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Truck being loaded with bauxite ore at Brazil's Norsk Hydro ASA Paragominas mine. Norsk Hydro ASA via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

By Sue Branford and Maurício Torres

For many years, international and Brazilian mining companies have dreamed of getting access to the mineral wealth lying beneath indigenous lands. And finally, the government of Jair Bolsonaro seems determined to give them that opportunity. On March 4, while Brazilians were distracted by Carnival celebrations, the new Minister of Mines and Energy Admiral Bento Albuquerque announced plans to permit mining on indigenous land.

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A vaquita photographed in Mexico in 2008. Paula Olson, NOAA

My organization, the Elephant Action League (EAL), spent 14 months investigating and infiltrating the illicit totoaba swim bladder supply chain, from Baja California in Mexico to Southern China. We released a public report on what we called Operation Fake Gold in July 2018. Since then, we have continued to submit intelligence to Mexican, U.S. and Chinese authorities in order to facilitate disruption of the totoaba supply chain. As a result, further review of the situation surrounding the totoaba trade and its effect on the extinction of the vaquita is warranted.

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The Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is a mosaic of primary, old-growth forest and plantations. Vignesh Kamath

By Shreya Dasgupta

Eucalyptus plantations in southern India that were abandoned and left to recover for nearly 40 years are still far from resembling the primary forest surrounding them, a new study has found. This, researchers say, suggests that once disturbed for long, forests may never bounce back to their original forms.

In India, eucalyptus has often been the tree of choice when it comes to restoring degraded forests: it grows quickly, is hardy, and requires little care. But can these plantations, when left alone and allowed to regenerate, grow into the forests they replaced?

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A man photographing a landscape in Brazil, where environmental journalism is under pressure. Cesar Okada / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Kaamil Ahmed

A pair of "French spies" had infiltrated India by sea to commit a "treasonous conspiracy," an Indian minister claimed in late November. In reality, they were two visiting journalists, and their mission was an investigation into allegations of illegal sand mining in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. They had merely tried and failed to visit the site of a major mining company through legal means.

Their presence set off alarm bells among some connected to the industry, and the fallout has been significant. It's included a police investigation, a politically fueled propaganda campaign and the arrests of two local translators who had been working for them.

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An especially sanguine view of the Amazon jungle in Peru on Oct. 12, 2018. Kjell Eson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Genevieve Belmaker and Joseph Charpentier

Throughout 2018, forests continued to be threatened and destroyed. From the Amazon, to the Congo Basin, to the Mekong Delta and scores of places in between—journalists reporting for Mongabay filed hundreds of stories about the world's forests.

Although the significance of any one story is difficult to gauge in the short-term, several Mongabay reports from 2018 stood out. These pieces dealt with illegal timber trafficking, advances in technology-based environmental protections and human rights protections for the people doing environment-defense work—formal and informal.

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zodebala / iStock

By Daniela Penha and Roberto Cataldo, Translator

This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil and can be read in Portuguese here.

At first sight, the Córrego das Almas farm in Piumhi, in rural Minas Gerais state, seems to be a model property. "No slave or forced labor is allowed," reads one of several signs that display international certifications—including one linked to the U.S. based company Starbucks corporation.

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The Blue Nile Falls / Tis Abay / Tis Issat near Bahar Dar, Ethiopia, East Africa. Arterra / UIG via Getty Images

Australia's Murray Darling basin covers more than a million square kilometers (approximately 386,000 square miles), 14 percent of the country's landmass. It's the site of tens of thousands of wetlands, but increasing demand for water has stretched its resources to the limit.

Many of the basin's wetlands and floodplain forests are declining—several former wetlands and forests have even been consumed by bushfires, which are becoming more frequent every year. Yet when Australian officials sought to introduce strict water allocation rules, they met with fierce resistance from farmers in the region who depend on irrigation for their livelihood.

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The pumpkin toadlet (Brachycephalus ephippium), endemic to Brazil's Atlantic Forest, is highly susceptible to the hybrid Bd fungus. Gui Becker

By Morgan Erickson-Davis

A fungus that has decimated frog populations around the world could get even deadlier, according to new research. The study found that hybridization of different types of the fungus creates strains that can cause greater mortality in frogs. And it warns that deforestation could make this impact worse.

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A Bornean orangutan in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. An endangered species, the ape is threatened by the unbridled expansion of oil palm plantations into their forest homes. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Banning palm oil in favor of other vegetable oils deemed less destructive to the environment could lead to greater biodiversity losses, a new report says.

The report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) comes amid mounting debate about the use of palm oil, with the European Union seeking to phase out the use of the ubiquitous commodity in biofuels by 2030, citing environmental and human rights violations in the production of the commodity.

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Tucuxi Amazon river dolphins (Sotalia fluviatilis). Projeto Boto

By Claire Asher

Populations of two species of river dolphin in the Amazon are halving every decade, according to the results of a twenty-two year survey.

The Amazon rainforest is home to the Amazon river dolphin, or Boto (Inia geoffrensis) and the Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis). But the results of a long-term study published in PLoS ONE show that both of these once abundant aquatic mammals are now in rapid decline in the Brazilian Amazon, likely due to hunting and fishing.

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vil.sandi / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Edward Carver

Lemurs in Madagascar have been under pressure from deforestation, poaching, drought and other challenges for years. Now, in the much-visited Berenty Reserve near the island's southern tip, one species faces a mysterious new threat.

In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux's sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in the reserve. Most were found already dead; others were found gravely ill and later died from respiratory failure. Berenty staff and local scientists have reached out to veterinarians and primatologists across the world. The experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown.

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