Conservation in the news: 6-12 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.

6 February 2017

China to invest 1 bln yuan in Sanjiangyuan national park construction
Xinhua, 6 February 2017
A national park planned in the Sanjiangyuan area to protect the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Lancang (Mekong) rivers will start this year with building roads and installing surveillance cameras to assist the protection work.
The administration bureau of Sanjiangyuan National Park said Monday that the park would have a budget of 1 billion yuan this year for infrastructure construction.
The bureau started trial operation of the management of the national park, a vast wetland and grassland area located in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, in April 2016. It is scheduled by 2020 to officially become China’s first national park as administered by the central government.

[Myanmar] Authorities clamp down on illegal wildlife traders
By Kyaw Ko Ko, Myanmar Times, 6 February 2017
Wildlife authorities and anti-smuggling officers are stepping up efforts to clamp down on the illegal trade of wild animals through the Mandalay-Muse road by intensifying inspections at checkpoints along the busy route.
The illegal export of organs and parts of wild animals has recently been reported to be increasing, along with the illegal trade of drugs, arms and human trafficking, Mandalay Department of Forestry assistant director U Moe Thu said.
Most of the goods seized by officers were bound for China, he said.

7 February 2017

[Cambodia] Gold Mines, NGOs Fight Over the Treasures of Mondolkiri
By Ben Pavious, Cambodia Daily, 7 February 2017
Wildlife groups and gold companies can at least agree on this: There’s treasure in the hills of Mondolkiri province.
Where their views differ, however, is exactly what those treasures might be.
Australia’s Renaissance Minerals is eager for the Mines and Energy Ministry to grant it its first-ever mining license in a protected area so the company can begin excavating the Okvau gold deposit in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, which it estimates would yield revenues between $756 million and $964 million over eight years.

[South Africa] WWF-SA concerned about proposed coal mine development in protected area
By Megan Van Wingaardt, Mining Weekly, 7 February 2017
Conservation organisation World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa (WWF-SA) on Tuesday expressed concern about a letter sent by Environmental Affairs Minister Dr Edna Molewa to Indian company Atha-Africa Ventures, approving the development of an underground coal mine, in the Mabola Protected Environment (MEP), in Mpumalanga.
“It is puzzling that, within 18 months of its declaration [as a protected area], the protections that were afforded to Mabola are now being eroded,” it stated.

[Uganda] Dams to save Lake Mburo National Park
By Titus Kakembo, New Vision, 7 February 2017
Lake Mburo National Park (LMNP) located at the Masaka and Mbarara highway is one place visitors can see zebras.
Last year more than 50 carcasses, were counted, as the sun heat blazed there. But the situation is ably being addressed to salvage the stressed natural victims there.
“This heat is an effect of the ongoing dry spell which is having a devastating effect on part of Kiruhura district,” observed Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) director of planning Edgar Bihanga.
“We receive about 20,000 tourists annually.”
The dam under construction will save wild animals there that comprise; Zebra, Impalas, Buffalos, Impala, Oribi and Waterbucks. The vegetation is mainly savanna with scattered acacia trees. As the five lakes there are populated by crocodiles and hippos.

8 February 2017

Brazil wants to cut protected Amazon forest area by 65 percent
Plus55, 8 February 2017
Brazil’s federal government is currently considering bill which would reduce its protected rainforest area by 65 percent. The conservation areas in question include four protected forests and the extinction of a fifth area. Although the bill concerns essential areas of the Amazon forest, the Ministry of Environment had no involvement in its creation.
In fact, federal congressmen representing the Amazonas state submitted the bill directly to Brazil’s Chief of Staff. The Amazonian congressman claim the protected areas have paralyzed industrial investment and agrobusiness in the region. Indeed, the protected areas form a sort of “green belt” of protection against deforestation, illegal wood-cutting, and farmer squatting.

Cameroon’s pygmies ensnared in charity giants’ rainforest feud
By Katy Migiro, Reuters, 8 February 2017
In the remote Central African rainforest, two major charities are battling over the future of some 50,000 pygmies, beset by poverty, hunger and alcoholism after they were evicted from their lands to save iconic elephants and gorillas.
As wildlife populations shrink at an unprecedented rate, conservation groups are pouring millions of dollars into efforts to protect their habitats – which critics say often put animals before people.
In Cameroon, Survival International, a group campaigning for the rights of tribal people, has accused the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) of funding anti-poaching guards who have beaten and killed Baka pygmies with impunity.

Peru’s natural protected areas welcomed over 1.8 million tourists in 2016
Andina, 8 February 2017
At least 1.8 million tourists visited Peru’s various natural protected areas in 2016, State-run National Service of Natural Protected Areas (Sernanp) informed.
Tourist inflow was driven by the good state of preservation of said areas.
According to Sernanp, boosting sustainable tourism becomes one of the best preservation strategies, given its low impact on the environment and multiplier effect on the national economy.

Reversing “Empty Forest Syndrome” in Southeast Asia
By Barney Long, Thomas Gray, Antony Lynam, Teak Seng, William Laurance, Lorraine Scotson, William Ripple, National Geographic, 8 February 2017
The diverse tropical forests of Southeast Asia are home to some of the most mysterious and beautiful wildlife species in the world, some of which have only been discovered in the last few decades. Home to species such as the antelope-like Saola (the Asian “unicorn”), which was only discovered in 1992 and that no biologist has seen in the wild, capturing the imagination of scientists, reporters and the public alike. Home to an extensive community of animals small and large, from civets to muntjacs, striped rabbits to Doucs, porcupines to pigs, tortoises to wild cattle.
However, Southeast Asia also holds a higher proportion of globally threatened vascular plant, reptile, bird and mammal species than any other region on the planet. Today, these irreplaceable forests are often harboring the ghosts of these amazing species, victims of a barbaric and widespread hunting technique—the use of homemade and cheap wire snares that catch animals, leaving them trapped, often to suffer for days, before death.

Uganda: Batwa “Pygmy” faces prison in the name of conservation
Survival International, 8 February 2017
A Batwa “Pygmy” man is facing up to five years in prison for hunting a small antelope inside Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a protected area from which the Batwa were violently and illegally evicted.
Kafukuzi Valence, who is to appear in court today, claims the duiker had strayed into a field adjacent to the park. The district police have reportedly said to his family that they will release him if they are paid 5,700,000 Ugandan shillings (nearly USD $1600). The Batwa can expect to receive a wage of less than one US dollar for a day’s labor.
The park was established on the ancestral homelands of the Batwa hunter-gatherers in 1991, with the support of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and without the Batwa’s consent. Now the Batwa are accused of “poaching” when they hunt to feed their families.

9 February 2017

Researchers discuss the future of conservation, 9 February 2017
Conservationists need to adopt a critical shift in thinking to keep the Earth’s ecosystems diverse and useful in an increasingly “unnatural” world.
That was among the conclusions of conservationists from every continent but Antarctica who gathered at the University of California, Berkeley in September 2015 to discuss the future of conservation. The meeting included a diverse mix of countries and of specialists, including ecologists, conservation biologists, paleobiologists, geologists, lawyers, policymakers and writers.
Their discussions, summarized and published in Science on Feb. 9, recommend a more vigorous application of information garnered from the fossil record to forward-thinking conservation efforts. Their thinking goes like this: If conservationists reach back in history far enough, the past will suggest not only how ecosystems were once composed, but how they could best function in the future.

Efficient stoves and elephant grass aid primate conservation in northern Vietnam
By Michael Tatarski,, 9 February 2017
The villages of Trung Khanh District, less than five miles from China on the Vietnamese side of the border, are a hard place to live. Surrounded by jagged, forest-clad mountains, scorching summers give way to freezing winters that can bring snow. Subsistence is also a challenge, with agriculture restricted to flat, narrow valleys.
This area of remote Cao Bang province, a bumpy 12-hour bus ride from the country’s capital city of Hanoi, is among the poorest regions in Vietnam, and largely populated by members of the Tay and Nung ethnic minorities. The local economy is largely driven by farming of crops such as rice, cassava and corn. The forests of Trung Khanh are also home to the Cao-vit, or eastern black crested gibbon (Nomascus nasutus), a critically endangered primate species only found here and in China’s nearby Guangxi province.

10 February 2017

‘Hunting is not about killing for me’: Trophy hunter sees shooting big game as form of conservation
By Lisa Mayor, CBC, 10 February 2017
A British Columbia woman well-known for her trophy hunts of lions, bears and giraffes says she sees the killing as an ethical form of wildlife conservation.
Jacine Jadresko of Victoria has found herself a target of online hatred for her trophy hunting around the world.
Jadresko, who appears in the fifth estate’s “The Hunter and The Hunted,” said that after being on a show like the fifth estate, “I’ll get up to 200 or more death threats a day.”

Brazil ex-environment minister slams ‘land grabbing’ plan
By Claudio Angelo, Climate Home, 10 February 2017
The move by Congressmen from the Brazilian state of Amazonas to slash down a string of conservation units in the south of the state is an attempt to “officialise land grabbing” in public forests and will expose Brazil to “international shame”.
These words belong to Izabella Teixeira, the former environment minister, in whose tenure the five protected areas that now are targeted were created.
“I think it’s a shame that Brazil, which is a conservation role model, is backtracking and undoing the creation of such important areas for the conservation of biodiversity in our country,” the former minister told Observatorio do Clima. “They want to officialise land grabbing. This sets a very serious precedent for the other regions. It has no explanation, it makes no sense.”

[Cambodia] Official Accused of Seizing Protected Land to Grow Cashew Trees
By Sek Odom, Cambodia Daily, 10 February 2017
The agricultural director in Mondolkiri province said he was investigating a complaint that accuses another government official of seizing 40 hectares of land in the protected Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary and clearing it to grow cashews.
Keo Sopheak, director of the province’s agricultural department, said yesterday that he had been approached by villagers who contend that Yon Sarom, director of the province’s rural area department, set up a plantation several years ago after unlawfully taking the land.

Could restoring Latin America’s cloud forests boost hydropower?
By Sophie Hares, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 10 February 2017
The mist-enshrouded cloud forest canopies dotting the mountains of Latin America have been degraded by encroaching cities and farms, but convincing hydropower operators to pay for their restoration could increase water flows and boost energy security, analysts say.
Research done for the Cloud Forest Blue Energy Mechanism, an early-stage project being incubated by the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, indicates that restoring high-altitude cloud forests raises the quantity and quality of water flowing to hydropower plants, stabilising supplies and cutting maintenance costs by reducing sediment.

11 February 2017

India’s militant rhino protectors are challenging traditional views of how conservation works
By Bhaskar Vira, The Conservation, 11 February 2017
In Kaziranga, a national park in north-eastern India, rangers shoot people to protect rhinos. The park’s aggressive policing is, of course, controversial, but the results are clear: despite rising demand for illegal rhino horn, and plummeting numbers throughout Africa and South-East Asia, rhinos in Kaziranga are flourishing.
Yet Kaziranga, which features in a new BBC investigation, highlights some of the conflicts that characterise contemporary conservation, as the need to protect endangered species comes into contact with the lives and rights of people who live in and around the increasingly threatened national parks. India must balance modernisation and development with protections for the rights of local people – all while ensuring its development is ecologically sustainable.

Nepal aims to increase population of wild water buffaloes through relocation
Xinhua, 11 February 2017
Nepal has completed the relocation of 15 wild water buffaloes (Bubalus Arnee) in protected area this week.
As part of the government’s decision to relocate 30 rhinos, 30 wild water buffaloes, and 35 swamp deers to protected areas by 2018, the recent relocation has been conducted.
Among the proposed 30 wild water buffaloes, 15 have been relocated to Chitwan National Park in the first phase. Out of 15, 12 were shifted from Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in the last week of January while 3 were shifted from National Zoo in Kathmandu on Thursday.
The Asiatic wild water buffalo is one of the protected species in the Himalayan country.

12 February 2017

[Kenya] Development should enhance the value of, and not destroy, precious national heritage
The Standard, 12 February 2017
What should be done to stem the decline of wildlife? The most important thing is to enhance the protection and conservation of wildlife outside State-protected areas. Also, livestock numbers would need to be regulated, possibly through taxes proportional to the number of livestock held beyond a certain threshold, especially in areas shared with wildlife, or some other such mechanism. Livestock, especially sheep and goats, continue to increase to levels that now threaten wildlife. Developments in rangelands need to be planned and regulated by the national and county governments.

[Thailand] Former senior policeman accused of encroaching on national park
Bangkok Post, 12 February 2017
Police investigators are collecting evidence over a complaint that former deputy national police chief Jumpol Manmai encroached on forest land in Thap Lan National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima province.
Pol Col Meechai Kamnertprom, chief of Wang Nam Khieo police station, confirmed that the complaint was filed on Feb 6 by the national parks authority.
Investigators are now processing evidence presented by forestry officials, but so far no charges have been pressed.

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