Conservation in the news: 13-19 November 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.

13 November 2017

Are Conservation Organisations Complicit in Ethnic Discrimination?
By Trishant Simlai and Raza Kazmi, The Wire, 13 November 2017
Global wildlife conservation efforts have advocated the exclusion of local people from ‘parks’ and areas considered to be of great value to biodiversity, often supporting coercive means to achieve this goal. Among the coercive measures often suggested, some don’t shy away from even recommending violence towards ‘offenders’.
Governments, conservation agencies and aid donors have further legitimised this exclusion by frequently invoking the narrative of an expanding human population destroying ‘pristine’ landscapes, often ignoring the role of over-consumption by urban actors or of states and corporate interests extracting resources. Such coercive conservation measures often base their actions on blatant racism, since it is almost always the poor populations of colour that are blamed for environmental degradation throughout the world.

15,000 scientists in 184 countries warn about negative global environmental trends, 13 November 2017
Human well-being will be severely jeopardized by negative trends in some types of environmental harm, such as a changing climate, deforestation, loss of access to fresh water, species extinctions and human population growth, scientists warn in today’s issue of BioScience, an international journal.
The viewpoint article—”World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice”—was signed by more than 15,000 scientists in 184 countries.

GEF joins forces with partners to promote new fund for resilience in the poorest countries
GEF press release, 13 November 2017
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has announced its support for a first of its kind climate resilience investment fund today at the UN Climate Conference (COP23) in Bonn. The fund will boost adaptation efforts in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. And, for the first time, private investors will have the opportunity to get their return by investing in a fund that exclusively focuses on resilience-related companies.
The fund, an initiative developed by US-based investment firm Lightsmith Group, is receiving support from the GEF Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) project called the Climate Resilience and Adaptation Finance and Technology Transfer Facility (CRAFT). Other partners include the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) and Conservation International (CI).

Kenyan government Task Force to implement African Court’s Ogiek judgment deeply flawed, MRG and OPDP say
Minority Rights Group press release, 13 November 2017
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) express their concern about the newly formed Kenyan government Task Force on the implementation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights judgment regarding the case of the indigenous Ogiek people. In May 2017, the African Court delivered a major victory for the Ogiek, following repeated evictions from their ancestral lands in the Mau Forest, Kenya. In response, the Kenyan government formally gazetted on 10 November 2017 a Task Force on implementing the ruling. However, the government failed to consult with the community, and the Task Force lacks any Ogiek representatives.

[Kenya] Tracking rhinos up to the last mile in war on poaching
By Sarah Ooko, Business Daily, 13 November 2017
The terrain is harsh, mainly bushy, soggy and muddy, but a special team of rangers will not relent in their quest to keep an eye on the endangered rhinos at Lake Nakuru National Park.
The rangers are well aware that a slight distraction and poachers would pounce and cause great damage. And so each day of the year the animals stay in their watch no matter the weather conditions.
They follow the rhinos through the grazing fields and water points — a journey that takes them through dense thickets and bushy terrains that offer suitable habitats for the wild animals.
The routine patrols mean that the rangers have come to know each of the rhinos in the park by name, character, temperament and behaviour. But even with that, the rangers have to stay cautious of possible attacks from wild animals as well as aggressive rhinos that are usually unaware of their “guardian angels”.

[South Africa] Why has this rhino poaching trial been delayed 17 times?
By Laurel Neme, National Geographic, 13 November 2017
It’s been one delay after another in the case against South African alleged rhino poaching kingpin Dumisani Gwala and his two co-accused. The reported reasons run the gamut—changes in venue, changes in magistrates, changes in defence counsel, and requests by Gwala’s defence attorney for more time because of a lack of preparation.
The trio was arrested in December 2014 in KwaZulu-Natal, in northeaster South Africa, as part of a months-long undercover operation where officers posed as rhino horn sellers and now face a combined 10 charges relating to the illegal purchase and possession of rhino horn and resisting arrest, according to South Africa’s Times Live. Gwala is now out on bail.

[Tanzania] Cry of foul play as Loliondo land row takes fresh twist
By Moses Mashalla, The Citizen, 13 November 2017
Dar es Salaam. People living around the Loliondo Game reserve are strongly opposing a new boundary set by the government to separate the village areas from the Serengeti National Park (Senapa).
The boundary, which demarcates Arusha and Mara regions was drawn early this year following directives from Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.

14 November 2017

Can this organization change the way conservation is financed?
By Catherine Cheney, Devex, 14 November 2017
Michelin, the tire manufacturer, is the world’s largest buyer of natural rubber. It was also the first tire maker to commit to responsible rubber sourcing. Together with the nature conservation organization World Wildlife Fund, the company has committed to achieving wildlife-friendly rubber in Asian forests that were previously cleared for rubber trees, and displaced tigers, orangutans, and elephants in the process. One example of the collaboration between Michelin and WWF is a project called Thirty Hills, on the east coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, an island that has become a deforestation hotspot.
“These are not one-off projects,” said Paul Chatterton, founder and lead of WWF’s Landscape Finance Lab, at a meeting Devex joined in June where stakeholders gathered to learn more about this incubator for blended finance landscape regeneration projects. “This potentially can be a system where the whole world can be managed in a much more sophisticated and integrated way to protect biodiversity and benefit human beings.”

Keeping it local – indigenous conservation
By Laura Cole, Geographical, 14 November 2017
There is a growing school of thought among environmentalists that local and indigenous conservation schemes can often be as effective as those run by governments. Now, the University of Cambridge has produced a study that backs up this theory. With a focus on deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, the results show that local and indigenous-run forest conservation areas were not only as good at maintaining tree cover as those run by the state, in certain aspects they were better.

Conservation sites improving across Asia – IUCN report
By Omair Ahmad, The Third Pole, 14 November 2017
With so much negative news around environmental issues, a report stating that things are improving, or at least not deteriorating, is a welcome relief. For COP23, the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 2 report may be that little bit of hope.
The first assessment of IUCN World Heritage sites since 2014 shows that every Asian site has either improved, or been stable.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature advises the UNESCO World Heritage Committee on natural issues. There are 206 natural and 35 mixed areas (with some built up structures) in 107 countries on the list. With a total area of 293,620,965 hectares (2.93 million square kilometres), this is equivalent to almost two-thirds the land area of India. Since 2015, 13 new sites have been added to the list. From South Asia, the Khangchendzonga National Park in India was the only one added.

Can these drones save elephants from extinction?
By Tom Metcalfe, NBC News, 14 November 2017
African elephants are in trouble. Each year, tens of thousands of the enormous beasts are killed for their tusks, and conservationists fear they are on the road to extinction. But now, aerial drones, which first proved their value decades ago on military battlefields, are proving to be a key player in the ongoing battle against poachers.
For the past four years, anti-poaching “Bathawk” drones have been flying over national parks and game reserves in South Africa, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Next month, they’ll begin flying in Botswana as part of an anti-poaching campaign there.

[India] Poachers rule as staff crunch hits Kaziranga
By Naresh Mittal, Times of India, 14 November 2017
The Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s two-thirds one-horned rhino population, is in urgent need of enhancing its staff strength, given the fact that the militant-poacher nexus is growing stronger every day. Many attempts have been made to kill the pachyderms for their horns, which are highly prized in the international grey market.
Spread over 883 sq km area, including new additional areas, Kaziranga is currently managing with 467 security personnel. A reply to an RTI application filed by environment activist Rohit Choudhury last year revealed that Kaziranga required an additional manpower of 1,120 against the required strength of 1,587. Currently, the sanctioned strength is 561.

[Indonesia] Illegal miners reoccupy national park in Poso
By Ruslan Sangadji, Jakarta Post, 14 November 2017
Illegal gold miners hailing from many different areas sneaked their way into Lore Lindu National Park in Dongi-Dongi village, Poso regency, Central Sulawesi.
The illegal miners came in groups at night and dug an open pit in the protected area, the head of Lore Lindu National Park Sudayatna said.
“There are still miners sneaking into the national park to search for gold ore,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

15 November 2017

Conserve elephants. They hold a scientific mirror up to humans
The Economist, 15 November 2017
The symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature is a giant panda. The panda’s black-and-white pelage certainly makes for a striking logo. But, though pandas are an endangered species, the cause of their endangerment is depressingly quotidian: a loss of habitat as Earth’s human population increases. A better icon might be an elephant, particularly an African elephant, for elephants are not mere collateral damage in humanity’s relentless expansion. Often, rather, they are deliberate targets, shot by poachers, who want their ivory; by farmers, because of the damage they do to crops; and by cattle herders, who see them as competitors for forage.

Conservation by killing? Documentary asks if commerce can save threatened species
By Mark Hanrahan, Reuters, 15 November 2017
Could a hunter’s bullet be a tool in helping save Africa’s endangered species from extinction? The question is one of the many complex ethical dilemmas raised by “Trophy”, a documentary that examines whether commerce can help wildlife conservation.
The film, directed by Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, assesses some of the ways that threatened species are used for commercial gain, from elephants being auctioned to hunters as prey, to rhinos being farmed for their horns.

Trillion Trees: three conservation giants join forces to end deforestation
By Jessica Law, BirdLife International, 15 November 2017
BirdLife International, WWF UK and the Wildlife Conservation Society have pooled our resources to achieve a single, ambitious goal: our vision is that, by 2050, a trillion trees will have been planted, restored or protected.
A trillion trees seems a huge number, but it wasn’t just chosen for alliteration. This is the number required to reverse the current catastrophic global decline in tree cover. And we really need our trees: forests soak up more than 45% of carbon on land, ofsetting the effects of climate change.

IoT Collar Fights Illegal Poaching
By Ákos Lédeczi and George Wittemyer, EE Times, 15 November 2017
Designers of an electronic collar to prevent poaching of big game in Africa share the story of their still-evolving efforts.
Illegal poaching is a major contributor to declining populations of endangered animals around the world. For example, it’s estimated there are now less than 500,000 elephants in Africa, less than half of the population 40 years ago. If the pace persists, wild elephants are at risk of extinction.

Digit and Dian Fossey’s Historic Gorillas
The Dain Fossey Gorilla Fund International, 15 November 2017
The National Geographic Channel three-part series “Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist,” airing in December, covers many aspects of Fossey’s life and work, but none perhaps as poignant as her love for one gorilla in particular – silverback Digit.
Fossey first saw Digit in 1967 when he was just a few years old. He belonged to one of the groups she decided to “habituate” to her presence and she ended up forming a special bond with him, giving him the name Digit when she noticed that one of his fingers was injured, probably from being caught in a poacher’s trap. Fossey described Digit as playful and curious as a youngster, as well as gentle and trusting even as he grew into a large silverback. She called him her “beloved Digit.”

Bhutan, WWF Launch US$43m Conservation Program for Protected Ecosystems
By Craig Lewis, Buddhistdoor Global, 15 November 2017
The Kingdom of Bhutan has launched a progressive conservation initiative backed by a US$43 million fund, in cooperation with the the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners from around the world, and aimed at providing permanent protection for the Himalayan nation’s extensive network of protected conservation areas.
Dubbed “Bhutan for Life,” (BFL) the initiative has an ambitious list of goals that include monitoring and protecting wildlife and habitats, maintaining the kingdom’s forest cover and pledge to remain carbon neutral, supporting communities living in protected areas through job creation and improved infrastructure, and strengthening the management and enforcement of protected ecosystems. The US$43 million project will be combined with US$75 million in funding from the government of Bhutan, to be contributed over 14 years.

[India] Despite anti-poaching row, Kaziranga shines in IUCN report on natural world heritage sites
By Malavika Vyawahare, Hindustan Times, 15 November 2017
The IUCN assessment of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, which attained notoriety earlier this year for allegedly adopting overly aggressive anti-poaching measures, has improved from “serious concerns” to “good with some concerns”.
A BBC documentary released this year suggested that anti-poaching measures put in place to protect rhino species in the park were causing hardships to local villagers. The news agency alleged that its park rangers killed an average of two poaching suspects every month, and over 20 a year.

Myanmar gov’t to shut down illegal wildlife trade markets in Golden Triangle region by 2020
Xinhua, 15 November 2017
Myanmar government has planned to shut down at least 20 illegal wildlife trade markets in Golden Triangle border region by 2020 with the help of the Wildlife conservation groups, official Global New Light of Myanmar reported Wednesday.
In Golden Triangle border region which is between Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, wildlife species such as tigers, elephants are mostly traded as well as rhinoceros, serow, helmeted hornbill, gaur, leopard and turtles are also traded in the region.
Due to increased numbers of wildlife trade, hundreds of wildlife species are endangered, according to an official from World Wildlife Fund (Myanmar).

16 November 2017

Making conservation work
By Jake Cornwall-Scoones, Varsity, 16 November 2017
Humans have been changing their surrounding environments since they came into existence 6 million years ago; in fact, it is one of the defining traits of our species. Yet the scale at which these changes are occurring has been increasing at an exponential rate in recent decades, having widespread and potentially long-lasting impacts on biodiversity the world over. I spoke with William Sutherland, Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology, to discuss the major challenges in conservation and how these can be tackled, especially in the face of the major political shake-ups of recent years.

[India] Implementation of forest rights in protected areas virtually non-existent, claims new report
By Ishan Kukreti, Down to Earth, 16 November 2017
A public consultation on the issue of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) violation in protected areas (PA) was carried out on November 15 in Delhi by All India Forum for Forest Movements (AIFFM), Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Kalpavriksh and Vasundhara.
About 70 participants—representing local community members from over 32 PAs—civil society members and researchers across 13 states attended the consultation. The community members and activists also shared experiences and presented testimonies.

Did Sierra Leone mudslide uncover a forgotten conservation promise?
By Jude Fuhnwi, BirdLife International, 16 November 2017
The Western Area National Park is a forest reserve in Sierra Leone that still holds one of the last strongholds of pristine forest in the country and represents a significant portion of the remaining forest cover in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot. The park is rich in diverse species, with a range of hills and steep mountains that border the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean.
This unique forest reserve was identified by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) as one of the four key biodiversity areas in Sierra Leone for their investment in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot through BirdLife International as regional implementation team.

17 November 2017

Trophy hunter kills elephants and rhinos without remorse… and says his only regret is how long it takes them to die
By Grant Rollings, The Scottish Sun, 17 November 2017
Crouching over the king of the jungle he has just shot, hunter Philip Glass openly weeps tears on the lion’s majestic mane.
But this outpouring of emotion is not a sign of regret or sympathy for the endangered species he has slaughtered.
Instead, this American hunter is simply overjoyed at completing a lifelong ambition to take down nature’s most impressive predator.
Unperturbed by death threats to him and his family or the worldwide outrage over the death of Cecil the lion at the hands of a dentist, Glass is a cheerleader for the multi-billion pound big game hunting industry.
His bid to shoot the Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo – in Africa is captured in a controversial new documentary called Trophy.

The Extreme Life of a Conservation Scientist
By Marianne Messina, Huffington Post, 17 November 2017
It’s tough to get a phone call through to Dr. Phillip Muruthi, Chief Scientist for African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). He can be on three continents in any given week.
I just missed him in Kenya. He was incommunicado en route to Ethiopia, where I missed him again. I finally caught up with him in a New York hotel somewhere between presenting at a conference and fundraising.
After four rhinos arrived at my local zoo, I had to know more about the world they came from. I sought out the AWF because they are one of the oldest and most established wildlife conservation groups in Africa, and Dr. Muruthi has deep experience with rhino populations.

To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests
By Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor, Mongabay, 17 November 2017
Squatting barefoot in a field of mud on the outskirts of Marojejy National Park, easing rice seedlings from the earth, Paul Tiozen shrugged out one of Madagascar’s most pressing conundrums: how to get more rice? He looked bitter.
“Rice is the source of Malagasy life. It’s so difficult to work the rice, because we need the shovel, and water to work it. I need more land. I have a big family, so I need more. What I want is half a hectare,” he said.

Amazon Gold Rush Continues to Decimate Peru’s Rain Forest
By Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Scientific American, 17 November 2017
For decades gold miners have pillaged the lush Peruvian Amazon forest of Madre de Dios in search of the precious metal. Now a study reports that illicit mining is sharply on the rise despite local government efforts to curb it—and this is taking a heavy toll on the ecosystem.
In 2012 the Peruvian government announced a slew of legal decrees to defend Madre de Dios—considered the country’s biodiversity capital—against miners. Authorities conducted raids, dismantled clandestine camps, and regulated fuel and supply traffic. Despite the crackdown, the total mining area had increased by about 40 percent (to around 170,000 acres) just four years later. According to the most comprehensive analysis to date, the practice—possibly enabled by poor control of the region and greater highway access—extended into at least one of the forest’s two national reserves, protected areas where mining is prohibited.

[South Africa] Top KZN anti-poaching cop dismissed
Zululand Observer, 17 November 2017
In a disturbing twist of events, the Investigating Officer in the Dumisani Gwala case has been fired on what he claims are ‘trumped-up charges’.
Warrant Officer JP van Zyl-Roux, who has almost three decades’ experience and dozens of poaching arrests to his name, cleared his office on Monday.
Two years ago Van Zyl-Roux was told he was under investigation for the alleged shooting of poachers.
At the time, Van Zyl-Roux’s lawyer, Jacques Botha, was reported as having said the poachers were all shot by members of a Special Task Force team, who were fired at by poachers when they were caught red-handed in a game reserve.

18 November 2017

These are the world’s most endangered animals, and they are being wiped out by humans
By Ben Skipper, IBTimes, 18 November 2017
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has updated its list of species most in danger of going extinct, with 19 animals now listed as “critically endangered”, including gorillas, tigers, rhinos and orangutans.
Included on the list is the South China tiger, a subspecies of the predator which hasn’t been spotted in the wild for more than 25 years, and is considered by scientists to be “functionally extinct”. The list was revealed by Metro.

[India] Electric fences killing tigers in Maharashtra
By Aathira Perinchery, The Hindu, 18 November 2017
The electrocution of a tigress in the Chimur forest range in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra on November 7 brings the tiger death toll due to electrocution in the Vidarbha area alone to five this year.
Why are tigers dying?
In a desperate attempt to prevent herbivores like nilgai (blue bulls) and wild boar from destroying their crops, farmers often set up illegal high-voltage electrical fences around their fields drawing power from electrical lines meant for home or agricultural use.

19 November 2017

WWF plans to remove ‘threatened’ tag on rhinos
The Sentinel, 19 November 2017
At a time when rampant poaching of one-horned rhino in Assam has turned into a major security and socio-political issue creating uncertainty about future possible existence of the animal, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has chalked out an ambitious plan to have a population of 4,000 such rare species of rhinos in India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020.
In case the WWF is successful with this initiative, it will result in removal of one-horned rhino from the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

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