Conservation in the news: 13-19 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.

13 February 2017

Climate Threat to Wildlife May Have Been Massively Underreported
By Kacey Deamer, Live Science, 13 February 2017
More than 700 of the world’s threatened and endangered animal species may be directly affected by climate change, according to a new study — vastly more than the number of animal species scientists initially thought would face risks from global warming.
Scientists had previously determined that only 7 percent of mammals and 4 percent of birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “Red List” of threatened species are affected by climate change. However, a new study finds that the threat from climate change may have been massively underreported.

Google tugs at heartstrings with adorable pangolin-themed Valentine’s doodle
Fox News, 13 February 2017
Google and the World Wildlife Fund are casting a spotlight on the plight of the pangolins with an incredibly intricate and cute Google Doodle.
Lasting for four days, the delightful Doodle is all about pangolins and love. It features a multi-level game starring a small rolling pangolin; using the arrow keys and the space bar, people can send the little pangolin rolling across Ghana, India, China (where it swings from ribbons attached to lanterns) and the Philippines. There are eight pangolin species, which not coincidentally, live in all those regions.
The initiative is meant to raise awareness about the endangered pangolins, which are threatened by trafficking. The World Wildlife Fund describes the unique creature as “the world’s only truly scaly mammal.”

[India] Sahyadri tigers may soon have more prey
DNA India, 13 February 2017
To serve as a vital link to parts of the northern Western Ghats and increase the prey base for tigers in the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR), the state forest department is planning to convert forest area in Satara and Raigad to a wildlife sanctuary.
The STR is the only tiger reserve in Western Maharashtra and is spread over an 1,165.56 sq km landscape over the Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) and Chandoli National Park. However, it suffers from lack of adequate tiger numbers — it has just five to seven tigers with no resident big cats due to reasons like an inadequate herbivore base.

[Philippines] Sipalay forest patches
By Errol A. Gatumbato, The Visayan Daily Star, 13 February 2017
It’s a welcome information that the city government of Sipalay in southern Negros Occidental takes extra efforts in ensuring the protection of its remaining forest patches.
While the city had passed an ordinance a decade ago declaring its remaining forest patches as tropical forest protection areas and wildlife sanctuary, it was only recently that it came to my attention that some conservation initiatives are being undertaken now. Sipalay City Ordinance 2006-008 declared pockets of forests, estimated at about 2,000 hectares, located in Sitio Omas, Barangay Camindangan, Sitio Dung-i, Barangay Manlucahok, and the Calatong forest in Barangay Cabadiangan as protection areas and wildlife sanctuary.

Tanzania tourist guide charged over ‘twisted translation’
BBC News, 13 February 2017
A Tanzanian tourist guide has been charged in court with breaching cybercrime legislation after he wrongly translated a tourist’s comments in a video he put on Facebook.
Saimon Sirikwa was not asked to plead and was remanded in police custody.
A second video selfie of him and the tourist has emerged in which they say they were joking in the original one.
He was arrested last week for casting the tourism ministry in a “bad light”, police said.
Mr Sirikwa works for the world famous state-run Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania.

14 February 2017

15 February 2017

[Cambodia] Villagers seek NGOs’, UN’s help in dispute
By Phak Seangly, Phnom Penh Post, 15 February 2017
More than 400 families in Preah Vihear province submitted a petition to a group of NGOs and the UN yesterday, seeking assistance in their battle with the government over 3,555 hectares of protected land that sits within the Kulen Prom-Tep Wildlife Sanctuary.
The involved families claim to have cultivated the land since 1993, and that student land titling volunteers deployed by Prime Minister Hun Sen before the 2013 national elections measured land for them, though titles were never issued.
Earlier this year, the families were banned from building houses in the disputed area and forced to stop crop cultivation by officials from the Ministry of Environment.

[Nepal] Is “green militarization” the best way to save rhinos?
By Brandon Keim, Anthropocene Magazine, 15 February 2017
Rhinoceroses have become symbols of modern human rapacity. Global populations plummeted from 500,000 at the 20th century’s beginning to 29,000 now; images of the majestic animals left to die with their horns hacked off by poachers are tragically iconic. And yet: a very different tale is being told in Nepal and India.
Unlike in southern Africa and Indonesia, rhino populations there have rebounded. Numbering just 200 in the late 19th century, there are now more than 3,500; even as poaching threatens African rhinos with extinction, Nepal—where poaching was once common—recently announced its fourth consecutive zero-poaching year. Nepalese Rhino populations jumped by 21 percent in just the past five years.

16 February 2017

Wildlife ‘is the brand of Africa,’ says leading conservationist
By Eunice Wanjiru, Deutsche Welle, 16 February 2017
Kaddu Kiwe Sebunya is the president of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), a conservation organization that works to protect wildlife, conserve wild lands and ensure economic development near those lands. He visited Germany recently to discuss the foundations’s new development agenda and other programs planned in cooperation with the German government.
DW: Which African countries does AWF work with?
Kaddu Kiwe Sebunya: We work across Africa in different forms. We have offices in 17 countries but we run programs in many countries south of the Sahara. So most of our work through these institutions touches almost the entire continent.

India: BBC report reveals shocking impact of shoot-on-sight conservation – and WWF involvement
Survival International, 16 February 2017
A BBC investigation has revealed that tribal peoples living around a national park in India are facing arrest and beatings, torture and death under the Park’s notorious “shoot-on-sight” policy.
The report for television, radio and the BBC news website featured interviews with park guards, tribal people who have been affected by the policy in Kaziranga National Park, and a spokesman from WWF-India, which helps fund, train and equip park guards and advertises tours of the park through its website.

India planted 50 million trees in one day — smashing the world record
By Robert Guy, World Economic Forum, 16 February 2017
As development in India has raced ahead, demand for firewood, pasture and land for building has destroyed vast tracts of forest.
In fact, since 2013, more than 2,500 square kilometres of very dense and mid-dense forests have been wiped out, according to India Today.
Despite this, the Indian government reports that the total area of forested land has increased and new efforts are being made to expand them even further. The ultimate aim is 33% forest cover.

[Malaysia] Taking down of elephant hunting syndicate hailed
Malaysiakini, 16 February 2017
The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) congratulates the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (DWNP) and the Malaysian Armed Forces for taking down one of Malaysia’s most wanted elephant hunting syndicates.
The joint effort, under the joint 1Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Operation Network (1MBEON), saw the arrest of seven locals in Kelantan and the confiscation of many weapons, including firearms, explosives and ammunition for shotguns and high-powered rifles. Also seized were wildlife parts, including tiger teeth and dried elephant meat.
Known for targeting elephants, gaur, serow and sambar in Kelantan, Terengganu and Perak, the group is allegedly responsible for at least 15 dead elephants poached for their ivory between 2013 and 2016. Chainsaws believed to have been used to remove tusks from the elephants were also confiscated.

[Myanmar] Restoration of Alaungtaw Katthapa National Park
By Htoo Thant, Myanmar Times, 16 February 2017
“What we are doing in 39 protected areas including Alaungtaw Katthapa National Park is a restoration of ecosystems, social development of local people with continuous services of eco-system, rehabilitation of wildlife, promoting education on conservation, promoting conservation with the participation of local people and drafting a 10-year [starting from 2017-18] habitat restoration program to study and develop ecotourism opportunities,”said U Ohn Win, Union Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
The minister told Pyithu Hluttaw on February 14 that plans to promote ecotourism at Alaungtaw Katthapa National Park are being discussed.
“We continue our efforts to conserve bio-diversities and ecosystem in Alaungtaw Katthapa National Park, to promote ecotourism and to improve social-economic development of local people,” he said.

17 February 2017

[India] Forest department to revisit study on Gir’s economic gains
By Vijaysinh Parmar, Times of India, 17 February 2017
At a time when the Vijay Rupani government has shrunk the eco-sensitive zone around Gir sanctuary in the garb of ‘local peoples’ development’, the forest department is planning to revisit a crucial 15-year-old study that had detailed the immense economic benefits accrued to the people as a result of the Gir ecosystem.
The study carried out by the scientists of Junagadh Agriculture University (JAU) had mapped the economic as well as environmental benefits resulting from the ecosystem and gave a big reason to enhance conservation efforts.

[India] With 100m eco-sensitive zone, Gir lions have lesser protection than tigers
By Vijaysinh Parmar, Times of India, 17 February 2017
In an election, every vote counts. And, the BJP government does not want to displease anyone living near Asiatic lion’s last abode the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary , even if a decision results in dangerously less protection to this endangered animal.
A right to information (RTI) reply has revealed that the government has finally shrunk drastically the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) from the earlier 8 km to 17.9 km around the sanctuary to a meagre 100 metres to maximum 500 metres in the modified ESZ proposal.
In fact, the Asiatic lions, which are 523 in numbers as per latest census, have the least protection; lesser than the equally endangered tigers in India. Three tiger reserves, where ESZ has been finalised, have a protection area ranging from 2 km to 14.85 km. Other tiger reserves are yet to send their ESZ pro proposals.

Kenya conducts elephant census as part of conservation efforts
Africa News, 17 February 2017
Kenya is in the process of conducting an elephant census in the country.
Officials from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) alongside other partners expect the exercise to run for two weeks at a cost of about $190,000.
The exercise which is conducted every two years, kicked off on Thursday, at the Tsavo-Mkomazi conservation area, in the country’s coastal region.
“In 2014 we counted a total of 11, 217 elephants. That number can further be interrogated because overall from previous counts in 2011 we had a decline of about 10% of the elephants, that was purposely due to the poaching that was then. And again that figure we saw that 85% of the 11, 217 were elephants within the protected areas and that means that the elephants within the park had increased by 10%,” said Dr. Erastus Kanga, a senior Kenya Wildlife Service official.

[Malaysia] Poachers caught, but there are more out there, 17 February 2017
Seven “highly wanted” poachers were caught, along with a motherlode of weapons, as they emerged from the jungle in Kelantan.
The weapons found associated with the poachers included several powerful shotguns (enough to kill elephants) and nine chainsaws (probably used to saw off elephant tusks). Also found were tiger teeth, dried elephant meat, several parangs (machetes) and even…plastic explosives.
The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (MYCAT) congratulated the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) and the Malaysian Armed Forces for taking down one of the country’s most wanted elephant hunting syndicates. The effort, was held under the joint 1Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Operation Network (1MBEON).

Nigerian superhighway threatens communities and wildlife
African News Agency, 17 February 2017
Nigeria’s Cross River State government’s announcement on Thursday to drop a 19km buffer around a proposed superhighway though one of Nigeria’s last rainforests was still not enough to prevent the loss of important community forests and significant impacts to the region’s wildlife.
This was according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which is campaigning to reroute the project entirely.
The controversial highway was the impetus for a global campaign launched by WCS in October of 2016 to stop the project, an effort that has raised 105,840 petition signatures of support to date.

WWF-Pakistan pledges to fight for environment conservation
The Express Tribune, 17 February 2017
WWF-Pakistan has partnered with Bashir Ahmad, the pioneer of mixed martial arts in the country, to put up a fight against the rising threats of climate change and promote advocacy for the protection of the environment, stated a press release. A long-standing supporter of nature conservancy, Ahmad will help and support WWF-Pakistan’s efforts in the adoption and implementation of policies that are focused on bringing about a measurable change in the country.
Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan, welcomed Bashir onboard and praised his efforts for working on many other initiatives in his personal capacity for the betterment of the country. “We are proud of Bashir’s affiliation with our organisation and we look forward to his active involvement in our initiatives and campaigns. Our discussion with him, prior to this formal announcement, has led us to believe Bashir is a committed nature lover who has the capacity to inspire millions of his fans worldwide to support conservation,” he said.

18 February 2017

[India] The evolution of Drones
By Nikhil Hemrajani, Live Mint, 18 February 2017
A man-eating tiger was captured recently near the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh, ending an ordeal that had lasted a few months and claimed six lives. All the traditional methods had been employed to catch Mallu, the two-year-old tigress.
“We had conducted many reconnaissance missions in the past, with not much success,” says V.K. Singh, conservator of forests, Bareilly. “After the latest (sixth) death, the locals lost all patience. That’s when we decided to use drones,” he adds.
In such situations, progress is evaluated in baby steps, not lunar strides, and having a predator “surrounded” in a 5-acre sugarcane field is considered a tactical advantage. So, the World Wildlife Fund and Quidich, a Mumbai-based company that specializes in unmanned aerial services, brought in drone technology to assist in the capture. Within 24 hours, the tiger had been located, tranquillized and taken to the Lucknow zoo—where it will presumably serve a life sentence. Mallu’s capture is a seminal moment for drones in the history of man-animal conflict in India. “We now plan to use drones more regularly. The technology is effective and makes it easy to monitor the animals,” Singh says.

19 February 2017

Close to 300 people invaded Corcovado Park in Costa Rica to extract gold
By Laura Alvarado, Costa Rica Star News, 19 February 2017
Almost 300 people in trucks and buses illegally entered the Corcovado National Park in the Osa Peninsula, through “Los Patos” sector, with the purpose of extracting gold.
Men and women of different age groups are part of the group that have already began installing tents and temporary houses inside the National Park and some outside near the Termo river mouth.
Eduardo Carrillo, director of the International Institute of Conservation and Management of Wildlife of the National University (ICOMVIS-UNA) stated “These people came in large cattle trucks and buses. The problem goes beyond the environmental damage they cause extracting gold, they also settle here and hunt to feed themselves. The pressure over the ecosystems is impressive”.
To protect the park the authorities only had nine park rangers available and police bus and three police cars, which is obviously insufficient.

Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park has new infrastructure
By Laura Alvarado, Costa Rica Star News, 19 February 2017
With the purpose of increasing the tourism and improving the conditions for national and foreign tourists that visit Corcovado National Park, and in order to provide park rangers with an adequate space to do their work, the Costa Rica Government inaugurated today the new infrastructure at Corcovado in which $2.4 million dollars of the Sustainable Tourism program were invested.
The works were handed over to the community and the park rangers by President Luis Guillermo Solís, the First Lady Mercedes Peñas, and the Minister of Environment and Energy, Edgar Gutiérrez.

Ahead of wildlife board meet today, letters opposing ‘conservation reserve’ tag surface
By Girish Pattanashetti, The Hindu,

[Iran] Mining Ruse Will Cost Environment Dear
Financial Tribune, 19 February 2017
A section of a dirt track that runs through Darreh Anjir Wildlife Sanctuary in Yazd Province has been asphalted despite opposition from the Department of Environment, paving the way for mining activities to begin in the D19 mineral zone.
The mineral zone is rich in iron ore deposits. However, a section of the zone extends into a protected area that is the habitat of critically endangered species such as Asiatic cheetah and Persian leopard.
According to a report by Mehr News Agency, those behind the asphalt project claim the move is aimed at facilitating the movement of ranchers and cattle farmers.
However, ironically, there are neither ranchers nor cattle farmers in the area. In other words, the sole purpose of turning the dirt track into a proper road is to easily transport iron ore out of the area.

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