Conservation in the news: 31 July – 6 August 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.

31 July 2017

Saving the world’s wildlife is not just ‘a white person thing’
By Kaddu Sebunya, The Guardian, 31 July 2017
In a few days it will be the 18th anniversary of the death of Michael Werikhe, the enigmatic African conservationist. You don’t hear or read much of him these days.
Nicknamed “the Rhino Man” because his work and campaigns focused on the critically endangered black rhino, Werikhe’s main campaign tactic of choice was walking to raise awareness. His first walk, starting on Christmas Day 1982, took him from Mombasa to the Kenyan capital Nairobi – a distance of 484 kilometres – and lasted for 27 days. He later walked in East Africa, Europe and North America to raise awareness and money, raising nearly $1m and covering nearly 5,000km.

Conservation community failing to use evidence to make decisions, scientists say
By Shreya Dasgupta, Mongabay, 31 July 2017
How do you save a species or protect a habitat?
For the past few decades, scientists have been calling for an increased use of scientific evidence — carefully controlled, peer-reviewed scientific studies — to make conservation decisions.
However, things don’t seem to have changed much. Despite the rise in peer-reviewed scientific evidence being generated, intuition, personal experience and anecdotes remain at the center of conservation practice, William J. Sutherland and Claire Wordley of the University of Cambridge, U.K., report in a new article published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

What does trophy hunting contribute to wild lion conservation?
Science Daily, 31 July 2017
Trophy hunting of lions, the killing of selected individual animals for sport, is highly controversial, and there is much debate about what it contributes to conservation. A new article highlights significant ‘unknowns’ that thwart conservationists from making any robust conclusions.
The authors note that we know surprisingly little about the causes of lion mortality, or even the amount of land used for lion trophy hunting. Similarly, the extent to which trophy hunting depends on lions for financial viability is generally unknown, and it is extremely difficult to predict what would happen to the land where trophy hunting currently occurs if trophy hunting were to cease.

South African rangers celebrated
IOL, 31 July 2017
As South Africa celebrates World Ranger Day on Monday, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has paid tribute to game rangers who have dedicated their lives to the protection of South Africa’s rich biodiversity.
“Rangers in certain parts of South Africa face daily hardships in their efforts to protect many of our species, such as the elephant, rhino, cycad and abalone, from unscrupulous poachers.
Our country’s natural beauty derived from our enormous biodiversity is a key income generator and thus an important contributor to our economy through job creation and tourism. It is through the actions of these brave men and women, who risk their lives daily to protect our natural world and our many species,” said Molewa.

1 August 2017

Tiger deaths linked to poaching sees all-time high
Deccan Herald, 1 August 2017
Tiger deaths linked to poaching has reached an all-time high in India, the World Wildlife Fund has said, urging tiger-range governments to strengthen anti-poaching efforts.
On Global Tiger Day, it said wire snaring is threatening wildlife across Asia, especially the 3,900 remaining wild tigers.
Easy to make with bicycle cable wires and quick to set up, wire snares are rapidly becoming the deadliest method of poaching in Asia.

Can Conservation Biology Survive the Anthropocene?
By Jon Hoekstra, Island Conservation, 1 August 2017
Elizabeth Wolkovich: What are the major threats that you think are driving species onto the IUCN Red List and declining populations to possible extinctions?
Jon Hoekstra: I’d agree that the notion of biodiversity loss is qualitative as well as quantitative but on the extinction front I’ll actually pull one that’s not fashionable anymore but that I think is right up at the top of the list—and that’s invasive species, introduced species. Here is why: 80% of documented extinctions since 1500 have been on islands. 40% of species on the Red List today are on islands and about half of those species are threatened by an introduced vertebrate–usually a rodent, a mouse, or a rat. That is a nicely quantified, diagnosed problem. About 75% of those species threatened on islands by an invasive vertebrate could be saved. You can actually eliminate that extinction risk by removing the invasive. So there is not just a threat but there is a solution out there that would get at about 1/4 of your threatened species.

Nineteen and Counting… Critically Endangered Giant Ibis Nests Located in Northern Plains of Cambodia
Wildlife Conservation Society, 1 August 2017
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), working in collaboration with Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment (MoE), announced today that 19 nests of the giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea) have been discovered during the current breeding season in the Northern Plains of Cambodia in Preah Vihear Province. Community members and conservationists are working together under the Bird Nest Protection Program to protect these nests from human disturbances and other threats.

[Philippines] DENR8 undertakes efforts to preserve Lake Danao Natural Park
By Consuelo B. Alarcon, Philippine Information Agency, 1 August 2017
Efforts are being undertaken to protect and preserve the unique and fragile ecosystem of Lake Danao Natural Park in Ormoc City, one of the Region’s seven protected areas declared under the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) Act of 1992.
The move of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the region is in response to a report from Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) in Ormoc disclosing that the 6.5 quake which jolted some parts of Leyte caused numerous landslides in Mt. Banao and other areas within the protected area including Brgy. Lake Danao and Brgy. Milagro and damaged forests in said areas.
It also disturbed the biodiversity and the natural habitat of wildlife species in the area.

[UK] Arsenal fans urged to boycott club because of owner’s online hunting channel
Stuff, 1 August 2017
British reality TV star turned adventurer Ben Fogle is urging Arsenal fans to boycott the football club after revelations that its American owner has launched a controversial online hunting channel.
The Outdoor Sportsman Group, owned by Stan Kroenke, the club’s majority shareholder, launched an online platform (My Outdoor TV) in Britain over the weekend which has been described as the “Netflix of the hunting, shooting and fishing world”. The subscription channel allegedly shows animals like elephants and lions being killed for sport.

2 August 2017

One Planet Is Enough
By Bjorn Lomborg, Forbes, 2 August 2017
For more than a decade, the World Wildlife Fund and other conservation organizations have performed complicated calculations to determine our total “ecological footprint” on the planet. In their narrative, population growth and higher standards of living mean that we are now using 1.7 planets and are depleting resources so quickly that by 2030, we would need two planets to sustain us. If everyone were to suddenly rise to American living standards, we would need almost five planets. The message is unequivocal – WWF tells us we face a looming “ecological credit crunch”, risking “a large-scale ecosystem collapse.”
But this scare is almost completely fallacious. The ecological footprint tries to assess all our usage of area and compare it with how much is available. At heart, this is a useful exercise, and like any measure that tries to aggregate many different aspects of human behavior, it tends to simplify its inputs.

Lyft adds 3 causes to charity program, will match Apple Pay donations
By Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch, 2 August 2017
Lyft has added three new partners to its Round Up and Donate Program, which lets riders round their trip payment up to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to one of a few select participant programs. The new partners are Girls Who Code, Habitat for Humanity and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Lyft is also going to match donations made when riders pay via Apple Pay for the entire month of August.

‘Earth Is Exhausted’: Humans Have Already Consumed the Planet’s Annual Resources
By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams 2 August 2017
With several months left until the end of 2017, humans have already used up more natural resources than the planet can regenerate in a year, making today Earth Overshoot Day. For the rest of the year, humanity is “living on credit.”
“This means that in seven months, we emitted more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb in a year, we caught more fish, felled more trees, harvested more, and consumed more water than the Earth was able to produce in the same period,” World Wildlife Fund and Global Footprint Network said in a statement.

[Bangladesh] On the prowl: Bengal tigers get bigger sanctuary
TRT World, 2 August 2017
Bangladesh has more than doubled the size of the wildlife sanctuary in the world’s largest mangrove forest to try to protect endangered Bengal tigers whose numbers have fallen sharply, officials said Tuesday.
More than half or 52 percent of the 6,017 square kilometre (2,325 square mile) Sundarbans – one of the largest habitats of the tigers – has been declared a sanctuary this week, said the government’s chief forest conservator Shafiul Alam.
The Sundarbans, which also straddles parts of eastern India, is home to some rare animals including the Irrawaddy dolphins and the Bengal tigers. Both have been declared endangered because of poaching and a loss of their habitat.

[India] How We Turned Ranthambore Into A Tiger Conservation Success Story
By Dharmendra Khandal, Huffington Post, 2 August 2017
Finding his large and clear pugmarks in the sandy riverbed of the Banas River proved to be even more fascinating than finding them in his regular habitat. We have been following a “straying” male tiger some 23km outside of the boundaries of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. The field director requested my assistance in monitoring the movement of this tiger, who was drifting away from the reserve, possibly to explore new territory away from the park.

Malaysia confiscates nearly £750,000 of ivory tusks and pangolin scales
By Ceren Senkul, Sky News, 2 August 2017
Ivory tusks and pangolin scales worth almost four million Malaysian ringgits (£750,00) have been seized at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The tusks, valued at 275,000 ringgits (£48,500), had been shipped on Etihad Airways from Nigeria via Abu Dhabi on Sunday, senior customs official Mohammad Pudzi said.
In the same day, 300kg of pangolin scales worth 3.9 million ringgits (£687,709) were found, having been shipped from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Ethiopian Airlines.

Pakistan’s unique desert wetlands under threat
By Amar Guriro, The Third Pole, 2 August 2017
The desert wetlands of Achro Thar – or the White Desert – in the east of Pakistan’s Sindh province are struggling against the twin threats of climate change and the mismanagement of water by government authorities.
Around 300 kilometres from the port city of Karachi and spread over 4,805 square kilometres along the Indian border in Sanghar and Khairpur districts, Achro Thar’s unique topography means that it has around a hundred lakes of different sizes, found between sand dunes. Some of these are fairly large. Botaar lake is seven kms in length, and others are spread over a few hectares. Kalankar, Palaaro, Mathoon, Gujari, Akro, Kalar Wari, Sanhari and Botaar are considered to be the biggest desert lakes in this region.

Armed only with her grandmother’s shotgun, a South African woman fights to save her rhinos
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times, 2 August 2017
Lynne MacTavish lives in a small wooden house on her South African game reserve with a fierce pet emu, a juvenile ostrich, a flock of geese, two Jack Russell terriers and her grandma’s double-barreled shotgun to protect her rhinos.
She keeps an ugly statue at her gate: a tokoloshe, or evil spirit in the local traditional belief, installed by a witch doctor to ward off superstitious rhino poachers.
Every night MacTavish gets up after midnight, grabs her shotgun, clambers into her SUV and patrols for poachers.

3 August 2017

A wild idea about paying for conservation
The Economist, 3 August 2017
Meerkats are endearing creatures. Indeed, they are so endearing that they have been turned into characters in a long-running series of advertisements on British television for a price-comparison website. But nothing comes from nothing. Thirty years ago, few non-zoologists would have heard of these social mongooses and the joke would not have worked. The animals were brought to public prominence by a television documentary, “Meerkats United”, which described the doings of a group of them in the Kalahari, where they live. That documentary relied, in turn, on a research project run by David Macdonald, a zoologist at Oxford University. In essence, meerkats as a cultural phenomenon were created by this project.

How to set conservation priorities in response to climate change
By Orly Razgour, The Conservation, 3 August 2017
Climate change is not something that will just go away. It is already affecting global biodiversity, food security and human migration, and the situation is not expected to improve soon. Rising temperatures and regular extreme events will produce new selection pressures.
These will force many species to move to find more suitable conditions, or adapt. Their ability to respond to these pressures will depend on the rate and extent of change, their ability to adapt to new conditions or their ability to move away. Understanding how biodiversity responds to climate change requires an interdisciplinary perspective, combining ecological, molecular and environmental approaches.

Sign the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Demand for “Gorilla-safe” Phones From Manufacturers
By Sabine Ganezer, Santa Monica Observer, 3 August 2017
We Americans are constantly “upgrading” our Smartphones and similar devices – the new software demands new hardware, the fashions change, the company carefully makes things fall into place so the device is out of date within about a year (“planned obsolescence.”) In fact, the average U.S. Smartphone user will ditch the old phone and buy a new one every 14 months. Many obsolete phones end up in landfills. Others sit invisibly in their owner’s forgotten enclave, waiting for the trouble to be taken to recycle them. Meanwhile, the constant manufacture of more and more consumer electronics leads to more and more mining for elements such as tungsten, tin, gold and coltan (a.k.a. tantalum).

On Our Lands: Indigenous Bolivians Take Control Of Their Forests
Yale Environment 360, 3 August 2017
In recent decades, the indigenous Tacana and Lecos people of northwestern Bolivia have faced increasing development pressure in their Amazon homelands as road construction has brought outside colonizers and logging operations, both legal and illegal. But working with international groups such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Tacana and Lecos have gained control over their territories — which together cover 3,500 square miles — and instituted a comprehensive system of resource management that has sharply reduced forest loss.

The ugly truth about wildlife conservation in Kenya
By Abdullahi Boru Halakhe, Al Jazeera, 3 August 2017
Wildlife conservation is big business in Kenya. The tourism sector, which is mostly wildlife-based, is regularly among the top three contributors to the country’s GDP. As a result, the Kenyan government and the Western media are more than eager to focus on the positive aspects of conservation. But, unfortunately, the real story is not that straightforward.
In Kenya, there is an ongoing battle between white settler conservationists from the Laikipia plains and pastoralist communities occupying the neighbouring northern rangelands.

Revolutionary Landscaping Project Begins In PNG
Post Courier, 3 August 2017
More than 12,000 examples of Papua New Guinea’s flora are being planted as part of the nation’s largest ever landscaping project aimed at providing international visitors with the ultimate herbarium of plants found in PNG.
Over 5600m² of planting, 566m² of artificial turf, water features and hard landscaping will be laid at the Star Mountain Plaza in Port Moresby where construction is expected to be completed ahead of the 2018 APEC conference.
Landscape architect Louise Dunning said the project was designed to create a rainforest oasis in the nation’s capital.

[Trinidad and Tobago] Minister calls for implementation of legislation
Loop, 3 August 2017
Legislation should not only be created but must also be executed to improve development in Trinidad and Tobago.
This sentiment was expressed by Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Minister Clarence Rambharat.
Minister Rambharat made the remark at the launch of the national website for forest and protected areas – www.protectedareastt.org.tt. The site was launched at a brief ceremony on Thursday at the Conference Room of the Environmental Management Authority in St Clair.

[USA] Nearly 2 Tons Of Ivory Crushed In Central Park
CBS New York, 3 August 2017
Nearly two tons of trinkets, statues and jewelry crafted from the tusks of at least 100 slaughtered elephants were destroyed in a rock crusher in Central Park to demonstrate the state’s commitment to smashing the illegal ivory trade.
The artifacts included piles of golf ball-sized Japanese sculptures, called netsuke, intricately carved into monkeys, rabbits and other fanciful designs.

4 August 2017

The Do-Gooders’ Playground
By James Zug, Wall Street Journal, 4 August 2017
It is an old, old story. A wealthy man comes to town, promising change and a brighter future. He’s the expert. He knows best. Inevitably, it doesn’t exactly work out that way.
Stephanie Hanes, an American correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, spent three years watching one particular version of that fairy tale unfold in central Mozambique.
The wealthy man was Greg Carr. An Idahoan, Mr. Carr had made millions first by selling voice-mail systems and then by running Prodigy, an early internet service provider. At age 40, he turned to philanthropy and in 2004 went to Mozambique to see if he could help that southern African nation still recovering from centuries of under-development and a vicious civil war. He took over a former national park, called Gorongosa, pledging $40 million to bring back the wildlife and tourists that would restore this so-called Lost Eden and support the neighboring communities.

Synthetic Rhinoceros Horns Spark Economic Debate on Conservation
By Olivia Trani, Inside Science, 4 August 2017
At the turn of the 20th century, half a million rhinoceroses roamed the Earth. Now fewer than 30,000 are left, threatened by habitat loss and the spread of poaching.
Despite increased police enforcement, rhino poaching rates have dramatically risen as demand for their horns has soared. South Africa, home to roughly 70 percent of the world’s rhino population, lost 13 rhinos to poaching in 2007. Last year, poachers killed 1,054.

Wildlife royalties—a future for conservation?
Phys.org, 4 August 2017
Should people who profit from the cultural representation of wildlife pay towards conservation?
That is the question asked in new research conducted by zoologists from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU).
Writing in the journal Animals, they muse on whether organisations that profit in some way from wildlife imagery and popularity, could establish a corporate responsibility to contribute a portion of this income to the conservation of the animals represented.

Recreating the wild: De-extinction, technology, and the ethics of conservation
The Hastings Center press release, 4 August 2017
Is extinction forever? Efforts are under way to use gene editing and other tools of biotechnology to “recreate” extinct species such as the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon. Could such “de-extinction” initiatives aid conservation by reviving species lost to habitat destruction and climate change? Or are they more likely to hinder conservation? What should the guiding ideals of conservation be in a new age of biotechnology? These are some of the questions addressed in Recreating the Wild: De-extinction, Technology, and the Ethics of Conservation, a new special report of the Hastings Center Report.

[India] Lion population roars to 650 in Gujarat forests
By Himanshu Kaushik, Times of India, 4 August 2017
In the forest near Liliya-Krakach, noisy little cubs are seen sauntering around a small pond. Some are playfully pouncing on their mother who sits relaxed but watchful. These scenes in Asiatic lion’s abode are not limited to Amreli district. Several forest areas outside the Gir National Park are brimming with lions, mostly in the age group of one to two years.
According to a recent internal lion count by the forest department in July this year, there are nearly 650-odd lions in the reserved forests and even outside the national park in Amreli, Bhavnagar and Gir-Somnath districts.

[Indonesia] Why the Suy’uk are fact-checking their Dayak origin myth
By Andi Fachrizal, Mongabay, 4 August 2017
Mateus Liung headed to the Tanjung village hall just as dusk started to gather. A walking stick in his right hand supported his now-fragile legs. A torch in his left lit the path.
“I am old,” he said. “But tonight’s village discussion concerns history. I must attend and help.”
Since an Indonesian Constitutional Court decision in 2013 stating that indigenous people have rights to their land, NGOs have encouraged adat groups, as they are known in this Southeast Asian country, to map their traditional territories. For decades, the state has failed to recognize their rights, instead allowing loggers, miners and plantation firms into their territory, with or without the local community’s consent.

5 August 2017

[India] The animals on my farm: the man-animal conflict around Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary
By Mohit M Rao, The Hindu, 5 August 2017
The hills of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) loom over Duntoor village, a few hours’ drive from Bengaluru. Banana, coconut, and mango plantations and vegetable farms separate the sleepy hamlet from the 1,028 sq.km. sanctuary, the largest in the State, and habitat to elephants, leopards, wild dogs and two endangered species of vulture. Duntoor also happens to be the site of a fast-escalating man-animal conflict.
A few weeks ago, around 5.30 p.m., anxious villagers spotted a herd of elephants standing on a rock face, seemingly eyeing the farmland. As they descended, the undulating valley hid them from view for a few moments.

6 August 2017

China buys out a mammoth source of Lao pride
By Melinda Boh, Asia Times, 6 August 2017
In 1924, the makers of the original King Kong movie travelled from Thailand to Laos, where they spent three years filming rivers and jungles teeming with elephants in their film documentary “Chang”, the Thai language word for elephant.
Once known as “the land of a million elephants”, Laos now has less than a thousand of the great beasts as the landlocked communist country sacrifices its wildlife legacy for a growth-dominated economy.

Primatologist Dr Jane Goodall in Singapore to speak on nature conservation
By Audrey Tan, Straits Times, 6 August 2017
When she was one-and-a-half years old, world-famous primatologist Jane Goodall brought home earthworms and was caught trying to take them to her room.
It started the 83-year-old on a journey which led her to being an eminent nature conservationist.
On Sunday (Aug 6), Dr Goodall, who is in Singapore, spoke about the importance of nature conservation at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the local chapter of the environmental group she founded, the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore).

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