Conservation in the news: 6-12 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.

6 March 2017

Can elephants and humans live together?
By Tarsh Thekaekara, The Guardian, 6 March 2017
While I was working on this article, two people were killed by wild elephants near my home in south India. Mary Leena, a middle-aged woman, was rushing to church for an early morning service. At an intersection, she came face to face with a huge male elephant as it turned the corner. Both panicked; the elephant swung his trunk out, and she was thrown into a wall. She was rushed to the hospital, but died on the way.
Three weeks later, a lorry driver on a national highway heard someone calling for help. He found an old lady in the tea bushes, badly injured. She was walking along the road, encountered wild elephants, and was thrown into the bushes. She too died shortly after.
This is the dark side of the otherwise wonderful world of wild elephants. One of the world’s most charismatic mammals can also be one of the most dangerous. And humans are finding it harder and harder to keep out of its way.

Human actions could lead to ‘sixth mass extinction’ of wildlife – UCT professor
Times Live, 6 March 2017
With 17 animals classified as critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund and another 28 classified as in danger of becoming extinct in the wild‚ humans urgently need to consider the impact of their actions on our planet’s ecosystems‚ says University of Cape Town palaeobiologist Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan.
Throughout Earth’s history there have been five major mass extinction events‚ and many biologists believe that we could experience a “sixth mass extinction event” in our lifetime‚ says Chinsamy-Turan.
“Because of human activities‚ it is likely that iconic animals such as the Sumatran tiger‚ mountain gorilla and the giant panda‚ and plants such as cycads‚ as well as other types of organisms‚ could become extinct in the wild in the near future.”

[Kenya] Poachers kill one of Africa’s last remaining ‘big tusker’ elephants
AFP, 6 March 2017
One of Africa’s oldest and largest elephants has been killed by poachers in Kenya, according to a conservation group that protects a dwindling group of “big tuskers” estimated to be as few as 25.
Richard Moller of the Tsavo Trust said Satao II, about 50 years old, was found dead on Monday and was believed to have been shot with a poisoned arrow. Two poachers believed to be responsible for the killing were apprehended not long after his carcass was spotted in routine aerial reconnaissance of the Tsavo national park.
“Luckily, through the work we do with the Kenyan Wildlife Service, we were able to find the carcass before the poachers could recover the ivory,” said Moller.

[Indonesia] New Google Doodle Celebrates 37 Years of Komodo Dragon Conservation
By Joseph Hincks, Time, 6 March 2017
How often should a dragon visit the dentist? Not so often, apparently — like sharks, Komodo dragons’ teeth are replaceable.
This is one of the trifecta of bonus facts on Komodo dragons conveyed by Google Doodle on Monday in celebration of Komodo National Park’s 37th anniversary. Google’s interactive doodle also features a true-or-false quiz with five questions on dragons.Famed for being home to some 5,700 Komodo dragons, Indonesia’s Komodo National Park consists mainly of three volcanic islands. Besides its population of eponymous reptiles — which Google also informs us have flexible skulls, and are related to snakes — the national park is home to 72 bird species including the yellow-crested cockatoo and the Timor deer: a favorite snack of the dragon. Its waters also teem with sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and thousands of fish species.

[Nigeria] The degradation of our national parks: A national disaster
Business Day, 6 March 2017
The Nigeria National Park Service has failed woefully as the custodian of our national heritage located in the seven National Parks in the country. Even the managers of this failed institution must agree that they have betrayed the trust and confidence reposed in them by the various governments and people of Nigeria. It was in view of this that a national daily recently dedicated a two-part editorial to this moribund institution. Something has to be done.
Many people reading this piece would be wondering which National Parks are being referred to. And there lies the problem. How could a Federal Government agency have existed as a legal entity with statutory functions for almost twenty-six years and yet not up to five percent of Nigerians know anything about them? Even the National Park Service Headquarters in Abuja is hideous. This is an institution that is a product of the wave of environmentalism that swept across the country in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nigerians had been jolted from environmental improvidence in 1988 with the discovery of tons of well-packed toxic waste in the port town of Koko in the present Delta State. The real and imagined consequences were not such that could have been overlooked. While non-governmental organizations began to add their voices to the need for a deepened environmental consciousness, communities in the Niger Delta became incrementally aware of the depth of environmental degradation occasioned by oil exploration and exploitation.

Tanzania starts re-mapping and demarcating national parks
Xinhua, 6 March 2017
Tanzania has started re-mapping and demarcating all key national parks, game and forest reserves with the planting of new beacons around the borderlines of the sanctuaries, a senior official said Sunday.
The move is meant to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, taking into accounts that some people have been encroaching into the protected areas for pastures, poaching and illegal logging.
“We are executing the directives from Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa who ordered that boundaries surrounding all national parks, game and forest reserves to be clearly identified and beaconed so as to avert future land conflicts and solve the existing territorial strife between conservationists and villages surrounding protected areas,” said Paschal Shelutete, Public Relations Manager for Tanzania National Parks.
He said the exercise would soon go national to cover 14 out of the 16 national parks, with the only exception being the Rubondo and Saa-Nane Islands’ National Parks.

7 March 2017

The last elephants of Cambodia’s Virachey National Park
By Gregory McCann, Mongabay, 7 March 2017
It was getting late in the day and we were searching for our favorite swimming hole and camp site, a place called D’dar Poom Chop (which translates roughly from the ethnic Brao language into something like “Broken Pineapple Rock Waterfall”) in Cambodia’s Virachey National Park.
In fact, we didn’t intend to set up camp there, as it’s not directly on the old Brao path we needed to take in order to reach the Lao border — a path that was used in times past to evade paying taxes, escape forced labor for the French, and flee the Khmer Rouge. That same path became a main artery of the Ho Chih Minh Trail used by the Viet Cong, and then during the Vietnamese occupation period trucks and elephants used the trail to haul out valuable timber and rattan. Today it is used mainly by poachers, loggers, and a ragged conservation team consisting of myself, Virachey Park staff, and Brao porters. We were on our way to retrieve footage from our camera traps in the park, and were hoping to take a quick swim en route.

[Indonesia] Illegal Wildlife Trade Perpetrators Can be Prosecuted with Money Laundering
Netral News, 7 March 2017
Noor Rochmad, Deputy Attorney General for General Crimes, assesses that protected wildlife traffickers could be charged with acts of money laundering.
“The criminal act in the protected wildlife sector is not only a violation of conservation of natural resources, but also in field of economics, namely from money laundering,” Noor Rochmad said during the signing of MoU to increase the capacity of the public prosecutor in relation to protected wildlife crime along with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Indonesia.
According to Noor, illegal wildlife trade perpetrators can be charged with money laundering if there is a flow of funds placed in banks.

8 March 2017

Livelihoods for Conservation: Some Questions
By Nimesh Ved, The Citizen, 8 March 2017
The initial session brought out the need for data collection from and patrolling in the landscape. As the participants (stakeholders to sustainable action in the landscape) opened up, significant proportion of the discussions focused on livelihoods.
This was in course of a workshop organized to help put in place a long-term plan for wildlife conservation in the landscape; a conservation priority area located in the seven sisters region. The workshop provided the much needed platform for stakeholders (from diverse social, economical and professional backgrounds) to not only put forth their views but also engage on the topic with others.
As the deliberations began one was left wondering why all livelihood enhancing activities were taken to be of help to conservation; in other words as strengthening conservation. Livelihoods in a conservation priority landscape – to put mildly – warrant a nuanced approach.

In Dark Forests with a Dark Outlook: the African Forest Elephant
By Bee Elle, Medium, 8 March 2017
There is no doubt that the world understands the situation of the ivory trade and the injustice that courses through its veins. Like an antiquated phenomenon, poaching, and the selfish demand that fuels it, continues to run rampant in today’s modern age. With the widely reported rate of 1 elephant being killed every 15 minutes, it’s easy to calculate that the planet may well lose all of its African elephants within the next 10–20 years.
With millions of dollars of investment going into elephant conservation efforts year on year, one would wonder whether this has left a large enough dent in the quest to save this iconic species.

A Trip Through Ecuador’s Cofán Community — and Its Disappearing Homeland
By Michael Cepek, Pacific Standard, 8 March 2017
Just south of the Colombian border in eastern Ecuador, amid towering forests and the pulsing Aguarico River, lies the indigenous Cofán community of Dureno. When the Spanish conquerors landed in western South America in the first half of the 16th century, there were as many as 30,000 Cofán people living in the region. In 2014, Ecuador’s Cofán population was estimated to be around 1,400; there is also a small population living across the border in Colombia. The Cofán have suffered the same traumas as many Native Americans: invasion, enslavement, missionization, and epidemic disease.

Indonesia Sees Increase in Illegal Wildlife Trade
By Untung Widyanto, Tempo, 8 March 2017
Indonesia has seen an increase in illegal wildlife trade. Wildlife Conservation Society – Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) noted that volume of illegal wildlife trade has quadrupled since 2010 with a value of Rp13 trillion per year.
It was the minimum assumed value of illegal wildlife trade revealed by the group. “If illegal trade continues in the future in the same volume or even bigger than what has already been found, Indonesia’s biological diversity will be under threat,” Program Manager of Wildlife Trade, Wildlife Conservation Society – Indonesia Program, Dwi Nugroho Adhiasto told a press conference on World Wildlife Day 2017 in Jakarta.

9 March 2017

[China] First national park receiving strong legal and financial support
Ecns.cn, 9 March 2017
China’s first national park will develop rapidly this year, with stronger legal and financial support from Qinghai province, the top provincial official said on Wednesday.
The plan for Sanjiangyuan National Park will set specific targets for environmental protection, Wang Guosheng, Party chief of Qinghai province, said on Wednesday at a group discussion of the ongoing session of the national legislature.

Indonesia eases development of geothermal in conservation areas
By Alexander Richter, Think Geoenergy, 9 March 2017
Today, the Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forests (KLHK) has given a “green light” to uses of geothermal energy or geothermal for new renewable energy (EBT) in conservation area in “order to support energy security and sovereignty of energy and to help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases ( GRK).”, as reported by Antara News.
“The land needed for geothermal in conservation areas is not as big as in other potential uses and the overall potential fo geothermal is quite substantial.”, said Director of Environmental Services Utilization of Forest Conservation (PJLHK) Is KLHK Mugiono.

[Indonesia] Habitats of Sumatran animals continue to decline
ANTARA News, 9 March 2017
The habitats of Sumatran animals, including elephants, tigers, and orangutans, continue to decline due to illegal plantation activities inside the Leuser Ecosystem Zone, according to the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), an international environmental group.
“Some recalcitrant companies are presumed to be illegally destroying the Leuser forest, and as a result, the important habitats of these wild animals are now in danger,” Gemma Tillack, agribusiness campaign director of RAN, noted in her written statement received by Antara on Thursday.
The Leuser ecosystem, comprising intact tropical lowland rainforests, draped mountains, and steamy peatlands, has the most diverse and ancient wildlife ever documented in science, the environmental group stated on its official website.

10 March 2017

New bill aims to cut protection of 1M hectares of Brazilian rainforest
By Benji Jones, Mongabay, 10 March 2017
A proposal under review by the Brazilian government aims to shrink four protected areas in the Amazon and eliminate another area entirely, Greenpeace says. If approved, the bid would put more than a million hectares of rainforest at risk to deforestation.
“Removing protection from these areas will lead to more deforestation,” Cristiane Mazzetti, a campaigner with Greenpeace Brazil, told Mongabay. “This moves us in the opposite direction of where we need to go now that deforestation rates are once again out of control.”
Indeed, 2016 marked the highest rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon since 2008, contrasting the country’s much-heralded efforts to curtail forest loss just a few years back.

In Big Win For Big Cats, China Approves National Park Larger Than Yellowstone
By Dominique Mosbergen, Huffington Post, 10 March 2017
In yet another example of a “green revolution” in the country, Chinese officials have approved plans to establish a sprawling national park in the northeastern corner of the country. It will be a sanctuary for two cats endemic to the area that have dangled dangerously close to extinction: the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger.
The park in the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang will be part of China’s brand-new national park system and will span 5,600 square miles — an area 60 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park. A comprehensive plan and pilot for the park is expected to be rolled out before 2020.
Environmentalists are celebrating the news.

[Jamaica] Project to safeguard protected areas hailed
Jamaica Observer, 10 March 2017
A project to strengthen the operational and financial sustainability of Jamaica’s national system of protected areas is being hailed as a success after six years of implementation.
Administered by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), in collaboration with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), the Forestry Department and the Fisheries Division, the project, which started in 2010, aims to safeguard Jamaica’s globally significant biodiversity through the consolidation of the management of the national protected areas system (NPAS).

[Philippines] DENR, USAID launch anti-poaching project in Palawan
ABS CBN, 10 March 2017
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and a US-funded aid organization has launched a project that aims to protect areas in Palawan, Zamboanga City, and Tawi-Tawi from harmful illegal wildlife activities.
The DENR partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is for Protect Wildlife Project, which will be pilot-tested in the 3 provinces.
According to Fernando Tactay, provincial environment and natural resources officer in Palawan, the project aims to reduce illegal activities such as poaching and wildlife trade.
This year, the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in southern Palawan has been the focus of the project.

11 March 2017

Heart of Africa Expedition Resumes
By J. Michael Fay, National Geographic, 11 March 2017
We are in position, camping on the Chinko river, after all-day drive today. Heading north on Chinko tomorrow.
We traveled 10 km map distance today. The team is tired … [we are carrying] 60-lb packs. We need lots of food for six weeks. As days go on, we will walk further.
We saw one herd of cattle today, no people. The only wildlife we saw was a few warthogs, bush pigs and black and white colobus monkeys. These are all species Muslims don’t eat, so these are the only species found here now.

12 March 2017

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