Conservation in the news: 8-14 May 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.

8 May 2017

Nature Needs Half
Rainforest Alliance, 8 May 2017
A ground-breaking new study, co-authored by almost 50 scientists, including Rainforest Alliance President Nigel Sizer, charts an ambitious yet achievable plan to halt mass extinction through a strategy of protecting half the Earth by 2050. The plan, linked to a policy initiative called the Global Deal for Nature (GDN), is being proposed as a companion pact to the Paris Climate Agreement.
“Climate change and the Earth’s impending mass extinction are inextricably entwined — we can’t address one without addressing the other,” Sizer says. “We need a Paris-like agreement on biodiversity conservation — and the plan put forth here is concrete, actionable, and science-based.”

New Study Will Help Giraffe Conservation
By Derek Lee, Wild Nature Institute, 8 May 2017
How do you reverse a population decline and save an endangered species? This is the central question in conservation biology and it is the core of my scientific work. A population of animals like giraffes is almost always made up of smaller groups of animals that we call subpopulations. The animals in the subpopulations are born and die at slightly different rates, and the movements of animals among the subpopulations connect them all into a metapopulation. I collect data and analyse those data with mathematics to understand these processes and figure out what exactly is causing the population to go extinct, so we can fix that problem and save the species.

[India] Fire rages at Gautala wildlife sanctuary
By Prasad Joshi, Times of India, 8 May 2017
A massive fire spread over a very large area of the Gautala wildlife sanctuary near Patnadevi and nearby areas since Saturday evening has damaged the local flora and fauna.
A portion of a mountain range, ravines and cliffs located in the sanctuary in the limits of Kannad and Chalisgaon tehsils were engulfed in the fire, which produced flames of nearly 40 feet in height, on-duty forest staffers said. Such was the huge spread of fire that it also reached up to ancient Pitalkhora caves, a heritage site dating backing to 2nd Century BC, eyewitnesses said.

9 May 2017

The countries that are best at conservation are the ones that depend on wildlife tourism
By Neha Thirani Bagri, Quartz, 9 May 2017
The struggle to conserve wildlife is a real battle. Conservationists are faced with a growing international trade in wildlife parts and rising demand for bushmeat. In Kaziranga, a national park in northeastern India, rangers have resorted to protecting rhinos by shooting poachers on sight.
Now, a study published in Global Ecology and Conservation shows that the countries that have been the best at conservation tend to be the ones with the most to gain from it economically.

DRC’S Garamba National Park: The last giraffes of the Congo
By Thomas Nicolon, Mongabay, 9 May 2017
Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo – Scientist Mathias D’haen said he couldn’t believe his eyes. We had been walking in the bush for a couple of days in a fruitless search for giraffes when all of a sudden one of the park rangers spotted some of the graceful ruminants.
“You’re incredibly lucky,” he said. “I never thought we would see giraffes here.”
The animals, which can weigh between 1,600 to 3,000 pounds, were a couple hundred feet away from us, well-camouflaged amidst the trees. It seemed to take at least 20 seconds to make out their shapes. It didn’t matter whether there were two or 10 of them: we had seen giraffes from the ground, which rarely happens.

Two New Species of ‘Yoda-Like’ Tarsiers Discovered in Indonesian Island
By Naia Carlos, Nature World News, 9 May 2017
Tarsiers, tiny nocturnal primates that remarkably look like Star Wars icon Yoda, are only found in certain parts of southeast Asia. Recently, scientists discovered two new species of the strange-looking animal in the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, a region where forests are in rapid decline.
According to a report from Conservation International, the two newly discovered species of tarsiers were spotted in the northern part of Sulawesi. Dubbed the Tarsius spectrumgurskyae and Tarsius supriatnai, the two are very similar but display distinct vocalizations and genetic data.

10 May 2017

Female conservationists agree to bridge gender gap in conservation
By Marianne Carter and Maaike Manten, BirdLife International, 10 May 2017
A group of inspirational women conservationists from nine countries, involved in conservation projects funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot have shared their experiences, identified a gender gap in conservation activities and discussed ways to promote gender equality in the conservation sector, through their own paths to conservation leadership.
The group met recently in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali during a four-day event organised by Fauna & Flora International, with support from the CEPF.

[India] ‘Entire Western Ghats must be declared eco-sensitive’
Times of India, 10 May 2017
The notification of nearly 60,000 sqkm (37%) of the western ghat area by central government as ecologically sensitive area (ESA) has raised apprehensions among activists, as they are wary of the remaining 63% being thrown open to unregulated growth.
The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF) has been dilly-dallying on declaring the protected area due to various reasons, including opposition from states regarding keeping ecosensitive areas out of bounds for industries and other activities.

[Indonesia] Natural disasters pose grave threat to planet’s last Javan rhinos, 10 May 2017
The world’s only population of Javan rhinoceros, already under severe threat from poaching, could go extinct in the future due to natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, according to a new study published in Conservation Letters. The few remaining Javan rhinos live in Ujung Kulon National Park, which is within sight of volcanic Mount Krakatoa and close to the Indonesian Sunda Arc, an area of converging tectonic plates that commonly cause earthquakes, triggering tsunamis.

[Indonesia] Conservationists plan expedition to secret ‘Noah’s Ark’ in Sumatra
by Jeremy Hance, The Guardian, 10 May 2017
Just a few years ago this place had no name. And in fact its new moniker – Hadabaun Hills – is the sole creation of Indonesian conservationist Haray Sam Munthe. Hadabaun means “fall” in the local language – Munthe suffered a terrible one in these hills while looking for tigers in 2013. But Hadabaun or Fall Hills remains unrecognised by the Indonesian governments and is a blank spot on the world’s maps – though it may be one of the last great refuges for big mammals on the island of Sumatra.

Why Russia’s indigenous people are wary of national parks
By Lauren Kaljur, UPI, 10 May 2017
Russia’s Numto Nature Reserve in western Siberia contains a sacred lake, endangered cranes and valuable wetlands for the Nenet and Khanty peoples. The area was also the site of an indigenous rebellion against the Soviet state during the 1930s, in protest of forced collectivization and the persecution of traditional leaders. Last year, the nature reserve’s borders were redrawn by the regional government to make way for new drilling operations for the oil company Surgutneftegas, forcing out Indigenous groups once again. In protest, reindeer herders recently built a traditional tent in the heart of Moscow.

[South Africa] MPs hit out at mining approval at Mabola sanctuary
By Bekezela Phakathi, Business Live, 10 May 2017
MPs have criticised the controversial decision by the Department of Environmental Affairs to approve an application for coal mining in the Mabola protected environment in Mpumalanga.
Last year, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa quietly approved the application by Atha-Africa Ventures, an Indian mining company that allegedly has links to relatives of President Jacob Zuma, to start an underground coal mine in the protected environment.

11 May 2017

[India] Biodiversity conservation need of hour: Addl CS
The Tribune, 11 May 2017
Himachal boasts of huge biological resources, which need to be conserved by everyone. This was stated by Additional Chief Secretary-cum-Chairman of the State Biodiversity Board Tarun Kapoor while presiding over a state-level interactive workshop on Biological Diversity Act, 2002, for the media here today.
Informing that the State Biodiversity Board had been constituted in Himachal for the implementation of provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, he said the Act emphasized the formation of biodiversity management committees (BMCs) at the gram panchayat level and documentation of people biodiversity register (PBR) aims to give access and benefit control over biological resources to local bodies.

Kenya dams will ruin the Serengeti
By Bakari Mnaya, Mtango Mtahiko and Eric Wolanski, ALERT, 11 May 2017
The Serengeti — a World Heritage Site and living laboratory for one of the world’s last great animal migrations — is facing one of its most serious threats.
The Serengeti ecosystem — comprised by Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, and adjoining game-controlled areas that create a buffer zone — has only one year-round river, the Mara.
During the driest periods, aside from a few scattered springs, the Mara River is the only source of life-giving water for Serengeti’s migrating wildlife — the vast herds of wildebeest, other megafauna, clouds of migrating birds, and the big predators whose sheer numbers darken the African plain.

[South Africa] Search for Kruger National Park lion called off
By Iavan Pijoos,, 11 May 2017
The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency Thursday called off the search for the fifth big cat that escaped from the Kruger National Park on Tuesday.
Spokesperson Kholofelo Nkambule said there has been no sight of the missing lion since its disappearance on Tuesday.
Four of the five missing lions were located and captured around 60km from Mananga near the border with Swaziland.

Famous tree-climbing lions of Uganda roaming farther as prey animals decrease
Wildlife Conservation Society, 11 May 2017
Scientists in Uganda studying the behaviors of the country’s famous tree-climbing lions have found that the home ranges of lion prides in the study areas have increased over time as they search farther for diminishing numbers of prey animals.
In the study, researchers compared recent data on the home ranges of lions living in Uganda’s Ishasha district with similar research from the 1970s to measure changes in home range size over time. They discovered the region’s lion populations have responded to an overall decrease in prey biomass with smaller pride sizes and larger home ranges, presumably to compensate for fewer animals to feed on.

12 May 2017

Habitat mapping of 20 IUCN red-listed mammals completed
The Himalayan Times, 12 May 2017
The mapping of the habitats of 20 of the 208 mammals red-listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature has been completed so far.
The habitat mapping project was begun in December of 2016 by IUCN in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation; Walter Jetz; Yale University, United States; the Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University; and the Kathmandu Living Labs.

Mineral exploration permits offered for protected Prey Lang
By Shaun Turton and Phak Seangly, Phnom Penh Post, 12 May 2017
One of four new mining exploration permits, advertised publicly this week, is within the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary map, coordinates reveal, sparking concern among activists and community members about the strength of the forest’s recently-acquired protected status.
In the first public tender of fresh exploration licenses since its creation in 2013, the Ministry for Mines and Energy (MoME) this week called for expressions of interest to prospect for minerals, primarily gold and copper, in four areas covering a total of 552 square kilometres.

Lessons galore from Malawi on how to combat illegal logging
By Gabrielle Lynch, Daily Nation, 12 May 2017
Last week, a magistrate’s court in Blantyre, Malawi, sentenced 35 individuals — 23 Mozambicans, 10 Malawians and two Chinese — to custodial sentences of a year to 18 months for illegal logging in the Lengwe National Park.
This was after the individuals were found guilty of illegal entry into a protected area; illegally conveying, possessing and using prohibited weapons in a protected area; and illegally disturbing indigenous species in a protected area.
The group also lost all of their equipment, including six tractors, a forklift, a bulldozer, a 30-tonne truck, one Land Cruiser, a Toyota Hilux, four motorbikes and a chainsaw.

[Pakistan] WWF unearths online animal trade nexus
The Express Tribune, 12 May 2017
An undercover survey by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) unearthed 14 social media sites and as many Facebook pages actively involved in the illegal sale of wildlife in Pakistan.
On Thursday, WWF-Pakistan has unveiled a report titled An Assessment of the Scale of Illegal Wildlife Trade in Pakistan. The report is part of a larger project titled Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade by Establishing a National Monitoring Network that Benefits Local Communities and Environment. The initiative has been undertaken with the financial support of USAID through its Small Grants Ambassador Fund Programme.

Gorilla conservation enhances livelihoods in Western Uganda
By Fredrick Mugira, New Vision, 12 May 2017
In the second part of our article on Conservation of Mountain Gorillas series, Fredrick Mugira investigates the contribution of these wild animals to the wellbeing of local communities.
Two critically-endangered mountain gorillas called Bweza and Mishaya calmly walk into view. They are on their early morning stroll through the quiet chilly air in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Their eyes carry a message to us human visitors: We are related.
There are just 880 mountain gorillas left on Earth and they survive only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, where 400 live in Bwindi National Park. Efforts to conserve the gorillas not only bring tourists to Uganda but also contribute to the wellbeing of local communities.

13 May 2017

Uganda Wildlife Authority translocates kobs from Murchison Falls to Kidepo Valley National Park
By Tony Ofungi, eTN Uganda, 13 May 2017
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has embarked on an ongoing mass translocation drive of 150 Uganda kobs from Murchison Falls to Kidepo Valley National Park in northern Uganda.
The purpose of the exercise is to diversify wildlife species in Kidepo Valley National Park and to expand their home range to their former status. Currently, Kidepo Valley National Park has only 4 kobs in the Boma area. This was confirmed by UWA Executive Director Dr. Andrew Seguya. “We intend to establish a new population in Kidepo Valley National Park which can act as ‘seed stock’ to populate other areas in the region,” he said.

14 May 2017

[India] A clarion call for forest conservation
By S Viswanath, Daccan Herald, 14 May 2017
Set in the fictional tribal village of Maasthi Gudi, Nagshekar’s film is about conservation of forests and protection of wildlife.
Vijay, who penned the story inspired by a real-life incident, plays the titular role of mahout’s understudy, Maasthi.
How he takes up the cudgels for protecting endangered species, specially the tiger, from poachers and their nefarious designs forms the film’s kernel.

[Vietnam] Lion fangs found in passenger’s sandals at Saigon airport
By Anh Duy, VN Express, 14 May 2017
Airport security in Ho Chi Minh City caught a Vietnamese passenger attempting to illegally transport wildlife products on Friday.
Dinh Van Tuyen, 41, was trying to board a flight to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport when airport security discovered 16 small, ivory-colored objects hidden inside his sandals during screening.

Vietnamese pensioner nabbed at Saigon airport for smuggling leopard skins and elephant parts
By Quoc Thang, VN Express, 14 May 2017
The illegal haul was cleverly hidden in her luggage and worth an estimated VND2 billion ($88,000).
A 65-year-old Vietnamese woman was detained at Tan Son Nhat International Airpoirt on Sunday for trying to smuggle leopard skins, ivory and other elephant parts into the country.
The woman touched down on a flight from Africa but was stopped by customs authorities after they spotted her acting suspiciously. During a luggage inspection, they discovered three sets of leopard skin as well as elephant parts, including 4 kilograms (24lbs) of ivory, nails and nine tails.

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