Conservation in the news: 24-30 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.

24 July 2017

Pangolin hunting skyrockets in Central Africa, driven by international trade
Mongabay, 24 July 2017
Ballooning demand for pangolin scales and meat has driven the hunting of these armored animals up at least 145 percent in Central Africa since before 2000, according to a new study published online July 11 by the journal Conservation Letters.
Pangolins have been tagged as “the world’s most heavily trafficked wild mammal,” often for the keratin plates that protect it and are used in Africa and Asia in traditional medicine. But until now, scientists didn’t know how big an impact that illegal trade was having on hunting in Central Africa.

[India] Flood hits India’s Kaziranga National Park, killing four rhinos
By Bikash Kumar Bhattacharya, Mongabay, 24 July 2017
Annual monsoon floods earlier this month inundated more than 70 percent of India’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest population of greater one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis). The water level has now receded, but “about 15 percent of the park is still under water,” Kaziranga divisional forest officer Rohini Ballav Saikia told Mongabay on July 19.

25 July 2017

Conserving the World’s Remaining Intact Forests
By Michael Painter and David Wilkie, Mongabay, 25 July 2017
Intact forests are among the few places on earth where native trees and animals can fulfill their ecological roles outside the influence of industrial humankind. Some interpret “intact” to mean absent the influence of people, but people have lived within forests the world over for millennia and we are only beginning to understand how they have – and continue to – influence them.
A recent article in Science reviews plant domestication practices by pre-Columbian peoples in the Amazon, concluding that they continue to influence the composition of the forest we know today. Of the roughly 16,000 woody species the Science researchers identified within the Amazon forest, a mere 227 account for more than half of the total number of trees in the Amazon, a disproportionality that the authors refer to as “hyper-dominant.”

[India] Karnataka: CAG raps forest department for fudging facts
By Rohan Ramesh, Deccan Chronicle, 25 July 2017
The Comptroller and Auditor General has accused the state Department of Forests of fudging facts regarding its management of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in the state.
The CAG has made this damning indictment in its latest report on the performance audit of ‘Administration of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Karnataka’.
The CAG report, Report No 6 of 2017, is a severe rap on knuckles for the Forest Department over virtually all aspects of its management of the state’s forest resources and the care-taking of its fauna.

Human-wildlife conflict, tolerance and mitigation measures from the forest fringes of India
By Priyanka Hari Haran, Research Matters, 25 July 2017
India, with its 1.3 billion people, has one of the highest human population densities in the world. Yet, for centuries, the country has also been home to many tropical wild animals. With changing times and an ever-increasing population, however, the lines between human settlements and forests have started to blur. As a natural effect of this, conflict incidents between humans and wildlife have come to light ever more frequently in recent times. This has initiated a need to understand why and how such conflicts ensue. How do communities living in the edges of the forest ward off wild animals? For example, people use many mitigation measures to protect their livestock and fields, but we don’t have a clear idea about how effective their strategies are. And how do people perceive animals trampling fields and stealing livestock?

[Myanmar] The elephant killings
By Sam Aung Moon, Frontier Myanmar, 25 July 2017
At 7am on November 7, 2016, U Soe Naing was woken by the overpowering stench of rotting flesh. It didn’t take long to find the source of the smell; the head of an elephant was resting on the bank of a creek that ran beside his house. He later found the body stuck on a tree stump about 400 metres further upstream. It appeared to have drifted downriver to Chaung Sauk village during the night, amid a heavy downpour.
“The body was badly deformed,” Soe Naing recalled in a recent interview. The carcass had no skin or flesh; like the head, the limbs had been severed.

Namibia to get US$1.8 million to combat illicit wildlife trafficking
News Ghana, 25 July 2017
Namibia’s Environment Ministry will get financial aid valued at 1.8 million U.S. dollars from the U.S. Embassy to combat wildlife trafficking in the country.
The Embassy in the country announced the developments in a statement on Monday and said the U.S. Ambassador, Thomas Daughton in partnership with World Wildlife Fund will grant the aid which will be officially handed over at an event set for Wednesday in Windhoek.

China banned the sale of tiger bones so traders are importing South African lion parts instead
By Khanya Mtshali, Quartz Africa, 25 July 2017
The ban on tiger trading in China is causing importers to use South African lion parts to make traditional tiger-based medicines, according to a report by the Environment Investigation Agency (EIA).
Traders are replacing tiger parts with lion parts to sidestep Chinese laws regarding the sale and purchase of products containing tiger bones. A joint study from conservation groups, Traffic and Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, notes that the sale of lion skeletons in South Africa had jumped from 50 skeletons in 2008 to 800 in 2015.

[South Africa] More resources needed to address rhino, elephant poaching – dept
By Kevin Brandt, Eyewitness News, 25 July 2017
The Environmental Affairs Department says that more resources are needed to address rhino and elephant poaching.
Minister Edna Molewa on Monday briefed the media on the latest statistics.
She’s revealed that there’s been a national decrease in rhino poaching this year.
There has been a slight decrease in the number of rhino poached in the Kruger National Park since January, but officials warn that some provinces have seen a rise.

26 July 2017

Save the giraffes — with private property rights: Adam Summers
By Adam Summers, Los Angeles Daily News, 26 July 2017
Tigers, polar bears, elephants, rhinoceroses, gorillas, giraffes and other animals face serious threats to their existence, but too often animal welfare activists look to government for the same failed solutions. However, more and more scientists and conservationists are starting to look at what some might consider a surprising answer: private property and free markets.
Many conservationists tend to harbor more leftist political ideologies, so they are wont to see capitalists as greedy exploiters of resources. But this ignores the fact that the capitalist has a much stronger incentive to preserve the resources he or she controls, whether those products are food, clothing or wildlife — no product, no profit.

People and wildlife now threatened by rapid destruction of central America’s forests, 26 July 2017
Central America’s largest remaining forests are disappearing at a precipitous rate due to illegal cattle ranching, oil palm plantations, and other human-related activities, all of which are putting local communities and the region’s wildlife species at high risk.
A new comprehensive study by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) titled the “Human Footprint and Cow’s Hoofprint Analysis” was presented this month for validation and analysis by indigenous groups, protected area agencies, and civil society organizations from nine countries. This spurred the development of a joint commitment known as “The Petén Declaration.” Signed by 25 of the attending organizations, the declaration recognizes the causes of forest loss and commits to concrete actions to address them.

[USA] Manhattan Antique Dealers Plead Guilty to Selling Illegal Elephant Ivory
By Luis Ferré Sadurní, The New York Times, 26 July 2017
The owners of a Midtown Manhattan antiques shop pleaded guilty on Wednesday to illegally selling and offering for sale over $4.5 million in ivory from more than a dozen slaughtered elephants, the authorities said.
The shop owners, brothers Irving Morano, 47, and Samuel Morano, 49 — were arrested in September, about a year after undercover investigators bought an elephant-ivory carving at the store, Metropolitan Fine Arts and Antiques, on West 57th Street.

27 July 2017

How critical are big parks?
By Jeremy Hance, ALERT Conservation, 27 July 2017
Most of the world’s protected areas are too small to maintain nature — at least in all its spectacular diversity and complexity.
A study last year, for example, found that 40 percent of parks in snow leopard territory are too tiny to support even one breeding pair of the big cats.
Other research is showing that many small parks don’t sustain viable populations of rare species, protect the most vulnerable species, or maintain valuable ecosystem services — and are likely to suffer heavily with major climate change.

Vacancy: some more elephants needed in the bush
By Sarah Wild, Business Day, 27 July 2017
The African elephant is one of the continent’s best studied animals. However, conservation efforts have been based on flawed data.
New research out of the University of Pretoria has, for the first time, shown how many elephants there should be in an ecosystem, rather than how many there actually are. And the numbers are not pretty.
The study, which looked at 73 protected areas spanning 21 African countries, found that they have 730,000 fewer elephants in total than they should. One-third of the protected areas have less than 5% of the total elephants that their ecosystems require.

Tiger count in Uttarakhand goes up to 242, 2nd highest in India
The Indian Express, 27 July 2017
The count of tigers in Uttarakhand has gone up to 242 with an increase of 63 big cats this year, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has said. Also 11 cubs were found in the two tiger reserves, he had said on Wednesday releasing the latest figures for the year 2016 -17.
Uttarakhand has two tiger reserves – the Corbett Tiger Reserve and the Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Chief minister Rawat congratulated the forest department for the great work being done for the conservation of tigers and added that in terms of area and tiger population ratio, Uttarakhand is the number one state behind Karnataka which has 400 big cats.

[Indonesia] Sumatran rhino horn, pangolin parts seized in Aceh wildlife trafficking bust
By Junaidi Hanafiah, Mongabay, 27 July 2017
Police in western Indonesia are investigating an alleged wildlife trafficking network after a recent raid confiscated the hacked horn of a Critically Endangered Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) along with body parts of other protected animals.
Police from Aceh province posed as potential buyers before arresting a 53-year-old local man, who has only been identified by the initials A.S., on July 12 at his home in Batu Hitam village in the South Aceh district.

[Kenya] Wildlife firm says new migratory corridors to help enhance conservation
Xinhua, 27 July 2017
International elephant research organization, Save The Elephants, said Thursday an ambitious new report identifying some of Kenya’s most important wildlife migratory corridors will help close the gap between conservation and urban development.
Save The Elephants’ Head of Monitoring and one of the co-authors of the report, Dr Ben Okita said Kenya is renowned for its wildlife, which is a key economic asset, yet wildlife populations including those of elephants have declined dramatically over the last few decades.

[South Africa] Strike continues at Kruger National Park and other resorts
The Citizen, 27 July 2017
Workers on strike include rangers, field guides, cleaners and security guards.
Members of the Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) at national parks on Thursday resumed their strike for higher wages.
The strike was suspended last week after a new offer tabled by the employer, the SA National Parks (SANParks). However, the union said the offer was rejected.
“Horspersa members rejected the new offer as it will not equally benefit every employee. SANParks’ new offer is a 6.1 percent salary increase and a 1 percent salary progression for qualifying employees,” said Hospersa general secretary Noel Desfontaine.

[Tanzania] Poacher in DiCaprio documentary acquitted of several charges
Guelph Today, 27 July 2017
A Tanzanian poacher who was a subject of a documentary co-produced by Leonardo DiCaprio has been acquitted of several wildlife trafficking charges, though he is in prison for a related crime.
Boniface Methew Malyango, nicknamed “The Devil Has No Mercy,” was acquitted on Wednesday of illegal possession of elephant tusks and other charges, authorities in Tanzania said. However, he was sentenced in March to 12 years in prison for organized crime linked to wildlife trafficking.

[Thailand] Big plans for Phangnga National Park
By Apinya Wipatayotin, Bangkok Post, 27 July 2017
The government aims to make Phangnga National Park a model for “community travel” where local people will receive direct benefits from helping to protect and preserve the seas.
It will be a significant turning point for better marine resource management under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation — with cooperation from all stakeholders, said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, adviser to the project.

[Uganda] 7 districts fail to account for conservation funds
NTV, 27 July 2017
Seven districts surrounding Queen Elizabeth National Park received a total of 929 million shillings as mandatory community contributions by each National Park.
However, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the communities capacity to write out the projects to which the funds must go remains a challenge.
The districts have also faced challenges in accounting for the money disbursed. This means that the communities that are supposed to benefit from the money do not get most of it.

[USA] Illegal ivory to be crushed in Central Park
By Joseph Spector, Democrat & Chronicle, 27 July 2017
The state will demolish two tons of illegal ivory next week in Central Park that it has confiscated in recent years.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation offered a remarkable display of the items, valued at more than $8.5 million, at its Albany headquarters on Thursday, vowing to crack down on the illegal ivory trade in New York that leads to the deaths of elephants and the traders who traffic in it.

28 July 2017

White Man’s Game
By Steve Curwood, Living on Earth, 28 July 2017
Western environmental philanthropy in Africa has often focused on habitat and species conservation. Journalist Stephanie Hanes writes in her new book, White Man’s Game: Saving Animals, Rebuilding Eden, and Other Myths of Conservation in Africa, these well-intended projects can fail if they ignore local culture and beliefs. Using Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique as an example, Hanes and host Steve Curwood discuss the challenge of cross-cultural conservation endeavors.

Tigers Are Critically Endangered — and Revenge Star Emily VanCamp Is Doing Something About It
By Lindsay Kimble,, 28 July 2017
Emily VanCamp is lending her voice to some creatures that can’t speak for themselves.
The Revenge alum – and star of upcoming drama The Resident – tells PEOPLE exclusively that she’s partnered up with the World Wildlife Fund and Tiger Beer to help create awareness of the diminishing tiger population in the wild.
“The fact that these tigers could potentially disappear is heartbreaking,” VanCamp, 31, says.

Why Zachary Quinto, Prince William, and Leonardo DiCaprio Want You to Please Stop Posing With Tigers
By John Ortved, Vogue, 28 July 2017
I didn’t even know there was a Global Tiger Day. But I’ve recently learned a great deal about tigers. Did you know each tiger has an utterly unique pattern of stripes on its fur—like our fingerprints? Did you know that the wild tiger population has dropped about 95 percent since the beginning of the 20th century, largely due to the destruction of their habitat and poaching? There are less than 4,000 tigers left in the wild. Chillingly, there are more tigers than this—5,000, in fact—in captivity in the United States alone, with more than 90 percent of them being held by individuals without the accreditation of a proper zoo or care facility (more on this later). Zachary Quinto and his friends want to turn this trend around, starting with a social media campaign on July 29, Global Tiger Day.

Five promising stories for Global Tiger Day
Mongabay, 28 July 2017
Reporting on the plight of wild tigers (Panthera tigris) generally doesn’t lead us down very many pleasant paths. Poaching, habitat loss and the decimation of their natural prey has led to a 95 percent reduction in their numbers worldwide since 1900, and only about 3,900 tigers still live in the wild, according to WWF. But in the past year, Mongabay’s editors, writers and correspondents have managed to find a few stories demonstrating that there’s still some hope for the iconic cat.
Here are five upbeat articles to celebrate Global Tiger Day.

29 July 2017

Endangered Tigers Face New Enemy – Wire Snares
Environmental News Service, 29 July 2017
Illegal wire snare traps are creating a survival crisis for tigers and other wildlife across Asia. Today, on Global Tiger Day, the conservation groups TRAFFIC and WWF are urging the governments of tiger range countries to crack down on the practice.
Over 30,000 snares were confiscated in Cambodia last year alone, and WWF says it is likely that many more remain undiscovered.

International Tiger Day – WWF warns against tiger snares; asks for stringent monitoring of tiger reserves
By Deepti Jain, APN, 29 July 2017
On the seventh International Tiger day, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is encouraging the tiger-range countries to strengthen their anti-poaching policies and take stringent actions on a crisis that is threatening wildlife across the Asian continent, especially the world’s remaining wild tigers, which presently number around 3,900 – a significant population of which is found in India.

Word Wildlife Fund estimates that around 3,900 tigers remain in the wild
By Arianna Heyman, WXYZ, 29 July 2017
July 29 is Global Tiger Day, and the World Wildlife Fund has released some staggering new information.
There are only around 3,900 tigers that remain in the wild.
The WWF has been urging governments to increase anti-poaching efforts, and crack down on wildlife snaring.
Mike Baltzer, the leader of WWF Tigers Alive stated, “snares are dangerous, insidious and quickly becoming a major contributor to the wave of extinction that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia – and tigers are being swept up in this crisis. All efforts to recover wild tigers are now imperiled by snaring on a massive scale. We cannot over emphasize the need for strong government commitment and investment in rangers who are on the frontline of conservation, clearing snares and apprehending those who set them.”

[India] Poachers remain a threat to tiger conservation: Vardhan
DNA, 29 July 2017
Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan today said India is still battling with poachers to conserve tigers in the country, but expressed hope that with collective effort, the number of big cats in the country would be doubled in the next five years.
India is currently home to 70 per cent of the world’s tiger population in over 17 states and 50 sanctuaries across the country.
“We are still fighting against the poachers on a war footing. They (poachers) are foiling all our techniques. They develop techniques to overpower our systems. This is a big fight,” Vardhan said.

[India] Corridor mgmt vital for dispersing tigers
By Ramesh Marulkar, The Hitavada, 29 July 2017
The past tiger conservation practices in Protected Areas (PAs) have paid off, and with adequate reproduction of cubs, we have viable population in the wild. A further increase in the numbers of tigers inside the PAs will be resulting in the spillover of the population into adjoining territorial forests or villages resulting in man-animal conflict. The absence of protection to tigers and other wild animals outside the PAs in general results in very few numbers of carnivores and herbivores crossing over from one PA to another through the corridors (migrating routes of wild animals).

[Nepal] Roaring back
By Simrika Sharma, The Kathmandu Post, 29 July 2017
Just a decade ago, if someone had told us that Banke’s jungles would one day have a thriving population of tigers of its own, they would have been labeled as crazy,” says Sabitra Pun. “Yet here we are, eight short years after these forests were declared a National Park, proudly boasting that very fact.”
Seated at the Buffer Zone Management Committee’s offices in Kohalpur, Pun, who is the founding chairperson of the committee, describes her first run-in with a tiger at Banke as an experience that was both terrifying and mystical at the same time. “It was last spring, and we were returning home after foraging for grass in the National Park—as we are allowed to twice every year—when one of my companions suddenly shouted ‘Bagh Ayo!’ [Tiger!],” she says; her eyes reflecting the adrenaline she must have felt at the time, “It was quite a distance away, and camouflaged well among the trees and the grass, but for a second our eyes met and we were frozen, unable to even blink.”

30 July 2017

How the search for mythical monsters can help conservation in the real world
By Bill Adams and Shane McCorristine, The Conversation, 30 July 2017
After fears the Loch Ness Monster had “disappeared” last winter, a new sighting in May 2017 was celebrated by its enthusiasts. The search for monsters and mythical creatures (or “cryptids”) such as Nessie, the Yeti or Bigfoot is known as “cryptozoology”.
On the face of it, cryptozoology has little in common with mainstream conservation. First, it is widely held to be a “pseudoscience”, because it does not follow the scientific methods so central to conservation biology. Many conservation scientists would find the idea of being identified with monsters and monster-hunters embarrassing.

[China] GAC Motor Sets a Precedent in Sanjiangyuan Eco-conservation Project
GAC Motor press release, 30 July 2017
A volunteer team from GAC Motor’s wetland ambassador program (“the Program”) has successfully concluded the July tour to Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve (SNNR), where they travelled to the Donggi Conag Lake to conduct biodiversity survey with ecologists from World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In the three-day field survey, the team joined by media representatives documented the distribution and number of plateau wildlife species such as goa, bharal and yellow-billed teal and observed the plantation, hydrography, atmosphere and sunlight. The data will be used to evaluate habitat conditions and threat levels to help make future conservation plans.

[India] Tiger reserves get more teeth to curb poaching
DNA, 30 July 2017
Tiger reserves across the country will now be audited for their security preparedness to tackle poaching and protect forests. A new set of protocols have been released that tiger reserve administrations would have to adhere to.
Independent teams constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would then carry out field visits to assess the deficiencies on ground and eventually draw up a targetted security plan, along with the tiger reserve administration.

[Malaysia] Royal Belum park roars for ‘fading’ tigers
By T. Avineshwaran, The Star, 30 July 2017
The Royal Belum State Park in Perak will be designated as a key recovery and conservation area for tigers, which are facing extinction from poaching in the country.
WWF Malaysia CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma said this was a big step towards creating a long-term conservation plan for the Malayan tiger, which now only numbers over 200.
The first country in the region to do so, Malaysia will follow the minimum standards of the Conservation Assured, Tiger Standards (CATS) in the effective management of the species.

[Malaysia] Survival of orangutan in lower Kinabatangan under threat
The Sun Daily, 30 July 2017
The Lower Kinabatangan area in Sabah has lost almost a third of its orangutan population in the last 16 years due to continued loss of forests outside of protected areas and further fragmentation of their habitat that is also home to other wildlife, including the Borneo pygmy elephant and the proboscis monkey.
These forests outside protected areas – including privately owned and state lands – are largely composed of swamp areas that are increasingly becoming threatened in Borneo and which have poor or no economic value for oil palm due to daily or seasonal flooding events.

[Philippines] Miners told to invest more in biodiversity conservation
By Mdelaine B. Miraflor, Manila Bulletin, 30 July 2017
Environment Chief Roy Cimatu took the similar path as his forerunner Regina Paz Lopez, ordering the miners to put in more money in biodiversity conservation. Only this time, they might actually take it more seriously and comply.
Cimatu said over the weekend that he wants mining companies to integrate biodiversity conservation into their operations as part of their adherence to the principle of responsible mining being espoused by the Duterte administration.
“Responsible mining companies should seek not merely to minimize and mitigate but, where possible, to enhance the biodiversity in areas where they operate,” Cimatu said.

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