Conservation in the news: 7-13 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.

7 August 2017

A Vision for Conservation
By Shane Mahoney, Conservation Matters, 7 August 2017
There are two fundamental questions that from now on must inevitably haunt humanity. The first is: What do we want from the earth? This is a pragmatic question and focuses upon demands for resources and space. With eight billion of our species gnawing relentlessly at the roots of production and consuming the storehouses of the natural world at a ferocious pace, this is a question pregnant for strife and conflict. It will be the architect for a problematic future unprecedented at the global scale, though certainly there have been many historical examples of ecological collapse and human catastrophe at the regional and local levels. In this sense we know both the enemy and the future: it is us and it is ours. Yet this question is at least one where we can estimate the cost of our existance in terms we all can easily understand.

What indigenous communities can learn from Kenya’s Ogiek Peoples significant land rights victory
Land Coalition, 7 August 2017
Indigenous Peoples mobilisation, activism, tenacity, media coverage, and taking court action all helped bring the Indigenous Ogiek Peoples success against the government of Kenya. Here’s how…
On Friday 26th May, 2017 the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, recognised the Ogiek’s Indigenous Peoples’ status and right to reparations from the government of Kenya. Their conclusion? That the government had violated their rights when they were ousted them from their ancestral land.
Their victory, along with others have valuable lessons that other communities can draw from. For example, it demonstrates that communities and Indigenous Peoples – when they come together – can prevail against governments and oligarchs with a great deal of political influence.

8 August 2017

New research provides baseline for evaluating effectiveness of US ban on ivory trade
By Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay, 8 August 2017
Last year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a “near-total ban” on the commercial trade of elephant ivory after years of campaigning by environmental and conservation groups who said the closure of ivory markets in the United States and other major hubs in the international ivory trade were necessary to help halt the poaching crisis decimating elephant populations across Africa and Asia.
Now, new research led by wildlife trade monitoring NGO TRAFFIC released last week provides a baseline for the state of the ivory market in the U.S. at the time the ban went into effect — which future monitoring efforts will rely on in order to determine the impacts of the legislative and regulatory changes made by the FWS a year ago.

A lesson from Ecuador in saving our national parks
By Shulamit Reinharz, Boston Globe, 8 August 2017
The Galapagos Islands are at the top of many people’s lists of places to visit. I was no exception. So, a week after my recent retirement, I flew off to the famous site where Charles Darwin began to develop his theory of evolution.
When my husband and I arrived at the Baltra airport, the only one in the Galapagos, we were screened for seeds or anything that might sprout. Then, for one glorious week, we snorkeled with sea lions, hiked cautiously among hundreds of land iguanas sunning themselves on lava beds, carefully kayaked into shoreline caves, and discovered blue-footed boobies and giant land tortoises right on the path.

[Indonesia] One of Southeast Asia’s conservation areas is under threat
By Hans Nicholas Jong, Pacific Standard, 8 August 2017
This forest complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, is located on the spine of the Bukit Barisan Mountain Range in Indonesia’s main western island, Sumatra.
Occupying 9,652 square miles, the site comprises three national parks: Mount Leuser, Kerinci Seblat, and Bukit Barisan Selatan.
Due to its size and location, the site is hailed as one of the largest conservation areas in Southeast Asia and the last habitat for many endangered animals. It is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species and more than 200 mammal species, including the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan, tiger, rhinoceros, and elephant.

Troubled firm aims to mine Madagascar forest for rare earth elements
By Edward Carver, Mongabay, 8 August 2017
Solondraza, a 63-year-old farmer in northwestern Madagascar, has led a mostly conflict-free life. He and his wife live in a small house made of ravinala, a type of palm tree that fans out across the hilly landscape. They earn a living on cash crops like vanilla and cacao that grow well in the tropical environs, and this has allowed them to support their 18 children and 54 grandchildren, most of whom still live in and around their village of Befitina.
But in recent years Solondraza has become something of an activist, organizing meetings and rallying neighbors. He wants to stop a foreign-owned company, Tantalum Rare Earth Malagasy (TREM), from mining his land for rare earth elements.

9 August 2017

The Big Conservation Lie exposes colonial dynamic at the heart of conservation policy
By Lewis Evans (Survival International), The Ecologist, 9 August 2017
Mordecai Ogada was sitting in a luxury safari lodge, admiring the view of Kilimanjaro. He could see many of Africa’s most iconic species -giraffe, water buffalo, even a few elephants far in the distance.
As a professional conservationist, with a PhD in carnivore ecology, the sight was both familiar and pleasing. He was being treated like a tourist. Someone came in and offered him a cocktail. Then, one of his white hosts and sponsors, the people whose largesse he was enjoying, said: “We’re going to have to move that Maasai village. It’s spoiling the view for tourists.”
For Dr. Ogada, this was a decisive moment. “I was a qualified black face, put in place to smooth over fifty years of exploitation.”

Fences are an increasing threat to Africa’s migratory wildlife
By Sarah Durant, The Conversation, 9 August 2017
Wildebeest rarely stay still for long. With sloping hindquarters, and an easy loping gait, their bodies are designed to move. In the Serengeti ecosystem, for instance, a wildebeest will move over more than 2,000 kilometres during their annual migration.
Migratory or nomadic animals, like wildebeest, that live in drylands need to move over vast distances to find sufficient water and nutrients. They follow localised and variable rainfall and food resources.

Forest conservation approaches must recognise the rights of local people
By Sarobidy Rakotonarivo and Neal Hockley, The Conversation, 9 August 2017
Until the 1980s, biodiversity conservation in the tropics focused on the “fines and fences” approach: creating protected areas from which local people were forcibly excluded. More recently, conservationists have embraced the notion of “win-win”: a dream world where people and nature thrive side by side.
But over and over, we have seen these illusions shattered and the need to navigate complicated trade-offs appears unavoidable.

Indigenous Women: Defending the Environment in Latin America
By Carolina Herrera, NRDC, 9 August 2017
On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we celebrate the successes of indigenous peoples in Latin America in protecting their lands and communities. In particular, we recognize the strong leadership of indigenous women who have stood at the front lines of many of these achievements and celebrate the indigenous communities that have defended their lands from mega-projects.

‘Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of world’s biodiversity’
By David Hill, The Guardian, 9 August 2017
Today is the United Nations’ (UN) International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, numbering an estimated 370 million in 90 countries and speaking roughly 7,000 languages. To mark it, the Guardian interviews Kankanaey Igorot woman Victoria Tauli-Corpuz about the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which she calls “historic” and was adopted 10 years ago.
Tauli-Corpuz, from the Philippines, was Chair of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues when the Declaration was adopted, and is currently the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this interview, conducted via email, she explains why the Declaration is so important, argues that governments are failing to implement it, and claims that the struggle for indigenous rights “surpasses” other great social movements of the past.

Bee-eaters bring insight into China’s conservation
By Liu Wei and Zhao Yeping, Xinhua, 9 August 2017
Lu Gang can still recall his first sighting of a bee-eater eight years ago as his train pulled into Haikou station in Hainan, China’s southernmost tropical province. When he got off the train and went to look for the colorful bird, he found dozens nesting in a sand bank near the station, mostly the chestnut-throated variety, but with a few blue-throats.
As a birder and a conservationist, Lu is fascinated by bee-eaters. Every year since 2010, from March to July hundreds of bird watchers from across China have come to see them.
“The bee-eater is an indicator of how well we have protected our wetland and environment,” said Lu, who has worked to protect the forest and save locally endangered species for a decade.

[Myanmar] Karen Influence Policy in Favor of Forest Preservation
By Thu Thu Aung, The Irrawaddy, 9 August 2017
Ethnic Karen herbalist Naw Paw Lay is concerned about the link between environmental degradation and traditional health practices.
“If our forest is destroyed, we will not have any more herbal medicine plants,” she is featured as saying in a documentary about her community entitled “Indigenous Karens’ Community Forest.”
She is among those who rely on the Kheshorter Forest, home to more than 200 species of medicinal plants, about which she has extensive knowledge, particularly regarding their healing properties.

[South Africa] Police hunt rhino paochers following Kruger National Park shootout
By Tendani Mulaudzi, Eyewitness News, 9 August 2017
Police are searching for rhino poachers involved in a shootout with rangers at the Kruger National Park.
It’s understood that the rangers cornered the criminals in the park on Tuesday when the shootout began.
One poacher was shot dead while two others managed to flee the scene.

Rhino horn trade will threaten its existence: US wildlife advocate
IANS, 9 August 2017
Allowing trade in rhino horns in South Africa will undercut enforcement efforts in rest of Africa, China, Vietnam and other Asian countries. It is a major setback in tackling trafficking in wildlife, a renowned wildlife advocate has said.
“We see this as very dangerous and threatening the future existence of rhinos in many countries,” US-based global advocacy Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Vice President for International Policy Susan Lieberman told IANS in an e-mail interview.
“There is no reason someone would need horns for personal use — this would be a cover for trade, and would likely stimulate further trafficking and poaching,” she added.

10 August 2017

Human Population Growth Is The Greatest Threat To Asian Elephants’ Survival
By Sangita Iyer, Huffington Post, 10 August 2017
In recent days, human-elephant conflicts have been escalating, making sensational headlines across India. One of the recent deaths of a harmless wild tusker, affectionately called “Chilli Komban,” sparked outrage among wildlife activists, with the Kerala government laying criminal charges against those who rammed him to death with an excavator.
In a rather humorous story, a herd of elephants drove a farmer up a tree, in the Idukki district of Kerala, as he remained there drenched to his bones before the forest department arrived and scared off the elephants using fireworks and drums. It could have been disastrous for the farmer, as humans have been trampled to death by elephants in the past.

[India] Guard’s arrest backs up tribals’ claim that many Kaziranga “poachers” were innocent
Survival International, 10 August 2017
A forest guard in India’s notorious “shoot on sight” Kaziranga National Park has been arrested, after an incident that local people say proves their longstanding claim that many people shot as “poachers” are innocent local people.
Three villagers, one from the local Mising tribe, have been tortured and beaten by Kaziranga forest officials after selling cattle at a market. They report that officials took their money, beat them, and threatened to shoot them and claim they were poachers caught in the act.

[Philippines] Mining threatens 2 protected areas in Davao Oriental
By Ace June Rell S. Perez, SunStar, 10 August 2017
Mining operations in Barangay Macambol, Mati City, Davao Oriental threaten two wildlife and marine protected areas, the Pujada Bay and Mt. Hamiguitan. Davao Oriental Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, in a speech during last Tuesday’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) landmark lantern lighting ceremony at the Mount Hamiguitan World Heritage Park in San Isidro, Davao Oriental, said he wants to permanently suspend operations of Asiaticus Management Corp.’s (Amcor) Mining Corporation, the mining firm behind the Pujada Nickel Project. “We already filed a complaint against the firm to former environment secretary Gina Lopez, and luckily their Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) was suspended last year,” he said in an interview.

UK named as world’s largest legal ivory exporter
By Arthur Nelson, The Guardian (supported by Vulcan), 10 August 2017
Britain was the world’s largest exporter of legal ivory between 2010 and 2015, a breakdown of records held by the Convention on international trade in endangered species (Cites) has revealed.
Not only did the UK export more ivory than anyone else to Hong Kong and China – which are considered smuggling hubs for “blood ivory” – it also sold on 370% more ivory than the next highest exporter, the USA.
The new trade analysis, which is being released ahead of World Elephant Day on Saturday, will embarrass the government, after a call by Boris Johnson for “an all out ban” on ivory exports last month.

11 August 2017

Rethinking conservation funding models in Africa
By Fred Nelson, Leela Hazzah, John Kasaona, Scott O’Connell, Peter Riger, and Bernie Tershy, Mongabay, 11 August 2017
Conservation in sub-Saharan Africa faces monumental challenges. Rapidly growing human populations and resource consumption are creating growing pressures on land, water and other natural systems. Weak governance coupled with market demands means that illegal use of natural resources- from fisheries, to timber, to elephant ivory- is a major driver of over-exploitation. Ultimately, effective and durable conservation efforts require major investments in protecting large landscapes through government, community, and private institutions, and in improving governance at multiple levels.

No longer king of the jungle: New fund to aid Africa’s lions
Canadian Press, 11 August 2017
Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park is home to fewer than 50 lions after years of poaching decimated not only them but also their prey. Small patches of lion skin are sold at local fetish markets for $10, and their bones have a thriving market in Asia.
Sightings have become so rare that it once took researchers conducting a lion survey in the area two months before they spotted one of the big cats. Conservationists, however, believe the park could one day rebound.

On World Elephant Day, troubling times for African elephants
By Julie Larsen Maher, Mongabay, 11 August 2017
Stillness lingers in Rungwa at the heart of Tanzania. Near the narrow road that runs through the bush is a boneyard with a shattered skeleton as its centerpiece. In life, it must have belonged to a giant mammal. An elephant? It is hard to tell at a glance. The front of the skull is missing. There is a thorny hole where there once was a trunk and two tusks.
Elephants are gone from the area, either fleeing the violence, or dead, poached for their parts. Both are after effects of the trade in tusks.

Study shows the cost of deforestation in Cambodia
By Aaron Walker, Phys.org, 11 August 2017
Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have warned of the economic consequences for Cambodia if nothing is done to halt illegal deforestation of one of the nation’s most important forests – the Veun Sai-Siem Pang National Park.
For the first time, researchers have calculated the financial contribution the forest makes to Cambodia’s economy – an estimated US$129.84 million per annum.
Lead researcher Abu Kibria said the 55,000 hectare forest on the Cambodian border of Laos and Vietnam, has been disappearing due to illegal logging driven by demand primarily from China and Vietnam.

[Colombia] When a Rare Jaguar Attack Becomes a Conservation Opportunity
By Jason Bittel, NRDC, 11 August 2017
Outside his outpost, a Colombian Navy guardsman wakes from a quick nap to see a jaguar inches from his face. A scrap ensues. The cat bites the guardsman’s thigh, but the man defends himself with the butt of his rifle. In seconds, the jaguar disappears into the night. The man lives to tell the tale.
His story mentions how the big cat tried to eat him. But an expert called in to review the case, which took place at the end of 2012 on the Uraba Coast, where the Colombia jungle gives way to a gnarled mass of saltwater mangroves, isn’t so sure about that.
“If she wanted to kill the man, she would have just bit his head off,” says Esteban Payan, director of the Colombia jaguar program for Panthera, a big cat conservation group. “A jaguar could have broken his neck in a minute.”

Easy tiger: Brits bare all in full-frontal streak through London tonight
By Sabrina Dougall, The Daily Star, 11 August 2017
Bold babes and blokes went for a late night dash through London Zoo this evening – wearing only war paint.
Brits gathered in London Zoo tonight for an 18+ nude-a-thon to raise money for tigers – an animal hunted so much that fewer than 4,000 are alive today.
After weeks of rain, painted participants in ZSL’s Streak for Tigers got lucky with a dry spell – and took their chance to get a sweat on.

Cecil the lion’s son Bhubezi filmed in Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park
By Roland Oliphant Peta Thornycroft, The Telegraph, 11 August 2017
One of the surviving sons of Cecil the lion has been filmed in the wild a month after one of his brothers was shot by a hunter.
Bhubezi the lion was seen mating with a female lion in Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park on Thursday.
The sighting comes a month after his brother Xanda was shot just outside the park close to where their father was controversially killed in 2015.

12 August 2017

Hard times for elephants
By Mohammad Al-Masum Molla, The Daily sTar, 12 August 2017
Restrictions on elephants’ free movement, scarcity of their food and development work in their habitats by government and non-government organisations fuelled the elephant-human conflict in the country, leading to deaths on both sides.
These reasons behind the conflict were identified in a study — “Status of Asian Elephants in Bangladesh” — conducted jointly by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Department of Forests (DoF).
World Wildlife Fund, which observes today (August 12) as World Elephant Day, says the elephant-human conflict is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.

World Elephant Day: how tourism can help conservation
By Sophie Lam, I News, 12 August 2017
Today is the sixth annual World Elephant Day, an initiative that focuses attention on elephant conservation, particularly that of the endangered Asian elephant, whose numbers have declined to about 40,000 in the wild. Around 10 times as many live across the African continent, but their numbers are also vulnerable to shrinking habitats and poaching.

Elephant and tiger attacks highlight India’s wildlife conflict
By Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News, 12 August 2017
Members of the Paharia tribe living in the upper hill regions of India’s Jharkhand state have been spending sleepless nights.
A marauding elephant has trampled at least 15 local people to death in the past few months.
Further north, villagers living around the Pilibhit Tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh are up in arms after three people were killed by a tiger within a week. At least 16 people have been killed in tiger attacks near the reserve since last October.

[India] Centre launches elephant conservation campaign
Outlook, 12 August 2017
The Centre today launched a campaign aimed at elephant conservation, with environment Minister Harsh Vardhan pitching for a strategy for a more even distribution of the animal’s population across the country.
The campaign will cover 12 elephant range states of the country during which artists and craftsmen will create life- size works on the theme of elephants in places along its route, an official statement said.
Launching the campaign, which will be led by the Wildlife Trust of India, Vardhan stressed on the need for attempts to prevent man-animal conflict. According to official data, around 1,144 people have lost their lives in elephant and tiger attacks in the country in the last three years.

[South Africa] SANParks’ scientific service keeps an eye on all national parks
By Amanda Watson, The Citizen, 12 August 2017
It is also involved with park managers in co-writing all the national parks’ management plans.
From ocean deep to mountain high, indigenous forest to virgin grasslands, research to understand how South Africa’s biodiversity meshes is taking place on a global scale.
The tiniest single-celled diatoms, mega-herbivores and everything in between, together with human interaction with all these systems, are scrutinised – and it is the South African National Parks’ (SANParks’) Scientific Services that keeps an eye on it all in our national parks.
Dr Izak Smit is acting general manager for the savanna and arid research unit, based at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park.

13 August 2017

[Malaysia] Sabah looking at sole operator to manage Wetlands tourism
By Olivia Miwil, New Straits Times, 12 August 2017
Sabah is looking into having a sole operator managing tourism products at the state’s wetlands.
Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 tourists daily are visiting Klias and Weston wetlands known for their proboscis monkeys and fireflies.
“The number of tourists could double to 4,000 people daily in the future.

[Myanmar] 30 elephants reported dead this year
By Hsan Htoo Aung, Eleven, 13 August 2017
At least 30 elephants have been reported dead this year, higher than in previous years, according to a joint report by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on World Elephant Day on August 12.
Domestic and international wildlife conservation organisations expressed their serious concerns over the dropping numbers of wild elephants.
Nay Myo Shwe, the FFI Tanintharyi field coordinator, said: “Poachers kill female and baby elephants for their skin. Myanmar’s elephants face extinction if it continues.”

[Pakistan] Of vanishing forests and wildlife in Ayubia
By Sumayla Asif, The Express Tribune, 13 August 2017
A steep uphill ride on a sturdy engine – some two hours from Islamabad – brings you to this lush, dense forest. As your ears get accustomed to all the sounds, your eyes take in the stunning landscape. Fresh, clean air fills yours lungs. You’re in Ayubia National Park.
Spread over 3312 hectares in the Galliat region of Nathiagali, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), it is part of Pakistan’s last stretch of moist temperate forest. The park, habitat of a diverse species of wildlife, has been facing severe deforestation, water shortage, soil erosion, landslides and flash floods.

[Swaziland] 2 killed in rhino poaching incident
By Lusito Tsela, Swazi Observer, 13 August 2017
Friday morning at about 0100 hours, three men from a group of six, driving a navy blue Nissan were shot while rhino poaching at Hlane Game Park.
Two of them, a South African national aged 22 and a 24 year old Mozambican man were seriously wounded and certified dead upon arrival at Good Shepherd hospital, while a 48 year old Swazi male adult of Nkamanzi sustained injuries at the back of the body and on the left arm and is currently admitted at the same hospital. The other three culprits, a South African citizen and two Swazis were apprehended for illegally hunting animals in a protected area and will appear for their preliminary court hearing on Monday. Chief Police Information & Communications Officer Superintendent Khulani Mamba confirmed the matter, saying they received information that there was a rhino threat at Hlane Royal National Park, and it proved to be true.

[Tanzania] Illegal Arson Attack in Loliondo – Rangers Say that They Have Started an Operation to Evict the Maasai from the 1,500 km2 Osero
By Susanna Nordlund, View from the Termite Mound, 13 August 2017
Today, 13th August 2017, information has reached me that an operation to illegally remove livestock, houses, bomas and people from 1,500 km2 of village land, as per Village Land Act No.5 of 1999, has begun in Loliondo according to rangers that have started burning houses in Oloosek, and this information has been confirmed. This human rights crime is being committed at a time when there’s a drought even worse than the one of 2009 (the year of the latest illegal evictions) and many activists have been silenced by increased intimidation that culminated with a wave of illegal arrests and malicious prosecution in 2016. It’s reported that leaders claim to have been caught by surprise thinking that the operation would only affect Serengeti National Park to where many herders have been forced to take their livestock due to the drought, risking a disproportionate 50,000 Tshs fine per head of cattle.

Tanzania’s ghost safari: how western aid contributed to the decline of a wildlife haven
By Bibi van der Zee and Sophie Tremblay, The Guardian (supported by Vulcan), 13 August 2017
The long road from Dar es Salaam brings you through sparsely wooded hills and fields to the narrow northern neck of the Kilombero valley. There’s a bend in the road, then the land opens out, suddenly, in front of you.
Along the west side lie the steep-faced Udzungwa mountains, one of the last pristine rainforests in Tanzania. The Kilombero river runs through the red soils of the valley, flooding in November or December and subsiding by June. Down the longer eastern flank rise the Mahenge mountains, and beyond them, invisible, unfurls the vast territory of the Selous game reserve, one of the largest remaining chunks of African wilderness.

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