Conservation in the news: 3-9 July 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.

3 July 2017

Get That Life: How I Became a Photographer for National Geographic
By Heather Wood Rudolph, Cosmopolitan, 3 July 2017
I grew up in the mountains of central Mexico. My dad decided I would go to his alma mater and I would be an accountant like him. I was a very obedient, good Catholic girl, so I went along with the plan. Then my senior year in high school, [a college recruiter] visited and started talking about a campus in Northern Mexico on the Gulf of California where one could study marine biology. He showed pictures of kids tagging whales, going on fishing boats, and working in the ocean. I went, Aha, that’s exactly what I want to do.

[India] A drive for wildlife conservation
By K. Jeshi, The Hindu, 3 July 2017
The Lion Tailed Macaque (LTM) that can be seen only in the Western Ghats is threatened. The list also includes the Nilgiri Tahr and the Nilgiri Langur.
“We have only 200 birds left of The Great Indian Bustard. It can go extinct anytime. We have a very few numbers of forest owlets and Jerdon’s Courser is also seen in less numbers,” says R. Mohammed Saleem of Environment Conservation Group.

4 July 2017

Improving the preservation of amphibians in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest
University of Barcelona, 4 July 2017
The 90% of the biodiversity related to the amphibian populations in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest -one of the most threatened tropical forests- is not a protected area yet, according to an article published in the journal Science Advances.
The new study, which has the participation of the experts Gustavo Llorente and Felipe Siqueira Campos, from the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona, warns about the important need of more efforts on the conservation of the area’s biodiversity, which is the natural habitat of more than 500 amphibian species, in which there is a 90% of endemic species.

[India] To save saplings, forest dept kills trees
By Prasad Johil, Times of India, 4 July 2017
Local forest officials were allegedly found involved in killing small trees and shrubs at Sarola, ahead of Van Mahotsav celebrations.
A group of environmentalists including Rupali and Pankaj Shakkarwar along with Ashwini Moharir, who were on field expedition to collect bird data from Sarola, noticed the unmindful act on the part of forest department authorities.
Admitting ignorant approach on the part of lower-level authorities, senior officials at Aurangabad forest division said that they have sought explanation from the concerned staff for axing the green cover.
In a bizarre method, around nine to ten branches of cut trees were used to encircle planted saplings.

[Malaysia] Saving the tigers
By Denissa Goh, The Sun Daily, 4 July 2017
Imagine a world without tigers. Unfortunately, this may be sooner than later, unless something is done to reverse the dwindling population of these big cats.
Over the last century, the number of tigers in the wild has declined from an estimated 100,000 spread across 13 countries, to only 3,890 today.
These big cats’ major threat comes from poachers who see dollar signs on every part of a tiger’s body, from its skin and bones right down to its whiskers and teeth, to be used as medicine, ornamental accessories and even textiles.
Today, wildlife trafficking and the illegal tiger trade is an estimated US$20 billion (RM85.9 billion) a year industry.

5 July 2017

Local views key to unlocking ways to fairer and more successful nature conservation
Phys.org, 5 July 2017
New research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) shows how a policy aimed at ensuring the world’s protected areas are “equitably managed” has potential to improve nature conservation and outcomes for local people, although current practices that treat it as a ‘check box’ exercise put the global goal at risk.
Governments that are signed up to the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity have committed to ‘equitably’ managed protected areas by 2020—known as Aichi Target 11. Equity is considered important for ethical reasons, because conservation can have negative impacts on local populations. It also has a practical side: when local people view conservation management favourably, they are more likely to contribute to its long-term effectiveness.

[Belize] Money found growing on trees!
By Lee McLoughlin (WCS), Breaking Belize News, 5 July 2017
Belize’s economy has been in recession for more than a year. Our economy is not growing and we are becoming increasingly desperate for solutions. In our quest for a quick fix we often look toward big money foreign investors with big promises of jobs and revenue. But, as we have often seen, many of these projects have damaged our environment, not fulfilled promises of long term jobs and left us with more economic questions than answers.
The solution will not be a quick fix. It requires targeted national investment in homegrown industries that takes advantage of our greatest assets, our natural resources.

[Cambodia] Endangered Duck Eggs Found in Preah Vihear Sanctuary
By Matt Surrusco, The Cambodia Daily, 5 July 2017
About 12 meters above the ground, inside the hollow of a Koki tree in Preah Vihear province, local villagers discovered the first nest of the globally endangered white-winged duck recorded in Cambodia’s northern plains in five years, a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cambodia said on Tuesday.
The nest, which held seven eggs, was found on Sunday in Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary. Three men walking to a rice field spotted one of the endangered birds on a tree and reported it to WCS, according to the statement and Alistair Mould, WCS’s technical adviser for the northern plains region.

6 July 2017

Changes in conservation planning can benefit vulnerable mammals
By Tosha Jupiter, Phys.org, 6 July 2017
Right now, a prairie dog in Colorado is busy increasing soil carbon retention, increasing water infiltration, and clipping vegetation that will help maintain local grasslands and provide nutritious forage for large herbivores like cattle and bison. And, somewhere in Mexico, a pollinating bat is ensuring agave plants make good tequila.
Mammals across the globe provide natural goods and services that we all depend on, but one quarter of the world’s mammals currently are threatened by human activities, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN. Their functional traits (such as the ability to fly, swim, or dig) and the consequent ecological roles they play in ecosystems is just one lens through which to view mammalian diversity, but it isn’t the primary way most conservation efforts traditionally are prioritized. Most efforts look at the total number of species in an area and their vulnerability to determine conservation priorities, but that means biologically unique species—think about the platypus – may be underrepresented.

The dark side of wildlife tourism: thousands of Asian elephants held in cruel conditions
By Naomi Larsson, The Guardian (supported by Vulcan), 6 July 2017
Thousands of elephants being used for entertainment across Asia are kept in cruel, abusive conditions fuelled by the growing tourism industry, World Animal Protection has found.
Three out of four elephants surveyed in south-east Asia’s popular tourist destinations are living in harsh conditions where they are being used for rides, with mostly steel or wooden saddles, and tied in chains less than three metres long.
The scale of suffering experienced by elephants is “severe”, according to the animal rights NGO which assessed almost 3,000 elephants living in 220 venues in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and India between mid 2014 and late 2016.

Chinese Enterprises Commit to Wildlife Conservation in Uganda
WCS press release, 6 July 2017
At a landmark forum co-hosted by the China Enterprise Chamber of Commerce Uganda (CECCU) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), CECCU declared that Chinese enterprises operating in Uganda would support wildlife conservation.
At the forum entitled, “Challenges and Opportunities—Chinese Enterprises’ Engagement in Wildlife Conservation in Africa,” the Chamber pledged to strictly abide by the relevant laws and regulations of both countries, as well as instruct their employees to avoid involvement in the illegal trade of endangered wildlife and/or wildlife products, as well as acts that destroy the habitat of endangered species. Additionally, businesses will strive to make socially and environmentally responsible contributions to Uganda.

[PNG] K1.5m agreement for biodiversity conservation
By Quintina Naime, Loop, 6 July 2017
A K1.5 million agreement has been signed to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the provinces of East and West New Britain.
The funding will go towards a community-based forest and coastal conservation and resource management in PNG project.
The project is implemented by the Conservation Environment and Protection Authority (CEPA) of PNG, with two years of funding provided by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed today by CEPA and ENB Provincial Government, and separately with the WNB Provincial Government, which enables the project to go ahead.

7 July 2017

World Heritage Committee meeting shows challenges for the world’s treasured places, and reasons for hope
By Susan Lieberman and Alfred DeGemmis (WCS), Huffington Post, 7 July 2017
The international community, including governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations, have spent 10 days at the annual meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee—the decision-making body of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention—in Krakow, Poland. We have been here for WCS, and it’s been both encouraging and disheartening. From the destruction of ancient ruins in areas of war and civil conflict, such as cultural sites in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to careless development in major urban areas, many of our planet’s World Heritage sites are well-known and received plenty of media attention – but some are not.

[Cambodia] Trees planted in Preah Sihanouk following illegal logging
By Khouth Sophak Chakrya, The Phnom Penh Post, 7 July 2017
Preah Sihanouk provincial environment and forestry officials said yesterday that they had planted some 17,600 luxury trees in the Prey Toeksap Kbal Chhay protected area as part of a reforestation project after the area was hit with illegal logging.
Mut Sothearith, director of the provincial Environment Department, said three people recently were allegedly caught logging in the area, which consists of a total of 55 hectares of land.
“On Thursday morning, our team planted the 17,600 trees – rosewood, thnong, beng, neang, nuon, koki and chheuteal – on 16 hectares of land [within] the 55 hectares,” he said, adding Kbal Chhay is the most important ecotourism destination in the province.

Hong Kong seizes largest ivory haul in 30 years worth RM40mil from Malaysia
The Star, 7 July 2017
Authorities here this week made their largest haul of contraband ivory in more than 30 years, amid surging illegal wildlife seizures fuelled by lax regulations and buoyant demand from mainland China.
Customs officials on Thursday said they had seized 7,200kg of ivory tusks, valued at around HK$72mil (RM40mil), at a cargo warehouse beside the city’s harbour.
The ivory was discovered in a 40-foot container from Malaysia declared to hold frozen fish, beneath which officers found the tusks.
“The 1,000 boxes were half-empty when we found them with frozen fish put around the ivory,” said customs official Raymond Chan.
Conservation group WildAid estimated the tusks had probably been taken from about 720 elephants.

Hong Kong Ivory Seizure Largest in 30 Years
WWF, 7 July 2017
World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) is calling for an urgent clamp down on international organized ivory trade syndicates, as customs officers in Kwai Chung, Hong Kong report their seizure of approximately 7.2 tonnes of ivory in a shipping container inbound from Malaysia, earlier this week. Forensic investigations are currently underway to determine the exact quantity and source of the illegal consignment, which was declared as frozen fish, and could be the largest in 30 years.
While WWF commends the vigilance shown by Hong Kong’s authorities in intercepting this illegal consignment, and making crucial arrests, the size of the seizure is a stark reminder of the staggering scale of the global trade in ivory and the devastating impact it has on elephant numbers. Every year, on average, more than 20,000 elephants are killed for their tusks in Africa alone.

[India] Of human-wildlife interactions
By Amanda Banerjee, Live Mint, 7 July 2017
Imagine this: You’ve been losing a major portion of your monthly income; you know the source of the problem and have tried every technique possible to arrest the loss, but nothing has worked. You don’t have the option of changing your profession, or relocating. Over time, a sense of helplessness and desperation takes a toll.
It’s a scenario that is quite common among the rural population living in and around nature reserves—national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. They may inhabit the ecologically richest areas but they remain the most economically backward.

[USA] Award-Winning Philanthropists Explain the Roots of Their Giving
By Paul Sullivan, New York Times, 7 July 2017
Long before Jeffrey Skoll helped Pierre Omidyar build eBay into a company that made them both billionaires, he wanted to tell stories. He said a yearlong backpacking trip to Pakistan and India after he graduated from college opened his eyes to a world he didn’t know.
Coming out of Stanford University’s business school in 1995, he was hired by Mr. Omidyar as the auction site’s first employee. He wrote the business plan the company followed, and when eBay went public in 1998 he was wealthy beyond belief. His estimated net worth is $5.6 billion, according to Wealth-X, a financial research firm.
“This is where the philanthropy part starts for me,” Mr. Skoll said in an interview. “I was tasked with finding a way to share the success of the company with the people who helped make it what it was. I decided to start a company foundation.”
After that foundation was up and running, he returned to his desire to tell stories, now as someone with the means to fund people and their ideas.

8 July 2017

Costa Rica Declares November 3 as National Day of the Biosphere Reserves
By Laura Alvarado, The Costa Rica Star, 8 July 2017
President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís, declared November 3 as the National Day of Biosphere Reserves in recognition to the determinant role that these territories have in the conservation of biodiversity and the use of natural resources.
The decree, signed in San Gerardo de Dota by the President and the Minister of Environment, Edgar Guttierrez, also includes clear dispositions that establish the organic structure for the management of these areas, which falls on families, productive sectors and environmental organizations, among other participating agents.
“The Biosphere Reserves have a crucial role in the generation of opportunities for the productive development, the biodiversity sustainability, water resources and the communities’ adaptability to climate change, and thus it is important that we organize our efforts and work towards improving their management through possible alliances between the different local sectors and international sectors”, commented President Luis Guillermo Solís.

Rights groups protest UNESCO heritage status decision in Tibetan area
By Ben Blanchard and Cate Cadell, Reuters, 8 July 2017
Tibetan rights groups have criticized a U.N. cultural organization’s decision to extend world heritage status to an extensive plateau area in a heavily Tibetan area, saying it reinforces Chinese control in the region.
The groups argue the UNESCO designation will allow Chinese authorities to remove residents from the area, known as Hoh Xil in Qinghai province, and threaten its environment and nomadic culture.
“The (UNESCO) Committee ignored the reality that Tibetans, and nomads in particular, are stewards of the landscape whose role is essential to sustaining the wildlife,” said Kai Mueller, executive director of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

9 July 2017

[India] Assam’s Kaziranga National Park deploys drones to monitor animals in flood-ravaged state
First Post, 9 July 2017
Assam’s Kaziranga National Park has deployed three drones to monitor the movement of flood-hit animals and protect them from poachers, The Tribune reported.
Vehicles defying the 40 kmph speed limit on the 45-km arterial national highway stretch along the park are being fined Rs 5,000 keeping in view the safety of animals, the report added.
Transport commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri told The Times of India that the transport department has posted police officers to check speed of the vehicles passing through Kaziranga.

[Indonesia] One woman’s quest to save orangutans all started because of Julia Roberts
By Kate Chapman, The Mirror, 9 July 2017
With a racing heart, Steph reached for the remote control to turn up the sound on the TV. She was completely captivated by what she saw on the screen: Julia Roberts was cradling a tiny bundle of orange fur in her arms.
Steph watched as the Hollywood star tenderly fed the baby orangutan from a bottle, and instantly knew she wanted to do her bit to help. The documentary, In The Wild: Orangutans With Julia Roberts, followed the actress as she journeyed to the Indonesian island of Borneo to investigate endangered orangutans, the last remaining survivors of the great apes of Asia.
Julia Roberts explained that as humans destroyed their environment, the orangutans were in grave danger of dying out entirely.
Animal lover Steph had always watched every wildlife documentary she could find, but there was something about this one that struck a chord in her heart.

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