Conservation in the news: 10-16 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.

10 July 2017

Protecting A Little More Land Could Save A Lot More Biodiversity
By Will Sullivan, Nova Next, 10 July 2017
Save the Amazon rainforests. Save the whales. Save the giant pandas.
The conservation movement has historically focused on protecting a specific species or its habitat, but there are a lot of species and habitats to save—far too many to make slogans for them all. As humanity’s footprint continues to expand, the list continues to grow, spurring scientists to find a more sophisticated—though less glamorous — way to protect biodiversity. According to a new study, we may only need to protect a little more land to preserve a significantly greater amount of biodiversity.

The untold cost of cost-effectiveness in family planning
By Laura Robson (Blue Ventures), Thomson Reuters Foundation, 10 July 2017
Against a backdrop of unprecedented funding cuts, top policymakers and funders from more than 50 countries are gathering at the Family Planning Summit in London tomorrow, racing to accelerate global efforts to reach 120 million more women and girls in the poorest countries with contraception by 2020.
With mounting pressure from policies introduced by U.S. President Donald Trump that cut funds for family planning programmes worldwide, providers are being forced to deliver more with less.
Such pressure often results in the prioritisation of easily accessible urban populations at the expense of people living in remote rural areas.
Yet the pioneering work of environmental groups partnering with health agencies is drawing attention to people living in isolated areas, who fall outside of the laser focus on cost-effectiveness and are at risk of being left behind, by providing an elegant solution for meeting their needs.

[Cambodia] King Asks the Public to Stop Illegal Logging, Plant Trees
By Van Roeun, Cambodia Daily, 10 July 2017
King Norodom Sihamoni marked National Tree Planting Day on Sunday by urging Cambodians to fight illegal logging and poaching, some two months after a U.K. NGO disclosed illegal logging on an industrial scale in Ratanakkiri province being facilitated by corrupt local officials.
The king was in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district, where he made a ceremonial show of helping replant a 10-hectare area of former state forest with 9,000 saplings of mostly Kra Nhung and Thnong, among the most valuable and sought-after species of timber for illegal loggers.

One size doesn’t fit all: Indians have been wrong about how to reduce human-animal conflicts
By Vrushal Pendharkar,, 10 July 2017
As the human footprint increases, it tramples on areas reserved for wildlife, pushing animal populations to disperse into agriculture fields and human settlements. This leads to greater human-animal interaction, affecting both. For humans, the interaction results in loss of crops and livestock and damage to property, and for animals, it often means death as they are trapped, poisoned or shot.
The periphery of protected forests is where a good number of these violent human-wildlife interactions occur. This is why individuals, institutions and governments engage a range of mitigation measures: while some may set up machans, others fence off properties. But do these measures, undertaken based on convenience and costs, prove effective in reducing the conflicts?

Rights activists oppose heritage listing of Tibetan region
Straits Times, 10 July 2017
Besides Gulangyu, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee, which met over the weekend in Krakow, Poland, has also approved China’s request for special recognition for a vast, traditionally Tibetan region known as Hoh Xil or Kekexili.
The region was inscribed last week on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as a natural site – in a controversial decision opposed by pro-Tibetan groups.
The groups argue that the Unesco designation will reinforce China’s control over the region, allowing the Chinese authorities to remove residents from the area and threaten its environment and nomadic culture, reported Reuters.

11 July 2017

The Colonial Legacy of a Globe-Trotting Team of Artists and Scientists
By Claire Voon, Hyperallergic, 11 July 2017
It’s a scene both thrilling and terrifying: in the quiet darkness of the ocean, two massive, black fish grin as they encircle a submarine-like, spherical chamber that has no doubt descended great depths. The dramatic encounter was skillfully painted in 1932 by artist Else Bostelmann, and it was apparently far from fiction, as it was witnessed that year by American naturalist William Beebe as he was crammed inside that metal pod at a depth of 2,100 feet in the waters of Bermuda.

Era of ‘Biological Annihilation’ Is Underway, Scientists Warn
By Tatiana Scholssberg, New York Times, 11 July 2017
From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are in precipitous decline, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway, new research finds.
The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calls the current decline in animal populations a “global epidemic” and part of the “ongoing sixth mass extinction” caused in large measure by human destruction of animal habitats. The previous five extinctions were caused by natural phenomena.

Endangered Rhinos Flee From Indian Floods Into Poachers’ Hands
By Russell Goldman, New York Times, 11 July 2017
A herd of endangered rhinos fleeing the deadly floods sweeping northern India now faces another threat, wildlife officials said on Monday: Poachers are stalking the animals in the few areas of high ground to which they have managed to escape.
Severe flooding since June in Assam State has forced half a million people from their homes and left scores of animals in Kaziranga National Park in grave danger, said Pramila Rani Brahma, the state’s forest and environment minister.
The park is home to elephants, Indian hog deer, wild buffalo and the one-horned rhino, a species facing a “high risk of extinction in the wild,” according to the World Wildlife Fund.

New troops of endangered primates discovered in southern Vietnam
VN Express, 11 July 2017
The troops include pregnant females and infants, giving hope to the conservation of the rare black-shanked douc langur.
Authorities in the southern province of Dong Nai have identified three troops of endangered primates following sightings reported by local farmers, according to Vietnam News Agency.
Forest rangers say the primates are black-shanked douc langurs, a species classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and protected by Vietnamese law.

12 July 2017

[India] Spotlight on Regeneration: The Timbaktu Collective bridging community and conservation
By Siddharth Rao, The Ecologist, 12 July 2017
This year saw the launch of the Lush ethical cosmetics company’s first-ever Spring Prize which rewarded organisations around the world who are committed to social and environmental regeneration. Lush is a content collaboration partner with the Ecologist and this is the first in a series of special reports from the 11 prize winners explaining more about their project and its goals. SIDDHARTH RAO introduces the Timbaktu Collective which won an award for its inspiring regeneration and conservation work with some of the most marginalised communities in India.

[India] Assam floods: Heavy rains leave Kaziranga National Park inundated, animals being shifted to safe spots
The Indian Express, 12 July 2017
Incessant rain in Assam has left large parts of Kaziranaga National Park submerged in water. According to a forest official, more than half of the area is inundated and looking at the grim situation the animals are being shifted to a safer place. “More than 50 per cent of is area submerged. Elephants, rhinos and deer migrated to Karbi Hills as flood level expected to rise,” said M Das, Assistant Conservator, Kaziranga National Park. This comes a day after six hog deers were killed because of the deluge.

13 July 2017

Chris D Thomas: ‘We can take a much more optimistic view of conservation’
By Richard Lea, The Guardian, 13 July 2017
After a lifetime out in the field, measuring the egg-laying preferences of Californian butterflies or counting plant species living in and around Birmingham, ecologist Chris D Thomas is no typical debut author. But like so many writers, his first book, Inheritors of the Earth, has been germinating for some time.
The seeds were sown in the early 2000s: Thomas was researching ways of saving animals and plants threatened by climate change, when he began to focus on the inconsistencies in attitudes to the ebb and flow of nature. “When things died out or declined it was seen as a loss,” he says, “but when new things arrived it was either ignored or also counted effectively as a loss, because it was seen as a departure from how things used to be. Implicitly, people were thinking that there was a way the world should be.”

Tiger Beer combines AI, art and conservation in WWF selfie drive to save tigers
By John McCarthy, The Drum, 13 July 2017
Tiger Beer has collaborated with WWF on a substantial donation and awareness-raising campaign to help clamp down on the illegal tiger trade.
The ‘3890Tigers’ initiative has been named so because in the last century the number of tigers estimated to live in the wild has dropped from around 100,00 to around 3,890, a figure the brand is intent on propagating back to a substantial number.

Foreign ‘conservation armies’ in Africa may be doing more harm than goo
By Rosaleen Duffy, Hannah Dickinson, and Laure Joanny, The Conversation, 13 July 2017
Conservation is becoming more militarised, and it is cause for serious concern. Rising rates of elephant and rhino poaching in Africa, and fears of a link between poachers and terrorists, have led to foreign national armies, private military companies and even UN peacekeeping forces all moving into wildlife protection.
Not everyone is happy to see them: the Game Rangers Association of Africa recently issued a statement raising concerns about the growth of military personnel from beyond Africa involved in ranger training and anti-poaching operations across the continent.

Brazil proposes shrinking national forest after highway protests
By Ana Mano, Reuters, 13 July 2017
Brazil’s government has sent Congress a bill to shrink the boundaries of a national forest in the Amazonian state of Pará, according a statement from the Environment Ministry on Friday, a move environmentalists said would speed deforestation of the area.
The government proposed the bill as a comprise measure after local residents, who see the Jamanxim national forest as a source of livelihood, blocked a key grains exporting highway in response to President Michel Temer’s veto of similar legislation to reduce its protected area.
The government’s bill, if approved, would create a new protection area (APA) near the town of Novo Progresso, which is on the edge of the forest around 790 miles (1,270 kms) northwest of the capital Brasilia. The measure would convert 349,086 hectares, or 27 percent of the national forest into an APA, the ministry said.

[China] Rare Bird’s Yunnan Habitat Threatened by Mining, Dams
By Wang Yiwei, Sixth Tone, 13 July 2017
The endangered green peafowl is under threat from illegal human activity in a conservation area in southwestern China, according to a Greenpeace report published Wednesday.
The environmental organization discovered that a mining company had begun operating in the core zone of the Konglong River Nature Reserve in Yunnan province. Even entering such a conservation area is illegal, but the company had built roads, mine shafts, and storehouses for explosives, according to satellite photos provided by Greenpeace.

[Guyana] Konashen to be declared a National Protected Area
Stabroek News, 13 July 2017
A historic signing of an agreement between the Protected Areas Commis-sion (PAC) and the Village Council of Konashen in Region Nine on 7th July has paved the way for the declaration of Guyana’s first Amerindian Protected Area under the National Protected Areas System.
Konashen is Guyana’s southernmost Amerindian village and it is located in the Upper Takutu-Upper-Essequibo on the border with Brazil, according to a media release from PAC. In 2004, Konashen was granted Absolute Title to the entire Konashen Indigenous District, an area of 648,567.2 hectares (3% of Guyana’s land mass) of relatively intact forests, rich in biodiversity and ecosystems, and containing the head waters of the Essequibo River. [C-W: Subscription needed.]

Newly Collared Giraffes in Kenya Could Pave Path for Species Conservation
Smithsonia’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, 13 July 2017
Despite their ever-so-long necks, giraffes have historically not made for good candidates for GPS tracking. Instead, those long necks have been part of the problem—when the animals lean down for a drink, the GPS collars that sit so gently around the necks of other species, slide right off. So Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) scientists and partners are trying a new design. In June, they secured GPS collars around the ossicones, the horn-like structures atop their heads, of 11 reticulated giraffe in Kenya, which are now sending back hourly GPS locations via satellite to the researchers daily. With support from donors, Friends of the National Zoo’s Conservation Nation program is funding the purchase of giraffe trackers.

Conservation project in PNG goes ahead
Radio New Zealand, 13 July 2017
More than 200,000 hectares in East and West New Britain of Papua New Guinea will receive stronger environmental sustainability in the next few years.
Conservation Environment and Protection Authority have implemented the project costing PGK 1.5 million.
The MoA was signed by CEPA’s Managing Director Mr. Gunther Joku as well as the provincial administrators from both provinces.

Sierra Leone News : NPAA Trains Police Prosecutors & Investigators on Protected Area Crimes
By John Koroma, Awareness Times, 13 July 2017
National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) yesterday 12th July 2017 at the Police Officers’ Mess Kingtom in Freetown has ended a two days training workshop for Prosecutors and Investigators of the Sierra Leone Police on protected area crimes of the country.
The Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police, Mr. Francis Munu at the commencement of the training, he thanked the National Protected Area Authority for organizing the training. He added that the training will help in capacitating his men to be fully equipped with the legislation of the National Protected Area Authority and it will be useful in executing their duties especially in investigating and prosecuting cases on the National Protected Area Authority.

[South Africa] Three Kruger National Park escaped lions shot dead
By Lizeka Tandwa, News24, 13 July 2017
Three lions which escaped from the Kruger National Park have been shot dead.
SANParks spokesperson William Mabasa said one of the lions, which escaped on Sunday, was killed by a farmer after the three killed the farmer’s cattle.
“Last night the lions killed cattle in one of the farm areas. The owner of the farm shot at the lions and killed one and wounded another.”
Mabasa said they dispatched a search team in the early hours of Thursday morning and found the lions close to the farm.
“The terrain was difficult and we could not drug them so we were forced to shoot the remaining two lions,” he said.

[USA] More Than One Ton of Ivory Is About to Be Crushed in NYC’s Central Park
By Alicia Graef, Care2, 13 July 2017
Elephant advocates are gearing up for an event that will destroy more than one ton of illegal ivory in Central Park that’s intended to send a message that the illegal wildlife trade threatening elephants won’t be tolerated.
While the sale of new ivory has been banned across the country for years, conservationists believe the market for pre-ban ivory has offered a cover for illegal sales and that the laws and punishments were too weak to be deterrents.

[USA] LIC gallery sold illegal ivory sculpture, DA says
By Peter C. Mastrosimone, Queens Chronicle, 13 July 2017
The owner and assistant director of a Long Island City art gallery each face felony charges for selling an ivory sculpture to undercover state investigators, knowing it is illegal to do so, the Queens district attorney announced Monday.
Ro Gallery owner Robert Rogal, 70, of Manhattan and salesman Jaime Villamarin, 45, of Brooklyn each face up to four years in prison if convicted of the two violations of state Environmental Conservation Law they are charged with.
Elephants, which are targeted by poachers for their ivory tusks, are listed as an endangered species. In New York State, the sale of more than $1,500 worth of products made from elephant ivory without having first obtained a Department of Environmental Conservation license or permit is a felony.

Abundant Wildlife and No Crowds: A Visit to Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park
By Melissa Twigg, Vogue, 13 July 2017
The vast game parks of Africa have a powerful place in our collective imagination. Even those of us who have never set foot on the continent can name its most famous conservation areas—the Maasai Mara, the Serengeti, the Kruger, and Etosha are all evocative of the extraordinary experiences Africa has to offer.
But Hwange, Zimbabwe’s biggest and most diverse national park, is rarely included in that impressive list. This is in spite of the fact that the country is dominated by two iconic rivers, endless bushland, the world’s most famous waterfall, and some of the best game viewing on the continent.

14 July 2017

15 July 2017

Brazil to open up 860,000 acres of protected Amazon rainforest to logging, mining and farming
By Fiona Keating, The Independent, 15 July 2017
The Brazilian environment ministry is proposing the release of 860,000 acres in the National Forest of Jamanxim for agricultural use, mining and logging.
The government’s order was a compromise measure after protests from local residents and ecologists who claim that the bill could lead to further deforestation in the Pará area.
If approved, the legislation will create a new protection area (APA) close to Novo Progresso. Around 27 percent of the national forest would be converted into an APA, the ministry said.

[India] Push for mini-hydel plants near sanctuary a threat to elephant habitat
By R. Krishna Kumar, The Hindu, 15 July 2017
In a move that could jeopardise the elephant corridor and wildlife movement, efforts are on to permit three mini-hydel projects close to the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. This has the potential of escalating human-animal conflict in the State.
The projects are Shivanasamundra Mini Hydel project (which is an expansion of the original project completed nearly 10 years ago by Pioneer Power Corporation), S.M. Hydro Power Project, and Madhyaranga Energy Pvt.Ltd. The inspection of the area for these projects was conducted on December 17, 2016.
What is intriguing is that the State Wildlife Board, in its meeting held on September 11, 2015, had already rejected the proposal in the case of Shivanasamundra mini hydel, while the other two projects are currently being proposed for which a section of senior officials in the government are keen to accord clearance.

16 July 2017

Tanzania slaps tough conditions on oil drilling firm
Xinhua, 16 July 2017
Tanzania’s state-owned environmental watchdog said on Saturday it has given tough conditions an oil drilling firm before it started drilling at a game protected area in the Kilombero valley in Morogoro region to protect the environment.
Swala Oil and Gas (Tanzania) Plc intends to drill oil in the game protected area but the east African nation’s National Environment Management Council (NEMC) said the drilling will be done after it meets stringent conditions aimed at safeguarding the environment of the area.
The government has granted Swala Oil and Gas (Tanzania) Plc an environmental impact assessment (EIA) certificate to drill oil at the Kilombero valley after it had commissioned Environmental Resources Consultancy Limited to undertake the EIA. The consultant produced an EIA report which was reviewed by a multi-sectoral technical advisory committee that advised the NEMC on the oil drilling project.

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