Our programmes have continued to go from strength to strength in 2019. Thanks to our generous donors and supporters, we have been able to channel more funding to some of Earth’s most overlooked and underfunded conservation challenges. Here are some of the highlights:
Empowering people to protect nature
In the Congo Basin, our partner CFLEDD (Coalition of Women Leaders for the Environment and Sustainable Development) continued to work with local women, traditional leaders and provincial authorities. In the Kasaï Oriental province, four village chiefs officially signed an agreement for 500 hectares of land to be managed exclusively by women, an incredible success for the project.
In Vietnam, the launch of a specialised ‘anti-poaching team’ and engagement with local communities by Save Vietnam’s Wildlife has kept illegal activity relatively low in the organisation’s target site within Pu Mat National Park.
In Bhutan, six new ‘Local Conservation Support Groups’ were established to monitor and protect the world’s rarest heron, the White-bellied Heron.
Our partner Living River Association has worked closely with local communities to protect flooded forest habitats. This year they have received support from the local Government for these sites to be recognised and protected as National Wetlands of Thailand.
Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones (DGPA) has contributed to strengthening the peaceful cohabitation between Batwa and Bantu communities by building a health centre between Loile and Mpaaha villages and dedicating 6 hectares of shared communal lands for sustainable agriculture.
Promoting knowledge and planning to protect species and ecosystems
The Talarak Foundation successfully hosted a species conservation planning workshop with nearly 80 participants, producing conservation plans for five endangered species in the Philippines.
The White-bellied Heron Working Group hosted a workshop to identify key survey areas for the bird in India.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the fundamental conservation dataset used to increase our knowledge of amphibian conservation needs. Keeping extinction risk assessments of over 8,000 amphibian species up-to-date is challenging, but there is an expert body – the IUCN SSC Amphibian Red List Authority (ARLA) which does exactly that. The data collected are crucial for guiding amphibian conservation and helping ensure that development projects do minimal harm to biodiversity, especially threatened species. In 2019, we greatly increased our support for ARLA. As a result, around 2,000 species have been assessed, and 11 expert workshops have been held.
Engaging with major stakeholders, institutions and corporations
The United Nations held the third round of negotiations for a new High Seas Biodiversity Treaty in August. For the first time, these negotiations included a written draft of the treaty text. The treaty is on track to be agreed in Spring 2020. Our partners have engaged by providing technical advice, advocating for strong environmental protections, and working directly with negotiators to build their capacity.
Nautilus Minerals, the company which was planning to begin deep-sea mining in Papua New Guinea, officially went bankrupt in November 2019. This has happened following years of protests against the industry from communities in Papua New Guinea, supported by our partner, Bismarck Ramu Group.
Conserving and restoring habitats
Four sites along the “buffer zones” of Philippine crocodile and fish sanctuaries have been reforested by the Mabuwaya Foundation.
A fisheries management organisation covering a vast section of the North Atlantic has closed its last fishery on a deep-sea ‘seamount’. Seamounts are underwater mountains that act as magnets for marine biodiversity and are extremely vulnerable to disruption. Our partner, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, has been campaigning for these closures for several years. This was the first regional fisheries management organisation to close all seamount fisheries – leading the way for others around the world.
Around 40 species of tree, using 1000 seedlings were planted two years ago at a four hectare site by our partner in the Tesoro Escondido Reserve, Ecuador. The seedlings continue to grow well and are now between 0.5m and 3m tall. Within ten years, this site should provide connectivity between surrounding areas of old growth forest.
Catalysing conservation collaboration
The Amphibian Survival Alliance is a long-term partner of Synchronicity Earth, and plays the leading role in fostering the development of the worldwide amphibian conservation movement. Among many activities, in 2019 the ASA financed a rescue effort to capture the world’s 14 last-known Loa Water Frogs in Chile just before their only habitat in a single stream dried up due to illegal extraction of water. The animals were taken to the National Zoo of Chile where the zoo’s specialists are successfully nursing them back to health.
In March this year we launched Shoal, a new initiative where those with a passion for freshwater species and environments can get involved in their conservation. Since launching Shoal, it has been a busy but highly successful 9 months. To read more about this initiative go to: www.shoalconservation.org
Earlier this year, 31 members of the ‘Informal Alliance Against the Expansion of Industrial Palm Oil in West and Central Africa’ gathered in Côte d’Ivoire thanks to GRAIN’s support. So far, the alliance has been successful in providing prompt support when needed and helping leaders to feel more confident in their struggles against palm oil.
2019 saw an increasing recognition of the importance and urgency of conserving the world’s freshwater habitats within the environment sector. For a long time, wetlands, rivers and lakes, and the species that call them home have been a “Cinderella story” of the natural world. However, after years of tireless work by a group of dedicated individuals and organisations, freshwater habitats and species are just beginning to get some of the attention they richly deserve and desperately need.