Illustrations by Hokyoung Kim
Most of the coffee stories I tell here are short reports on our efforts to regenerate a onetime coffee farm. Plenty of others we link to are about challenges facing coffee farmers and efforts to improve their lot . I cannot find a story like the one below that we have featured previously, where coffee farming is effectively undermining conservation. Reading this new longform work by Wyatt Williams will not make anyone happy, but that must be the point. The illustrations by Hokyoung Kim are a perfect accompaniment:
It seemed like an easy crime to stop: protected Indonesian rainforest, cut for coffee farms. But a globalized economy can undermine even the best-laid plans.
In the fall of 2015, Matt Leggett, a newly hired senior adviser for the Wildlife Conservation Society, found himself sitting in a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, wondering if someone had missed the point. The meeting, as he remembers it, was meant to unveil some good news about tigers. In brief: Back in 2002, a survey of one of the last habitats of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, showed a tiger population that, in biologist-speak, amounted to only 1.6 tigers per 100 square kilometers. Continue reading
A peregrine falcon flying over Leipzig, Germany. Peregrines survive and reproduce more easily in cities than in rural areas. SEBASTIAN WILLNOW / PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES
We have frequently considered urban greening in reference to social justice and to agricultural innovation. Thanks to Janet Marinelli for this consideration of a more fundamental possibility:
Cities have long been considered species deserts, devoid of wildlife beyond pigeons and squirrels. But with animals such as snowy owls, otters and bobcats now appearing in urban areas, scientists are recognizing that cities can play a significant role in fostering biodiversity.
Last year, as billions of people around the globe were in coronavirus lockdown, students of Queens College ecologist Bobby Habig discovered a bobcat roaming around the Bronx River in New York City, better known for its recent past as an open sewer and repository for automobile tires and rusted chassis than as a habitat for elusive wildcats. In January, a snowy owl, native to Canada’s Arctic tundra, touched down in Central Park for the first time in 130 years and spent more than a month supplementing its usual diet of boreal lemmings with choice urban fare such as mice and rats. For weeks a coyote was spotted in the Ramble, a 37-acre “wilderness” of rocky crags and hilly forest in the heart of Central Park. Continue reading
A view from inside Nyungwe National Park
When I came into the master of environmental management program at Yale FES, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) wasn’t really on my radar as a big international conservation NGO — other names like the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, or Flora and Fauna International came to mind first. As I started to learn about the biodiversity hotspot of East Africa’s Albertine Rift, however, WCS programs and technical reports started to come up more and more, and the professional experience shared by my professors Amy and Bill in their class (Building a Conservation Toolkit: From Project Design to Evaluation) led to many discussions about their work with WCS.
As part of the Rwanda Study Tour, we met with WCS employees in Kigali and two towns neighboring Nyungwe National Park called Gisakura and Kitabi. These Rwandans, some of whom had been with the NGO for over fifteen years, told us about the conservation efforts carried out by WCS in the region, much of which revolves around capacity building, scientific monitoring, and community education and engagement. For example, since the nineties WCS has been recording phenological data from native trees and vegetation in Nyungwe, which can be a valuable reference for seasonal variations in plants affected by climate change. WCS has also trained park rangers on different data collection methods that have improved monitoring systems in the park to document cases of poaching efforts such as wire snares, which are still a major threat to the small forest antelopes that live in Nyungwe.
A Xikrin woman walks back to her village from the Cateté River in Brazil. Photograph: Taylor Weidman/Getty Images
Thanks to Lisa Cox, the Guardian’s Australia correspondent for environment, for this:
First map of Earth’s intact ecosystems shows just five nations are responsible for most of them – but it will require global action to protect them
Map of the world’s remaining wilderness. Green represents land wilderness, while blue represents ocean wilderness. Photograph: Nature
Just five countries hold 70% of the world’s remaining untouched wilderness areas and urgent international action is needed to protect them, according to new research.
Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have for the first time produced a global map that sets out which countries are responsible for nature that is devoid of heavy industrial activity.
It comes ahead of the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Egypt in November where signatory nations are working towards a plan for the protection of biodiversity beyond 2020.
Conservationists are calling for a mandated target for wilderness conservation that will preserve the planet’s vulnerable ecosystems. Continue reading
We recommend this interview in the Atlantic, with the author of the book above, a veteran conservationist reckoning with his career studying animals in the most extreme places on Earth:
In the winter of 2011, Joel Berger and his colleague Marci Johnson happened upon a ghostly Arctic death scene. Body parts and tufts of brown fur poked out of a frozen lagoon. This was all the biologists could find of a herd of 55 musk oxen they had been following.
The cause of mass mortality, they later determined, was an ice tsunami, the result of an unusual storm that slammed seawater and ice into the lagoon where the unfortunate musk oxen stood. Berger is a conservationist who works in some of the most hostile environments in the world, and he studies the enigmatic species, like musk oxen, that live there. His new book, Extreme Conservation, chronicles his career in Alaska, Siberia, Namibia, Tibet, Mongolia, and Bhutan. He is now a biologist at Colorado State University and a senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Continue reading
Keara valley Credit Omar Torrico/Wildlife Conservation Society
Whether or not the title is a rhetorical question does not matter; what does matter is our thanks to James Gorman, a science writer at large for The New York Times for this story about the work of Rob Wallace and colleagues at the Wildlife Conservation Society:
Bringing the numbers to life for the jewel in Bolivia’s conservation crown.
Royal flycatcher Credit Rob Wallace/Wildlife Conservation Society
The credit to Mr. Wallace and colleagues for these photos alone would be worthy of a post, but the creation of such a park in Bolivia is no small wonder:
Madidi National Park in Bolivia goes from lowland to mountaintop, from 600 feet to almost 20,000 feet above sea level. It covers more than 7,000 square miles of wildly different habitats. It is, says Rob Wallace, an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bolivia, “a place where the Amazon meets the Andes.”
Rob Wallace/Wildlife Conservation Society
“Madidi was put together on the hypothesis that it could be the world’s most biologically diverse protected area,” Dr. Wallace said. And, he said, it is — for mammals, birds, plants and butterflies. Continue reading
The Burmese star tortoise was declared functionally extinct in the early 2000s, but conservation efforts have helped the species make a comeback. Credit Eleanor Briggs
Thanks to Steph Yin for news out of Burma, of all places:
The Burmese star tortoise was almost history.
By the early 2000s, the natives of central Myanmar’s deserts had dwindled to such low counts in the wild that ecologists declared them functionally extinct. Continue reading
Yesterday’s post got us looking through the MacArthur Foundation’s website, and lots of worthy material there to investigate, including this news we missed a couple months back. In some ways the findings are intuitive, and maybe seem not surprising; but the scientific evidence of the challenges facing biodiversity on the planet are certainly useful for policy planning, not to mention strengthening our resolved commitment to entrepreneurial conservation:
Countries that contain most of the world’s species biodiversity are also spending the least on a per-person basis to protect these natural assets, according to a MacArthur-supported study by theWildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland. Countries near or in the tropics, where most of the world’s diversity is located, spent the least on biodiversity conservation. The report recommends engaging leadership of these countries and promoting conservation through existing social traits within cultures that do not currently prioritize conservation. Continue reading
Glad to see chefs in South America leading this innovative form of entrepreneurial conservation, and crossing country borders to do so: