Conservation in the news: 17-23 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.

Communities Committed To Forest Eco-System Conservation On Savaii, Samoa
Papua New Guinea Today, April 2017
Eight communities on the island of Savai’i in Samoa have decided to continue forest conservation and have agreed to five year management plans (2017-2022) for three Community Conservation Areas.
The areas cover and protect a total area of 14700 ha of native forests and include water catchment areas, wetlands, lava flow areas and important lowland forests.
In March 2017 the village leaders formally agreed and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment. The management plans incorporate in the districts of Gataivai, Matauutu and Taga.

17 April 2017

New FAO training program launched in Fiji
Pasifik, 17 April 2017
A new training program implanted by FAO for Biodiversity Conservation and Protected Area Management in Fiji was recently announced.
The program aims at providing the necessary knowledge and skills at various levels of society to implement the International Convention of Biodiversity. The Fijian Minister for Forests, Osea Naiqamu, launched the training course program in the Fijian capital of Suva.
“The training program is designed to enhance the appreciation of the importance of biological diversity and ecological services and goods that the forests provide, understanding the impacts of climate change, stressing the importance of sustainable forest and land use practices, whilst making connections to meeting daily livelihood needs,” he said.

[India] State Forest Deptt to identify ESZs in sanctuaries
The Hitavada, 17 April 2017
State Forest Department has geared up to work on Eco-senstive Zones (ESZ) in sanctuaries. Subsequent to the Green Tribunal intervention strategy to curb encroachment in Kerwa- Kaliyasot belt and to identify ESZ is also being worked out.
ESZ also ensures that these areas act as ‘Shock absorbers’ to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas. As per guidelines, it is prerequisite that an inventory of different land-use patterns and the different types of activities, types and number of industries operating around each of the protected areas can be made. The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas. Earlier, a detail report has been sought by Green Panel over reducing the extent of Eco-senstive Zone (ESZ) for the ESZ proposal Singhori Wildlife Sanctuary. Singhori Wildlife Sanctuary, the most popular tourist destination of Madhya Pradesh, is covered an area of about 288 square kilometres. Singhori Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in Bari Tehsil of Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh.

18 April 2017

The Necessary Alliance between Conservationists and Rights Advocates
By Michael Painter, Scientific American, 18 April 2017
In what has become a TED Talk classic, Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, observes: “the opposite of poverty is not wealth…the opposite of poverty is justice.” Stevenson’s point is that it is not the lack of wealth that impoverishes people, but the complex of factors that lead people who do not have wealth to be treated unequally, and often victimized.
Some of us in the conservation community have experienced working in places characterized by a remarkable absence of both wealth and want, and the pleasure of knowing indigenous and traditional peoples who shared a positive and hopeful view of the world and their place in it. They did not experience the absence of what we considered wealth as want, and their identity was tied to their active stewardship of the natural ecosystems that characterize the places they lived, and on which they depend.

WWF: Endangered Species Being Poached In Protected Areas
By Ethan Harfenist, Vocativ, 18 April 2017
Illegal poaching, logging, and fishing of some of the most vulnerable species on Earth is being carried out in almost half of World Heritage sites, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday. Species listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are “illegally harvested” in 45 percent of these protected areas, of which there are more than 200 around the world.
“Natural World Heritage sites are among the most recognized natural sites for their universal value. Yet many are threatened by destructive industrial activities and our new report shows that their often unique animals and plants are also affected by overexploitation and trafficking,” Marco Lambertini, WWF International’s director general said in a statement. “Unless they are protected effectively, we will lose them forever.”

Brazilian MPs bid to cut protections for one million hectares of forest
By Megan Darby, Climate Home, 18 April 2017
A committee of Brazil’s Congress has approved proposals to roll back protections on 1.1 million hectares of forest and national park.
Lawmakers with links to mining and agriculture interests amended two government bills to open up even more land for exploitation, in a move that environmentalists say jeopardises the country’s climate change goals.
It amounts to “a licence to clear-cut”, warned Roberto Cabral, head of the government’s environmental protection agency’s elite deforestation-fighting unit.
“When you have a protected area, people may invade it to hunt and steal from it, but they will never clear-cut it because they know they won’t get property rights. When you trim down one of those areas, you are signalling to people on the ground that none of them is untouchable anymore.”

[India] Two Poachers Shot Dead By Forest Guards In Assam’s Orang National Park
India Times, 18 April 2017
Amid controversy over India’s tactics to deal with poaching menace, at least two poachers were killed by forest guards in Assam’s Orang national park. Assam’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Bikash Brahma confirmed on Tuesday that the poachers had entered the park with the intention to kill one-horned rhinos.
“The incident took place around 1 am today (Tuesday). The forest guards heard a gunshot and launched an operation immediately. The poachers fired at the guards when asked to surrender. Two poachers were killed in the ensuing gunfight,” Brahma said.
Located at the northern bank of Brahmaputra river, Orang National Park has an area of 78.81 square km. There are over 100 one-horned rhinos in the park.

[India] ‘Centre should take up lion conservation’
By Himanshu Kaushik, Times of India, 18 April 2017
T Subbarami Reddy, chairman of the 15-member Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation has said that the Centre should now directly take up conservation of lions in Gujarat.
“Lions are only found in Gujarat and with their population increasing, it is necessary that their management and conservation is given more importance,” said Reddy, who is currently visiting Gujarat to discuss wetland conservation, solid waste and e-waste management, among other issues.
Speaking to Times of India, Reddy said the number of lions is growing, the Gir National park is great, and if the Centre pays more attention, the sanctuaries in Gujarat will give a tough challenge to Africa in terms of tourism.

[Philippines] Davao City mulls ecotourism and cultural plan for Mt. Talomo
By Antonio L. Colina IV, Minda News, 18 April 2017
City Mayor Sara Duterte said they are mulling over a comprehensive ecotourism and cultural plan for Mt. Talomo to regulate trekking activities and protect the watershed and the nesting site of the Philippine Eagle.
This developed after the city government received reports of illegal trekkers who would scale up Mt. Talomo as a jumpoff point to Mt. Apo Natural Park.
“However, for those who wish to visit the mountain, the public is informed that a comprehensive ecotourism and cultural plan will soon be rolled out. This will cover regulations that will ensure that the watershed area is protected from human activities that are injurious and destructive to the environment,” Duterte said in a statement Tuesday.

19 April 2017

Wildlife Trafficking is Threatening Nearly Half of All World Heritage Sites
By Alicia Graef,, 19 April 2017
There are hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world that have been protected because they are culturally, ecologically and economically valuable.
These sites are among the last strongholds for some of the earth’s most iconic and endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos.
Unfortunately, even though these sites are recognized for their ‘outstanding universal value,’ researchers have found they’re still being threatened by illegal activities.
According to a report just released by the World Wildlife Fund, poaching, illegal logging and illegal fishing are occurring in nearly 30 percent of natural and mixed World Heritage sites. And threatened or endangered species are being poached or illegally harvested from 45 percent of them. More concerning is that these numbers are believed to be low estimates, because the nature of illegal activities makes them difficult to track.

The Search for Lost Species: Global Wildlife Conservation to Launch Most Extensive Worldwide Quest for Species Not Seen in Decades
Global Wildlife Conservation press release, 19 April 2017
Global Wildlife Conservation today embarks on the first phase of the Search for Lost Species, the largest-ever global quest to find and protect species that have not been seen in the wild in decades. The campaign will work with local partners to send scientific expeditions around the world to some of the most remote and uncharted wild places on Earth in search of 25 “most wanted” species. These species represent flagships for conservation.

The rise and fall of biodiversity
By Chris Sandbrook, Thinking Like a Human, 19 April 2017
All around the world, biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate. From an all-time peak in 2003, it has lost an incredible 40% in just over a decade. Although it is clinging on in certain places, the situation seems to be dire. How much longer can biodiversity survive?
This story sounds familiar to conservationists who are bombarded daily with depressing news about the biodiversity crisis. But in fact these statements have nothing to do with declines in the diversity of life on earth – they are about the use of the word ‘biodiversity’ itself. The statistics above are taken from Google Trends, a tool monitoring relative interest in general google search terms over time. Entering ‘biodiversity’ into this service reveals a steady decline between 2004 and 2008, followed by a fairly steady state since then.

A Wholesome Plan to Protect Half the Earth
By Dena Spatz, Island Conservation, 19 April 2017
During the first week of March, 2017, I joined hundreds of people at the “E.O. Wilson Foundation’s Biodiversity Days Conference“. The theme for the event was “Half-Earth”, a call to action to save the natural world. The event consisted of two days of lectures, keynote speakers, round table discussions, and films addressing why, where, and how the Earth can be protected to save biodiversity. Among them were scientists, filmmakers, journalists, teachers, philanthropists, economists, and even superstars, like Paul Simon, who played a live version of The Sound of Silence juxtaposed with a backdrop of some of our world’s most distinctive and invaluable species.

[Malaysia] Sabah hopes conservation efforts get more support
Borneo Post, 19 April 2017
Sabah is committed to achieving its commitments in protecting the environment, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman.
“The State Government has had to forgo substantial revenue from natural resources, especially in timber.
“This is to ensure Sabah’s ecosystem is resilient in supporting our needs and that of the world,” Musa said in a speech delivered by Minister of Special Tasks Datuk Teo Chee Kang at the second Satoyama Initiative Regional Workshop for Asia here yesterday.

20 April 2017

Mystery over 730,000 missing Elephants
MINA, 20 April 2017
Up to 730,000 elephants are estimated to be missing from protected areas across Africa, a shocking conservation study reveals today.
It means that a third of the elephants’ precious refuges have fewer than five per cent of the animals they should be protecting – with “pervasive poaching” to blame.
Yet researchers who have produced the astonishing figures say they should not be treated as “doom and gloom” statistics and believe their findings can go on to help conserve the planet’s largest land mammal.
In reality, there are only 350,000 African elephants left roaming across 93 per cent of their range.

IFAW: Africa’s Protected Areas Have Just A Quarter Of The Elephants They Should
International Fund for Animal Welfare press release, 20 April 2017
A new study from the Conservation Ecology Research Unit (CERU) at the University of Pretoria predicts how many elephants there should be in 73 protected areas spanning 21 African countries. The research concludes that, largely due to poaching, protected areas are missing 75 per cent of their elephants, some 730,000 individuals. One-third of protected areas have less than five per cent of the elephants they should.
However, for the first time, we know which places deserve priority for conserving elephants.

We can save life on earth: study reveals how to stop mass extinction
By Morgan Erkison-Davis, Asia Times, 20 April 2017
The earth is losing species at a rate about a hundred times faster than historical (also called “background”) levels. For specific groups, that number is higher still, with research indicating amphibians are going extinct about 211 times faster than they normally should be.
This phenomenon is so widespread and profound that scientists think it may be the beginning of the planet’s sixth mass extinction. And, it seems, we humans are driving it.
But a new study is aiming to provide a bit of hope. Published last week in BioScience along with an accompanying interactive map, the study was conducted by a multidisciplinary team of scientists that analyzed regional ecosystem types (or “ecoregions”), land cover changes, and protected area extent around the world.

Sir David Attenborough to lead celebration of global conservation success
Traffic, 20 April 2017
World leading conservationists, including Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall and Steven Pinker, are gathering in Cambridge, UK, to celebrate #EarthOptimism this coming Saturday, 22nd April.
#EarthOptimism is a global movement that invites people to celebrate the many wins that the conservation movement has achieved for nature and inspire them to get involved.
Sir David Attenborough said: “While we cannot ignore the threats to nature, there are a growing number of examples of improvements in the health of species and habitats, along with benefits to human well-being, thanks to conservation action. But conservation cannot succeed through experts alone. The decisions that we all make in our day-to-day lives are critical for its success.”
The day’s celebrations will include “Stories of Hope”, a series of lectures on the theme of #EarthOptimism with speakers including Jane Goodall, Sir David Attenborough and Harvard psychologist Steve Pinker; and a public “Solutions Fair”, where over 30 organizations will present practical, planet-saving changes we can all make in our everyday lives.

Political attack on Amazonian protected areas
By Philip Fearnside and Thomas Lovejoy, ALERT, 20 April 2017
If conservative legislators in Brazil get their way, nature reserves in the Amazon could be slashed by around 1.5 million hectares — an area bigger than the Bahamas.
From a nature-conservation perspective, this would be a foolish and dangerous step backwards.
By promoting further forest loss, the attack on nature reserves might even destabilize the Amazon’s climate, which relies on moisture that the rainforest effectively produces itself.

[India] Notification issued to make Udaisagar a protected area
Times of India, 20 April 2017
The state government has declared Udaisagar Lake in Udaipur as a protected area and placed it under the Rajasthan Lake Development Authority to restrict “activities” in and around the water body.
The directorate of local bodies (DLB) issued two notifications regarding Udaisagar Lake. In first notification, the department has issued direction to demarcate the periphery of lake. The notification was also issued to declare it as a protected lake.
After the notification, various activities have been prohibited within the geographical boundaries of Udaisagar Lake.

21 April 2017

Earth Day: Eight amazing facts that prove tribal people are the best conservationists
Survival International, 21 April 2017
For Earth Day (April 22), Survival International reveals some of the amazing ways in which tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world:
1. The Baka “Pygmies” have over 15 words for elephant
The Baka people know so much about elephants, they have different words for them according to their sex, age and even temperament.
Studies have shown how the Baka in many areas live alongside high densities of endangered species. One Baka man told Survival: “We know when and where the poachers are in the forest but no one will listen to us.” Instead of tackling the causes of environmental destruction, conservation projects expose people like the Baka to harassment and beatings, torture and death.

Poaching Is Happening In Almost Half Of The World’s Protected Areas
By Jeanne Pouget, Konbini, 21 April 2017
Illegal poaching, fishing and logging are occurring in almost half of all Unesco World Heritage sites, according to a new report published by the World Wildlife Fund.
Entitled “Not For Sale”, the enquiry states that endangered species are being targeted in 45% of these protected areas, of which there are some 200 around the globe.
Considered some of the world’s most precious natural sites, these areas are home to thousands of rare plants and animals, including almost a third of the world’s remaining tigers and 40% of all African Elephants.
They are also the last remaining areas to welcome several severely threatened species such as the Java rhino in Indonesia and the vaquita in the Gulf of California.

The Earth Optimism Summit Seeks to Highlight Conservation Success Stories
By Kieran Mulvaney, Seeker, 21 April 2017
Scientists and their supporters will be descending on Washington DC — and hundreds of cities around the world — tomorrow for the March for Science. The tone is expected to be celebratory, but also infused with grave concern about US government efforts to sideline science amid a rollback of environment and public health rules.
Just a couple blocks from where marchers will convene in the nation’s capital, another gathering will highlight conservation successes that have already been achieved and how they might be expanded.

‘Atlas for the end of the world’ offers a path to protecting biodiversity, 21 April 2017
It’s been 47 years since Philadelphians filled Fairmount Park for the first Earth Day here, led by a group of University of Pennsylvania students. This year, amidst the day’s celebrations and other collective observances comes word that, if humankind is to truly coexist with biodiversity, we have to re-structure our landscapes on a vast scale.
In a forum on global urbanization, biodiversity and policy held at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design today, Richard Weller, Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture, presented the results of a 3-year research project entitled Atlas for the End of the World, which is published online at
Hotspots are regions of the world recognized by the global scientific and conservation community as containing an exceptional and irreplaceable diversity of life that is threatened with extinction. When put together, the hotspots are the sum total of the world’s genetic inheritance. The loss of these landscapes, Penn’s Weller explains, would be “akin to bulldozing the world’s libraries and burning all the books.”

From Madagascar, A View of the Looming Climate Crisis
WCS, 21 April 2017
In most countries of the world climate change is an abstract concept. In cities and urban centers around the world its hard to fully care why its important that corals in Australia are turning white, to get more than mildly upset that butterflies in the UK are disappearing faster than ever before, or to get really concerned about the fact that Greenland’s largest glacier is likely to melt faster and for longer than previously thought.
There are many reasons for this — but mostly because it all seems so far away and the quantities that are mentioned seem so small — after all what’s a degree here or there, or a few millimeters more of water in our oceans, a few species less than before?

[Malaysia] Landmark project to expand Sabah’s protected forest to 30% of land area by 2025
By Muguntan Vanar, The Star Online, 21 April 2017
A landmark project aims to increase Sabah’s protected forest to 30% of the state’s land area by 2025. More than 60 scientists from leading international universities are spearheading it.
The Sabah Forestry Department and South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) signed a memorandum of understanding for the project, which will draw top scientists to support the government’s rainforest protection efforts.
The scientists, from leading universities in Britain, Europe, the United States, Australia and Malaysia, witnessed the signing ceremony held at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative’s David Attenborough Building in England on Thursday.

Sabah conservationists applaud cancellation of proposed Sukau bridge
By Julia Chan, The Malay Mail, 21 April 2017
Nature conservationists commended the Sabah government today for calling off a highly controversial bridge through its Kinabatangan rainforest area that would have affected the very ecosystem it has benefitted from in tourism dollars.
One of the bridge’s harshest critic, Danau Girang Field Centre director Benoit Goossens, said the decision was the right one with foresight considering Sabah’s ecotourism reputation.
“I congratulate the Right Honourable Chief Minister of Sabah for his decision to cancel the bridge in Sukau and consider the environmental impact of such an infrastructure on an ecosystem already extremely fragile such as the Kinabatangan.

22 April 2017

Science: The Key to Wildlife Conservation
By Cristián Samper (WCS), Huffington Post, 22 April 2017
African forest elephants have been taking a beating, down 65 percent in a decade due to ivory trade. Science is one of the keys to save them, along with law enforcement and education.
Research published last year on forest elephants by WCS scientist Andrea Turkalo is a great example of the importance of science to wildlife conservation. Turkalo unveiled groundbreaking research looking at the trends and threats to forest elephant populations over decades and showed that it will take almost a century for them to recover from the intense poaching they have suffered since 2002.

Bolivia’s Madidi National Park and the Power of Protected Areas
By Rob Wallace, WCS, 22 April 2017
On this Earth Day it is important to take a moment to celebrate the key role that protected areas play in the conservation of the natural world. Beyond the innumerable natural, economic, social, cultural, health, and well-being values of protected areas, simply put protected areas are also the most absolute expression of the human race’s moral and ethical obligation to the conservation of the rest of Life on Earth, as well as the bewitching idea of wilderness.
For the best part of the last two decades, I have been privileged to work in one of the most amazing protected areas — Madidi. Where the Andes meets the Amazon, and spanning a unique altitudinal range of well over 19,000 feet, it is probably the worlds most biologically diverse park. Over the last couple of years, the Wildlife Conservation Society has led an inter-institutional scientific expedition called Identidad Madidi to the park with the intention of dramatically improving biological knowledge for Madidi.

China plans world’s biggest national park on Tibetan plateau
By Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, 22 April 2017
China is considering turning the entire Tibetan plateau and surrounding mountains into a huge national park to protect “the last piece of pure land”, according to scientists briefed on the project.
Dubbed the Third Pole National Park because the plateau and mountains, including the Himalayas, have a natural environment that in many ways resembles polar regions, it would be the world’s biggest national park. The plateau covers an area of more than 2.5 million sq km, mainly in Tibet and Qinghai, dwarfing the biggest national park at present, Greenland’s 972,000 sq km Northeast Greenland National Park.

[Malaysia] Stronger protection needed for Greater Ulu Muda forests
Free Malaysia Today, 22 April 2017
We the undersigned, are deeply concerned about extractive activities that have been detected in Ulu Muda forests. This is based on a news report titled “Fresh logging at Ulu Muda catchment” in The Star on April 14, and information from the signage found close to the main road from Gubir to the Ulu Muda jetty.
The Ulu Muda Forest Reserve and surrounding forest reserves (referred to as the Greater Ulu Muda forests hereinafter), with a total area of more than 163,000 hectares is the water catchment area for three man-made dams – namely Muda, Pedu and Ahning and forms the headwaters for the Muda and Kedah rivers.

Canadian oil firm pulls out of national park in Peru’s Amazon
By David Hill, The Guardian, 22 April 2017
A Canadian-headquartered company, Pacific Exploration and Production, has pulled out of a huge oil and gas concession overlapping a new national park in the Peruvian Amazon. The concession, Lot 135, includes approximately 40% of the Sierra del Divisor national park established in 2015.
The concession has provoked opposition in Peru and just across the border in Brazil for many years, including regular statements since 2009 from indigenous Matsés people in both countries and a lawsuit recently filed by regional indigenous federation ORPIO. Both Lot 135 and the park overlap territory used by the Matsés and a proposed reserve for indigenous people living in “isolation.”

23 April 2017

Meet the woman who is uncovering the truth behind the illegal rhino horn trade, like you’ve never seen it before
Australian Rhino Project, 23 April 2017
Bonné de Bod, an award-winning television presenter and filmmaker shares what she has learned on her three-year long investigation unveiling the dark truths behind the rhino horn trade. Bonné shares her incredible story detailing the ups and downs involved in pushing boundaries and bringing the truth into people’s living rooms.

[India] Rhino carcass found in Kaziranga National Park, cops detain 3
By Anup Dutta, Times of India, 23 April 2017
Forest staff found the carcass of an adult male rhino in Kaziranga National Park on Saturday.
The horn of the rhino was missing. An empty cartridge of a .303 rifle was also recovered from near the spot. Police have detained three persons for interrogation in connection with the incident.
With this, the number of rhinos killed by poachers in Kaziranga national park this year has gone up to three.
Divisional forest officer (Kaziranga), Rohini Saikia, said, “The rhino was shot dead three to four days ago by poachers, who chopped off its horn. Our staff found the decomposed carcass from the spot when they were on patrol.”

[India] Poaching at Gorumara National Park: Committee to probe ‘lapses’ by forest officials
Indian Express, 23 April 2017
The recent killing of two rhinos at Gorumara National Park in north Bengal has raised questions over security and vigilance there, prompting authorities including state Forest Minister Binoy Kumar to form a committee to probe potential lapses on the part of forest officials.
Two one-horned rhinoceroses were retrieved from the park on Friday. According to reports, poachers had killed the rhinos several weeks ago, and had hidden the bodies inside the park. Forest officials reportedly only came to know about the poaching after rhino horns were recovered from a group of smugglers in Assam.

Kuki Gallmann shot and wounded at Kenya conservation park
BBC News, 23 April 2017
Renowned Italian-born conservationist Kuki Gallmann has been shot and injured in an ambush at her conservation park in central Kenya.
The author of the best-selling memoir I Dreamed of Africa was airlifted to hospital for treatment.
Ms Gallmann, 73, owns the Laikipia Nature Conservancy.
She also ran a luxury safari lodge that was burned down last month by suspected cattle herders, who have been in conflict with landowners.
Herders have been invading private property in search of fresh grazing in the drought-stricken Laikipia region.

Leopards could be extinct in one of their last strongholds in three years if poaching isn’t stopped
The Mirror, 23 April 2017
Leopards face extinction in part of South Africa in just three years if illegal poaching continue at the current rate, warns new research.
During a study scientists found that the leopard density – the number of leopards per 100 km2 – had decreased by 44% between 2012 and last year, and by 66 per cent since 2008.
If the decline continues at the same pace there will be no leopards left by 2020, according to the study conducted by Durham University researchers in the Soutpansberg Mountains.
Study author Dr Samual Williams, said: “This is especially alarming considering that in 2008 this area had one of the highest leopard population densities in Africa.”

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