Conservation in the news: 20-26 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.

20 March 2017

ASU, Conservation International team up to protect biodiversity
Arizona State University, 20 March 2017
Environmental news can be all too depressing, with headlines punctuated by the drumbeat of extinction and destruction.
There are occasional bright spots. One of them occurred this month when Arizona State University announced it is powering up its conservation biology program by adding seven professors of practice to the faculty as part of a partnership between the university’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and Conservation International, the biggest American conservation organization.
The ASU center takes a multidisciplinary approach to find solutions for the long term — not just the science of saving species that one might think of with the field, but also engaging with business and reaching out to groups underrepresented in conservation biology.

Controversial casino located in Cambodia, not Thai national park, says Parks Dept chief
The Nation, 20 March 2017
A controversial new casino alleged to be sited on overlapping territory between Thailand and Cambodia is actually located in Cambodia, 300 metres from the Thai border, and not in Ta Phraya National Park, the chief of the National Parks Department said on Monday.
Thanya Netithammakul was responding to an allegation made on Facebook by anti-corruption activist Veera Somkwamkid, who claimed that the new casino was located in an overlapping area and may be sited in the national park.
Veera questioned why the military government had allowed this to happen, and suspected that the previous post that he made on the same issue had led to a warrant being issued for his arrest over a week ago for violation of the Computer Crime Act.

Chile Will Get Five New National Parks Thanks to a Record-breaking Land Donation
By Talia Avakian, Travel and Leisure, 20 March 2017
Chile will soon be seeing new and expanded national parks spreading out throughout the country.
Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, former Patagonia CEO and leader of the Tompkins Conservation, and Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s president, came to a new agreement: Tompkins will donate one million acres of land towards Chile’s national park system, and the country’s government will donate some 10 million acres of federally-owned land towards its national parklands.

[India] Click to conserve
The Hindu, 20 March 2017
A team of researchers in Thiruvananthapuram have built an app to map geographical distribution of plant and animal species.
The world runs on mobile applications. So is it possible to use them to protect it? Researchers of the CV Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics, which is part of the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management – Kerala (IIITM-K), have come up with an app that hopes to do so. They have developed BIOTA, a biodiversity app, which is aimed at gathering information on geographical distribution of species for conservation and educational purposes.

21 March 2017

Peatlands Must Be Protected: Helps Combat Climate Change; More Effort On Conservation Should Be Applied
Science Times, 21 March 2017
Peatlands have been recently discovered in Africa and Amazonia. According to the University of St. Andrews, this must be protected to prevent any environmental disasters.
The recent series of discoveries has revealed that the peatlands cover large parts of both Africa and Amazonia. Currently, it is still largely intact, given that it already faces a present-day frontier of agriculture.
St. Andrews led an international research team that identified a series of threats to these intact tropical peatlands. Also, the researchers highlighted the conversation methods particularly relevant to this kind of ecosystem.

The Economics Of Natural Capital Can Help Us Better Value Nature
By Dan Kraus, Huffington Post, 21 March 2017
Putting a price tag on nature is challenging. Some people don’t believe it can be done. Some people hate the idea of it. Most will have no idea what it means. But there are new and emerging approaches to help us put a price on the services that forests, wetlands and grasslands provide to Canadians. There is also an increasing urgency on why it needs to be done.
Natural capital identifies the services that nature provides to people and puts prices on them. Your local forest, wetland or grassland provides habitat for wildlife, but it also provides additional benefits to you, such as flood control, air purification and carbon storage. When we lose these forests, wetlands or grasslands, we lose the benefit of these services, and someone pays the price. By placing an economic value on the benefits that nature provides to people, natural capital unites economy and ecology and may be our best chance at saving nature.

SC Johnson Encourages Public to Join Challenge to Protect 10,000 Acres of Rainforest on International Day of Forests
SC Johnson press release, 21 March 2017
The Amazon rainforest is the world’s greatest rainforest and also one of its most vital life-support systems. Today on International Day of Forests, SC Johnson, the maker of trusted household products like Pledge®, Glade®, OFF!® and Ziploc®, is proudly partnering with Conservation International (CI) to educate people and protect Amazonia. The company is the distribution sponsor of CI’s new virtual reality (VR) film Under the Canopy, and is also raising the stakes with a challenge. For every acre of rainforest protected through the CI donation page, the company will provide an acre-for-acre match up to 5,000 acres for a total of 10,000 acres.

[Malaysia] Helping conserve orangutan through art and English
By Sharon Ling, The Star, 21 March 2017
In its latest conservation education programme, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Malaysia Programme considers the questions of what makes orangutan conservation successful in the long term and how it can contribute to the communities living within protected areas.
Its Using Art and English for Conservation workshop, organised in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, was held for 35 pupils from SK Nanga Delok, a primary school near Batang Ai National Park.
Christina Yin, a senior lecturer from Swinburne Sarawak’s language and communication faculty, and local artist Angelina Bong led the two-day workshop in the school while eight WCS Malaysia staff facilitated the workshop. The pupils split into two groups of Years One to Three and Years Four to Six.

[Thailand] Phaya Sua taskforce launches operation against influential Thap Lan National Park encroachers
The Nation, 21 March 2017
The special forest crime-suppression taskforce, Phaya Sua, has launched a week-long operation against influential figures found to have encroached upon Thap Lan National Park, part of the Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, which is the country’s second natural World Heritage Site.
The 1.4-million rai (224,000 hectares) national park – Thailand’s second largest – is known to have been extensively encroached upon and turned into popular resorts, many of them by influential figures.
The matter has been raised in recent years at the World Heritage Committee’s meetings as one of its “most depressing” issues, and one that has posed threats to the area’s world heritage status.
The government has been trying to address the issue by strictly enforcing forest laws against encroachers.

22 March 2017

Rebuilding the world’s forests
By Justin Adams (The Nature Conservancy), Eco Business, 22 March 2017
Humankind has always had a tricky relationship with forests. We depend on them to regulate the climate and rainfall, clean our air and water, sustain myriad species of plants and animals, and support the livelihoods of over a billion people. Yet we continue to destroy them, to the point that only half the world’s original forest cover remains.
The price of deforestation can hardly be overstated. Trees consume large amounts of carbon dioxide as they grow, making them vital tools for absorbing the greenhouse-gas emissions – from cars, factories, power stations, and livestock – that result in climate change.

New Technology Platform Designed to Provide African Park Rangers Real-Time Tools to Protect Iconic Animal Species
Vulcan Inc press release, 22 March 2017
Responding to the elephant poaching crisis illustrated in 2016’s Great Elephant Census (GEC), philanthropist Paul G. Allen and his team of technologists and conservation experts are partnering with park managers across Africa to provide a new technology platform to better protect this iconic species and other wildlife threatened by human activities.
The GEC documented an alarming 30 percent loss of savannah elephants over the past seven years primarily due to increased ivory poaching. This confirmed conservationists’ greatest fears and gives new importance to technology to aid in addressing this crisis.

Plans to mine coal in South African protected area trigger conservation battle
By Kim Harrisberg, Mongabay, 22 March 2017
A South African court ruling this month put the brakes on the approval of a coal station in the northern Limpopo province, marking a victory for environmental justice organization Earthlife Africa, who argued that the coal station had not undergone the required climate change impact assessments.
It was South Africa’s first climate change court case and marked a victory for environmental advocacy groups in the country. However, it does not overshadow another anti-coal battle the country’s activists are currently engaged in.
In 2016, officials signed off on plans to begin mining coal in the Mabola Protected Area, a critical water catchment area in Mpumalanga province in eastern South Africa.

[South Africa] Cop accidentally shoots, kills ranger at Kruger national park
By Mia Lindeque, EWN, 22 March 2017
A ranger at the Kruger National Park has been killed by a police officer in an apparent accidental shooting.
The officer was handling a firearm that was confiscated from a suspected poacher during an anti-poaching operation on Monday when the gun went off.
Nine suspected poachers were arrested in the operation and several firearms confiscated.
SANParks’ William Mabasa says they’re saddened following the incident.

23 March 2017

Aladdin, a brand of PMI, Joins Forces with the Nature Conservancy
Aladdin press release, 23 March 2017
Aladdin, a brand of Pacific Market International and maker of reusable food and beverage consumer products, is furthering its commitment to global responsibility through a new partnership with The Nature Conservancy®. Finding common values with The Nature Conservancy’s mission of “conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends”, beginning in 2017 the two brands will partner to engage and excite consumers, retailers, and communities across the nation to celebrate the earth we live in through cause awareness in product information, social media messaging, in-store displays and their respective websites at www.aladdin-pmi.com and http://www.nature.org/.

[Costa Rica] Environment Ministry officials report increased damage of wildfires inside protected areas
The Tico Times, 23 March 2017
The number of hectares burned in wildfires inside protected lands so far this year is the highest since 2014, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) reported this week.
Between Jan. 1 and March 21 a total of 25 wildfires destroyed 317 hectares of forests, pastures or grasslands inside national parks, natural reserves and other protected areas.
Environment Ministry (MINAE) records state wildfires in the same period of 2014 destroyed 117 hectares. The figure rose to 134 in 2015 and to 209 last year.

[India] Opening of Kandi road sparks off war of words
By Jotirmay Thapliyal, Tribune India, 23 March 2017
The Trivendra Singh Rawat government’s recent decision to open the Kandi road, that circumscribes the landscape of the Jim Corbett National Park in Kumaon, has set off a debate over the issue of development versus conservation.
The Kandi road is a symbol of long-drawn development versus conservation battle in the hill state. The road cuts apart the Corbett National Park in Kumaon and is very critical for the state as it links the Garhwal and the Kumaon regions. But the road is closed for traffic as it is in a highly protected area.

WWF: Myanmar climate could change dramatically in 30 years
By Kyi Kyi Sway, Myanmar Times, 23 March 2017
Climate change resulting in higher temperatures, more precipitation, rising sea levels and extreme weather could happen in Myanmar from the 2020s to the 2050s, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) predicted this week.
Extreme events such as cyclones and monsoons could accompany the climate change, the WWF said Tuesday in a report, “Assessing Climate Risk in Myanmar.”
The report was compiled by the WWF with the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance and Columbia University with data from the Myanmar Department of Meteorology and Hydrology and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC). It was based on analyses of historical data from 19 weather stations.

[South Africa] Sanparks probe reveals most vegetation fires started by people
By Lauren Isaacs, EWN, 23 March 2017
South African National Parks says its investigations have found most vegetation fires in areas it manages are started by people, either deliberately or accidentally.
Over the same period in February and March 2016, 11 fires were recorded.
Over the same period this year, there have so far been 24 blazes.
SANParks’ Merle Collins says they have spent more than R3 million for the 2016/2017 financial year so far on firefighting operations.
“They leave campfires or cooking fire unattended or they discharge flares or fireworks and also we’ve arson or malicious intent. So those are reasons we believe we’ve fires in the national parks.”

24 March 2017

Boring conservation finance products get investors excited
By David Bank, Impact Alpha, 24 March 2017
Fund managers and investment advisors are increasingly attracted to the stable yields from investments in sustainable agriculture, forestry and water.
“Capital markets like boring,” writes Credit Suisse’s Fabian Huwyler in his report on last month’s Conservation Finance conference.
Investor interest is growing for sustainable and organic agriculture, sustainable forestry, land management and water investments with conservation benefits. Conservation finance’s shift from “customized products to more plain-vanilla solutions” is a good development (see “New Products Attract Investors to the Conservation Finance Marketplace”).
Huwyler identified “a massive opportunity for intermediaries to better bridge the gap between institutional investors’ demands and project developers’ needs.”

[Gabon] The battle for the survival of the forest elephant can be won
By Richard Ruggiero, National Geographic, 24 March 2017
In Gabon’s Minkébé National Park, forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) declined by approximately 80 percent between 2004 and 2014, as reported in a recent publication supported in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both savanna and forest elephants are declining across most of the African continent driven primarily by Asia’s demand for ivory. What is happening in Minkébé National Park is particularly alarming, as this area was once home to the highest densities of forest elephants in Central Africa and was established as a stronghold and sanctuary for the species. What do these findings tell us about the future of forest elephants more broadly, and how should we prioritize efforts to save the species? Dr. Richard Ruggiero, chief of the Service’s Division of International Conservation, shares his thoughts.

25 March 2017

26 March 2017

[India] Finding a new home: Tigers from highly-congested Corbett park to be relocated
By Nihi Sharma, Hindustan Times, 26 March 2017
The big cats of Corbett will soon find a new home in Uttarakhand.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked the state forest department to speed up the ground work for relocation of four tigers from the highly congested Corbett landscape to Rajaji National Park, which has 15 felines.
Once the step is taken, most probably by the end of the year, it will be the first relocation of tigers in India to a habitat that already has big cats.
In Madhya Pradesh’s Panna and Rajasthan’s Sariska, the translocation happened after the native big cats vanished, allegedly due to poaching.

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