No. 8/11

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2011 International Year of Forests
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. or










  • Bamboo offers green shoots of opportunity

Source: Daily Mail (UK), 18 June 2011

Pandas depend on it for nutrition, but bamboo also offers investors potentially mouth-watering returns. As the fastest-growing land plant in the world, it can reach 41 ft within a year. Bamboo, which is a type of grass, creates up to 20 times more timber/ha than trees.
With mounting environmental concerns about the lack of sustainable forests, demand for bamboo is soaring. Producers claim they can double investors’ money in as little as five years, or grow it fourfold within 15.
EcoPlanet Bamboo recently launched a “bamboo fund” for investors. David Cox, president of EcoPlanet, says: ‘While you must wait at least 25 years for a tree to grow and be harvested, bamboo is ready in less than five years.’
A key appeal of bamboo is that it can be used for a wide range of products — from building materials to bio-fuels, and even clothes.
EcoPlanet sells plots of land in Nicaragua and offers to grow, harvest and sell bamboo for investors. The minimum investment is US$15 000 for 0.25 ha plot on which about 100 plants are grown. Investors are offered a guaranteed return of 7 percent of the amount invested in year one. They receive 8 percent on their initial investment in year two, followed by nine percent in year three. It is not until year four that the bamboo is ready for full harvest. At this point returns on the investment will, hopefully, leap and — although no longer guaranteed — are forecast to rise to 16 percent in year four and 78 percent on the initial amount invested for the year after and subsequent years for the following decade. After 15 years the whole deal — leasehold and bamboo — ends.
EcoPlanet Bamboo is not the only outfit in this specialist sector. Touchwood, which farms bamboo in Thailand, sells it in grass “clumps”.
For full story, please see:



  • Bamboo: A low-cost housing material introduced in Uganda

Source:, 23 June 2011

Although it is not yet popular in Uganda, those who have put it to use swear by its cost-effectiveness.
At Makerere University in Uganda, there are two structures that are partly made of bamboo. Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, the Principal of the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology at the University, says "These structures were meant to assure people that bamboo is a good and durable material and that beautiful houses can be built using bamboo," he explains.
Engineer S. Kapasa explains that the bamboo material used on these structures was donated to them from International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). "The headquarters of INBAR are in China and they donated the bamboo materials as a way of introducing modern construction and other bamboo-made home products in Uganda."
The engineer explains that while bamboo has been in use for centuries in Asia, in Africa, especially in Uganda, it is still seen as a material used by poor people.
It is not yet popular, "due to limited knowledge. Many people think that bamboo is weak and not suitable for construction of permanent buildings," Prof. Nawangwe says.
Besides bamboo being an excellent construction material, it is also used to make baskets, furniture, blinds, utensils and fences, among other things.
Kapasa says that bamboo is renewable and sustainable. He adds that unlike other wood materials, bamboo is flexible and thus can easily be bent "that is why it can be used to manufacture a range of products."
Prof Nawangwe estimates that if the technology is well developed, bamboo will reduce the cost of construction of simple houses by more than 30 percent.
For full story, pleases see:



  • Berries in the UK: What’s in season

Source: The Ecologist, 21 June 2011

Ripe, fresh and plentiful, the abundance of soft fruit is one of the best things about summer. Soft fruit does not just taste good either: it also contains a multitude of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have been shown to boost weight loss and reduce the risk of disease.    According to the World Health Organization, eating just 400 g of fruit and vegetables every day can dramatically reduce the threat of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes and obesity.
Raspberries: In season from early June until October, raspberries are loaded with antioxidants, which help fight heart disease and cancer and boost your immune system.
Blueberries: In season from June until late September, blueberries are one of the healthiest fruits around. While the UK does produce a small number of blueberries, the majority are sourced internationally, which means choosing organic is even more important. Rich in flavour and colour, they are packed with antioxidants, which are great for your skin and have been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Blueberries are also high in vitamin C and fibre.
Blackberries: The blackberry season starts in July and peaks in late August but can extend to the end of October. With similar properties and bold colouring as their raspberry cousins, blackberries contain many of the same nutrients, including vitamin C and fibre. They also contain salicylates, an active substance in aspirin. But the big advantage of blackberries is the price: wild blackberries, found in abundance in the UK, are free.
For full story, please see:



  • Berries: The Himalayan berry seabuckthorn helps boost brain functions

Source: Times of India, 14 June 2011

The seabuckthorn berry, Hippophae rhamnoides, which is grown in the Himalayan mountains, amongst other areas, has hit shop shelves as a new superfruit to rival broccoli, apples and blueberries. The berry, which contains vitamins A, B1, B2, E and up to 10 times the amount of Vitamin C found in oranges, is said to boost brain functioning.
Antioxidants in the berries also help to fight obesity, teeth problems, acne, poor digestion and constipation. It is also said to keep the heart healthy.
Aside from the berry, the leaves and stem can be used to treat skin diseases.
For full story, please see:



  • Bushmeat: Experts recommend new solutions to growing bushmeat trade

Source: IISD News, 10 June 2011

A joint meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Liaison Group on Bushmeat and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Central Africa Bushmeat Working Group concluded that classic approaches and international efforts are not reversing the growing bushmeat trade, and adopted a set of recommendations to the international community.
Approximately 55 experts representing 43 governments and UN agencies, international and national organizations and indigenous and local community (ILC) organizations attended the meeting, which convened in Nairobi, Kenya, from 7-10 June 2011.
Key recommendations for the international community and concerned national governments and stakeholders included to: implement community wildlife management, and other improved wildlife management approaches; increase the raising of "mini-livestock" (wild animals such as cane rats raised in small farms); support the sustainable harvesting of NTFPs, such as bee-keeping; clarify and define land tenure and access rights; improve monitoring of bushmeat harvesting and trade; and enhance bushmeat-related law enforcement.
For full story, please see:



  • Bushmeat: Rats, bees to protect African wildlife

Source: Reuters, 10 June 2011

Beekeeping and breeding animals such as cane rats for food are needed to help tackle the unsustainable trade in bushmeat in central Africa, conservation experts said on Friday.
Local populations rely on birds, reptiles and mammal, including apes, in the vast Congo Basin for food, but overhunting for so-called bushmeat is leading to “empty forest syndrome”, according to a statement issued by a panel of environmental experts following a meeting on the issue in Nairobi.
"Tackling the impact of unsustainable and illegal trade in bushmeat is critical for protecting the livelihoods of rural people and conserving wildlife in biodiversity-rich areas," said John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES).
Legitimate subsistence hunting is being replaced by commercial hunting and trade in endangered species including elephants and primates, said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The statement said that replacing bushmeat with locally produced beef would require up to 80 percent of the Democratic Republic of Congo to become pasture. "Therefore, there is no alternative to making the use of wildlife for food more sustainable."
The Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the size of western Europe, is home to more than 150 million ha of forest, one of the largest stretches left in Africa. Experts say overhunting is undermining food security and also poses a threat to the forest itself, as 75 percent of tropical tree species depend on animals to spread their seeds.
Measures proposed by the experts include the promotion of beekeeping to produce honey for trade and subsistence, the introduction of community wildlife management programmes, and farming cane rats for food.
Cane rats, also known as grasscutters, are large herbivorous rodents that are already farmed in some parts of Africa.
Bushmeat has become big business in some countries, with the Central African Republic's informal trade estimated at US$72 million/year, the statement said. Population growth and commercial trafficking were adding to pressure on local wildlife, it added.
For full story, please see:



  • Cinnamon may delay, cure Alzheimer's: Israeli study

Source: Xinhua (China), 9 June 2011

Cinnamon, a spice usually associated with sweet foods, contains properties that may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease, and possibly offer a cure, according to a new Israeli study.
The neurodegenerative illness is characterized by gradual memory loss, which doctors attribute to an accumulation of beta amyloid, a fibrous protein aggregate, outside the brain's nerve cells.
A research team, headed by Michael Ovadia from Tel Aviv University's Zoology Department, recently isolated one of the ingredients in cinnamon, CEppt, and used it in a series of tests conducted on two-month-old lab mice that were raised with five aggressive strains of Alzheimer's-inducing genes.
The experiment's results, recently published in the PLoS ONE scientific journal, were impressive. Fed drinking water containing a CEppt solution over four months, researchers found that the disease's development was delayed, with additional trials showing that existing amyloids has been dissolved.
"The finding points at the possibility that the material found may not only prevent Alzheimer's but may also contain therapeutic qualities," Ovadia said. "The discovery is exciting," he added.
Despite the optimistic news, Ovadia cautioned against excessive consumption of cinnamon, which can damage liver functions, and recommends consuming no more than 10 g/day.



  • Cork wine stoppers making a comeback

Source: The Portugal News Online, 24 June 2011

A few years ago the world’s greatest experts had forecast its imminent demise with absolute certainty. It was a thing of the past, they said; a gift from Mother Nature destined to be overtaken by man-made materials. Yet recently at Vinexpo, the world’s biggest wine fair in Bordeaux, southwest France, the old fashioned cork seemed likely to prove its critics wrong.
Traditional cork-makers are winning back market share in the face of competition from producers of synthetic wine stoppers and screw caps. Cork use declined for years, but the tide turned in 2010, and its use has been on the rise so far this year.
One explanation is an improvement in production techniques, which means that fewer bottles are falling victim to the unpleasant taste attributed to tainted corks. Consumer perception is also key; studies have shown that bottles with a natural cork are assumed by consumers around the world to be better than those with a synthetic cork or screw cap. “If you have got a cork in the bottle, you sell more and at a higher price,” said Mr. Aracil a spokesman for the French Federation of Cork Unions.
Wine corks are made from the bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber), an evergreen tree found mainly in Portugal and accounting for 50 percent of global supply.
Many wine producers turned away from the cork oak forests of the Iberian Peninsula in the 1990s, after studies showed that up to 7 percent of bottles sealed in traditional fashion were “corked” — the term that describes wine affected by a contaminated cork.
Yet sales of wine corks rose by 7 percent last year, and have increased by 12 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2010.
Amorim, a Portuguese company that is the world’s largest producer of natural wine corks, registered record sales of US$3.2 billion stoppers last year.
The comeback of the cork is an enormous relief for many environmentalists, who had feared that the rise of the screw cap would lead to the destruction of Portugal’s cork oak forests, which are home to endangered species such as the Iberian lynx, Barbary deer and the imperial Iberian eagle. Mr. Aracil said: “The environmental issue has been very important in the revival. It is a key argument.”
For full story, please see:



  • Cork: Natural cork grows on trees

Source: Re-CORK, 6 June 2011

In the context of recycling, natural cork is different than metal in that we can gauge to some degree how much of a cork supply there is worldwide. Money and metal might not grow on trees, but cork does. Literally. If you were to simply count all the trees, you could determine how much cork is available. But knowing the exact supply level of cork is not really the issue. The issue is improving best practices in cork recycling and product innovation. And unlike metal, the beauty of recycling cork is that the more we recycle, the more supply and demand we create for natural cork on the market.
Previously, the great majority of used natural corks simply went to waste. Now that we are recycling those corks, the inventory of natural cork is inherently greater. ReCORK, for example, in addition to recycling natural cork, helps plant new cork oak trees in the Mediterranean forest. The initiative planted 5000 new trees in 2010. Those 5000 trees will provide a reliable supply of new and reusable natural cork for the next 150 years. In turn, ReCORK is helping create a new supply of natural cork.
Re-CORK’s research has recently unveiled that people are increasingly interested in using recycled natural cork in their products. People are excited about natural cork because of its versatility; hence, its potential applications are nearly endless (e.g. SOLE flip-flops) As these innovative products continue to roll out, no doubt demand will increase. And yes, recycling natural cork leads to greater demand for natural cork.
It is worth mentioning that cork recycling is a relatively new concept. People have been re-using cork in art projects and the like for a long time. But a large scale, industrial level cork recycling initiative has never existed before. The objective of Re-CORK has always been to make the best possible use of natural cork by using it to replace petroleum-based materials commonly used in consumer products.
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  • Frankincense may help treat arthritis

Source: United Press International, 22 June 2011

Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales say frankincense — long used in traditional medicine — may help alleviate symptoms of arthritis.
Study leader Dr. Emma Blain and Vic Duance, both from Cardiff University, and Dr. Ahmed Ali of the Compton Group, say England and Wales have a longstanding connection with the Somali community, whose members have used extracts of frankincense as a traditional herbal remedy for arthritic conditions.
"What our research has focused on is whether and how these extracts can help relieve the inflammation that causes the pain," Blain said in a statement.
The Cardiff scientists say they demonstrated treatment with an extract of Boswellia frereana — a rare frankincense species — inhibits the production of key inflammatory molecules that helps prevent the breakdown of the cartilage tissue which causes arthritis.
"The search for new drugs to alleviate the symptoms of conditions like inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis is a priority area for scientists," Ali said. "What our research has managed to achieve is to use innovative chemical extraction techniques to determine the active ingredient in frankincense."
For full story, please see:



  • Fungi: New to nature: Coltricia globispora

Source: The Guardian (UK), 29 May 2011

Fungi play hugely important roles in most terrestrial ecosystems, including recycling nutrients as major decomposers of plant materials. Fewer than 100 000 species of fungi have been discovered and described, while mycologists estimate that 1.5 million species exist.
Coltricia globispora is a new "white rot" fungus recently discovered in the Parque Natural Municipal de Porto Velho, Brazil. The family it belongs to, Hymenochaetaceae, includes wood-rotters, some plant pathogens, and a few documented ectomycorrhizal species that are symbionts of roots of plants. This is only the second species in its genus with spherical spores, the basis for the species name globispora.
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  • Medicinal plants: Preserving cures

Source: University of Oregon (USA) in, 14 June 2011

Over half of the world's prescription drugs are derived from chemicals first discovered in plants. These include common medications such as oral contraceptives, antibiotics, and painkillers, as well as lifesaving anticancer treatments and heart disease medications. But these medications and their plant derivatives are at risk of disappearing.
Over-harvesting, habitat degradation, and agricultural expansion all threaten these valuable plants; their loss is especially devastating for those who depend on them for their livelihoods and healthcare needs.
It is estimated that there are 10 000 plant species throughout the world with medicinal properties. While some of them are rare, others are common garden plants such as Vinca, which is used to make chemotherapies that treat leukaemia, lymphoma, and other varieties of cancer. Many drugs like these can still only be derived from the original plant.
According to Susan Leopold, executive director of United Plant Savers, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about plant extinction, "A lot of populations are still very dependent on herbal medicine."
For those living on less than US$2/day pharmaceutical drugs are not an option. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of the world's developing populations rely on traditional, plant-based medicine as their primary form of healthcare.
"Demand for traditional remedies is also increasing in so-called developed countries, alongside growing environmental-awareness and a desire for natural healing through natural products," author Belinda Hawkins writes in a 2007 report for Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
In an effort to meet this growing demand for traditional remedies, grassroots organizations are promoting organic agricultural practices to secure the future of medicinal crops.
Although many programmes advocate responsible cultivation and harvesting (e.g. Well Earth), an estimated 70-80 percent of the medicinal plants being traded are collected from wild populations, according to the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Endangered Plants
Prunus Africana, Pygeum, African cherry: The bark of this tree is harvested and used to treat malaria, fevers, kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and prostate enlargement. The medicinal retail trade for P.africana is estimated to be roughly US$220 million per year. One tree can yield up to US $200 worth of bark/
Hoodia gordonii, Hoodia: A slow growing, spiny, succulent plant found throughout southern Africa, this plant was traditionally used by the San bushman as an appetite suppressant. Today, it is used to treat obesity. Of the twelve known types, only one is found abundantly. The other eleven are found in small, scattered populations under threat from over-collection and illegal trade.
Gentiana lutea, Yellow gentian: This plant, which is found in the mountains of central and southern Europe, has been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians as an appetite stimulant. Today, this extremely bitter root is used for treatment of anorexia and to strengthen the digestive system of patients suffering from chronic diseases. G.lutea is harvested in the wild and is now listed as endangered or critically endangered in the European regions where it is found.
Elettaria cardamomum, Cardamom: In Ayurvedic medicine, cardamom is used to treat heart and digestive problems, urinary tract disorders, bronchitis, asthma, infections, and sore throats. In ancient Egypt, the spice was used as a tooth cleaner; the Romans and Greeks used it as a perfume. The small black seeds which form inside ¾ inch long pods are one of the world's most expensive spices, second only to saffron.
Podophyllum hexandrum, Himalayan Mayapple: Found in Nepal and the western Himalayas, this plant contains podophyllin, a resin used to treat ovarian cancer and warts.
America's ginseng debate
Revered in traditional Chinese and folk medicine, ginseng is the top-selling herb in the United States' US$3 billion market for medicinal herbs. As the third largest global producer of ginseng, the US exports nearly 90 percent of its annual yield to East Asia, where native Asian populations have been virtually harvested to extinction in the wild.     Subsequently, wild populations of American ginseng have rapidly depleted, which have since been listed as a species that "may become [extinct] unless trade is closely controlled," under the 1975 Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Despite regulatory and conservation efforts, illegal ginseng harvesters or "sang" poachers jeopardize efforts to sustain wild harvests. To help combat this dwindling natural resource, concerned botanists and growers have invested in organically farmed varieties of American ginseng.
For full story, please see:



  • Natural fibres: which is the green choice?

Source: The Ecologist, 22 June 2011

The impact of fashion and its relentless demand for raw materials has long been a topic of intense debate among environmentalists. For some, the answer is second-hand, while others wax lyrical about the benefits of hemp. While hemp is undoubtedly the greenest material for fabric available; there is a problem. Currently, it is hard to produce a decent cloth from it. What’s more, it has a serious image problem among the wider public. So what is being done to make it more palatable? Blending is the answer, with “hemp silk” — usually 60 percent hemp to 40 percent silk — now widely available along with hemp versions of traditional fabrics such as corduroy, although cotton still makes up around 40 percent of the blend.
In terms of water alone, hemp is by far and away the best choice, although the unappealing cloth it tends to produce is an issue. Organic cotton and bamboo come next with conventionally produced cotton lagging well behind the others.
Peace silk is an alternative more expensive but it does allow the moth to leave its cocoon naturally (and alive) before the fibres are harvested, so is probably a much better bet all round. Also worth looking into is Lyocell — Tencel as it is more commonly known — which is made from wood pulp. The textile result is long-wearing and comfortable but like organic cotton, it is not without its downsides, which include concerns over the amount of chemicals needed to turn the pulp into a viable fabric.



  • Wildlife: Africa's declining wildlife

Source: The Guardian (UK), 20 June 2011

Major national parks and wildlife reserves across Africa lost up to 60 percent of their lions, giraffes, buffalo and other large wild animals between 1970 and 2005, raising the spectre of wildlife on the continent soon being confined to isolated pockets dependent on international money for protection.
Researchers at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the University of Cambridge studied animal population changes at 78 protected areas across Africa and found the steepest falls in west Africa, where up to 85 percent of wildlife had been lost in the last 35 years, and in east Africa, where nearly half of all wildlife has disappeared. The research, which was collated from parks including popular tourist safari destinations such as the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania, and published last year, found increases only in southern Africa.
The cause of the continent-wide decline has been attributed mainly to the lack of money and people needed to police parks, as well as the encroachment of humans on animal habitats. In addition, war and the growing bushmeat trade is said to have decimated populations.
The numbers of elephants, hippos and other animals are believed to have also plummeted in southern Sudan, following years of war.
Kenya, one of the most popular places in the world for wildlife, has been hit particularly hard. A report commissioned in 2009 by the country's wildlife service said that its lion population was declining so fast that they could be extinct there within 20 years.
But conservationists say that populations can recover, if money is available. Elephants and rhinos appeared to be heading towards extinction in much of Africa in the 1980s, but governments backed by western public opinion acted to protect them.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: Cameroon, Nigeria in new plan to save rare chimp

Source: Reuters Alert Net, 23 June 2011

Cameroon and Nigeria plan to enlarge their protected forest areas and boost conservation programmes to save a rare chimpanzee subspecies from going extinct because of hunting and habitat destruction. Scientists say the Nigeria-Cameroon subspecies is amongst the most endangered of the chimpanzees, humanity's closest living relative, which lives only in Africa.
Nigerian and Cameroonian officials launched a five-year US$14.7 million plan to try to rescue the ape, which has been relentlessly hunted to feed the thriving bushmeat trade and seen the forests in which it dwells destroyed for logs or to make way for palm oil, rubber or banana plantations.
The Nigeria-Cameroon subspecies lives only in the rainforested area north of Cameroon's Sanaga River, and in dwindling forest fragments in the Niger Delta and other parts of southern Nigeria. Its population is estimated to be anywhere between 3 500-9 000 individuals left.
Cameroon plans to enlarge its protected areas by 10 million ha, by creating 10 new parks or reserves that would boost the country's conservation area to 21 percent of its total land surface, from 19 percent.
There was no specific pledge from Nigeria, but Nigerian environment minister John Odey suggested the country would play its part in the joint rescue effort.
For full story, please see:



  • Wildlife: Jane Goodall urges action on chimpanzees during Sydney visit

Source: Mosman Daily (Sydney, Australia), 8 June 2011

Jane Goodall has studied and fought for chimpanzees for 51 years but fears the species will become extinct if people do not change their habits. Dr Goodall is the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, an author and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the youth movement “Roots and Shoots”. She has seen the chimpanzee population in Africa drop from about one million to less than 300 000.
“If we do not do something chimpanzees will become extinct in the wild,” she said during her Taronga Zoo visit in Sydney. She added that while people had gained a greater awareness of issues such as rainforest destruction, they had to also change their behaviour and spend time finding out where their clothes and food came from.
Goodall said that were “very few places left” in the wild where the animals were not hunted for bushmeat and threatened by habitat destruction.
Taronga Zoo announced a five-year partnership with Jane Goodall to expand the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Centre (in the Republic of Congo), Africa’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary. Dr Goodall said the partnership would help them move faster towards securing operational support for chimpanzee rescue and reintroduction, building a new island sanctuary for chimpanzees that cannot be released, expanding law enforcement to stop illegal great-ape hunting, and developing an education centre catering for more than 2 000 students a year.
For full story, please see:




  • Afghanistan: Concern over saffron price drop

Source: BBC News, 17 June 2011

Saffron prices in Western Afghanistan have reportedly declined sharply over the past year, raising fears that some may resume opium cultivation. Saffron has been promoted as an alternative to opium and a profitable crop for rural peoples.
But growers in the province of Herat, which borders Iran, told BBC Pashto that prices have dropped by up to 60 percent as supply has outstripped demand.
Afghanistan, in particular Herat, has the ideal climate for growing saffron. Afghan officials say that last year Herat produced more than 2.5 tonnes of saffron. This year they expect more than 3.5 tonnes to be produced.
Last year pure saffron sold at US$4 500/kg but now that price stands at US$1 500. The high prices of saffron, the world's most expensive spice, has benefited cultivators around the world over the years.
The head of the chamber of commerce in Herat, Gholam Jailani Hamidi, told the BBC that the production increase is the key to the price drop. "We need balance in our productivity and demand and we need to find new markets," he said. But correspondents say that some are afraid the price drop could leave farmers considering whether to revert to growing poppies.
Afghanistan is estimated to produce around 90 percent of the world's opium. Farmers are still willing to cultivate saffron saying they do not want to go back to poppy cultivation as long as the government provides them with financial help, correspondents say. But Afghan businessmen have been demanding new processing and packaging systems in order to open foreign markets for their product
For full story, please see:



  • Australia: Bio-prospectors probe Aboriginal lore

Source: AFP in Traditional Knowledge Bulletin, 7 June 2011

When Aboriginal elder John Watson was bitten by a crocodile while fishing in the remote Australian Kimberley region, there was no doctor he could call, no medical kit on hand to stem the blood. So he relied on the traditional knowledge of his people, passed down over the centuries from generation to generation, to help stop the bleeding from the injury to his hand which removed part of his middle finger. Watson knew that if he chewed the bark of a native tree known as "mudjala", and spat the mixture onto his finger it would both numb the pain and stop the bleeding. And it did.
The plant is one of many avidly studied by researchers and so-called bio-prospectors around Australia seeking to derive the next great medicine from the country's unique flora.
As the hundreds of Aboriginal languages which were once spoken around the vast nation quickly fade, and traditional knowledge is lost after two centuries of western settlement, the race is on to preserve native lore, including that related to the medicinal use of plants.
"The information is being lost irrespective of whether it is being used or not," says Professor Michael Heinrich, a researcher at Australia's Southern Cross University and the School of Pharmacy at the University of London. "We need... to find a way where we can pass the indigenous knowledge onto future generations."
Heinrich said indigenous communities were rightly concerned about the handling of their traditional knowledge, some of which is sacred to their beliefs, and worried their generosity would not be recognized or rewarded. This meant it was very difficult to get information on the plants used by Aborigines to treat illness and disease, he said.
Australia has a unique plant and animal life, some of which has adapted to extreme conditions such as drought, and it is, to a certain degree, unexplored by Western scientists — all of which makes it deeply alluring to bio-prospectors.
For Watson's Jarlmadangah Burru community in Australia's remote far northwest, ownership has been resolved through an intellectual property arrangement hailed as a breakthrough example for other communities. The Australian government is hoping to help other indigenous communities and businesses protect their intellectual property through its Dream Shield project, and Watson's community is now seeking to commercialize the treatment — possibly as a topical herbal product.
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  • Botswana: Traditional Indigenous Knowledge System study launched

Source: Botswana Gazzette, 17 June 2011

Upon the realization that there is no inventory on traditional knowledge and skills in Botswana, the Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology engaged the University of Botswana Center for Scientific Research, Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation (CesrIKi) to help in formulating the Botswana Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Policy which will guide various sectors on the current unregulated IKS issues.
Some of the knowledge and skills include the knowledge to heal certain diseases with traditional remedies, knowledge to play traditional games, decorate, and story narration, traditional preservation methods and other capabilities existing within the different societies.
Speaking at a press briefing to launch the ongoing study yesterday the Director of the Department of Research, Science and Technology Ms Lesego Motoma, said that securing this knowledge is not easy as it is surrounded by secrecy from its holders in order to safeguard it from pirates.
Motoma pointed out that some foreigners have come into the country to acquire traditional knowledge from communities and use it as a basis their research, “which in the end brought about some scientific solutions with commercial value without such communities benefitting from the output of the findings e.g. sengaparile or devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens). Thus the Ministry is in the process of creating an inventory which will help those with this knowledge to benefit as issues of copyright and intellectual property will be considered.
The study which started in February is expected to be completed in June 2012.



  • Brazil to digitalize Amazonian biodiversity with help of IBM

Source: Xinhua (China), 16 June 2011

The Brazilian government signed a partnership agreement with IBM on Wednesday that will enable Brazil to digitalize information on Amazonian biodiversity with the help of the U.S. company.
"We need to make a digital encyclopaedia of Amazonian biodiversity," said Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology Aloizio Mercadante, who signed the agreement with IBM Brazil president Ricardo Pelegrini.
The project, called Wikiflora, aims to allow the research community, such as scientists and teachers, to share knowledge and findings on biological diversity using the model of "citizen science", similar to Wikipedia.
Brazil has strong IT infrastructure to do the project, said the Ministry. The project was proposed by Mercadante after he visited the forest reserve Adolpho Ducke earlier this year. The reserve is an experimental base of research and development on sustainable exploitation.



  • India: Is ecotourism benefiting locals?

Source: Times of India, 5 June 2011

As global businesses and industry are being forced to take a closer look at their negative impact on environment, the “business of environment” is looking up. The focus on global warming and climate change and the campaigns to help save the planet are bringing more people closer to environment than ever before.
From increasing attendance at wildlife reserves to the abundance of adventure sports that take people closer to nature, businesses that “exploit” nature are doing better than ever. In India, however, questions still persist regarding whether “ecotourism” or “environment tourism” really helps the conservation effort at the local level.
Amol Khante, Director of CAC All Rounder, an organization involved in ecotourism activities, says, "There definitely has been more interest in the outdoors over the last few years, leading to more business. However, not all of the business leads to gains for the local environment or even the local people, whose day-to-day life impacts the environment. More needs to be done to ensure such businesses benefit local tribals or villagers and wean them away from a life living off the forests surrounding their villages."
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  • New Zealand: Beekeepers warn of “honey laundering”

Source:, 16 June 2011

Beekeepers fear "honey laundering" — allowing inferior or diseased honey from around the world into the country — may jeopardize their industry if new rules allow honey into New Zealand through Australia.
At present, no overseas honey is allowed into New Zealand, but the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry is close to a decision expected to allow Australian honey imports.
Wellington Beekeepers Association spokesman John Burnet said, if Australian honey import rules were relaxed, new diseases could be introduced by "honey laundering".
"It is a term that has been coined to cover the practice of the Australians, in particular, importing honey from countries like Argentina and China where they have very low disease- control standards. The honey is very cheap and often relabelled as Australian honey and then exported."
In 2008, a Sydney court fined two people AUD$586 000 after they were convicted of importing AUS$6.5 million of Chinese honey and illegally exporting it to the United States, relabelled as "Australian made".
"The Government is saying we have adequate protection, adequate controls. There is no risk of disease coming in," says Burnet. However, scepticism reigns as memories of the Varroa mite infestation are fresh. Varroa mite is an eastern Asian parasite that has killed large numbers of New Zealand's managed and feral bee population. For food safety, honey must meet requirements set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, a bi-national agency that does not require country-of-origin labelling.
Codes regulate for purity of honey but Wellington beekeeper Frank Lindsay said laundered honey could still meet the standard by using lesser sugars. "Rice sugars are very close to natural sugars so they use that and put some enzymes in and it comes out looking like honey." he said.
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  • Rwanda: Facilitating honey business

Source:, 23 June 2011

Honey dealers in Rwanda are set to receive better rewards after the Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) established the quality standards to boost the product in the market.
Rwandan honey has seen tremendous demand both locally and internationally. The Managing Director of RBS, Mark Bagabe Cyubahiro, says that the recent increase in the demand for honey has called for standards and checks to ensure quality. "We have taken a multi-pronged approach to make sure that Rwandan honey meets international standards compliant by offering training to farmers and dealers," he said.
Cyubahiro said that demand for honey has increased due to the growing tourism sector. "We have a big market here locally, in the Middle East and Europe. The challenge is for beekeepers to go for high volumes by acquiring big beehives to increase production."
Cyubahiro added: "Market demand requires certain standards that we could not meet because the international market demands organic products that are pesticide free", he said. He noted that honey collected in agricultural areas where pesticides are sprayed normally contain copper, a metal that is dangerous to a human body's functions. Such metals, including the cancer causing carcinogenic that is found in smoke which is used by many famers to harvest honey, are the critical elements that lower the quality, making it harmful.
However, efforts are in progress to create awareness among honey farmers against using smoke.
Florida Uwamariya, the Accounts Administrator of Rwanda beekeeping services centre said farmers have been trained in safe extraction, post harvest honey management and packaging which has improved quality. "We are looking at how we can maintain hygiene and quality honey processing and setting up scale processing equipment to upgrade the quality standards and produce", she said. She added that they have received international demand for Rwandan honey due to its naturalness, owing to the county’s well endowed forests and ecosystems.
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  • Swaziland: First rhino loss in over 20 years

Source: Times of Swaziland, 21 June 2011

On 3 June Swaziland fell victim to its first rhino loss in over 20 years. An impressive record now consigned to history as the rhino war threatens one of the few remaining stabilized breeding environments in the world.
The young female two-horn white rhino, mother to a calf and instrumental to Swaziland’s future generations of rhinos, was found de-horned at Big Game Parks’ Hlane Royal National Park on National Environment Day, and now serves as a sad symbol of the encroaching threat to this endangered species.
In Swaziland, poachers undertake a massive risk by crossing one of the strictest and most respected poaching laws in the conservation world: The Game Act. Three alleged poachers involved in Swaziland’s most recent incidents have already been apprehended swiftly courtesy of the sharp detective work tirelessly carried out by the rangers of Big Game Parks and the Royal Swaziland Police.
Nevertheless, Swaziland’s impressive record is largely due to the number of people benefiting from protecting its Park and its wildlife. The ecotourism industry provides a vital source of employment opportunities within Swaziland. The multiplier effect of a single Big Game Parks’ wage, for example, results in the sustenance of over 15 people and with over 300 Swazis employed by the park, this represents approximately 4 500 Swazis who rely directly on the parks for sustenance.
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  1. Venezuela's wildlife conservation sees mixed results

Source: BBC News, 13 June 2011,

Young crocodiles cry plaintively for their mother as they are hooked in a trap and pulled, splashing frantically, from the water. But their mother is nowhere to be seen.  These one-year-old Orinoco Crocodiles are part of a captive breeding programme designed to put the brakes on their slide towards extinction. The Orinoco Crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius ) is the biggest in South America, present only in Venezuela and Colombia. Researchers measure population by the number of adult females and say there are now around 100 in Venezuela, far fewer in Colombia.
"In the 1930s and 1940s they were over-exploited for their skin," said Omar Hernandez, director of Venezuela's Science Development Foundation. "Now people are eating these crocodiles, they are hunting them for their meat."
The breeding programme, which each year sees around 200 young crocodiles released into the rivers of Venezuela's Llanos, or Great Plains, takes place on a private reserve about six hours drive from the capital Caracas.
Over the years, state-run national parks have proved ineffective at preserving wildlife and the task fell to private ranchers who kept reserves and created ecotourism lodges. The challenge is for productive farming to co-exist with conservation programmes. But now these reserves are an endangered species themselves. Since 2006, three of the four farms which hosted biological research programmes have been expropriated by the government, to the dismay of environmentalists.
Yet at one expropriated farm, ecological programmes are continuing. El Cedral, a 53 000 hectare ranch, keeps 90 percent of its land as a nature reserve while still raising cattle for meat and buffalo for dairy products. Its ecotourism lodge remains open and continues to attract bird watchers who come to see the more than 300 species found at the ranch. The approach at El Cedral seems to suggest that all is not lost for the wildlife of Los Llanos, but neither is its future guaranteed.
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  1. UK: London's history of medicinal plants

Source: BBC News, 9June 2011

A small wasteland in Southwark, London, has been transformed into a pop-up medical garden by more than 100 volunteers. The Urban Physic Garden opens on Saturday for just six weeks on a neglected plot of land to celebrate London's history of herbal medicine.
Just six weeks ago the Union Street site was a rubble-filled and fenced-off wasteland awaiting development. A group of designers and urban growers approached the landowner and were given keys and permission to transform it into a temporary community garden.
But London's relationship with healing herbs and medicinal plants is anything but temporary. While plants are still central to much medical research, in the past the herbs themselves had more of a presence.
A visit to the nearby Herb Garret, behind London Bridge station, reveals how much Londoners once relied on herbs for medicine. The Garret, an attic space above St Thomas' Church, is now a museum but it used to store dried herbs which hospitals would use to treat patients. Plants have been dried and prepared at the Herb Garret for more than 300 years
In the past people would visit an apothecary when they were unwell. Karen Howell, a Herb Archivist at the Garrett, said: "There would have been wormwood drying by the cart load up here. The plant was used to literally rid people of worms, which were a real problem amongst London's poor.
She added that research into herb use in hospitals had revealed that chamomile was used by surgeons during bladder stone operations as an antiseptic. She said: "The operations had a high success rate, despite using no anaesthetic or hand washing. Chamomile is well known for being a sedative, but this highlights its other properties."
The Urban Physic Garden will be open from 11 June to 15 August 2011.
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  1. UK: 13.6 percent decline in honey bees confounds experts

Source: Tree hugger, 23 June 2011

Just as a new campaign to save London's bees gears up for the Olympics, researchers are reporting yet another disastrous winter with losses as high as 17.1 percent of hives in some parts of the country. All this despite the fact that the winter should have been a good one for bees.
The Guardian reports that experts are puzzled by the decline in UK honey bees over the winter. While a cold winter and early spring should, apparently, have favoured bees — the losses suggest that the country's bee population is still in serious trouble. The worse-than-expected decline could have serious knock on effects for both biodiversity and agriculture:
Experts worry that the declines will affect plant productivity. There are also concerns that the declines, along with drought conditions in some areas, will mean less English honey this year.
Martin Smith, president of the British Beekeepers Association, which carried out the survey, said: "If this was measured against similar losses in livestock it would be seen as disastrous and there would be great concern on the knock-on impact of food prices."
There is, however, a small note of optimism. While a 13.6 percent average loss (17.1 percent in the North-East) is undoubtedly severe, it does at least mark a slowdown in the rate of decline. Four years ago beekeepers were reporting one-in-three hives being wiped out.
As numerous campaigns gear up to help save the honey bee, advocates are calling for gardeners everywhere to plant bee friendly plants, especially in the run up to Fall and Winter: "It is really important that there are flowering nectar-rich plants around in August, September and October to provide the nutrition that is needed so the bees can top up their stores of honey in the hive to see them through winter," said Smith.
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  1. UK: Nine years to save iconic species

Click on thumbnail to view imageSource: The Scotsman, 21 June 2011

A major nine-year campaign to protect rare species such as the Scottish wildcat and a native bird, the capercaillie, was launched by a wildlife charity today. RSPB Scotland (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has unveiled plans for its Stepping Up for Nature drive which will see the charity begin an offensive against governments, individuals and businesses to help conserve species in danger.
The campaign, said to be the most ambitious in the group's 107-year history, is a response to the dwindling numbers of some native birds, mammals and insects, as well as the decline of wild flowers, peatlands and native forests.
More than 25 000 people in Scotland have signed a letter urging ministers not to cut funding for nature conservation in the tough economic times.
"When we missed the 2010 biodiversity target we failed nature," said RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden. "We absolutely cannot let that happen again." Over the next decade we have the opportunity to fix the problems that are causing the loss of wildlife in Scotland and across the world. We have a simple choice here, and if politicians and businesses make the right choices then we can create a space for nature in our countryside, ensure vital habitats are not lost and bring back those species on the brink."
RSPB Scotland is warning that some of the country's best-loved native birds are in sharp decline, while once widespread species like the capercaillie and corn bunting are clinging on in small pockets. The Scottish wildcat is now one of the country's most rare species, with an estimated 400 individuals remaining. Just a few populations of the great yellow bumblebee endure.
In addition, many native wild flowers are "seriously" threatened, 99 percent of the Caledonian pine forest has disappeared and blanket bogs — of which Scotland has one-tenth of the total world's resource — are badly fragmented and threatened by drainage and erosion.
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  1. USA: Getting to the root of the chestnut problem

Source: The Day (Connecticut, USA), 17 June 2011

Griswold research farm (Connecticut) seeks out healthier plant life. At this farm, the most important crops are not sold at any roadside stand or farmers market. In fact, the yields of this farm are not sold at all, but are shared with growers and foresters throughout the state and beyond to help them solve their knottiest pest and disease-control problems.
In one section of the farm on Thursday, agricultural scientist Sandra Anagnostakis told visitors about the 780 hybrid chestnut trees she has been growing. The project crosses American chestnut stock with Chinese and Japanese varieties that are resistant to the blight that wiped out the popular lumber and nut tree from Northeast forests in the early 1900s. Chestnut shoots still grow in the state's forests but never mature before they are stricken by the blight.
Anagnostakis said that along with research on the trees at the Griswold farm, her project includes planting hybrids at selected spots in the state's forests where there are chestnut shoots in hopes that the hybrids will crossbreed with the native varieties and pass on the blight resistance. Ultimately, she hopes, chestnuts will repopulate the state's forests, increasing forest diversity and reintroducing a valuable source of lumber and nuts.
"In 10 years we will know how they are competing in the forests, and in 20 years we will know how they are regenerating," she said.
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  1. USA: The art of food foraging

Source: (Idaho, USA), 22 June 2011

"I move through a forest pretty quickly," Darcy Williamson, expert forager, said as she brushed strands of greying hair behind an ear, "and I don't like to linger in one spot because that tends to cause over-harvesting."
For most of us, the art of foraging fell out of favour a few thousand years ago — thanks in large part to agriculture — but not everyone abandoned the impulse to gather.
Now 62, Williamson went on to write 23 books on herbalism and foraging, as well as develop a business called From the Forest that deals in medicinal plants, seeds and preparations.
On this foraging outing, Williamson is looking for lunch. "This is a Brown's peony," she said of a handsome, low-lying plant covered in unopened, burgundy-coloured flower buds as she began plucking several marble-sized specimens. "They taste similar to Brussels sprouts."
A short beeline from there, Williamson found a large patch of stinging nettles. She knelt down beside the dark green plant covered in nasty, stinging hairs. "What we want for food are the shortest, tightest ones," she said.
Soon after, Williamson found mint, edible lichen and flowers, tubers, bulbs and wild garlic, as well as a lodgepole pine. "The cambium layer on that pine is very rich in sugar and starch." Williamson said. "And the needles are high in vitamin C and A."
Williamson estimates that there are hundreds of edible plants in the McCall area in Idaho alone, many available year round. The catch is identifying them and, of course, knowing what to avoid.
"There are only a few poisonous plants in Idaho or in any region, for that matter," Williamson said. "So you do the backward thing: You learn the toxic plants. It is a lot easier to learn what is going to poison you than what is going to feed you."
The growing interest in foraged foods, Williamson believes, is a positive development and a logical extension of the local food movement. But she also feels it is increasingly important to teach students environmentally sensitive foraging practices. That is why she does not linger in one spot, forages lightly and only picks from abundant plants. When she digs a bulb, she carefully pats the ground back in place to hide the hole.
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  1. USA: A banner year for New York's maple syrup industry

Source: (New York, USA), 15 June 2011

Maple syrup production in New York increased 81 percent this year compared to the dismal season in 2010, according to statistics from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
New York maple producers this year made 564 000 gallons of maple syrup, said King Whetstone, Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service office in New York. It is the highest production since 1947. Last year, 312 000 gallons were made after an early warm-up stopped the sap run after only a couple of weeks. In 2009, producers in the state made 439 000 gallons.
Whetstone said the number of taps in New York increased this year. There were 2.01 million taps, up 6 percent from 2010. He said it is the largest number of taps since 1950.
An overwhelming majority of maple producers in the state reported a favourable season, Whetstone said. The weather was with the producers this year, as temperatures began to warm above freezing in March and stayed in the 40s during the days and in the 30s at night, allowing sap to run for a month or more.
Only Vermont produces more syrup than New York. Its producers made 1.14 million gallons this year.
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  1. Community must be placed at the heart of African conservation

Source: The Guardian (UK), 18 June 2011

Africa is the last continent on Earth where giants roam. Elephants, lions, rhinos, giraffes and more stand majestically at the peak of the ecosystem, ensuring it endures. But from the mammoth of Europe to the two-tonne wombat of Australia, humanity's journey out of Africa was rapidly followed by the slaughter and extinction of the large beasts that the travellers found.
And now it is happening in Africa too, with plummeting numbers of many animals in the famed Masai Mara and Okavango Delta. Fast-growing populations demand more land for food, destroying habitats. Poachers choose bushmeat over starvation, chased by few poorly paid rangers. New roads cut across migration routes, with legal protections for wildlife often missing or unenforced.
Conservationists across the continent are doing great work in small patches and with different approaches. But they agree on one thing: money talks. That can come from tourism, which is conspicuously successful in places such as the Kruger national park in South Africa, where visitors pay handsomely to admire the fauna. But that cannot be the only solution. The Masai Mara in Kenya is equally iconic and is suffering. For the many poorer, war ravaged nations in Africa, the prospect of attracting rich westerners for holidays is a forlorn hope.
More and better linked national parks, with better law enforcement and less corruption, is another tactic that has halted the decline in places. But political will weakens quickly when faced with human hunger or deep drought, and the risk of being shot as a poacher is too often outweighed by the risk of an empty plate.
Yet there are flickers of hope. A tiny primate project in Nigeria, for example, has successfully protected a forest and its inhabitants by putting the community at the heart of its operations.
And that is the key. The problem of wildlife declines is fundamentally the problem of poverty. Making the fauna and flora worth more when it is alive than when it is dead is vital. Do that and local people will gladly take the responsibility and jealously protect their natural assets.
Tourism can play a part in creating that value. Certification schemes for wood, food and other goods produced in a wildlife-friendly way would allow western shoppers to play a part, without incurring the carbon footprint of a long-haul flight.
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  1. Instant tree identification is now possible

Source: Yale Environment News 360, 9 June 2011

Botanists from the Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C., USA) have helped develop a smartphone application that can identify tree species within seconds using visual recognition software and then share the location with a growing database of tree populations. After a user takes a photo of a leaf with his or her smartphone device, the so-called Leafsnap app searches a library of leaf photographs compiled by Smithsonian and almost immediately delivers high-resolution photographs of the likely species, along with information on flowers, fruits, seeds, and bark.
In addition, the geographical data of that query is shared with a community of scientists tracking flora across the U.S. Currently, the application covers all trees found in New York City's Central Park and Washington’s Rock Creek Park, but will eventually provide a database of trees nationwide, said John Kress, a Smithsonian research botanist who developed the application with engineers from Columbia University and the University of Maryland.
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  1. Latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species released

Source: Environmental News Network, 17 June 2011

Released today, the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows that a staggering 19 265 species are currently threatened with extinction. Over 900 new species have been classified as threatened — that is, considered to be Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable — since the last update in 2010, showing that there is no let up in the extinction crisis threatening the world's biodiversity.
Although more species are thought to be threatened than ever before, the IUCN are keen to highlight that there have also been major conservation success stories.
The Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) was nearly hunted to extinction. It is believed that the last wild individual was shot in 1972, but this year, thanks to successful captive breeding and re-introduction efforts, the wild population now stands at more than 1 000 individuals and currently faces a much more secure future.
"To have brought the Arabian oryx back from the brink of extinction is a major feat and a true conservation success story, one which we hope will be repeated many times over for other threatened species," says H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi.
As a result of the dedicated drive to ensure the survival of this majestic species in the wild, the Arabian oryx has now been downgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It also makes history as being the first species once listed as Extinct in the Wild to have improved by three threat categories.
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  1. Leaders in conservation awarded by the National Geographic Society

Source: National Geographic Online, 21 June 2011

This year’s winners of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation are a community leader of the Huaorani people from the Ecuadorian Amazon, who is working to preserve his cultural heritage and the forests where his people live, and a Kenyan wildlife conservationist who, through the Internet, connects conservationists around the world with people who want to support their work.
Moi Enomenga, president of Quehueri’ono Association, is the recipient of the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Latin American Conservation; Paula Kahumbu, executive director of both WildlifeDirect and the Kenya Land Conservation Trust — and a 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer — wins the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation.
Local Passion, Global Awareness
Moi Enomenga has dedicated his life to defending, through ecotourism, the traditional culture of the Huaorani people and their local environment — the Amazon rainforests in northeast Ecuador.
Nearly a quarter of the Huaorani communities, including Enomenga’s community, Quehueri’ono, are located along oil roads. Enomenga has actively fought to ensure road building is kept to a minimum and the environment and the integrity of his community are not violated. Enomenga’s tireless campaign to protect the land helped the Huaorani secure legal title to Yasuní National Park, the largest indigenous territory in Ecuador and a U.N. biosphere reserve.
Enomenga believes that ecotourism is a key part of the future. It is a means by which his people can receive an income while maintaining the integrity of their culture and conserving their rain forest territory. It also helps them resist the more destructive initiatives of the oil industry. Enomenga and his partners built the Huaorani Ecolodge to provide income and an incentive for the communities involved to protect the environment. Now in its third year, the lodge has won several major prizes for sustainable tourism.
Enomenga is currently working on the next phase of this project: the 55 000 ha Yame Forest Reserve. The reserve will be patrolled by the communities themselves and linked to the ecolodge. The project, which will further protect biodiversity, control hunting and mitigate climate change, is a concrete demonstration of Enomenga’s vision of how conservation, support of local cultures and ecotourism can go hand in hand.
Connecting People to Conserve Animals
As executive director of WildlifeDirect, Kenyan Paula Kahumbu, Ph.D., uses the power of the Internet to spotlight key conservation issues and raise awareness and donations for projects saving wildlife and wild places. Thanks to her efforts, about 120 conservation projects have an online platform to share challenges and victories via blogs, videos, photos and podcasts, saving species from ants to lions. By celebrating the work of conservation heroes, Kahumbu has turned WildlifeDirect into a tool to advocate for and share home-grown conservation solutions to such challenges as ivory and rhino horn poaching, roads through parks, climate change and wildlife conflict in areas that neighbour parks.
The site can bring a unique big-picture perspective to otherwise fragmented efforts. When a disturbing trend of large predators dying from poison surfaced on blogs, WildlifeDirect connected the dots to reveal the same chemical pesticide was used to kill all of the animals. The WidlifeDirect team called a meeting with bloggers and government officials, alerted the online audience, galvanized organizations across Africa and attracted international media coverage. Public pressure ultimately forced the U.S. manufacturer to withdraw the pesticide from Kenya.
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  1. Ministers back binding European forest agreement

Source: BBC News, 15 June 2011

Ministers have agreed to back plans to introduce a legally binding agreement to protect Europe's forests. Delegates also agreed to adopt resolutions that would help shape forest policy over the next decade.
On Tuesday, a report concluded that sustainable forestry management was essential if the EU was to reach its emission goals.
The ministerial agreement was signed at the sixth Forest Europe conference in Oslo, Norway. As well as signing the declaration to begin negotiations to establish a legally binding agreement (LBA), delegates also agreed to set a number of targets to be achieved by 2020.
These included all European countries implementing a national forest programme, which needed to contain climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Ministers also agreed to cut the rate of biodiversity loss within forest habitats by half, and take steps to eliminate illegal logging.
Poland's minister, Janusz Zaleski, said that nations needed to ensure that any agreement would need the legal weight required to deliver progress on the ground.        Sweden's Rural Affairs Minister Eskil Erlandsson told the conference that while he supported the concept of sustainable forest management, he favoured a voluntary approach rather than an LBA. "I do not believe in common legislation for forests across the pan-European region. Put simply, one size does not fit all," he said. "We need to recognize the different geo-climatic and socio-economic conditions.
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  1. Profit, not poverty, increasingly the cause of deforestation

Source: in Amazon News, 14 June 2011

A new report highlights the increasing role commodity production and trade play in driving tropical deforestation. The report, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, notes that export-driven industries are driving a bigger share of deforestation than ever before, marking a shift from previous decades, when most tropical deforestation was the product of poor farmers trying to put food on the table for their families.
"Not that long ago the conventional wisdom was that deforestation was due to farmers clearing land for crops they needed for food or wood they needed for fuel," said Doug Boucher, Director of the UCS Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative and a co-author of the report. "Everyone thought the forests were declining because rural populations were growing. But that is just not the case anymore."
Instead forest loss is increasingly the result of growing affluence worldwide. Forest lands are being converted for commodity production: palm oil, timber, beef and leather, pulp and paper, and soy. While small-scale agriculture and charcoal production remain significant drivers of deforestation, The Root of the Problem: What’s Driving Tropical Deforestation Today?, says that changing diets — most notably, more consumption of meat, which requires more land and more grain inputs — are putting more pressure on forests.
But the report highlights reasons for hope, including efforts to compensate tropical countries for protecting forests through the REDD+ mechanism, renewed emphasis on commodity production on “degraded” lands, certification mechanisms for agricultural products, and NGO campaigns that pressure consumer-facing corporations to adopt more sustainable practices.
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  1. Toy maker, under siege, promises new rain forest packaging policy

Source: LA Times, 10 June 2011

Toy maker Mattel, under siege by environmental critics, announced Friday that it would develop a new policy to make its packaging suppliers “commit to sustainable forestry management practices.”
Greenpeace, which launched a global campaign against the toy company this week, called the announcement “encouraging” but added, “They are not out of the woods yet. The document still needs to be written."
The announcement was the latest effort by the world’s largest toy company to contain any damage to its popular Barbie and Ken doll brands, as it was deluged by emails from critics around the world.
Greenpeace this week released a report, Toying with Extinction, including laboratory analyses of packaging for Barbie dolls and other toys containing fibre from Indonesian rain forests. The group also unveiled documents tracing the supply chain from Mattel to Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a Singapore company that has clear-cut vast swaths of the archipelago’s wildlife-rich forests.
California-based Mattel did not name a date for adopting its new policy but said, “In addition to addressing current concerns about packaging sourcing, Mattel’s policy will also cover other wood-based products in its toy lines, such as paper, books and accessories.”
Rolf Skar, Greenpeace’s senior forest campaigner, responded, however, “We also need to be sure that the world’s largest toy company is going to show leadership on this issue. That means acting immediately to stop dealing with suppliers linked to rain forest destruction, and ensuring they have rigorous standards for all of their products.”
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  1. Viruses are “new normal” for honey bees: study

Source: AFP in The Independent (UK), 9 June 2011

California scientists said Tuesday they have identified four new viruses in healthy honey bee colonies, a finding that could help solve the mystery of mass bee die-offs in some parts of the world. The previously unknown viruses turned up during a 10-month study of a commercial beekeeping operation that included more than 70 000 hives and 20 colonies that were transported across the United States to pollinate crops.
The colonies appeared healthy and did not see any of the mass deaths that have eradicated as much as 30 percent of the US population of honey bees since 2006.
Understanding the 27 unique honey bee viruses — including four new ones and others possibly involved in colony collapse — and how they circulate in healthy populations could offer scientists a baseline for further study.
"You cannot begin to understand colony die-off without understanding what normal is," said senior author Joe DeRisi, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco.
Honey bee colony declines in recent years have reached 10 to 30 percent in Europe, 30 percent in the United States, and up to 85 percent in Middle East, according to a UN report on the issue released earlier this year.
According to co-author Michelle Flenniken of the study published in the online journal PloS One, the patterns of infection show that more than one factor is likely to blame for colony collapse. “Clearly, there is more than just exposure involved," said Flenniken.
Among the four newly discovered viruses was one that "turned out to be the primary element of the honey bee biome, or community of bacteria and viruses," said the study, identifying it as a strain of the Lake Sinai virus. "Here is a virus that is the single most abundant component of the bee biome and no one knew it was there," said DeRisi said.
World health experts believe some combination of parasites, viral and bacterial infections, pesticides, and poor nutrition resulting from the impact of human activities on the environment have all played a role in the bees' decline.
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PAWS-MED Conference (Pedagogic Work in Mediterranean Forests)
Sabaudia, National Park of Circeo, Italy
15-16 September 2011
In the framework of the International Year of Forests (IYF) the team of the EU project PAWS-MED is organizing an International Conference on forest pedagogy in the Mediterranean region entitled "Forest Pedagogic and Environmental Education — The PAWS-MED experience". The conference will be hosted by the Italian State Forest Service
This international event, which will take place in English, aims to further spread the PAWS-MED concept and the experiences on forest pedagogy and environment education earned in different contexts, even beyond the Mediterranean. The conference will include international keynote presentations and field excursions to view the implementation of the PAWS-MED concept first-hand.
Due to limited space capacity of the Conference hall (140 places) the organizers are accepting registrations according to a "first come, first served" basis.
For more information, please contact:
Ms Floriana D’Eleuterio or Ms. Lorenza Colletti
Corpo forestale dello Stato – Divisione 5
Via G. Carducci, 5 – 00187 Rome (Italy)
Fax: +39 06 4818972
Email: [email protected]



REMINDER: International Conference on the Art and Joy of Wood
Bangalore, India
19-22 October 2011
In collaboration with the Government of India, FAO will be holding an international conference about wood products and sustainable development. The overall aim of the conference will be to examine how the production and use of wood products can contribute to sustainable development and how greater demands for sustainability might present new opportunities for development of the wood products sector.
Within this general direction, three themes for the conference are proposed: (1) emerging trends in economies and lifestyles: what are the main trends affecting wood use and how can these be utilised to strengthen the forest products sector?; (2) stories portraying the winds of change: case studies showing how some wood producers and users have already developed strategies or innovated to build successful enterprises based on changing consumer demands and needs; (3) wooden paths to a sustainable future: how can the linkages between wood use and sustainable development be strengthened and used to promote more and higher-value wood use?
This conference will focus in particular on the social, aesthetic, cultural and traditional aspects of wood use and how the strong linkages between wood and society might be used to support the future development of the sector as a whole.
Prospective authors wishing to submit articles on the conference themes are encouraged to send abstracts by 1 July 2011.
Finally, to celebrate the art and joy of wood, a global photography competition will take place. For details, please see the conference web site. Entries must be sent to: [email protected] before 15 July 2011.
For more information, please contact:
Adrian Whiteman, Senior Forestry Officer & Illias Animon, Forestry Officer
Forest Products and Industries Division, Forestry Department
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153, Rome, Italy
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] or




42.       Exploring Asia's Seasonally Dry Forests
From: Biological Conservation Newsletter, June 2011

Seasonally dry forests are the most widespread forest type remaining in South and Southeast Asia. For many endangered species, such as tigers, elephants, deer, and primates, this unique habitat is central to their survival. The forests are also intimately linked to humans in the region, who have lived in and relied on them for centuries. Despite the importance of seasonally dry forests, little is known of their ecology.
The Ecology and Conservation of Seasonally Dry Forests in Asia, published by Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, explores the forest, animals, plants, and people that inhabit a unique forest ecosystem in South and Southeast Asia.
The chapters in this new volume draw connections between forests, endangered species, and agricultural communities in the region. The contributors, many of whom are in-country researchers and managers who have spent years studying this ecosystem, provide an overview of the ecology and conservation of seasonally dry forests in Asia.
The book also includes case studies for the conservation of species dependent on these ecosystems, such as tigers, elephants, deer, banteng, and gibbons, and discussions of effective management and conservation of seasonally dry forests.
For more information, please see:



43.       Putting people at the centre of forest law-making
From: Global Witness, 10 June 2011

Global Witness today publishes the second phase of its unique comparative study of transparency in the forest sectors of four developing countries. The report shows improvements in governments’ willingness to engage with civil society in each country, but sounds an overall warning to the international community that access to information on forest management remains hugely insufficient.
Partnering with campaign groups in Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia and Peru, the project measures access to information against a comprehensive set of indicators, and draws lessons for improvements on a national level. This represents the first time that grassroots data on community involvement in forest policy has been compared and contrasted across several countries. The assessment, available online at, uses a red-amber-green traffic light system to indicate which forest sector documents are in the public domain.
Whilst consultation processes may have shown some improvement, access to information in the sector remains generally poor. Lack of basic disclosure persists in key areas such as concession contracts, forest management plans, and what proportion of revenues communities receive from timber felling.
For more information, please see:



44.       State of Europe’s Forests 2011 launched
From: IISD News, 14 June 2011

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), FAO and Forest Europe have collaborated to produce State of Europe's Forests 2011: Status and Trends in Sustainable Forest Management in Europe, launched during the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (or FOREST EUROPE) held in Oslo, Norway from 14-16 June 2011.
The report is based on detailed information provided by countries. The main findings of the report include that: forests cover one billion ha in Europe, 80 percent of which are in the Russian Federation; European forests are expanding and remove the equivalent of about 10 percent of European greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; most Europeans think that their forests are shrinking; the sector provides four million jobs and accounts for 1 percent of the region’s GDP; low carbon-nitrogen ratios in forest soils will be problematic in several locations; and most countries have explicit objectives on forest-related carbon.
Authors of the report developed a draft method to assess European forests’ sustainability, which while not yet peer-reviewed, identifies a number of threats and challenges, including: landscape fragmentation; a shrinking and aging workforce; negative net revenues of several forest enterprises; and mobilizing enough wood for energy while reconciling biodiversity values and the needs of the traditional wood sectors.
For more information, please see:



45.       The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America
From:, 8 June 2011

Few environmental or ecological crises are as alarming as the plight of the honeybee. The massive losses of the insects in the United States since 2006 may reduce our chances of getting stung, but they also reduce our chances of eating fruits and vegetables: bees pollinate a third of the nation’s crops.
This is what makes the work of scientists trying to unravel the mystery — which has come to be known as Colony Collapse Disorder — so important. And it is what makes the work of beekeepers — people like John Miller — so heroic.
Miller, a commercial beekeeper from California, is the star of the book “The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America’’ by Hannah Nordhaus, a magazine writer. Miller spends most of each year travelling around the country with his truckload of hives, carting them to almond, apple, and cherry orchards, to pollinate crops as the bees gather nectar to make honey.
Through Miller and several other characters along the way, Nordhaus leads us through the history of beekeeping, processes such as introducing a new queen to a hive, and the research into what is besetting the bees.
For more information, please see:



46.       Other publications of Interest
From: NWFP Programme

Cameron, S.A., Lozier, J.D., Strange, J.P., Koch, J.B., Cordes, N., Solter, L.F., and Griswold, T.L. 2011. Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108(2):662-667.

Curran, M., de Baan, L., De Schryver, A.M., van Zelm, R., Hellweg, S., Koellner, T., Sonnemann, G., and Huijbregts, M.A.J. 2011. Toward meaningful end points of biodiversity in Life Cycle Assessment. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45(1):70-79.

Desbiez, A.L.J., Keuroghlian, A., Piovezan, U., and Bodmer, R.E. 2011. Invasive species and bushmeat hunting contributing to wildlife conservation: the case of feral pigs in a Neotropical wetland. Oryx 45(1):78-83.

Drury, R., Homewood, K., and Randall, S. 2011. Less is more: the potential of qualitative approaches in conservation research. Anim. Conserv. 14(1):18-24.

Goulson, D., Rayner, P., Dawson, B., and Darvill, B. 2011. Translating research into action; bumblebee conservation as a case study. J. Appl. Ecol. 48(1):3-8.

Gurney, K.M., Schaberg, P.G., Hawley, G.J., and Shane, J.B. 2011. Inadequate cold tolerance as a possible limitation to American chestnut restoration in the northeastern United States. Restor. Ecol. 19(1):55-63.
Abstract: The American chestnut (Castanea dentate), once a major component of eastern forests from Maine to Georgia, was functionally removed from the forest ecosystem by chestnut blight (an exotic fungal disease caused by Cryphonectria parasitica, first identified at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Hybrid-backcross breeding programs that incorporate the blight resistance of Chinese chestnut (Castenea mollissima) and Japanese chestnut (Castenea crenata) into American chestnut stock show promise for achieving the blight resistance needed for species restoration. However, it is uncertain if limitations in tissue cold tolerance within current breeding programs might restrict the restoration of the species at the northern limits of American chestnut’s historic range. During the winter, American and backcross chestnuts were approximately 5ºC less cold tolerant than red oak and sugar maple, with a tendency for American chestnut to be more cold tolerant than the backcross chestnut. Terminal shoots of American and backcross chestnut also showed significantly more freezing damage in the field than nearby red oak and sugar maple shoots, which showed no visible injury.

Linder, J.M., and Oates, J.F. 2011. Differential impact of bushmeat hunting on monkey species and implications for primate conservation in Korup National Park, Cameroon. Biol. Conserv. 144(2):738-745.

Lindsey, P.A., Romañach, S.S., Matema, S., Matema, C., Mupamhadzi, I., and Muvengwi, J. 2011. Dynamics and underlying causes of illegal bushmeat trade in Zimbabwe. Oryx 45(1):84-95.

Lindsey, P.A., Romañach, S.S., Tambling, C.J., Chartier, K., and Groom, R. 2011. Ecological and financial impacts of illegal bushmeat trade in Zimbabwe. Oryx 45(1):96-111.

Spivak, M., Mader, E., Vaughan, M., and Euliss, N.H. 2011. The plight of the bees. Environ. Sci. Technol. 45(1):34-38.



47.       Websites and E-zines
From: FAO’s NWFP Programme

Wildlife Direct
WildlifeDirect is a Kenya and US registered charitable organization founded and chaired by African conservationist Dr Richard Leakey, who is credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s.
WildlifeDirect was established in 2006 to provide support to conservationists in Africa directly on the ground via the use of blogs, which enables anybody, anywhere to play a direct and interactive role in the survival of some of the world’s most precious species




48.       In a globalized world, are invasive species a thing of the past?
Source: Time Magazine, 14 June 2011

Invasive plants and animals are viewed as the enemy of nature, outsiders that wreck the balance of the environment and muscle out beloved native species. It has increasingly become the job of biologists and wildlife officials to root out the invaders and protect nature as it was meant to be; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now spends more than US$15 million on invasive control just in national wildlife refuges. "This whole native versus non-native dichotomy has really become established," says Mark Davis, a biologist at Macalester College (Minnesota, USA). "Intended or not, that has become the dogma."
But a growing number of conservation biologists are beginning to question that conventional wisdom. In a commentary published in the journal Nature last week, Davis and 18 other ecologists called for a re-examination of the default dislike of invasive species. Their argument was simple: in a world where climate change, human population growth and globalization have fractured the environment and scattered so many species, the division between native and non-native seems more and more artificial.
Not only are attempts to eradicate invasive species often misguided, they are rarely effective. Of the 30 planned invasive plant eradications planned in the Galapagos Islands since 1996, only four have been successful. Instead of focusing on the increasingly meaningless categorization of species as native or alien, Davis and his colleagues suggest simply evaluating whether a plant or animal is good or bad for the surrounding environment.
Not every conservation biologist agrees. A prominent 1998 study argued that invasive species are the second-greatest threat to endangered species after habitat destruction, and some researchers have estimated that invasive cause more than US$100 billion worth of damage annually. "I think they downplay some of the problems and uncertainties," Jessica Gurevitch, an ecologist at State University of New York Stony Brook said, responding to the new study. "That we should just get used to it is not correct."
Nevertheless, according to Davis and his colleagues, we may need to get used to the Asian carp, the devil's claw plant and other reviled invasives. After all, human beings have spread to every corner of the planet, exhausting natural resources and displacing other plants and animals, which makes us just about the biggest invasive species on Earth.
For full story, please see:,8599,2077582,00.html



  1. Chimps’ ingenuity documented by researchers

Source: New Scientist, 24 June 2011

The apes of Bossou, Guinea, have been studied for a quarter of a century by Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Head of the Primate Research Institute in Inuyama, Japan. At a field station in Bossou, Matsuzawa and his colleagues noted remarkable similarities between humans and our primate cousins. These apes regularly make and use tools. They manipulate twigs or grass to scoop up algae and ants, use rocks as anvils, and drink water with folded leaves.
With Tatyana Humle and Yukimaru Sugiyama, Matsuzawa has documented the local chimpanzees' exceptional range of adaptations to living near people in a new book, The Chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba.
Matsuzawa recently spotted an ingenious trick. Working with Gaku Ohashi, he observed how the wild chimps in Bossou have learned to recognize and disable snare traps laid by human hunters to catch bushmeat.
There are many more similarities with humans: chimps in Bossou can live to old age and care for their grandchildren. The chimps also have well-honed stone-throwing skills, though these are far from unique to the Bossou apes.
A star of Matsuzawa's studies is a chimp called Ai ("love" in Japanese). Research with Ai has shown that apes possess remarkable photographic memory — far better than that seen in humans.
For full story, please see:




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last updated:  Monday, April 30, 2012