Conservation in the news: 19-25 June 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.

19 June 2017

[India] Tigers to roam in Mukundra National Park by December again
Times of India, 19 June 2017
Plans are afoot by Rajasthan wildlife and forest department to quickly reintroduce tigers at the Mukundra Tiger Reserve.
Though the National Tiger Conservation Authorit (NTCA) had approved the reintroduction of tigers in Mukundra Hills in Kota by December 2018, the state forest department is planning to do so a year earlier, additional chief secretary (forest and wildlife) Nihal Chand Goyal said.
“We want the tigers to be reintroduced by December this year,” he said. The department is now working on augmenting the prey base in the reserve to expedite the process of reintroduction.

[India] Section 144 enacted in Kaziranga National Park area
The Indian Express, 19 June 2017
Section 144 Cr P C has been promulgated along NH-37 from Jakholabondha to Bokakhat and areas near Numaligarh for free and easy movement of animals coming out of Kaziranga National Park during monsoons.
Bokakhat Sub-divisional Officer, Civil, Dhiraj Das said like in the previous years, this year too section 144 was imposed along the KNP as the water level of rivers Brahmaputra and Difloo is on the rise and most of KNP areas are submerged under water.
When the animals try to cross NH-37, that becomes their lifeline during monsoons, in search of highlands and hill tops of adjacent Karbi Anglong district. Vehicle speed needs to be controlled to 30 km per hour for the safety of the animals and to ensure that they are not hit by speeding vehicles.

Anti-poaching drones yielding fruits in Malawi
By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga, The Southern Times, 19 June 2017
An anti-poaching drone at Malawi’s Liwonde National Park currently being run by African Parks to combat poaching of elephants and rhinocerous is bearing fruits, the drone team operators Antoinette Dudley and Stephan De Necker have confirmed.
Dudley, operator of the Air Shepherd drones, said the drones had been a potentially effective tool to protect elephants and other species that are a pillar of Malawi’s faltering tourism industry.
Since drone operators started to fly three months ago at the park which is surrounded by densely populated settlements, they have scared over 1000 illegal poachers while over 50 arrests have been made and they have also installed more than 60 miles of electric fencing and moved 261 elephants to another safe reserve.

Mozambique: 6,000 animals to rewild park is part-funded by trophy hunting
By Jeremy Hance, The Guardian, 19 June 2017
Call it Noah’s Ark on lorries. Dozens of trucks rolled over the Zimbabwe savanna carrying elephants, giraffe, African buffalo, zebras, and numerous other large iconic mammals. Driving more than 600km of dusty roadway, the trucks will deliver their wild loads to a new home: Zinave national park in Mozambique. The animals are a donation from Mozambique’s Sango Wildlife Conservancy – a gift that the owner, Wilfried Pabst, says would not be possible without funds from controversial trophy hunting.
“In remote places and countries with a weak tourism industry and a high unemployment rate, it is very difficult – or almost impossible – to run a conservancy like Sango without income from sustainable utilisation,” Pabst said.

[Philippines] Patag as tourism zone
By Errol A. Gatumbato, The Visayan Daily Star, 19 June 2017
Last week, I came across Republic Act 8059 that declared Barangay Patag in Silay City as a tourism zone, and it reminded me of policy issues affecting the site, relative to its inclusion, as well as part of the Northern Negros Natural Park.
RA 8059 was passed on June 15, 1995, and it requires the Department of Tourism, in coordination with the Philippines Tourism Authority and other concerned government agencies, to prepare a development plan involving the construction, installation, and maintenance of appropriate facilities and infrastructure that will enhance the tourism potentials of Patag, one of the scenic sites and known tourism destinations in Negros Occidental.

[Sri Lanka] Lessons on conservation from ‘the land of eternal mangroves’
By Catherine Cheney, Devex, 19 June 2017
People are still missing in Sri Lanka after devastating floods and landslides last month killed hundreds and displaced thousands on the island nation. But in communities all along the coastline of this island nation in the Indian Ocean, there are efforts to protect ecosystems that could in turn protect the country from rains and storms capable of wiping away entire towns.
Sri Lanka is working on mangrove forest protection measures that have been praised as the first of their kind in the world. And while recent heavy rains may have destroyed seedlings, they have only strengthened the determination of the government and its partners to continue their work on mangrove conservation and restoration.

Tanzania: Time Up for Conservation of Wildlife Innovation
By Deus Ngowi, Tanzania Daily News, 19 June 2017
Poaching is a deadly crime against wildlife. It entails an illegal catch or killing an animal, bird, or fish on someone else’s property.
It could also mean illegal shooting, trapping or taking of game or fish from private or public property.
In Tanzania and other countries that are endowed with vast resources in wildlife enjoy this benefit but it does not end there, as it has also to share the consequences of poaching that are extensive.
Being in proprietorship of 20 percent of the species of Africa’s large mammal population found across its reserves, conservation areas, marine parks and national parks that are spread over an area of more than 42,000 square kilometres wildlife resources of Tanzania are described as ‘without parallel in Africa’ and ‘the prime game viewing country’.

[Zambia] Conservation programme saves lions, wild dogs
By Benedict Tembo, Zambia Daily Mail, 19 June 2017
Large carnivores are declining worldwide due to a combination of human factors, including habitat loss, poaching leading to prey depletion and snaring by-catch of carnivores and conflict.
Fortunately, Zambia is one of the last remaining strongholds for large African carnivores but is also under pressure and there is not a lot of information on large carnivores given they are hard to study.
The Zambian Carnivore Programme (ZCP) says keeping accurate and current information on carnivore populations being conserved is fundamental.

20 June 2017

Research suggests less affluent countries more dedicated to wildlife conservation than rich countries
By Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay, 20 June 2017
Studies have shown that, due to human activities, species loss over the past century was at least 100 times higher than historical levels, fueling speculation that we’re witnessing a sixth global extinction event.
There’s still time to save many of the world’s most recognizable large animals, or megafauna — species like elephants, gorillas, lions, rhinos, and tigers. But of those species still with us, 60 percent of the world’s largest herbivores and 59 percent of the world’s largest carnivores have been found to be currently threatened with extinction due to threats like habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflicts, over-hunting, and the growing wildlife trade — in addition to the impacts of climate change.
Given these circumstances, you’d think that countries across the world would be dedicating resources to protecting wildlife, and you’d be right. But of course there are varying levels of commitment to conserving threatened species, and research published in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation last month suggests that rich, developed countries are frequently doing the least.

Cambodian refuge gives tourists a glimpse of the wildlife trade
By Erin Hale, Gulf Times, 20 June 2017
Lucky, an 18-year-old Asian elephant, trudges along a lightly wooded path on an early weekday morning, accompanied by her trainer and half a dozen foreign tourists a few steps behind.
The walk is part of Lucky’s daily routine. And so is interacting with visitors, who have paid 150 dollars for a behind-the-scenes tour of Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.
Just an hour’s drive from Phnom Penh, the centre is run by the Cambodian government with assistance from the environmental group Wildlife Alliance. For a premium price, tourists can get up-close access to animals like Lucky. After the morning walk, these tourists get to hand-feed the elephant pineapples and watermelon.
Lucky is an amenable host, having lived with humans for most of her life after being rescued from traffickers in 1999 as a baby.

Scientists at work: bridging the divide between development and conservation in Cambodia
By Harriet Ibbett, The Conversation, 20 June 2017
Gentle groans of cattle gradually woke me from my slumber. It had been another hot, humid night spent shuffling to sleep on wooden slats – my three research assistants had adopted hammocks, but I simply couldn’t stand being surrounded by polyester in 35°C. Even at 4am, it was just too hot. Above me, the deep fiery hue of dawn spanned the sky as far as the eye could see. Swifts swept in among the palms, clearing the skies in a feeding frenzy.
I’d been in Cambodia six weeks, and this was one of the last villages left to survey. I was researching the impact of local communities’ livelihoods on a critically endangered bustard species; the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis). Fewer than 1,500 florican remain globally, over 60% of which seasonally reside in the grasslands of Kampong Thom province, central Cambodia.

[Fiji] Chief leads conservation in province
By Siteri Sauvakacolo, The Fiji Times, 20 June 2017
Placing a ban on their traditional fishing grounds is a traditional practice of the iTaukei for as long as can be remembered. It was usually done to mark the death of a chief and would go on for at least 100 nights or one year before the taboo is lifted.
Over the years and with an increasing population, taboos were put in place to protect marine resources and help replenish depleted fish stocks and marine resources.
While this may have been a practice for some villages, particularly those in our maritime and coastal areas, the province of Rewa has joined the initiative to declare part of their qoliqoli (fishing ground) taboo.

Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania at risk
By Apolinari Tairo, eTN Tanzania, 20 June 2017
A team of experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warned the Tanzania government over continued mineral and commercial activities inside the Selous Game Reserve, the biggest wildlife conserved area in East Africa. The reserve is a popular tourist destination.
In addition, a team from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNESCO headquarters in Paris visited and inspected the Selous Game Reserve in February of this year and released its interactive report on May 19 which warned the government of Tanzania to stop all mining and commercial activities in the Selous Game Reserve.

21 June 2017

Rainforest Trust Partners Receive International Conservation Awards
Rainforest Trust, 21 June 2017
This May, the Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) presented Whitley Awards to two members of Rainforest Trust partner organizations. According to the WFN website, “The Whitley Awards champion effective local conservationists from bio-diversity rich, resource-poor countries, who are spearheading innovative work to save endangered wildlife and benefit local communities.”

New highway brings deforestation near two Colombian national parks
By Taran Volckhausen, Mongabay, 21 June 2017
Planned since the 1950s, the Marginal de la Selva is a $1 billion highway project that would create a paved land passage through the Andean foothills in Colombia’s Amazon region. The highway, when complete, would allow land cargo to cross South America from the Atlantic to the Pacific without having to enter the Andes Mountains, opening an enticing trade route from Venezuela to Ecuador through Colombia.
While the majority of the road project has been completed, there is still one particularly sensitive stretch that has yet to be finished: a section that passes between two of the country’s national parks. As expectations for the road project rise, rates of deforestation have soared and the zone is now one of eight “deforestation hotspots” in Colombia, giving rise to concerns about the project’s possible impacts on the parks.

[Mexico] Logging for train line protested in CDMX
Mexico News Daily, 21 June 2017
Commuters between Mexico City and Toluca may be looking forward to reduced travel times on a new interurban passenger train service, but others are concerned that the train will cost some trees.
Residents of the Mexico City borough of Cuajimalpa de Morelos have been protesting against what they believe is ecocide.
Personnel with the federal Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) began felling trees early Monday morning on a piece of land known as El Ocotal, described by neighbors as a natural protected area.

The War on Southeast Asia’s Natural Environment
By Gregory McCann, The Diplomat, 21 June 2017
The first and only time I have ever heard a tiger roar in the wild was in 2013 in eastern Thailand. I’ll never forget it. We were camped out in a half-demolished ranger substation that was missing its entire front wall and most of its windows; this was the handiwork of a herd of Asian elephants, apparently irritated by this manmade structure deep inside their forest home. A half-overgrown dirt road runs from the park office into the interior of the forest, and a smaller, muddier access road led to this broken hut. As our jeep tires spun out, a monitor lizard scurried across the road, a flock of hornbills flew overhead, and piles of elephant dung were everywhere to be seen. I was told to look out for tiger footprints. When we cut the engine we could hear pileated gibbons hooting in the hills.

22 June 2017

Community Ecoguards Help Secure a Proposed Wildlife Sanctuary in Cameroon
Rainforest Trust, 22 June 2017
The Lebialem Highlands region of southwest Cameroon is home to diverse endemic and threatened species. To protect this vital habitat, Rainforest Trust is supporting the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) to create the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary for endangered wildlife such as the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, the Drill, the African Forest Elephant and the Goliath Frog.
Since the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary does not yet exist, there is no official protection of the forest. With funding from Rainforest Trust, ERuDeF has recruited local community members to serve as “Ecoguards.” The Ecoguards prevent hunting and agricultural encroachment and contribute to ongoing biodiversity by helping to track wildlife with camera traps and GPS technology. In addition, ERuDeF staff hold “biodiversity sensitization” meetings with community members to discuss the benefits of biodiversity conservation.

Costa Rica: UNESCO urged to protect area from Del Monte pineapple operations
Fresh Fruit Portal, 22 June 2017
A Costa Rican environmental group has reportedly sent a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) asking it to protect lands surrounding archeological sites where Del Monte owns pineapple plantations.
Local media El Nuevo Diario reported the Ecologist Federation (Fecon) had said the fruit-growing operations belonging to the multinational’s subsidiary Pindeco were in close proximity to a protected site.
In May the Costa Rican government ordered the suspension of Pindeco’s ‘Osa’ pineapple project, days after it had also announced a ban on the herbicide bromacil.
Following on-farm inspections on May 9, the National Environmental Technical Secretariat (Setena) announced it had ordered the suspension of the project until Pindeco can readapt its operational proposal for the area, newspaper La Nación reported.

[India] A success story in eco conservation
By Mohamed Nazeer, The Hindu, 22 June 2017
Kolayad grama panchayat wins KSBB’s best BMC award.
The Kolayad grama panchayat here could not have done a better job for its biodiversity conservation and environmental protection than firm enforcement of decisions to ensure compliance.
No wonder that the panchayat’s Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC), constituted as per the Biological Diversity Act to accelerate local-level conservation activities, has won the Kerala State Biodiversity Board’s (KSBB) best BMC award this year.

[South Africa] Civil society takes Atha-Africa to court
By Megan Van Wyngaardt, Mining Weekly, 22 June 2017
A coalition of eight civil society and community organisations has launched proceedings in the Pretoria High Court against India-owned mining company Atha-Africa Ventures, asking the court to stop the miner from starting any activities inside the Mabola protected environment, located outside Wakkerstroom, in Mpumalanga.
The parties have alleged that Atha-Africa did not yet have confirmed environmental authorisation and local planning approval.

[UK] Hull announce partnership with WWF to help increase population of tigers
Eatsleepsport, 22 June 2017
Hull have announced a three-year partnership with the World Wildlife Fund in a bid to help increase the global population of tigers.
The Sky Bet Championship club will help raise funds and awareness among fans and employees, while the KCOM Stadium’s south stand will be renamed the WWF Family Zone.
“This is a very exciting time for everyone at the club, we are delighted to be working together in what is the first partnership of its kind between a football club and WWF,” Hull’s vice-chairman Ehab Allam told the club’s official website.

[Zimbabwe] More elephants poisoned in Hwange National Park
By Adam Cruise,, 22 June 2017
More than 14 elephants, including a mother and her young calf, have been poisoned in and around Zimbabwe’s premier game reserve, Hwange National Park. Most of the poisoned elephants died near the south of the park. Some had their tusks hacked off. The others were found outside the northern sector of the park in state forestry land.
It was reported earlier this week that ten elephants had died from poison but since then four more carcasses have been discovered. Colin Gillies Vice-Chairman of the Matabeleland branch of Wildlife & Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ), an organization that conducts annual elephant counts in Hwange, says the lush vegetation from good seasonal rains has been hampering the search.

23 June 2017

[India] Pushed out of the woods
By Basker Tripathi, BLink, 23 June 2017
In the scramble to save the endangered tiger and its home in the forest, tribal families in Odisha’s Similipal reserve have lost theirs, as justice eludes them under the Forest Rights Act.
About a kilometre north of Manada village, in Odisha’s Jashipur town, lies a row of huts. The black plastic sheets on their roofs that kept out the rains last year have weathered. Inside a thatched shed, draped in a white cotton sari with broad pink checks, 60-year-old Basanti Murmu is seated on a cot. The frail woman’s gaze is fixed on a group of people building houses a few feet away. Lal Bahadur Murmu, Basanti’s youngest son, parks his bicycle near one of the houses. Once completed, the one-room house will shelter his family of five. But for his mother, home will always be elsewhere.

[India] How a conflict between different ideas of conservation is hurting the adivasis of Tamil Nadu
By Sibi Arasu, The News Minute, 23 June 2017
The choice in front of Balan alias Manju epitomizes the adage, ‘between a rock and a hard place’. Does he go to work and take his children to school? Or does he stay back home and make sure that his small farm of coffee and jackfruit is not pillaged by wild elephants?
“On the days I don’t work, I don’t know if there’ll be food for my family that night,” says Balan, a Kattunayakar resident of the village of Chambakolly. This village, located in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, is susceptible to constant raids by pachyderms, especially when there is a scarcity of food within the core forest area.

Nature Kenya’s Serah Munguti recognised for Tusk Conservation Award
By Jude Fuhnwi, Birdlife International, 23 June 2017
After several years on the frontline working with communities and campaigning for the conservation of Kenya’s biodiverse Tana River Delta, Serah Munguti, Advocacy Manager of BirdLife International’s Partner in Kenya was shortlisted as finalist for the fifth annual Tusk Award.
Serah who works for Nature Kenya has reached out to local communities and engaged with policy makers to preserve the delta which has been under constant threat from developers in all sectors.

24 June 2017

[India] Degradation seeing forest landscape disappear: CAG-commissioned study
By Mohit M Rao, The Hindu, 24 June 2017
A staggering 3,660 of evergreen and deciduous forests have disappeared over the past four decades, while 267 of built-up area and buildings have come up in and around protected areas in the State. This is about five times the size of Bengaluru.
A look into the data furnished by the office of the Comptroller and Account General (CAG), which recently audited the state of forests and the performance of the Forest Department, has thrown up startling figures on the decline and increasing degradation of protected forests.

[India] Third Orang rhino poached this year
By Naresh Mitral, Times of India, 24 June 2017
Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma has sought a detailed report on how the poaching of a rhino took place on Thursday at Orang tiger reserve and national park, about 150 km from here. Brahma said action would be taken if there is found to be any negligence on the part of the forest officials.
The forest minister rushed to Orang on Thursday to have a meeting with forest officials, which lasted late into the night, to find out if negligence is to blame for poachers having managed to kill the third rhino in the protected area this year so far.

In a Guardian Story About an Environmental Conflict in Kenya, the White Saviour Rides Again
By Christine Mungai, Global Voices, 24 June 2017
The Guardian recently published an article by Tristan McConnell, their correspondent in Nairobi, Kenya, titled “Who shot Kuki Gallman? The story of a Kenyan conservationist heroine.” McConnell attempts to tell the story of a conflict in Laikipia, a county in northern Kenya, through the eyes of Gallmann, who is best known for her autobiography I Dreamed Of Africa, which was turned into a 2000 feature film starring Kim Basinger.
Laikipia has been in the headlines on account of the migration, triggered by harsh weather conditions, of local herders and tens of thousands of their cows, goats and sheep in search of water and pasture. The migrating herders and their livestock have breached the fences and boundaries of private nature conservancies, which account for nearly half of Laikipia’s land area. Politicians, taking advantage of historical grievances, have goaded the pastoralists on. Their call for the herders to forcibly occupy the holdings of all large landowners in the area, both black and white, has rattled Laikipia.

25 June 2017

[India] When Indira Gandhi Was Livid With Minister’s Plan To Buy Aircraft
NDTV, 25 June 2017
When Karan Singh proposed a plan to buy an aircraft in 1973 for use by Project Tiger officials, it was shot down by a livid Indira Gandhi who asked him, “Have we got our priorities wrong?” This incident that took place May 1973, barely a month after the launch of Project Tiger, finds mention in Congress leader Jairam Ramesh’s new book, “Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature”.
Project Tiger was formally launched at the Corbett National Park. Karan Singh, who was the then Union minister for tourism and civil aviation, was made the chairman of the Indian Board for Wildlife.
“The Prime Minister personally handpicked Kailash Sankhala as the first director of Project Tiger despite the fact that he was not popular in the forest bureaucracy and many were irked by his working style and actions,” says Mr Ramesh, a former environment minister during UPA-II.

[Kenya] Conservation of wildlife key to economic, GDP growth
By Isaac P. Kalua, The Standard, 25 June 2017
Wildlife-based tourism contributes nearly 14 per cent to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product. Consequently, one in every 10 Kenyans in formal employment works in the wildlife tourism sector. Indeed, lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and all our famous wildlife, are the most unsung heroes of our economy. It is therefore heartening news that most of our wildlife is increasing, not decreasing. Four days ago, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) released results of a census they carried out in some of our national parks, national reserves and conservancies.

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