Conservation in the news: 13-19 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.

13 March 2017

High Above, Drones Keep Watchful Eyes on Wildlife in Africa
By Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, 13 March 2017
Night has fallen at Liwonde National Park, but the trespassers are clearly visible. Three hundred feet in the air, a thermal camera attached to a BatHawk drone tracks their boat, a black sliver gliding up the luminous gray Shire River.
“They’re breaking the law by coming into the park,” said Antoinette Dudley, one of the drone’s operators, pointing to her computer screen.
More than two miles from the boat, she and her partner, Stephan De Necker, are seated in a Land Cruiser that serves as their command center. A monitor attached to the driver’s seat displays the drone’s vitals, and another behind the passenger’s seat streams live video from the camera, operated with an old PlayStation console.
“Let’s give them a scare,” said Mr. De Necker. With the tap of a few keys, he switches on the drone’s navigation lights and sends it beelining toward the boat.

Conservation award to honour slain philanthropist
By Alicja Siekierska, The Star, 13 March 2017
Glen Davis had just finished lunch with an official from World Wildlife Fund-Canada on May 18, 2007 and was heading back to his vehicle when he was shot twice by a man hired to kill.
Many know Davis as the multi-millionaire who was slain in a Toronto parking garage almost 10 years ago, a victim of a murderous plot hatched by his own godson.
But friends and family are hoping a new award named after the businessman-turned-philanthropist will bring more attention to his life in environmental activism, instead of his gruesome murder.
“People heard about Glen for the first time through those horrible events,” said Monte Hummel, the former head of WWF-Canada and a longtime, close friend of Davis.
“Ten years later, we thought it was time to start talking about the way Glen lived … He left a tremendous legacy and was really responsible for changing the map of the country.”
Davis was a passionate conservationist who loved spending time outdoors and donated millions to environmental causes before his murder.

14 March 2017

Argentina will have two new National Parks
BirdLife Internantional, 14 March 2017
At the stroke of a pen, the largest saltwater lake of South America, Mar Chiquita, and the nearby Estancia Pinas are now set to become National Parks.
Clouds of up to half a million phalaropes cover the sky, almost blocking the sun. The horizon then turns pink with over 100,000 Chilean flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis living and nesting there. The gold of the grasslands, protecting the enigmatic maned wolf Chrysocyon brachyurus, is so bright it makes your eyes squint. The water covers everything as far as the eye can see, but the sounds and colours of the birds stand in a festival for the senses capable of moving any human being: Mar Chiquita is a true “sea of ​​nature”.
This is the daily life at Mar Chiquita and the Dulce River, the largest salt lake in South America, a Wetland of International Importance according to the Ramsar convention and one of the five Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in danger of Argentina.

Berkeley conservation group seeks support for Chile project
By Tom Lochner, East Bay Times, 14 March 2017
Berkeley-based Seacology is a finalist in an international conservation grant competition, with a project to protect endangered marine resources in southern Chile in collaboration with an indigenous community.
The grant is offered by the European Outdoor Conservation Association, which is asking the public to vote indicating preference among its current lineup of project finalists. The other projects involve ecological and cultural preservation in Bangladesh; elephant monitoring and poaching prevention in Kenya; mangrove restoration in Indonesia; and peatland restoration in Scotland. The deadline to vote is noon Greenwich Mean Time, or 5 a.m. Pacific Daylight Saving Time, March 23.
Seacology describes itself as an international nonprofit that works to conserve island ecosystems.

[Indonesia] 2 orangutans confiscated, handed over to conservation agency in West Kalimantan
By Severianus Endi, Jakarta Post, 14 March 2017
Two orangutans were taken to a rehabilitation center in Ketapang, West Kalimantan, on Monday after residents handed them over to the province’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA).
The local residents obtained the two endangered species that they had kept as pets from illegal wildlife traders. They handed them over to the conservation agency voluntarily.

[Indonesia] Asia Pulp & Paper advances forest conservation initiatives, 14 March 2017
One of the biggest pulp, paper and packaging firms has taken strides to cease all natural forest clearances within its suppliers and operations and promote best practice working standards for peatland management in Indonesia.
Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has today (14 March) released a report outlining the progress it has made in its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), which has seen the business evolve from a villain in the eyes of green groups to a leading voice for the pulp and paper industry on deforestation.
FCP is now into its fourth year of a plan to transform how APP interacts with the surrounding environment. The report outlines that mapping and surveillance of Indonesian forests and peatlands was mostly completed in 2016, with new sourcing and management practices set to be introduced in the coming months.

[Namibia] Police exchange fire with poachers in Bwabwata
By John Muyamba, New Era, 14 March 2017
The exchange of fire between the anti-poaching unit of the Namibian Police Force and poachers in the Bwabwata National Park has become a regular occurrence, with four suspects killed in separate encounters of late.
Elephants in the park are primarily illegally hunted for their ivory. On March 5 an elephant was found dead with bullet wounds. However, poachers did not have enough time to remove the tusks due to the quick response by the anti-poaching unit that quickly swung into action after hearing gunshots in the area.
Last month an elephant was found dead in the same area but without its tusks.
According to Deputy Commissioner William Peter, who is a silver commander but acting as a gold commander of the current Elephant Tusk Operation in Bwabwata National Park, and Kavango East and Zambezi regions, police have since September last year had five encounters with poachers where gunfire was exchanged.

Tanzania demarcates national parks to avert human-wildlife clashes
By Kizito Makoye, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 14 March 2017
Tanzania has started to re-map and demarcate its national parks, game and forest reserves in an effort to curb conflicts between humans and wildlife that have been stoked by drought.
A scorching drought in many parts of East Africa has forced nomad pastoralists searching for water and fresh pastures for their cattle into protected wildlife areas, officials said.
Tanzania’s minister for tourism and natural resources, Jumanne Maghembe, said the exercise to redraw boundaries of protected sites would be led by the country’s National Parks Authority (TANAPA) to safeguard wildlife sanctuaries from illegal cattle grazing, logging and poaching.
“We would like to see borders of our national parks and protected areas clearly marked so that no one can trespass,” the minister told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Stern legal measures will be taken against anyone who would cross into protected areas.”

15 March 2017

‘Trophy’ film tackles African hunting and conservation
By Jon Herskovitz, Reuters, 15 March 2017
The new documentary “Trophy” opens in a sprawling corner of South Africa run by John Hume, who is praised by some as protecting the continent’s rhinos from extinction and vilified by others for trying to turn the animals into cash spinners.
“Trophy,” shown this week at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, examines how efforts to commercialize wild animals and encourage big-game hunting in Africa can generate funds for conservation, while also arousing criticism.
“We want the viewer to go through a roller coaster of being challenged and being confused,” filmmaker Shaul Schwarz said in an interview, adding there were no easy answers for protecting Africa’s big game.
“Trophy” looks at people like Hume, the world’s largest private rhino breeder, who has spent large sums to protect the animals from poachers seeking to kill them for their horns.

China Approves Massive National Park to Protect Its Last Big Cats
By Jason Daley,, 15 March 2017
Over the last several years, China has been working toward setting up a massive system of some two dozen national parks, using “America’s Best Idea” as a model. And as Xinhua news agency reports, last week authorities announced what will become one of the country’s first national parks: a reserve in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.
The park will cover over 5,600 square miles, 60 percent larger than Yellowstone National Park, Xinhua reports, and aims to protect the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger (also known as the Amur tiger)—both of which are among the world’s rarest big cats. The park, which lies along the border between China, Russia and North Korea, will link together several existing parks and reserves, and, backers hope, will foster international cooperation on preserving the big cats. A comprehensive plan and pilot park are expected to roll out by 2020.

South Africa: Kruger National Park Hosts Scientists, Researchers
South African government press release, 15 March 2017
The Kruger National Park (KNP) is currently hosting scientists and researchers from around the world for the 15th Annual Savanna Science Network Meeting at the Skukuza’s Nombolo Mdluli Conference Centre.
The five-day meeting, which started on Sunday, is hosting about 200 delegates representing 79 different scientific and conservation organisations from 14 countries worldwide.
According to the SANParks Acting Head of Communications, William Mabasa, this makes it one of the most crucial events in the organizational calendar.

16 March 2017

Reversing Defaunation
By Zohaib Shahzad, Extra News Feed, 16 March 2017
The rate of biodiversity loss has not halted in the least despite global commitments, and the exhaustion of animal species are gradually reducing the stability of ecosystem communities’ and amenities; however, despite the gradual loss, governments across the world have been attempting to make substantial progress in reversing defaunation — specifically through the intentional movement of animals to restore populations.
A few weeks ago, I published a review on a scientific piece of literature that was published in Science, called Defaunation in the Anthropocene. In this feature, I’ll be reviewing another publication in Science called, Reversing Defaunation: Restoring Species in a Changing World by Phillip Seddon (2014) et al. For those that aren’t familiar, defaunation is a term used to denote the loss of both species and populations of wildlife such as top predators and herbivores due to human activity, resulting in a loss of agents that control components of the ecosystem’s vegetation.

Tompkins Conservation donates 1 million acres for new national parks in Chile
Associated Press, 16 March 2017
Tompkins Conservation signed an agreement with Chile’s government on Wednesday to donate 1 million acres for new national parks in the largest private donation of its kind for the South American nation.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed the deal with Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the widow of American conservationist Doug Tompkins, who built a legacy protecting threatened ecosystems in Argentina and Chile.
“This is a key step to treasuring this giant source of biodiversity and safe keep it in the public interest,” Ms Bachelet said at a ceremony in southern Chile.
The agreement will provide land to create three new national parks, expand three existing national parks and unite some national forests into two national parks. Ms Bachelet is expected to sign the decrees to create the parks before she ends her presidential term in March 2018.

Helping China Rethink Its Approach to Conservation
By Diane Toomey, YaleEnvironment360, 16 March 2017
For Stanford University ecologist Gretchen Daily, nature isn’t only to be preserved for its own sake, but also for the value of the ecological services it provides, such as water filtration, carbon sequestration, and soil retention. Daily helped pioneer the concept of “ecosystem services,” and these days she applies those principles as she works with countries to develop land management strategies and determine which natural areas to prioritize for protection.
Most recently, Daily has worked with the Chinese government and Chinese scientists to evaluate and reimagine that country’s system of national parks and nature reserves. Their joint research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and funded in part by China’s Ministry of Finance, has shown that China’s current network of protected areas has failed to protect biodiversity and to provide vital ecosystem services.

[India] Woman, father-in-law killed by tiger near Corbett national park
Hindustan Times, 16 March 2017
A woman and her father-in-law, who ran to her rescue, were killed by a tiger in a forest close to the Corbett national park on Thursday morning, officials said.
The bodies were recovered from deep inside the forest in the afternoon after a forest team tranquilised the big cat.
A resident of Ramnagar, 30-year-old Bagwati had gone to forest near Choi to pick firewood. A tiger pounced on her and dragged her inside the jungle, sources said.
Hearing her scream, Bagwati’s father-in-law Lakhpat, whose shanty is close to the forest, rushed to save her but was also attacked by the tiger, sources said.
By noon, locals and a team of forest officials reached the river bank where the two bodies were lying but couldn’t recover them as the animal was pacing close by, sources said.
The animal even charged at the crowd.

[Kenya] KWS receives donation in medicine for lions, as part of conservation efforts
By Muthoni Waweru, Capital News, 16 March 2017
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on Thursday received medicine and equipment worth half a million shillings that will go towards lion conservation in the country.
The medicine which comes in handy for the cash strapped institution is set to be distributed in the all parks and conversations in the country while the rest will be retained at the forensic lab.
Head of veterinary services Francis Gakuya says the supply will help boost the population of lions which other than human wildlife conflict, has also been affected by diseases.
“Part of the medication will be used within the Nairobi clinic then the rest will be distributed to the mobile veterinary units in the country,” said Gakuya.
“Lions have quite a number of diseases that affect them with the leading one being rabies and various other viral diseases.”

17 March 2017

Famine, war forces South Sudan to go for bushmeat
By Parach Mach, Anadolu Agency, 17 March 2017
Rebels, government troops and even civilians are butchering antelope and other wild animals for their survival in South Sudan as the country’s man-made famine gets exacerbated by years of civil war and economic collapse.
Gen. Alfred Akwoch, former director of wildlife and adviser to the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, told Anadolu Agency everyone was poaching because “they have nothing to feed on, most of the fighting is in remote areas and the only available food is bushmeat.”
Famine was declared in South Sudan last month, which has so far left at least 100,000 people starving and an additional million on the brink of famine in several parts of the country, where farming has been hampered.

Berkeley conservation group wins $1 million grant for Sri Lanka project
By Tom Lochner, East Bay Times, 17 March 2017
Seacology has won a grant of almost $1 million for a conservation project in Sri Lanka.
The Berkeley-based organization is a winner in this year’s Water Window Challenge sponsored by the international Global Resilience Partnership. A goal of the competition is to bolster the resilience of flood-prone communities in Central and East Africa and South and Southeast Asia against climate change and natural disasters.
Seacology’s Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project aims to protect the Indian Ocean island nation’s remaining mangrove forests, replant thousands of acres of deforested coastline, and offer microloans and business training to tens of thousands of disadvantaged women who otherwise would cut down mangroves to sell as charcoal, according to a news release. The project is in collaboration with the local non-governmental organization Sudeesa, also known as Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka.

18 March 2017

[India] Poachers kill another Rhino in Assam’s Orang National Park
Hindustan Times, 18 March 2017
Poachers have killed yet another one-horned rhino in Orang National Park in Assam, officials said on Saturday.
Authorities said they recovered a carcass of a male rhino near Pichola anti-poaching camp in the park on Friday. The horn of the rhino was missing, indicating it to be a case of poaching.
“It was a full grown male rhino and there were bullet injury marks,” the park officials said.

Conservation is in race with political opportunism in Kenya
By Antonia Filmer, Sunday Guardian, 18 March 2017
What the British mainstream media is reporting about the current land invasions in northern Kenya is not an accurate portrait of the situation. Some British commentators have been disloyal to a region that has offered them a comfortable lifestyle and luxurious holidays, by reporting sensational headlines suggesting the end of the white man in Africa. What is really happening is change.
The drought in the north of Kenya has politically instigated tribesmen and livestock heading south; the drought is giving an excuse to the political opposition to make promises of land that will bequeathed in exchange for votes cast in the August election. On a new and dramatic scale, opportunistic young herdsmen and their cattle, urged on by their tribal leaders, have started to look for sustenance on other people’s land. These young herdsmen are from warrior tribes and are, unfortunately, armed with weapons sourced from collapsing previous regimes in Sudan and Somalia, which makes fresh pastures easy to acquire. They are unwilling to negotiate, they kill those that stand in their way and they are threatening the status quo of land ownership for all of those living in the invaded areas, not just the large landowners but also the indigenous peoples who have curated the land in a sustainable manner.

Mongolia’s reindeer herders defend their way of life
By Dene-Hern Chen, Al Jazeera, 18 March 2017
Seated in a white teepee perched on a cliff that overlooks a snow-covered coniferous forest, Delger Gorshik talks about how his life as a Dukha, one of the world’s smallest ethnic minorities, has changed over the years.
“When I was a child, the only thing we could use for a light was a candle. Today, we have electric lamps and solar panels. This teepee used to be covered with animal skin; today, we use cloth canvas,” the 55-year-old says.
“And now,” he adds, gesturing downhill to where his daughter and son-in-law live. “As you can see, we even have wooden houses.”
Within the northern Mongolian snow forest, or taiga, the Dukha – whose population is estimated to be fewer than 300 – live as nomadic reindeer herders.

Conservation challenges in SAARC nations – Part I…
By Saikat Kumar Basu, Manorama, 18 March 2017
I have been discussing issues and problems related to conservation in India for the past couple of months. Now, let us take a break from India and look beyond our international borders into the situations and conservation priorities in different countries across South Asia. Broadly speaking, the Indian subcontinent or South Asia comprises Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

19 March 2017

Chile’s new ‘route of parks’ aims to save the wild beauty of Patagonia
By Jonathan Franklin, The Observer, 19 March 2017
The road to Parque Pumalín is festooned with dozens of whitewater waterfalls that slip down the steep cliffs into a thick forest overrun by ferns and plants with leaves as big as beach umbrellas. An active volcano threatens to wipe out the sparse human settlements that are scattered like frontier outposts, often holding populations of fewer than 100 residents. The scenery, however, suddenly changes at El Amarillo, a town of perfect picket fences, exquisitely designed bridges and hand-lettered wooden signs offering help on camping and trekking.
It is here that a 25-year experiment in environmental conservation is finally coming to fruition. Parque Pumalín is a million-acre collection of untrammelled vistas and valleys that was patched together by a pair of American conservationists whose mission, known as “wildlands philanthropy”, was to keep the lands free from industrial development.

[India] Wildlife conservation needs a more humane approach than Kaziranga’s shoot-at-sight policy
By Lewis Evans (Survival International),, 19 March 2017
No matter how serious a crime, it is generally accepted that everyone has the right to a fair trial. Executing suspects without even arresting them is considered a hallmark of the worst regimes on earth.
Sadly, there’s one field in which too many people are willing to throw away this fundamental legal principle and call for the return of completely arbitrary justice: protecting wildlife from poachers. Beneath almost any online discussion on the subject, you will find comments like these:
“Damn right it is acceptable to shoot humans to protect rhinos!”
“Poachers should be flayed alive and then shot. I would volunteer to do this for free. They are the scum of the earth.”
“Poachers deserve to die, there’s no two ways about it, shoot them on the spot, saves the long drawn out court cases that fail to deliver justice.”

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