Is Cambodia expanding protected areas by over a million hectares?

The expansion of 1.06 million hectares, or 2.62 million acres of protected land is in theory fantastic news. Unfortunately Cambodia has not shown that it is the best in protecting its land set aside for wildlife anyway.

A biodiverse corridor alongside land being used

Analysis suggests that much of this gained land appears to have come from nearby Biodiverse corridors, and many of these corridors are lived in and extremely degraded. As such, while it is a great move, it is just a first step. Instead Cambodia needs to be paying to move alll villages out of these corridors.

We will have to see what happens in the future. However what must be held in mind, is that changing the designation of land does nothing if action does not fallow – for an example look at Indonesia, where many parks are rapidly being transformed into palm oil plantations.

The worlds top sovereign fund is cutting ties with a dam which will likely lead to the extinction of the Tapanuli Orangutan

In most countries, if a dam was to cause so much destruction to the last habitat of a species, the dam would likely not get permission to be built.

It is true that the dam will only take about 20% of the land in question, directly. It will also split the population in half.

It is not surprising that the Norwegian sovereign fund has pulled out of this dam

Given that only around 800 Tapanuli Orangutans survive in the wild, the loss of just a handful is bad. A loss of 20% of the remaining population could quite rapidly push the population towards extinction, particularly as it will split the few remaining Orangutans into separate populations which cannot interbreed.

Norway has a huge sovereign fund, into which it pours the countries earnings from fossil fuel extraction. Perhaps recognizing that this has a shelf life which is not far from ending, Norway has made sure that for the most part its sovereign fund is good for the natural world (alongside giving good returns)

Generally rules on financing should have ruled this project out in the past, so it is good that this decision has been eventually made.

Will the dam still get built? We will have to wait and see.

Positive news from Borneo – reconnecting wilderness

One of the problems with cutting down rainforest, it often what is left is so fragmented that it is useless for conservation. Remaining blocks of forest must allow a viable population of the rarest creatures, in order for the animals not to need to travel outside protected areas.

In Borneo, like in Sumatra, there has been a rapid loss of rainforest over the last few decades. Often it is claimed that enough is left behind in order to conserve the animals that live there.

Could this provide a way for wildlife and humans to thrive in close proximity?

In Borneo, while there is still a large quantity of wilderness, this is increasingly fragmented.

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Solitary male Orangutans peek on locals

Generally great apes are animals that live in community. Indeed, one of the reasons that great apes developed such large brains is as a result of their need in social situations. Great apes (along with lesser monkeys, dolphins, bears and wolves, with a few more) require a large brain to remember things about the many individuals that they socialize with, and how each has behaved, who is nice.

By following locals, they can work out what is eaten locally that may be very different from elsewhere
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China has cleaned up its grid, so why is it also making lots of coal power stations

China is planning 100 new coal PowerStation. Given their drive to reduce carbon emissions, and the fact that China manufactures many of the worlds solar panels, this seems to be a foolish step.

China is leaping into carbon neutral power, with around 1/3 green, up from just 28.8% in 2020.

A drought last year has apparently spooked the managers, as they didnt get as much hydropower as was expected.

What is the result? Perhaps China will want all these plants online by2030 when their emissions are supposed to peak, that way the issue is pushed back, with their net zero target of 2060.

Will it happen? I suspect if the Chinese people started to complain it might happen fast. Certainly, it is foolish, as it has already been clearly demonstrated that green electricity generation is cheaper than any fossil fuel creation.

A haven for the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger – Tambling nature conservation

Above is a link to a short but fascinating video which CNN did about an ex hunter who is trying to atone for his former behaviour.

It is under 6 minutes and well worth a watch. It is not brand new, but I hope it is of interest.

This is a reserve of about 480 square km on the southern end of Sumatra

While not vast, this small reserve has the capacity to support above 10% of the current remaining Sumatran tiger population.

I hope to be able to link to this destination in the near future

New estimates suggest that up to 100 of Indian Lions now live by the seaside

The Gir forest was the last refuge of the Asiatic lion. Back in 1893 it was thought that there were only 18 animals remaining. Thankfully that number has rebounded very well (there are scientists who doubt this extremely low number) and the Indian lion population is now thought to number about 600. The problem is, that the reserve is not particularly large at 1410 square km (544 square miles). Even in the Serengeti (which has one of the highest density of lions) there is about 1 lion for every 2 square miles, yet the Gir forest has more than one per square mile. This contributes to a mortality rate that is dangerously high, with 283 lions dying in the last couple of years.

As such it is not surprising that many of the lions live outside the reserve, and is thought that around 1 in 4 live outside the reserve.

This was one of the reasons that efforts were made to move some of these lions to other reserves, but Gujarat has blocked this despite loosing various court cases.

Wild Indian lions photographed on the beach

Now, it is not easy to live alongside lions, and the state government is both endangering the long term survival of the Indian Asiatic lion, as well as many of its human population by its determination to hold onto the whole population within its borders.

3 of the 20 Cheetah translocated from South Africa to India have died in recent weeks, does this confirm doubters?

The Indian cheetah was lost from India back in 1952. Hosting Tigers, Lions, Leopards, and Snow Leopards within its borders, it was a mark of pride when the cheetah reintroduction was announced. It is certainly true that cheetah once roamed India, and as the only cat to be lost in theory I would agree that it should be returned. However, there are many other issues, not least the fate of surviving Indian wild cat species: Indian lions came close to extinction, and Tiger population fell to about 1% of historical numbers – now up to about 4%, Indian snow leopards are also only thought to number around 4-500.

Will Indian cheetahs roam in large numbers once again? I do not think so in the next few decades

In other words, there is much concern that any significant amount of conservation money, which might otherwise be used to protect the remaining Indian Lions Tigers and Snow Leopards (as well as Leopards and other smaller cats) will be redirected to reintroduce the Cheetah, and therefore one of these other species will be lost in the process.

What is of bigger concern, while these are not the 3 to have died, only 3 of the 20 cheetah have been fully released into the wild

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Will the 8th great ape- the Tapanuli orangutan – survive the first 2 decades after being described?

It is just 5 years since the Tapanuli orangutan was described. Despite this Orangutan being restricted to an area of Northern Sumatra, it is more closely related to the Bornean Orangutan than the Sumatran one. This might be the clearest indication of how long this species has been separate from its cousins.

Tapanuli Orangutan, only described in 2017 is still threatened by various projects in the area

The Tapanuli Orangutan split from its Bornean cousins around 670,000 years ago, while chimpanzee and Bonobo were split 1.5-2.2 million years ago. Baffling, the Sumatran Orangutan split from both the Borneon and Tapanuli Orangutan 3.38 million years ago. For context, Humans split from our chimpanzee ancestors 4-6 million years ago (so not much longer) and gorillas split from their chimpanzee ancestors 7-9 million years ago.

All this is to say, that while the Tapanuli Orangutan is relatively closely related to the Bornean Orangutan, it cannot interact with it as it is on another island; and the Sumatran Orangutan is too far removed to be able to interbreed.

It is thought that the Tapanuli Orangutan has faced population decline of 83% in the last few decades (three generations). Further threats are numerous. One of its biggest threats is a hydroelectric dam, which would remove much of the remaining habitat, but a gold mine, loss of habitat and an expansion of croplands are other threats.

Unfortunately little to nothing has improved in the last 6 years, they are probably closer to extinction now than ever. If you have followed this blog over the last 5 years, you will have seen that I have written on this new orangutan species a few times. We will continue to follow this animal on this blog – we must work to raise its profile and not merely chronicle its slide towards extinction.

This is a wonderful 8 minute documentary on the Tapanuli Orangutan, the 8th great ape

The Indonesian rhinos that once roamed across much of Asia

The wildlife of Indonesia now often looks like relatively unique to those islands. This is not the natural state of affairs. 60,000 years ago, a cousin of the orangutan lived on the mainland. Unfortunately, what appears clear, is that humans were responsible for the extinction of these animals as with so many more.

There are 2 species of Indonesian Rhino, the Javan rhino and the Sumatran rhino. Now it should be noted that these names are not an indication of a small range (or if it is, it is wrong) in reality, both rhino species were far more widely spread. Indeed mainland specimens lived within the 21st century.

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