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.
27 March 2017
Paleorecord Critical to Future Conservation Efforts, Scientists Say
University of California press release, 27 March 2017
The rapid pace of global change has large impacts on nature, and on the work conservation biologists will have before them, too.
From here on out, experts say, the fossil record is going to be critical to guide nature into the future.
A new paper in the journal Science, co-authored by UC Merced paleoecology Professor Jessica Blois, contends that rather than holding ecosystems to an idealized past, preserving and maintaining vibrant ecosystems requires new approaches. That includes using Earth’s history to help understand how ecological resilience is maintained even in the face of change.
[Cambodia] Herd of elephants rescued from muddy bomb crater
By Mech Dara, Phnom Penh Post, 27 March 2017
Eleven wild elephants were rescued on Saturday in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima protected area after becoming trapped in a former bomb crater without food for four days, though rangers will continue to monitor the herd to ensure it reaccepts one juvenile who was handled by humans during the rescue.
Olly Griffin, a technical advisor with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), said the operation was a “big team effort” between civil society groups, government authorities and local villagers.
“A large part of the credit goes to the local people from the area, who showed concern and compassion for the plight of the elephants,” Griffin said yesterday.
The 3-metre-deep bomb crater had been repurposed as a water storage pond, and Griffin said the elephants may have been seeking water when they became trapped.
Chile Just Converted 11 Million Acres Into New National Parks
By Trevor Nace, Forbes, 27 March 2017
Chile set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks aided by the largest private land donation from a private entity to a country. The conservation effort of the Tompkins Foundation helped pave the way for Chile to greatly expand its conservation of the pristine Patagonia wilderness.
The Tompkins foundation was established by Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the previous CEO of Patagonia, and the late Doug Tompkins, the co-founder of North Face and Esprit. The couple, known for purchasing large chunks of land in Patagonia for conservation, have always had the ambition to protect and conserve the Patagonian wilderness for generations to come.
New conservation area established in the Ecuadorian Amazon Pastaza region
By Joaquín Ortiz, Mongabay, 27 March 2017
After three years of working with local governments and indigenous communities, the Provincial Council of Pastaza established the Pastaza Ecological Area of Sustainable Development in the center of the Ecuadorian Amazon region. The area covers more than 2.5 million hectares (about 6.2 million acres) and occupies about 90 percent of the area of the province of the same name.
“It is official, the ordinance is already promulgated according to the current laws of Ecuador. Today, the existence of this area is a reality: an area of preservation and sustainable development,” said Antonio Kubes, an official of the province of Pastaza, in an interview. He said that the most important feature of the site is the large area of tropical humid forest that is not yet compromised by human activity.
Cattle ranching threatens core of Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua
By Wilder Pérez R., Mongabay, 27 March 2017
The Biosphere Reserve of Southeast Nicaragua is bigger than countries like Qatar or Jamaica and shelters 526 species of birds—more species than can be found in Europe. Although it is said to be the kingdom of the jaguar (Panthera onca), cows appear to be more common nowadays.
This contradiction is the result of almost 50 years of human depredation in the lush forest, which despite the agricultural pressure to which it is subjected, has the equivalent of 10 percent of the planet’s species, according to data from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA).
Mongabay-Latam visited the area and it was possible to observe the human-forest conflict: the forest that used to reach the edge of the road that links Southeastern Nicaragua to the Pacific is nowhere to be seen. In the less populated areas only cattle farms exist.
[Papua New Guinea] World Bank Brings Back Land Registration Agenda Through Environmental Conservation
Papua New Guinea Today, 27 March 2017
The Melanesian Indigenous Land Defense Alliance (MILDA) is alarmed that land registration is again being pushed by the World Bank, this time through an environmental project managed by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) within Melanesia.
The project is asking for the mapping of customary land and resources as part of their strategic plan for conservation. The US$9 million initiative called the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), is funded by the World Bank, Conservation International, Global Environment Facility (GEF), European Union, l’Agence Francaise de Developpement, MacArthur Foundation together with the Japanese Government.
[South Africa] No more drones for Kruger
By Guy Martin, defenceWeb, 27 March 2017
The Kruger National Park (KNP) is no longer using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to combat poaching, after a year-long evaluation period exposed a number of shortcomings, but is using other aviation assets successfully.
Thumelo Matjekame, special projects manager at SANParks and the man in charge of counter-poaching activity, said that UAVs were tested as an experiment in the Kruger National Park but were not successful. This was largely as a result of the payload on the aircraft – due to their small size and weight, they are not able to carry sophisticated payloads and as a result did not detect any suspected poachers during the trial period.
Even using thermal imaging payloads, the UAVs struggled to track humans in the park, since their thermal signature can be similar to many animals and even some trees.
[Thailand] New national park declared in Nan, Uttaradit
The Nation, 27 March 2017
His Majesty the King has issued a royal command to declare 200,000 rai of forest straddling Nan and Uttaradit a new national park.
The royal command was published in the Royal Gazette on Saturday and was countersigned by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The new national park encompasses the fertile forests on the banks of the lower part of Nan River in Tambon Namtok, Tambon Bua Yai, and Tambon Santha in Na Noi district, Tambon Mueang Lee, Tambon Bokaew, Tambon Na Thanoong and Tambon Pingluang in Na Muen district of Nan and Tambon Nang Phaya in Tha Pla district of Uttaradit.
28 March 2017
Can putting a dollar value on ecosystems save them?
By Feng Zengkun, Eco-Business, 28 March 2017
If noted environmentalist Zhiyun Ouyang had his way, more than a third of China’s vast territory would be marked as protected areas where human development is not allowed.
In February 2017, China’s government announced that it would require all of its provinces and regions to draw up “ecological red lines” by 2020 to demarcate such protected zones in their territories, as part of an ongoing effort to protect the country’s natural environment and improve its people’s quality of life.
How Africa’s Most Luxurious Safari Camps Are Championing Conservation
By Joel Lovell, Conde Nast Traveller, 28 March 2017
On the western edge of the Serengeti, two dozen employees of the luxury-safari company Singita gathered in a circle beneath a giant fig tree. As corporate meeting spots go, this one, on the 350,000-acre Singita Grumeti reserve in northern Tanzania, wasn’t bad. About a hundred yards from where we sat, four giraffes and a small herd of zebras grazed in the midday heat. Less than a quarter mile up the red-dirt path we’d bounced along to get here, two lions slept in the shade of a rocky outcropping, a partially devoured wildebeest splayed between them. Monkeys chattered in the trees; small, impossibly kaleidoscopic birds—lilac-breasted rollers—flitted through the air.
[China] GAC Motor Cooperates with World Wildlife Fund in Sanjiangyuan National Park Conservation Project
GAC Motor press release, 28 March 2017
China’s fastest growing auto brand GAC Motor officially delivered its cars to Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve (SNNR) administration on March 2 in Qinghai Province, China as part of the company’s strategic partnership with China’s first national park conservation plan “Born in Sanjiangyuan” in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), assisting patrol guards to work on protecting the water, soil and life in the area.
The Dark Legacy of China’s Drive for Global Resources
By William Lawrence, YaleEnvironment360, 28 March 2017
For the past 35 years, I’ve worked as an ecologist in the Amazon, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region on an array of environmental issues, mostly revolving around tropical forests, biodiversity, and the drivers of land use and climate change. I’ve seen many things — some good, some amazing, some heart-rending. But I’ve never seen a nation have such an overwhelming impact on the earth as China does now.
Across the globe, on nearly every continent, China is involved in a dizzying variety of resource extraction, energy, agricultural, and infrastructure projects — roads, railroads, hydropower dams, mines — that are wreaking unprecedented damage to ecosystems and biodiversity. This onslaught will likely be made easier by the Trump administration’s anti-environmental tack and growing disengagement internationally.
Head to Laikipia, Kenya for a High-Luxury Conservation Experiment
By Sophy Roberts, Conde Nast Traveller, 28 March 2017
We are off into the blue as our helicopter catches air and the sound of Garth Brooks fills our Bose headphones. “One of my Texas playlists,” remarks our sandy-haired pilot, Ben Simpson. His frontier-breaking helicopter safaris take travelers (among them George W. Bush) from Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression to the forests of eastern Congo. But this time, he’s working closer to home: Laikipia, in Kenya’s central highlands, where Simpson has lived for 18 years.
The dirty skies of Nairobi recede as we fly 45 minutes north from the capital, past the cloud-ringed peak of Mount Kenya to the golden savanna of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which contains roughly 12 percent of all Kenya’s rhinoceros. To Lewa’s northwest lies the Laikipia Plateau—a tapestry of farms, Maasai cattle encampments, and private ranches alongside swaths of land that have been turned over to wildlife conservation.
Tree farming business endangers Cranes conservation in Western Kenya
By Rudolf Makhanu, The Standard, 28 March 2017
Kenya has the largest population of Grey crowned cranes in Africa followed by Uganda and South Africa. It is estimated that more than three-quarters of the world’s Grey Crowned Cranes live in Kenya and Uganda in East Africa.
However, the Grey Crowned-crane is globally threatened, listed as Endangered in the 2012 IUCN Red Data List meaning that the species is likely to become extinct if no serious mitigation measures are taken.
It is also listed under Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) as a priority species requiring urgent and dedicated conservation measures. It is estimated that the species’ global population has declined by 65- 80 per cent in the last 45 years.
[Namibia] ‘Foot soldiers’ needed for anti-poaching
By Albertina Nakale, New Era, 28 March 2017
The Ministry of Environment and Tourism has announced that it has obtained approval to establish the wildlife protection services or anti-poaching unit that will comprise 495 staff members.
Although the ministry has started the recruitment process of mainly top management, it still needs to fill crucial positions of footsoldiers, such as game rangers and wardens.
Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said staff will undergo training at the anti-poaching unit facility: “We will also use this training facility for the recruitment of wardens, rangers and assistant rangers, as they have to go through some practical and theoretical selection processes so that we get the right staff for the job.”
[Rwanda] Give more incentives to investors in biodiversity conservation – researchers
By Michel Nkurunziza, The New Times, 28 March 2017
Investors in biodiversity conservation and related areas should be given more incentives because they generate huge revenues for the country, especially via tourism, researchers have said. Eugenia Kayitesi, the executive director of Institute of Policy Analysis (IPAR), said the incentives would attract more firms to invest in biodiversity conservation.
“There are policies on biodiversity conservation, but they are not fully implemented. Besides, we need to sensitise the private sector players to invest in biodiversity conservation initiatives. However, the government should provide them more incentives considering that biodiversity plays a huge role in ensuring sustainability of the tourism sector, a key foreign exchange earner for the country,” she said.
29 March 2017
Respecting human rights: the key to elephant conservation
By Mike Hurran, Open Democracy, 29 March 2017
Few people on earth have as close a relationship to the forest elephant as Baka “Pygmies”. They classify them into more than fifteen types, depending on age, appearance, sex, temperament and magical status. Many Baka believe that when they die, their spirits travel deep into the forest and walk side by side with elephants, like shepherds tending their flocks. On their hunting and gathering trips, which sometimes take them over 150 kilometres through the forest, the Baka make frequent use of the mokongo (the paths cleared by elephants as they migrate).
These forests are often considered wilderness by conservationists, but they’re not: the Baka have depended on and managed them for centuries. By creating seasonal camps, they sustain a mosaic of different types of vegetation and have spread pockets of wild yams throughout the rainforest – one of the elephant’s favourite foods.
[Nepal] Red Panda Sightings Inspire Conservation Work
Rainforest Trust, 29 March 2017
Intensely hunted for their unique russet-and-cream colored fur as well as their highly valued bushy tails, Red Pandas are becoming increasingly rare – particularly as their habitat is disappearing across Nepal. To help mitigate these threats, Rainforest Trust’s partner Red Panda Network (RPN) is dedicated to safeguarding habitat for these Endangered mammals through the creation of the 430,000-acre Red Panda Community Forest Reserve. While RPN’s work produces much-needed relief for Red Pandas from the pressures of hunting and habitat loss, the organization also provides an opportunity for community members to become engaged with conservation initiatives through employment as forest guardians.
Nearly extinct tigers found breeding in Thai jungle
By Oliver Holmes, The Guardian, 29 March 2017
The critically endangered Indochinese tiger has been found to be breeding in a Thai jungle, providing hope for a subspecies whose total population may number only a couple of hundred.
Conservation authorities in Thailand, along with two international wildlife organisations, released photographs of new tiger cubs in the country’s east.
The images support a scientific survey that confirmed the existence of the world’s second breeding population. The other breeding ground is in the Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary in western Thailand.
30 March 2017
Survival calls on UN to condemn shoot on sight conservation
Survival International, 30 March 2017
Survival International has called on the UN expert on extrajudicial executions to condemn shoot on sight conservation policies.
In a letter to the Special Rapporteur charged with the issue, Survival stated that “shoot on sight policies directly affect tribal people who live in or adjacent to ‘protected areas’… particularly when park guards so often fail to distinguish subsistence hunters from commercial poachers.”
The letter adds that “nobody knows when wildlife officers are permitted to use lethal force against [suspected poachers], and it is impossible for dependents to hold to account officers whom they believe to have killed without good reason. Many countries have gone further, and granted wildlife officers immunity from prosecution.”
[Malaysia] Let future generations of Sabahans inherit a rich forest
Daily Express, 30 March 2017
The State Government is serious about conservation, having proven this intention with the phasing out of logging at the sensitive conservation areas of Ulu Segama and Malua forest reserves in 2007.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman (pic) said his determination to ensure that Sabah retains its rainforest identity when other places are fast losing theirs has been questioned by some who do not see the value these treasures bring in terms of tourism revenue and biodiversity, among others.
“They ask me why are you planting all these trees that may take 40 years to mature.
I said it is for the future generations. Let them inherit a rich forest.”
31 March 2017
New research shows role ancient peoples might have played in shaping Amazon rainforest
By Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay, 31 March 2017
It’s common for conservationists to talk about preserving nature in a “pristine” or “unspoiled” state, but new research might complicate a simple definition of these terms, at least when it comes to the Amazon.
There are close to 12,000 known species of trees in the Amazon, and scientists estimate that there are probably 4,000 more that we haven’t yet discovered, meaning that the best guess is that the Amazon harbors a total of about 16,000 tree species.
While the extent to which mankind has influenced the Amazon is a topic of much heated debate, a common assumption is that whether a species thrived in a particular area or not was determined mostly by the process of natural selection. But according to a study published in the journal Science this month, the Amazon rainforests we seek to protect from the impacts of human activities today were shaped, at least in part, by indigenous peoples thousands of years ago.
New method may boost tiger monitoring in large landscapes
Business Standard, 31 March 2017
A new methodology developed by the Indian Statistical Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) may revolutionise monitoring of tigers and other big cats over large landscapes as well as help in their conservation efforts.
The new method — called ‘Bayesian Smoothing Model’ (BSM) — may better help in extrapolating the exact population counts at large geographical scales — critical information for scientists working to conserve these wildlife icons.
China’s Ivory Ban Has Played a Significant Role in De-Valuing Ivory
By Aili Kang (WCS), National Geographic, 31 March 2017
On December 30, 2016, the Chinese government announced that it would close its domestic commercial elephant ivory trade in 2017, in essence shutting down the world’s largest market for elephant ivory.
As the government rolls out the closing of the market, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) is observing hopeful results as in the Save the Elephants report issued this week. We believe that the ban has played a significant role in de-valuing ivory. We also believe that the ban has increased motivation for enforcement agencies to enhance actions on illegal ivory trade.
China’s Ivory Ban Is Reducing Nation’s Legal Market
By Elly Pepper, NRDC, 31 March 2017
On March 31, China—the world’s largest consumer of elephant ivory—will undertake the first phase of its domestic ivory ban by closing roughly one third of its ivory processors and retailers, with the remainder to be closed by the end of the year. This important move flows from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2015 promise to shut down the nation’s legal ivory trade.
This is great news for Africa’s elephant population, which has dropped from about 1.2 million to between 400,000 and 500,000 over the past 35 years.
1 April 2017
From CEO to Conservation Legend: An Interview with Kristine Tompkins
By Matt Reed, Mongabay, 31 March 2017
It’s difficult to formulate a description of someone like Kristine Tompkins. A pioneer in the outdoor industry during her time as CEO of Patagonia and one of the preeminent conservationists of the last 30 years, her story is one that most could only dream of.
Born on a ranch in Southern California during the 1950s, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins considered the outdoors a precious gift from an early age.
“I was a ski racer and always loved the outdoors,” she explained. “We grew up in U.S. National Parks – climbing, hiking, you name it.”
Then, at the young age of 15, Kristine met Yvon Chouinard, who offered her a summer job with his then-fledgling climbing hardware business, Chouinard Equipment. Kristine went on to ski race competitively in college, while in the meantime Chouinard and Doug Tompkins embarked on their legendary journey from Ventura, California to Patagonia, Chile, which is now chronicled in the 2010 film, 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless.
[Tanzania] World’s biggest wildlife park: Tourism vs. industrial activities
By Apolinari Tairo, Global Travel Industry News, 1 April 2017
It is the world’s biggest wildlife park, the Selous Game Reserve. It is no wonder that the game reserve is still well known to older people in the area as Grandmother’s Field.
Three years after successful crushing of the Maji Maji uprising in 1907 between the locals and German forces in the then Deutche Ost Africa, now Tanzania, and Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, gave his wife a wedding anniversary present.
Undoubtedly, the present wildlife park which the German leader gave his wife is one of the biggest of its kind in the annals of romance.
The Selous Game Reserve, rich and precious inheritance to mankind, teems with unrivaled wildlife, from the tiniest midge to the oldest elephant patriarch. However, this reserve, boasts of the largest concentration of elephants in the world – more than 110,000 herds, and it is a microcosm of history of this part of the world.
2 April 2017
‘Anti-national’ BBC promoted poachers’ cause in Kaziranga: Assam govt to Centre
By Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, 2 April 2017
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had issued a show-cause notice to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for their “twisted” documentary on Kaziranga National Park before the Assam government had lodged a formal complaint, a Right to Information (RTI) reply has revealed.
The BBC has been banned by the NTCA from shooting inside 47 tiger reserves for a period of five years after the documentary titled “Kaziranga: The Park shoots people to protect rhinos” was shown on its world channel on February 10 and 11.