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Climate action shines bright as record number of countries and territories join Earth Hour's tenth anniversary

26. March 2017 - 1:00
SINGAPORE, 26 March 2017 - An unprecedented 187 countries and territories came together for WWF's Earth Hour on Saturday 25 March to take a stand for climate action. More than 3,000 landmarks switched off their lights and millions of individuals, businesses and organizations across seven continents stepped forward to change climate change. Online, #EarthHour and related terms generated over 1.1 billion impressions in 24 hours, trending in at least 30 countries worldwide.
 
This year's event marked the tenth anniversary of the Earth Hour movement, which started as a one-city event in Sydney in 2007, and comes at a time when the need for climate action is greater than ever. 2016 was the hottest year on record and ambitious action is needed by governments, companies and people, their biggest stakeholders, to meet the targets set in the landmark Paris Agreement that entered into force in November last year.
 
"Once again, the people have spoken through Earth Hour," said Sid Das, Executive Director, Earth Hour Global. "Whether you are in the Philippines, Peru or Portugal, climate change matters and the record participation in this year's Earth Hour is a powerful reminder that people, who are on the frontline of climate change, want to be a part of climate action."
 
Across the globe, Earth Hour is inspiring and mobilizing people to be a part of the climate action our planet urgently needs at a personal, community and national level.
 
In India, as the presidential residence Rashtrapati Bhavan and New Delhi's India Gate switched off their lights, thousands were encouraged to make the switch to renewable energy and LED lighting.
 
In Poland and Bulgaria, people have been uniting to raise their voice against laws and policies that threaten biodiversity and the ecosystems that provide clean air, water, food and stable climate, underpinning our wellbeing as well as that of the planet.  
 
"From the shrinking of Arctic ice to coral reef bleaching, there are clear indicators that we are pushing our planet to the edge - and it is together as a global community that we can turn it around. The grassroots must mobilize and join governments and companies toward stronger climate action - the time to act is now," added Das.
 
In his video statement for Earth Hour, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated the need for people to work together to build a sustainable, climate-resilient future.
 
This includes enhancing climate education among the young, such as in Bhutan and Guyana, where students are learning about climate and environmental issues in climate science centres and conservation lab sessions set up by WWF.
 
To mark the tenth anniversary of the movement, people also took to their social media timelines to express their solidarity with climate action, as skylines around the world participated in the global lights out event. From donating five posts on their Facebook page to changing their profile picture, thousands switched on their social power to raise their voice for a cause they believe in.

"Each light turned off or profile picture changed represents an individual who has made the switch from being a passive bystander to someone eager to be a part of the solution and that has been the energy that has made Earth Hour the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment today," said Das.
 
As the hour rolls to a close in the Pacific Ocean's Cook Islands, WWF and Earth Hour teams around the world will continue to empower individuals, communities, businesses and governments to be a part of climate action. Strengthened by the support shown this weekend, teams will renew the charge to tackle issues such as sustainable lifestyles in Singapore, India, Hong Kong and Indonesia, a transition toward renewables in South Africa, Hungary and Myanmar, and promoting stronger climate ambition and action in the UK, Spain and at the EU level.
 
Earth Hour 2017 by numbers (based on initial estimates on 26 March 2017, 8:30 a.m. GMT):
  • record participation by 187 countries and territories shining a light on climate action and issues such as renewable energy, sustainable lifestyles, protecting biodiversity and stronger climate policy. Seven countries have specifically focused their campaign on changing climate policy.
  • lights out at over 3,000 iconic landmarks including the Sydney Opera House (Sydney), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (London), the Tokyo Tower (Tokyo), the Empire State Building (New York), Singapore Flyer (Singapore), the Pyramids of Egypt (Cairo), Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Abu Dhabi), Monumento a la Independencia (Mexico City) and the Eiffel Tower (Paris);
  • over 3.5 billion impressions of official campaign hashtags between January and March 2017 with one-third of the impressions being generated between 25 and 26 March alone;
  • over 300 celebrities and influencers worldwide also raised their voice for climate action including WWF Global Ambassadors Jared Leto and Andy Murray as well as Li Bingbing, Ellie Goulding, Claudia Bahamon, Amitabh Bachchan and Forest Whitaker.
Since 2007, WWF's Earth Hour has mobilized businesses, organizations, governments and hundreds of millions of individuals in over 7,000 cities to act for a sustainable future.
 
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Notes to Editors:
Images from Earth Hour events around the world can be found here and video footages are available here.
 
You can also find previous Earth Hour videos on the links indicated below:http://hive.panda.org/Share/xvl8v858j4yr7u805f5lbvkaf8e002v3

To know more about WWF's work on climate policy and action, please visit http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/climate_carbon_energy/
 
For more information, please contact:
Rucha Naware, WWF International: rnaware@wwfint.org; +32465751339
Julien Anseau, WWF International: janseau@wwfint.org; +6590601957

WWF's One Planet City Challenge will recognize cities scaling new heights on climate action

15. March 2017 - 1:00
Gland, Switzerland – WWF is inviting cities around the globe to join the One Planet City Challenge and show the world how sustainable cities can be a hub for creativity, ambition and innovation in climate action.
 
Cities generate 70 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. WWF's One Planet City Challenge is a biennial competition that recognizes and rewards cities for developing infrastructure, housing, transport and mobility solutions to power the global transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.
 
"Cities can be the blueprint and inspiration for a sustainable world," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. "Progressive climate policy by local governments can radically reduce the impact of transport, housing and other high-emitting sectors and deliver greener, healthier and more livable cities and homes for people."
 
The One Planet City Challenge was designed by WWF to mobilize action and support from cities in global climate efforts, including the goals now set forth by the Paris Agreement. Open for participation to cities in 25 countries this year, the competition invites interested cities to register at carbonn® Climate Registry (cCR), the leading global climate reporting platform for local and subnational governments managed by ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability.
 
"Active reporting is an important way for local governments to prove they are major players in global climate efforts," says Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI. "Since the carbonn® Climate Registry was launched, we have seen over 700 cities, towns, states and regions from across the world reporting more than 6,100 mitigation and adaptation commitments."

Entrants will be evaluated by an international jury of experts, on areas ranging from urban planning and transport, to consumer behavior and energy systems. The most ambitious cities will be recognized as national winners, and, from among these, one city will be crowned the global winner of the One Planet City Challenge. WWF will profile the winning cities' achievements in a global digital campaign designed to strengthen public support for city-led climate action. 

2017 marks the fifth anniversary of the competition, formerly known as the Earth Hour City Challenge, which has engaged over 320 cities across five continents since its inception. Submissions will be evaluated on the below criteria outlined by WWF. There will also be a special focus on:
  • Level of ambition and ability to deliver on commitments and transformational change;
  • Ability to integrate actions into coherent and overarching climate action plans;
  • Determination to align with a transparent, science-based GHG emission reduction trajectory;
  • Innovative approaches to addressing urban mobility. 

One Planet City Challenge finalists will be announced during the spring of 2018. Visit www.panda.org/opcc for further details on the challenge and how to participate.
 
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Notes to Editors:
 
Cities in the following countries are eligible to participate in this year's One Planet City Challenge:
Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, USA, Vietnam, Zambia
 
For more information, please contact:
Barbara Evaeus, Global Communications Manager One Planet City Challenge, WWF
Tel: +46 70 393 9030, Email: barbara.evaeus@wwf.se
 
Carina Borgström-Hansson, PhD, Lead, One Planet Cities, WWF
Tel: +46 708 855 185, Email: Carina.Borgstrom-Hansson@wwf.se

Three arrested for trafficking 159 ivory tusks

14. March 2017 - 1:00
The tusks were stocked in a metallic seal and concealed in the back booth of a car. Said to have been transited from the town of Djoum in the South Region of Cameroon, the suspects disclosed they were taking the tusks to the north of the country. The tusks could have been probably smuggled out of the country into neighbouring Nigeria. They have been kept under seal in the regional service of Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife until judicial procedures are completed.

This seizure comes at a time Cameroon and other countries in the Congo Basin are struggling to save the elephants whose numbers have fallen by 62 per cent between 2002 and 2011. Meanwhile, Wildlife inventories conducted in 2015 showed a decline of up to 75 percent of elephant population in Boumba-Bek and Nki national parks in Cameroon, while Minkebe National Park in neighboring Gabon lost 80 per cent of its elephant between 2002 and 2014.

"This latest seizure is testimony of the existential threats elephants are facing today," says Lamine Sebogo, WWF head of African Elephant Program. "At least 80 elephants have been killed. This is a big loss for biodiversity, the national economy, the communities and the entire humanity. It is time to take measures to upscale funding to save the few remaining forest elephants of the Congo Basin," Lamine says.
WWF commends the government of Cameroon for this effort and looks forward to seeing effective prosecution and appropriate sanctions meted out on the traffickers.

According to Cameroon wildlife law, any person found, at any time or any place, in possession of part of a protected animal, including elephant tusks, shall be considered to have killed the animal. The maximum penalties for the killing of a protected animal like an elephant are three years' imprisonment and/or ten million francs CFA.  Last year more than 100 people were prosecuted for poaching related offences. In spite of this effort, ivory trafficking remains alarmingly high in the Congo Basin with Cameroon being used as the main transit route for smuggling of tusks out of the region.   

Celebrating a decade of Earth Hour for a future of climate action

10. March 2017 - 1:00
SINGAPORE/GLAND - Ten years after the world's first Earth Hour in Sydney put climate change in the spotlight, WWF's landmark movement is set to once again unite millions of people around the globe to shine a light on climate action. As the planet continues to witness climate records being broken and the need for greater ambition and commitment accelerates, the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment is mobilizing individuals, communities and organizations globally to do their part to help change climate change.
 
Starting in 2007 as a single-city event, Earth Hour is now celebrated across all continents. In the past decade, as global climate efforts gained momentum, Earth Hour has helped bridge the gap between the grassroots and the corridors of power, taking climate action from conference rooms to living rooms. It has empowered millions to support and participate in critical climate and conservation projects led by WWF and many others, helping drive climate policy, awareness and action.
 
From the shores of Argentina where Earth Hour helped mobilize public support for the creation of a 3.4 million hectare-wide marine protected area, to the heart of Uganda where local communities and businesses helped create the first Earth Hour forest, the movement's impact has been a game-changer for popularizing climate action.
 
"We started Earth Hour in 2007 to show leaders that climate change was an issue people cared about. For that symbolic moment to turn into the global movement it is today, is really humbling and speaks volumes about the powerful role of people in issues that affect their lives," said Siddarth Das, Executive Director, Earth Hour Global. "Every flick of a switch or click on Facebook timelines is a reminder that people see themselves as an integral part of climate action and it is this kind of collective determination we need to tackle the most pressing environmental challenge our planet has ever faced."
 
In 2017, WWF and Earth Hour teams around the world will be using the movement to shine a light on the climate issue most relevant in their country or region. In Europe, as the European Union negotiates on crucial climate and energy policy for the period leading up to 2030, WWF will use the Donate Your Feed platform to mobilize public support- and their Facebook posts – to call for a clean, renewable energy future for all. In Brazil, people will be invited to join forces to protect one of the country's many biodiversity hotspots from climate change while citizens in South Africa will raise their voice for renewable energy and in China, WWF is working with businesses to encourage a shift toward sustainable lifestyles.
 
"Depending on where you may be, climate change has different faces or impacts but the reality remains the same: the time to change climate change is now," added Das. "Our actions today will define tomorrow - WWF's Earth Hour shows us that together we can create the sustainable future we desire, and our children deserve."
 
Earth Hour 2017 will take place on Saturday 25 March at 8:30 p.m. local time.

As skylines darken, people will also be invited to take a stand for climate action on their Facebook timelines through the Donate Your Feed platform. Supporters can share their commitment to the planet by donating five Facebook posts on their timeline to Earth Hour on www.earthhour.org/climateaction.
 
Log on to www.earthhour.org to know more and read additional stories and individuals using the Earth Hour movement to shine a light on climate action. This is our time to change climate change.
 
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Notes to Editors:
Link to Earth Hour's 10 years of impact video: https://youtu.be/CZp4LX4AYnM
Link to Earth Hour's 10-year journey animation video: ehour.me/EH-Animation
Link to Earth Hour's 'The Future Starts Today' video: http://ehour.me/FutureStartsToday2017
Link to photos of previous Earth Hour events and impacts: http://hive.panda.org/Share/ui0736175nh2qk8pu051p45k75n2365m
To know more about WWF's work on climate policy and action, please visit http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/climate_carbon_energy/
 
For more information, please contact:
Rucha Naware, WWF International: rnaware@wwfint.org; +32465751339

Back-to-back mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef confirmed, as WWF releases dramatic new video

10. March 2017 - 1:00
Gland/Sydney, 10 March 2017 – The Australian Government's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed today that one of the world's greatest natural icons is experiencing back-to-back mass bleaching for the first time.

This came as WWF released a dramatic new video showing the Great Barrier Reef suffering mass bleaching for an unprecedented second year in a row.

The Great Barrier Reef has now been hit by four mass bleaching events: 1998, 2002, 2016, and 2017.

Last year's event was the worst on record, killing an estimated 22 per cent of all coral, with damage most severe in the remote far north.

This time, well known tourism locations, further to the south, from Port Douglas down to Townsville are being impacted. The situation is still evolving but coral mortality could potentially be even higher than last year.
John Tanzer, Oceans Practice Leader, WWF International said, "What is unfolding before our very eyes is the starkest evidence that climate change is already wreaking havoc on the ocean." 

"Coral reefs are a beloved natural wonder but less appreciated is that they also directly support the jobs, livelihoods and food supplies of many millions of people.  What will happen to these people as large areas of coral die?"

"Mass coral mortality is fast becoming a humanitarian and economic concern, and will soon be elevated to a crisis if reefs die alongside densely-populated coastlines and islands. This issue is moving onto the core agenda for many leaders around the world, particularly those whose people's lives depend on healthy reefs."

"The solutions are clear: we need a major lift in action to bring down carbon emissions and scaled-up effort to reduce the local pressures on reefs so they have maximum chance of withstanding the onslaught of climate change."

WWF-Australia Head of Oceans, Richard Leck, said, "Scientists warned that without sufficient emissions reductions we could expect annual mass bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef by 2050."
"Consecutive bleaching events have arrived 30 years early," said Mr Leck.
 
Mr Leck said the unprecedented bleaching must serve to drive more urgent efforts to tackle climate change in Australia and globally.

"We must address the climate crisis– fuelled by the burning of fossil fuels - that is driving coral bleaching."
The video and still pictures released by WWF were shot by Emmy award winning cinematographer Richard Fitzpatrick from Biopixel.

They were filmed on Monday 6 March and feature Vlasoff Cay off Cairns where Mr Fitzpatrick filmed many sequences for David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef series.

"Vlasoff Cay used to have the best coral diversity in the area. Now with the water sitting at 32 degrees all the way to the bottom, the corals are dying. Many are already dead and covered in algae," Mr Fitzpatrick said.
"The Reef is facing an imminent danger of mortality at a level that far exceeds last year over a greater geographical distance.

"Our fossil-fuelled politicians are polluters of time which we don't have when it comes to the Reef," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

View the video and the stills here.

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Notes to Editors:
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority press release is available here.
WWF video and images for media use are available here.
 
For more information, please contact:
Julien Anseau | WWF | janseau@wwfint.org | +65 9060 1957
 
About WWF
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. Visit www.panda.org/news for latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media.
 
 

World's first-ever best-practice guide for responsible shark and ray tourism released

3. March 2017 - 1:00
Hong Kong – This World Wildlife Day, March 3, Project AWARE®, WWF and The Manta Trust are pleased to release Responsible Shark and Ray Tourism: A Guide to Best Practice, the world's first-ever guidelines for shark and ray tourism operators. The Guide aims to provide practical, science-based guidance to help tourism operators, NGOs and local communities develop and maintain well managed tourism operations that help conserve shark and ray species, raise awareness for their protection, and benefit local communities.

Unsustainable exploitation of sharks and rays – mainly driven by overfishing – is widespread with one in four shark and ray species now threatened with an increased risk of extinction. Yet across the globe, shark and ray tourism is increasing in popularity. Currently, around 400 well-established tourism operations focus on interacting with species of sharks and rays, and it's estimated that this number could more than double over the next twenty years, generating over 780 million USD in expenditures around the world.

Dr Andy Cornish, WWF says, "Shark and ray focused ecotourism has great potential as a conservation strategy. If properly designed and managed, it can provide alternative direct and indirect economic benefits to local communities and economies. Yet sadly there's limited practical guidance out there."

Industry, researchers, authorities and the non-profit community largely agree that best-practice guidance is urgently needed to ensure that tourism sites are established and operated in a manner that benefits sharks and rays, and local communities, while also inspiring awe, respect and a greater appreciation of the need to conserve these animals.

Isabel Ender, Manta Trust, adds, "Lack of best practice guidance can often leave operators confused about how to assess the impact and improve the sustainability of their operation. We sought advice from scientists and the industry to help bridge that gap and deliver a best practice guide – the first of its kind in the world."

To support operators seeking to commit to best practice, a full suite of free, downloadable tools is available on all of the organizations' websites.

"We're excited to launch the guidance on this United Nations, World Wildlife Day," adds Ania Budziak, Project AWARE. "Operators now have access to the latest science based guidance and practical, hands on tools like performance scorecards and checklists. We're looking forward to helping local communities lead the transformation to responsible shark and ray focused tourism around the world."     
 
ENDS  
             

Note to Editors: For further information or to download any of the tools visit Project AWARE, WWF and The Manta Trust websites. The Guide can be found here: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/sharks/responsible_tourism/

If you would like to arrange an interview or need images please contact:

Dr. Andy Cornish, WWF Shark and Ray Initiative Leader, WWF-Hong Kong, phone: +852 9644 7002
acornish@wwfint.org  
 
Parker Robinson, Communications Support, WWF-Hong Kong, phone: +852 9409 1616
park.robinson@gmail.com

WWF celebrates the greatest successes of the last year on World Wildlife Day

3. March 2017 - 1:00
Today marks the third anniversary of World Wildlife Day, a day dedicated to celebrate the precious animals and plant life that share our planet.  WWF is taking this opportunity to reflect on the five greatest successes for wildlife over the last year.
Five of the greatest success stories for wildlife (March 2016-2017):
  • Wild tiger numbers increase for the first time in conservation history
  • Pandas are no longer classified as 'endangered'
  • All trade in the world's most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, is now illegal
  • Saving World Heritage sites – home to iconic species including elephants, rhinos dolphins and marine turtles
  • China, home to the world's largest legal ivory trade market announces closure by end of 2017
Last year it was revealed that there could be a 67 per cent decline* by 2020 in global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and that there already had been a 58 per cent decline between 1970 and 2012. WWF and ZSL's Living Planet Report 2016, shows that humans are pushing species populations to the edge as people overpower the planet for the first time in Earth's history.

Margaret Kinnaird, WWF's Wildlife Practice leader, comments:
 "We are at a pivotal point for many of the most fragile species, threatened by human activity including the ongoing poaching crisis, impacts of climate change and habitat destruction.  However, despite these grave threats, the past year has welcomed wildlife successes that will go down in conservation history. There's still a long road ahead and small but significant victories hang on a knife edge. It is vital that the progress made over the past twelve months develops further and this momentum is shared worldwide. We want to see greater achievements still for World Wildlife Day 2018."

Success stories 2016-2017:

Wild tiger numbers increase for the first time in conservation history
In April, the number of wild tigers was revised to 3,890 making conservation history as the first recorded time that global numbers of wild tigers have increased. The updated minimum figure, compiled from IUCN data and the latest national tiger surveys, indicates a greater number of individuals than the 2010 estimate of 'as few as 3,200' due to concerted efforts from governments, communities and NGO's.
 
Pandas are no longer classified as 'endangered'
In September, the IUCN announced that the giant panda would be downgraded from endangered to vulnerable as a result of a recent 17 per cent increase in population numbers. This positive step highlighted how a holistic approach integrating government and local communities can help save our planet's vanishing biodiversity. The progression of panda populations from endangered to vulnerable not only strengthens the long term survival of China's giant pandas but also signifies greater protection of their unique habitat.

All trade in the world's most trafficked mammal, the pangolin, is now illegal
During the world's largest illegal wildlife trade meeting (CITES CoP17) last September, countries untied to strengthen protection for the world's most trafficked mammal, the pangolin. All legal trade of pangolins has now ended thanks to an international agreement to further protect the critically endangered species from extinction.
 
Saving World Heritage sites
Half of natural world heritage sites are at risk from industrial activity including mining, dredging and oil and gas drilling. These treasured sites are also home to many threatened iconic species.

In October, Belize's barrier reef home to dolphins and marine turtles, received a reprieve from seismic surveying after officials agreed to suspend the seismic portion of offshore oil exploration. Following WWF's public campaign, in December the Spanish government cancelled plans to dredge Doñana National Park. The site harbours over 4,000 types of plants and animals, including threatened birds and the world's rarest feline species, the Iberian lynx.

WWF is still campaigning for zero elephant poaching in Selous Game Reserve, one of Africa's largest wilderness areas. In less than 40 years, it's lost about 90 per cent of its elephants.  WWF is calling for the public to join the campaign to achieve zero poaching of elephants in Selous by 2018 and stop industrial scale activities.

China, home to the world's largest legal ivory trade market announces closure by end of 2017
In December, China made history by announcing its ban in domestic trade in ivory, committing to closing legal markets by the end of 2017. This ushers in an end to the world's primary legal ivory market and is a major boost to international efforts to tackle the elephant poaching crisis in Africa, where up to 20,000 elephants are taken illegally each year.
 
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Notes to the Editor:
Visit at WorldWildlifeDay.org
*For more information visit our Living Planet Report 2016 at panda.org
Download images with copyright information included here.

For more information please contact: Lianne Mason | WWF | lmason@wwf.org.uk | +44 7771818699 

Suspect murderers of ranger arrested in Southeast Cameroon

27. February 2017 - 1:00

Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder of a forest ranger,  Ngongo Bruce Danny on December 7, 2016, near Lobeke National Park in eastern Cameroon. Ngongo was shot several times by heavily armed poachers  while on a routine anti-poaching patrol on the peripheral zone of the park.

Authorities also seized 11 guns including 6 AK 47 (Kalashnikov) rifles and over 150 munitions during a two-week sting operation from 14-29 December 2016. The operation came on the heels of the brutal murder of the eco-guard and the wounding of a soldier.

"With the support of the municipal authority of the area, we were able to lay hands on the prime suspect and three others. We also recovered the gun that was reportedly used to commit the heinous crime," stated Achille Mengamenya, Conservator for Lobeke.

The alleged kingpin, (a traditional ruler in the locality) in the operation that led to the killing of the eco-guard, has reportedly abandoned his palace and fled to neighbouring Congo, Brazzaville. "I can bet you we will track him thanks to our network in Congo and our transboundary relationship with the Congolese," the Conservator says.
WWF had condemned, in very strong terms attacks perpetrated against eco-guards, calling for action from all concerned parties following the murder of Bruce. "The systematic killing of rangers must jolt all militating for protection of wildlife into action before things get out of control," Dr. Hanson Njiforti, WWF Country Director had said.

 In response to this crime, the conservation service put in place a strategy in collaboration with local authorities. The strategy had two phases; first dismantling all poaching networks which saw the arrest of the four suspect murderers, and secondly ensuring stability in the localities. War guns and bullets seized"Within the context of installing peace in the localities, we launched an appeal to the local population to voluntarily hand over guns in their possession. This operation that started since January 2, 2017, has permitted us to recover four AK 47 guns voluntarily handed over by some individuals," Achille said.
Another spontaneous anti-poaching mission undertaken from 17 to 19 February 2017 within two communities (Mikel and Mimbo-Mimbo) in the northeast of the park, resulted in the arrest of four other suspect poachers, seizure of eight elephant tusks and a fire arm.

All the eight suspects have been transferred to Yokadouma to face trial. According to Cameroon's penal code, in case the first four suspects are found guilty of killing the eco-guard, they risk a minimum 10 years imprisonment each for their crime, without prejudice of heavy fines and damages. The other suspects could face a maximum 3 years imprisonment and/or FCFA 10 million (US Dollar  20000)  as fines for killing of a totally protected wildlife species according to Cameroon's wildlife law, without prejudice of civil damages to the wildlife administration and other penalties provided by the military code for arm trafficking.

Intense poaching and arms trafficking around Lobeke National Park has led to the massacre of 50% of the park's elephant population and the murder of two eco-guards and several others injured since 2010.
According to the conservator, the killing of Bruce seems to have emboldened the eco-guards in their war against poaching. "Eco-guards of Lobeke are more than ever determined to honour the blood of their colleague. With the support of our partners (WWF, the TNS Foundation, the German and American cooperation), we shall make poaching a very dangerous activity within Lobeke," Achille said.

Latest official poaching figures show that South Africa is still losing three rhinos a day

27. February 2017 - 1:00
Today, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs announced that in 2016 1,054 rhinos were reported killed in the country. This is a decline from 1,215 in 2014 and 1,175 in 2015.

Enhanced enforcement efforts in the Kruger National Park, one of Africa's biggest wildlife reserves and home to the world's largest population of white rhino, also resulted in a decline in the number of rhinos killed. The number fell from 826 in 2015 to 662 in 2016 (a 20 per cent reduction) despite an increase in the number of reported incursions in the 19 500km2 park.

Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino Programme Manager for WWF-SA, comments:

 "A decade has now passed since the initial upsurge in poaching in South Africa and huge effort has been invested in rhino protection. The toll on those working to address the challenge in the region is also unsustainably high.

"Committed conservationists have been defending wildlife at great personal cost. While military-style interventions may provide wins in the short term, these come with longer-term financial and socio-economic costs on both people living around protected areas and other conservation efforts. Ultimately, a more holistic approach is required in addressing the drivers of wildlife crime."

However, despite showing some positive progress, rhino populations remain perilously close to the tipping point. 

The latest figures also highlight the impacts of poaching sweeping across South Africa, as criminal syndicates shift their focus in response to law enforcement actions. Key populations in KwaZulu-Natal in particular bore the brunt of the poaching, with 161 rhinos killed in the province during 2016 – an increase of 38 per cent from the previous year.

Dr Margaret Kinnaird, Wildlife Practice Leader, at WWF International, comments:

"We cannot win the fight against poaching without addressing the demand for illicit rhino horn. Lack of global action to control transnational wildlife trafficking is failing the people protecting rhinos on the ground. In addition to on-going anti-poaching efforts at country level, we need to see tougher law enforcement and prosecutions of people implicated in the trafficking and use of rhino horn, particularly in consumer countries such as Viet Nam.
"Corruption continues to hamper efforts at all levels. This year will see greater collaborative partnerships between conservation and anti-corruption communities to deepen understanding of corruption risks and mitigation strategies."

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Notes to editor:
For the full details from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs see https://www.environment.gov.za/mediarelease/molewa_progressonintegrated_strategicmanagement_ofrhinoceros

For more information please contact:
Lianne Mason | WWF | lmason@wwf.org.uk | (+44) 7771818699

About WWF
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.
panda.org/news for latest news and media resources

Tons of pangolin scales up in flames in Cameroon

17. February 2017 - 1:00
Cameroon today, February 17, burnt over three tons (3094kg) of pangolin scales in ongoing fight against poaching and illicit trade of this lone mammal with scales.

The scales, which were seized from traffickers mostly at airports in Yaoundé and Douala, Cameroon's two major cities, were set ablaze by the country's Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Philip Ngolle Ngwese.  This is the first time Cameroon is setting pangolin scales on fire after country burnt its ivory stockpile on April 19, 2016.
Since 2013, there has been an upsurge in trafficking of pangolin scales, destined for china, with several tons being seized each year.  According to the wildlife minister, 8134kg of pangolin scales were seized between 2013 and 2016. Of this number 5040kg are under seal as suspect traffickers are facing trial in a court in Douala, Cameroon's economic capital. The rest, 3094kg, have been burnt.

The torching of the scales came on the eve of World Pangolin Day. In Cameroon, there exist three types of pangolin species; the giant, long tail and the tree or white-bellied pangolin. Until the last Convention on International Trade in Endangered species (CITES) COP17 meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, last year, only the giant pangolin was totally protected.  In the face of exponential increase in scales trafficking, CITES has declared all pangolin species totally protected.

"The burning of these scales reaffirms the determination of the government of Cameroon to fight against wildlife trafficking in general and pangolin scales in particular," Minister Ngwese said.

Cameroon, alongside other pangolin range countries, is battling to stem this new wave of scales trafficking with the supported of WWF.  According to Dr. Hanson Njiforti, WWF Cameroon Country Director, the government of Cameroon has taken a bold and proactive step to save what is left of pangolins in the forest. "The bigger challenge now is to stop the traffickers from killing the pangolins because 8000 kg of scales means several thousands of pangolins have been killed," Dr. Njiforti said.

Pangolins are the only mammals in the world covered in scales.  Unfortunately, these cool spikes have made them to become the most trafficked mammal in the world. 

"This forest is my life"

15. February 2017 - 1:00
Awouma started working as a guide with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), but was taken over by WWF when the former left. "I have been working since then with WWF," he says.
Describing himself as an "international guide", Awouma takes pride in his work. Thanks to his knowledge of the forest, he says he helps tourists on issues relating to plants and animals. "Most tourists I have guided into the forest have appreciated my work such that each time another tourist comes, they insist that I lead them into the forest," says Awouma.

"During trips into the park, we usually come across elephants, bongo antelopes, gorillas and buffaloes. This pleases tourists. I tell them how to behave, especially when we sense the presence of certain animals," he says.
Awouma is also a key member of the Lobeke bio-monitoring team and participates in data collection, reconnaissance missions and wildlife inventories alongside forest rangers and WWF staff. He says his work has enabled him to receive training on use of tools such as compass and GPS, in data collection.

Aged 40, Awouma says he uses his earnings to provide for his children's education. "I am married with five children (four girls and a boy). Two of my daughters are married. I am now taking care of the younger children and my wife," he says.

In recognition of his work, Awouma says WWF built a house for him which today shelters his family. "This is the best thing that happened to me as a guide. My family and I am well sheltered thanks to the house built for me," he says.

What does the forest represent to him? "The forest is my life," he says. He believes that without conservation, the biodiversity resources in Lobeke would have been depleted by now. "Conservation has done a good thing for this area. Baka are benefitting from it. When tourists come here, they are eager to watch Baka festivals and in the end they give money that is shared to the community," he says.

According to Awouma, poaching remains the main threat to the park. "It used to be severe in the past, but now it has reduced considerably. It is rare to hear gunshots in the forest as before," he says. Awouma also sensitises other Baka on the importance of conservation.

Baka living in Mambele face two major challenges, Awouma says, including the absence of health care facilities and education. "We need health infrastructure to take care of us and also education for our children," he states.

Discovery of new shark species highlights need to protect Belize waters

15. February 2017 - 1:00
Belize – The discovery of a new shark species in Belize waters comes as a reminder of the need to protect the waters around the Central American country, home to the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve system, the longest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere.
 
The Belize Fisheries Department and researchers from Florida International University (FIU) confirmed the presence of a new shark species belonging to the bonnetheads type in waters off the coast of Belize last week.

Yet to be named, this species, which requires healthy habitats for nursery areas such as mangroves, serves as an indicator of the state of health of Belize waters as at present. However, it also highlights the need for urgent action by the Belize government to strengthen protections for this marine biodiversity hotspot.

"Bonnetheads don't migrate very far, so the fact that they are found here indicates that the seas are good for them, with water clarity being a factor they favour," said Nadia Bood, reef scientist, WWF-Belize Field Programme. "Discovering a new species of shark is another example that Belize Barrier Reef offers perfect conditions for some of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems. This is exactly why WWF believes it is vital we do all we can to preserve this valuable part of our common natural heritage."

The Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, which WWF is a part of, works to protect the Belize Barrier Reef site from threats such as coastal construction, offshore oil exploration and drilling in country. In October 2016, following advocacy efforts by the coalition and a global public outcry, the Belize government suspended permissions for seismic surveys which would have allowed exploration for oil within a 1 km radius from the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site. While an encouraging move, stronger legislation for a complete oil ban is needed to ensure long-term protection and enable the site to be taken off the World Heritage 'in danger' list.

"More than 265,000 people have asked the prime minister of Belize to secure long-term protection of the World Heritage site. We call all people who want to see this unique home for diverse marine species saved from harmful activities to join this action today and take the advocacy action to the Prime Minister at panda.org/belize", added Nadia Bood.

Belize's waters are a haven for 1,400 kinds of plants and animals, including rare marine turtles, rays, sharks and dolphins. More than half of the country's population, around 190,000 people, are supported by incomes generated through tourism and fisheries directly dependent on the reef.

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Notes for Editors:
Announcement of new shark species discovery by the Belize Fisheries Department can be found here.
Photos of the shark for media use can be found here.
The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.  However, in 2009, due to multiple threats emerging the site was added on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage in Danger where it continues to remain. Threats identified by the World Heritage Committee have included unsustainable coastal constructions as well as oil exploration.
As marine ecosystems are connected by ocean currents, their health is highly dependent on the conditions of the surrounding reef and waters, oil exploration close to the Belize Barrier Reef could irreparably damage it. An oil spill in Belizean waters could cause widespread environmental damage and have fatal impacts on marine life.

Implementing the Agenda 2030: sustainability standards help business seize opportunities

14. February 2017 - 1:00
Gland, Switzerland – A new report published by WWF and ISEAL today indicates how businesses can contribute strongly to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and unlock new market opportunities by using credible voluntary sustainability standards to transform entire sectors and supply chains.
 
The report, "SDGs mean business: How credible standards can help companies deliver the 2030 Agenda" illustrates how such standards - ready-made tools for businesses and supply chain actors - can help accelerate progress on many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while delivering direct benefits for companies and small-scale producers. 
 
"Poverty, inequality, water scarcity, climate change and the loss of biodiversity are significant risks for business and aligning with the SDGs represents an opportunity," says Richard Holland, Director, Global Conservation Division at WWF International. "While leading companies have already made far-reaching commitments to help address climate change, deforestation and decent work, the majority of business sectors are not yet delivering on their responsibility towards the Agenda 2030."
 
Credible, multi-stakeholder standards embody the partnership spirit of the SDGs, bringing together businesses, NGOs, governments and others to work toward common goals that benefit business, people and the planet. They are an important mechanism to help companies reach their targets by scaling-up sustainable practices. Tried and tested on the ground, they can be used at every link in the value chain – enabling producers, harvesters and processors to achieve a recognized level of sustainability, and traders, manufacturers and retailers to address the impacts of their supply chains.
 
Many farmers using sustainability standards have seen net increases in their incomes due to productivity and quality improvements. The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) 2014 Harvest Report found farmers following the BCI standard across seven countries had yields 23 per cent higher and profits per hectare 36 per cent higher than conventional cotton farmers, while using less water and chemical inputs. For certified coffee farmers, this has translated among other benefits to improved school attendance of their children.
 
In Indonesia, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) smallholder certification is taking pressure off elephants and tigers in Tesso Nilo National Park where French retailer Carrefour has been working with WWF to support smallholders to achieve RSPO certification. Smallholders taking part in the project have managed to increase productivity through better management practices, without expanding into the national park.
 
For businesses certification helps to manage risk. The social and environmental impacts of palm oil production for example represent a significant risk for investors. To mitigate these risks, a number of finance institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, Credit Suisse and Rabobank, require their clients to achieve RSPO certification.
 
"Over the next 13 years, all countries are expected to make progress across all of the SDGs.  Considering the overarching focus of the SDG agenda on people and the environment, it is clear that sustainability standards can play a crucial role in its implementation," says Norma Tregurtha, Senior Policy & Outreach Manager at ISEAL.  "By providing an independent, verifiable method to assess whether or not a certain level of performance on sustainability is reached, standards and certification systems can serve as a measure of progress against the SDGs."
 
Direct benefits for businesses from using sustainability standards can range from efficiency gains through improved management practices, increased transparency and traceability throughout the whole supply chain to better quality relationships between suppliers and buyers.
 
WWF and ISEAL call upon the business community, key implementing partners of the 2030 Agenda, to use credible standards as a tool to increase sustainable practices and report on SDG progress.


More information: 

About credible sustainability standard systems
Sustainability standards translate the broad concept of sustainability into specific, concrete measures for companies and their suppliers. With broad uptake, they can move whole industries toward improved social, environmental and economic performance. This can make a major contribution to the SDGs.

Key elements of a credible sustainability standard include:
  • Multistakeholder participation: a standard's requirements should be developed and governed through a multistakeholder process, involving representatives from across the entire supply chain from businesses, civil society, governments, research institutions and NGOs, with balanced decision-making. This should ensure the standard has positive social and environmental impacts, while also being practically and economically viable for large-scale uptake.
  • Transparency: details of the standard, how it is applied and how decisions are made, including certification assessments, should be clear and publicly available. 
  • Independent verification: compliance with the standard should be verified by an accredited, independent third party auditor or certification body. Impartial and periodic field-level verification is essential to understand whether a standard is actually achieving its mission.
  • Continuous improvement: the standard and the system should be regularly reviewed to incorporate the latest information and lessons learned and ensure it delivers it goals..
Visit the ISEAL website for a full list of ISEAL members.
 
Concrete examples of impacts from sustainable standards include:
 
Improving smallholder livelihoods: effectiveness of certification in coffee, cocoa and cotton
Farmers using sustainability standards have seen net increases in their incomes due to productivity and quality improvements, as well as premiums paid. to them. A study by KPMG SUSTAINEO covering various standard systems found that certified smallholders also had better access to training, and their children's school attendance was improved. The study covered Fairtrade, UTZ Certified, Sustainable Agriculture Network/Rainforest
Alliance, Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C, now the Sustainable Coffee Platform), Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and Organic. A growing amount of data on farmer livelihoods and productivity is showing how standards can contribute to several targets under SDG2. For example, the BCI's 2014 Harvest Report found farmers following the BCI standard across seven countries had yields 23 per cent higher and profits per hectare 36 per cent higher than conventional cotton farmers, while using less water and chemical inputs.
 
RSPO smallholder certification taking pressure off elephants and tigers
Tesso Nilo National Park on the island of Sumatra one of the last strongholds of Sumatran elephants and tigers and boasts some of the most diverse flora on the planet. But it's under siege by illegal palm oil plantations. French retailer Carrefour has been working with WWF to support smallholders in the area to achieve RSPO
certification. Smallholders taking part in the project have managed to increase productivity through better management practices, without expanding into the national park.
 
Weaving opportunities for women in Nepal
The GoodWeave standard certifies carpets and rugs that are free from child labour or forced labour. The organization runs a vocational training initiative for women, called Weaving Opportunities. Launched in Nepal in 2013, the programme aims to provide at-risk and impoverished women with marketable skills and to replenish the workforce with skilled adult weavers. After three months' training, participants have the opportunity to work at a GoodWeave-certified carpet factory. In a survey of 87 women on the programme, more than half had no income before the intervention, while those who had been employed had a median monthly income of around US$30. Within the first month of employment, their median income was $60 – and their incomes have risen further as their weaving skills and speed increase..
 
Private partnership for sustainable palm oil
The social and environmental impacts of palm oil production represent a significant risk for investors. To mitigate these risks, a number of finance institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, Credit Suisse and Rabobank, require their clients to achieve Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification. Members of the investment community have also formed partnerships to promote more sustainable palm oil production. One such initiative is the Sustainable Palm Oil Investor Working Group, whose 25 members represent assets under management of over US$1.4 trillion.

More examples can be found in the report. 

 

Poaching is a crime against local population- German Ambassador

10. February 2017 - 1:00
 "Poaching is a crime against the local communities and a global threat. We must take action against it," Ambassador Stell told conservationists, traditional rulers and local government officials living around Lobeke.

Lobeke National Park is part of the Tri-national de la Sangha (TNS) landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage site, grouping protected areas in Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and Central African Republic. The park is rich in flora and fauna yet threatened by poaching, illegal and unsustainable exploitation of wood. "It is our responsibility to preserve this world heritage site. The local people must be integrated in the management of the park if we hope to succeed in the fight against poaching," the diplomat said.

"The government and the people of Germany are committed to support Cameroon's conservation and development efforts as long as results are there for all to see and corruption is effectively fought," Dr. Stell said.Hard hit by poaching Wildlife inventory data presented by WWF and Cameroon's wildlife ministry in 2016, showed that  Lobeke lost 50% of its elephant population (from an estimated 2091 in 2002 to 1029 in 2015) due to poaching and ivory trade. Lobeke conservation service revealed that, in 2016, 27 guns (7 of them Kalashnikov) as well as 15 elephant tusks were seized from poachers. Since 2010, two rangers have lost their lives, while three others and a soldier, as well as two members from the local community have been injured in clashes with poachers.

The German government through the German Development Bank (KfW) and the Tri-National de la Sangha (TNS) Foundation have provided financial support for Lobeke to fight poaching and promote sustainable development. An additional 5.5 million euros have been mobilized to protect the park and put in place sorely needed infrastructure. Ambassador Stell, during his visit, handed the keys of two Land Cruiser vehicles to the Conservator for Lobeke, signaling his country's support to Cameroon's conservation efforts.

"With 48 rangers charged with protecting 700 000 ha of forest ecosystem, fighting poaching is a huge challenge," said Achille Mengamenya, Conservator for Lobeke. "We seek to improve the working conditions of rangers so they can effectively protect the park. Our dream is also to make Lobeke a tourist destination," the Conservator said. Formalizing agreements guaranteeing the user rights of local people, especially indigenous people (Baka), building infrastructure and providing electricity and a health centre for the local people are among the projects envisaged by the conservation service.

WWF is committed to and has over the years played a pivotal role in the various processes for putting in place institutional and logistical framework in safeguarding the park. "We will continue to work with key partners to curb poaching and contribute to improving the livelihood of local people," says Cleto Ndikumagenge, WWF Cameroon Conservation Director.

Last Call for Vaquita, the Mexican "Panda of the Sea"

6. February 2017 - 1:00
Mexico City (6 February) – Last week, the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) announced that only about 30 vaquitas are estimated to survive, compared to 60 individuals last year.

The world's smallest porpoise, the vaquita, is endemic to Mexico's Upper Gulf of California. The single biggest threat to the species are fishing nets that inadvertently catch and drown them, most notably gillnets used to illegally catch the critically endangered totoaba fish. The totoaba's swim bladder is a highly-prized delicacy in Asia and follows an illegal trade route from Mexico to China, through the United States.

As the latest numbers highlight the urgent need for action, WWF reaffirms its conviction that the only way to save the vaquita from extinction is for the Mexican government to immediately and indefinitely ban all fisheries within its habitat and ensure full and effective enforcement.

WWF urges the Mexican government to:
  • Immediately crack down on the illegal totoaba fishery, expanding upon the important ongoing efforts of the Mexican Navy and the Ministry of Environment.
  • Ensure the full commitment and support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (SAGARPA).
  • Stop the corvina gillnet fishery, which provides cover for illegal totoaba gillnets, and is expected to start this month.
  • Extend indefinitely the current two-year gillnet ban, which is due to expire in April.
  • Continue and expand efforts to retrieve and destroy "ghost nets" within vaquita habitats.
  • Work with fishing communities to find suitable economic alternatives and renew efforts to scale up the use of vaquita-safe fishing gear to ensure they and their families can have a more sustainable way of life.
In addition, WWF is also urging the U.S. government to take swift and decisive action to stop transborder shipments of totoaba products and calling for the Chinese government to immediately stop the illegal transport and sale of totoaba products.
 
WWF reiterates its commitment to continue working with fishing communities, the Mexican government, the international community and donors to ensure a future for vaquita, alongside sustainable livelihoods for local communities. This includes continued support of the Mexican government's efforts to retrieve and destroy "ghost nets" within the habitat of the vaquita, as well as finding vaquita-safe fishing techniques.

After the Chinese river dolphin was driven to extinction in 2006, the world is now on the brink of losing a second cetacean species due to human activities. We cannot allow this to happen.

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Notes to Editors:
  • The report of the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) is available here.
  • For more information on the demand for totoaba fish and their bladders, please refer to this link and the report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) available here.   

 

Too many vessels, too little management for tuna fishing in the Eastern Pacific

6. February 2017 - 1:00
San Diego, California – 6 February – As the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) meets for an extraordinary session this week, WWF is calling on member countries to urgently reach consensus on conservation measures for ecologically- and commercially-important tropical tuna species. Management controls on fishing several species expired last month, leaving the stocks open to exploitation without essential safeguards.
 
 "The reality is that there are no management and conservation measures in place right now for intensively-fished tropical tuna species in the Eastern Pacific - this is a dangerous situation," said Pablo Guerrero, WWF LAC Fisheries Director. ".  Even the old conservation measure -which wasn't perfect and needed improvements - is not in effect for the 2017 fishing season."
 
WWF has been speaking with members and fishing industry representatives to express concern that a lack of action will be a major setback to the IATTC decision-making processes. If another meeting adjourns with no measure in place, it raises the risk that populations of bigeye and yellowfin tunas will become overfished. Fishing mortality in the eastern Pacific has risen notably in parallel with the continuous increase in capacity of the purse-seine fleet operating in the region.
 
"A continued lack of consensus will also hurt several tuna fishery improvement projects in the region and will have an immediate effect on impeding sales to markets that demand sustainable products," added Guerrero.
 
Tuna resources in the Eastern Pacific Ocean sustain a very large industry that supports the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and contributes to economic growth and social development in the region. Responsible management is a necessary condition for achieving sustainable fisheries.  
 
Currently there are three conservation proposals of tropical tunas in the EPO, submitted by the United States, Ecuador-Colombia and Mexico: a) establishing catch limits for bigeye and yellowfin by individual vessels; b) establishing a global catch limit for bigeye and yellowfin caught in sets on fish aggregating devices (FADs); and c) implementing restrictions on the use of FADs. WWF urges the IATTC to reach agreement at this meeting and resume deliberations on addressing overcapacity.
 
"WWF considers it necessary to address the main threats, such as overfishing and overcapacity, and urges countries to find common ground and agree on effective conservation measures to reduce fishing mortality of yellowfin and bigeye to levels recommended by the commission's own scientists," concluded Guerrero. 

Gaston Mane, Voice of Baka in Southeast Cameroon

2. February 2017 - 1:00
Between 2007 and 2010, Gaston Mane was the lone Baka in the lone government secondary school in Ngoyla, in the east of Cameroon. He got to secondary school at the age of 20, far above his classmates' average age of 12. Despite this gap, Gaston made it to form three but could not continue because his parents could no longer afford to pay his school fees. 

In Cameroon parents spend over FCFA 250,000 (US$500) to provide for school needs, including fees, books and uniforms for each student in a government secondary school every year. But Gaston's father could not afford it as he eked a living from sewing thatches, hunting and gathering, while his mother raised money from selling baton de manioc (local staple produced from cassava), in order to send him to school.

Of the over 3,000 Baka living in the Ngoyla-Mintom forest block, fewer than 200 are in school. The forest block covers 943,000-ha and represents a corridor linking protected areas in Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

After dropping out of secondary school, Gaston and three other literate Baka youths used the knowledge they acquired to teach other Baka in the villages. Today Gaston -married and a father of two - works at WWF field office in Ngoyla as Camp Assistant. He started representing his people when he got to secondary school and has since been speaking on their behalf at village meetings, official ceremonies and the Ngoyla Council, where he is a councillor. He is spokesman for the Baka in Ngoyla subdivision. "I try to be the voice of my Baka brethren," Gaston said. "I bring the problems besetting Baka to the administration, especially the education of Baka children. We lack health facilities, potable water and schools for Baka children."   He said the administration of Cameroon and the majority Bantu people do not recognize Baka chiefs. "When it comes to sharing benefits from natural resources with Bantus we do not receive a fair share," Gaston said.

Gaston was among 10 Baka youth trained in 2015 as community relay health agents organised by the local health district in Ngoyla with support from WWF. The agents raise awareness on hygiene and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, family planning and against malaria in Baka communities in Ngoyla.

Baka adapting to changing times
Gaston says Baka are adapting to changing times and moving from essentially hunting and gathering to farming and income generating activities. "Today Baka are engaged in agriculture, fishing and other income generating activities like other people," he said.

Despite challenges Baka face in asserting their rights to natural resources and education, Gaston says government has made considerable efforts to integrate them in the area of education, establishing birth certificates and national identity cards since 2010.

"At first we did not have birth certificates and ID cards, but the government has been establishing that for us for free," he said.  Gaston would like government to do more to encourage Baka parents to send their children to school so that they too should become important people in the future," he said.

Besides government efforts, Gaston says international NGOs like WWF have played key role in fostering the welfare of Baka, particularly in education, agriculture and access right to natural resources.
 

Western Indian Ocean valued at US$333.8 billion but at a crossroads

24. January 2017 - 1:00
Antananarivo, Madagascar - A groundbreaking new report finds the ocean assets of the Western Indian Ocean region are valued conservatively at US$333.8 billion but foreshadows significant challenges for the region's ocean-based economies and food supplies in the absence of stronger conservation actions.

Reviving the Western Indian Ocean Economy: Actions for a Sustainable Future is the result of an in-depth, joint assessment by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), CORDIO East Africa and WWF. It combines a new economic analysis of the region's ocean assets with a review of their contribution to human development.

The report shows that the region's most valuable assets are fisheries, mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Adjacent coastal and carbon-absorbing assets are also central to the wellbeing of communities and the health of the ocean economy. The analysis finds that the region is heavily dependent on high-value ocean natural assets that are already showing signs of decline. The report offers a set of priority actions required to secure a sustainable, inclusive 'blue economy' for the region, and thus to provide food and livelihoods for growing populations.

Country Director of WWF-Madagascar and Western Indian Ocean Islands, Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, said, "This analysis shows that the leaders of the Western Indian Ocean face a clear and urgent choice: to continue with business-as-usual, overseeing the steady decline of ocean assets, or to seize the moment to secure the natural ocean assets that will be crucial for the future of fast-growing coastal communities and economies. The Western Indian Ocean still has the chance to get it right."

Dr David Obura, lead author of the report and director of CORDIO East Africa, said, "The Western Indian Ocean is still in relatively good condition in global terms, but we now see clear signs of impact from coastal development, local and global demand for the region's resources, and climate change. Stronger and scaled-up conservation actions - and investment in management - need to be triggered now to avoid diminishing these crucial ocean and coastal assets."

The report shows that the annual economic output of the region (the equivalent of gross domestic product) is at least US$21 billion, making the 'ocean economy' the fourth largest economy in the region in its own right. The most economically-valuable activities on an annual basis in the Western Indian Ocean are coastal and marine tourism, followed by carbon sequestration and fisheries.

BCG Partner and Managing Director, Marty Smits, said, "The Western Indian Ocean is a real test case for how natural ocean assets can be managed sustainably to support growing demands from coastal populations and global pressures. The business case for action is clear: protecting and restoring ocean assets like mangroves, coral reefs and fisheries is a rational approach to future economic prosperity and security."

John Tanzer, WWF's Oceans Practice Leader, said, "The Western Indian Ocean must be a central priority for regional and global leaders to successfully implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the promise of the Paris climate agreement. Few other places render so starkly how intertwined are the destinies of coastal people and the health of ocean ecosystems. Protecting ocean habitats and managing fisheries sustainably – both small-scale and industrial – are just two areas that will deliver great dividends for years to come."

"Within the region, the Northern Mozambique Channel initiative provides a good example of the scale of ambition possible for an integrated and sustainable approach to ocean management when decision makers come together around a common vision," said Mr Tanzer. 

Notes to editors:
  • The Western Indian Ocean region described in this report includes Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania – a mix of mainland continental and island states. The total population is around 220 million, over a quarter of whom live within 100km of the coast.
  • The report also points to the likelihood that much of the actual fishing in the region is for local, domestic consumption via small-scale fishing which is not adequately monitored, or measured in economic terms, so the actual extent of fishing and its importance to local communities is likely to be far greater than economic analyses indicate.

Community Forest making dreams of Baka girls come true

16. January 2017 - 1:00
From the heart of the Congo Basin rainforest grows a dream from two indigenous Baka girls.  Christelle Toumba Toumba and Edith Imelda Saloh, both 15 years old, are two out of five indigenous Baka children attending Government Secondary School Yenga village in eastern Cameroon.
Baka are indigenous forest people living mostly in the East and South Regions of Cameroon numbering some 25,000. They depend wholly on the forest for their livelihood. At the start of the 2016/2017 school year, 20 Baka children thronged the school made up of some 120 students, but most dropped out before the end of the first term. Christelle, Edith and three others, however stayed on.

 "I want to become a nurse when I grow up so I can treat the sick in my community," says Christelle. Edith will "like to become a teacher to help improve and encourage her Baka brethren to attend school."
The reasons behind their dreams are not far-fetched; their village, like other Baka villages, is in dire need of education and healthcare. But these dreams might have been shattered if revenues generated from a Baka-managed community forest did not come in handy to pay for their school fees and needs.

The Yenga forest was the first ever Baka community forest to be created in Cameroon.  According to the country's 1994 Forestry and Wildlife law, communities can request and obtain forest portions of not more than 5,000 hectares to harvest and sell timber for a period of 25 years, renewable. They use the proceeds from the forest to finance development projects in their communities. There are over 250 community forest initiatives in Cameroon. WWF helped indigenous Baka to acquire the community forest as a way of improving the living conditions and encourage the participatory and sustainable management of the forest.

According to socio-economic studies carried out by WWF in 2010, 70 per cent of the population in this area lives on less than a dollar per day. "Our parents are poor and do not have money to pay our school fees," Christelle said on the brink of tears.  Today, the duo both in form one are attending secondary school thanks to revenue generated from exploitation of their community forest.

 Their parents are members of the community forest management body and they understand the value of education for their children. "We encourage our children to go to school so that other parents in the community can emulate our example," said David Mbangawi, President of ASDEBYM, the local association managing the community forest.
Members of ASDEBYM are happy their children now attend school. "We supported the education of one of our children who has now graduated as a laboratory technician from a training school in Bertoua, chief town of the East Region of Cameroon. We hope others will follow suit," Mbangawi said.

In collaboration with a local NGO (CIFED), WWF continues to provide technical backstopping to the Baka community of Yenga to sustainably manage and properly use revenues generated from sales of wood from their community forest. According to the management plan of the forest, education remains their top priority. Part of the money generated is used to pay school fees and provide uniforms and books for Baka children attending school.

A lasting legacy for conservation and environmental protection

13. January 2017 - 1:00
WWF statement on the death of Dr Wolfgang E. Burhenne

GLAND, Switzerland - WWF mourns the passing of international environmental lawyer Dr Wolfgang E. Burhenne aged 92 on Friday 6 January 2017. A signatory to the Morges Manifesto, which established the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 1961 and the driving force behind some of the world's most important international environmental treaties, Dr Burhenne leaves behind a legacy of environmental protection.

Born in Hannover in 1924, Dr Burhenne was instrumental in the drafting and implementation of key environmental treaties such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the 1982 World Charter for Nature, and the 1985 Association for South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. He also served as Chairman of the IUCN's Commission on Environmental Law from 1963-1969 and 1977-1990.

Recognized globally for his invaluable contribution toward safeguarding the environment, Dr Burhenne was the recipient of numerous awards and honours including the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, the Environmental Law Institute Award, the Harold Jefferson Coolidge Medal and UNEP Sasakawa Prize.

Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International said:
"The world has lost one of its greatest legal minds committed to protecting the planet and ensuring a sustainable future for all. As we mourn the passing of Dr Burhenne, we must be inspired by his extraordinary vision and honour his contribution to conservation by ensuring we continue to respect, enforce and strengthen the laws he designed to preserve nature and wildlife."

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