Conservation in the news: 27 February – 5 March 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.

Wildlife Rangers Put Their Lives on the Line Every Day to Protect Animals From Extinction – Say Thanks!
One Green Planet, March 2017
Almost every day we ask you to speak up for the voiceless by signing petitions. From asking you to sign a petition to save the 160 Florida panthers who are currently facing extinction, to urging Congress to stop messing with the recovery of wild wolf populations, you have stepped up to the plate. But we know how heartbreaking it is to have to read these sad stories. So today we have an uplifting petition to share with you. Daily, men and woman rangers bravely risk their lives to save elephants, tigers, and other species. Right now, their work is more important than ever and by signing this quick petition, you can show them how much you care.

27 February 2017

Scientists sound the alarm on impending ‘major extinction event’
By Natasha Geiling, Think Progress, 27 February 2017
In June of 2016, a group of scientists reported that a tiny rodent found only on a single island off the coast of Australia had officially gone extinct — the first mammalian causality, according to the scientists, of man-made climate change.
The tiny mammals might have been the first to go extinct due to man-made climate change, but it’s unlikely they’ll be the last. One in five species now faces extinction, and that trend could climb to as high as one in two by the end of the century, according to biologists attending a meeting this week at the Vatican aimed at discussing ways to stave off a major extinction event.
“Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate,” biologist Paul Ehrlich, who is attending this week’s meeting, told the Guardian. “We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones. We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have triggered a major extinction event. The question is: how do we stop it?”

Bringing extinct species back from the dead could hurt—not help—conservation efforts
By David Schultz, Science, 27 February 2017
Ten days ago, science news media outlets around the world reported that a Harvard University–led team was on the verge of resurrecting the wooly mammoth. Although many articles oversold the findings, the concept of de-extinction—bringing extinct animals back to life through genetic engineering—is beginning to move from the realm of science fiction to reality. Now, a new analysis of the economics suggests that our limited conservation funding would be better spent elsewhere.
“The conversation thus far has been focused on whether or not we can do this. Now, we are progressing toward the: ‘Holy crap, we can—so should we?’ phase,” says Douglas McCauley, an ecologist at University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the study. “It is like we’ve just about put the last stiches in [Frankenstein’s monster], and there is this moment of pause as we consider whether it is actually a good idea to flip the switch and electrify the thing to life.”

Can LatAm cloud forests boost hydropower?
AAP, 27 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.
“With climate change increasing, it’s all the more important to try to see how there might be a win-win situation here… to have (forest) restoration and improved energy security,” said Angela Falconer, senior analyst at the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), which oversees the lab.

5 endangered species that captured people’s hearts
By Maria Galucci, Mashable, 27 February 2017
Polar bears have become the poster child for all the horrible things we’re doing to the planet. But they’re also a symbol of hope.
Wildlife groups are fighting to save the Arctic-dwelling species as their habitat steadily melts and toxic chemicals pile up on the ice.
On Monday, conservationists will celebrate International Polar Bear Day to highlight the small but important steps people can take to help preserve the bears’ homes — namely by cutting greenhouse gas emissions to slow the pace of global warming.

[Indonesia] Papua’s Bird of Paradise under threat, says WWF
Radio New Zealand, 27 February 2017
Environmental group World Wildlife Fund is warning that the Bird of Paradise is at threat, particularly in Indonesia’s Papua province.
The group says the bird is considered sacred by Papuan tribes but it is increasingly becoming the target of illegal trading, taxidermy and poaching.
It is advocating an eco-tourism approach, including bird watching, to help conserve the bird’s population and provide value ot local communities.

1,000+ Rhinos Poached in South Africa for Fourth Straight Year
WWF, EcoWatch, 27 February 2017
South African rhino poaching numbers for the last year show a decline for the second consecutive year due to concerted conservation efforts. However, there is still a long road ahead as Africa continues to lose an average of three rhinos a day to the ongoing poaching crisis.
In 2016 alone, 1,054 rhinos were reported killed in South Africa. This is a slight decline from 1,175 in 2015 and 1,215 in 2014. The 2016 figures represent a loss in rhinos of approximately 6 percent in South Africa, which is close to the birth rate, meaning the population remains perilously close to the tipping point.

28 February 2017

BBC BANNED from India’s tiger reserves after “shoot on sight” investigation
Survival International, 28 February 2017
The Indian government has reportedly banned the BBC from filming in any tiger reserve nationwide for five years, after its South Asia correspondent investigated “shoot on sight” conservation in the country.
Justin Rowlatt investigated the impact of deadly conservation tactics on tribal communities living around Kaziranga National Park for a report which aired in February 2017. The report documented instances of beatings, torture and death in the national park, where 106 people are estimated to have been killed without trial in the last 20 years, including a severely disabled tribal man.
Rowlatt has also been threatened with having his visa revoked by India’s conservation authorities.

[India] Three tiger cubs spotted in Rajasthan’s Ranthambore national park
Hindustan Times, 28 February 2017
Three tiger cubs have been spotted in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur district, a Forest Department official said on Tuesday.
“These tiger cubs were spotted by a visitor in Kundal area of the park. These cubs are visible in a video. We are keeping a close watch in the area and have also increased security in and around the area,” the official told IANS.
The tiger cubs seems to be of T-8 tigress, the official added.

1 March 2017

New Products Attract Investors to the Conservation Finance Marketplace
By David Bank, Impact Alpha, 1 March 2017
We’re still waiting for the sharp inflection point in conservation financing. That’s when the scale of deals could go from less than $2 billion a year now to the $300 billion to $400 billion experts say is needed to conserve the earth’s large landscapes, ecosystem services and precious biodiversity.
The annual Conservation Finance conference, convening tomorrow at Credit Suisse’s New York offices, is a good place to track the development of the marketplace. For four years, the conference has brought together conservation practitioners with bankers and other financiers looking for investable opportunities in wildlife habitats, wetlands, water, forestry and sustainable agriculture. (Materials from past conferences can be found here.)

With Africa’s Wilds Facing Growing Threats, A Billionaire Steps Up
By Tate Williams, Inside Philanthropy, 1 March 2017
One thing Hansjörg Wyss likes to spend his billions on is protecting land, and he thinks big. So while Wyss has been diversifying his philanthropy in the past few years, the Swiss medical device billionaire’s latest big conservation gift isn’t too surprising.
It is a little different, however, in that this latest give is backing protected areas in Africa at a higher level than in the past. It’s a very large sum, even for a philanthropist known for making grants in the seven figures and more. His Wyss Foundation just committed $65 million to African Parks, a conservation NGO, which is a major increase over previous giving toward this arena. It could allow the group to substantially expand the number of reserves it protects.

Conservation of Indonesian river and forest habitats in order to protect wildlife, 1 March 2017
A new project led by a researcher from the University of Leicester is supporting the conservation of river and forest habitats in Indonesia – which are vital to the survival of a number of rare species of animal including orangutans and native fish.
Sara Thornton, a PhD student from the University of Leicester Department of Geography, has been investigating tropical peat-swamp forests (TPSF) in Sabangau in Indonesia – tropical forests where waterlogged soils hinder the decomposition of organic materials such as fallen leaves and even whole trees.
TPSFs are important habitats for freshwater fish species, which are an important source of livelihood and protein for many of the communities living by the rivers and forests of Borneo.
TPSFs are also vital to our global climate balance, storing significant amounts of carbon in their soils.

Steps to improve data on Samoa’s Protected Areas
Samoa Observer, 1 March 2017
Samoa has been at the forefront of efforts to protect its unique biodiversity and ecosystems. It is home to O le Pupu Pu’e National Park, established in 1978, the first national park declared in the South Pacific.
A national workshop for protected area stakeholder’s, co-organised and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) and the Samoa Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) was completed for Samoa this month to help initiate measures to improve data and information on Samoa’s protected areas.
“This workshop is an important opportunity to share the available data and information on our protected areas and to reaffirm the need to pull together this key data and information into a more coherent structure” said Acting Chief Executive Officer of the M.N.R.E., Tauti Fuatino Leota.

Sierra Leone News: Between Investment And Exploitation
By Ben Cambayma, Awoko, 1 March 2017
If I tell you that we live in a very strange country, you might start asking where I come from. But do I really care? After all we are told that only the Limbas and Lokos are the original inhabitants of this land. The rest came from God knows where. We are so unique that Donald Trump mentioned us by name when he was mapping out his protectionist policies during his campaign to the White House. He said a country like Sierra Leone has no business begging for money from the west because we have so many riches but is mismanaged by our leaders. Hmmm Trump nor try oh!

2 March 2017

What the geckos are telling us: new species point to conservation needs
By Maxine Chen,, 2 March 2017
Within the seemingly boundless Mysore Plateau of southern India, the newly-discovered Bangalore geckoella (Cyrtodactylus srilekhae) and Rishi Valley geckoella (Cyrtodactylus rishivalleyensis) pace – centred, unhurried, and only prone to flurries of action when strictly needed.
These two nocturnal, ground-dwelling geckos, described in Zootaxa by Dr. Ishan Agarwal, are members of the Cyrtodactylus collegalensis complex – a group of five species that inhabit seasonal forests across southern and western India. Members of this group are small, rarely measuring more than 60 millimetres (about two and a half inches) from snout to vent, and have smooth scales down their backs. The two new species, however, are unique in colour pattern, mitochondrial DNA and morphometric ratios (the ratios of one body measurement to another).

Conservation efforts must include small animals. After all, they run the world
By Michael Samways, The Conversation, 2 March 2017
Humans like to think that they rule the planet and are hard wired to do so. But our stewardship has been anything but successful. The last major extinction event, 66 million years ago, was caused by a meteorite. But the next mass extinction event, which is under way right now, is our fault.
Geologists have even given this era in the history of the Earth a new name to reflect our role: the Anthropocene, the age of humans.
It’s the first time in the history of the Earth in which one species dominates all the others. These “others” numbers are probably around 10 million. The vast majority are the invertebrates, the animals without backbones. Not all are so small – some squids and jellyfish are several metres long or across.

UO scientist infuses conservation biology with ancient perspective
University of Oregon, 2 March 2017
Fossils have plenty of stories to tell about the deep past, providing a picture of life on Earth thousands, millions and even billions of years ago. Edward Davis of the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History will tell you that fossils are key to understanding the future — particularly for managing wildlands.
Davis, along with Stanford University’s Anthony Barnosky and an international team of researchers, suggested in a review paper published in the Feb. 10 issue of the journal Science that effective conservation strategies must look to the fossil record to maintain vibrant ecosystems in the present and future. The more scientists consider past changes, the authors argued, the better they can forecast how species will respond to coming changes and how people can foster their survival.

[India] World Wildlife Day: Survival launches boycott of notorious ‘shoot on sight’ National Park
Survival International, 2 March 2017
Survival International has launched a boycott of Kaziranga National Park in India – notorious for its “shoot on sight” conservation tactics – beginning this World Wildlife Day (March 3). The boycott will last until the park stops shooting people on sight.
Survival has written to 131 tour companies in 10 countries urging them to join the boycott. Two French operators – Hote Antic Travel and Evaneos – have already signed up.
Survival ambassadors actress Gillian Anderson, illustrator Sir Quentin Blake CBE and Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance have joined the boycott, as well as musician and photographer Julian Lennon, and actor Dominic West.

3 March 2017

To Conserve or Exploit: the Choice is Ours
By James Watson, WCS, 3 March 2017
The environmental footprint of humanity is truly massive, covering some 80 percent of Earth. Indeed, over our planet’s 4.5 billion year history — at least two-thirds of which has sustained life — no other species has ever come close to us when it comes to consuming the world’s energy, resources, and land area.
That’s a scary thought, especially as we contemplate the environmental consequences of having up to 12 billion people on Earth by the end of this century.

World Wildlife Day: Conserving Our Natural Heritage for Future Generations
By Cristián Samper, WCS, 3 March 2017
Today is World Wildlife Day, a day to celebrate life of Earth. This United Nations-sponsored day of recognition provides an opportunity to take stock of recent successes in protecting wildlife across the globe and the challenges and opportunities we face moving forward.
This year the theme is “Listen to the Young Voices.” That entreaty is a reflection of the growing engagement of young people addressing the critical issues around the use and misuse of natural resources, but also an acknowledgement that every generation has an obligation to leave behind a better world than the one they inherited.

World Wildlife Day 2017 – here are 8 of the planet’s most endangered species, and how you can help them
By Natalie Keegan, The Sun, 3 March 2017
Many of our planet’s animals are becoming more endangered by the day.
World Wildlife Day aims to raise awareness for some of the world’s most vulnerable species – but when is it and what can you do to help?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is World Wildlife Day and when is it?
World Wildlife Day encourages people around the world to rally together to address on-going major threats to wildlife – including habitat change, over-exploitation or illegal trafficking.
The event takes place every year on March 3.

Can a new study on trees change the conversation about Amazon conservation?
By Ellen Powell, Christian Science Monitor, 3 March 2017
The Amazon has long been seen as a pristine wilderness. But indigenous peoples have lived in the verdant forest for millennia, and their actions profoundly influenced biodiversity in the region, a new study finds.
In research published Friday in the journal Science, the study’s authors explain that the most abundant trees today seem to be the ones that were cultivated by the people who lived in the area before Europeans arrived around five centuries ago. Building on their 2013 research, which identified “hyperdominant” species in the Amazon basin and neighboring Guiana shield, they took known archaeological sites and overlaid them with a map showing the locations and densities of domesticated species. The closer the researchers got to a site where people had previously settled, the more abundant the domesticated species were.

Postcard from Cambodia: Good news in the fight for the forest
By Chris Hufstader, Oxfam America, 3 March 2017
Over the last seven years I’ve made periodic trips to Cambodia to document Oxfam’s work to help people to defend their land rights, particularly in areas of the northern-most province, Ratanakiri. Many of the stories are rather sad: People describe outsiders, working with highly placed people in the capital, showing up with little warning and knocking down thousands of acres of forest. It’s usually considered a violation of international laws requiring permission of local people, as well as a violation of Cambodian land laws.
But there are some hopeful stories too: Indigenous groups and others are fighting back, filing for communal land rights to protect their forest and agricultural lands, and even bringing in the World Bank to hold loan recipients responsible for violating the rights of local people.
On my last trip I found another positive story: A community that witnessed huge areas of forest suddenly taken from them worked with the Ministry of the Environment, and protected an important remaining forest area for the future. The call it the O’Koki Community Protected Area.

Lens on Lao Species: World Wildlife Day 2017
By George Stirrett, World Bank, 3 March 2017
Lao PDR’s forests are home to incredible and diverse flora and fauna. One of the areas with a high concentration of biodiversity and endangered native species is the Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area in Luang Prabang, which borders Houaphan and Xieng Khuang provinces.
Located in the northern area of the country, it is the second largest protected area in Lao PDR, and co-managed by the provincial offices of forest resources conservation and local communities.
Since 2013, the World Bank has supported this area with an $800,000 grant under the Nam Et Phou Louey Tiger Landscape Conservation project. Together with the Wildlife Conservation Society, our implementing partner, the project promotes the use of sustainable natural resources and the protection of species threatened by human interaction.

In Paraguay’s Chaco, Learning to Live with Jaguars
By Maria del Carmen Fleytas, WCS, 3 March 2017
On this World Wildlife Day, I am thinking about a particularly spectacular animal in my part of the world, the jaguar. Although we have accomplished much for the conservation of this magnificent cat over the past decade, it continues to face decline. Today is a day to remind ourselves to appreciate wild species and the urgent need to take action.
The jaguar is the world’s third largest big cat (after lions and tigers) and the most powerful in the Americas. Ranging from the southwestern United States to northern Argentina, the jaguar is one of the most widely distributed big cat species in the world. I am proud to work on this living treasure — to protect it and inspire other people to care.

International Conservation Must Remain an Important Consideration of U.S. Foreign Policy
By John Calvelli, WCS, 3 March 2017
First celebrated in 2014, World Wildlife Day is an annual opportunity to shine a spotlight on the amazing creatures inhabiting our world, as well as the threats that are making the world increasingly less hospitable for them.
Wildlife trafficking continues to be a major driver of species loss. Around the globe, wildlife is being bought and sold on an increasingly massive scale.
The U.S. government has been an important partner in the fight to stop wildlife trafficking. Critical conservation programs are funded through the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Biodiversity Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Global Environment Facility.

4 March 2017

UN Ambassador: China is committed to saving wildlife
By Amy He, China Daily, 4 March 2017
China attaches great importance to protecting wildlife and is committed to advancing the country’s wildlife preservation goals, said China’s ambassador to the UN in observance of World Wildlife Day.
“Wild fauna and flora — an integral part of the ecosystem — plays a huge role in ecology, genetics, social and economic development, science, and education, and has a direct bearing on the continuity of human civilizations and future development,” said Liu Jieyi at the UN on Friday.
China announced late last year that it will stop commercial processing and sale of ivory tusks and manufactured goods made from ivory by the end of 2017, a move hailed by conservationists.

[Pakistan] Importance of wildlife conservation, protection highlighted
The International News, 4 March 2017
Ministry of Climate Change observed International Wildlife Day in collaboration with United Nations (UN) on Friday to highlight importance of wildlife conservation and protection.
World Wildlife Day was observed on Friday across the world including Pakistan with its theme ‘Listen to the young voices’.
Addressing the ceremony Ministry of Climate Change Secretary Syed Abu Ahmad Akif said this is the time to recognise importance of wildlife and relation with wildlife.
He said wildlife plays a significant role in maintaining the ecological equilibrium of nature.

5 March 2017

[India] No conservation effort will be successful without women: Former NEHU V-C
The Shillong Times, 5 March 2017
No conservation effort would be successful without involving women, believes Pramod Tandon, the CEO of Biotech Park, Lucknow, batting for scaling up of initiatives that link women’s empowerment and conservation efforts, particularly in Northeast India.
“Women are more focused and when they are given task related to conservation, they put all their efforts into it. In Northeast India, because of the matriarchal system, it is very important,” Tandon told IANS here ahead of International’s Women’s Day.
The former Vice Chancellor of North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, was attending the national symposium on “Plant Biotechnology: Current Perspectives on Medicinal and Crop Plants” & 38th Annual Meeting of Plant Tissue Culture Association (India) at CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.

[India] Where conservation policies are under a cloud
By Shiv Sahay Singh, The Hindu, 5 March 2017
Often in the news for poaching or annual floods in the Brahmaputra which creates havoc in Kaziranga, the reserve has been caught in a controversy over a documentary made by the BBC.
Located about 200 km to the north-east of Guwahati, in the heart of Assam, lies the Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site that’s spread over 430 sq km and is home to two-thirds of the entire Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) population. The Indian rhinoceros, or greater one-horned rhino, is categorised as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its 2008 red list. This is an improvement from its status in 1986, when it was considered ‘endangered.’

African Parks gets $65M for conservation in Rwanda and Malawi, 5 March 2017
African Parks, a South Africa-based organization that manages six million hectares across ten protected areas in seven African nations, will receive $65 million from the Wyss Foundation to bolster conservation efforts in Rwanda, Malawi, and beyond.
According to statement released by Wyss, the funds will go toward African Parks’ management of Liwonde National Park, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi; Akagera National Park in Rwanda; and five still-to-be-identified protected areas in other countries.
“The Wyss Foundation is partnering with African Parks to safeguard more large wild landscapes in Africa from poaching and destruction,” said Hansjörg Wyss, Founder and Chairman of The Wyss Foundation, said in a press release. “African Parks has demonstrated success in cooperating with local leaders, communities and African nations in preserving ecosystems benefiting wildlife, while supporting local communities and populations. We are proud of our partnership with African Parks.”

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