Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

At the signing ceremony in Brussels, from left: Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe, Christopher Knowles, European Investment Bank, Head of Climate Finance and Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. April 11, 2017 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Catching on in Europe, rewilding is large-scale conservation to restore and protect natural processes and core wilderness areas, provide connectivity between such areas, and protect or reintroduce apex predators and keystone species.

The Dutch nonprofit Rewilding Europe says rewilding ensures that natural processes and wild species will play a much greater role in both landscapes and seascapes. Rewilding helps landscapes become wilder, while providing opportunities for people to reconnect with such wilder places for the benefit of all life.

Now the concept of rewilding Europe has attracted substantial investment to turn these goals into reality.

Earlier this month, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank announced the first loan agreement backed by the Natural Capital Financing Facility.

The €6 million loan agreement with Rewilding Europe Capital is expected to provide support for more than 30 nature-focused businesses across Europe.

Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) is Europe’s first conservation and rewilding enterprise financing facility. With this first project, an ambitious new initiative to protect biodiversity and support climate adaptation in Europe has been realized.

The REC investment capital available is €6.5 million. This loan finance contract represents the first project of the Bank on Nature Initiative, set up by the European Commission. The signing ceremony took place April 11 in the Berlaymont Building, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.

The Bank on Nature Initiative builds on the Natural Capital Financing Facility, an established financing partnership between the European Commission and the European Investment Bank supporting nature and climate adaptation projects through tailored loans and investments, backed by an EU guarantee.

It recognizes and fosters the business case for investing in natural capital for biodiversity and climate change adaptation purposes.

Nature is essential for our lives, well-being and also underpins our economy,” said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the signing ceremony.

The recent evaluation of the EU Nature Directives has shown that creating new means to attract investment in nature protection and its sustainable use is more important today than ever before. I am particularly pleased that the first project signed under the Natural Capital Financing Facility will directly contribute to the implementation of our EU Nature Directives and also boost our rural economies and create jobs,” Vella said.

Since its formal launch in September 2013 and supported by the Adessium Foundation and Dutch Postcode Lottery, REC has demonstrated its potential through a pilot phase which Rewilding Europe has now extended in this new partnership with the European Investment Bank and their Natural Capital Financing Facility.

REC provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises that catalyze, support or achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Loans may go to fund natural forest regeneration, natural water systems, natural grazing, safe corridors for wildlife, natural habitat extension, reduced hunting and fishing pressure, operational support of wildlife breeding areas including spawning sites, and direct natural comeback of wildlife.

“In places like Namibia and Costa Rica, significant nature-based economies have been developed by stimulating private sector involvement and investment,” says Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe. “In Europe, where such economies are still in their infancy, we can learn a lot from these countries.”

“The Bank on Nature Initiative has the potential to stimulate the development of nature-based economies and I am excited that Rewilding Europe Capital can help facilitate it,” said Schepers. “Both nature and people will benefit.”

Since the launch of its pilot phase in 2013, REC has provided €445,000 in loans to 17 enterprises in five countries – Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Netherlands and Romania.

These are collectively leveraging the protection of 20,000 hectares of natural landscapes and will inject over €25,000 of direct cash funding per year towards protecting and sustaining these host natural environments and their wildlife.

Naturally, this investment also directly and indirectly stimulates local socio-economic growth and employment.

“Signed today, this contract with the EIB is a great step forward for Rewilding Europe Capital,” says Ilko Bosman, executive director of Rewilding Europe Capital B.V. “It will allow us to really scale up our efforts and beneficial outcomes. But more than this, it also throws a spotlight on the ability of commercial finance to contribute positively to nature conservation and rewilding.”

The long-term goal of Rewilding Europe Capital is to create 250 jobs through the businesses which it supports. Going forward, it will continue to stimulate and underpin wildlife and nature-based businesses in rural areas, thereby making an essential contribution to the comeback of wild nature and wildlife in European landscapes.

Rewilding Europe Capital was established and developed with business and financial expertise from Conservation Capital, an initiating partner of Rewilding Europe, and who will also support the investment management of the portfolio.

The entire effort is supported by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme, the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU.

Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4,306 projects. For the 2014-2020 funding period, LIFE will contribute roughly €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.


Featured Image: One of the resident Konik ponies on the UK’s Ashdown Forest. These wild horses originate from Poland, bred from the original, now extinct, wild horses of Europe known as Tarpan. Konik ponies show numerous primitive features, associated with their ancestors: adaptation to harsh climates, intelligence and resilient immune systems. February 13, 2017 (Photo by Tom Lee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Undercover Detectives Battle Eco-Crime

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An EIA photographer documents forest destruction in Southeast Asia, 2015 (Photo courtesy EIA from the “EIA Impact Report 2015”)

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, December 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Despite its impressive name, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is not a government agency but a small nonprofit that has become one of the world’s most effective conservation groups.

Based in London, EIA conducts diligent, carefully planned undercover investigations that produce the credible intelligence and persuasive photos and videos necessary to catch criminals and bring them to justice.

EIA was formed in 1984 by environmentalists Dave Currey, Jennifer Lonsdale and Allan Thornton, three environmental activists in the United Kingdom. They immediately touched off an international outcry by documenting the annual slaughter of hundreds of pilot whales in Denmark’s Faroe Islands.

Since then, EIA employees have been carrying out research and analysis of trade incidents, trafficking hotspots, routes and methods, and patterns of demand for illegal animal parts and other evidence of illegal activity using databases and other information sources to investigate and expose crimes against wildlife and the environment.

EIA carried out its first pioneering undercover investigations into the ivory trade in 1987. Investigators travelled through parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia uncovering the true nature of a business that had reduced the population of African elephants from 1.3 million to only 600,000 in 10 years.

The international ivory trade moratorium, which took effect in 1989, would not have been in place without the EIA. Currey and Thornton received the Albert Schweitzer Medal for their work by the Animal Welfare Institute in the United States.

EIA investigators have uncovered more about some aspects of this trade, such as military involvement in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and ivory used as currency to buy arms in conflict areas.

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Tanzania sentenced four Chinese nationals to 20 years imprisonment for rhino horn smuggling and two other Chinese nationals to 30 years imprisonment for the possession of 706 elephant tusks, plus five years for attempted bribery. (Photo courtesy EIA from “Time for Action” report, November 2016)

Fast forward to this past October for evidence of EIA’s effectiveness.

EIA’s report “Collateral Damage,” launched during the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CoP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa, provided much-needed information on the illegal totoaba fish maw trade in China.

People in Asian cultures use the swim bladder in a soup called fish maw,” says Erin Dean at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s also reputed to have some medicinal value; it’s thought to boost fertility.”

What investigators found is that Mexican fishermen use giant gill nets to catch totoaba that incidentally snare and kill critically endangered vaquita porpoises. There are now less than 100 of these porpoises left on Earth. Both species are found in only one place – Mexico’s Gulf of California.

Vaquita die. Totoaba die. Totoaba bodies get tossed away; their bladders go to China. Vaquita bodies just get tossed overboard.

This activity is a violation of both Mexican and international law, since the totoaba and the vaquita are listed by international treaty as endangered.

The decision adopted at COP17 requires governments to curb the illegal catch and illegal trade in the totoaba fish. Countries must report their enforcement results next year.

China has now committed to collaborating and contributing to the conservation of totoaba, together with Mexico and the United States.

EIA’s media expertise is useful in helping the group shape world opinion. Films featuring the work of the Environmental Investigation Agency picked up top awards in 2012 at the 35th International Wildlife Film Festival in the United States.

EIA is no stranger to event, held annually in Missoula, Montana, after taking the award for Best News Programme in 2010 with “Eco Crime Investigators: Skin and Bones.

In 2012, three films featuring EIA operatives working undercover won awards at the festival: “Blood Ivory” and “Making a Killing,” both made by Red Earth Studio for National Geographic, and the BBC Natural History Unit’s “Madagascar, Lemurs & Spies.”

“Making a Killing,” about the exposure of Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales for export to Japan, was awarded Best of Category: News.

These films have been very useful in helping to spread the word to a wider audience of EIA’s unique and important work on the front lines of the fight against environmental crime,” said Executive Director Mary Rice.

EIA counts as its other major successes:

  • Playing a pivotal role in securing the worldwide ban on the trade in ivory in 1989;
  • Reducing the international trade in wild caught birds;
  • Uncovering the largest rhino horn poaching operation in the world;
  • Reducing the demand for whale and dolphin meat in Japan;
  • Raising more than £80,000 for Kaziranga National Park in India and providing equipment for the Kenyan Wildlife Service;
  • Turning global attention to the illegal trade in big cat skins and exposing the trans-Himalayan trafficking routes for big cat body parts;
  • Contributing to the closure of 53 illegal mines that were destroying prime tiger habitat in India;
  • Exposing elephant poaching in Tanzania and Zambia in 2010, thus defeating their bids to sell stockpiled ivory;
  • Playing key roles in achieving the amendment of the Lacey Act in the United States, the European Union’s 2010 timber regulation and the historic Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the EU and Indonesia in 2011 to help safeguard Indonesia’s forests.

In 2007, EIA was presented with two awards at the 20th anniversary meeting of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The awards recognize the work done to expose and close down an illicit international trade in refrigerants known as CFCs and other chemicals that damage the ozone layer.

Having received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award in 2006, the EIA was presented EPA’s Best-of-the-Best Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award, selected from more than 500 projects between 1990 and 2007. EIA received the award for “Leadership and Heroism in Preventing Illegal Trade.”

Since 2007, the EIA has been advocating for an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase down refrigerants known as HFCs. These chemicals replaced CFCs but were later found to also be damaging to the ozone layer.

On October 15, 2016, 197 countries adopted such an amendment in Kigali, Rwanda. Countries committed to cutting the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years.

The Kigali Amendment will cap and phase down HFC consumption starting in 2019, with developed countries taking action first.

Most developing countries, including China, by far the largest HFC consumer and producer, have committed to freeze HFC consumption in 2024. A second later schedule was agreed for a small number of countries including India, Kuwait, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

EIA UK Climate Campaign Leader Clare Perry said, “Compromises had to be made but 85 percent of developing countries have committed to the early schedule starting 2024, which is a very significant achievement.

According to our initial calculations this deal will avoid more than 70 billion tonnes of CO2e [carbon dioxide equivalent] emissions by 2050 – which will be close to avoiding a half a degree of warming,” she said.

EIA US Executive Director Alexander von Bismarck said, “The Kigali Amendment, with the Paris Agreement, gives 2016 the biggest one-two punch in the history of battling global warming. Still, with billions of tonnes of emissions left untouched, the ultimate power of the Kigali Amendment now depends on accelerating the removal of these industrial climate-killers in upcoming meetings.

EIA now seeks to apply its experience to other categories of controlled chemicals, which are harmful to the environment, such as hazardous waste and pesticides.

This project will conduct scoping research into the illicit trade in controlled chemicals and, using this information, prepare for a series of investigations to raise awareness and understanding of the issues at the governmental and institutional levels.

The group aims to achieve improved enforcement of international conventions regulating trade in harmful chemicals and to foster cross-border cooperation between nations.

Meanwhile, it’s the holiday season, and EIA suggests giving your loved one a compact camera to use for documenting illegal activity


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CITES CoP17: Elephants Win, Lions Lose

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Male lion rests in Addo Elephant National Park, just outside Port Elisabeth, South Africa, August 8, 2013 (Photo by Miran Hojnik) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

 GENEVA, Switzerland, October 11, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – World governments have adopted landmark decisions on shutting down illegal trade while regulating legal, sustainable and traceable trade in wild animals and plants.

The decisions affecting a large number of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as an entire genus of trees including more than 300 species of rosewood, came at the 17th triennial Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

After two weeks of marathon negotiations, September 24 – October 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa, delegates to CoP17  increased protection for the African elephant, the pangolin and the saiga antelope, the African grey parrot, the critically endangered helmeted hornbill and the endangered Barbary macaque.

CITES Parties called for improved traceability of CITES-listed species such as sturgeon, prized for their caviar; luxury reptile skins; sharks, desired for their fins; and rosewood timber, used for furniture and musical instruments.

CITES regulates international trade in wildlife species with a licensing system of import and export permits.

Delegates of the 182 Parties vote to include species on one of three lists – Appendix I, II, or III – that divide the species according to the degree of protection governments agree that they need.

Commercial trade in Appendix I listed species is banned. Trade in species listed on Appendix II or III is legal as long as CITES procedures and domestic laws are followed.

The Johannesburg conference was the largest meeting of its kind, with 152 governments taking decisions on 62 species-listing proposals submitted by 64 countries.

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CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon addresses the opening session of CoP17, September 24, 2016 (Photo by Kiara Worth / Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

In sum, 51 proposals were accepted, five were rejected and six were withdrawn.

In total, over 3,500 people attended the meeting, which also recorded the highest number of side events and attracted media interest from every region of the world.

The most critical meeting in the 43-year history of CITES has delivered for the world’s wildlife. CoP17 is a game changer for the planet’s most vulnerable wild animals and plants,” said CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon.

Elephants

Several decisions were adopted that support ending all ivory trade, at both the domestic and the international levels. The most important was adoption of a resolution that requires countries to phase out their domestic ivory markets.

Domestic ivory markets are the perfect system for laundering illegal ivory from elephants killed in Africa and Asia, and this has now been formally recognized within CITES,” said the observer team from the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), based both in London and Washington, DC.

 “It is now time that the UK and the European Union follow up on this and join the U.S., China, Hong Kong and even France in making time-bound commitments to phase out and eventually close their ivory markets,” the EIA said.

After intense discussion and dramatic voting on three proposals, CoP17 delegates rejected the development of a “decision-making mechanism for a process of trade in ivory” that would have facilitated a legal international ivory trade.

The proposal to list the four elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe on CITES Appendix I was rejected.

The National Ivory Action Plan was adopted, which establishes a mechanism to independently assess progress made by source, transit and destination countries implicated in ivory trafficking.

 Lions

The proposal to up-list African lions to Appendix I was rejected. While several decisions were adopted to improve lion conservation, and a zero quota on the export of wild lion bones for commercial purposes was adopted, Parties agreed that South Africa could have an annual export of farmed lion bones for commercial purposes.

Experts say that when lion bones hit the Asian markets they are sold as tiger, increasing demand for tiger parts in a rapidly expanding, unchecked market for tiger bone wine.

The EIA called this decision “a devastating blow for wild tigers as well as for other big cats poached for their bones.

With lion populations declining due to habitat loss, retaliatory killing from human-lion conflict, and unsustainable trophy hunting, “there is no excuse for the CITES parties allowing the lion bone trade to continue and most likely grow over the next three years,” blogs Jeffrey Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

According to the 2015 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, African lion populations have experienced an overall decline of 43 percent between 1993 and 2014.

While lion populations increased in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe by 12 percent over the same period thanks to good wildlife management, other sub-populations in the rest of Africa have plummeted by 60 percent.

Tigers

Tiger farming must end. This clear message came when China asked for support to delete a critical and historic decision which states that tigers should not be bred or trade in their parts and derivatives.

Not one single Party supported it when asked. Instead, a suite of decisions was adopted which, if funded and implemented, will lead to more country-specific time-bound actions to tackle trade in captive tiger parts.

Everyone was encouraged to hear Laos declare its intention to invite experts to help it phase out its tiger farms.

Also agreed at CoP17 were actions to improve international cooperation to combat trade in tiger and other Asian big cat parts.

These include a proposal from India inviting countries that seize tiger skins to share photos that can be cross-referenced in databases of tigers photographed in camera traps to help determine the source of the dead tigers, poached for their parts.

Rhinos

Swaziland’s proposal to allow a legal trade in rhino horn was overwhelmingly rejected by the parties with near 70 percent opposition. The global trade ban on rhinos and their parts is maintained.

It was clear that a majority of the Parties did not wish to legalize trade in rhino horns to avoid repeating the tragedy experienced by elephants since CITES sanctioned the legal trade of ivory in 2007, masking the flourishing illegal trade.

 Pembient, a Seattle-based start-up company, proposes to flood the market with bioengineered rhino horn to the point where the poachers lose economic incentive and the product loses its luxury status.

Yet, the conservation community has many concerns about the introduction of synthetic rhino horn or powder into the world economy. Will it dramatically increase the demand for “wild” rhino horn and thus accelerate rhino extinction? Will the forensic challenge thwart law enforcement? Will it fuel illegal trade activities?

Those questions still remain to be answered.

Pangolins

In a rare example of global unity, all eight pangolin species were up-listed onto Appendix 1 and given the strongest possible protection under CITES.

Barbary Macaques

The Barbary Macaque is the only non-human primate living in Europe, where a small semi-wild population of about 200 animals inhabits the Rock of Gibraltar. An estimated 6,500 to 9,100 Barbary macaques survive in fragmented areas in Morocco and Algeria.

The species has been categorized as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2008. The CoP17 delegates unanimously voted to transfer these monkeys from Appendix II to Appendix I.

Rosewoods

 The historic proposal to list an entire genus of timber – more than 300 individual trees, shrubs and vines in more than 100 countries – was championed by Latin American parties, agreed by consensus by the CoP17 delegates.

 This decision was accompanied by a new, innovative annotation to ensure prized rosewoods of the genus Dalbergia are no longer open to illegal trade. They are all now listed under Appendix II.

 By exercising the precautionary principle, the adoption of this proposal marks an emerging collaborative effort between countries to make decisions not in the interest of trade but in the best interest of timber species and ecosystems under threat.

 African Grey Parrot

 With tens of thousands of African grey parrots captured and exported for the pet trade every year, and tens of thousands more dying in the attempt, CoP17 delegates adopted a proposal to list African grey parrots under Appendix I. This appendix offers the highest level of protection that CITES can give, and means that nearly all trade in the species will be prohibited.

 Helmeted Hornbill

The Critically Endangered Helmeted hornbill is listed in CITES Appendix I. The massive and increasing demand for helmeted hornbill casques, so-called red ivory, in the international market has led to rampant poaching of this species.

 The CITES Parties agreed to adopt a strong resolution and decisions calling for urgent and integrated conservation and law enforcement measures, as well as coordinated efforts on the part of both consumer and range States to prevent the species from going extinct.

This is a great victory for the helmeted hornbill that has been ruthlessly hunted for its red ivory as the elephant has been killed off for its ivory,” said Noviar Andayani, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program (WCS). “Many have heard about the elephant ivory crisis, and now it is time to hear more about the helmeted hornbill ivory crisis and take swift action to save it.

The Helmeted hornbill only occurs in intact tropical forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Myanmar.

Helmeted hornbills mate for life, and each pair maintains a large territory, marked and defended by one of the most dramatic calls of any bird, a cackling laugh audible from a kilometer away through the forest.

Widespread clearance of much of the hornbills’ lowland forest habitat for oil palm plantations, is a major threat to the species. A dramatic rise in hunting has compounded the problem. The species is the only hornbill with a solid casque, also known as red ivory which is carved into artefacts, the demand for which drives the poaching pressure on the species.


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IUCN Conservation Congress: Planet at the Crossroads

HumpbacksBy Sunny Lewis

HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “The IUCN Congress will set the course for using nature-based solutions to help move millions out of poverty, creating a more sustainable economy and restoring a healthier relationship with our planet,” said World Bank Group president Jim Kim, as the conference opened in Honolulu September 1.

 Based in Switzerland, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) holds a World Conservation Congress every four years. This year, over 8,300 delegates from 184 countries, including Heads of State of many Pacific Island nations, are in attendance at the Hawaii Convention Center.

 Key issues under discussion include: wildlife trafficking, ocean conservation, nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and private investment in conservation.

To address an estimated US$200-300 billion annual funding gap in conservation, civil society organizations, private and public sector financial institutions and academia joined forces Friday to launch the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation during the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The Coalition’s goal is to help preserve the world’s most important ecosystems by creating new opportunities for return-seeking private investment in conservation.

The Coalition includes Credit Suisse, The Nature Conservancy, Cornell University and the IUCN as the founding members. Participants plan to develop new investment models and funding pipelines that will help close the conservation funding gap and contribute to the global goals for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

We already bring a wealth of experience into this Coalition,” says Lynn Scarlett, managing director of public policy for The Nature Conservancy. “At the Conservancy, we have already facilitated six impact investment deals totaling $200 million dollars in marine conservation and agriculture, and this new coalition should help us bridge our largest challenge, which is a lack of investment projects in the pipeline. We’ll know we’ve reached success when the big banks have enough projects as options that they can pick and choose where conservation investment will have the most significant impact.

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Members of the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation, launched at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 2, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

 This week, IUCN Congress delegates, meeting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, will vote on a motion to increase marine protected area coverage for effective marine biodiversity conservation.

 Not far from where they are meeting, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument covering the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was expanded last week by President Barack Obama to create the world’s largest marine reserve.

On Midway Atoll, scene of a WWII battle that was a turning point in the war, Obama designated the newly protected area, calling it, spectacular as an ecosystem.

 “And our ability to not just designate, but build on, this incredible natural beauty, which is home to 7,000 marine species that sees millions of birds, many of them endangered, sea turtles, the Hawaiian monk seal, black coral – all sorts of species that in many other places we no longer see – for us to be able to extend that 550,000 miles in the way that we’ve done ensures not only that the Midway Atoll is protected, but that the entire ecosystem will continue to generate this kind of biodiversity.”

Obama said it is “critically important for us to examine the effects that climate change are taking here in the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water.

He pointed out that some Pacific island countries are now at risk and may have to move as a consequence of climate change. “There are enormous effects of the human presence in the ocean that creatures are having to adapt to and, in some cases, cannot adapt to.

Anote Tong, former president of the Republic of Kiribati, the world’s lowest-lying island nation, confirmed that his people may become climate refugees, saying, “You worry about the polar bears; so do we. But nobody is worried about us, because we will lose our homes too with the melting ice and the rising sea level.

 From microorganisms to whales, ocean warming is affecting many species and its effects are cascading through ecosystems, as outlined in a new IUCN report released in Honolulu.

The report, “Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences,” reviews the effects of ocean warming on species, ecosystems and on the benefits oceans provide to humans. Compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries, it highlights detectable scientific evidence of impacts on marine life, from microorganisms to mammals, which are likely to increase even if greenhouse gas emissions are kept low.

From the poles to the tropics, plankton, jellyfish, turtle, fish and seabird species are on the move, shifting by up to 10 degrees of latitude to find cooler habitats, while some breeding grounds for turtles and seabirds disappear,” says the IUCN.

In response, the IUCN Congress passed a motion that recognizes the important role of marine and coastal ecosystems in climate change, as natural carbon sinks; recognizes the role that marine protected areas play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation, and preserves marine ecosystems from climate change “by promoting the establishment of a coherent, resilient and efficiently managed networks of protected marine areas…

 Another motion to be voted on this week at IUCN Congress deals with advancing conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity on the high seas, which account for two-thirds of the world’s oceans.

A motion to achieve representative systems of protected areas in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean also will come up for a vote.

The Congress is also expected to decide on motions dealing with regional approaches to tackling the global problem of marine litter, and on the protection of marine and coastal habitats from mining waste.

But as important as ocean conservation has become, Congress delegates are spending most of their time grappling with the toughest land-based conservation issues.

 A total of 85 motions  have been put to the electronic vote by the IUCN Membership, who adopted all 85 motions, some with amendments.

Delegates Sunday considered guidelines on climate change best practices, the place of the law in the future of conservation, how to manage transboundary ecosystems through experiences in “hydro-diplomacy” and governance of shared waters, and ways of transforming Africa’s development through Chinese investments.

Our planet is most certainly at a crossroads,” declared IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng at the opening ceremony on Thursday.

The path we take as a global community, and how we choose to walk down that path in the next few years, will define humanity’s opportunities for generations to come. These decisions will also affect the boundaries of those opportunities,” said Zhang. “As we all know, there are limits to what our Earth can provide, and it is up to us to make the decisions today that will ensure those resources are still here tomorrow.

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released at the conference, indicates that many of the world’s gorillas may not be here tomorrow.

The Eastern lowland gorilla, called Grauer’s gorilla, Gorilla beringei graueri, is newly listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting for bushmeat, which is taking place around villages and mining camps established by armed groups deep in the forests in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gorillas are divided into two species, Eastern and Western, each with two subspecies. Both species and all four subspecies of gorilla are now listed as Critically Endangered.

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Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN, left, and Hawaii Governor David Ige, at the World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, September 1, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

To see the Eastern gorilla, one of our closest cousins, slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general.

We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating,” said Andersen. “Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet.

The IUCN’s Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra, Equus quagga, due to illegal hunting.

The once widespread and abundant Plains Zebra has moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened. The population has reduced by 24 percent in the past 14 years from around 660,000 to a current estimate of just over 500,000 animals.

Three species of duiker, a small African antelope, also have been moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened.

Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction,” says Carlo Rondinini, coordinator of the mammal assessment at Sapienza University of Rome “We have now reassessed nearly half of all mammals. While there are some successes to celebrate, this new data must act as a beacon to guide the conservation of those species which continue to be under threat.

The IUCN Red List update holds some good news for the Giant Panda and the Tibetan Antelope, demonstrating that conservation action can deliver positive results.

Previously listed as Endangered, the Giant Panda is now listed as Vulnerable, as its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation.

The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective. Still, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and as a result, the panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades.

Due to successful conservation actions, the Tibetan Antelope has been moved from a listing as Endangered to Near Threatened.

The Tibetan Antelope population crashed from around one million to an estimated 65,000-72,500 in the 1980s and early ’90s as a result of commercial poaching for their underfur, called shahtoosh, used to make shawls. Rigorous protection has been enforced since then, and the population is now likely to be between 100,000 and 150,000.

The IUCN warns of the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species.

Invasive species such as pigs, goats, rats, slugs, and non-native plants are destroying the native plants of Hawaii. The latest results show that of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed so far for the IUCN Red List – out of about 1,093 plant species endemic to Hawaii – 87 percent are threatened with extinction.

Perhaps the biggest jolt to the Congress occurred late last week when the Great Elephant Census was released showing that numbers of African savanna elephants have dropped 30 percent – 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014.

The census is the result of a two-year-long study, the centerpiece of which was an aerial survey, the first in 40 years, that covered nearly 345,000 square miles over 18 countries. Pilots and census crews followed strict protocols to ensure they gathered consistent data.

The census was a collaboration between billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, his organization, Vulcan, and Elephants Without Borders, African Parks, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy, the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group and Save the Elephants, as well as a long list of conservation officials in the countries surveyed.

Even with this new hoard of data and examples of effective conservation practices across Africa, saving the elephants remains a challenge of continental dimensions,” said Allen. “Poverty and corruption still remain very serious problems in countries that are home to the worst killing grounds, and these factors continue to drive a thriving international ivory market – along with similarly voracious demand for horns from endangered rhinos.

As you’ve been reading this, poachers likely killed another African elephant for its tusks – an atrocity that takes place, on average, every 15 minutes,” said Allen.

A few hopeful signs emerged from the Great Elephant Census. Relative success stories include Botswana, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and the complex of parks spanning the border of Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin.

Allen says that in countries where poaching is still rampant, such as Tanzania and Mozambique, “...the survey’s alarming results have spurred officials to strengthen protections for their surviving elephants, and to crack down on the criminal networks that are driving the slaughter. Only time will tell, though, if they can arrest both the poachers and ivory smugglers and reverse the sharp decline of their elephant populations.”


 Header image : Humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean, July 21, 2014 (Photo by Sylke Rohrlach) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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