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Digest of Socio-Ecological Union, February 5

Dear friends and co-fighters,

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

North Atlantic whales

Biodiversity: North Atlantic Right Whales (Eubalaena glacialis) are in serious trouble, but there is hope. A total of 14 new calves of this Critically Endangered species has been spotted this winter between Florida and North Carolina. The 14th latest calf of the season was spotted Thursday off of Florida’s Amelia Island, News4JAX reported. “What a way to start the weekend – a new right whale!” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Southeast announced on Twitter.

Calf number 14th was born by a 12-year-old female named Champagne and it is her first known calf, the agency said. The news came just two days after the 13th calf of the season was spotted off of Wassaw Island, Georgia, News4JAX reported. This baby was also born to a first-time mom who was 14 years old. All of this is good news for the species, which ended 2020 on a low note. An NOAA report highlighted that there were no more than 366 of the animals left alive. Then, the first known calf of the season washed up dead off the North Carolina coast in November.

12-year-old whale named Champagne and her first-known calf. Photo credit: @GeorgiaWild, under NOAA permit #20556.

An investment group of Swedish retail giant Ikea has acquired forestland in southeast Georgia to protect the land and its diverse ecosystems from development. The Ingka Group, which owns and operates most Ikea stores, purchased 10,840 acres of land near the Altamaha River Basin, the company announced on January 14.”We truly believe responsible forest management is possible and we see that a large part of our responsibility towards the land we own — and by extension the planet — is to restore forests and plant more than we harvest,” Ingka Investments managing director Krister Mattsson told CNN. “In all our properties nature conservation is important. In this particular US investment in Georgia, first, it is important that the land cannot be broken up into small units and it remains forever forestland. “The land, acquired from non-profit conservation organization The Conservation Fund, is home to more than 350 plant and wildlife species — including the endangered longleaf pine and gopher tortoise — which are now protected.

The grey steel girders of Platform Holly rise 235ft (72m) above the waters of the Pacific Ocean, just a couple of miles off the Santa Barbara coast. Above the water, this decommissioned oil rig is dull and lifeless, but the view below the surface is very different. Beneath the waves, colorful fish, crabs, starfish, and mussels congregate on the huge steel pylons, which stretch for more than 400ft (120m) to the ocean floor. There are more than 12,000 offshore oil and gas platforms worldwide. As they drain their reservoirs of fossil fuels below the sea, they eventually become defunct when they produce too little fuel for extraction to be profitable to their operators. The big question is what to do with these enormous structures when fossil fuels stop flowing. With curbing climate change rising up the international agenda, and with some questioning whether we have already passed peak oil, hastened by the coronavirus pandemic, the number of defunct rigs in the ocean is set to get bigger. Removing them from the water is incredibly expensive and labor-intensive. Allowing them to rust and fall into disrepair is an environmental risk that could seriously damage marine ecosystems.

For some species, offshore rigs are even better nurseries than natural reefs. The towering pylons are the perfect spawning grounds for tiny fish larvae. But there is one way in which these old rigs can be remarkably useful: the subsurface rig provides the ideal skeleton for coral reefs. Teeming with fish and other wildlife offshore rigs like Platform Holly are in fact the most bountiful human-made marine habitats in the world: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210126-the-richest-human-made-marine-habitats-in-the-world

In 188 km from Arkhangelsk, Russia not far from the Golubinsly karst massif, a cultural and landscape park has been developed on the place of a bankrupt campsite. The park is maintained by two families – Klepikov and Shestakov. “For a couple of years, we thought we were doing tourism, and then we realized that we had become big. We began to be called the point of socio-cultural development. But I always had the idea to show the nature and beauty of the Russian North,”- explained Anna Klepikovskaya. The owners followed the path of American national parks, the main idea of which is the beauty of natural places. People come here not far from amenities and luxury service, but for natural attractions. Around Pinega there are karst caves, waterfalls, and other natural beauties. “At first, most people came to us from Arkhangelsk, but since the year before last, there have been more Muscovites. Our Russian territories do not have enough ambassadors in Moscow, so my husband and I stayed in the capital. Relatives live there,” – Klepikovskaya added. Especially popular in the park is the deer festival, where thousands of people sign up: https://ecologyofrussia.ru/park-sever-tayga-proekt/.

Deer. Photo by Golubino Park.

Climate

President Joe Biden signed an order directing federal agencies to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels on Wednesday, amid a bonanza of climate-focused executive orders. “Unlike previous administrations,” he said at a press briefing, “I don’t think the federal government should give handouts to Big Oil.” Climate activists have been waiting to hear those words for years. Fossil fuel subsidies, they argue, keep oil and gas companies in business and help them spew planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The problem is that not everyone agrees on what counts as a fossil fuel subsidy and what doesn’t. Subsidies aren’t blank checks from the government: They usually take the form of tax breaks, regulatory loopholes, or anything else that gives a particular industry a leg up. The estimates for the U.S. run from around $20 billion to as much as $650 billion a year, if you think fossil fuel companies should be paying the government for all the damages from their pollution. http://www.envirolink.org/2021/01/28/biden-is-canceling-fossil-fuel-subsidies-but-he-cant-end-them-all/

Climate Change Policy Simulator: C-ROADS is a free, award-winning computer simulator that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of national and regional greenhouse gas emission reductions at the global level. C-ROADS has helped the world to understand the impact of the emission reduction pledges countries proposed to the United Nations. These proposals take different forms with various reference and target years, however, using C-ROADS we can rapidly test these policies to determine whether collectively they are enough to stabilize temperature below 2°C. C-ROADS is made available for free to make insights about what it takes to address climate change more accessible. We encourage you to use C-ROADS as part of a World Climate Simulation, where a group of people plays the roles of UN climate negotiators working to create an agreement to limit global warming https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/c-roads/

ALPS: National food system modeling, to make sense of national policy priorities.

Climate Interactive developed the Agriculture and Land Policy Simulator (ALPS) allows users see to the interactions of different policy decisions on a nation’s food system. As a national-scale model, country ministries and civil society groups can think about different development pathways to see if those policies could create their desired future. ALPS frames the importance of agriculture in the ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDCs) that countries pledged for the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change (UNFCCC, COP21). As part of that global climate change agreement, countries declared their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With ALPS, countries can create an interactive tool to explore their pledges to see what it would take to achieve their goal and how different policies affect the timing of reach food production and emissions targets https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/agriculture-and-land-policy-simulator-alps/.

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

January 27, 2021

Dear friends and co-fighters,

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let’s us spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

Saiga tatarica
Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica) is a species that evaluated as Critically Endangered at the global level. Photo by Mark Pestov .

Climate & Energy

The Prince of Wales launched an ‘Earth charter’ for firms. Most people are familiar with the Magna Carta, the historic tome that laid the foundations for human rights. Now there’s the Terra Carta – or ‘Earth charter’ – which seeks to safeguard the planet by putting sustainability at the heart of the private sector. As he unveiled the initiative this week, the Prince of Wales called on firms to sign up to the Terra Carta https://www.sustainable-markets.org/terra-carta/, which offers a roadmap for businesses to become more sustainable. The charter was launched alongside a fund run by the Natural Capital Investment Alliance, which aims to direct $10bn (£7.3bn) towards safeguarding nature by 2022. “The Terra Carta offers the basis of a recovery plan that puts nature, people and planet at the heart of global value creation – one that will harness the precious, irreplaceable power of nature combined with the transformative innovation and resources of the private sector,” said the Prince of Wales: https://www.positive.news/society/positive-news-stories-from-week-2-of-2021/?utm_campaign=5%20things%20from%20the%20week&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=107799024&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_-PCzfD9eqZ7aixCO4FJeCoDrq63dOsG1ZdgOL5YEMcgzZ2wpYXbg5YX6ehgYp2MuL2VbjvGfl6fP5_UIFLTxYhNwQeQ&utm_content=107680814&utm_source=hs_email

European Union foreign ministers will promote a global phase out of fossil fuels and reaffirm commitments to finance climate adaptation measures at a meeting on Monday (25 January). “EU energy diplomacy will discourage all further investments into fossil fuel based energy infrastructure projects in third countries, unless they are fully consistent with an ambitious, clearly defined pathway towards climate neutrality,” according to draft conclusions from the meeting, seen by EURACTIV. Foreign ministers are expected to put green diplomacy at the top of their agenda, saying the EU “will seek to ensure undistorted trade and investment for EU businesses in third countries” as well as “a level playing field, and a fair access to resources and green technologies” in countries like China. Moreover, all EU trade agreements, overseas aid and foreign investment strategies will from now on also need to be aligned with the bloc’s climate ambition https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/eu-foreign-ministers-to-push-for-global-fossil-fuel-phase-out/.

Three of New York City’s largest employee pension funds representing civil servants, teachers, and school administrators are divesting from securities tied to fossil fuel companies. With a combined value of $239 billion, representing 70% of the city’s pension assets, the move is one of the largest fossil fuel divestments in the world. Under the resolution, the pensions would phase out fossil fuel investments over five years. “Fossil fuels are not only bad for our planet and our frontline communities, they are a bad investment,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. The NYC pension funds join others, including cities in California and Australia, in the divestment movement https://www.ecowatch.com/fossil-fuels-nyc-pension-2650142167.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1.

Biodiversity
Records in early January showed an increase in the number of saigas in the Bogdinsky-Baskunchak Reserve.

The year 2021 came, frosts came and snow fell. According to the historical tradition, the saiga had to go to Kazakhstan, to the Salt Mud, where it spends the winter, feeding on salt marshes. But it remained, and records in early January showed even an increase in its number from 400 to more than a thousand heads. The population has increased due to the “alien” animals and this pleases. They came to the untouched steppes, rich in food, where there is no man with a gun, and there is a special security regime. All this allowed the saiga to graze quietly in the protected expanses, to rest in the lowlands, sheltered from the icy steppe wind, without fear of an insidious shot.

Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica) in winter. Photo from the Bogdinsky-Baskunchak Reserve.

An intergovernmental organization representing countries that produce the bulk of the world’s timber has thrown its support behind a decade-long effort to protect the last remaining primary forest in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. In its November 2020 meeting, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) endorsed a proposal by the Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) for what’s been called the Baram Peace Park. The proposed park would cover 2,835 square kilometers (1,095 square miles) of northeastern Sarawak on the island of Borneo, incorporating a hodgepodge of undulating forests, past and current timber and oil palm concessions, and agricultural lands for the thousands of Indigenous people who live in the area: https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/timber-organizations-backing-one-step-toward-peace-park-in-borneo/.

The Ministry of Forestry of the Primorsky Territory, Russia has canceled tenders for the right to harvest wood on eight sites in the central Primorye, which have plantings of different categories of protection. WWF Russia warned about the negative social and environmental consequences of the transfer of these lots to the cutting in December 2020. “The cancellation of these forest competitions is the right and timely decision. The existing forest legislation, unfortunately, does not provide for the possibility of involving residents in the process of forest management, even in cases where we are talking about the forests closest to the population – green zones and other forests with high social significance. That is why the social aspect should be taken into account in advance-at the stage of planning and forming lots. The World Wildlife Fund positively assesses the decision of the new leadership of the regional Ministry of Forestry and Hunting».

The tree of Tilia mandshurica. Photo by Denis Kochetkov

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

January 19-21

Digest of SOES
An European Byson (Bison bonasus) in winter

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices. Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

A coalition of more than 50 countries has committed to protect almost a third of the planet by 2030 to halt the destruction of the natural world and slow extinctions of wildlife.

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, which includes the UK and countries from six continents, made the pledge to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land and oceans before the One Planet summit in Paris on Monday, hosted by the French president, Emmanuel Macron. Scientists have said human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, and agricultural production, mining and pollution are threatening the healthy functioning of life-sustaining ecosystems crucial to human civilisation.

In the announcement, the HAC said protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water. The commitment is likely to be the headline target of the “Paris agreement for nature” that will be negotiated at COP 15 in Kunming: https://chinadialogue.net/en/climate/cop-15-road-to-kunming/ , China later this year. The HAC said it hoped early commitments from countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan, Japan and Canada would ensure it formed the basis of the UN agreement: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/11/50-countries-commit-to-protection-of-30-of-earths-land-and-oceans.

A herd of 20 kulans Equus hemionus and 8 fallow deer settled in the Tarutino steppe in southern Ukraine to develop the future of the wild Danube Delta. Their further release into nature will increase the biodiversity of the region, reduce the risk of fires and promote the development of eco-tourism. The Tarutino Steppe, part of the Danube Delta’s rewilding region, is one of the few almost untouched steppe territories left in Europe. Like all steppes, it is characterized by large grassy plains and is home to many endangered species. If not for human intervention, it would have been inhabited by herds of wild herbivores such as kulan, saiga antelope and deer, although these species have now disappeared from the steppe, mainly due to hunting. The program of reintroduction of kulans in the Tarutino steppe is carried out by the Rewilding Ukraine team and the Askania-Nova Biosphere Reserve. To read more: https://rewildingeurope.com/news/kulan-comeback-wild-donkeys-set-to-roam-free-in-the-danube-delta-region-once-again/

The European bison (Bison bonasus), Europe’s largest land mammal, has moved from Vulnerable to Near Threatened thanks to continued conservation efforts, according to today’s update of the IUCN Red List: https://www.iucnredlist.org/ . “The European bison and twenty-five other species recoveries documented in today’s IUCN Red List update demonstrate the power of conservation,” said Dr. Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General. “Yet the growing list of Extinct species is a stark reminder that conservation efforts must urgently expand. To tackle global threats such as unsustainable fisheries, land clearing for agriculture, and invasive species, conservation needs to happen around the world and be incorporated into all sectors of the economy.” “The conservation successes in today’s Red List update provide living proof that the world can set, and meet, ambitious biodiversity targets. They further highlight the need for real, measurable commitments as we formulate and implement the post-2020 global biodiversity framework,” said Dr Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. https://www.iucn.org/news/species/202012/european-bison-recovering-31-species-declared-extinct-iucn-red-list?fbclid=IwAR0QP9GELNDd5TddpqFEpXpvGD9W82xS-4ArqKFXynzB2QkfOs_raJsMXM4

The Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Program for Aral Sea Basin (CAMP4ASB) provide  support to adaptation activities in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Providing grants to the most vulnerable communities for climate resilient measures in priority areas, including to the poorest populations residing in risk-prone areas, and marginalized groups such as women. In 2020 the Guide at affordable climate-resilient prices technologies and practices in the Russian and Kyrgyz languages was published.  In frames of the Project in rural areas of Kyrgyzstan, centers for demonstrating eco-technologies on the basis of local communities in seven regions of the republic have appeared. In various centers, you can get acquainted with such technologies as Solar water heating collector, Solar air collector, Solar dryer, Self-assembled solar furnace, Drip irrigation, Vermicomposting, Urban aquaculture, Hydroponics and others. About the project see: https://www.greenclimate.fund/project/fp014

Ecopark “Clear Field” on the border of the Tula and Moscow Regions, Russia is a story about how you can live on earth in harmony with yourself, with respect for nature and each other. Yasnoye Polye is a village of the future, where we invite guests and tourists. We are engaged in agro-tourism, grow berries, fruits, vegetables. We have a farm with goats, cows and other animals to pet. We conduct excursions to the cheese factory, master classes in cheese making, teach our guests horse riding. We also have a cultural and educational center with a theater and a creative workshop. We started building the ecopark by studying how to cultivate the land for agriculture without pesticides, herbicides, and a huge amount of mineral fertilizers. We try to take care of nature and gradually begin to put this knowledge into practice. When you find out what we eat, then growing vegetables on your site or in your farm becomes a factor in caring for yourself and your children: https://yasnopole.ru/en/.

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

January 15-17

SOES Digest
Taiga in winter. Photo by Victor Solodukhin

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth.

Climate change

The world may be barreling towards climate disaster but rapidly eliminating planet-heating emissions means global temperatures could stabilize within just a couple of decades, scientists say. For many years it was assumed that further global heating would be locked in for generations even if emissions were rapidly cut. Climate models run by scientists on future temperatures were based on a certain carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. If this remained at the current high level there would be runaway climate disaster, with temperatures continuing to rise even if emissions were reduced because of a lag time before greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. But more recent understanding of the implications of getting to net-zero emissions is giving hope that the warming could be more swiftly curtailed: http://www.envirolink.org/2021/01/10/global-heating-could-stabilize-if-countries-go-net-zero-emissions-scientists-say/.

Siberia

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin forest have been saved in Yakutia, according to Alexander Zhurakovsky, co-chairman of the public environmental movement “Protect the Nature of Yakutia”. Two logging companies, LLC “Woodland24” and LLC “Angara”, decided to voluntarily abandon the land plots in the Aldan district that were leased following the auction. The companies filed claims to the Arbitration Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for invalidation of past auctions for the right to conclude land lease agreements in the Aldan district and the application of the consequences of the invalidity of the transaction. They indicated quite a lot of reasons for termination of contracts. The companies also filed lawsuits against the Regional Ministry of Ecology, stating that “during the auction for the right to conclude a lease agreement, the defendant provided false information about the absence of encumbrance of the forest plot.” The termination of the lease agreements of Woodland24 LLC and Angara LLC was prompted by a wide public outcry.

Siberian Taiga in fall colors

In 2021, a reserve for the reproduction of wild reindeer will appear on the territory of Yakutia. This is reported by the Ministry of Ecology of the Republic. A specially protected natural area of regional significance will be created in the Bulunsky district of the republic. It will help to preserve the breeding stock of wild reindeer of the Leno-Olenek population. The total area of the reserve will be more than 64.1 thousand hectares. According to the Ministry of Ecology, it will be placed within the Chekanovsky ridge, where the main breeding stock is concentrated (about 90%). In addition, 64 species of birds live there, and 260-280 species of higher vascular plants grow there.

“Sakhalin Ecowatch ” finally won another court in the protection of nature and indigenous peoples! As a result, the huge burial ground of Rosneft’s oil waste near the village of Val in the north of Sakhalin is finally closed. The court’s decision finally came into force. It was hard work, it took five years, and there was a lot in it – representative round tables (organized jointly with the Public Chamber of the Sakhalin Region), rallies and public hearings in the village of Val, dozens of public raids and inspections, clashes with the security of the oil burial ground, another court won in 2017 and a war with bailiffs who sabotaged the execution of its decision, one court lost by us and another ongoing court case (the oil service company filed against us and www.sakhalin.info a lawsuit for the protection of business reputation) and many other things https://social.riafan.ru/1318648-putin-zayavil-o-neobkhodimosti-mosta-na-sakhalin.

Dear friends and co-fighters, 
Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. 
I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices. 
Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator
Sakhalin Island, Photo by Sergei Lyakhovets

Reforestation

Indigenous agroforestry revives profitable palm trees and the Atlantic Forest. Highly popular in Brazil because of its delicious heart, the jussara palm was eaten nearly to the brink of extinction. The Indigenous Guarani people from the the São Paulo coast are traditional consumers of jussara palm hearts, and decided to reverse the loss by planting thousands of palm trees. With more than 100,000 jussara palms planted since 2008, the community now sells hearts and seedlings to tourists and beach house owners. The next step is to start extracting the pulp from jussara berries – similar to açaí berries, the popular superfood – which the group hopes will generate enough income to keep the palm trees standing. The palms grow among native trees in an ancient and increasingly popular agricultural technique called agroforestry, which combines woody trees with shrubs, vines, and annuals, in a system that benefits wildlife, builds water tables and soil, provides food, and sequesters carbon: https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/indigenous-agroforestry-revives-profitable-palm-trees-and-the-atlantic-forest/. acai berries

New food for humans

Yellow mealworm finger foods, smoothies, biscuits, pasta and burgers could soon be mass produced across Europe after the insect became the first to be found safe for human consumption by the EU food safety agency. The delicacies may not be advisable for everyone, however. Those with prawn and dustmite allergies are likely to suffer a reaction to the Tenebrio molitor larvae, whether eaten in powder form as part of a recipe or as a crunchy snack, perhaps dipped in chocolate. The conclusion of scientists at the EU food safety agency, following an application by the French insect-for-food production company, Agronutris, is expected to lead to EU-wide approval within months of yellow mealworm as a product fit for supermarket shelves and kitchen pantries across the continent: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/13/yellow-mealworm-safe-for-humans-to-eat-says-eu-food-safety-agency.

Environmental News’ Digest, January 11, 2021

Socio-Ecological Union, International

This digest covers the various environmental problems in different countries with focus on biodiversity, forest restoration, cooperation in Arctic and waste management.

Aral Sea Restoration
Digest, January 11
The view on Aral Sea from a space.

Kazakhstan was able to increase the water surface of the Aral Sea by 40% within the framework of restoration program. As a result, the water surface increased by 870 square kilometers. This work will continue, trees will be planted on the dried-up territory. Over the past 20 years, about 270 thousand hectares of Halóxylon forest have been planted on the dried-up territory of the Aral Sea, and another 160 thousand hectares of forest will be planted in the next five years.

Activism

An unprecedented and innovative legal mechanism is making its way through Latin America in an effort to protect social leaders in the world’s deadliest region for environmental activists. The Escazú Agreement, approved in March 2018 after a six-year negotiation under the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, guarantees access to environmental information, ensures public participation in the approval process for environmental projects, and requires states to take measures to protect environmental and human rights defenders. The treaty, signed by 24 out of 33 countries in the region, needed 11 ratifications to enter into full force. With Mexico’s ratification on Nov. 5, countries can now enter the implementation phase. The agreement is the first of its kind in Latin America, and stands out both for the content of the treaty and the deep involvement of civil society groups through every phase of the process https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/for-latams-environmental-defenders-escazu-agreement-is-a-voice-and-a-shield/.

Environmentalists and journalists from Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland announced the creation of the international organization “Briz” (BRIES) to jointly monitor the state of nature in the Barents region and combat harmful industries. Members of the association noted that the Scandinavian countries have no less environmental problems than Russia. In their opinion, now the environmental institutions of the region, working separately, do not cope with the situation in European Arctic.

Biodiversity

A new study shows that global conservation action has reduced the effective extinction rate of birds by an astonishing 40%. A paper, co-authored by BirdLife’s Chief Scientist Dr. Stuart Butchart, has developed a more thorough measure of extinction rates by taking into account changes in extinction risk category on the IUCN Red List https://www.iucnredlist.org/ rather than just measuring extinction over time [see “How we worked it out” https://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/new-study-conservation-action-has-reduced-bird-extinction-rates-40]. Thanks to conservation over the last three decades, Critically Endangered species are now twice as likely to improve in status and move to a lower threat category as they are to deteriorate and become extinct. Without such conservation efforts, the opposite would be true.

Aichi Target 12 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) contains the aim to ‘prevent extinctions of known threatened species’. To measure the degree to which this was achieved, we used expert elicitation to estimate the number of bird and mammal species whose extinctions were prevented by conservation action in 1993–2020 (the lifetime of the CBD) and 2010–2020 (the timing of Aichi Target 12). We found that conservation action prevented 21–32 bird and 7–16 mammal extinctions since 1993, and 9–18 bird and two to seven mammal extinctions since 2010. Many remain highly threatened and may still become extinct. Considering that 10 bird and five mammal species did go extinct (or are strongly suspected to) since 1993, extinction rates would have been 2.9–4.2 times greater without conservation action. While policy commitments have fostered significant conservation achievements, future biodiversity action needs to be scaled up to avert additional extinctions https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/conl.12762.

Efforts to conserve the critically endangered Philippine eagle, one of the rarest raptors in the world, soared high even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the global havoc wreaked by the health crisis, the year 2020 ended on a high note for eagle conservationists, with at least two eagle families sighted in the Davao region of the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The Philippine eagle (Pithecopaga jefferyi) enjoys a special status as the national bird of the Southeast Asian nation, but faces extinction due to hunting and loss of habitat. Growing the population is difficult, as the birds are slow to reproduce. It takes them five to seven years to mature sexually, after which the female lays a single egg every two years https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/a-good-year-for-the-philippine-eagle-in-2020-but-not-for-its-supporters/.

Wastes

Plastic dishes have been banned in Belarus. The National Legal Internet Portal published Resolution No. 14 of the Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of the Republic of Belarus dated February 19, 2020 “On the list of disposable plastic tableware”, which establishes a list of disposable appliances prohibited for use and sale in cafes, canteens and cookeries. According to the document, from January 2021, tubes (straws), sticks for stirring drinks, plastic glasses, cups, plates, plastic packaging for public catering products and food products (containers, trays, boxes, lunch boxes, boxes, cans, bottles) should disappear from public catering facilities, with the exception of packaging for culinary semi-finished products and confectionery products. Plastic cutlery (spoons, forks) are not included in this list.

China has launched a plan to reduce plastic pollution. It was unveiled in January 2020, and it details steps to reduce pollution from 2020 to 2025. The first stage touched the straws. While enjoying the New Year 2021 holidays, many Chinese residents noticed that they had to say goodbye not only to 2020, but also to convenient disposable plastic dishes and appliances in supermarkets, grocery stores and cafes. First of all, it affected plastic straws, which were almost indispensable for Chinese youth who are fond of milk tea. In Beijing, supermarkets offer recyclable bags and baskets for rent as a replacement for plastic packaging.

Community Forest-based Ecotourism in Nepal

Community forest-based ecotourism

Introduction

Foreign tourism is an important source of income for the national economy of Nepal and local communities. The number of tourists arriving to Nepal significantly increased during last decade and exceeded one million in 2018. According to official statistics, tourism brings about half a billion US dollars in revenue to the country annually. The tourism sector contributes about 2.7% GDP in Nepal and this sector generate about annual 2.05 million USD. The major destinations for the ecotourism in Nepal are mountain (mountaineering), protected areas and world heritage sites (trekking), rivers (rafting) and community forests (hiking, jungle safari, bird watching and nature scenery). Therefore, the Government of Nepal has developed different policies and laws to promote community forest based eco-tourisms.

Ecotourism, which is focused on responsible travel to natural areas, contributes to environmental protection and well-being of people. Ecotourism can provide significant benefits to local rural population in Nepal ensuring flow of direct financial profits, empowerment of local communities and respect of their culture (Anup, 2017). Ecotourism offers opportunities for the sustainable development of local communities inhabiting forestland in Nepal. Despite having lots of success story of community-based eco-tourism in Nepal, the community forest groups and other local communities have been facing different challenges to operate eco-tourism activities. Among the problems are valuable forestland grabbing by the corporate profit-based tourism companies, lack of adequate support from government agencies, government control over the benefits from tourism and restrictions to travel and eco-tourism activities due to COVID-19. Though, the local communities are struggling to give continuation in the eco-tourism activities by following the health safety measures. In this article, the major policy opportunities, challenges and way forwards for the community-based eco-tourism activities in Nepal are highlighted.

Existing Policies and Programs

About 42% forestland (2.2 million ha.) of Nepal is managed by community groups. The goal of the community forestry is to enhance sustainable management of forest with collective tenure rights of forest dependent local communities. One of the major objective of community forest is to promote community-based ecotourism as development of micro-enterprise facilities at the community level. Such goal and objectives are envisioned in the forest policy and legislation of Nepal. Therefore, many community forestry groups develop and implement management plans for different types of community-based ecotourism activities at local level.

The Constitution of Nepal (2015) has given emphasis for the ecotourism and equitable sharing of the benefits from tourism activities to the local people under state policy. The local communities including community forest groups might be benefited from such constitutional policy. The Local Government Operation laws has also given specific responsibility to the local government to promote community-based eco-tourism within their jurisdiction. Based on these policy, the community forestry groups provide eco-tourism activities in their forest landscapes. Two forms of ecotourism have been presented. In-situ based ecotourism serves to those who interested in nature scenery, wildlife/birds watching, hiking, aquatic observation. Ex-situ based ecotourism focuses on management mini-zoos, wildlife rescue centre, homestay and community information centres, educating people about wildlife management and conservation issues. Community-based eco-tourism helps to generate local employment and income to forest-dependent communities including women and poor families.

The Forest Act (2019) and protected area laws provide legislative framework for operation of ecotourism activities by local groups within the area of the community forest, based on the approved forest management plans, in buffer zones or on conservation areas.

Opportunities for community-based Ecotourism in Nepal

Community forest areas serve as one of the major tourist destination for both domestic and international tourists in Nepal. According to survey conducted in 2018 within 16 community forests, more than 1.8 million tourists visited these community forests, including more than 16 thousand international tourists. Considering the importance of the community-based eco-tourism, the community forest groups implement the number of ecotourism activities in their forest landscapes providing nature watch activities, presenting cultural traditions and services at the community homestay facilities for tourists and sharing traditional knowledge and conservation education in community information centres. Such activities contribute to improvement of livelihoods and socio-economic conditions of local communities. Poor people, marginalised households and women have opportunities for income generation through involvement in micro-enterprises, agro-forestry, organic farming, employment as nature guides and through other relevant activities.

Challenges and Solutions

Since last few years, the private sector, corporate companies and foreign investors are creating pressures over the government agencies for withdrawal community forests from local communities to take over such beautiful forest landscape in order to operate corporate and destructive tourism constructing large hotels, resorts and cables for profit making. However, the community forestry groups are capable to operate ecotourism activities in their community forest by themselves. A well-organized community awareness and legal capacity building of communities about the community rights over forestland is urgent to stop the forestland grabbing for corporate tourism. An effective implementation of community land/resource rights related legal provisions is also necessary to promote community-based ecotourism

The policy instruments have incorporated enough provision to provide technical and financial support from government agencies and local government to the local communities to promote eco-tourism activities. Though, there is a lack or very limited support from the responsible state authorities for this purpose. Concerned government agencies (such as Forest Offices or local governments) hesitate to approve the eco-tourisms management plans, prepared by communities. To address this challenge, it is important to empower community forestry groups to incorporate clear provisions on eco-tourism activities in their forest management plan based on new forest laws.

The Inter-Governmental Fiscal Arrangement Act (2017) has made a provision to sharing the tourism royalties between three levels of governments (federal, provincial and local). However, there are no provisions to share the tourisms royalty with the affected local communities that is not consistent with the state policy of constitution. Therefore, local communities advocate for the equitable benefit sharing mechanism in tourism sector. An advocacy campaign may be required to create pressure on the government to establish legal mechanisms for the equitable sharing of the revenue from tourism sector to the affected local communities.

Needs and Expectations in the post-COVID period

The community-based eco-tourisms are largely based on the domestic tourists, community gatherings and education visits from different organizations, including universities and schools. Due to COVID-19 all these activities are restricted and almost all community-based ecotourism activities do not operate since spring of 2020. The income of the local communities is heavily affected due to decrease of the domestic tourists’ flow to the community forests for ecotourism. 

At the same time, the community forestry groups and other local communities can develop different documentary for virtual tourism and manage domestic tourism applying health safety measures until returning back to normal life. There is also a need in financial support or subsidies to those community forest groups who are managing wildlife-based (Ex-situ) ecotourism activities such as mini-zoos and wildlife rescue centers in community forests. 

We are looking for partners and supporters who can provide us resources to help local communities in this challenging time to create new virtual platform for community ecotourism in Nepal. Our contact details provided below:

Dil Raj Khanal, Policy Adviser of the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal) (FECOFUN), Kathmandu, Nepal; Email: dilcommon@gmail.com

“Remez” Newspaper in Kazakhstan

Newsletter Remez in Kazakhstan
“Remez” or Penduline Tit that gave the name to the Newspaper . Photo by Sergey Kulagin

Kazakhstan Ornithological Society

In March 1997, in Almaty, city of Kazakhstan, the initiative group of naturalists and bird study enthusiasts established the Kazakhstan Ornithological Society (KOS). This voluntary community organization of citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan unites professional ornithologists and amateurs – bird lovers. The Society is engaged in the study, protection and sustainable use of wild and ornamental birds, as well as in public awareness campaigns and dissemination of bird conservation ideas among the citizen communities. Passion for bird studies and protection links various people – from school-children to professors, from students and laborers to businessmen and public officials. The Society currently has dozens of members from several cities in Kazakhstan, of which three quarters are amateurs. During one of the first meetings, the members of the society decided to name it “Remez” (after a Russian name of small passerine birds inhabiting woody ecosystems in Kazakhstan). Once a year, in December, the members of the Society gather for an annual general meeting, at which the chairman of the society reports on the work done. Besides, every three years the members of the society organize the new election meeting with reports of the members of board about work carried out during last three years. Many Almaty members of the KOS meet at the “Bird Market” on weekends.

Bird Fauna in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan ornithological fauna contains over 500 bird species, inhabiting various natural landscapes and occurring in deserts, steppes, forests and mountains. Some information about bird fauna of Kazakhstan can be found on the website of BirdLife International. This website says about finding of 438 bird species in Kazakhstan. However, in the book of the well-known ornithologist Dr. Edward Gavrilov “Fauna and distribution of birds in Kazakhstan” (Almaty, 1999), 495 bird species were indicated; in his “Handbook of Birds of the Republic of Kazakhstan” (Almaty, 2000) already 512 species have been mentioned. In the “Field guide to birds of Kazakhstan” (Ryabitsev V.K., Kovshar A.F., Kovshar V.A., Berezovikov N.N., Almaty, 2014) 500 species were listed. The website “Birds of Kazakhstan” – contains the images of 520 species. It is appropriate to say that 21 new species have been found in the Republic of Kazakhstan in recent years. And the “Remez” newspapers repeatedly writes about new species, found in the Republic.

Emblem of the Kazakhstan Ornithological Society

There is no endemic bird species in Kazakhstan; however, 27 species have been listed as globally threatened by IUCN including 4 Critically Endangered, 5 Endangered and 18 Vulnerable species. Besides, 19 bird species occurring in Kazakhstan have been considered as Near-threatened at the global level.  The bird fauna of the Republic is very diverse and attracts many birdwatchers and bird amateurs to visit the country. The members of “Remez” Society gather and disseminate information about bird fauna in the republic, about interesting findings and places to visit. The emblem of the Kazakhstan Ornithological Society – Remez – was chosen not by chance. This tiny bird, a typical inhabitant of reed beds in river floodplains, is an incomparable builder. It’s amazing how, with the help of a miniature beak and paws, this small passerine weaves a cozy fist-sized nest out of plant fluff, resembling a mitten with the entrance as a thumb. Such a nest is hanging on thin branches of a willow or poplar above the water.

In spring, upon arrival, males (they arrive one – two weeks earlier than females), occupy the breeding territory and begin to build a nest. At the same time, they sing a lot, attracting females. The females join to the construction at the final stage, they are assigned the role of making an entrance pipe – corridor. Construction of nest takes about twenty days. Males do not take part in hatching the clutch, but sometimes they help in feeding the chicks. The female, laying five to seven white pea-sized eggs, incubates them for twenty days. Remez’ nests are always dry, clean and warm. On the fifteenth – twentieth day, the chicks begin to fly out of the nest, but for a long time they return to it to spend the night.

Remiz species in Kazakhstan

Three from four species from “Remiz” genus occur in Kazakhstan. These are: the Eurasian Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus), Black-headed or Macronix Penduline Tit (R. macronix) and White-crowned Penduline Tit (R. coronatus). The Black-headed Penduline Tit can be found only in Central Asia, showing resident patterns. In warm winters, the Black-headed and White-crowned penduline tits can be observed in the southern regions of the country.

“Remez” Electronic Newspaper

Since 2005, the KOS has been publishing the “Remez” electronic newspaper. In 2020, the hundred issues were released. The volume of the newspaper over the past fifteen years has increased from eight to twelve or fourteen pages, and starting from the hundredth issue it began to appear in color. The main headings of the newspaper include: “Interesting bird findings”, “Notes of a naturalist”, “The work of ornithologists”, “Curious facts from scientific publications of ornithologists”, “Kaleidoscope of interesting, unusual, amusing information”, “Anecdotes” and others. Remez has a lot of current bird information, including conferences and meetings, new books on bird watching, bird festivals, conservation activities, and more. The frequency of the newspaper’s publication changed from three to four issues per year to monthly in 2020. The editors of the newspaper are Valery Khrokov and Vladimir Dvoryanov.

The newspaper is written in Russian language. All issues of newspapers have been posted on the website of the Association for the Conservation Biodiversity in Kazakhstan (ACBK), in the “Library” section: www.acbk.kz E-mail of “Remez” Newspaper is vkh.remez@mail.ru. In addition to Kazakhstan, the newspaper is distributed in eight countries of near and far abroad: Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Germany, England, Canada, USA, New Zealand. The audience of readers consists of approximately 300 people. The Society is open for new members and readers.

Newsletter Remez in Kazakhstan
Dr. Valery Khrokov with several issues of Remez Newspaper

            It is impossible to tell about rich diversity of birds of Kazakhstan in one small essay, the introduction to birdwatching in Kazakhstan will be provided in another essay. Hope that we will have also chance to highlight some stories about bird observation and bird conservation issues in Kazakhstan on Holarctic Bridge platform.

Algonquin Park during Fall Season

Algonquin Provincial Park during fall. Algonquin Provincial Park, located in Ontario, is one of the oldest parks not only in Canada, but in North America. It was established in 1893. At present, it covers the area of 7,653 sq. km. Located on the border between northern boreal forests and southern mixed and deciduous forests, the Park provides habitats for very rich diversity of animals and plants. Its convenient location makes it an attractive magnet for residents of Ontario, highways provides quick access from both Toronto and Ottawa sides. A variety of landscapes, an endless number of deep clean lakes, fast and slow-flowing water streams, a well-developed tourist infrastructure – all this contributes to the development of recreational activities in the Park. However, recreation does not interfere with the implementation of conservation tasks for preserving the rich flora and fauna due to the rational planning and location of access zones only in certain areas of the park.

Algonquin Provincial Park represents a place that attracts thousands and thousands of people at any time of the year. Ontarians and visitors from other provinces and countries come to the park to admire the magnificent landscapes, as well as in the hope of seeing the wildlife species typical of the southern taiga zone. Their expectations are not groundless. When visitors come to the park in a suitable season, they can almost always observe moose and white-tailed deer, beavers and muskrats, martens and foxes, otters and American minks not far the forest paths. Sometimes tourists can even see the American black bear or the Algonquin wolf, although the latter are very careful and rarely spend time near tourist trails with frightening smells and noise from people. In areas where bears live, warning signs are usually installed, and visitors are instructed about behavior how to react when they unexpectedly meet these inhabitants of the park closely.

Algonquin Provincial Park during fall is a great birdwatching spot. A significant number of breeding birds occurs here, many of which are migratory. They fill the park with their songs, chirping, cackling and squeaking from early spring to late autumn. But it is also home to a significant number of resident species. Near the trails in the coniferous forest, visitors can observe a completely fearless bird – the Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis). Spruce Grouse does not pay attention to the presence of people and can allow observers coming very close – to a few steps, continuing to examine the forest floor in search of buds, fresh needles or hiding insects. Another bird, which often even accompanies visitors in the hope of profiting from appetizing offerings, is the Canada Jay (Perisoreus canadensis). In the fall, Canada jays appear in crowded places and, on occasion, do not hesitate to descend on an outstretched hand with nuts or dried cranberries. The park’s specialists have been conducting long-term monitoring of the Canada Jay’ populations inhabiting its area, therefore, almost all birds are marked with colored rings arranged in a certain sequence, which makes it possible to recognize each bird. The rare Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) nests in the park. This woodpecker inhabits the burned-out forests or forests affected by outbreaks of insect-pests. Sometimes the large Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) nests in the park. Among the migratory species there are many birds belonging to the different taxonomic groups – loons, grebes, waterfowl – ducks and Canada geese, herons and bitterns, gulls and waders and a wide variety of small passerines.

The number of tourists visiting the park is significant at any time of the year, but in autumn it is especially great. At this time, there are often days when the park administration is forced to close access zones for visitors, since the pressure on the park’s ecosystems is too big. In such days, numerous tourist cars form traffic jams on the entrances to the park and along highway 60 inside the park itself. But when you planning the visit to the park not at the very peak of the autumn season, then you can fully enjoy both the rich extent of calm autumn colors and scenes from the life of the wild park’s inhabitants. Each trail in the park has parking lots where you can leave your car, take a map with the route and follow one or more of your favorite paths.

Autumn is not only a time of colors and extraordinary sunrises; it is also a time for mushrooms to ripen. Mushrooms appear at the end of August – September along with morning fogs, rains and autumn coolness. The last year has been marked by the richest harvest of representatives of this nature realm. Bizarre shapes, colossal sizes, diverse types and miracles of adaptation undoubtedly draw attention to this living organisms. Mushrooms in the park are a great help in preparing for winter for representatives of the fauna. Fast American red squirrels have appreciated the fall harvest by storing mushrooms on tree branches and hiding them under tree trunks. It is certain that other animals do not pass by such wealth, but it is almost impossible to spy on such scenes.

All of these make Algonquin Provincial Park during fall season is the most attractive place to visit.

The “Bird of the Year 2021” in Kyrgyzstan

The Bearded Vulture’ portrait: an adult bird. Photo by Alexander Zhdanko

The Kyrgyzstan Wildlife Conservation Society looks for support to publish the new calendar of 2021 with the new selected “Bird of the Year-2021”. The Society publishes its annual calendars with bird images since 2006. Every year the members of the Society select one species of birds occurring in Kyrgyzstan as a symbol of the year. The bird selected serves also as a symbol of conservation campaign providing by KWCS members. Calendars are free of charge. They are disseminated by KWCS among schools, public organizations, NGOs and communities that to highlight the problems of birds and other wildlife conservation in Kyrgyzstan and engage society in the conservation. 

The last 2020 calendar was published with an image of the White-browed Tit-Warbler (Leptopoecile sophia), occurring in the montane juniper forests of Kyrgyzstan. The sponsor of this calendar was a Kyrgyz Express Post, issued last year the post stamp with an image of this fluffy and bright-painted passerine.

The Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) was selected as a bird of 2021. The Bearded Vulture is an amazing bird inhabiting the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The bearded vulture is a species of scavenger bird that plays a specific role in ecosystems. Birds literally feed on the bones of dead animals and their guts – bone marrow. The bearded vulture has the ability to digest bones due to the high acidity of gastric juice. This scavenger cannot completely swallow large bones, so it picks up the bones of dead animals, flies with them into the air and throws them down onto the rocks. After several such throws, the bone breaks and the bearded vulture can swallow small pieces of bones with their nutritious content. Undigested bone remains are regurgitated by bearded vulture like pellets in owls – as small bone balls. And the bone marrow allows these scavengers to receive high-calorie nutrition, ensuring their survival in the hard mountain conditions. Specialization in feeding on the bones and other remains of dead animals has determined specific biological characteristics of this species. Bearded vultures nest at the end of the winter and in early spring. In January – March, they lay one or two eggs in a nest located on the ledges of steep cliffs, usually in hard-to-reach habitats. Mostly, the female incubates eggs; she spends about two months (52-55 days) in the nest before the chicks appear. Usually only one of them survives, since it can be difficult to feed two chicks in winter. Chicks appear at the end of February – March. But in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, this is a time when the chances of finding food – the corpses and bones of dead animals – are highest.

The chick of bearded vulture is born completely naked, but quickly it overgrows with dark fluffy down, which protects it from a significant drop in day and night temperatures in the mountains. At first, caring parents do not leave the chick for a long time, warming it with their feathers and feeding it with semi-digested bone concentrate. By the end of winter – the beginning of spring, the chick is fully fledged and begins to fly out of the nest, accompanying the parents. It differs from adult birds in its very dark, almost completely black plumage. Bearded vultures glide low over the slopes of the mountains, looking out for the corpses and bones of animals killed or died in winter. They lift large bones high into the air and thrown down onto rocks to break them and gain access to internal soft content. In search of food, the bearded vultures make long flights low over the mountain slopes, precisely following montane relief.

In Kyrgyzstan, the bearded vulture is found in all large ridges of the Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai mountains. It prefers to inhabit in high-mountainous and mid-mountainous areas, often occurring in the narrow gorges with steep inaccessible wall-slopes. This is a resident bird in the mountains of Central Asia. The bearded vulture is included in the Red Book of Kyrgyzstan as a rare species. It is also included in the IUCN Red List as a Near-Threatened (NT) species. The Bearded Vulture historically occurred within the large area of mountain ranges in Eurasia and Africa. However, currently it is extinct in many past habitats. Its populations are highly fragmented and the bird is relatively rare in all remained range’ areas. There are no exact data about population numbers and current distribution of bearded vultures in Kyrgyzstan. The species is protected by law. Conservation measures should include also the protection of breeding areas and public awareness campaigns about this species among the local communities.

This autumn the Kyrgyzstan’s people fight against the new political crisis to build a more democratic state. Arising political problems masked the conservation issues. But wildlife protection is also very important for this country, where the living natural resources and biodiversity provide valuable assets to human communities. The Calendar with the Bearded Vulture as a bird of 2021 will help to the KWCS’ conservation and public awareness campaign. The Society plans to print 2000 copies, for which it is necessary to raise less than a 1000 US$. The KWCS’ members look for support from civil society and caring people. Please, help their conservation efforts with your donation. They send you a copy of our small pocket calendar and information about their conservation activities.   

Migration of Monarch Butterfly along Ontario Lake

Roosting monarch butterfly

The migration of monarch butterfly along shore of Ontario Lake. In the fall of last year, we witnessed an amazing phenomenon that occurs every year, but possibly that not every year it is so intense. This phenomenon is the migration of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) along the shores of Lake Ontario. In early September, we observed how individual butterflies and their small clusters easily rise above farm fields and flowering meadows and rush into the blue sky, driven by strange forces. Thus, the migration of monarch-butterflies starts.

In mid-September, I arrived to Toronto on business and keeping in memory of these soaring butterflies over fields and meadows, I suggested to visit the shore of Lake Ontario, where my friends observed congregations of butterflies many years ago. What if we are lucky this year with similar migration? Before that, we already knew that flying monarch butterflies gather during the autumn migration period in Point Pelee National Park in southern Ontario, where their migration clusters are monitored annually. But in Colonel Smith’s park in Toronto, where we planned to go, the monitoring of migratory butterflies is not carried out, since the clusters here are not so large and are not always observed …

On the first day – September 14th – we arrived at the park after dawn at about 8 a.m. There were quite a few monarchs on the bushes along the path leading to the lake, but all of them were kept alone or in small groups on the bushes of the goldenrod (Solidago ssp.), Canadian horseweed and asters, and on the branches of various bushes.

Butterflies just woke up, they lazily spread their wings and reluctantly flew from bush to bush when we approached them. Along the path closer to the lake there were many thickets of goldenrod and asters. Some movement was already noticeable there. The awakened monarchs scattered and settled comfortably on the flowers for morning feeding. Noticeable assemblages were nowhere to be seen. However, butterflies were everywhere, and there were surprisingly abundant. They gathered in small groups, mainly on plants of the goldenrod, where solitary butterflies and small clusters constantly moved and interacted with each other, finding out the dominance relationship. Of course, there were many butterflies scattered, compared to what happens here in the summer, but not as many as expected… We did not find monarch roosting places.

On the second day, we arrived at the park earlier – even before dawn and immediately went towards the bank, where on the eve we saw many butterflies dancing over the thickets and flowers. At first we did not notice anything – the sun had not yet risen and all the bushes and tree branches seemed equally gray. We walked slowly along the tree line, growing closely to the banks of Lake Ontario, carefully looking at the flower thickets, as well as bushes and trees. And finally – a miracle! Suddenly, the first rays fell on the still hanging branches of green maples and we saw that they were strewn with garlands of butterflies.

Butterflies merged with the surface of the foliage, they all sat with their wings closed and looked like a monotonous brownish-gray fringe, which at first we did not even distinguish from the surrounding foliage, because the butterflies were numb. First, we saw garlands of butterflies on one tree, then on another, then on a third, then more and more… Butterflies sat very tightly and it was impossible to estimate their number. But it was obvious that tens of thousands of monarchs gathered on the narrow strip of trees along Lake Ontario, and maybe more, because we stopped at a spot with a dozen trees to watch the butterflies.

It was gradually getting light. The rays of the sun peeked, then hid behind the clouds that had rushed at dawn. When a bright beam pierced through the clouds and illuminated the trees, individual butterflies spread their wings and bushes came to life from bright “lightings”. But the beam was hiding and again the monarchs closed their wings and fell into a lethargy. Nevertheless, the morning gradually came into its own, and with its light the living bulk on tree branches came to life and began to swarm.

The monarchs opened their wings, catching the energy sent by the sun’s rays, and preparing for a new day. Those that were higher in the branches were better stricken by sun and they woke up earlier. When the butterflies woke up and warmed up, they slowly took off from the bushes, circled around in a slow dance and gradually descended down into the thickets of flowering fodder plants – the goldenrod, Canadian horseweed and asters. A little more than half an hour passed and the morning magic disappeared. All the butterflies left their roosting places and literally disappeared into the surrounding thickets of grass and shrubs or, probably, flew away to south. At about 9 a.m., butterflies could only be seen fluttering over colored plant patches and feeding on flowers. There was nothing left on the trees. However, there was a memorable happiness and the urge to touch one of the secrets of the wilderness…

Well, of course, our wonderful pictures and videos of this amazing natural phenomenon of the migration of monarch butterfly remained… After a few days, the accumulations of butterflies in the park disappeared. It is likely that they flew to their wintering sites in Mexico in the Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve, located in the pine and oak forests of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt.

Whatever it is – the mass migration of monarch butterfly along shore of Ontario Lake is one of the wonders of the world, which keeps the secret of Universe that remains to be solved one day…

Butterfly on flower
Monarch butterfly feeding on the aster