Conservation in the news: 10-16 April 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.

10 April 2017

[India] Bannerghatta National Park ‘buffer’ zone shrinks
By Mohit M Rao, The Hindu, 10 April 2017
The ‘safe’ area around the city’s lung spaces seems to getting smaller by the day.
While the good news is that the Eco-Sensitive Zone around Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) is one step closer to becoming reality — with the State government’s proposal receiving the nod from an expert committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, the bad news is that the ESZ area has been significantly reduced.
In June 2016, the draft notification had proposed an area of 268.96 sq. km around the national park, which is seeing urbanisation pressure as well as mining and quarrying along its fringes. During the 24th meeting of the expert committee, the State government reduced the ESZ area to 181.57 sq. km — a nearly one-third reduction in the area around the forests that is to act as a buffer.

11 April 2017

[India] Bannerghatta, 11 other protected areas to get eco-sensitive zones
By Rohith B R, Times of India, 11 April 2017
A national expert committee under the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) has approved the state’s proposal to set up eco-sensitive zones (ESZs) around 12 protected forest areas.
At a recent meeting, the panel recommended that ESZs be established in 12 forest areas, including Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) on the outskirts of Bengaluru and Ramadevara Betta Vulture Sanctuary in Ramanagara district. Only Dandeli Anshi Tiger Reserve didn’t get the committee’s nod.

[India] Big cat sighting renews demands for tiger reserve
Herald Goa, 11 April 2017
With the Forest Department confirming the presence of five tigers in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, a fresh demand to either declare the core area of the sanctuary as a tiger reserve or a joint collaboration between Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka towards tiger conservation, will be placed before the National Wildlife Board (NWB) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Environmentalist and NWB member Rajendra Kerkar has also decided to petition the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and to place on record the urgency of the issue before the NWB for tiger conservation in Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, following proper conditions laid down by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
“It was a known fact that the sanctuary is a tiger habitat. The fresh camera trap in the area has once again proved the presence of the tiger. Not one, but five tigers – one male, two females and two cubs,” he said.

South Africa gets first biodiversity tax incentive
By Candice Stevens, BirdLife International, 11 April 2017
BirdLife South Africa’s Fiscal Benefits project has successfully included the very first biodiversity tax incentive for protected areas in an annual tax return. This was achieved for the first time in South Africa at the end of 2016, on behalf of a landowner in an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).
The Fiscal Benefits project was launched in 2015, by BirdLife South Africa, to test the use and applicability of biodiversity tax incentives as a benefit for landowners who declare protected areas on their land, through the Biodiversity Stewardship initiative. The project had its first achievement when it influenced the introduction of a new tax incentive into national legislation leading to the inclusion of section 37D in the South African Income Tax Act. Section 37D is designed to give landowners a tax deduction for their conservation commitment. The incentive allows South African landowners to claim a reduced tax based on the value of the area of their land formally protected as a Nature Reserve or National Park.

[USA] Thomas E. Lovejoy Elected IUCN-US President
IUCN-US press release, 11 April 2017
The Board of Directors of the International Union for Conservation of Nature—United States (IUCN-US) voted Thomas E. Lovejoy its new president at their March 24, 2017, Board Meeting. Lovejoy assumes the post previously held by John G. Robinson, Chief Conservation Officer, Wildlife Conservation Society.

[Zimbabwe] Zim hippo deaths likely caused by pesticide – Conservation group
EWN, 11 April 2017
A conservation group in Zimbabwe says the mystery deaths of at least 10 hippos in the north of the country was likely caused by a pesticide.
The area where the hippos died was close to a river where villagers were spraying their crops against worms.
The independent Bhejane Trust says this looks to be an accidental poisoning.
The group says villagers grow their crops at the river’s edge in Mlibizi and may have been using a chemical like carbaryl to get rid of insects and other crop pests.
Unfortunately, villagers have already eaten some of the meat from the hippos.

12 April 2017

The Filmmaker Turned Anti-Poacher
By Kerry David, Common, 12 April 2017
I never expected to live in America, build an orphanage, become a filmmaker or found an anti-poaching initiative in Africa — clearly I’m not a planner, but I have no complaints! I originally left my home in England for what was supposed to be just a two-week backpacking trip in France, but got the travel bug and ending up spending several years roaming throughout Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. I only came to the US to renew my visa, with every intention of heading right back to Oz ASAP. However, shortly after I arrived I got an offer I couldn’t refuse: to join an all-girl band and spend the next chapter of my life singing, touring, and writing songs. After that wild adventure, I joined the cast of a four-person rock play written by Rex Weiner and produced by Adam Ant and John Densmore — and decided to make LA my home.

[India] Don’t confer forest rights to tribals in critical tiger habitats: NTCA
By Mayank Aggarwal, Live Mint, 12 April 2017
India’s nodal tiger authority has asked tiger range states not to confer forest rights to any tribal or forest dwelling communities in critical tiger habitats.
The decision has come in for criticism from senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat, who called it “illegal” and wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to “ensure speedy withdrawal of this illegal order”.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), India’s nodal body for protection and conservation of tigers, wrote to all tiger range states on 28 March on the issue of ‘Conferring rights under the Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act 2006 in critical tiger habitats’.
“In absence (of) guidelines for notification of critical wildlife habitats, no rights shall be conferred in Critical Tiger Habitats which is duly notified under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972,” said the NTCA letter to all 17 tiger range states.

[India] Withdraw Order on FRA: Brinda
By Brinda Karat, NewsClick, 12 April 2017
We are releasing the full text of the letter written by CPI(M) Polit Bureau Member Brinda Karat to the Prime Minister demanding speedy withdrawal of the order issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests which undermine the legal provisions for the protection of forest dwelling tribal communities and other forest dwellers. Here is a copy of the letter.

[India] HC directs for retrieving of encroached forest land
By Fayaz Bukhari, Daily Excelsior, 12 April 2017
In a startling revelation, Forest department has revealed that around 84,000 kanals of forest land is under illegal occupation of encroachers in the State for decades and the Government has not taken any step to get it retrieved despite the various directions passed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Throwing the numerous directions of High Court to winds, authorities were directed to retrieve the land from the encroachers with earnest efforts.
In Kashmir division, 4181.13 hectares (83620 Kanals) of forest land in various forest divisions is under illegal occupation while as in Jammu division, 249 kanals of forest land is under illegal occupation.

[USA] As Trump Shuns The Environment, Conservation International Draws Support From Wealthy Board Members
By Kerry A Dolan, Forbes, 12 April 2017
It might seem like the worst of times to be a nonprofit group working to protect the environment. In late March, President Trump issued an executive order that among other things discontinues funding for the Clean Power Plan, which was set up to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget includes a 31% cut in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and layoffs for about 20% of the agency’s staff. To top things off, Trump’s pick for EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, has a record of suing the EPA to block enforcement of its rules.
None of this has diminished the efforts of Conservation International, a prominent environmental nonprofit now celebrating its 30th anniversary. Backed by a board that includes a number of billionaires and activists, Conservation International employs more than 1,000 people and works with partners in 30 countries on six continents, from Indonesia to Costa Rica.

13 April 2017

New Asian roads could mean end of the road for tigers, wildlife official says
By Ann M. Simmons, LA Times, 13 April 2017
Wildlife advocates are on a mission — to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022. Though progress is being made, there are concerns that the scale and pace of infrastructure development plans in Asia could destroy all recent gains.
“It’s not hopeless,” said Jon Miceler, senior director of Asia Programs for the World Wildlife Fund. “There are so many bright spots. Saving tigers is something we can do.”
But, he warned, “if we fail to do that, somehow or another our human family [would have] failed to protect something great that we share the Earth with.”
He recently shared insights on the predicament facing tigers in an interview with The Times.

[USA] Environment: Hero of local conservation
By Stuart Pimm, Nature, 13 April 2017
In 1951, the Nature Conservancy was launched in Washington DC, reborn from its prototype, the Ecologists’ Union. Its first, barely paid, director was George Fell. With his fellow naturalist and wife, Barbara, Fell had bankrolled the fledging organization with US$300. Today, the conservancy is one of the world’s biggest conservation bodies, with annual revenues of about $1 billion in 2014. Fell, meanwhile, seems to have fallen out of history: there is little mention of him online, even on the charity’s website. Yet, as Arthur Pearson explains in his thought-provoking biography Force of Nature, Fell articulated a vision of biodiversity protection that is as current today as it was nearly 70 years ago.

A Graffiti Campaign in Ho Chi Minh City Aims to Educate Locals About Rhino Conservation
By Michael Tatarski, Pacific Standard, 13 April 2017
Throughout the month of March, a unique graffiti campaign popped up on the walls of several streets in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, the hyperactive commercial capital of Vietnam. The works differed from the usual tags and designs that adorn urban areas around the world. The graffiti pieces, 17 in all, carry a simple message: “Save the rhinos,” or “Cứu tê giác” in Vietnamese.
Vietnam is home to one of the largest African rhino horn consumer bases in the world, in addition to being a key transit point for shipments to China. Users of rhino horn believe it can cure various illnesses, in addition to a number of other supposed health benefits. There is no scientific basis to back these beliefs up.

14 April 2017

15 April 2017

Rights to the forest
By Vidya Venkat, The Hindu, 15 April 2017
Rights to the forest have been among the most contested subjects since colonial times. In Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania and Mexico, Prakash Kashwan uses a comparative political analysis approach to show how India, Tanzania and Mexico, with their varied forestland regimes, have negotiated the conflicts arising out of claims to forests for subsistence, industry and cultivation. In the process, the political scientist based at University of Connecticut in the U.S. shows that the state cannot always be the best arbiter of forest rights.

[India] Forest guard attacked by villager in Dalkhaniya range
Times of India, 15 April 2017
A forest guard posted in Dalkhaniya Range was brutally wounded after being assaulted by a local villager at Shermardi checkpost late on Thursday night.
The victim Bhanu Dagda was on duty at the checkpost when he stopped the villager Kalu Makrani from entering the forest area as the deadline to go inside was nearing completion. However, Makrani, who has a field in the protected area, got enraged and attacked Dagda with some sharp weapon.
“Dagda has received deep cuts on his face and admitted to the Amreli Civil Hospital. A police complaint has also been lodged against Makrani,” said AP Singh, chief conservator of forests.
Makrani has also been booked under atrocities act and the investigation has been handed over to the deputy superintendent of police rank officer.
This is the second attack on on-field staff of the forest department staff in the last 45 days.

[India] The tiger has left its mark in Mhadei
By Shweta Kamat, Herald Goa, 15 April 2017
The recent spotting of five tigers — one male, two females and two cubs-in the State’s richest wild, the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), is not something very new. The protected area is habitat for wildcat is a well established fact for more than one and half decade now. But unfortunately, the successive State governments are still looking for more and more authentic evidences to declare this core area as ‘Tiger Reserve’ and the reason for such delay is best known to them only.
The Mhadei WLS, that spans just 208 sq kms in the Western Ghats — declared as the protected area in 1999 — is contiguous to the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary and Anshi Dandeli Tiger Reserve in the State of Karnataka. The contiguous forests of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra and the reserve forests and wildlife sanctuary of Radhanagari in Karnataka, Chandoli national park and the reserve forests of Purna and Dodamarg in Maharashtra have been named as Tiger Conservation Units (TCU) (minimum habitat area o should support 50 tigers or have documented evidence of 50 tigers).

[India] No impact on rights of inhabitants in the protected area: Kerkar
Herald Goa, 15 April 2017
Environmentalist and member of the National Wildlife Board (NWB) Rajendra Kerkar said declaration of the area as a tiger reserve will have no impact on the rights of the inhabitants in the protected site.
“As per the notification issued by the Union Ministry in 2014, the rights of the people residing in eco sensitive zones of tiger reserves, remain intact, wherein they are allowed to undertake agriculture, horticulture, eco-tourism works, etc,” said Kerkar.
While there are apprehensions in the mind of people residing in these areas, the government as well as environmentalists claim that the move will have no impact on developments undertaken by the local communities and will certainly restrain them from undertaking illegal activities like poaching and commercial activities.

16 April 2017

Body found after forest guards fire at Nameri National Park
DNA India, 16 April 2017
A body was found after forest guards at Nameri National Park here fired a few rounds to disperse a group of men fishing illegally in a river, Sonitpur Divisional Forest Officer Pankaj Sarma said today.
The body was recovered today from near the spot where the firing took place last night, but it was still not clear whether the man died due to the firing, Sarma said.
A group of fishermen had entered the park last night to catch fish in Jia Bhorali river, probably because of ongoing Rongali Bihu celebrations, though fishing was banned there, Sarma said.

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