Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International, No14

March, 2021

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. Please, send me the addresses of your friends and colleagues to be included in the list. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

Iberian Lynx.

The idea of being able to put a price on nature is dividing opinion, but the financial value of ‘ecosystem services’ is increasingly guiding policy. More than half of global GDP – $42tn (£32tn) – depends on high-functioning biodiversity, according to the insurance firm Swiss Re. The “natural capital” that sustains human life looks set to become a trillion-dollar asset class: the cooling effect of forests, the flood prevention characteristics of wetlands, and the food production abilities of oceans understood as services with a defined financial value. Animals, too. The services of forest elephants are worth $1.75m for each animal, the International Monetary Fund’s Ralph Chamihas estimated; more than the $40,000 a poacher might get for shooting the mammal for ivory. Whales are worth slightly more at over $2m, he also estimates, due to their “startling” carbon capture potential, and therefore deserve better protection.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF of Russia) and JSC “Onezhsky LDK” signed an agreement on the conservation of ecologically valuable forests in the Arkhangelsk region with a total area of about 600,000 hectares. Under the agreement with WWF Russia, JSC Onezhsky LDK will voluntarily preserve forests of high conservation value on the territory of its lease in the Onezhsky, Severodvinsky and Priozerny forest districts of the Arkhangelsk region. The total area of forest areas where forestry activities will be restricted is about 600,000 hectares, of which logging on more than 150,000 hectares will be completely prohibited. Among them are primeval forests, called intact forest territories by scientists, where many rare species of plants and animals live. The purpose of the signed agreement is to preserve such territories.

In Onega Pomerania. Old-growth forest. Photo by Igor Shpilenok.

Cyclone Winston devastated vital coral colonies off Fiji, but five years on, the reefs are alive again, teeming with fish and colour. In the immediate aftermath of the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the southern hemisphere, reefs across the Namena reserve and Vatu-i-Ra conservation park off Fiji were reduced to rubble. Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Fiji on 20 February 2016, causing devastation on land and underwater. Winds of up to 280km/h claimed 44 lives, leaving more than 40,000 homes damaged or destroyed, and storm surges smashed reefs in their path. Winston caused US$1.4bn in damage, the most destructive cyclone ever in the Pacific. But four years on, to the delight of scientists, the coral reefs of the Fijian archipelago are vibrantly resurgent and once again teeming with fish and colour.

Australian conservationists on Wednesday unveiled plans to build the world’s first refuge for the platypus, to promote breeding and rehabilitation as the duck-billed mammal faces extinction due to climate change. The Taronga Conservation Society Australia and the New South Wales State government said they would build the specialist facility, mostly ponds and burrows for the semiaquatic creatures, at a zoo 391 km (243 miles) from Sydney, by 2022, which could house up to 65 platypuses. “There is so much to learn about the platypus and we know so little,” Taronga CEO Cameron Kerr told reporters. “These facilities will be critical in building our knowledge so that we don’t let this iconic creature slip off the earth.”

By 2002, the Iberian lynx was extinct in its native Portugal and down to fewer than 100 animals in Spain, well on track to becoming the first cat species to go extinct since the saber-toothed tiger 12,000 years ago. But a battery of conservation measures targeting the wide range of threats to the species has seen it bounce back from the brink, with a wild population today of around 1,000. Reintroduction of captive-bred lynx has been complemented by rewilding of historical lynx ranges, along with boosting of prey species and the creation of wildlife corridors and highway tunnels to reduce deaths from road collisions. The species is one of a handful highlighted in a study showing how targeted conservation solutions can save species from going extinct, although threats still remain, including climate change.

Conservationists are elated as a rare species of Smooth-coated otter has been sighted at the Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, near Guntur, India. The sight of otters peering their head above the water, and swimming has caught the attention of forest department watchers, who say that the water tank is able to hold more species and helps in the conservation efforts. Known by its binomial name Lutrogale perspicillate, the mammal is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since the year 1996. “We are delighted to see otters in Uppalapadu and its sighting is a testimony to the conservation efforts at the sanctuary for over 30 years. Otters feed on juvenile birds, reptiles like snakes, etc., and help in preserving the balance in ecosystem,” said District Forest Officer, Guntur, M. Siva Prasad. The Uppalapadu Bird Sanctuary, located at about 20 km from Guntur, has evolved over the years and is often touted as a shining example of human coexistence with the migratory birds, is home to about 12,000 birds — mostly, spot-billed pelicans and painted storks, which have made the water tank spread over four acres their home after arriving during the nesting season beginning in September-October. There are others too, spot billed duck, darter, black headed ibis and open billed storks, all of them local migratory birds.

The Port of Tallinn has entered into a renewable energy purchase agreement with local energy group Eesti Energia and now consumes only green electricity produced in Estonia.

Under the deal, Eesti Energia will supply Port of Tallinn with 10 GWh of renewable electricity during 2021 for the port’s own use. This leaves a total of almost 7,000 tons of CO2 unreleased in the air per year. According to Ellen Kaasik, Head of the Quality and Environmental Management Department at Port of Tallinn, the port has consistently contributed to its business and development in order to reduce the negative impact of its activities on the environment.

“Energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy sources are an important step in reducing the port’s ecological footprint and achieving climate neutrality,” Kaasik noted.

“Port of Tallinn is a progressive and responsible company, which is an example for many major companies with its consistent activities. We are pleased to see that they have taken the next step towards a cleaner future,” Dajana Tiitsaar, Estonian Market Manager at Eesti Energia.

In the Ecuadoran Amazon, at least 447 flares have been burning gas for decades. Local communities say these flares are responsible for the high cancer rates in the area. In January, the Sucumbíos Provincial Court ruled in favor of the petition filed by Jurado, Leonela Moncayo and seven other girls, and ordered that the flares be shut down. But getting to this point wasn’t easy. (Read the report in Spanish here: “Apaguen los mecheros”: niñas acuden a la justicia para frenar la quema de gas en la Amazonía de Ecuador) The full story

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International. №12

Magpie River. Photo by Peter Holcombe Photography 2017.

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

River’s rights

In a first for Canadians, a river in Côte-Nord, Que., has been granted legal personhood by the local municipality of Minganie and the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit.

The Magpie River, (Muteshekau-shipu in the Innu Coet) is an internationally renowned whitewater rafting site, winding nearly 300 kilometres before emptying into the St. Lawrence. The river has one hydroelectric dam managed by Hydro-Québec, and environmental groups have long sought a permanent solution to protect the river from further disruption.

It is unclear how this will affect attempts to build developments on the river, including dams, moving forward, as legal personhood for nature doesn’t exist in Canadian law and could be challenged in court. Minganie, Innu council and several environmental groups — collectively called the Alliance — hope international precedents set in New Zealand, Ecuador and several other countries will help pressure the Quebec government to formally protect the river.

“This is a way for us to take matters into our own hands and stop waiting for the Quebec government to protect this unique river,” explained Alain Branchaud, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Quebec chapter. “After a decade of our message falling on deaf ears in government, the Magpie River is now protected as a legal person.”

In accordance with Innu customs and practices, the Alliance has granted the river nine rights: 1) the right to flow; 2) the right to respect for its cycles; 3) the right for its natural evolution to be protected and preserved; 4) the right to maintain its natural biodiversity; 5) the right to fulfil its essential functions within its ecosystem; 6) the right to maintain its integrity; 7) the right to be safe from pollution; 8) the right to regenerate and be restored; and perhaps most importantly, 9) the right to sue.

The Magpie River in in Côte-Nord. Photo by Boreal River

Energy & climate

A hydrogen-powered snowmobile is now running on slopes at the Hinterstoder ski region, Austria. Unveiled last year (2020) by BRP-Rotax to decarbonize winter tourism, the vehicle emits only water vapor and runs almost silently. After one and a half years of experimental development on the test bench and in the vehicle, the fuel cell system now boasts 120 operating hours. A complimentary hydrogen refueling system, which generates green hydrogen on-site, is supporting the zero-emission vehicle. Developed in collaboration with Fronius, the station produces green hydrogen for the vehicle right next to the slope. The electricity for the electrolysis is generated from green photovoltaic power; the plant was planned and built by ECuSol GmbH.

BP and Chevron have led a US$40 million investment round for a Canadian startup that claims to have developed a unique way to extract energy from geothermal heat on demand, using an unpowered looping fluid design that’s already prototyped in Alberta. There are lower-temperature, low-enthalpy geothermal projects out there that can generate energy from hot rock in a flexible, scalable, on-demand fashion, but according to Eavor CEO John Redfern, these haven’t taken off because they lose between 50-80 percent of the power they generate in the task of pumping the water up and down.

Plans for Europe’s largest gas plant were scrapped. Climate groups scored a victory this week as plans to build Europe’s largest gas plant were axed. Energy giant Drax was due to construct the facility in Yorkshire, but abandoned the project after campaigners argued it was incompatible with the UK’s climate targets. The firm pulled the plug despite climate groups losing a legal challenge against the UK government in January over its approval of the plant.

The positive news was tempered by a report by the thinktank Carbon Tracker. It revealed how plans to build 17 gas power plants in the UK (including the now abandoned Drax one) would undermine climate targets and push up energy bills. Carbon Tracker said clean energy could offer the same level of grid services as gas, at lower cost.

Biodiversity

Three years ago, Panji Gusti Akbar was flipping through the pages of Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago when he came across a photo of a bird with brown wings and a black stripe across its brow, appropriately named the black-browed babbler (Malacocincla perspicillata). On the map beside the bird, there was a question mark, indicating that no one knew where the species lived. In fact, this bird hadn’t been sighted for the past 172 years. Then, in October 2020, Akbar received a message from a colleague on WhatsApp with a picture of a living bird with brown wings, a gray breast and a distinctive black stripe on its brow. Two men had accidentally caught it in South Kalimantan province, in Indonesian Borneo, and had taken photos of it before releasing it unharmed.

The rediscovered black-browned babbler. Photo by Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan.

Melting ice has forced polar bears in the Russian Arctic to change their diet and switch from hunting seals to catching fish, geese and even lemmings, scientists said. “In recent years, there is a trend that bears are beginning to adapt to life on the shore. Previously, we noticed emaciated individuals in greater numbers, now more often there are well-fed animals. Their behavior suggests that they find an opportunity to adapt on the shore,” said Ilya Mordvintsev, a leading researcher at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Alexander Gruzdev, director of the Wrangel Island Nature Reserve, which is home to about 800 polar bears, said that the predators began to fish. “Two years ago, a lot of pink salmon appeared in the rivers, bears began to actively hunt for fish, although not as successfully as brown bears in Kamchatka. We haven’t seen this before. The activity of the bears was high, and they became well-fed on fish, ” the director said. According to him, the bears also began to practice uncharacteristic ground hunting. “There are attempts to hunt musk oxen, sometimes they try to chase geese. When there was a large number of lemmings, the bears dug through the entire tundra, extracting them, and so waited out the ice-free period on them, ” said the head of the reserve. Director of the National Park “Lena Pillars” (Yakutia) Arkady Semenov noted that in the region there is a similar behavior of polar bears. “With the Lemmings, this is absolutely true. Even this year, we had two bears terrorizing reindeer herders, we somehow drove them away. The bear is really adapting, ” Semenov said.

A polar bear in a field of flowering cypress on the shore of Hudson Bay. Photo by Dennis Fast.

Over the past two decades, orangutan researcher Marc Ancrenaz watched as a tidal wave of oil palm has engulfed his once-forested research sites in northern Borneo. When he would find an orangutan in a patch of forest surrounded by planted palms, he said he figured the animal would soon disappear. But as the months and years rolled on, some of those orangutans stayed where they were, Ancrenaz said. Females turned up with babies clinging to their bellies, and he would occasionally spot males swaggering on the ground between the palms. “Year after year, they were still there,” he said.

A male orangutan in Indonesian Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongobay.

A widespread field search for a rare Australian native bee not recorded for almost a century has found it’s been there all along — but is probably under increasing pressure to survive. Only six individual were ever found, with the last published record of this Australian endemic bee species, Pharohylaeus lactiferus (Colletidae: Hylaeinae), from 1923 in Queensland.

“This is concerning because it is the only Australian species in the Pharohylaeus genus and nothing was known of its biology,” Flinders University researcher James Dorey says in a new scientific paper in the journal Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

“Three populations of P. lactiferous were found by sampling bees visiting their favored plant species along much of the Australian east coast, suggesting population isolation,” says Flinders University biological sciences PhD candidate James Dorey.

Emmanuel’s NGO, Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch (CAMGEW), is training locals as beekeepers, giving them the prospect of a decent income from honey and beeswax products – and an incentive to protect the forest from bushfires. His particular forest is known as Kilum-Ijim and it rises up the slopes of Mount Oku in Cameroon’s remote Western Highlands. It’s a fragment of rare montane rainforest which once cloaked the slopes and valleys as far as the eye could see. It’s been losing ground for decades – but not anymore. Now it’s starting to recover. Which is where the bees come in. And it’s working. Fires are now a rarity – and when they do happen, he says, “people rush to the forest to put them out”. CAMGEW’s work doesn’t begin and end with bees. It’s set up tree nurseries to restore lost acres, where local schoolchildren care for the seedlings and “learn to love the forest”. It’s trained farmers in sustainable techniques, like forest gardens and alley cropping, which can provide better yields than destructive slash-and-burn methods (which all too often start bushfires). And it’s working with local women’s groups, arranging micro-credit loans to help them establish small businesses and earn their own income. Result? Over the last decade, it’s simultaneously restored the rainforest and massively improved the lives of those who live in and around it.

Lower Border of the Oku forest above the village of Elak, Cameroon. Photo by B. Gill.

Wastes

A nairobi-based 29-year-old entrepreneur and inventor — is the founder of a startup that recycles plastic waste into bricks that are stronger than concrete. Called gjenge makers ltd, her company initiated following the development of a prototype machine that turns discarded plastic into paving stones. One day at the factory means 1,500 churned plastic pavers, prized not just for the quality, but for how affordable they are. Inspiring video

Also in https://www.ecowatch.com/plastic-bricks-in-kenya-2650645441.html

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International №10

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.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

Swamps in the Komi Autonomy of the Russian Federation.

Two courts have defended the Pechorsky Nature Reserve, the Komi Republic, which was liquidated in 2016 under the pretext of losing its value. At the request of Greenpeace, the Prosecutor’s Office of the republic sued and won the case. The decision on liquidation has been canceled. The Pechora Nature Reserve was established in 1989 to preserve a swampy area of several thousand hectares. The territory has not undergone significant changes, but the authorities recognized it as having lost its value and in 2016 abolished the reserve. The elimination of protected natural areas is not provided for in federal laws, and any change in the regime must be approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation. But in this case, these norms were not taken into account. To restore the reserve, Greenpeace appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Komi Republic. The prosecutor’s office fully supported us and challenged the decision of 2016 in court. The Supreme Court of the Republic also upheld these claims. The liquidation of the reserve was declared illegal. The Komi government appealed but lost, and the Supreme Court’s decision went into effect.

The gharials of Chambal will now be found in the Kuno River inside the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. 25 gharials were released in the Kuno river. These gharials were being taken care of at Deori Gharial Breeding Centre in Morena district for the past three years. Deputy Conservator of Forests (Wild Animals) Rajnish Kumar Singh said that so far 50 gharials have been brought from the breeding center and released into the river. Now the number of these gharials has gone up to 50 in the Kuno National Park. Out of which 10 are males and 40 are female gharials. The gharials left in the river are between 120 and 150 centimeters in length. Wildlife scientists studying gharials in the Chambal River for some years found that one of the radio-tagged gharials in the Chambal River had given eggs in the Kuno National Park. Thereafter, it was decided to secure the gharial breeding site and release a large number of gharials from Deori to the Kuno River with a view to conserve the reptile. And after that, almost 50 gharials have been released so far. Out of which five gharials have been radio-tagged for the purpose of the study. (One of the main reasons for gharial extinction is degradation – pollution of habitats and depletion of fish. The gharial survival depends on wise management of water resources and the ability of rivers to provide habitats for wildlife).

The Gharial has been recognized as Critically Endangered at the global level. Photo-credit: https://wildfauna.ru/gavial

The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge, which connects San Antonio’s Phil Hardberger Park across a six-lane highway, opened Friday afternoon for people and animals alike. A project ten years in the making, the bridge is now the largest completed wildlife crossing of its kind in the U.S. “For many years, the Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge was only a dream. Thanks to overwhelming community support of the 2017 Bond, the generosity of donors from across the city and the hard work and dedication of so many, the vision is now a reality,” former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger said in a City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation press release. “I am honored to invite San Antonians to come to experience the Land Bridge and hope it will offer them an escape from the stresses of this year — a place where they may spend time with family and friends and connect with the natural world.”

Agroforestry-grown coffee gives Amazon farmers a sustainable alternative.

Located alongside the Trans-Amazonian Highway near the border with the state of Rondônia, Apuí became a municipality in 1987 through the development projects implemented under Brazil’s military dictatorship. Settlers from all over Brazil flocked to the region to claim large swaths of open territory. The first groups of migrants came from the state of Paraná and were followed by people from other states in southern Brazil. Many settlers already knew about coffee farming and brought with them their conventional monoculture farming systems: large treeless plots flooded in sunlight, with pesticides in the mix. For some 20 years, coffee production was strong in Apuí. But the inevitable degradation of the soil caused farmers to begin abandoning their plantations around 2012. “Without spending money on supplies, without constant technical support and, especially, without tropical technology or that more compatible with the Amazonian climate, the soil became worn out,” Reia says. “Our soil is acidic, so if you don’t work at it, you don’t get any coffee here.” When the experts from Idesam arrived in the region, they saw an opportunity. Patches of forest had sprung back up in the abandoned plantations, supplying organic material to the soil and shade for the fruit trees. Coffee plants, in particular, adapt well to low light. As a result, the abandoned plantations were healthier than those being farmed by traditional methods.

Farmer Ronaldo de Moraes harvesting coffee cherries. Image courtesy of Idesam.

Last week two local anti-coal fights in Turkey scored big wins. First, the Çırpılar thermal coal plant project, which would have caused wide-scale destruction on the local ecology, was denied an application to overturn a local court decision to uphold the EIA. Meanwhile, in Northern Anatolia, the local resistance in Bartın managed to stop a second EIA process of the Amasra Thermal Coal Plant project (after the first was overruled by the State Council). 350 Turkey worked closely with the local groups in both regions that made these victories possible. Drue Slatter-Fossil Free News 350@350.org

Power engineers have installed 28 autonomous hybrid electrical installations operating with the use of solar energy technologies in the peasant farms of Buryatia, Russia. This was reported by the press service of Rosseti Siberia. The 28th autonomous hybrid electric power plant (ASUE) with a capacity of 5 kW was launched in the area of the Khory tract of the Tarbagatayskoye rural settlement. In total, 28 installations of this type have been installed in the republic for the period from 2019 to the present. The company noted that thanks to this, it was possible to save more than 290 million rubles, which could be included in the tariff for consumers. The Government of Buryatia provides subsidies from the republican budget, compensating for 95% of the costs of purchasing and installing ASUE.

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/.

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.

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.