|‘Weird’ police probe rules Indonesian activist died in drink-driving crash|
- Police in Indonesia have ruled the death of an outspoken environmental activist a lone drink-driving accident.
- But former colleagues of Golfrid Siregar, 34, dispute this finding, pointing to several holes in the evidence cited by police, including independent testimony from his family that he wasn’t a drinker.
- Golfrid’s death has prompted an international outcry, with groups such as Human Rights Watch calling for a thorough and transparent investigation into his death.
- Golfrid provided legal assistance for local communities ensnared in land conflicts with oil palm companies, and at the time of his death was involved in a lawsuit over alleged forgery in the permitting process for a controversial hydropower project in an orangutan habitat.
|Suspicions of murder in death of Indonesian environmental activist|
- Golfrid Siregar, an environmental activist at a local chapter of Indonesia’s largest green NGO, died this week under suspicious circumstances.
- His colleagues have questioned the police narrative of a motorcycle crash or a violent robbery, saying the evidence, including severe injuries to his head, indicate he was killed elsewhere and his body dumped to conceal the crime.
- Golfrid provided legal assistance for local communities ensnared in land conflicts with oil palm companies. At the time of his death he was involved in a lawsuit against the North Sumatra government over alleged forgery in the permitting process for a controversial hydropower project in an orangutan habitat.
- Golfrid’s death is the latest in a disturbing pattern of environmental defenders dying under suspicious circumstances in Indonesia.
|Oil palm, cattle and coca take a toll on Colombia’s indigenous Jiw|
- They illegally grow oil palm as a monoculture, contributing to water shortages for the area’s indigenous groups.
- The Jiw indigenous community also has a land dispute with several families who have settled in their territory.
- The National Land Agency of Colombia has been tasked with resolving the dispute.
|‘Pray & continue’: Death of Philippine ranger is latest in legacy of violence|
- Forest ranger Bienvinido “Toto” Veguilla Jr. was hacked to death by suspected illegal loggers on the Philippine island of Palawan on Sept. 5.
- He’s the 18th environmental defender slain in the province since 2001, and at least the 31st killed this year in the Philippines, identified in a recent report as the deadliest country for those trying to protect their land and the environment.
- Logging accounts for the third-highest number of deaths related to environmental violations in the Philippines, after mining and agriculture.
- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has called on Congress to pass legislation that would create an environmental law enforcement bureau to better protect rangers.
|In Cambodia, a rare acquittal in a climate of danger for green activists|
- Deported environmental activist Alejandro-Gonzalez Davidson, who faced charges relating to protests against sand dredging in Cambodia, was found not guilty by a Phnom Penh court on Aug. 22.
- Three Cambodian activists have already served 10 months in prison over charges stemming from the same protests, and still face large fines.
- Activists working in Cambodia face grave dangers from both authorities and illegal mining and logging interests.
|On Peru’s border, the Tikuna tribe takes on illegal coca growers|
- Members of the Tikuna indigenous people in Peru’s border region with Colombia and Brazil have chosen to guard their forests against the rapid expansion of illegal coca crops, the plant from which cocaine is derived.
- Equipped with GPS-enabled cellphones and satellite maps, they confront loggers and drug traffickers who have threatened them with death.
- The community wants the government to do more to help them, including assisting in their transition to growing food crops from which they can make a legitimate living.
|Peru: Invaders claim their first victim at the Macuya Forest Investigation Center|
- On June 13, forest defender Julio Crisanto López was wounded by two gunshots as he was leaving the Macuya Forest, and died several days later.
- Since 2017, deforestation in the protected area has destroyed more than 500 hectares of forest according to satellite images.
- Though protected and dedicated to biological research, land traffickers have invaded portions of it, cutting trees and preparing the way for farmers to begin raising crops or cattle.
|Forests and forest communities critical to climate change solutions|
- A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the importance of land use in addressing climate change.
- The restoration and protection of forests could be a critical component in strategies to mitigate climate change, say experts, but governments must halt deforestation and forest degradation to make way for farms and ranches.
- The IPCC report also acknowledges the role that indigenous communities could play.
- The forests under indigenous management often have lower deforestation and emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
|Peru: Madre de Dios land defenders face trouble whether they report crimes or not|
- In the buffer zone of Tambopata National Reserve in Peru’s Madre de Dios region, men and women have resisted the threats of mining and illegal logging for 12 years.
- Operation Mercury 2019, launched to eradicate illegal gold mining, also increased harassment of these environmental defenders. For this report, Mongabay Latam recorded their stories.
- No matter what land defenders do, they still lose: if they report illegal activities on their concessions they are threatened by those who are caught; and when they don’t alert anyone out of fear, the authorities sometimes fine them for not reporting the transgressions.
|Arson attack in Indonesia leaves activist shaken|
- Murdani, the head of a local chapter of Indonesia’s largest environmental NGO, was the victim of an arson attack on his home over the weekend. No one was hurt, but his property was badly damaged.
- Murdani believes he was being watched in the months leading up the attack. He had received threatening text messages linked to his advocacy work.
- Murdani thinks his advocacy against sand mining on his native island of Lombok might be the reason he was targeted.
|For embattled environmental defenders, a reprieve of sorts in 2018|
Berta Cáceres, a high-profile environmental activist in Honduras, was assassinated in 2016. While seven men were convicted for her murder less than a month ago, her death is a reminder of the dire conditions that front-line environmental defenders still face around the world. Throughout 2018, environmental defenders in the tropics continued to endure harassment and […]
|7 convicted of killing Honduran indigenous activist Berta Cáceres|
- A Honduran court has convicted seven men of the murder of indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres in 2016.
- Until her death on March 2, 2016, Cáceres had been leading a fierce campaign against the Agua Zarca dam, a project of the Honduran company DESA, in western Honduras. The hydropower project threatened to displace thousands of people from the Lenca indigenous community.
- Nine people have been arrested in connection with Cáceres’s murder to date. Seven men were found guilty in the latest verdict and one defendant was acquitted.
- David Castillo Mejía, the executive president of DESA who was charged with being the mastermind of the murder in March this year, will face a separate trial.
|Five wildlife conservationists held by Iran could face the death penalty|
- Four conservationists arrested for suspected espionage in Iran in January face charges of “sowing corruption on Earth.”
- The charges stem from the team’s use of camera traps to track the Asiatic cheetah, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guard contends that the accused were collecting information on the country’s missile program.
- If convicted, the conservationists could be sentenced to death.
|Peru cracks down after environmental defenders’ murders|
- Peruvian police have arrested 12 members of a gang believed to be involved in the murder of four environmental defenders in the Chaparrí ecological reserve.
- The community-run reserve has in recent years been the target of a sustained campaign of land grabs, deforestation and arson.
- The land grabbers appear to be counting on a planned reservoir in the area to boost the value of the land for agricultural use.
- The Peruvian Congress has established a committee to look into the problems there, as threats and attacks against the community persist.
|Murder of activist in India highlights growing risk to environmental defenders|
- Ajit Maneshwar Naik, a 57-year-old environmental activist who fought against the construction of new dams on the Kali River in the state of Karnataka in India, was killed last month.
- India has one of the highest rates of murders of environmental activists in the world, with 16 activists killed in 2016, up from six in 2015, according to a recent report.
- The city of Dandeli, where Naik worked, is especially notorious for crimes against environmental activists.
|Number of murdered environmental activists rose once again in 2017|
- According to a new report by London-based NGO Global Witness, 207 activists were killed in 2017, the highest total number since the group started tracking violence against “land and environmental defenders” around the world. Previous reports documented 185 murdered activists in 2015 and 200 in 2016.
- Latin America is still the most dangerous place on Earth to protest the destruction of the environment and violations of land rights, with 60 percent of the killings in 2017 occurring there. In particular, Mexico saw a large increase in murders last year, from three to 15. And Brazil alone was the site of 57 murdered activists — the most deaths Global Witness has ever recorded over the course of one year in a single country.
- But Latin America is hardly alone: every region of Earth saw a growing number of attacks against activists in 2017.
|Indonesia to investigate death of journalist being held for defaming palm oil company|
- Muhammad Yusuf, a journalist in Indonesia, reportedly died of a heart attack earlier this month while being held on charges of defaming a palm oil company owned by a powerful tycoon.
- Activists and fellow journalists question the circumstances surrounding Yusuf’s arrest and death, and suspect the company used the defamation charges to silence Yusuf.
- Indonesia’s national commission on human rights has vowed to investigate Yusuf’s death, which his widow has deemed unnatural.
|Madagascar: Yet another anti-trafficking activist convicted|
- Christopher Magnenjika, an activist working to stem corruption and wildlife trafficking in northeastern Madagascar, was tried, convicted, fined $9 and released earlier this month.
- The charges against Magnenjika include “rebellion” and insulting local officials.
- Magnenjika’s supporters say his arrest and conviction were a pretext for keeping him quiet about the illicit trade in rosewood, a valuable tropical hardwood.
- Magnenjika is one of at least ten Malagasy activists who have faced imprisonment in recent years.
|Madagascar court upholds sentence for environmental activist|
- In September 2017 a farmer named Raleva questioned a mining company about its permits during a meeting in his village in southeastern Madagascar. He was promptly arrested on charges of impersonating a local official.
- In October, he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison, but immediately released on parole — a common tactic in Madagascar that appears to be aimed at silencing opposition.
- On May 22, an appeals court announced its decision to uphold the conviction.
- Advocacy groups are now trying to put together a legal team that can take the case to Madagascar’s Supreme Court.
|Vietnam’s first Goldman Prize winner pushes for energy conservation|
- Vietnam’s first winner of the prestigious annual Goldman Environmental prize, Khanh Nguy Thi, was announced in April 2018.
- Known as an environmental pioneer in Vietnam, Khanh has led her NGO in combating coal use.
- Khanh’s Hanoi-based NGO, known as Green Innovation and Development Centre (or GreenID), has pushed its way to the forefront of policy discussions surrounding clean energy development in Vietnam.
|Nephew of Maya land and rights activist beaten to death in Guatemala|
- Héctor Manuel Choc Cuz, an 18-year old Maya Q’eqchi’, was beaten to death late last month.
- Family members suspect the attack may have been an attempt on the life of the victim’s cousin, José Ich, a key witness in two cases dealing with his father’s 2009 murder, allegedly by private security guards of the Fenix nickel mine in El Estor, Guatemala.
- Ich’s mother, Angélica Choc, is a prominent human rights and environmental activist who has fought for years against the Fenix mine.
|For the Caiçaras, environmental laws in Brazil at odds with tradition|
- The origin of the Caiçaras trace back to the early mixture of indigenous tribes, European settlers and African slaves in Brazil.
- For the last 300 years the Caiçaras subsisted on fishing and farming in one of the best conserved stretches of Atlantic Forest.
- Confined between the Atlantic Ocean and the Serra do Mar mountain range, Caiçaras lived in relative isolation until the 1970s, when the creation of the BR-101 road opened the doors to mass tourism.
- In just the last few decades, real estate speculation and the enforcement of strict environmental laws have threatened the Caiçara’s traditional way of life.
|Indigenous environmental activist killed in Myanmar|
- Indigenous and environmental activist Saw O Moo was reportedly killed in Myanmar’s Karen State on April 5.
- According to the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), Saw O Moo, who worked with KESAN as a “local community partner,” was killed by soldiers with the Myanmar military while returning home from a community meeting to help organize humanitarian aid for villagers displaced by renewed hostilities between the military and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), an armed ethnic group.
- Saw O Moo was one of the most active local community leaders pushing for the creation of the Salween Peace Park, a proposed 5,400-square-kilometer protected area to be led by indigenous peoples. “We will never forget his dedication in the ongoing struggle to build peace and protect ancestral lands,” KESAN said in a statement.
|Six staff killed in deadliest attack at Congo’s Virunga National Park|
- Suspected members of an armed militia ambushed and killed five park rangers and a driver in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on April 9, park authorities said
- The attack, the deadliest in the park’s history, brings to 175 the toll of Virunga rangers who have been killed while guarding the park to date.
- Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to rare mountain gorillas, but continues to be plagued by the long-running armed conflict wracking the eastern DRC.
|Calls for change in handling abuse allegations at top conservation group|
- Information provided to Mongabay shows a history of employees at CI who feel twice victimized — first by what they describe as “bullying and harassment,” and a second time by consequences if they report up.
- Although CI advertises myriad policies about workplace ethics and protections, many say they are still afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.
- Staff also say that they are crippled by uncertainty about privacy rights and fear possibly destroying their careers or being branded a “troublemaker.” Despite that, staff have found ways to tell management time and again that not enough is being done to protect people in their organization.
|Indigenous Amazonian women demand end to extraction|
- After long journeys by foot and bus, the women gathered in Ecuador’s capitol Quito to protest last week and call for a meeting with Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno.
- After several days of protest, Moreno agreed to a meeting with the group today.
- Amazonian leaders say they plan to discuss their mandate, particularly the sexual exploitation and harassment they face due to extractive activities in the Amazon and the loss of economic opportunity.
|Ecuador: Sarayaku leader Patricia Gualinga defends territory despite threats|
- Gualinga was cornered and threatened by an intruder at her home in Puyo, in the Ecuadorean Amazon, after the man broke one of her windows with a stone.
- Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal to Ecuador’s Ministry of Internal Affairs about the threat in a plea for Gualinga’s protection.
- The investigation is still underway, with no word on any suspects or leads.
|Two dozen Latin American countries sign agreement to protect environmental defenders|
- The Principle 10 treaty deals mainly with the defense of environmentalists, promoting transparency in public access to environmental information, and shoring up environmental democracy and justice.
- The principles were approved on March 4 in the so-called Escazú Agreement in Costa Rica, by 24 countries from around Latin America and the Caribbean. It must now be ratified by the member countries.
- Environmental activists have hailed it as a massive step forward in the protection of environmental defenders, in a region where such advocates face the greatest threats to their lives.
|Indigenous women march in Ecuador, vow to ‘defend our territory’|
- Long-experienced at organized activism, women from communities represented at the march are leaders in the struggle for indigenous territorial autonomy.
- Indigenous Ecuadorian women are victimized more than any other group in the country: 67.8 percent have reportedly suffered some kind of gender-related violence.
- The women will remain in Puyo through the week, where they are meeting with government leaders to discuss issues related to their communities.
- Chief among their concerns being addressed: the destructive forces of mining, logging, and other exploitative industries in their territory.
|Colombian land defenders: ‘They’re killing us one by one’|
- Their fears are well-founded: Colombia is the second-most deadly place in the world for environmental leaders and land defenders.
- Rural resident leaders in the community of Carmen del Darien say that now their lives are under imminent threat because of their work to defend local land from palm oil and cattle ranching.
- In this intimate look into the lives and struggles of environmental activists and community members in Carmen del Darien, Mongabay reports from ground zero in the global grassroots battle to fend off the reach of powerful agribusiness interests.
|Honduras arrests alleged mastermind of Berta Cáceres’s murder|
- On March 2 Honduran authorities arrested a hydroelectric company executive they say orchestrated the murder of indigenous activist Berta Cáceres two years ago.
- David Castillo Mejía is executive president of Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA), the company building the Agua Zarca dam in western Honduras to which Cáceres had led a formidable opposition.
- Eight others arrested so far in the murder case include a DESA manager and several former members of the military. Among them are the four accused gunmen.
|Conservationist, imprisoned for ‘spying’ with wildlife camera traps, dies in Iranian prison|
- Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor of sociology and a director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison earlier this month.
- Iranian authorities say Seyed Emami committed suicide, an assertion his family doubts.
- Seyed Emami’s arrest and suspicious death appear to be part of a wider crack down on environmentalists in Iran. Authorities arrested at least six other conservationists around the same time.
|Environmental defenders increasingly targeted, data shows|
- Around the world, 197 people were killed in 2017 for defending or protecting land.
- A partnership between The Guardian and international NGO Global Witness has been tracking and compiling data on the deaths of land defenders since 2002.
- Land defenders are often private individuals and activists protecting nature reserves, natural wealth, and stand up against those who harm the environment.
|Scorched earth: Colombia’s ‘refugee farmers’ returning to land|
- Many of those returning are victims of a horrific, days-long massacre amid fighting between the Colombian military and FARC in 2000.
- Residents of Montes de Maria now face new threats of deforestation and the impacts of climate change, which has caused wide-scale desertification across the mountainous region.
- The region is part of Colombia’s dry forests, an important eco-system which acts as a buffer zone from floods and a nesting ground for many species.
|Vietnamese activist gets 14-year sentence for documenting chemical spill|
- On Tuesday, a Vietnamese court sentenced Hoang Duc Binh to 14 years in prison for activism related to a chemical spill that resulted in a massive fish kill in 2016.
- The sentence appears to be the harshest so far in a series of punitive measures the Vietnamese government has taken against citizens protesting or writing about the spill.
- At the same trial another activist, Nguyen Nam Phong, was sentenced to two years in prison.
|Robbery or retribution? Police investigate death of prominent conservationist in Kenya|
- Esmond Bradley Martin, a 76-year-old American, was found stabbed to death in the home he shared with his wife in a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday.
- Martin had been working in Africa and around the world since the 1970s to stop the slaughter of rhinos and elephants for their horns and tusks.
- Colleagues credit Martin with increasing the conservation community’s understanding of the trade of wildlife parts through his often-undercover investigations.
|Safe spaces: Tackling sexual harassment in science|
- Through this 3-month long investigation, Mongabay examined a variety of common situations in sciences where people are victimized by uneven power dynamics and abuses of authority in the sciences across the Americas.
- Most of those who spoke to Mongabay for this story asked to remain anonymous for fear of serious repercussions for their career.
- Though those interviewed were based throughout the Americas, Mongabay has received other tips from around the world describing a wide variety of abuses of power.
|More murders: Conservationists allegedly killed by soldiers in Cambodia|
- Three people have been shot and killed by soldiers in northeastern Cambodia, apparently in retaliation for seizing equipment from illegal loggers.
- A police report names three individuals as responsible for the killings: a border police officer and two border military officers.
- Illegal logging and timber smuggling is commonplace between Cambodia and Vietnam, and officials from both countries are often complicit.
- Around 200 land activists were murdered worldwide in 2016, up from 185 in 2015.
|Mega developments set to transform a tranquil Cambodian bay|
- Sim Him has organized the planting of more than 200,000 mangrove trees in Cambodia’s Trapeang Sangke estuary. The surrounding ecosystem, which feeds thousands of families, is thriving.
- But the nearby construction of a ferry terminal and a luxury resort are upsetting the estuary’s equilibrium, and development projects continue west along the coastline from there.
- Dotted along a 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) coastal strip, no less than six large-scale developments present a direct threat to healthy mangrove forests and the fishing communities they support.
- Aside from being a nursery for sealife and a barrier to erosion, mangroves are also one of the planet’s most effective carbon neutralizers, capable of capturing and storing it for millennia.
|Top Argentine glacier scientist charged over cyanide mine spill|
- Argentina has filed indictments against Ricardo Villalba, former Director of the Argentinean Institute of Snow, Ice, and Environmental Research (IANIGLA), and three former Environment Secretaries (Omar Judis, Sergio Lorusso, and Juan José Mussi), for their roles in overseeing the National Glacier Inventory (NGI).
- Villalba, a renowned glacial researcher, is charged with negligence and failure to properly inventory the nation’s glaciers, allegedly resulting in a toxic cyanide spill at the Valadero gold mine, contaminating the Jáchal River in Argentina’s San Juan province. The accusation was made by Asamblea Jáchal No Se Toca, an NGO.
- Barrick Gold, a Canadian mining company, operates the Veladero open-pit gold mine, while China’s Shandong Gold Mining Company is part owner. The Veladero mine has had three serious spills since 2015, with the most recent in March 2017.
- Villalba helped draft Argentina’s law creating “mining no go zones” in Argentina’s glacial areas. Fellow scientists have come to the researcher’s defense, saying he is being used as “a scapegoat,” with the mining companies failing to take responsibility for their spills. A federal court is expected to rule this week on the charges.
|Mining concessions in Ecuador stalled over compliance with indigenous rights|
- The announcement is especially meaningful for indigenous groups that are directly impacted by extractive projects.
- By law, indigenous groups have the right to free and prior consultation before extractive projects take place near their land.
- Over 3,000 indigenous peoples from across the country marched to the presidential palace in Quito to demand action.
|Citizen journalist jailed 7 years for reporting environmental disaster in Vietnam|
- Nguyen Van Hoa is the second high-profile case in Vietnam in recent months of an independent reporter and blogger being jailed.
- Both bloggers were jailed over reporting and writing about the infamous Formosa chemical spill along Vietnam’s coast in 2016.
- The spill is regarded as one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters.
|Madagascar environmental activist convicted, sentenced — and paroled|
- At a community meeting on September 27, a farmer named Raleva asked to see the permits of a gold mining company trying to restart work in his village in southeast Madagascar.
- He was arrested and held in prison for about one month. On October 26, a judge sentenced him to two years in prison, and then promptly released him on parole.
- This follows a recent pattern in the country in which activists are often given suspended sentences, seemingly as a way of keeping them quiet.
|Another Madagascar environmental activist imprisoned|
- Malagasy authorities have held Raleva, a 61-year-old farmer, in custody since September 27 after he asked to see a mining company’s permits to operate near his village.
- His arrest is at least the sixth such case of authorities targeting those opposed to wildlife trafficking or land grabs.
- Environmental activists say they face bribes and threats from traffickers on one side, and jail time and fines from the government on the other.
|Indigenous group scores legal victory as dam floods their lands|
- A brief legal battle related to the Barro Blanco hydroelectric project in western Panama concluded late last month in a rare triumph for indigenous communities who have opposed the dam’s construction for a decade.
- The dam’s construction company had accused three Ngäbe-Bugle leaders of instigating project delays and causing financial losses during protests at Barro Blanco’s entrance in July 2015. On September 20, a judge acquitted all three defendants of any wrongdoing.
- Nevertheless, the dam is now fully operational and its reservoir has flooded the land of three Ngäbe-Bugle communities.
- Leadership of the Ngäbe-Bugle is deeply divided between members who support the dam and those who oppose it, claiming that they had not been adequately consulted prior to the dam’s approval.
|Yasuni indigenous peoples’ fight for survival depicted in new documentary|
- The film “Yasuni Man” is a finalist for Best Conservation Film at the Jackson Hole Film Festival. The festival is considered to be the “Oscars of nature filmmaking” and received over 1,000 entries for 25 awards.
- “Yasuni Man” tells the gripping story of a tribe in the Ecuadoran Amazon that lives in harmony with nature yet is constantly under threat from different intruders to the rainforest.
- Filmmaker and film festival finalist Ryan Patrick Killackey talks to Mongabay about motivation, inspiration, and saving the planet’s biodiverse places.
|Leading ivory trade investigator slain in Tanzania|
- One of Africa’s top ivory trade investigators has been shot dead by gunmen in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
- Wayne Lotter was the co-founder and President of PAMS Foundation, which set up and supported the elite unit behind more than 2,000 arrests since November 2014.
- He was killed late on Wednesday, while traveling in a taxi from the airport to his rented flat in the quiet suburb of Masaki.
|2016 was even deadlier for environmental and indigenous activists than 2015|
- According to a new report released today by Global Witness, at least 200 people were killed in 24 countries last year in retaliation for standing up to environmentally destructive industrial projects. That’s up from 185 murders in 16 countries in 2015.
- With at least 33 murders linked to the sector, mining appears to be the most deadly industry to oppose. But killings connected to logging companies are on the rise, with 23 in 2016, compared to 15 the year before. Another 23 deaths were associated with agribusiness projects, 18 with poachers, and seven with hydroelectric dam projects.
- More than half of all killings of environmental activist last year occurred in Latin America. Brazil was once again the deadliest country in the world to be an activist, with 49 murders, many of them committed by loggers and landowners in the Amazon.
|Amid life and death risks, Brazil’s land defenders stand firm|
- They comprise a diverse range of people, from indigenous groups to fishing communities descended from rubber tappers.
- In 2015, more land defenders were killed in Brazil than any other country put together, according to watchdog organization Global Witness.
- Among land defenders, indigenous activists are the most-targeted for their work and activism.