent to 20 years of current US fossil fuel emissions. You can read the important science in Nature. Here we describe how we did it, and our struggles against sabotage, arrest, and losing our own minds.
Peat is usually associated with cold places, not the middle of the hot, humid, Congo Basin. It’s an organic wetland soil made of partially-decomposed plant debris. In waterlogged places those plants can’t entirely decompose, and are not respired as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The peat thus builds up slowly, locking up ever-more carbon. The amounts involved are huge: peat covers just 3% of Earth’s land surface, but stores one-third of soil carbon.

Tip of a new iceberg for tigers: Poachers caught in India are wealthy and well educated
By Léa Surugue, International Business Times, 11 January 2017
A gang of 11 poachers arrested in the well-known Bhadra Tiger Reserve in the Indian state of Karnataka was made up of engineers, environmental consultants, wealthy coffee planters and a leading member of the local Rifle Association. For wildlife charities, this is a worrying trend, as it suggests that even educated individuals are taking part in illegal hunting despite conservation activists’ efforts to educate local communities about the threats to wildlife.
The arrest occurred on New Year’s Eve after a group of conservationists – known as WildCat–C and working with the Wildlife Conservation Society – spotted the poachers operating on the fringe of the reserve and alerted the Park’s rangers. They detained the poachers without violence, despite them being armed.

MAAP Update #52: Fires degrade 11 protected areas in northern Peru
Monitoring the Andean Amazon Project, 11 January 2017
In the previous MAAP #51, we gave an initial impact assesment regarding the recent wave of wildfires in protected areas in northern Peru. Here, we provide a more comprehensive update.
Our revised estimate is 6,594 acres (2,668 hectares) burned in 11 Protected Areas (see Image 52a) in late 2016. Note that the image is from November and smoke from the fires is clearly seen.
The majority (4,165 acres) occured in 7 national protected areas under national administration (Cutervo National Park, Pagaibamba Protected Forest, Laquipampa Wildlife Refuge, Tumbes National Reserve, Cerros de Amotape National Park, Tabaconas-Namballe National Sanctuary, Udima Wildlife Refuge).

12 January 2017

Conservation practices may leave African indigenous populations behind
By David Kubarek, Penn State News, 12 January 2017
Conservation and logging groups in Central and West Africa are failing to fully incorporate local concerns into management, marginalizing the livelihoods of the local population, according to Nathan Clay, Ph.D. candidate in geography, Penn State.
The landscape- or ecosystem-based approach to conservation — a land-use strategy employed in Central and West Africa for more than a decade — is meant to serve as a model for what happens when competing interests work together.
There, conservation groups, tasked with protecting rare wildlife and old growth forests, battle poachers and illegal loggers. Working within the framework set by the conservation groups, the logging industry harvests prized sapele and ayous trees — used for musical instruments and furniture — sustainably, while developing infrastructure and creating jobs for the local community.

Opinion: Poaching, hunting endangering beloved animal species
By Harriet Adams, The Daily Reveille, 12 January 2017
Almost everyone has a favorite animal, whether it’s exotic, rare or endangered.
First, picture your favorite animal. Now, imagine said animal being brutally harmed, robbed of necessary organs, or killed just for sport and shown off as a type of trophy.
This is a reality for animal species around the world, mostly in Africa. There may be only the occasional awareness campaign or news coverage that comes up on poaching, but it definitely happens. Just check it out on the African Wildlife Foundation’s website and prepare to be appalled.
A recent and pressing poaching campaign is for the black rhinos in Namibia and Coastal East Africa. The World Wildlife Fund’s website says there are now fewer than 5,000 of these guys left now, which is a 97.6% decrease since their initial decline in 1960.
Why are they being poached?

[Belize] Bad Business At Bocawina
News Belize, 12 January 2017
The Mayflower Bocawina National Park is a popular tourist and adventure destination. It is also a popular location for illegal loggers and hunters. Yesterday park rangers came across over 90 pieces of cut lumber, and several other chopped trees. The trees are believed to have been cut by criminals looking to sell the hardwood to nearby sawmills. Jose Perez, Executive Director of the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations, spoke to us about the dangers this illegal activity poses to the protected area…

NGO wars: Survival and WWF go head-to-head over alleged abuses of Baka people in Cameroon
The World Weekly, 12 January 2017
F or the first time in history the conduct of an international NGO will be scrutinised under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) guidelines for multinational enterprises. The rules, which normally relate to commercial companies, will be used to examine alleged human-rights abuses by eco-guards, trained and part-funded by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), against the Baka people of southeastern Cameroon.

[Gabon] Research group tracks elephants to help better protect them from poaching
By Bre Bradham, Duke Chronicle, 12 January 2017
Under the thick forest canopies of three national parks across the Central African country of Gabon, 34 forest elephants wear satellite collars.
The collars provide data that John Poulsen, an assistant professor of tropical ecology in the Nicholas School of the Environment, and the Forest Elephant Working Group are analyzing to understand where and why these elephants move. Doing so, the researchers expect, will help identify areas that the Gabon Park Agency can better protect in order to curb the rapid decline of the forest elephants from poaching.

Trouble in India’s Rhino Paradise
By By Moushumi Basu, Pacific Standard, 12 January 2017
Nestled on the banks of the River Brahmaputra, lost to tall thickets of elephant grass, marshlands, and wooded hills, is a teeming world of biodiversity: the Kaziranga National Park in India’s northeastern state of Assam. This UNESCO World Heritage site has emerged as the global stronghold of the greater one-horned rhinoceros.
The rolling hills and dense grasslands that allow rhinos to flourish also form an ideal habitat for their primary predator — human poachers on the hunt for rhino horn. Last month, two rhinos were killed in quick succession, taking the official toll of poaching to 18 in 2016, compared to 17 during the preceding year.

Wildlife Crimes Pose Serious Risk to Conservation Efforts in Indonesia
By Ratri M. Siniwi, Jakarta Globe, 12 January 2017
Indonesia still experiences an unacceptably high number of wildlife crimes, considered the fourth-most prevalent type of criminal offense in the world.
The directorate general of law enforcement at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry reported 59 incidences of wildlife crimes, including illegal hunting and the ownership, trade and distribution of protected species, in 2016.
The authorities confiscated 6,247 animals in these cases, with most of them being reptiles, followed by birds, primates and mammals.
The ministry warned that these numbers must be drastically reduced to prevent irreparable damage to Indonesia’s endemic wildlife.

[Zimbabwe] Non-lethal combat against elephants
By Sydney Kawadza, The Herald, 12 January 2017
For Ugogo Mallet Moyo of Mpilo Village in Ward 7, Tsholotsho District in Matabeleland North, July 2007 is a year her life turned upside down. That fateful month, forever etched in the 83-year-old’s mind, turned her life into misery.
She was attacked by an elephant, leaving her for dead. Ironically, the octogenarian was coming from receiving her portion of elephant meat.
Rangers had killed an elephant as part of problem animal control (PAC) measures against stray animals from the Hwange National Park. Ten years later, Ugogo Moyo still bears the scars from the attack.

13 January 2017

Most intact forest landscapes lie outside protected areas: ISRO
By Mihika Basu, Bangalore Mirror, 13 January 2017
While protected areas play a key role in conserving intact forest landscapes, according to estimates by ISRO, Bengaluru, just 4.4 per cent of the area of intact forest landscapes fall inside the existing 47 protected areas, which means that 26,932 square km of intact forest landscapes remain outside of protected areas, and need urgent conservation planning.
Distribution of intact forest landscapes in protected areas of Karnataka, for instance, shows that in Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary, there are two intact forest landscapes currently, covering an area of 63.6 square km.

Are herders and livestock bad for rare wildlife? It’s complicated.
Wildlife Conservation Society, 13 January 2017
The Denver Zoological Foundation, WCS(Wildlife Conservation Society) and other partners have published a paper appearing in the early view edition of Conservation Biology that looks at the positive and negative relationships occurring between pastoralists, livestock, native carnivores and native herbivores in the world’s largest unfenced grassland and desert.
The paper illustrates that considering complex relationships between herders and rare wildlife is critical to balancing coexistence between them–enabling livestock, wildlife and humans to thrive in the area looked at and beyond.

14 January 2017

Africa lauds China’s move to close ivory market
Xinhua, 14 January 2017
A coalition of 15 African countries on Friday welcomed China’s commitment to closing its domestic ivory markets by the end of 2017, saying the move signals Beijing’s goodwill in protecting Africa’s elephants.
The countries that are members of the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) said in a joint statement issued in Nairobi that the closure of China’s ivory market is a crucial step to securing a future for elephants in their current range.

[India] ‘Sink’ tigers populating areas not known to host big cats: Tiger travels 135 km safely
By Vivek Deshpande, Indian Express, 14 January 2017
Barely a day after the state forest department organised a lecture by noted wildlife biologist and researcher Ullas Karanth on “Tiger Ecology”, an event not exactly conforming with Karanth’s well-known exposition on “sink” population of tigers has come as a surprise. Karanth’s theory states that once a tiger moves out of a protected area such as a sanctuary or a reserve, its chances of survival fall sharply, and hence it can be counted among the population likely to ‘sink’. However, on Friday, a sub-adult tiger, popularly known as Nawab, was found to have travelled 135 km safely — from the Kalmeshwar-Kondhali forest range in Nagpur district to Pohra-Malkhed reserve forest in Amravati district — passing through patchy forest cover and human-dominated landscape.

15 January 2017

Tanzania wages war against pastoralists grazing in national parks, 15 January 2017
Tanzania has announced a fresh war against pastoralists who are taking livestock into the national parks, saying the vice has been threatening to kill the country’s sanctuaries.
Jumanne Maghembe, Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism said on Sunday that Serengeti National Park is among the highly affected parks with livestock grazing in the east African nation.
The Tanzania’s oldest and second largest park after Ruaha National Park is also the UNESCO World Heritage Site located in northern Tanzania.
“We’re going well with the fight against wildlife poaching, but the remaining serious war is rampant grazing, which threatens our conservation efforts. Reports say that pastoralists have been taking livestock into the protected areas,” the minister said.

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