A Malagasy community races the timber mafia to save its forest [05/10/2019]
- The Vohibola forest is one of the last remaining primary forests along Madagascar’s eastern coast, supporting a large variety of endemic species found nowhere else on Earth.
- Under a renewed contract finalized this week the responsibility for its management was delegated to Razan’ny Vohibola, an association of volunteers from four surrounding villages.
- The task of protecting the forest, which is rapidly disappearing because of illegal logging, pits the local protectors against not just the timber mafia but also officials whom the villagers allege are complicit.
- Members of Razan’ny Vohibola were arrested in April on charges of aiding the illegal logging allegedly at the behest of corrupt officials, but released after the central environment ministry intervened.
Conservationists call for lasting ban on trade in Malagasy precious timber [05/03/2019]
- Precious rosewood and ebony has been plundered from Madagascar’s forests for decades, threatening the survival of these hardwood tree species.
- Recent regulations have led to the Madagascar government accumulating a stockpile of the illegal precious wood, whose fate remains undecided.
- A new paper calls for species in two genera, Dalbergia and Diospyros, to be placed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty regulating trade in threatened species.
- The move would ban all trade in the precious wood and thwart an attempt by the government to legalize and sell off the existing stockpile.
That Malagasy forest featured in Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’? It’s vanishing fast [04/26/2019]
- Parts of the Netflix series “Our Planet,” released this month, were shot in Kirindy Forest in the Menabe Antimena protected area in western Madagascar.
- It’s a biodiversity-rich area that supports plant and animal species found nowhere else, including baobabs, lemurs and fossas.
- Between the shooting for the series in 2016 and its release in 2019, a large patch of the forest was lost, including areas where filming took place.
- This reflects a larger trend of deforestation in the area and in Madagascar, which is experiencing massive deforestation pressure.
The world lost a Belgium-size area of old growth rainforest in 2018 [04/25/2019]
- Newly released data indicate the tropics lost around 120,000 square kilometers (around 46,300 square miles) of tree cover last year – or an area of forest the size of Nicaragua.
- The data indicate 36,400 square kilometers of this loss – an area the size of Belgium – occurred in primary forest. This number is an increase over the annual average, and the third-highest amount since data collection began.
- Indonesia primary forest loss dropped to the lowest level recorded since 2002. Brazil’s numbers are also down compared to the last two years, but still higher than the 18-year average.
- Meanwhile, primary rainforest deforestation appears to be on the rise elsewhere. Colombia recorded the highest level since measurement began at the beginning of the century. Madagascar had the highest proportion of its tropical forest lost in 2018; Ghana experienced the biggest proportional change over 2017.
Singapore acquits trader in world’s biggest rosewood bust, worth $50m [04/19/2019]
- On April 8, Singapore’s highest court acquitted a businessman who brought Malagasy rosewood valued at $50 million into the city-state in 2014, one of the largest wildlife seizures in the history of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
- The move reversed the ruling of a lower court that had sentenced the businessman to jail time and imposed $1 million in fines for importing protected wildlife.
- The court ordered Singapore authorities to return the rosewood to the businessman and his firm “as soon as practicable.”
- Environmental groups have been looking on anxiously as the case wound its way through Singapore’s courts for nearly five years, only to be disappointed by the final verdict.
Madagascar: Rio Tinto mine breaches sensitive wetland [04/09/2019]
- A large mineral sands mine in southeastern Madagascar has trespassed into a “sensitive zone,” violating national law and raising the possibility that radionuclide-enriched tailings could enter a lake that local people use for drinking water, two recent studies confirm.
- Rio Tinto, the London-based multinational that owns the mine, acknowledged the breach for the first time in a March 23 memo, more than five years after the breach initially occurred.
- Rio Tinto will hold its annual general meeting April 10 in London.
- The director of an NGO that commissioned one of the studies is a shareholder and said she hopes to speak about what’s happened at the lake.
Human population boom led to Madagascar’s megafauna extinction: Study [04/04/2019]
- Large animals, called megafauna, went extinct in Madagascar about 1,000 years ago.
- Humans are believed to have played a major role in their disappearance.
- A human population boom, supported by the shift from a hunter-gatherer to a pastoralist-herder lifestyle, was a key driver, a new study says.
- Large populations meant more hunting pressure and habitat degradation, ultimately leading to extinction.
Meet Mini mum, Mini ature, Mini scule: Tiny new frogs from Madagascar [03/28/2019]
- Researchers have named three previously undescribed, extremely small species of frogs from Madagascar Mini mum, Mini ature, and Mini scule. All of them belong to Mini, a genus that is entirely new to science.
- The new study describes two more species of tiny frogs, Rhombophryne proportionali, and Anodonthyla eximia, both smaller than thumbnails, just like the Minis.
- The newly described frogs from Madagascar are, however, known only from a handful of locations. While the researchers recommend placing three of the species in a threatened category of the IUCN Red List, two species are data deficient.
Illegal corn farming menaces a Madagascar protected area [02/21/2019]
- Deforestation within Menabe Antimena Protected Area, a large swath of unique dry forest ecosystem on Madagascar’s west coast, has increased dramatically in recent years.
- Slash-and-burn agriculture is the primary driver. Unlike in most places in Madagascar, it isn’t done for subsistence farming but to plant corn, a cash crop traded by a powerful local elite.
- Conservation groups have teamed up to organize raids that have resulted in a number of arrests, and are making inroads into the corn distribution networks.
- So far, however, only impoverished laborers have been held to account, many of them new arrivals to the area who have fled drought in southern Madagascar; none of the well-connected backers of the deforestation have been touched.
Illegal gold mining destroys wetland forest in Madagascar park [02/19/2019]
- Over the last two years, small crews of miners using rudimentary hand tools have made repeated incursions into Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagascar, to dig hundreds of shallow pit mines.
- The wave of mining coincides with a steadily worsening security situation in the area, complicating attempts at enforcement and limiting researchers’ ability to quantify the problem.
- In a new paper, authors used satellite imagery to analyze changes in forest cover and drone photography to survey the wetlands in the heart of Ranomafana.
- The area affected is still relatively small, but experts fear the problem could easily become much worse.
Viral video of endangered lemur made people want one as a pet: Study [01/29/2019]
- A viral video of a ring-tailed lemur released in 2016 triggered a common sentiment: hundreds of people tweeted about “wanting to own pet lemurs,” a new study has found.
- Researchers did not find any evidence of people buying or selling lemurs on Twitter. But viral videos like these can reinforce public interest in having wild animals as pets, they say.
- Searches of the phrase “pet lemur” on Google and YouTube also spiked in the weeks immediately after the video went viral, compared to other weeks between 2013 and 2018.
New species of leaf-mimicking lizard could already be victim of pet trade [01/23/2019]
- From the forests of Marojejy National Park in Madagascar, researchers have described a new species of leaf-tailed gecko that has a somewhat compressed body, a small triangular head, and a leaf-shaped tail.
- So far, the gecko, named Uroplatus finaritra, is known only from within a small area at lower altitudes in Marojejy. Since forests in this area are rapidly disappearing due to illegal logging activity, both in and around the park, the researchers recommend that the gecko be listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
- The gecko may also have already appeared in the international pet trade under the label of the more common satanic leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus phantasticus.
Madagascar’s next president to take office, bears suspect eco record [01/18/2019]
- Andry Rajoelina is set to be sworn in as president of Madagascar tomorrow, Jan. 19.
- Many conservationists and civil society representatives were disappointed by his election.
- Rajoelina had served as de facto president from 2009 to early 2014 after a coup d’état carried him to power.
- His past administration faced charges of corruption, especially regarding natural resource management. Top officials, including Rajoelina himself, were rumored to be involved in the illegal rosewood trade, which flourished during his time in office.
Coffee in trouble: 60% of wild coffee species threatened with extinction [01/17/2019]
- Of the 124 species of wild coffee known to science, 75 species, or 60 percent, are threatened with extinction due to deforestation, climate change and the spread of diseases and pests, a new study has found.
- The wild relative of Arabica, the most widely traded coffee in the world, is in particular trouble.
- Around 72 percent of the wild coffee species occur within some protected area, but many of the parks also have lax enforcement, and coffee species are rarely included within park management plans. Coverage of the potential range of the species is also poor.
- Moreover, only half of all wild coffee species occur in germplasm collections — critical resources for producing more resilient varieties of coffee in the future.
The biggest rainforest news stories in 2018 [12/30/2018]
- This is our annual rainforests year in review post.
- Overall, 2018 was not a good year for the planet’s tropical rainforests.
- Rainforest conservation suffered many setbacks, especially in Brazil, the Congo Basin, and Madagascar.
- Colombia was one of the few bright spots for rainforests in 2018.
Wildlife, ecotourism industry at stake in Madagascar’s election, says scientist [12/18/2018]
- Madagascar’s election on Wednesday could have major implications for the future of the island’s environment and wildlife, says a prominent conservation scientist.
- In an op-ed published this week in Al Jazeera, William F. Laurance, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia, warns that if Madagascar chooses former president Andry Rajoelina, the country’s dwindling natural resources could face renewed assault.
- Under Rajoelina’s previous reign, which followed a 2009 coup, Madagascar’s forests, wildlife, and coastal waters were pillaged.
- Laurance contrasts Rajoelina with his opponent, Marc Ravalomanana, who was lauded by conservationists during his tenure for expanding protected areas, banning commercial logging, and taking steps to reduce deforestation.
Madagascar auctioning a large swath of virgin waters for oil exploration [12/14/2018]
- In September, Madagascar announced the opening of a large area of marine territory to oil exploration: 44 concessions totaling 63,296 square kilometers (24,440 square miles) in the Mozambique Channel off the country’s west coast.
- Members of the hydrocarbon industry expressed excitement about the news, but civil society groups oppose the sale, arguing that the potential projects’ environmental and social impacts have not been evaluated.
- Some of the 44 blocks overlap with a marine protected area, territory marked for potential future marine protected areas, or areas managed by local fishing communities.
Local fishers oppose $2.7 billion deal opening Madagascar to Chinese fishing [11/05/2018]
- Two months ago, a little-known private Malagasy association signed a 10-year, $2.7 billion fishing deal — the largest in the country’s history — with a group of Chinese companies that plans to send 330 fishing vessels to Madagascar.
- Critics of the deal include the country’s fisheries minister, who said he learned about it in the newspaper; environmental and government watchdog groups; and local fishers, who are already struggling with foreign competition for Madagascar’s dwindling marine stocks.
- Critics say no draft of the deal has been made public and the association that signed it did not conduct an environmental impact assessment or any public consultation.
- The issue has drawn media attention in the run-up to the presidential election on Wednesday. The incumbent and a leading candidate, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, was present at the fisheries deal’s signing, although he later claimed not to be familiar with it.
Thousands of radiated tortoises seized from traffickers in Madagascar [10/31/2018]
- More than 7,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises were confiscated by authorities from suspected wildlife traffickers in Madagascar on Oct. 24.
- The seizure happened in the same area where a similar bust, involving nearly 10,000 tortoises of the same species, took place in April.
- The NGO Turtle Survival Alliance is working with the Madagascar environment ministry to care for the surviving tortoises.
In Bali and beyond: An urgent focus on coral conservation (commentary) [10/29/2018]
- Millions of people depend on coral for their nutritional health and well-being.
- But we are damaging coral reefs today: with sediment that flows from rivers, caused by development and deforestation on land; with overfishing that upsets the delicate balance of species on reef; with chemicals, like cyanide, that are used to catch fish when there are few left to catch; with the rise in temperature caused by our continued dependence on fossil fuels.
- There is reason for hope, though. Some coral reefs around the world are stronger, more flexible, and more resilient than others to changes and threats in their environment. These reefs need to be protected.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
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