- On Friday, Facebook announced it would crack down on the illegal sales of protected Amazon rainforest land via its platform, according to a blog post by the company.
- The move comes after a BBC investigation found that the company's Marketplace product was being used to broker sales of protected lands, including Indigenous territories and national forest reserves.
- Experts raised doubts about the effectiveness of Facebook's approach since the social media company doesn't require users to specify the coordinates of the land they are selling.
- "If they don't make it mandatory for sellers to provide the location of the area on sale, any attempt at blocking them will be flawed," Brenda Brito, a Brazilian lawyer and scientist told BBC News. "They may have the best database in the world, but if they don't have some geo-location reference, it won't work."
On Friday, embattled social media giant Facebook announced it would crack down on the illegal sales of protected Amazon rainforest land via its platform, according to a blog post by the company.
The move comes after a BBC investigation found that the company's Marketplace product was being used to broker sales of protected lands, including Indigenous territories and national forest reserves. The revelations provoked an inquiry by Brazil's Supreme Court, but Facebook said at the time that it wouldn't take independent action on its own over the issue.
"We're committed to sustainability and to protecting land in ecological conservation areas," said the post. "We are updating our commerce policies to explicitly prohibit the buying or selling of land of any type in ecological conservation areas on our commerce products across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp."
Facebook said it "will now review listings on Facebook Marketplace against an international organization's authoritative database of protected areas to identify listings that may violate this new policy." According to a report from BBC News, that database is the one run by the U.N. Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), which catalogues protected areas.
But experts immediately raised doubts about the effectiveness of Facebook's approach since the social media company doesn't require users to specify the coordinates of the land they are selling.
"If they don't make it mandatory for sellers to provide the location of the area on sale, any attempt at blocking them will be flawed," Brenda Brito, a Brazilian lawyer and scientist told BBC News. "They may have the best database in the world, but if they don't have some geo-location reference, it won't work."
Facebook is reeling this week after revelations by whistleblower France Haugen, a former product manager on the civic integrity team at Facebook, that the company aided and abetted the spread of misinformation across its platforms, knowingly facilitated illegal activities, and put profit over the well-being of its users.
But even before the latest disclosures, Facebook had been under fire from environmental organizations and news outlets for blocking and restricting distribution of coverage and reporting on climate change and other environmental issues.
Full disclosure: Facebook removed or blocked distribution of at least 117 Mongabay posts between July 1, 2020 and October 7, 2021. The majority of these were reinstated when Mongabay when through the company's manual appeals process.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
- Facebook Suspends More Than 200 Environmental and Indigenous ... ›
- ‘Overwhelming’ Evidence Facebook Is Failing to Tackle Climate Misinformation - EcoWatch ›
By Maxwell Radwin
An increase in the number of licenses for Brazilian beef exporters is a worrying sign that illegal deforestation could rise in some of the most vulnerable parts of the Amazon, according to a new report by the non-profit environmental investigations outfit Earthsight.
The organization said some slaughterhouses were granted new sanitary permits in states containing Brazil's worst illegal deforestation. The permits allow the slaughterhouses to export beef to the United States if they meet certain sanitary regulations yet disregards whether cattle are sourced from illegally cleared land.
"As beef exports from Amazon states grow," the report said, "and more slaughterhouses in the region receive sanitary permits to sell to the American market, it is urgent that U.S. importers are mandated to monitor their supply chains for environmental abuses."
The U.S. banned beef imports from Brazil in 2018 but reversed the measure in February 2020. Since then, exports to the U.S. have been climbing to pre-ban levels as the Department of Agriculture approves more permits for slaughterhouses.
The report highlighted one facility in the municipality of Chupinguaia, in Rondônia state, where deforestation rates have risen from 435 km2 (168 mi2) to over 1,000 km2 (368 mi2) over the last decade, much of it due to cattle ranching, the report said. The facility is owned by Marfrig, one of the largest beef producers in the world.
Last year, Mongabay reported that Marfrig was associated with illegal deforestation in the Amazon yet received financial backing from Blackrock, one of the world's largest asset managers.
Earthsight's report also highlighted the Vale Grande facility in Mato Grosso, another state in the Amazon that has historically struggled with deforestation. The Vale Grande facility received its sanitary permit in December 2020.
There are 34 facilities licensed for export to the U.S., Earthsight noted, and almost 20% of them are located in the Amazon.
"Our argument is that it's very hard for U.S. importers to monitor this beef to make sure it's not linked to illegal deforestation or other illegal practices," said Rubens Carvalho, one of the authors of the Earthsight report. He added that because places like Rondônia are so complex, it is extremely risky to purchase from there at all.
Currently, environmental regulations require that slaughterhouses track the activity of any cattle ranchers acting as direct suppliers. However, slaughterhouses also have indirect suppliers – cattle ranchers that sell to other cattle ranchers – and it is much more difficult to ensure they haven't participated in the illegal clearing of land.
Adding to the concern is the recent decision by Rondônia lawmakers to rush a bill through the state legislature that reduces the Jaci Paraná Extractive Reserve by 171,000 hectares (422,550 acres). The report points out that almost half of the lawmakers in Rondônia's congress are connected to the cattle ranching industry.
Employees at Marfrig pose for a photo after hearing news of their slaughterhouse's new sanitary license. Via Marfrig Facebook page
There is hope that a bill in the U.S. Congress will implement more robust import regulations for the international cattle industry. However, the inherent difficulties involved in monitoring indirect suppliers could call into question the effectiveness of the regulations.
"Laws that impose conditions or prohibit the sale of beef from areas that are illegally deforested are generally a good thing," said Adriana Abdenur of Plataforma CIPÓ, a climate, governance and peacebuilding think tank in Latin America. "Obviously, they're not sufficient because we know, for instance, that there is a lot of 'cattle washing' going on in the Amazon."
Abdenur added that regulations would only be effective in conjunction with greater transparency by Brazilian companies and Brazilian and US law enforcement collaboration.
Earthsight, for its part, called on lawmakers to ensure that the legislation is ambitious in its scope, with truly dissuasive penalties:
"(Importers) must be required to demonstrate that their goods are clean, rather than U.S. authorities being expected to prove beyond doubt that a specific shipment is dirty."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
- 'Biggest Story in the World Right Now': Humanity Flips Amazon ... ›
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Is Sunrun the best option for solar panels on your home?
If you're considering a solar panel installation, chances are you've come across the name Sunrun. A lot of literature exists on this leading residential solar panel installer, but research can be overwhelming, so we're breaking down everything you need to know in this Sunrun solar review.
As one of the nation's top solar companies, Sunrun focuses on installing custom-designed solar arrays and backup battery systems, and installations are performed quickly and easily by the provider's massive fleet of technicians. Sunrun also offers a solar leasing program that's popular among customers.
|Sunrun Fast Facts|
|Service Areas||22 states and territories, including AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, MD, MA, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.|
|Service Types||Solar panel and backup battery installations|
|Types of Panels||High-efficiency monocrystalline panels from top solar suppliers like LONGi and Costco|
|Backup Battery Options||Brightbox Home Battery storage, which uses lithium-ion batteries like the Tesla Powerwall and the LG Chem|
|Certifications||Solar Energy Industries Association|
Better Business Bureau
|B+ with accreditation|
Read on to learn more about the provider, or to see if Sunrun is available in your area and get a free quote, fill out the 30-second form below.
Founded in 2007, Sunrun's mission is to create a world run by solar energy. Since 2007, Sunrun has expanded at an impressive rate, now offering services in over 20 states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.
Sunrun designs solar panel layouts custom to a roof's shape via satellite imagery, giving homeowners more control over the appearance and efficiency of their systems. The company's integrated home solar battery storage service, Brightbox, sets it apart from the many other providers that have yet to deploy storage options that bring a number of key benefits to solar customers.
Sunrun also provides a wide variety of solar financing options for its customers. Catering to a large client base has allowed for Sunrun's massive growth, but it's also presented challenges that have soured the company's reputation online. The BBB gives Sunrun a rating of a B+, which is lower than the average solar provider.
Sunrun Solar Services and Installation
Sunrun is a comprehensive solar installer, providing design and installation of custom solar solutions complete with backup battery storage, home energy monitoring and energy control during outages. These tools can help homeowners manage, store and monitor their home's energy use for additional savings on their electric bills.
The types of panels and inverters Sunrun offers come from brand names like SolarEdge, LONGi and Costco. They are ideal for the quick and easy installations that Sunrun prides itself on. An average customer could expect the installation process to look like this:
- Receive a free quote by providing preliminary information such as your address, monthly energy costs and credit score.
- If interested after receiving the quote, a Sunrun sales rep will provide a detailed proposal including your custom system design, appearance and estimated energy savings over the course of the system's lifetime. The proposal should include any local and state solar incentives, so be sure to make note that any are included.
- Once you've decided on the custom system that fits your needs, you will need to complete paperwork and obtain permits and approvals. Sunrun will handle the permits and approvals from your presiding city or county, but you should expect this process to take a few weeks.
- During the permitting process, Sunrun will also check for net metering programs through your utility company and will enroll you if eligible.
- Once all permits and approvals are gathered, Sunrun will install your system. With Sunrun's resources, this will likely be the easiest part of the entire process.
- Finally, you'll need to pass inspection and turn on the system. Once the system is installed, both the city and your electric company will most likely require inspections. Sunrun will handle the logistics of both. Once these pass, a customer will be able to turn the system on.
Solar Panel Warranty
All Sunrun installations, whether leases or purchases, are covered by the Sunrun Guarantee. This 10-year comprehensive warranty includes free equipment replacement and system repairs, covers all parts and labor costs and guarantees that roof penetrations are watertight.
Sunrun advertises free maintenance, repairs and insurance on its products, but it should be noted that those services are only available to customers leasing panels through Sunrun. Any customers who have purchased panels from Sunrun will be held to the product warranty of the panels they purchase (typically between 12-25 years). As such, all warranty claims will be handled through the panel manufacturer rather than Sunrun.
Sunrun Costs and Financing
The cost of a solar system from a particular provider is difficult to estimate, as pricing can vary widely depending on your state, your roof and your home's energy needs. As Sunrun has been an industry leader for some time, most other solar providers actually offer installations at a slightly lower cost to give them a competitive edge. This is just another reason we encourage our readers to get quotes from competing solar companies.
Much of Sunrun's expansion can also be credited to its utilization of solar leases, which allow homeowners to rent solar equipment from Sunrun at a monthly cost. Though leasing panels provides immediate energy savings with a low upfront cost, purchasing panels provides the greatest value long-term. Keep in mind that leases will not be eligible for the solar tax credit.
Solar Financing Options
Sunrun offers four different solar plans for its customers.
- Monthly lease: This option requires the least money down but also provides the least overall value. Sunrun retains ownership of the panels and you make monthly payments to purchase the energy they generate. The monthly payments are guaranteed to be less than what your utility payment would be, but the savings are not as great as they would be if you purchased the panels.
- Full lease: In a full lease, the customer pays Sunrun an upfront fee to rent the panels for around 25 years (the term of the lease can vary). Sunrun retains ownership of the solar equipment. This saves a customer more money than a monthly lease, but it's still significantly less than if a customer purchased panels.
- Monthly loan: Customers can receive a solar loan from a third party to fund the purchase of solar equipment. These loans require monthly payments and typically have a payback period of between five and 10 years. In a monthly loan, a customer still owns the system outright, which adds to their property value, allows them to claim the solar tax credit and provides greater long-term energy savings than a lease. However, they will pay interest on the loan, making the system more expensive.
- Full purchase: A full purchase is the most recommended method of investing in solar energy. When customers purchase panels, they buy the system designed by Sunrun outright. Immediately, the solar panels add property value and the homeowner is eligible for the solar tax credit. Over time, homeowners will see a larger return on investment when paying in cash.
Sunrun Solar Reviews
Sunrun's size is both its biggest strength and its biggest weakness, and most customer reviews reflect just that. Positive Sunrun solar reviews praise the company's speed and ease of installation, yet a high employee turnover rate, communication troubles and growing pains have plagued a number of customers who feel their needs were not met.
Positive Sunrun Reviews
The size and resources of Sunrun make its business model reliant on high volumes of installed solar panels. Positive reviews usually reflect a quick and easy installation with immediate energy savings and little to no maintenance or further customer support needed. Most frequently, these positive reviews come from customers who opted for a solar lease rather than ownership.
Here are a couple of examples:
"I originally had my Solar installed by another company that was eventually purchased by Sunrun. The service with Sunrun has been far better than the service with the previous company."
— Brian Schopf via Trustpilot
"We have had our Sunrun system in place for over a year now. No problems at all. They were very courteous and responsive during the installation process."
— Peter W via BBB
Negative Sunrun Reviews
Most of Sunrun's negative reviews stem from a lack of attention to a customer's needs. Sunrun is one of the nation's largest solar providers, which presents challenges for customers troubleshooting issues with their system's performance.
Solar panel issues can be difficult to troubleshoot, and the size of Sunrun's client base can make the company's customer service department more difficult to get in touch with than a smaller solar provider.
This Sunrun review reflects the overall sentiment from dissatisfied customers:
"Worst company ever for follow-up once you have a problem… I have been waiting for a new inverter [for] seven months. No one bothers to tell you what they are going to do, or what they have done once they finally get to your house for a repair. No written report to update you. I have lost money this year because my system is either not running or is underperforming."
— Linda T via BBB
Final Thoughts on Sunrun Solar
Sunrun's mission, size and breadth of services make it one of the most well-known solar providers in the country today. However, its B+ BBB rating and poor reputation for customer service may make some buyers wary. An average customer experience with Sunrun will depend greatly on the quality of the sales representative assigned to your area, and many homeowners have run into bad experiences.
|Sunrun Pros||Sunrun Cons|
|Expansive service area||Expensive labor|
|Backup battery services||Frequent customer service issues|
|Free maintenance on leases|
|Flexible financing and lease options|
Sunrun is a good and practical choice for customers looking to quickly and simply save money on their energy bills through a solar lease. However, for homeowners looking for attentive customer service both before and after installation, we advise you to shop around. You can start getting free quotes from a number of solar installers near you below.
Solar Energy Provider Comparison
To put this Sunrun review in perspective, let's compare the company to a few other national providers. Sunrun typically ranks highly in services offered, service areas and flexible payment options. Where Sunrun unsurprisingly falters is in its reputation for customer service and BBB rating.
|Sunrun||Blue Raven Solar||SunPower|
|Services Offered||Solar panel installation, battery installation, monitoring, maintenance||Solar panel installation, monitoring, maintenance||Solar panel installation, battery installation, monitoring|
|Service Areas||AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, MD, MA, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.||CO, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, NC, NV, OH, OR, SC, TX, UT, VA||All 50 States|
|Payment Options||Cash, loan, lease, PPA||Cash, in-house financing plans||Cash, loan, lease|
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Sunrun a legit company?
Sunrun is a legitimate solar installer leading the industry in quantity of installs and breadth of products offered. Hundreds of thousands of homes across the country have installed solar power with Sunrun. Though Sunrun is legitimate, there is a concerning amount of bad reviews regarding Sunrun's customer experience. Often, unconcerned sales staff can make customers feel their business was not taken seriously.
Is Sunrun solar a good deal?
As is the case with most solar providers, getting a good deal is dependent on many factors. Sunrun is certainly capable of providing customers with a solar energy system that saves them money, but a better deal might be found by a different solar provider, especially if you are looking to purchase panels rather than lease from Sunrun.
Is Sunrun owned by Tesla?
Sunrun is not owned by Tesla. In fact, Sunrun is one of Tesla's biggest rival companies in the solar industry. Unlike Sunrun, Tesla solar offerings focus more on products and less on installation services, so the companies are distinctly different.
Which is better, SunPower or Sunrun?
Which company is better will depend on what the customer is looking for. If you're looking for customer service, a high BBB rating and to purchase high-quality panels, we'd likely recommend SunPower over Sunrun. If you're a customer looking for a quick and easy solar panel lease to save a small but guaranteed rate on your energy bill each month, Sunrun may be the better choice.
Where is Sunrun available?
Sunrun is available in 22 states and territories, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.
- A new campaign draws attention to the fact that Starbucks cups are not truly recyclable due to a coating of polyethylene plastic on the inside of the cup.
- Starbucks has made several pledges to produce recyclable cups dating back to 2008 — but its cups are still unable to be recycled economically.
- Solutions already exist for fully recyclable cups, including a coating for paperboard barrier packaging that uses 40-51% less plastic.
When you order your Venti-sized espresso macchiato at Starbucks, it will arrive in what looks and feels like a cardboard cup topped with a plastic lid. After you finish your drink, you might think about dumping your cup into a paper recycling bin. But you shouldn't. Starbucks cups are actually lined with polyethylene plastic coating that makes it nearly impossible to recycle, experts say.
"Paper recycling is designed for recycling paper — not plastic," Will Lorenzi, president of packaging engineering company Smart Planet Technologies, told Mongabay in an interview. "There's a whole variety of products that have plastic coatings on it … and when those products hit the pulper [in a recycling plant] they block it up. It's almost like a storm drain. If there's a few leaves, a branch maybe, the storm drain is going to be fine. But if you get too many leaves and too many branches, all of a sudden the whole drain clogs up."
It's estimated that 1.6 million trees are logged each year to produce Starbucks cups, and that 4 million of these cups end up in landfills, according to Stand.Earth, a group that started
in 2016. Starbucks itself actually pledged to create a fully recyclable paper cup back in 2008, but nothing resulted from this commitment.
"So many people have confessed to us that they feel at least a little bit guilty about ordering a single-use coffee in a paper cup that came from critical forests," Jim Ace, a senior campaigner and actions manager at Stand.Earth, told Mongabay in an email. "Many feel even worse when they learn it's lined with polyethylene plastic, whether they are concerned for their own health or the health of the planet. Most consumers don't realize Starbucks cups have been uneconomical to recycle, in part because they are lined with plastic, so they've ended up in landfills."
According to a recent survey conducted in the U.S. by the SEAL Awards, which recognizes companies for their sustainability and environmental leadership, 83% of Starbucks customers actually believe that Starbucks cups can be recycled.
"At heart, the cup problem is a moral and leadership issue," Matt Harney, founder of SEAL, said in a statement. "Like the 83% of consumers we surveyed, I recently thought that paper cups were, in fact, recyclable."
Stand.Earth ended its campaign in 2019 when Starbucks partnered with other industry giants to support the NextGen Cup Challenge, which called on innovators to create a recyclable and compostable cup. Twelve winners were chosen, but two years later, the problem has still not been solved.
"Starbucks committed itself to solving its cup problem and have taken steps to develop solutions, but the majority of its customers still leave the store with single-use, disposable paper cups that are lined with plastic, which end up in the landfill," Ace said. "Until that is solved, Starbucks still has a responsibility to address the problem."
A commercially viable solution is already here, Lorenzi said. In 2016, his company, Smart Planet Technologies, developed EarthCoating, a film for paperboard barrier packaging that uses 40-51% less plastic than conventional plastic coating barriers.
"We came up with something that would basically be recyclable, and at the same time, work just as well as the current packaging we have," Lorenzi said. The coating uses a special mix of minerals and resin so that the coating can easily be separated from the cardboard during the recycling process, and sink to the bottom of the pulper along with dirt and other residue, he added.
Several big companies, including United Airlines and Taco Bell in Australia, already use recyclable products with EarthCoating, Lorenzi said. Yet Starbucks has not adopted this technology, despite Smart Planet Technologies reaching out to Starbucks on several occasions.
Coffe cups lined with EarthCoding. Smart Planet Technologies
"They pretend we don't exist," Lorenzi said. "They pretend it's not happening. They continue to do their own thing."
On Starbucks' website, the company pledges to "double the recycled content, recyclability and compostability, and reusability" of its cups and packaging by 2022.
Yet Lorenzi said he is not convinced this is a definitive goal. "It's about the fifth date they set," he said. "They started in 2008 — they were going to do it by 2012. And in 2010, they said they'd do it by 2015. In 2015, they said they'd do it by 2020. They're now with the next one, which is 2022."
Starbucks did not respond to Mongabay's request for comment.
This month, the SEAL Awards Impact Team launched a campaign called #UpTheCup to call on Starbucks to truly adopt a recyclable cup. An accompanying petition has already garnered more than 60,000 signatures.
"In reality, as a society, we entrust leaders to make decisions — like the type of cup used — in a truly responsible way, even if that issue has gone undetected by the general public," Harney said. "To quote C.S. Lewis, 'Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.'"
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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By Aldem Bourscheit
Brazilian authorities point to Russian biologist Kyrill Kravchenko as an international wildlife trafficker. They had been monitoring him since 2017, after he was arrested in the Netherlands with rare wildlife from Brazil in his possession. In mid-January this year, as he tried to board a plane to Russia at São Paulo's international airport, they intercepted him.
In his carry-on baggage, they found more than a hundred lizards, spiders and frogs, all captured from southern and southeastern Brazil. Kravchenko was released soon after questioning.
In June, Brazilian authorities made another arrest of a man they identified only as Russian, carrying another batch of animals, this time in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Officials would not confirm whether it was Kravchenko, since he was not carrying a passport, but said his passport had been seized earlier this year.
On July 15, Kyrill Kravchenko was arrested in a joint operation by IBAMA, the federal environmental protection agency, and the Federal Highway Police and Interpol.
Foreign and domestic wildlife traffickers have long made Brazil one of the leaders of animal seizures in air transportation in Latin America and the Caribbean; Mexico and Colombia round out the top three. Wildlife confiscations in the aviation sector account for more than a fifth of regional wildlife trafficking cases.
There were 281 such seizures between 2010 and 2020 in Latin America and the Caribbean. The traffickers were stopped at airports in 84 cities, trying to reach 53 countries during this period.
"Traffickers move illicit goods by exploiting corrupt agents, low enforcement capacity and other weaknesses in transportation systems," said Henry Peyronnin of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS). "Wildlife trafficking in global air traffic is linked to more than 150 countries."
C4ADS, based in Washington, DC, handles global civil aviation data and contributed to the first report by USAID on wildlife smuggling routes and methods in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The study is part of the Routes program (Reducing Opportunities for the Illegal Transport of Endangered Species), a partnership between various government agencies, logistics and transport companies, and environmental NGOs such as TRAFFIC and WWF.
Sloth claws on sale at Ver-o-Peso Market, in the state of Pará, Brazil. Marcelo Pavlenco Rocha / SOS Fauna
Live Animals in Carry-On Bags
The scale of wildlife trafficking in the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries is eclipsed only by that in Asia. The airports of São Paulo and Manaus in Brazil, and Mexico City and Tijuana in Mexico, accounted for 38% of seizures in the region between 2010 and 2020. In Colombia, a third of the country's total seizures were made at the airport in Leticia, on the border with Brazil and Peru — highlighting the city as one of the trafficking gateways out of the Amazon.
While international trafficking garners the headlines, in Brazil much of the illegal wildlife trade serves the domestic market: seven out of 10 seizures there involved a destination inside the country, with the rest destined for the European Union and the rest of the Americas.
"It makes sense that we are a major source of trafficking. We are a mega diverse country with huge borders under low surveillance," said Juliana Ferreira, executive director of Freeland Brazil, an organization that fights against illegal wildlife trade. "There are also serious problems regarding traceability between illegal species and those bred in captivity, which allows the 'laundering' of trafficked animals for the domestic and foreign markets."
According to the USAID report, law enforcement officers found 65 species in the seizures made between 2010 and 2020 in Latin America and the Caribbean. The study notes that traffickers often carry live animals in their carry-on bags, and animal parts like shark fins, totoaba fish bladders, and jaguar skins and teeth concealed in their checked luggage.
Fish and reptiles are better able to survive long flights in confined spaces, the report found, though birds are the most trafficked animals out of the region. Top destinations include Brazil, the Netherlands, Germany and the United States. In New York and other cities, birds sold illegally are even used in fights.
Some of the fish most sought after by traffickers are the zebra pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) and pirarucu or arapaima (Arapaima gigas). Endemic to the Brazilian Amazon, the zebra pleco is a prized aquarium fish that has soared in value since the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam changed the flow of its native Xingu River in Pará state and increased the risk of its extinction in the wild. The pirarucu, a massive Amazonian fish, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, is hunted for its meat, skin and scales.
Threat to Public Health
Trafficking threatens the survival of numerous species globally. Latin America and the Caribbean alone are home to four out of every 10 known species on the planet, but native animal populations have fallen by an average of 94% since the 1970s, according to WWF's Living Planet 2020 report. Deforestation, hunting and other pressures have contributed to the declines.
The wildlife trade also threatens public health, as underscored by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The USAID report notes that 40% of airport seizures during the study period involved live specimens that could potentially spread diseases to people. International investigations haven't ruled out that COVID-19 originated from wild animals.
A report by World Animal Protection released in May listed numerous legal and enforcement loopholes in the G-20 group of countries, which includes Brazil and many of the destination countries for trafficked wildlife, that paint a broad "picture of permissiveness to wildlife exploitation."
Scarlet macaws (Ara macao) seized from traffickers in Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil. Marcelo Pavlenco Rocha / SOS Fauna
"Although the global focus remains on the implementation of vaccination, virus prevention cannot be ignored, as estimates say that more than 320,000 mammalian viruses are on the verge of being discovered," said Helena Pavese, executive director of World Animal Protection. "We can no longer ignore the dangers of wildlife trade."
Recommendations to fight trafficking include reducing demand from buyers, building and maintaining integrated databases between countries and regions, increasing collaboration with air transport companies, and training and expanding the number of agents in customs and airports. "Some measures may not be implemented simply because illegal wildlife trade is not historically prioritized as a problem," said Peyronnin from C4ADS. "We hope our report will provide evidence and amplify the global relevance of the issue."
Mongabay tried to contact the Brazilian Federal Police and IBAMA, who are responsible for investigating and monitoring wildlife trafficking through domestic air transportation, but didn't receive a response.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The California condor has been teetering on the brink of extinction for decades. When the species was first assessed in 1994 for the IUCN Red List, the global authority on the conservation statuses of species, it was listed as "critically endangered." Nearly 30 years later, its status has not changed. But this doesn't tell the whole story.
Conservationists have actually been working hard to keep the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) alive with captive breeding and reintroduction efforts. "They would be extinct without conservation by now," Claudia Hermes, a Red List researcher at BirdLife International who has worked on the California condor listing, told Mongabay. "But with conservation, they actually respond fairly well."
Now, a new addition to the IUCN's Red List — the IUCN Green Status of Species — illustrates the condor's positive response to conservation efforts, despite its critically endangered status, and its high recovery potential if these efforts are maintained.
"The Green Status really fills this gap because it tells us that despite the fairly high extinction risk that we still have this hope," Hermes said.
The preliminary green status for the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). IUCN
A new paper published July 28 in Conservation Biology introduces the IUCN Green Status as a new assessment framework that provides information about the ecological functionality of a species within its range, and also how much a species has recovered due to conservation efforts. A team of more than 200 international scientists from 171 institutions presented preliminary Green Status assessments for 181 species, ranging from the pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) to the gray wolf (Canis lupus) to the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
"It's providing a more nuanced picture of what's going on with a species and that's going to provide information that's really important for conservation planning and also measuring and celebrating the impact of past conservation," lead author Molly Grace, a researcher at the University of Oxford who led the development of the IUCN Green Status, told Mongabay. "The Red List is a wonderful tool, but when we try to use it beyond what it was made to do, which is to measure extinction risk, then we sometimes get answers that are a bit misleading or don't tell the full story."
The IUCN Green Status will classify species into nine recovery categories that will use historical population levels to indicate if a species has been largely depleted from its range or if it is nearing recovery. The assessment framework will also measure the impact of past conservation efforts, species' reliance on conservation action, and how much a species could gain in the next 10 years due to conservation action. It also offers a long-term view of species' recovery potential over the next 100 years.
A pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) photographed in its native Mauritius. Sergey Yeliseev / Flickr
Sometimes a species' Red List status will align with the Green Status, but other times the two metrics will not match up. Take the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur), a small marsupial, for example. The species' Red List status is "near threatened," which suggests that while the species is in peril there isn't an immediate risk of extinction. But the Green Status shows that the burrowing bettong is actually "critically depleted" from its range and does not have a high recovery potential due to the difficulties in controlling invasive species like cats and foxes that prey upon these animals.
Less than 2% of the surveyed species had a conservation impact metric of zero, which indicates "that conservation has, or will, play a role in improving or maintaining species status for the vast majority of these species," the authors write in the paper.
Co-author Elizabeth Bennett, vice president for species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), says the new framework can help incentivize conservation action.
"There are... donors that are starting to be interested in this because it's more fine-tuned and sensitive to change than the Red List," Bennett told Mongabay. "So within a granting period, you potentially could improve the green status of a species, where the Red List status tends to be much slower to react to change."
Burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur), a near threatened species that is critically depleted from its native range in Australia. Daniele Parra / Flickr
The IUCN Green Status will be officially launched online at the start of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which will take place in Marseille, France, from Sept. 3-11, 2021.
"The core thing that excites me is that it's an optimistic view of where we want to go with species conservation," Bennett told Mongabay. "And it gives people a really good clear roadmap about that for each species. So instead of just saying, Oh, we don't want this species to go extinct… we can say, but we want it to be thriving, and we want to be playing its full ecological role. And this is what it could look like. And this is how we can get there."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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By Elizabeth Claire AlbertsThe Mexican government will no longer protect the habitat of the critically endangered vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California, but has opened the area up to fishing, according to a news report.
It's estimated that there are only about nine vaquitas left in the world.The vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a bathtub-sized porpoise endemic to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico's Upper Gulf of California, has experienced a sharp population decline in the two past two decades, mainly due to illegal gillnet fishing for the critically endangered totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi).
In 2017, the Mexican government established a "no tolerance" zone to protect the vaquita from illegal fishing, and even expanded the area last September. But now the government has given fishers open access to the refuge, the only enforcement being a "sliding scale of sanctions if more than 60 boats are repeatedly seen in the area," according to Mexico News Daily.
"I fear this might be the death knell for the vaquita, as the plan that has been proposed by Mexico will convert what should be a straightforward 'no go' zone into a complex enforcement area with varying levels of monitoring and deterrence depending on the amount of illegal fishing taking place in the area," Kate O'Connell, marine consultant at the Washington, DC-based Animal Welfare Institute, told Mongabay. "The vaquita are being mismanaged to death."
Two vaquitas in the Sea of Cortez. Sea Shepherd
O'Connell said gillnet fishing is technically still banned in the Upper Gulf of California, but will likely take place in the former "no tolerance" zone without proper monitoring and enforcement.
"Mexico's fisheries authorities are indicating that they are either unable or unwilling to do all that is necessary to save the vaquita and are willing to accept a certain level of gillnet fishing activity," she said. "One hundred percent monitoring and enforcement of the fishing ban only kicks in once more than 50 illegal vessels are seen, or more than 200 meters [660 feet] of illegal gillnets are found in the area."
Andrea Crosta, executive director of Earth League International (ELI), an NGO that has been actively investigating totoaba trafficking in the region, said this move will likely seal the fate of the critically endangered species.
"It means the extinction of the vaquita and in general an increase of illegal gillnets that will have a significant impact on the marine life in the Sea of Cortez," Crosta told Mongabay. "It's like saying to illegal fishermen and totoaba traffickers, do what you want from now on."
Crosta said he thinks that abolishment of the "no tolerance" zone is a political move on behalf of the current Mexican government.
"I think that the current populist administration in Mexico is concerned only about voters, certainly not about environmental protection and endangered species, if this gets in the way of political gain," he said. "And if the vaquita will go extinct I am sure the current administration in Mexico will blame the administration before."
A vaquita swims near a fishing boat using gillnets. CONANP / Museo de la Ballena / SEA SHEPHERD
While this move could be advantageous to local fishers, Crosta said it will be the international totoaba traders, most of whom are Chinese nationals, who will reap the most benefits. "[They] will make a ton of money with even less risks than before," he said.
There have been multiple efforts and hundreds of thousands dollars spent to save the vaquita over the years, ranging from seafood sanctions to gillnet removal programs to illegal fishing patrols. In 2017, there was even an attempt to take the remaining vaquitas into captivity until illegal fishing ceased in the Upper Gulf of California. However, the plan was abandoned when the first captured vaquita died from the stress of capture.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international NGO that has been patrolling the Sea of Cortez since 2015, told Mongabay that it "remains committed to preventing the extinction of the vaquita" and that there are plans to return to the Upper Gulf of California as soon as possible to resume its gillnet retrieval efforts.
O'Connell said that AWI, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Investigation Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have made urgent pleas to the international community to "both provide logistical and financial support to Mexico and to put pressure on the government by means of trade sanctions and other actions to ensure that the vaquita is saved."
"Despite their low numbers, there is still a slight glimmer of hope for the vaquita, if an actual complete shutdown of gillnet activity in the area can be achieved," O'Connell said. "The few remaining vaquita appear healthy and a number of calves have been spotted in recent years by researchers."
But Crosta said that unless the Mexican government works to dispel the totoaba cartels, he doesn't see "any hope for the vaquita."
"This is what happens when you focus only on anti-poaching and local communities, and not also on the trafficking networks and organized crime that run the whole show," he said. "This is what happens when there is a lot of indifference and incompetence."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
By Malaka Rodrigo
Up to 100 turtles and 20 dolphins have washed up dead on Sri Lanka's beaches in the past month, as experts fear a link to the leak of toxic chemicals from a sunken freight ship.
Marine turtles washing up dead on the Indian Ocean island are common around this time of year, which is when the peak of the monsoon turns the seas rough and leads to the turtles being fatally injured.
But this June, the waves have brought in an "abnormally high" number of turtle and even dolphin carcasses, Kapurusinghe told Mongabay.
The carcass of an olive ridley turtle. Lalith Ekanayake
But this period has also been marked by what environmental activists and experts warn is the biggest maritime disaster unfolding in Sri Lanka's history. In late May, the Singapore-flagged cargo ship MV X-Press Pearl caught fire off Colombo, on Sri Lanka's western coast, and sank in early June. It was carrying a cargo of nitric acid and plastic pellets, among other items, and was loaded with 378 metric tons of bunker fuel. Modeling by researchers has shown that ocean currents would carry these pollutants south, right through the path of the turtles and toward their nesting sites, Ekanayake told Mongabay.
"The timing of the accident couldn't have been worse than this as the number of turtles in our waters would be high during this time as April-May records the highest number of nesting occurrences, going by past research," Ekanayaka said.
Satellite tracking data show that most migratory turtles nesting in Sri Lanka move along the west coast closer to shore up to the Gulf of Mannar in the north before moving out to their feeding grounds. This makes them more vulnerable to any pollution from the ship accident, Ekanayake told Mongabay.
Kapurusinghe highlighted what he said was a disturbing trend revealed by the turtle carcasses reported from various locations: most of the dead turtles are juveniles. Immature turtles are more likely than nesting adults to stay close to shore, mainly to feed. That makes it "possible that these deaths are linked to some food contamination, probably due to pollution caused by the freighter," Kapurusinghe said.
The carcasses have been sent to the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) for further analysis.
Suhada Jayawardana, DWC's veterinary surgeon who performed necropsies on the dead turtles found along the western and southeastern coasts, said it was difficult to identify a single reason for most of the deaths. He said there were a few with fin cuts, a telltale sign of entanglement in fishing gear. One turtle showed injuries that may have been by the explosion of the X-Press Pearl. Further laboratory tests are being conducted to get a conclusive answer.
According to Jayawardana, most of the dead turtles are olive ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea), but there are also some green turtles (Chelonia mydas), hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata) and leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea).
Around 20 dolphins and 4 whales have also washed ashore during the past month. Most are dolphins, while there was also a juvenile blue whale. "I have been observing whale strandings and deaths for over 30 years and this is a clear increase of their deaths," said Ranil Nanayakkara, co-founder of the NGO Biodiversity Education And Research (BEAR).
Nanayakkara added that, unlike sea turtles, marine mammals tend to sink to the seabed after dying, so only one in four may get washed ashore. This suggests that far more marine mammals have died than the number that have washed ashore.
During the first few days after the X-Press Pearl's sinking, it was nearshore dolphin species such as humpbacks (Sousa chinensis) and spinners (Stenella longirostris) that were washing ashore. Later, there were other species, including the dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima), spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), indicating the impact of possible spreading of pollution, Nanayakkara said.
But some of these deaths may not be related to the ship accident, he added. A case in point is the juvenile blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) found in northern Sri Lanka, away from where the pollutants may have spread. Nanayakkara said it's important to carry out a thorough analysis of each carcass to determine the cause of death.
A striped dolphin found washed ashore on June 19. Supun Jayaweera
There's no consensus within Sri Lanka's scientific community over whether the sinking of the X-Press Pearl and the high number of marine animal deaths are linked. The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and other government agencies have appeared hesitant to put an end to the speculation, and several politicians have forwarded their own theories for the animal deaths.
Asha de Vos, a marine biologist with Oceanswell, said in a tweet that "We have to be cautious about making assumptions without evidence." She noted that "The truth is, animals die at sea. If currents flow shoreward (As they are doing on our southern and western coasts right now), the carcasses get pushed on the beach."
She called for an end to speculation and theorizing, and for scientific reasoning to identify the cause of death. She also noted that the reporting of more carcasses than before could also be a result of "observer bias," where people who previously didn't pay attention to the issue were now more conscious of it as a result of the ship disaster.
"The main the issue here is the lack of baseline data to compare the environmental parameters and the number of marine creature stranding to quantify whether there is a widespread pollution due to the sinking of the ship and an increase of turtle and marine mammals deaths," said Nishan Perera, co-founder of the Blue Resources Trust.
He said Sri Lanka urgently needs national-level, long-term monitoring of environmental parameters in the ocean using a standardized methodology. He said such data should be published transparently so that other researchers and volunteers can contribute to it. Such a program will assist in quantifying the true impacts of isolated incidents such as the X-Press Pearl sinking and would also assist in monitoring the status of various marine environment variables, Perera added.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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By Claudia Geib
In the 1980s, video of dolphins dying in fishing nets sparked a public boycott of tuna and the development of "dolphin-safe" labeling programs for canned tuna that have become ubiquitous in many countries. Now, one organization wants to use that model to protect whales from collisions with ships.
The Italian NGO World Sustainability Organization launched the new "Whale-Safe" label in March via its Friend of the Sea project, which certifies fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism efforts as sustainable.
Run-ins with ships are a major cause of death and injury for whales. An estimated 80 whales die from ship collisions off the western U.S. annually. In the Mediterranean, one in five stranded whales recorded have marks from ship strikes. And while the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has compiled ship strike records from nearly every corner of the globe, these records are understood to be incomplete; crews on larger vessels may not notice if they hit a whale, and even observed strikes often go unreported.
With marine traffic increasing, these strikes have serious implications, particularly for vulnerable species. More North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) die from ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement than are born each year.
"Time is not on our side, and we need to act," said Paolo Bray, founder of Friend of the Sea, in an interview with Mongabay. Bray is also the European director of the California-based Earth Island Institute's Dolphin Safe Monitoring Program, which certifies that enrolled tuna companies outside the U.S. meet dolphin-safe standards.
A diver removes a dead fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) caught on the bow of a cruise ship docked in Vancouver, Canada, in 2009. The crews of large ships are often unaware when they hit a whale. Tyler Ingram via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The Whale-Safe certification requires participating large ships to meet criteria that increase the odds of spotting, avoiding and documenting whales. Vessels must have an observation system operating at all times. This could include a human observer, but Bray said an infrared camera system would be more effective by allowing constant monitoring, including at night and during poor weather when human vision is limited.
Participating vessels must have a protocol, approved by Friend of the Sea, for how to react when they sight a whale, though the certification does not dictate what that reaction should be. They must use some sort of digital platform to access and share sighting information with other vessels. Bray also added that vessels must report any whale collisions to the local coast guard and the IWC database. (There are no legal requirements to do so.)
Some whale experts expressed skepticism about these criteria. John Calambokidis, a research biologist studying human impacts on marine mammals at Cascadia Research Collective in Washington state, said the program's focus on sighting whales rather than attempting to keep ships from interacting with them in the first place may undermine its success.
"Their suggested solution seems almost completely focused on the idea of sighting and avoiding whales to reduce ship strikes, which has generally not been considered a particularly effective strategy," Calambokidis wrote in an email to Mongabay.
The challenge, Calambokidis said, lies in how difficult it is to spot whales at night and in poor weather. Infrared cameras of the sort Bray suggested for low-visibility conditions are currently in the testing phase and remain unproven, he said. Ships also have limited ability to take evasive action.
Instead, he said, most ship strike reduction strategies aim to slow ships down or reroute shipping lanes outside of whale habitat, which have proven benefits.
Whale-Safe will require vessels to comply with local regulations, including speed requirements and navigational routes specific to whales. The program will track compliance by collaborating with local agencies, or by using platforms that already track ships throughout their route. The goal, Bray said, is to "provide flexibility" by allowing ships to prove their compliance via services they already use.
Friend of the Sea plans to regularly publish a list of maritime companies that comply with Whale-Safe requirements. It also plans to release a study assessing the compliance of the biggest cruise and cargo operators.
The goal is to whip up public pressure as a way to galvanize companies to participate. "I think that once the consumers start to be aware of what is going on with whales, they will push for change," Bray said.
A container ship passes close to a surfacing blue whale off California. NOAA / Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
This strategy may be more effective for some types of maritime traffic than for others.
René Taudal Poulsen, an associate professor at the Copenhagen Business School, studies sustainability in maritime industries. He said current sustainability certification schemes for the shipping industry, which primarily focus on carbon emissions and air pollution, are most effective in consumer-facing sectors.
Container-shipping companies and cruise lines, for example, interact directly with the companies and travelers in their customer base. Their ships also often return to the same ports over and over. This creates a public-facing image that can be subject to community pressure. It also enables local incentive schemes, such as reduced dock fees in their home ports in exchange for cutting air pollution.
Yet the same inducements don't apply to tankers and bulk carriers, which together make up about half of all merchant maritime traffic. These large ships are run by many small companies with little public image. They travel globally, maintaining few ties with port communities, and have little motivation to work for local incentives.
"These initiatives are converting the pressure the port experiences from the port community, or converting the pressure that major branded goods experience from consumers, into incentives," Taudal Poulson said in an interview with Mongabay. "But the tankers and bulkers, they're transporting commodities like grain, iron ore, fertilizer — things you don't buy in a supermarket. So, public pressure has not been driving a lot of improvement so far."
Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) caught by fishermen in Seychelles. "Dolphin safe" labeling, along with other regulations, helped lower the number of dolphins killed by tuna fishing. Joe Laurence / Seychelles News Agency via Wikimedia Commons
"We want to face [companies] with the issue, and it's going to be a gradual process. We don't expect things to change immediately," Bray said. "But we hope by bringing through the media this issue to the surface, and also making the general public more knowledgeable about this problem, we think that gradually the approach of the companies will change."
If companies do volunteer to participate in Whale-Safe, and comply, the final challenge will lie in assessing how much of an effect the label truly has. Take the model for the new program, dolphin- safe tuna labeling. Dolphin deaths caused by the tuna fishery in the eastern Pacific Ocean have fallen drastically since the 1980s, from more than 100,000 per year to closer to 1,000. But experts attribute this improvement not only to dolphin-safe labels, but also to other measures enacted around the same time. These include the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the La Jolla Agreement of 1990 that set limits on dolphin mortality in tuna fisheries.
If tuna fishing serves as a prototype, it seems clear shipping companies won't be able to label their way out of their whale collision problem. Reducing whale deaths is likely to require a much broader response.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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Ten days ago, Sebastian di Martino was kayaking along the Bermejo River in Argentina's Impenetrable National Park when he heard a splash. He looked around and saw a brown-furred animal swimming through the water, occasionally dipping below the surface and then reappearing. It was a giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), a species believed to be extinct in Argentina.
"I was surprised and excited," Di Martino, director of conservation at Fundación Rewilding Argentina, told Mongabay in an interview. "At the beginning, I couldn't believe what I was seeing."
Di Martino took out his phone and started filming. "Otherwise it's kind of complicated that someone believes that you saw a giant otter," he said.
From the time of European colonization, giant otters began to slowly disappear from Argentina, mainly due to hunting pressure. The last giant otters in the country were spotted in a river in the Misiones Province in the 1980s — but there have been no known sightings since.
At the moment, it's not clear where this particular otter came from. The nearest known giant otter populations are in the Paraguayan Pantanal, thousands of miles away. Di Martino says it's possible that the otter broke away from its family group and swam here. But it's also possible that otters have remained in Argentina unbeknown to conservationists.
The giant otter spotted in Argentina's Bermejo River. Image courtesy of Rewilding Argentina
Impenetrable National Park was established in 2014 with the help of Rewilding Argentina and Tompkins Conservation as part of a grand effort to reinstate the region's biodiversity. Working with governments and local communities, the two organizations have helped establish multiple national parks across Chile and Argentina, protecting nearly 6 million hectares (15 million acres) in the southern tip of South America.
Last year, a lone jaguar (Panthera onca) was also sighted in Impenetrable National Park, and with the help of the Rewilding Argentina team, it was introduced to another jaguar and has since sired cubs.
The reintroduction of giant otters into Argentina's Impenetrable National Park would be a boon for the local ecosystem, according to Di Martino: "As top predators, the giant river otter exerts a regulatory influence on plants and other animals which contributes to the health of aquatic ecosystems."
Alondra and Coco, the two otters slated for release in the near future. Image courtesy of Rewilding Argentina
The giant otter sighting happened, quite coincidentally, a few days before another significant event for otters in Argentina. A pair of captive otters, Coco and Alondra, which the Rewilding Argentina team plans to release into Argentina's Iberá National Park, gave birth to three healthy pups. The pair had two previous litters that did not survive. Now the team plans to release all of them together once the pups have grown and they are ready.
"These three cubs represent a future where human communities and the natural world can thrive together," Kristine Tompkins, president of Tompkins Conservation, said in a statement. "As we enter the UN Decade on Ecological Restoration, I strongly believe that our most urgent task is helping nature heal. Rewilding puts us on that path."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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A coalition of groups, including a newly formed organization backed by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, have mobilized $43 million for efforts to restore degraded habitats in the Galápagos Islands, an archipelago renowned for its endemic species and central role in scientists' understanding of ecology and evolution.
The Galápagos initiative has three immediate priorities: Helping restore Floreana Island, one of the islands most degraded by human activities in the Galápagos; increasing the population size of the critically endangered pink iguana on Isabela Island; and strengthening protection of the archipelago's marine reserves, which are critical to the local economy yet have been besieged by foreign fishing fleets in recent years. The initiative involves more than 40 partners, ranging from local NGOs to governments to international organizations, leveraging decades of collective experience working across the archipelago.
One of the groups leading the effort is Re:wild, an organization that was just formed between Global Wildlife Conservation and Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a founding board member of the new entity. The Galápagos initiative is Re:wild's first project under its new brand, but the group plans to scale up its existing global work, putting renewed emphasis on the concept of rewilding, or restoring species and ecosystems to previous levels of abundance and health.
"Rewilding, a positive reframing for nature conservation, involves holistic solutions to remove barriers and reestablish vibrant wildlife populations and intact, functional, and resilient ecosystems that effectively integrate people," said Re:wild in a press release. "Re:wild is a movement to build a world in balance with the wild."
"We work to protect and restore nature in its wildest form as the primary solution to the triple threat of climate change, mass extinction and pandemics."
Sea lions in the Galapagos. Rhett A. Butler
In the case of the Galápagos, the new initiative has focused initially on targeted opportunities. For example, Floreana Island has great potential for restoration after loss of native vegetation and species from land clearing, intentional fire-setting, and the introduction of invasive species in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Galápagos initiative aims to reintroduce 13 species that have gone extinct and help increase the population of the island's 54 threatened species.
The efforts in Floreana Island would be expanded to other parts of the Galápagos under the initiative, which over the next decade, hopes to restore another two dozen islands, "halt and reverse" the decline of 250 threatened species, and vastly increase the extent of areas under effective protection and management. At the same time, the initiative plans to help bolster the capacity of local and regional conservation and restoration experts as well as support the development of more sustainable and resilient economies for communities in the Galápagos.
To mark the start of the new initiative, DiCaprio is turning control of his social media accounts over to Paula A. Castaño, a veterinarian and biologist with Island Conservation who lives in the Galápagos Islands, for the day. DiCaprio has more than 86 million followers across his official Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts.
"When I travelled to the Galápagos Islands, I met with Paula Castaño and other environmental heroes in Ecuador working day in and day out to save one of the most irreplaceable places on the planet. I'm excited to share her team's work and to support the longstanding effort to protect and restore these iconic islands, alongside the team at Re:wild," said Leonardo DiCaprio. "Around the world, the wild is declining. We have degraded three quarters of the wild places and pushed more than one million species to the brink of extinction. More than half of Earth's remaining wild areas could disappear in the next few decades if we don't decisively act. Fortunately, conservation leaders like Paula are showing us that it is not too late to reverse this alarming trend.
"Re:wild offers a bold vision to amplify and scale the local solutions being led by Indigenous peoples and local communities, nongovernmental organizations, companies, and government agencies, to help increase their impact around the world. The environmental heroes that the planet needs are already here. Now we all must rise to the challenge and join them."
Castaño said that lessons from the efforts in the Galápagos could eventually be applied in other geographies to scale impact and reverse biodiversity decline.
"Time is running out for so many species, especially on islands where their small populations are vulnerable and threatened," Castaño said in a statement. "We know how to prevent these extinctions and restore functional and thriving ecosystems — we have done it — but we need to replicate these successes, innovate and go to scale,"
"We need catalytic investments like the one announced today to replicate our successes in the Galápagos and elsewhere."
Wes Sechrest, Re:wild chief scientist and CEO, who was formerly in the same roles at Global Wildlife Conservation, echoed Castaño's sentiments.
"In order to reverse the climate crisis and ecosystem collapse, we need to focus on a 'technology' that took billions of years to refine, that is free, and that sustains us every single day: nature, in its most wild form," said Sechrest in a statement. "Where better to begin than the Galápagos, which, as the first-declared World Heritage Site, is among the most extraordinary wild places on the planet. Re:wild's work with partners is hope in action – from Darwin's laboratory to Australia's wildlands to the Congo forests of Central Africa."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
The Australian government has moved to create two new marine protected areas that cover an expanse of ocean twice the size of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The two parks will be established around Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean to the northwest of continental Australia. The new parks cover 740,000 square kilometers (286,000 square miles) of ocean.
The decision was immediately welcomed by conservation groups.
"Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are uniquely Australian and globally significant – there's nowhere like them on Earth," said Michelle Grady, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts, in a statement. "Most famous for its annual red crab migration, Christmas Island was referred to as one of the 10 natural wonders of the world by David Attenborough himself. Its thriving rainforests, deserted beaches and fringing reef provide a haven for unique and rare seabirds, land crabs and marine life."
"Christmas and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are recognized as globally significant standout natural wonders," added Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, in a statement. "Oceans across the globe are in deep trouble from pollution, overfishing, habitat loss and the very real and immediate impacts of climate change. Establishing marine parks to provide a safe haven for our marine life is critical in helping stop our oceans reaching a tipping point."
Satellite image of Cocos (Keeling) IslandsMaxar Technologies
Christabel Mitchell, director of the Save Our Marine Life Alliance, applauded the move but urged the Australian government to work "collaboratively" with local communities to "co-design" the protected areas.
"Healthy oceans and sustainable fishing are central to the Christmas and Cocos Islanders' way of life, their culture and their livelihoods," said Mitchell in a statement.
"Creating world-class marine parks for this region will provide crucial protection for a wealth of marine life, make a significant global contribution to the health of our oceans and support the local communities' culture and aspirations," said Mitchell. "We look forward to working with the government and the island communities to preserve this unique part of Australia, for our marine life and future generations."
The new parks will bring the percentage of Australian waters under protection from 37% to 45%. Conservation groups around the world are pushing for the protection of 30% of global oceans and land mass by 2030.
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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During 18 months, Mongabay investigated allegations challenging the "sustainable" status of the Brazilian palm oil supply chain, revealing impacts including deforestation and water contamination, and what appears to be an industry-wide pattern of brazen disregard for Amazon conservation and for the rights of Indigenous people and traditional communities in northern Pará state.
In this behind-the-scenes video, Mongabay's contributing editor in Brazil, Karla Mendes, takes us on her reporting journey as she and the team track how the palm oil industry is changing this Amazonian landscape.
Karla herself experienced a rapid onset of coughing, shortness of breath, nausea and headaches when she inhaled fumes from these oil palm trees doused with pesticides. "I came back to the car because the smell is very strong. I started coughing, it's horrible," she says.
The Mongabay team also witnessed a wide range of wrongdoing, including the dumping of alleged palm oil residue in the Acará River and the lack of a buffer zone around Indigenous reserves, which are all surrounded by oil palm plantations.
The Mongabay investigation will be used by federal prosecutors as evidence to hold a palm oil company accountable for water contamination in the Turé-Mariquita Indigenous Reserve.
Read the full investigative report here:
Related listening: hear Mongabay's reporter Karla Mendes discuss these issues along with researcher Sandra Damiani and federal prosecutor Felício Pontes Júnior on Mongabay's podcast:
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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