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WildFact Lost one of the best poster and a true mod, Ezequiel Almada. You will be missed Tshokwane for ever.

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Conservation (articles and reports)

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( This post was last modified: 10-22-2018, 04:42 AM by Matias )

African Parks | 21 October 2018

The Governments of South Africa, Republic of Chad, African Parks and SANParks confirm the discovery of two black rhino carcasses in Chad
© Marcus We
*This image is copyright of its original author

The Governments of South Africa, Republic of Chad, African Parks and SANParks confirm that two black rhino carcasses have been discovered in Zakouma National Park in Chad.  

The rhino were among a group of six black rhino translocated to Chad from South Africa in May 2018 to bring the species back to Zakouma National Park after almost a 50-year absence. 

The rhinos had been held in bomas in the national park for two months after their arrival in Chad on 4 May, before being released into a temporary sanctuary for another two months to enable their acclimatisation to the environment. In late August, the sanctuary fence was removed and the rhinos were free to roam the wider park where they continued to be monitored constantly. The carcasses of two of the rhino – a bull and a cow -- were discovered in separate locations on 15 October 2018.

We can confirm that these two rhinos (a male and a female) were not poached, however, the exact cause of death is not yet known. A specialist Veterinarian was dispatched and is now on site in Zakouma National Park in order to conduct a postmortem that will provide more information on the cause of death and assess the situation to advise on further actions. Details of this will be made available once the cause has been confirmed. 

The other four animals have been confirmed to still be alive and are being closely monitored. Consultations between the Governments of the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Chad, including SANParks and African Parks are underway to establish the cause of death of the two rhinos and to take any necessary precautionary actions to avert a similar occurrence with the remaining four animals.

The translocation was in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries on the reintroduction of black rhino in Chad, undertaken to restore critical biodiversity and aid the long-term conservation of the species on the continent. 

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‘At capacity’? A Nepali park reckons with its rhinos

by Abhaya Raj Joshi on 1 November 2018

  • An investigation into a recent increase in natural deaths among the 600 greater one-horned rhinos in Chitwan National Park suggested the park may have reached its carrying capacity for the species.
  • The park and its resources are facing pressure both from a growing population of rhinos within the park and from increasing human settlement on its periphery.
  • Assessments of the park’s carrying capacity for rhinos vary wildly, ranging from 500 to more than 2,000, leading to differences of opinion about the role overcrowding could play in rhino deaths.
CHITWAN, Nepal —There was a time when Dhan Maya Tamang and her husband, Prem Bahadur, both in their 50s, worried about rhinos straying into their settlement.
“They would come out mostly in the night and raid our paddy fields during the harvest season,” say the Tamangs. “Our fences were of little help. We were helpless as we cannot do anything to them. They are protected by law.”

In the past few months, no rhino raiding parties have descended on the village.

“We don’t know why,” say the couple, who live near the Baghmara Community Forest, part of the buffer zone on the eastern side of Nepal’s Chitwan National Park.

The Tamangs are not the only ones trying to figure out what’s going on with the greater one-horned rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis) of Chitwan, which hosts the world’s second-largest population of the species.

Earlier this year, the government formed a committee to look into a recent increase in natural deaths among the park’s 600 rhinos. Following a brief investigation, it hinted that Chitwan may have reached its carrying capacity for rhinos.

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

A rice field on the outskirts of Chitwan National Park. Tender, succulent paddy is a particularly attractive meal for rhinos who wander out of the park. Overcrowding within protected areas encourages animals to stray, increasing the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict. Image by Prateek Runga via Flickr CC-BY.
The limits of growth

Historically, the area currently occupied by the national park was uninhabitable due to malaria. But in the 1950s, government efforts to eradicate the disease led to a rapid migration of people to these fertile floodplains.

The trend continues. The total population of the 36 villages in the buffer zone rose from 292,000 in 2001 to more than 400,000 in 2011, according to the national census. Similarly, the number of rhinos in and around Chitwan has climbed to more than 600 from a low of 100 in the 1960s.

Experts question how long it’s possible for both of these numbers to rise in tandem.

“We recommended that a study be commissioned to assess the carrying capacity of the national park,” says ecologist Laxman Poudyal, who headed the committee investigating rhino deaths. “As human population pressure increases on the borders of the national park, it is necessary to ascertain how many rhinos can live in this park,” he said.

While Poudyal’s team investigated, conservationists got both good news and bad news from the rhino census in India’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest population of the species. While 2,413 rhinos were counted in the 430-square-kilometer (166-square-mile) park, the number was only 12 more than the population in 2015 — an annual growth rate of just 0.5 percent.

This has led Indian authorities to point to the same issue of “carrying capacity”: They fear the current habitat cannot support any more rhinos.

*This image is copyright of its original author
A female greater one-horned rhino with young in Chitwan National Park. The park’s birthrate remains robust, causing some experts to question whether the park truly has reached carrying capacity. Image by Bernard Dupont via Flickr CC BY-SA.
How many rhinos can Chitwan support?
“Carrying capacity” has been a buzzword in Nepal’s conservation sector for more than two decades, but there has yet to be a scientific assessment of Chitwan’s actual carrying capacity for any species, says the park’s former warden, Narendra Man Babu Pradhan. Only population models have been used, which he says don’t fully account for factors like habitat degradation and interspecies competition for resources.

Estimates of the park’s carrying capacity vary wildly. A report prepared by the IUCN/SSC Rhino Specialist group in 1997suggested the park could support only 500 rhinos in what was at the time a 932-square-kilometer (360-square-mile) habitat. Then, a study funded by the Dutch government in the early 2000s used population models to suggest that the equilibrium population, “where gains are exactly balanced by losses,” was around 1,000.

Ram Kumar Aryal, head of the Biodiversity Conservation Centre at the Nepali NGO National Trust for Nature Conservation, says he believes the park and its surroundings can support more than 1,500 rhinos. He points to the 2003 eviction of Padampur, a cluster of 16 small villages inside the park. The resettlement of the villagers freed up 20 square kilometers (7.7 square miles) of prime rhino habitat along the Rapti River. “In addition to that, a lot more areas around the buffer zone have been developed as potential habitats for rhinos,” he says.

Aryal also cites Kaziranga, which is much smaller than Chitwan. “Kaziranga is around half the size of Chitwan. If Kaziranga can sustain 2,000 rhinos, Chitwan can support way more than that,” he says.

Mammalogist Shant Raj Jnawali agrees. “We haven’t seen major health issues with the rhinos, nor have we seen any kind of malnourishment,” he says. “If the park had reached its carrying capacity, we would have definitely seen this happen.”

But while in Kaziranga the population growth rate has dwindled, raising concern among scientists there, in Chitwan the population increase over the past decade has been robust. Between 2005 and 2015, the annual growth rate of the rhino population fluctuated between 3 and 6.9 percent (the lower figures are attributed to poaching deaths during the decade-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal, which ended in 2006, and the years of political transition that followed).

“It would be hard for us to say that we have hit the carrying capacity of the park unless the growth rate declines significantly,” says former warden Pradhan. The next census will offer more insight into the growth pattern. Only if the growth rate is observed to have dropped considerably will there be a need to look into the carrying capacity of the park, Pradhan says.

*This image is copyright of its original author
Tourists on an elephant safari view rhinos in Chitwan National Park. Tourism has become a crucial source of
 revenue for the surrounding communities. Public domain image.

Eastern sector vs. western sector
This doesn’t mean that park authorities and local people disregard the idea of carrying capacity, Jnawali says. “There are signs that that the rhinos in Chitwan are congregating on the western sector. This has intensified competition among rhinos for food and habitat.” With increased pressure on resources in this area, it’s possible that the western sector, but not the whole park, has hit its carrying capacity for rhinos.
Aryal says a simple way to deal with the problem is to pay extra attention to conserving existing rhino habitats in the park, mostly on the eastern side so that the rhinos congregating on the western side can be dispersed throughout the park and the resources can be used optimally. In addition, he says plans are needed to restore degraded rhino habitat in the eastern part of the park. Aryal also opposes recent initiatives to relocate rhinos from Chitwan to other protected areas, saying that removing them affects the park’s environment and alters the sex ratio of the population. “This has disturbed the balance in the park,” he says.

Back in their settlement, the Tamangs hope the rhinos return to the eastern sector of the park. “We depend on tourists for our livelihoods. We face problems when there are more rhinos than required in the park,” they say. “But when they are gone, our livelihood is threatened. We need to have just the right number.”

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Research finds humans across the globe have microplastics in their stool
by Mike Gaworecki on 6 November 2018

  • Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria monitored eight people in eight different countries and found that every single stool sample collected tested positive for the presence of microplastics.
  • Food processing and plastic food packaging are major sources of microplastics in human diets. Microplastics can also enter the human food chain via marine animals that people consume — significant amounts of microplastics have been found in lobster, shrimp, and tuna, for instance.
  • The researchers found 9 different types of plastic in the human stools they tested — shipped to Vienna in plastic-free containers to be screened at the Environment Agency Austria — with an average of 20 microplastic particles ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometres found in every 10 grams of stool.

A study conducted with participants from across the globe found that every single stool sample collected tested positive for the presence of microplastics.

Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria monitored eight people in eight different countries — Austria, Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and the UK — and presented their findings at the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Week held in Vienna late last month.

Microplastics are small plastic fragments that are less than 5 millimeters (about 0.2 inches) in length. Sources of microplastic pollution in Earth’s environment include cosmetics, clothing, and a variety of other products; they can also be created when larger pieces of plastic, like water and soda bottles or plastic bags, are released into the environment and subsequently break down into smaller pieces through natural weathering processes.

2015 study found that about 8 million metric tons of plastic waste makes its way from land into Earth’s oceans every year. Scientists are studying the effect this plastic pollution has on marine animals and ecosystems — for instance, research released earlier this year found that microplastic particles can block nutrient absorption and damage the digestive tracts of filter-feeding marine life, while the toxins and persistent organic pollutants found in plastic can change biological processes such as growth and reproduction and even lead to decreased fertility as it accumulates in the bodies of marine wildlife over time.

Food processing and plastic food packaging are major sources of microplastics in human diets. Microplastics can also enter the human food chain via marine animals that people consume — significant amounts of microplastics have been found in lobster, shrimp, and tuna, for instance.

Dr. Philipp Schwabl, who led the research presented at UEG Week, said he started to wonder how microplastics might be impacting humans after reading about the staggering increase of plastic pollution and high microplastic burden in sea animals. “Many people assume that microplastics are likely to be present also in humans,” he told Mongabay. “However, I couldn’t find any study proving this hypothesis. Thus, I was eager to initiate such an investigation.”

While he cautions that it’s necessary to be mindful of the small sample size of the study — just eight participants — Schwabl said he found the results eye-opening nonetheless. “Personally, I did not expect that each sample would be tested positive.”

In total, Schwabl and team found 9 different types of plastic in the human stools they tested — shipped to Vienna in plastic-free containers to be screened at the Environment Agency Austria — with an average of 20 microplastic particles ranging in size from 50 to 500 micrometres found in every 10 grams of stool. Polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene-terephthalate (PET) were the most common types of plastic found, present in all eight samples.

Each study participant kept a food diary for a week before submitting their stool sample and, according to the researchers, the diaries showed that all eight participants were probably exposed to microplastics when they ate foods wrapped in plastic or drank from plastic bottles. None of the participants refrained from eating meat during the study period. Six reported eating seafood.

In a statement, Schwabl said of the research and its findings: “This is the first study of its kind and confirms what we have long suspected, that plastics ultimately reach the human gut. Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases.”

So far, however, there haven’t been any studies examining the health implications of people being exposed to microplastics through their diet. “Indeed, it is a very important question and we are planning further investigations to elucidate the effects of microplastics on human health,” Schwabl told Mongabay. “However, animal studies exist which show that microplastic particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. Furthermore, in animal studies it has been shown that microplastics may cause intestinal damage, remodelling of the intestinal villi, distortion of iron absorption and hepatic stress.”

Schwabl said that more studies are needed to determine exactly how ingesting microplastics might affect people: “Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health. … [T]he more samples we get the better our understanding will be for human microplastics ingestion and once the sample size is bigger we might find additional correlations between microplastics contamination and place of residence or diets and lifestyle.”

*This image is copyright of its original author

Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. Now it has been found in human stools, though the implications for human health are not yet well understood. Photo by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.


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End of funding dims hopes for a Sumatran forest targeted by palm oil growers

by Elviza DianaHans Nicholas Jong on 9 November 2018

  • The Harapan lowland rainforest in Sumatra, one of only 36 global biodiversity hotspots, could be lost to oil palm plantations within the next five years.
  • The Danish government, which since 2011 has funded efforts to restore the forest and keep out encroaching farmers, will cease its funding at the end of this year. No other sources of funding are in sight to fill the gap.
  • The Danish ambassador to Indonesia says local authorities need to take on more of the responsibility of protecting the forest.
  • He says relying on donor funding is unsustainable over the long term, and has called for greater emphasis on developing ecotourism and trade in non-timber forest products.
JAKARTA — Its name in Indonesian means “hope,” but there seems to be little of that remaining for the Harapan rainforest, a tropical woodland oasis in an ever-expanding desert of oil palm plantations in Sumatra.

The Harapan rainforest is one of the last remaining expanses of lowland forest left on the island and could disappear in five years, swallowed up by encroaching palm plantations, after losing the main source of funding still keeping it on the map.

Its demise would mean the loss of one of just 36 IUCN-recognized global biodiversity hotspots, and the end of a key habitat for nine globally threatened species, including Sumatran tigers, with a population of around 400, and Storm’s storks, the rarest of all storks, with fewer than 500 left in the wild.

Since 2011, the Danish government has been the main funder keeping the Harapan rainforest alive, providing technical assistance and financial support to the tune of $12.7 million. The money is channeled through the NGO Burung Indonesia, the local affiliate of BirdLife International, to REKI, a private company established to manage the forest. Much of the funding is spent on patrolling the forest to prevent illegal encroachment by palm farmers.

But the Danish government will cease its support at the end of this year, and there’s no other source of funding in sight to fill the gap. Rasmus Abildgaard Kristensen, the Danish ambassador to Indonesia, says the decision to end the funding has nothing to do with the project itself.

“This has to do with the general slowly phasing out [of] Danish development assistance to Indonesia,” he says. “The traditional development assistance is unfortunately being slowly being phased out, as many other countries are doing. Of course, Indonesia is becoming wealthier and you’re developing. And so at some point in time, this” — the end of financial assistance — “will have to come.”

With just a few months to go until the money dries up, Kristensen says no new donors have been found for the Harapan rainforest, and that leaves him concerned about the future of the forest.

“To be honest, I’m worried,” he says. “I’m very worried that unless we find another international donor to come in, and unless you keep paying for patrolling [to prevent encroachment], this [forest] will be gone in five years.”

*This image is copyright of its original author
Harapan rainforest in Jambi, Indonesia. Image by Fahrul Amama/Burung Indonesia.

Restoration project

Between 1985 and 1997, the islands of Sumatra, Sulawesi and Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo, lost 60 percent of their lowland forest, a region rivaling the Amazon for sheer abundance of species. Lowland rainforests have disappeared particularly fast because they are most accessible for logging, plantation and mining development. As a result, they are regarded as among the most threatened forests in the world.

Given the rates of degradation and conversion, it was predicted that the lowland forests of Sumatra would be wiped out by 2005.

Harapan beat the odds, and 13 years after its predicted expiry date still spans 769 square kilometers (300 square miles), representing 40 percent of the remaining global habitat of this particular forest type. But in that time it’s lost a quarter of its area, largely to the relentless creep of oil palm estates.

When Denmark started funding the restoration of Harapan seven years ago, Kristensen says, there were “another three to four” similar expanses of lowland forest in the region. “Now they’re gone. They’ve all turned into palm oil, so this is the only one left,” he says.

What spared Harapan from being fully razed for plantations was its status as an ecosystem restoration concession, or ERC. The Indonesian government defines ERCs as former state-run logging concessions that private companies can license for restoration. The idea is to prevent these degraded logging sites from being permanently converted to palm plantations or smallholder farmland, by restoring them to their previous forested state.

Harapan became the first licensed ERC in Indonesia in 2008. Since then, 16 ERC licenses have been issued for a combined area of 6,230 square kilometers (2,400 square miles), representing 35 percent of the total land that the government intends to license as ERCs.

*This image is copyright of its original author
Logged & degraded Harapan rainforest in Jambi, Indonesia. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

High costs

The ERC experiment, never tested before in Indonesia, has been an expensive one for the Harapan rainforest. The licenses required — the forest straddles the two jurisdictions of Jambi and South Sumatra provinces, hence two licenses — cost REKI (and by extension the Danish government) more than $1 million.

On top of that, REKI is also liable for land and business taxes, just as it would be if it were running an actual logging concession — but without the lucrative income to be made from cutting and selling trees.

“So the whole area is treated like a private company running a logging concession, which means they have to pay tax, building tax, land tax, and they also have to pay for license fees,” Kristensen says. “And this is not a small amount we’re talking about. The license fee alone is a million U.S. dollars, and the tax is enormous.”

He says the fiscal and regulatory framework for the Harapan rainforest needs to be changed to relieve REKI of a tax burden that treats it like an extractive company.

“But here we’re talking about something [whose] purpose is the exact opposite, which is to conserve and protect and not make money on it,” Kristensen said. “So at the same time, you can’t tax it. I think that’s a little strange and that’s something that has to be resolved over time.”

The project donors hire personnel to patrol for encroachers and poachers and monitor for fires. But they also have to shell out to the local police and military for law-enforcement efforts toward that end — something Kristensen says should be paid for by the state.

“I know that this is not easy and I fully understand that, but you could argue that this is the local government’s responsibility to at least patrol the forest,” he says. “I think the key is to look at the budget and make sure that the Harapan rainforest is not burdened with expenses that actually should be paid by someone else. Here, we’re talking about the police and the military. This should be the government’s responsibility and not a thing that NGO should pay for.”

All these costs add up. From 2011 to 2016, the bill for protecting the Harapan rainforest averaged $1.66 million a year, before dipping to $1.48 million in 2017.

*This image is copyright of its original author
[i]Teguh, a member of the Batin Sembilan indigenous community in Harapan rainforest, Jambi, Indonesia. Image by Hutan Harapan.[/i]

[i]Fire in the forest

Teguh spends her days in the Harapan forest hunting for softshell turtles and gathering rattan and dammar gum.

“We still search for food in the forest. There are still animals that we eat, such as fish. We also eat fruits and tubers,” she says.

Teguh, 39, is a member of the Batin Sembilan indigenous group, who number around 1,000 and lead a semi-nomadic life inside the Harapan forest. But the outside world eating away at the forest has also had an impact on the Batin Sembilan.

“In the past, we rarely got sick,” Teguh says. “If one of us ever got sick, we believed it was caused by the devil. But now we often fall ill because there’s often haze here. This haze is caused by the encroachers, who burn the forest every dry season.”

Slash-and-burn forest clearing has long been a hallmark of Indonesia’s palm oil industry, paving the way for vast estates of palm monoculture on land once brimming with biodiversity. The burning and resultant haze were particularly severe in 2015, the year Teguh says her entire family fell sick.

“Our eyes were burning and our throats were sore,” she recalls.

Even when the forest isn’t burning, the fires leave their mark. Like many indigenous forest communities around the world, the Batin Sembilan have a rich encyclopedic knowledge of medicinal plants, but the scorched earth yields nothing.

[i]“Now it takes us four to five hours to look for medicinal herbs, because they only grow in forests that still have good [tree] cover and have never been burned,” Teguh says. “For forests that have been burned, there are fewer medicinal herbs.”[/i]
*This image is copyright of its original author

[i][i]Batin Sembilan indigenous peoples gather food inside Harapan rainforest in Jambi, Indonesia. Image by Hutan Harapan.[/i][/i]


For Teguh, the forest she has known her whole life is on the verge of disappearing. Already there’s a palm plantation being established across from her home, while the forest on the opposite side is routinely targeted for land grabs and resource extraction.

“We’ve been trying to handle these encroachers together with REKI but to no avail,” Teguh says. “What usually happens is that REKI will try to persuade these encroachers to get out of the forest, only for them to go back again when REKI is gone. And these encroachers come in hordes, not just one or two people.”

What makes it particularly difficult to stop outsiders from penetrating into the Harapan forest is the fact that the area used to be a logging concession, with a legacy of multiple access roads and entry points.

“There are more than 30 access points [into the forest], such as rivers and roads,” says Mangarah Silalahi, a stakeholder engagement specialist with Burung Indonesia.

Compounding the situation is the sheer number of people already living there.

“More than 10,000 people live in the Harapan rainforest area, with most of them coming after 2010, after we got the restoration permit,” Mangarah says. “There are 20 new migrant villages here and seven villages surrounding the rainforest. These migrants need land and they buy land inside the Harapan rainforest.”

Mangarah says the battle over land inside Harapan is a microcosm of what’s happening in other forests across Indonesia.

“The conflict inside the Harapan rainforest involves a lot of parties, from indigenous communities to NGOs to the government and private companies,” he says. “They’re also linked to many aspects, including social and political. That’s why we need an approach that’s unusual and innovative, with collaboration between many parties.”

Clashes have broken out between the Batin Sembilan and those they consider encroachers. The most recent incident was on Oct. 15, and involved a group of suspected illegal loggers from the Sungai Bahar settlement armed with bladed weapons.

REKI spokesman Jhoni Rizal says the Sungai Bahar group are known encroachers who have repeatedly been warned and kicked out of the Harapan rainforest. “But they fought back and thus a clash was inevitable that ended up in a brawl,” he said as quoted by local media.

The fight prompted a backlash from the Sungai Bahar residents, hundreds of whom stormed into REKI’s facility, accusing company employees of instigating the clash.

Teguh says that without stronger intervention by the government and REKI to stop the encroachers, the Batin Sembilan may take matters into their own hands.

[i][i]“There haven’t been any casualties yet. But if our patience wears thin, then there might be casualties. Because the forest in my backyard has been encroached on as well,” she says.[/i][/i]

*This image is copyright of its original author
[i][i][i]A part of Harapan rainforest that has been cleared for settlements. Image by Burung Indonesia.[/i][/i][/i]

[i][i][i]Shadow backers

REKI identifies two types of encroachers: ordinary villagers who enter the Harapan rainforest to take what they need, and those backed by powerful interests to clear land and plant oil palms.

The former are easier to engage with, says Adam Aziz, who, as head of stakeholder partnership at REKI, is the company’s point man for managing conflicts.

“When they enter the forest for their daily needs, it’s relatively easy to negotiate and work with them,” he says. “What’s difficult is negotiating with the ones who are backed by those who have capital.”

The latter are usually farmers from outside the forest area who are mobilized by businesspeople to establish palm plantations inside the forest. Adam says he’s identified some of the people he suspects are behind the encroachment, and submitted their names to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

“There are local councilors as well” who are involved, he says. “These are mass and structured encroachment [efforts].” He declines to give any names.

Kristensen, the Danish ambassador, says he initially thought the migrant farmers were poor people who came into the Harapan rainforest in search of land to farm.

“Actually, most of them are not,” he says. “There’s someone behind them, because planting [oil] palm is not cheap. It requires big upfront investment. It’s not something poor people can afford. So unless you have a company or some rich people behind that can actually finance it, it’ll not happen.”

[i][i][i]Adam says one such powerful individual is eyeing the eastern part of the Harapan rainforest for a 50-square-kilometer (19-square-mile) palm plantation and Islamic boarding school. He adds he’s uncovered a forged ministerial letter purportedly allowing the clearing of that amount of land in the forest. “We’ve identified the parties who want to do that,” Adam says, but again declines to give a name.


*This image is copyright of its original author
A Sumatran tiger’s footprint in Harapan rainforest, Jambi, Indonesia. Image by Elviza Diana/Mongabay Indonesia.

Funding conundrum

As the funding from Denmark draws to an end this year, it’s important that other donor entities step up to sustain the restoration efforts for the Harapan rainforest, says Per Rasmussen, the national program adviser from the Danish government’s Environmental Support Program (ESP).

“We’re currently pushing Germany to contribute [financially] after the end of the Danish government’s financial support,” he says.

Kristensen says that while there might be other parties interested in helping the effort, they’d like to see the Indonesian government play a bigger role in protecting the forest.

“If they were to come in, of course they want to see local authorities taking more responsibilities,” he says.

He adds that potential donors might be discouraged from funding the project after seeing how it’s continued to struggle to come up with a sustainable solution to prevent encroachment, despite sums already poured in by Denmark.

“For me personally I’d say the money is not wasted because the forest is still there,” Kristensen says. “But of course, another donor will say ‘yeah, you keep funding it and there’s never going to be a real solution inside,’ and that’s true and that’s part of the difficulty. So what I really hope is that the local authorities will take more responsibility so that donors will be more interested in coming in.”

In the long run, he says, the survival of the Harapan rainforest must be decoupled from donor funding. “I encourage all to find [a] solution relatively fast. We can’t expect donors to foot the bill anymore,” Kristensen says.

REKI has explored this path by investing in small-scale community-based agroforestry and non-timber forest products.

“There’s also some small rubber production,” Kristensen says. “I’m actually amazed myself [at] how many small products that you can extract from the forest. And the good thing about that is that can help to provide greater livelihoods for the indigenous communities in the forest.”

But he says these won’t be enough to cover all the expenses.

“It can provide the local communities with some livelihoods but it can’t foot the bill. We’re talking about millions of dollars just to run the operation, and you can never [cover the cost] with these products,” Kristensen says.

Another potential source of income is ecotourism, but access to the forest will need to be vastly improved.

“I’ve been there a number of times and it’s a fantastic forest,” Kristensen says. “There are between 20 and 30 tigers, or about 10 percent of tigers in Sumatra just in this forest. But it’s still not an easy place to do tourism. It takes about four to five hours’ drive from Jambi province on bad roads before you reach the forest.”

Even then, scaling up ecotourism to generate the kind of revenue that the Harapan project needs is impossible, Kristensen says.

“We can probably attract a few tourists, those who like to watch birds and so on,” he says. “But it’s never going to be at a scale where it brings significant income.”
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How to stop the illegal wildlife trade in China
By Rachel Nuwer
  • Nov. 19, 2018
Many of the creatures that share this planet with us may not be around much longer.
Since 1970, populations of thousands of animal species around the world have declined 60 percent on average, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Habitat destruction, climate change and pollution are all driving those losses.

But so is the global illegal trade in wildlife. For species like tigers and rhinos, poaching is a primary threat to survival.

“Very few ecosystems are not affected by wildlife trade,” said Vincent Nijman, an anthropologist at Oxford Brookes University in Britain. “It directly impacts a very large number of species, and has a knock-on effect on many more species still.”

But, as Dr. Nijman pointed out, any solutions for tackling illegal wildlife trade are unlikely to work without the involvement of one major player: China.

continuation link:


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The OUTDOOR Journal
Aerial Survey of Kafue National Park Suggests Great Progress in the Fight for Conservation

Conservation, Kafue Style: We're delighted to learn that there has been a huge increase in wildlife numbers in Zambia’s largest national park.

Sarah Kingdom

The Kafue National Park, is Zambia’s oldest and largest national park and one of the continent’s wildest. Wilderness Safaris have just released extracts (the full document is yet to be published) from an aerial population survey they carried out in conjunction with the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DPNW). The survey, conducted ten years after their first aerial survey, reveals a significant increase in wildlife numbers, in different habitat zones in the park. The survey shows promising population growths in a number of species; including red lechwe which have increased in numbers by 487%, puku by 103%, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest by 78%, and blue wildebeest by 113%.

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( This post was last modified: 11-30-2018, 11:21 PM by Matias )

What’s in a name? Dogs or wolves, painted or wild
Posted on 23 November, 2018 by Nicholas Dyer in Animal EncountersConservationResearchWildlife

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Lycaon pictus: neither wolf or dog and from a different genus in the Canidae family © Nicholas Dyer

Written and photographs by Nicholas Dyer
Lycaon pictus has many names in English. Among them are ‘African wild dog’, ‘wild dog’, ‘painted dog’, ‘Cape hunting dog’, ‘African hunting dog’, ‘hyena dog’, ‘ornate wolf’ and ‘painted wolf’.

It seems somewhat ironic that so many names have been given to this creature, when so few are left on our planet.

Indeed, some argue vehemently that ‘African wild dog’ is correct and others ‘painted dog’, and increasingly the name ‘painted wolf’ has its fans. But are any of these correct, does it matter, and what is the background to Lycaon pictus’ many English names?

To stay on neutral ground (for the moment) I will refer to Lycaon pictus as ‘Lycaon’ throughout this article.

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animal enthusiast

 Lions re-introduced to South African Game Reserve
Read our new blog on the amazing efforts at Samara Private Game Reserveto help conserve a species;
"ssshhh...listen to the rain"...
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Research article

Characterizing conflict between humans and big cats Panthera spp: A systematic review of research trends and management opportunities
  • Kathleen Krafte Holland,
  • Lincoln R. Larson,
  • Robert B. Powell
Published: September 18, 2018


Conservation of big cats (Panthera spp.), a taxonomic group including tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and snow leopards, is a daunting challenge. As expanding human populations across Panthera range countries exacerbate competition for land and prey, conflicts between humans and big cats are inevitable. Through a systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature published from 1991 to 2014 and indexed in Web of Science and Google Scholar (186 articles), our study explored the current state of knowledge regarding human-Panthera conflict and potential solutions, examining variables such as spatial and temporal distribution of research, methods used to study conflict, evaluation of interventions, and management recommendations. Our synthesis revealed several key data gaps and research needs. More studies could utilize diverse data collection approaches to focus on both the ecological and socio-cultural context for conflict. Additionally, only 21% of articles included in the review evaluated conflict mitigation interventions, and few of these yielded conclusive results. Success ratios suggest that compensation schemes and livestock management strategies were more effective tools for addressing conflict than either direct interventions (lethal removal or translocation of animals) or community interventions (e.g. education, ecotourism, local management). More studies should systematically evaluate the efficacy of conflict mitigation strategies, many of which are consistently recommended without empirical support. Results highlight trends and opportunities that can be used to inform future research and management efforts focused on human-Panthera conflict, ultimately enhancing the potential for coexistence between humans and carnivore species worldwide.


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( This post was last modified: 12-10-2018, 04:03 AM by Matias Edit Reason: Formatting )

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Academic rigor, journalistic flair
Indigenous protected areas are the next generation of conservation
November 29, 2018 5.02pm 

The Horn Plateau, with its myriad of lakes, rivers and wetlands, has been a spiritual home for local Dehcho Dene peoples for millennia. In October, the Dehcho First Nations Assembly designated these lands and waters, called Edéhzhíe (eh-day-shae), as an Indigenous protected area (IPA), designed and managed or co-managed by Indigenous communities.
Edéhzhíe is a plateau that rises out of the Mackenzie Valley to the west of Great Slave Lake, in the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories. It covers 14,218 square kilometres. It is more than twice the size of Banff National Park.

I have worked in this region for a number of years, collaborating with communities on Indigenous food security programs. Elders have often referred to the significance of the Horn Plateau as a critical food harvesting location that has sustained communities for many generations.

As local communities encounter an ever-growing number of barriers to food security, including climate change and mounting costs of food production and shipping, it is increasingly clear that these lands must be protected from development.

for a full reading access the LINK

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Mongabay Series: Wild Bird Trade
In eastern Indonesia, a bird-trafficking hotspot flies under the radar
by Ian Morse on 11 December 2018

  • Indonesia, one of the most biodiverse countries on Earth, is a major hub of the illegal bird trade. Demand comes from both inside and outside its borders.
  • Aru, a remote archipelago near the giant island of New Guinea, is a major supplier of cockatoos and other exotic birds.
  • The relevant government agency is too understaffed to keep up with traffickers, officials say.

MARAFENFEN/LORANG, Indonesia — Benedictus has to go out just after dark to check his traps. If he goes any earlier, the palm cockatoos will still be awake and hear him coming.

The 42-year-old farmer and hunter is inspecting his traps in Marafenfen village, southern Aru, a flat archipelago the size of Puerto Rico at Indonesia’s easternmost point before the island of New Guinea. He knows national law protects his quarry, a large black cockatoo with a red face and tall crest. Getting caught trading, keeping or killing one can result in up to five years’ jail time and a 100 million rupiah ($6,900) fine.

His traps are empty tonight. He walks by one that he forgot to check, and sees it swaying back and forth. “Damn it! It was just there but flew away!”

Benedictus says he only hunts when he receives an order for a bird, but Stefan, a hunter in central Aru, says he kills and sells birds whenever he needs the money. (Some of the names in this story have been changed.) His village, Lorang, is known for its abundance of famously flashy greater birds-of-paradise (Paradisaea apoda), also a protected species.

“They dance in the branches above us, then find a bride and mate with them. That’s when we shoot them with an air gun,” says Stefan, 31. He adds he rarely hunts, and uses the money to pay for his children’s ever-increasing school fees.

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For a full reading access the LINK

United Kingdom Sully Offline
Ecology and Conservation
( This post was last modified: 12-15-2019, 02:19 AM by Sully )

Indonesia to capture 3 wild Sumatran rhinos to add to breeding population

Indonesia hopes to capture three Sumatran rhinos from the wild next year to stock up a captive-breeding sanctuary, in a bid to boost the population of the critically endangered species.

The sanctuary, opened in 1996 to provide a heavily protected semi-wild habitat for captive rhinos to breed, is already home to seven rhinos, two of which were conceived and born there.
Experts are also calling on the government to protect the last remaining wild habitats of the rhinos so that there’s somewhere to release them back into once the situation allows.
Fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos are believed to live in small populations scattered in the dwindling forests of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo.

[*]EAST LAMPUNG, Indonesia — Officials in Indonesia say they hope to capture three Sumatran rhinos from the wild for a recently expanded sanctuary where experts are carrying out breeding attempts to save the species from extinction.
The Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Way Kambas National Park, in Lampung province at the southern end of Sumatra Island, now spans 250 hectares (620 acres), following an expansion announced on Oct. 30.
“We are working to capture three wild rhinos in Way Kambas National Park,” Ade Kurnia Rauf, a senior adviser to Indonesia Rhino Foundation (YABI), told Mongabay. He added this was in line with Indonesia’s Emergency Action Plan on Sumatran Rhinoceros, issued on Dec. 6 last year.

While waiting for new rhinos to occupy the extension sometime next year, officials at the SRS have already moved one of the seven existing Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) at the facility into the new paddocks; Harapan, a 12-year-old male, is himself the product of an earlier successful captive-breeding program carried out at Cincinnati Zoo in the U.S.
The SRS at Way Kambas was opened in 1996, covering 100 ha (247 acres) and envisioned as a way to provide a heavily protected semi-wild habitat in which captive rhinos could breed naturally. Experts at the sanctuary are also tasked with carrying out research and programs to maintain a viable captive population that should be able to be released back into the wild eventually.
“Way Kambas National Park, where some of Sumatra’s last lowland tropical forest exists, is the last frontier for nearly extinct wildlife, such as the Sumatran rhino, [so] that we must protect its sustainability,” said Indra Exploitasia, the director of biodiversity conservation at Indonesia’s environment ministry.
Indonesia has launched a program to track and tally up Sumatran rhinos in the wild, including in Way Kambas National Park outside the SRS. Ade said five teams had been deployed to look for wild rhinos in Way Kambas and, by February, to start setting up pit traps to safely capture them alive.
The park agency estimates the rhino population in Way Kambas, which spans some 130,000 ha (321,200 acres), at some 33 individuals; some analyses give a much lower figure of around a dozen. The sanctuary itself is home to seven captive rhinos: three males and four females. Two of the rhinos were conceived and born at the sanctuary.
“We need new males and females to be relocated into the SRS. The reason is clear: to avoid inbreeding,” said Subakir, the head of Way Kambas National Park Agency.

*This image is copyright of its original author
Harapan, a young male, is the first occupant of the expanded part of the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park. Image by Rahmadi Rahmad/Mongabay Indonesia.
In tandem with efforts to breed the species in captivity, conservationists are calling on the government to protect the last remaining wild habitats of the critically endangered animal so that there’s somewhere to release them back into when the situation allows.
The government of Lampung province has promised to increase protection for its forests from human pressure, especially within national parks, saying it wants the province to be the stronghold for the species.
“We must protect the Sumatran rhino, Indonesia’s treasure, from extinction,” said Arinal Djunaidi, the governor of Lampung, at a ceremony to mark the opening of the SRS extension on Oct. 30. He said he would seek an agreement with the environment ministry to boost law enforcement for national parks across Lampung.

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Arinal Djunaidi, the governor of Lampung province on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, where the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary is located. Image by Rahmadi Rahmad/Mongabay Indonesia.
Unlike with other rhino species, poaching isn’t the biggest threat to Sumatran rhinos. It’s the lack of natural breeding in the wild — a result of their habitats being carved up and destroyed, isolating individual rhinos and making it less likely that they’ll encounter one another to breed — that poses the greatest danger to the species.
“We’re fighting against extinction,” said Zulfi Arsan, a veterinarian at the SRS. “The population decline rate is [higher] than the birth rate.”
Despite its name, the species used to roam other parts of Asia, including India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. But the combination of habitat loss and poaching has left Indonesia as the final refuge for these rhinos; Malaysia’s last Sumatran rhino, a female held in captivity, died of ill health on Nov. 23.

Widodo Ramono, the executive director of YABI,said his foundation had partnered with an international group, the Sumatran Rhino Survival Alliance — which consists of Indonesia’s environment ministry, the IUCN, the International Rhino Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation, National Geographic and WWF — to protect the species.
“The expansion of the SRS can be used to its best to increase the rhino population while paying attention to sustainability, heritability, and good management of habitat,” he said.
Experts at SRS will still prioritize natural breeding, but are also open to using advanced reproductive technology, including in vitro fertilization.
“We must be very careful in carrying out anything,” Zulfi said. “Obviously, to produce a healthy rhino needs healthy parents who don’t have any reproductive problems.”
Fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos are believed to live in small populations scattered in the dwindling forests of Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo. In Sumatra, experts believe the rhinos survive in Gunung Leuser National Park, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and Way Kambas National Park. In Borneo, no more than 10 individuals are estimated to roam the forests of East Kalimantan province. Last year, a female rhino was captured from the wild there and relocated to a second SRS facility there. In 2016, another female rhino had been caught, but died a few weeks after her capture.
“We must act quickly against time to save this species that has lived on Earth since 20 million years ago,” Widodo said. “The most important effort now is to produce as many rhinos as possible at SRS in the safest setting there is.”
"When the tiger stalks the jungle like the lowering clouds of a thunderstorm, the leopard moves as silently as mist drifting on a dawn wind." -Indian proverb

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Ecology and Conservation

Belize officially declares wildlife corridor in key protected area complex
7 days ago

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A wildlife corridor in northern Belize has been officially declared by government order and, together with a system of three nature reserves in what’s known as the country’s “sugar cane belt,” will now be included in a Special Management Area in perpetuity.
Belize’s Міnіѕtеr оf Аgrісulturе, Fіѕhеrіеѕ, Fоrеѕtrу, thе Еnvіrоnmеnt, Ѕuѕtаіnаblе Dеvеlорmеnt аnd Іmmіgrаtіоn ѕіgnеd іntо lаw аn оrdеr dесlаring thе Nоrth-Eаѕtеrn Віоlоgісаl Соrrіdоr on Јаnuаrу 17. Тhe lаw went іntо еffесt оn Јаnuаrу 22, according to a press release issued by the government of Belize.
The wildlife corridor was approved by Belize’s Cabinet in February 2018. Per the governmental press release, “The enactment of the order carries out Cabinet’s decision to protect important forests situated in the sugar cane belt, in order to protect the biological connectivity of protected areas and safeguard the ecosystem services provided by these forests, including watershed preservation and rain formation.”

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Camera trap photo of a Baird’s tapir in the Northeastern Biological Corridor. Credit: CSFI.

In the release, the government of Belize sets a bold and hopeful tone for the future of forest conservation in the Central American country: “The declaration of the North-eastern Biological Corridor marks the beginning of a new era and culture of conservation for Belize. The Government commits to replicating this activity in other parts of the country in order to protect and sustainably utilize forest and other natural resources, thereby ensuring that the social, environmental, and economic benefits afforded by forests are enjoyed by Belize’s current and future generations.”
The 27,000-hectare (nearly 67,000-acre) Belize Norheastern Biological Corridor includes some 13,600 hectares (nearly 34,000 acres) of private lands. It was designed to connect Shipstern Nature Reserve with Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve and Honey Camp National Park, allowing safe passage for iconic wildlife such as jaguars and pumas in a region where more than 10,000 hectares (or 25,000 acres) of forest have been lost over the past decade, according to Belize-based conservation NGO Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative (CSFI). The corridor was initially conceived of more than 20 years ago, and is the result of a partnership between the government of Belize, conservation groups like CSFI, stakeholder communities, and the private sector.

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Camera trap photo of a white-lipped peccary in the Northeastern Biological Corridor. Credit: CSFI.

The corridor “provides large animals, such as Jaguar and Baird’s Tapirs, enough space to move freely between protected areas, and thus [helps] ensure their long-term survival,” per CSFI, which adds that “Ongoing wildlife monitoring activities within the area, confirm healthy populations of large mammal species such as jaguars, puma, Baird’s tapir and white-lipped peccaries. Without the continuous natural link between protected areas now established by this new corridor, their survival would be far from certain in the long term.”
The Northeastern Biological Corridor is comprised of lowland broadleaf forests, mangroves, littoral forest, freshwater lagoons, and wetlands that support more than 1,000 species of plants and animals.
“It is important to set aside the area for this type of use because it provides vital ecosystems services such as pollination, water retention and release, rain formation and flood mitigation to the surrounding sugarcane, beans, rice croplands and adjacent communities,” the government of Belize said. “The natural ecosystems within the area also provide for income generation for local communities through the provision of game meat, timber and employment opportunities with the local organizations that help to manage and protect the area.”

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Credit: CSFI.

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*This image is copyright of its original author
Credit: The Government of Belize.

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*This image is copyright of its original author
Camera trap photo of a jaguar in the Northeastern Biological Corridor. Credit: CSFI.
"When the tiger stalks the jungle like the lowering clouds of a thunderstorm, the leopard moves as silently as mist drifting on a dawn wind." -Indian proverb
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