Conservation in the news: 20-26 February 2017

Conservation Watch’s round-up of the week’s news on national parks, protected areas and conservation in the Global South.

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Africa’s Other Elephant Is Fading Fast
By Ed Yong, The Atlantic, February 2017
When Richard Ruggiero first saw the gold mine from the air, he was reminded of one of Dante’s circles of hell. It In the midst of Gabon’s Minkebe National Park—a huge protected area the size of Belgium—there was “a gaping hole in the forest more than half a mile wide and long.” On the ground, the mine was a “noisy, crowded, polluted, lawless confusion”—a hub of 6,000 miners, prostitution, drugs, and arms trafficking. And amid the chaos, Ruggiero and colleagues found caches of ivory, high-caliber weapons, and huge, grey carcasses. That’s when they knew that the forest elephants of Minkebe were in trouble.

20 February 2017

[Cambodia] Farmers charged with clearing land
By Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, Khmer Times, 20 February 2017
Two farmers were charged yesterday for invading and clearing forestry land in a protected area of Mondulkiri province’s Keo Seima district.
Deputy district police chief Major Keo Bunthoeun said the two suspects were Pheas Mith, 40, and Tol Nith, 20, both from Kampong Cham province’s Batheay district who went to occupy land in protected forest area.
He added that Mr. Mith and Mr. Nith were charged by the Mondulkiri provincial court with “illegally clearing state forest and forestry invasion in order to occupy land cleared as property” under article 62 of the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management.
They face from one to five years in prison if found guilty.

[Malaysia] DTI to tourism players Consider parks carrying capacity
Malaysia Sun, 20 February 2017
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) here advised operators of natural parks regionwide to always consider the carrying capacity of their parks and facilities to achieve the real objectives of sustainable ecotourism.
Mary Ann Dy,Chief of the DTI’s National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center (NERBAC), said operators and management of ecotourism should determine and understand the carrying capacity of their facilities to ensure that the visitors’ needs are met and the park’s resources are not abused.
Dy cited the case of the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP) where around 10,000 visitors were recorded yearly even if the said protected natural park still lack amenities such as inn, restaurants, and cottages to cater to tourists.

21 February 2017

[Belize] Men Convicted For Taking Timber In Reserve
News Belize, 21 February 2017
Last May, the Association for Protected Areas Management Organizations and the Forestry Department conducted an operation in the Mayflower Bocawina National Park. They found Carlos Palacios and Donald Wewe in possession of twenty seven pieces of prickly yellow lumber and a chainsaw. They were charged with entering a protected area and destroying valuable timber. Palacios and Wewe appeared in the Dangriga Magistrate’s Court yesterday where they were they pled guilty to the charges. They were fined $10,000 each, and if they default on the payments, must serve one year in prison.
Both APAMO and The Forestry Department are hailing the conviction as a notable victory for conservation.

Micronesia Conservation Trust transfers funds to Palau Protected Areas Network
Mariana Variety, 21 February 2017
On Jan. 31, 2017, the Micronesia Conservation Trust or MCT board approved a resolution instructing its Investment Advisor, Raymond James, to disburse $435,362 to the Palau Protected Areas Network or PAN Fund (www.palaupanfund.org/).
The Palau PAN Fund, per the agreement with MCT, will use the fund exclusively for (a) implementation of PAN protected areas management, sustainable development and work plans for PAN sites based on performance, impact/outcome and appropriate management costs for the continuing sustainable operation of the PAN Fund; (b) the undertaking of necessary research and educational activities substantially related to carrying out the purposes of Republic of Palau Public Law 7-42; and (c) the performance of any of the functions that are necessary in order to carry out the purpose of RPPL 7-42 including the operation of the PAN office.

22 February 2017

[Indonesia] Conversion of peatland concessions into conservation areas commences
By Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta Post, 22 February 2017
The Indonesian government has started the process of converting concessions and plantations in peatlands into conservation areas in its effort to prevent peat fires, which occur every year across the country. The conversion was targeted to cover 2.5 million hectares of land.
The peat conversion plan has been laid out in four ministerial regulations issued as a follow-up of the revision of a government regulation on peatland protection and the government’s peatland hydrological area (KHG) map.
Recently completed by the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s environmental pollution and damage control directorate general, the map divides Indonesia’s peatland areas into two categories, namely conservation and production.

Scrapping Nigerian superhighway buffer isn’t enough, say conservation groups
By John C. Cannon, mongabay.com, 22 February 2017
“[T]he government must ensure that this project does not imperil communities and threatened species,” Calvelli added.
The six-lane superhighway, which would connect the inland cities of Katsina Ala and Ikom with the port of Calabar, is seen by proponents as vital to Cross River state’s economy.
“We need to open the horizon to get teeming young people employed,” said Ben Ayade, the state’s governor, in a speech at a groundbreaking ceremony for the project in 2015.
“It became imperative that we reconstruct a new means of production,” of which the superhighway would be a critical component, Ayade said.

23 February 2017

[Indonesia] With ambitious pledge, Papua becomes conservation leader
ALERT press release, 23 February 2017
An Indonesian Province the size of Norway has just publicly committed to protect at least 83 percent of its land area as undisturbed natural habitat—a goal that immediately marks it as a world leader in environmental conservation.
The Province of Papua, which comprises four-tenths of the South Pacific island of New Guinea, announced its commitment at the end of meetings this week in Jayapura, the Provincial capital.
The commitment was made by Assistant Governor Elia Loupatty, accompanied by the heads or representatives of 13 provincial agencies in Papua.
“This is a remarkable milestone—one that should echo around the world,” said Judith Dipodiputro, coordinator of Project Papua, an initiative of Indonesian President Joko Widodo that is promoting sustainable development in the region.
The initiative is receiving technical support from Project Papua, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia, and James Cook University in Australia.

24 February 2017

Bid to reduce Amazon reserves corresponds with mining proposals – WWF
By Nadia Pontes, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 24 February 2017
A bill to reduce the size of four Amazon conservation reserves in Brazil and eliminate another may be related to proposals by mining industries to begin work in those areas, investigators from a conservation organisation say.
“We noticed that the majority of those exploitation requests are within the limits of the conservation units that the new bill wants to cut,” said Mariana Ferreira, the science coordinator for WWF-Brazil, a non-governmental environmental protection organisation.
The national bill, proposed by legislators from Amazonas state, aims to eliminate the Campos de Manicore Environmental Protection Area and reduce the size of Acari National Park, the Manicore Biological Reserve and the Urupadi and Aripuana national forests.

More than 25,000 elephants were killed in a Gabon national park in one decade
By Mike Gaworecki, mongabay.com, 24 February 2017
New research suggests that more than 25,000 forest elephants were killed for their ivory in Gabon’s Minkébé National Park, one of the largest and most important wildlife preserves in Central Africa, between 2004 and 2014.
That’s a decline of somewhere between 78 and 81 percent in the park’s forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) population over the span of just one decade, and it was largely driven by poachers who crossed the border into Gabon from its neighbor to the north, Cameroon, according to a new study led by researchers with Duke University and published in the journal Current Biology this week.

[India] Mining group justifies Kappatagudda studies
By Niranjan Kaggere, Bangalore Mirror, 24 February 2017
The state government is in a fix whether to declare Kappatagudda in Gadag district as a conservation reserve or allow mining in the area. While allegations have been levelled against Baldota Group for exerting pressure on the government over continuing mining in the reserve area, not much has been heard from the group which is at the centre of the raging controversy.
Now breaking their silence over the issue, Ramgad Minerals and Mining Limited (RMML), the flagship company of the Baldota Group, has come out in public with their side of the story.
Clarifying that mining in Kappatagudda dates back to early 2001, RMML said that it obtained mining lease in 2008, and most of its gold exploration areas are at the periphery of the reserve forest and hardly account for 5 per cent of the total reserve forest area.

Indonesia raises US$23 million to conserve Bird’s Head Seascape
By Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta Post, 24 February 2017
Indonesia’s bid to protect its marine areas has gained support in the form of a US$23 million investment in the Blue Abadi Fund, which is on track to be the world’s largest marine conservation trust, designed to conserve the country’s Bird’s Head Seascape.
The support was announced by Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund and the Indonesian government at the World Ocean Summit in Bali on Friday.
The Bird’s Head Seascape is the global epicenter of marine biodiversity, encompassing more than 225,000 square kilometers in West Papua, Indonesia, and home to more than 70 species of reef fishes, corals and crustaceans found nowhere else on the planet.

25 February 2017

[Bhutan] Bold moves to protect the environment
Kuensel, 25 February 2017
The launch of the much awaited National Forest Inventory 2015 report laid to rest a lot of apprehension. The last such survey to determine the state of the environment or the forests was carried out decades ago. Given the spate of development involving large-scale infrastructure building mainly roads, many feared that the forests were shrinking.
Thanks to the reforestation and afforestation efforts of the forestry department and the local communities in which schools play a major part in planting trees, forest cover has remained at 71 percent.
The first ever status report on Bhutan’s 10 wildlife parks and the Royal Botanical Park in Lamperi revealed that they were managed well but could do better. The first report on the status and effectiveness of protected areas in the country was the outcome of the Bhutan Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT+) tried in the past two years.

26 February 2017

[India] Kaziranga National Park: Where Hunters Become Hunted
By Lena Tachdjian, clearveg.com, 26 February 2017
In a recent feature in BBC, guards at Kaziranga National Park in India, which is home to rhinoceroses, elephants, buffalo and tigers, were asked what they are told to do if they encounter any poachers in the park. Avdesh, a guard of four years, responded:
“The instruction is whenever you see the poachers or hunters, we should start our guns and hunt them. Fully ordered to shoot them. Whenever you see poachers or any people during night-time we are ordered to shoot them.”
The approach is of course controversial as the government has given rangers extraordinary power and protection “normally only conferred on armed forces policing civil unrest,” but the park is also considered to be “an incredible story of conservation success.”

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