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WWF- Russia to release 10 bisons into the wild in North Ossetia

2. August 2018 - 2:00
WWF- Russia would be releasing ten bisons into the wild in North Ossetia during August. The restoration of bisons in North Ossetia is a part of a strategy to re-introduce the animals in the country.

The first six bisons arrived in Caucasus from the Oksky nature reserve (Ryazan region) today, after a 2000 km travel. The new arrivals include purebred two male and four female bisons. The animals were released into the quarantine enclosure in the "Turmonsky" nature sanctuary and would be joined by four more bisons, one male and three females, on August 9. Three out of the six released bisons were born and subsequently transferred to Russia from Sweden while the other three were born in the Ryazan region in Russia. The animals would be released in the wild next month.
 
According to a recent study by WWF-Russia, Turmonsky reserve is amongst the largest forest areas in North Ossetia with a potential to house 300 bisons. This will be the third release of bisons in North Ossetia. Previously, eighteen bisons were released in the region during 2010 and 2012.
 
Today's bison release is an important and significant event for the animals and for the nature of the Caucasus region - says Roman Mnatsekanov, senior project coordinator of WWF-Russia's Northern Caucasus Regional Office. Two years of work and a long journey of the animals from Sweden to Russia is behind us. Now our bisons have finally arrived in their new home where they will become the founders of a new group of purebred bisons, filling the missing piece of the ecosystem of the Caucasus region.
 
As per the latest census on bison population conducted by North Ossentian Nature reserve with support from WWF-Russia, the number of bisons in Ossetia has exceeded 80 after the restoration efforts.
 
About WWF-Russia Bison Restoration
By the end of the 1990s, the population of wild bisons in the Caucasus had almost extinct with less than 200 bisons left in entire Russia. In 1996, WWF started a program to increase the bison population in the forests of the European part of Russia. As part of the program, 60 animals were brought to Russia in between 1999 to 2002, some of which were kept nurseries to increase genetic diversity while the majority of the animals were released in the Orel-Bryansk-Kaluga region and Vladimir region to restore the specie in the European part of Russia. As a result, 7 groups of bison were created in Orel, Bryansk, Kaluga and Vladimir regions. In 2008, WWF began practical actions to conserve and restore bisons in the Caucasus. Today, more than 600 bisons inhabit the wildlife parks of European Russia.
 
 

Protected areas could help boost Brazil's national economy, study finds

2. August 2018 - 2:00
Brazil's protected areas (Pas) such as the Amazon and Caatinga are known globally for the incredible biodiversity treasures they hold. In 2016, there were approximately 17 million visitors in Brazilian protected areas and according to a new study published this week, greater investment in the environmental management of these areas could help yield even more economic gains for the country.
 
The book Quanto Vale o Verde: A Importância Econômica das Unidades de Conservação Brasileiras'(broadly translated as 'How much is green worth: the economic importance of Brazil's protected areas'), published by Conservation International (CI-Brazil) in partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ) and partially funded by WWF, shows how protected areas could help generate revenue and employment opportunities for people and Brazil's national economy.
 
The study outlines the potential contribution of protecting green areas to the national economy in terms of the benefits from the actual or potential provision of goods and services by Brazil's PAs across all regions and biomes in 2006-2016. These include forest products, public use of protected areas, carbon stocks, water production, soil protection, and tax revenues at the municipal level.
 
According to the study, timber, the primary extractive product in Brazil, generated more than R$ 1.8 billion in revenue in 2016. In the case of non-timber products, acai, increasingly being acknowledged as a 'power food' worldwide, saw its production increase by 112 per cent between 2006 and 2016, while Brazil nut production increased by 20.4 per cent during the same period. In the water, fishing brought in an estimated total of R$ 621,5 million for fishery products including fish, shrimp and crab.
 
The contribution of PAs toward avoiding carbon emissions was also calculated as part of the study. Estimates show that new PAs in Brazil helped prevent total emissions of 10.5 GtCO2e, which is equivalent to 4.6 times Brazil's gross emissions in 2016.
 
According to the leader of the WWF Forests Initiative, Marco Lentini, the study is a landmark step toward recognizing the importance of protected areas for the well-being of Brazilian and global society. "Not only from an environmental point of view - the role of these areas in retaining greenhouse gases, regulating the climate and conserving water resources is extraordinary - but also from an economic point of view, since products like wood, chestnut and tourism can become an important source of sustainable income for the populations of the Amazon. We need to see protected areas as an important component of social, economic and environmental development and fundamental for the future of the country", he said.
 
The study also shows that Brazil is currently missing out on sustainable business opportunities from its PAs due to a lack of investments in environmental management. The period 2001-2014 saw a slight upward trend in environmental spending by the Federal Government, but since 2015 there has been a dramatic reduction in funding.
 
Budget cuts have affected environmental management more significantly than the average for other sectors of the Federal Government. For example, the Ministry of the Environment's budget was virtually stuck at R$ 1.2 billion in 2005-2013 while expenditures of other federal agencies increased significantly. The budget cuts affecting environmental management agencies (ICMBio and IBAMA) now compromise key services provided by these agencies, such as monitoring deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. 
 
At the release of the book, vice president of Conservation International and Professor at UFRRJ Rodrigo Medeiros, who also led the initiative, underlined the need for awareness on the role of protected areas and how they must not be seen as a hindrance to economic and social development. "The false dilemma of the hindrance lives on due to the significant lack of systematized data and information on the real role of Protected Areas in providing goods and services that contribute either directly and/or indirectly to the economic and social development of Brazil. We intend to use insights from this study to inform this discussion."
 
To read more about WWF-Brazil and our work in the country, click here.

Multi-stakeholder platform to drive excellence in sustainable finance across Asia

8. June 2018 - 2:00
5 JUNE 2018, SINGAPORE – To shift Asia's financial flows towards sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has announced the launch of the Asia Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI). Based in Singapore, this multi-stakeholder platform will bring together industry, government, civil society and academia to develop and coordinate science based best practices in sustainable finance across Asia. The initiative is supported by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). 

This was announced by Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the ASIFMA 2018 Green Finance Conference today. In a keynote speech, Minister Masagos highlighted the role of ASFI in aligning a common vision amongst the diverse base of stakeholders, including industry, government, NGOs and academic institutions.

Building on the strengths of all parties, ASFI addresses the need for more resilient, climate smart, and resource efficient regional economies in Asia by ensuring that capital flows support environmentally sustainable economic activity. Singapore's asset managers face a unique opportunity in this regard with 78% of funds sourced from overseas and 66% invested in Asia Pacific. The region's banks too, play a pivotal part in shaping business behaviour across all sectors through their lending practices.  

WWF's Head of Asia Sustainable Finance, Jeanne Stampe says, "By creating the conditions to guide financial flows towards sustainable businesses, ASFI aims to elevate the resilience and therefore competitiveness of Singapore's economy. ASFI will cement the country's status as a leading and innovative sustainable finance centre that plays a crucial role in developing the region by creating positive economic, environment and social impacts."

ASFI will kick off with an online knowledge hub in 2018 to house the latest research, tools, and best practices on sustainable finance. Moving ahead, the collaboration will build capacity on sustainable finance across Asia; co-develop green financial solutions with financial institutions (FIs); support the development of regionally relevant standards and guidelines, and help FIs to engage meaningfully with portfolio companies on sustainability risks and opportunities.  

ASFI will build on the strides that have been made thus far in developing an ecosystem for sustainable finance in Asia. In Singapore, these include the introduction of banking sector guidelines for responsible financing, sustainability reporting listing requirements for companies, and the announcement of MAS's Green Bonds Scheme. Regionally, pension funds in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Korea are now integrating sustainability into their investment requirements, while the rise in national stewardship codes calls for more purposeful engagement with the corporate sector. 

Southeast Asia's high appetite for pet otters supplied online

7. June 2018 - 2:00
The online pet trade has emerged as a pressing threat to otters in Southeast Asia with a new TRAFFIC-IUCN Otter Specialist Group (OSG) study revealing hundreds of the animals for sale on Facebook and other websites over a four-month period. 
 
The Illegal Otter Trade in Southeast Asia, released today, revealed a high demand for juvenile live otters in the region, with over 70% of the animals offered for sale online under a year old. 
 
A monitoring effort of only one-hour per week in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand turned up a minimum of 560 advertisements in which traders offered a minimum of 734 and a maximum of 1189 otters for sale between January and April 2017. 
 
"The fact that so many otters can be so easily acquired and offered for sale to thousands at the click of a button and subjected to little or no regulation, is a serious problem," said Kanitha Krishnasamy Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
 
Indonesia accounted for most of otters for sale in this study — an average of 711 of all otters observed for sale — followed by Thailand with 204.
 
The two countries stood out again when researchers analysed the total of 13 otter seizure records in the region between August 2015 and December 2017, involving the confiscation of 59 live otters. Coupled with the online trade figures, they found Indonesia and Thailand to be the most active source and demand countries for otters in the region.
 
"The online commerce of very young otter cubs for the pet trade adds a new dimension of concern. The appeal of these cute animals is undeniable, but otter cubs are difficult to hand rear and susceptible to the same diseases as cats and dogs. We hope that this report will alert the authorities and help curtail this regrettable new development," said Nicole Duplaix, Chair of the IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group.
 
While much of the trade in Indonesia and Thailand was apparently to meet local demand, both countries were implicated in the trafficking of otters to Japan. Seizure records showed Japan as the destination for 32 live Small-clawed Otters smuggled from Thailand.
 
Problems with legislation in many of the countries studied was identified as a major contributor to the uncontrolled exploitation of otters for trade. 
 
Southeast Asia is home to four species of otters—Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra, Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana, Small-clawed Otter Aonyx cinereus and Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata. Not all are protected by national laws and even where they are, often without adequate regulation.
 
"Weak national laws hinder enforcement action and widespread trade in otters online throws the survival of remaining wild populations in Southeast Asia into question," said Krishnasamy. 
 
The Small-clawed Otter is especially vulnerable as it was the species most frequently encountered during the study. At least 700 individual animals were observed for sale during the online survey period.
 
The report urges Southeast Asian governments fully to protect all otter species from exploitation, punish online wildlife crime and work with conservation groups to pursue avenues to educate consumers and reduce the demand for otters as pets.
 
The study also recommends authorities investigate reports that otters are being captive bred for commercial trade, to determine if this is indeed permitted and is regulated. The authors said this would help address the large unknown as to what proportion of otters are being sourced from the wild.
 
The report was undertaken after a previous TRAFFIC-IUCN OSG study highlighted the paucity of information available on otter trade in Southeast Asia. 
 
As part of the study, country information cards were also produced to provide quick and easy reference on otters for frontline enforcement officers and the conservation community.
 

Mountain gorilla numbers climb upwards

5. June 2018 - 2:00
Results from a two-year survey in the transboundary Virunga Massif, one of the two remaining habitats of the mountain gorilla, show numbers of the critically endangered species are on the rise.

Released last week, the latest estimates from the Virunga Massif put mountain gorilla numbers at 604 from an estimated 480 in 2010, including 41 social groups, along with 14 solitary males in the transboundary area. This brings the global minimum count for the species to an approximate1,004 individuals when combined with comparable figures from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where the rest of the sub-species is found.
 
Conducted over 2015 and 2016 by the Protected Areas Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, the survey results are an encouraging sign for conservation efforts with the mountain gorilla being the only great ape in the world considered to be increasing in population.

Margaret Kinnaird, Wildlife Practice Leader, WWF, said:  
"This is fabulous news for mountain gorillas and shows what we can do for wildlife when NGOs, governments and their communities work together. However, the high number of snares encountered and the numerous other threats they face including climate change indicate that the battle is far from won. The three gorilla range countries and their partners must continue to work together to safeguard the Virunga Massif  - not only for the protection of these incredible creatures but also for the welfare of the local people with whom they share the landscape. The mountain gorilla story can be a model for how to restore and maintain our earth's precious biodiversity."
During the surveys, the teams found and destroyed more than 380 snares, which were set for antelope but can also kill or harm gorillas. One of the snares discovered by the teams contained a dead mountain gorilla. Other threats looming on the horizon include climate change, infrastructure development and disease, which has the potential to devastate the remaining populations.
 
The findings are the result of intensive surveying coordinated by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaborationand supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme(IGCP – a coalition programme of Fauna & Flora Internationaland WWF). IGCP works in partnership with state and non-state actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to help secure a future for mountain gorillas. Read more here

Mountain gorilla numbers surpass 1,000 despite challenges

31. May 2018 - 2:00
Rubavu, Rwanda, 31 May 2018 - Numbers of critically endangered mountain gorillas are on the up, following conservation efforts in the transboundary Virunga Massif, one of the two remaining areas where the great ape is still found.

Survey results released today reveal that numbers have increased to 604 from an estimated 480 in 2010, including 41 social groups, along with 14 solitary males in the transboundary area. This brings the global wild population of mountain gorillas to an estimated 1,004 when combined with published figures from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (where the rest of the sub-species is found) and makes it the only great ape in the world that is considered to be increasing in population.

The findings are the result of intensive surveying coordinated by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration and supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP – a coalition programme of Fauna & Flora International and WWF) along with other partners.

Despite this good news, the survey found that direct threats from wire or rope snares persist. During the surveys, the teams found and destroyed more than 380 snares, which were set for antelope but can also kill or harm gorillas. One of the snares discovered by the teams contained a dead mountain gorilla. There are also new threats looming large on the horizon, including climate change, infrastructure development and the ever-present spectre of disease, which has the potential to devastate the remaining populations.

Ongoing conflict and civil unrest in the region also present an ongoing risk, impacting people and wildlife. A number of rangers have been killed in recent weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.

Margaret Kinnaird, Wildlife Practice Leader, WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) said:  
"This is fabulous news for mountain gorillas and shows what we can do for wildlife when NGOs, governments and their communities work together. However, the high number of snares encountered and the numerous other threats they face including climate change indicate that the battle is far from won. The three gorilla range countries and their partners must continue to work together to safeguard the Virunga Massif  - not only for the protection of these incredible creatures but also for the welfare of the local people with whom they share the landscape. The mountain gorilla story can be a model for how to restore and maintain our earth's precious biodiversity."

Alison Mollon, Director of Operations for Africa at Fauna & Flora International (FFI), said: 
"Since FFI first began working to protect mountain gorillas in the 1970s, we have seen a remarkable transformation in the fortunes of this great ape, which at that time was on the very precipice of extinction. This turnaround is thanks to the extraordinary efforts of all those who have persisted through immense challenges – sometimes even risking their own lives – to protect these great apes. Today, mountain gorilla numbers are looking much healthier, but this is no time for complacency. We need to remain extremely vigilant, particularly in light of the ever-present and growing threat posed by the transmission of human-borne diseases that are relatively innocuous for us, but potentially fatal to other primates."

The census involved twelve teams - comprising people from more than 10 institutions – which covered over 2,000 km of difficult, forested terrain systematically searching the mountain gorilla habitat for signs of the animals, recording nest sites and collecting faeces samples for genetic analysis. The teams also looked for evidence of threats to gorillas and other wildlife.

Reacting to the news, Fauna & Flora International vice-president and WWF-UK ambassador, Sir David Attenborough said:
 "When I first visited the mountain gorillas in 1979, the situation was dire; the number of these remarkable animals was dreadfully small. It is incredibly heartening therefore to see how the efforts of so many different groups – communities, governments, NGOs – have paid off. The threats to mountain gorillas haven't disappeared entirely, of course, so now the challenge must be to ensure that these achievements are sustained long into the future."
The survey results underscore the need for continued attention and action by government agencies, protected area staff, tourism operators, tourists and communities alike, to ward off these threats and keep mountain gorillas safe in the long term.

- ends -

For more information please contact:
Marsden Momanyi | WWF | tel: +254 798 484 940 |email: mmomanyi@wwfint.org
Sarah Rakowski  | Fauna & Flora International |tel: 01223 747659 | email: sarah.rakowski@fauna-flora.org
 
Notes to editors:
  1. The Virunga Massif is a 451 km2 area spanning the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda  - including Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda - and is just one of just two places on earth where mountain gorillas can still be found. The other is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, contiguous with Sarambwe Nature Reserve in DRC.
  2. The previous mountain gorilla census in the Virunga Massif took place in 2010 resulting in an estimate of 480 individuals in 36 social groups and 14 solitary males. The data and samples for this more recent survey were collected between October 7 – December 6, 2015 and March 22 – May 23, 2016.
  3. The mountain gorilla is currently classified by IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM as Critically Endangered. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/39999/0  
  4. The 2015/2016 Virunga Massif mountain gorilla census was conducted by the Protected Area Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda (l'Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, the Rwanda Development Board and the Uganda Wildlife Authority) under the transboundary framework of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration. The census was supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (a coalition programme of Fauna & Flora International and WWF), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, Gorilla Doctors, and the North Carolina Zoo. The census was funded through generous contributions from Fauna & Flora International, WWF, and Partners in Conservation at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Additional financial support to the census science committee provided by Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe.
About WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) (http://www.panda.org)
 
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.  WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
 
About Fauna & Flora International (FFI) (www.fauna-flora.org
 
FFI protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and that take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide, FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world's longest established international conservation body and a registered charity.
 
About the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) (www.igcp.org)
 
IGCP is a coalition programme of Fauna & Flora International and WWF with a mission to secure the future for mountain gorillas. IGCP achieves this through working in partnership with State and non-State actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. Its Directorate is located in Kigali, Rwanda.
 

A seachange needed in fisheries to give dolphins, whales and porpoises a chance

21. May 2018 - 2:00
Dolphins, whales and porpoises (cetaceans) are fascinating animals that continue to capture the imagination of humans as evidenced by the increasing number of whale watchers taking to the seas in search of a glimpse of these majestic creatures. They are amongst the most intelligent animals on our planet and play a critical role in maintaining marine ecosystem health and therefore human health.  Yet, a dolphin, porpoise or whale is accidentally killed in fishing operations somewhere in the world about every two minutes.

Today as the world marks the International Day for Biological Diversity, a report launched by WWF in collaboration with the Convention on Migratory Species, reveals the steep challenges scientists and policy makers are grappling with as they struggle to reduce bycatch in fishing gear the world over, to guarantee the survival of cetaceans and other endangered marine life. It further highlights the need to step up public pressure for enhanced management measures by the fishing industry to protect cetaceans for generations to come.

Cetaceans have a strong influence on their associated ecosystems and their removal in large numbers is likely to have catastrophic knock-on effects on the ecosystems in which they occur. As large predators, cetaceans are ecologically significant since they store and move nutrients (carbon and nitrogen especially) and energy within and between ecosystems. Each year, over 300,000 cetaceans are entangled and drown in harmful fishing gear such as gillnets. In Peru alone, 15,000 to 20,000 dolphins and porpoises die every year as a result of being trapped in fishing gear.

According to the report, the most promising solutions are fisheries-based and include the development of alternative gear to replace current fishing methods such as gillnets and the establishment of effectively managed marine protected areas and time-area closures. However, the case studies presented in this report highlight only a few examples where successful mitigation strategies have been effectively implemented. This challenge is further compounded by the dearth of data globally on fisheries, cetacean populations and their depletion rates as well as the overall impact of fishing on individual populations.

On the positive side, countries like the US are now taking a strong stand to bring an end to cetacean bycatch. New US regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) require any country exporting fish to the US to have marine mammal protections equivalent to those in the US— particularly measures against bycatch. Because the US is one of the world's largest seafood import markets, the new rule could positively influence fishing standards in major exporting countries including Canada, Chile, China, Japan, and Mexico (see "Investigations into Cetacean Bycatch Reduction Measures of Countries Exporting Seafood to the US").

With clear and present dangers growing for cetaceans worldwide, government and industry leaders must abandon unsustainable fishing practices, in favour of bold, effective action and scaling solutions that reduce bycatch.   This will determine how each future International Day for Biological Diversity, and every other day, can change from being a steady march of the decline of dolphins, porpoises and whales, to a genuine marker of progress.

- END -

Comments:

Margaret Kinnaird, Wildlife Practice Leader, WWF:
"This report acknowledges that there are few existing methods and technologies with the potential to significantly reduce the huge numbers of cetaceans caught and killed in fishing operations the world over. ​It however lays the groundwork​ for  scaling up tested solutions and reiterates the urgency to spark technical and social innovations to dramatically reduce mortality, working alongside fishing communities. We hope this report helps to draw stronger political attention to this vital issue which has widespread implications for the planet's biological diversity. We have no time to lose."
 
Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary, CMS:
"Bycatch remains the number one threat to many species of whale, dolphin and porpoise, and the deaths of such animals are a tragedy both for conservation and welfare reasons. Governments have long recognized this, and have committed themselves to taking measures to minimize incidental mortality. We are pleased to present this publication in partnership with WWF. It shows how civil society and the Convention can work together to support policy-makers and industry in reducing the risk of cetacean bycatch and entanglements."

Notes:
 
WWF and CMS commit to assisting fishers and governments around the world in addressing bycatch by:
  • Collaborating with fishers, gear specialists, technical experts, funding bodies, and managers to foster the development, implementation and scaling of alternative sustainable gears and practices that reduces impacts on threatened species such as cetaceans..
  • Sharing lessons learnt and available information on mitigation measures with authorities and regional governance bodies to develop guidelines to reduce bycatch of endangered species through alternative fishing gear or changes in fishing practices.