Conservation in the news: 30 January – 5 February 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.

30 January 2017

Supersizing world’s nature havens would add people to valued species list
Michigan State University press release, 30 January 2017
A group of scientists is recommending giving the world’s nature reserves a makeover to defend not only flora and fauna, but people, too.
Scientists in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argue that the world’s protected areas such as nature reserves, traditionally havens for endangered animals and plants, can be made better if they ratchet up benefits that directly benefit people. The world’s nature reserves not only defend nature for nature’s sake, but also can curb erosion, prevent sandstorms, retain water and prevent flooding and sequester carbon. The authors include more of a place for people – judiciously.

[Cambodia] Three new conservation areas created by decree
By Pech Sotheary, Khmer Times, 30 January 2017
The government has decided to create three biodiversity conservation areas on more than 1.4 million hectares to ensure the stability and safety of the ecosystem.
Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a government decree on Thursday that establishes three conservation areas on an area of 1,427,980 hectares to connect protected areas in Cambodia.
A total of 757,661 hectares will be set aside for the Eysan biological diversity conservation area, 500,810 hectares for the Oddar biological diversity conservation area and 169,496 hectares for a conservation area in the Cardamom Mountains.

[Cayman Islands] Barkers poses conservation challenges
Cayman News Service, 30 January 2017
The Barkers National Park, which has long been earmarked as a possible protected area, is on the list of proposed areas that the National Conservation Council considers a priority area for legal protection, but it is not without its challenges. Government acquired most of the land in the popular and still relatively unspoiled area of West Bay for the purposes of establishing a park long before the passage of the National Conservation Law. However, it was never formally protected and a central chunk of the land has since been acquired by a major investor.

31 January 2017

Humans Are Destroying Over 100 Natural World Heritage Sites
By Rae Johnston, Gizmodo, 31 January 2017
A University of Queensland-led international study published today warns that more than 100 Natural World Heritage Sites are being destroyed by encroaching human activities.
Author of the study, UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD student James Allan, said Natural World Heritage Sites should be maintained and protected fully.
“For a site to lose 10 or 20 per cent of its forested area in two decades is alarming and must be addressed,” Mr Allan said.

Dominican Republic farmers defy ban in national park
Dominican Today, 31 January 2017
Local media on Monday report the deployment of troops at various Environment Ministry checkpoints on access roads to the protected area to enforce the ban on farming.
Outspoken priest Rogelio Cruz is in Valle Nuevo to allegedly help the evicted farmers deal with their plight.
Hundreds of farmers planted various crops in some areas despite the Environment Ministry’s ban on agriculture which took effect Sunday in Valle Nuevo National Park, whose boundaries include four central provinces.

[India] NGO, police join hands for eco-conservation
Times of India, 1 February 2017
Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO) has joined hands with the police department to promote environmental conservation in the state.
Anil Joshi, founder president of HESCO told TOI, “In a meeting with director general of police (DGP), it was discussed that police should set an example and create sanitary conditions and greenery around police posts to encourage other departments to follow suit.”

Leonardo DiCaprio to visit Kazakhstan as part of tiger conservation efforts
AKIpress, 31 January 2017
Hollywood actor, UN Peace Ambassador on Climate Leonardo DiCaprio will visit Astana to attend for ceremony of signing the agreement between the Government of Kazakhstan and the World Wildlife Fund for revival of tiger population, Kazakh TV reported.
According to the Green Economy Coalition and Development of G-Global, since last year, the organization has launched the preparation of the agreement within the partnership program “Green Bridge”. It is a comprehensive program aimed at restoration of the ecosystem in the Ili-Balkhash region and the revival of tiger population. The World Wildlife Fund suggested this initiative to be implemented in Kazakhstan a few years ago, but the negotiations have just begun.

Land Purchase in Panama Protects a “Sky Island” of Cloud Forest for Threatened Amphibians
Rainforest Trust, 31 January 2017
Rainforest Trust’s partner ADOPTA has secured 260 acres to expand Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve in eastern Panama. Three land properties were purchased to establish an important buffer zone that will act as a barrier to prevent squatters from moving into extensive public wilderness areas and to discourage poachers from hunting in the vicinity.
“This initiative that first started with 100 acres of rainforest purchased has grown to almost 1,500 acres of rainforest that we’re protecting now,” said Guido Berguido, Executive Director of ADOPTA. “With the help of Rainforest Trust, we have been increasing more and more of the protected areas.”

Indigenous federation sues Peru over new national park
By David Hill, The Guardian, 31 January 2017
One of the almost 100 resolutions adopted by the World Conservation Congress (WCC) held in Hawai’i in September 2016 was that “protected areas” such as national parks should be “no go” for mining, oil and gas operations, agriculture, dams, roads and pipelines. Another resolution was that indigenous peoples’ territories overlapped by “protected areas” should be recognised and respected, calling upon International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) members, non-member States and others to do so.

1 February 2017

[Ecuador] The Shuar people fighting on two fronts in the Amazon
openDemocracy, 1 February 2017
According to the Ecuadorian philosopher Bolívar Echeverría, modern life is based on an absurdity: “a way of life in which, amidst the possibility of abundance, reproducing is at the same time mutilating, sacrificing, oppressing and exploiting one another”.
That is to say: the current technical and social possibilities would allow us to reach the Sumak Kawsay (the full life of all beings inhabiting this planet) that we have been waiting for so long, if it were not for “the curse of abundance” which, in spite of this, produces a society that generates, consumes and reproduces wealth by destroying its two main sources: humans and nature.

[India] Hyderabad: Wildlife parks get green zone, 10-km exclusion area
Deccan Chronicle, 1 February 2017
New restrictions on construction activity, mining and industrial development will come into force with the Union ministry of environment and forests issuing the final notification for eco-sensitive zones.
These zones range from a few metres to 10 km surrounding protected zones, including the area covered by the lakes protection GO 111 in the city.
A top official of the TS forest department said the draft notification of eight protected areas had already been issued including the Mahavir Vanasthali National Park, Mrugavani National Park (Chilkur) and Manjeera wildlife sanctuary in the city limits. The state has 12 protected areas that include nine sanctuaries and three national parks whereas AP has 15 protected areas.

[India] Assam’s Manas National Park obliterated by human activities: study
By Malavika Vyawahare, Hindustan Times, 1 February 2017
A majority of Natural World Heritage Sites are suffering at the hands of humans, a new study has found, particularly highlighting the human impact on Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam.
“Sites like the Manas Wildlife sanctuary has been obliterated in just two decades,” James Watson, one of the authors of the study at the University of Queensland, Australia, said in a video release.
Not everybody agrees with this assessment. Amit Sharma, a senior coordinator at WWF-India, who works on Rhino conservation, maintained that the situation in Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was in fact improving. “It is relatively undisturbed in the core areas,” he said, “Only the peripheral areas are a bit disturbed.”

2 February 2017

Investors Are Pouring Money Into Conservation Efforts (It’s Actually A Great Investment)
By Ben Schiller, Fast Co.Exist, 2 February 2017
From sustainable “blue economy” projects to restoration projects for wetlands, streams, and animal habitats, conservation-related projects have been drawing a significant amount of investor money in recent years. Investments that produce a financial return and a “measurable environmental result” climbed 62% from 2013-2015, a new report found, indicating that traditional divisions between conservation, philanthropy and for-profit finance may be withering.
“I think it’s a mixture of both redefined conservation money—perhaps originally intended for philanthropy—and new sources of finance that are entering this space,” says Kelley Hamrick, author of the report, in an interview with Co.Exist. “We are seeing more foundations and public organizations turn to impact investing as a way to stretch their dollars. [They] play a large role in incentivizing private investment, either through guarantees, taking first loss, or providing in-kind support.”

Protected zones offer refuge for Cambodia’s endangered ibises
By Alex Dale, BirdLife, 2 February 2017
In a process that has been six years in the making, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, has approved plans to divide Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary’s 250,000 hectares of land into four different zones, with added protection for areas that are significant to globally threatened species.
It’s a move designed to ensure that the sanctuary’s most vital forest habitats are protected from illegal logging and human disturbance, while simultaneously making provisions for sustainable land use and development for local communities that depend on the protected areas’ land for their livelihood.

[Dominican Republic] Valle Nuevo Natioanl Park to be reforested
Dominican Today, 2 February 2017
After the removal of existing crop plantations and once the weather gets warmer, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources plans to begin its reforestation program in the affected areas of the Valle Nuevo National Park, as part of the process of recovery of the protected area.
Thirty-four thousand tree saplings adapted for the conditions in the park are already available, according to the deputy minister for Protected Areas, Danerys Santana.

Can Guyana shift its economy from gold to green?
By Molly Bergen, Conservation International, 2 February 2017
Last month, Conservation International (CI) Guyana and partners launched a new initiative to improve mining practices and ease the transition to a greener economy in the South American country. In this interview, CI Guyana Vice President David Singh explains how a country dependent on revenues from nonrenewable resources can make this shift.
Question: What is the current state of Guyana’s economy, and how do nonrenewable resources fit in?
Answer: In the decades after Guyana declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, gold was a bastion of our economy; in fact, at times it was the direct source of revenues to pay civil servants. Even now, with the distress within the country’s sugar industry and the challenges facing the rice industry, gold has proven to be a reliable source of foreign exchange. It has kept the economy afloat, and it has provided a lot of employment for people. I would estimate 10 percent of the country’s workforce is directly involved in the gold mining supply chain — not just the mining itself but the services that make it possible (shopkeepers, truckers, etc.)

[Hawai’i] Maui National Park Grapples With Overtourism
By Audrey McAvoy and Caleb Jones, Associated Press, 2 February 2017
Well before dawn each morning, throngs of tourists from around the world make their way to Maui’s tallest peak, a dormant volcano, to see what Mark Twain called the “sublimest spectacle” he ever witnessed.
They drive up a long, winding road through the clouds to an otherworldly, lava-rock landscape at 10,000 feet. Then they bundle up and take their place for a dazzling daybreak show.
“Just the sunrise from the top of the world — it’s pretty remarkable and incomparable,” Julia Grant of Mission British Columbia, Canada, said on a recent visit after watching the sun peek out from the horizon and saturate the sky in endless shades of yellow, orange and red.

Malawi army soldiers slash crops in protected forest areas
By Owen Khamula, Nyasa Times, 2 February 2017
Over 40 soldiers took some villagers by surprise when they slashed crops in over 100 hectares of land in the protected Mua Lifulezi forest in chief Kachindamoto’s area in Dedza.
District Forestry officer Alick Mitawa confirmed his department engaged the soldiers after the villagers failed to respond to calls not to cultivate in the forest.
“Actually, they have now enchroached over 1000 hectares of land and the soldiers have so far reclaimed over 100 hectares. The process is still going on,” he said.
The forestry officer said the government would do everything to ensure that its stops environment degradation due to such farming malpractices.

Nearly three tonnes of pangolin scales seized in Thailand
Reuters, 2 February 2017
Thai authorities on Thursday displayed to journalists nearly 3 tonnes of scales from pangolins, the world’s most poached animal, seized in anti-smuggling operations since December.
The scales, worth more than $800,000, were shipped from Africa and confiscated by police, customs and wildlife officials at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

3 February 2017

Natural World Heritage Sites Getting Hammered by Human Activities
By James Watson, James Allan, and Sean Maxwell, Wildlife Conservation Society, 3 February 2017
Would we knock down the pyramids or flatten the Acropolis to make way for housing estates, roads or farms? You would hope not. Such an indictment would deprive future generations of the joy and marvel we all experience when visiting or learning about such historic places.
Yet right now, across our planet, many of the United Nations’ World Heritage sites that have been designated for natural reasons are being rapidly destroyed in the pursuit of short-term economic goals.

More than 100 natural World Heritage sites threatened by humanity
By Melissa Breyer, Tree Hugger, 3 February 2017
A new study finds 100+ natural treasures, including Yellowstone, are being severely damaged by sprawling human infrastructure and land use.
“The world would never accept the Acropolis being knocked down, or a couple of pyramids being flattened for housing estates or roads, yet right now, across our planet, we are simply letting many of our natural World Heritage sites become severely altered.” – Dr. James Watson of the University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Study shows that involving communities in mangrove management makes them more sustainable
CIFOR, 3 February 2017
Mangrove forests that incorporate local communities into their management fare better, a new study finds. Recognizing the importance of gender and community rights in mangrove use and planning prevents the deterioration of these fragile ecosystems.
These are some of the conclusions of a new global study on mangrove governance from The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) released today, on World Wetlands Day. Scientists conducted a review of international literature as well as case studies in Indonesia and Tanzania.

Wetlands Can Help Fight Climate Change
By Brittany Patterson, Scientific American, 3 February 2017
Coastal wetlands are among the best marine ecosystems to fight climate change, new research confirms.
A study published this week in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment compared the carbon sequestration potential of a handful of marine ecosystems and found that mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows have the greatest impact on climate change. Helping less are coral reefs and kelp beds.

Physiology and conservation of the Asian elephant: a life spent studying – and loving – elephants
By Dr. Janine Brown, BioMed Central, 3 February 2017
Our paper, published in BMC Zoology, is a labor of love, and for me came 30 years after I accidentally stumbled into the world of elephants. I was a postdoctoral fellow in 1987 at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD studying testicular function in rat and sheep models when I got a call from the elephant curator at the National Zoo, who asked if I could measure hormones in elephants. He had a young female (a 13 year old named Shanthi) they wanted to breed, but didn’t know if she had reached puberty. Having dreamed of a possible career with wildlife, I jumped at the chance and said ‘YES’ immediately.

Greenville Zoo highlights Madagascar’s endangered wildlife with conservation lecture
By Andrew Moore, Greenville Journal, 3 February 2017
In 2005, the animated comedy film “Madagascar” shed light on the mysterious island and its lemurs. But more recently, loggers have flattened Madagascar’s rainforests, pushing many of its plants and animals to the brink of extinction.
Luckily, a group of researchers is working to save the subtropical island from deforestation.
That will be the message from Dr. Eric Miller on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Miller, the director of the St. Louis Zoo and a member of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group, will be giving a free presentation about the island’s conservation efforts from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Children’s Museum of the Upstate in downtown Greenville.

4 February 2017

Guiding ecosystem conservation using airborne lasers
By Shalini Saxena,, 4 February 2017
Industrialization and urbanization have drastically changed the face of our planet, and the number of untouched natural habitats for wildlife is shrinking. Conservationists are trying to understand remaining biodiversity in order to create sanctuaries that preserve it. One of the challenges they face is how to make connections among information derived from different methods of evaluating the Earth’s life.
One approach to getting data on biological diversity involves field inventories of species. Another evaluates ecosystem processes by dividing the Earth into categories based on vegetation (forests or grasslands, for example) and subsequently analyzing properties of that category’s plant life. But critical information is often missed when only one method is employed.

[India] Nagpur forest roaring success as tiger habitat
By Dhaval Kulkarni, DNA India, 4 February 2017
Underlining the importance of developing habitats for tigers outside protected areas like sanctuaries, a forested patch near Nagpur has emerged as a source from where tiger reserves can add to their population of the big cats.
In 2011, a pregnant tigress was rescued from a well in the Kondhali-Kalmeshwar block near Nagpur. She, however, aborted her litter. The forest department decided to release the tigress in the area and develop it as a habitat, through interventions like grassland and watershed development. This helped create a prey base by attracting herbivores like chital and sambar.

Kenya’s white farmers besieged by tribal raiders as violence destroys livelihoods – and decades of conservation work
By Adrian Blomfeld, The Telegraph, 4 February 017
A drunken warrior, tarrying too long in a town speakeasy, let the plan slip: The next invasions were to begin the following day.
For the white farmers along the banks of the Ewaso Narok, which flows sluggishly across the Laikipia plateau towards Kenya’s northern frontier, this was the warning they had been expecting.
Some of their ranches had already come under attack. Leaving their tribal heartlands to the east and north, armed Samburu herders and their cattle had forced their way onto two of the ranches in this part of Laikipia in recent weeks, damaging property and devastating pasture.

5 February 2017

A new approach to understanding subspecies can boost conservation
By Tim Crowe and Paulette Bloomer, Asia Times, 5 February 2017
Earth is home to an estimated 1 trillion species, of which only about 1.2 million have been described scientifically. There’s good reason to increase this number: each species could offer an adaptive, evolutionary solution to the many challenges presented by changing landscapes.
Biological species are often comprised of geographically distinct entities. These are known as subspecies, races or management units.
Taxonomists and phylogeographers armed with this information ought to be able to identify those species with multiple evolutionary “solutions” in progress. These “solutions” should then be catered for to ensure the relevant species can be effectively conserved.

[Nepal] Wildlife-affected people demand change in conservation act
By Bimal Khatiwada, Kathmandu Post, 5 February 2017
People affected by wildlife have demanded amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973) for ensuring rights of local communities.
During the national gathering in Chitwan on Saturday, the people of the communities affected by national parks and wildlife reserves said that the state has been indifferent towards their plight despite their repeated requests. They complained that the state chased them away in the name of conservation.

[Philippines] Appeals mount for ‘responsible tourism’ in Mt. Pulag
By Abe Almirol, The Standard, 5 February 2017
A website promoting mountain adventure proclaimed that Mt. Pulag is one of the “most well-maintained premier national parks” in the country.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources regulations placed it under a National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) but the accolade could turn out to be a risky overstatement.
And just recently, there are sectors that have actively calling to allow the park to have some ‘rest.’
Reason: Conditions not favorable to the conservation of the national park have intensified as more tourists are lured to Mt. Pulag’s charm.

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