Conservation News

Gorillas are far more numerous than previously thought, survey reveals

Larger-than-expected population in Africa gives hope for species survival, scientists say, but animal remains critically endangered

There are far more gorillas left in the world than previously thought, according to a landmark new survey, with numbers as much as double earlier estimates.

However, their populations are continuing to fall fast, down 20% in just eight years, leaving them critically endangered. Furthermore, 80% of the remaining gorilla troops do not live in protected areas, leaving them vulnerable to the threats the researchers summarise as “guns, germs and [felled] trees”.

Related: Survival of Africa's great apes requires palm industry support, says report

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Westminster, not the EU, is to blame for the sorry state of UK fishing | Letters

Roger Mainwood, David Walker and John Byrne respond to claims that Brexit will restore the fortunes of the UK’s fishing fleets

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, claims that if Brexit happens we can “take back control of our waters” (Letters, 25 April). He cites the UN convention on the law of the sea (Unclos) as evidence. What the convention says is that “the coastal State, taking into account the best scientific evidence available to it, shall ensure through proper conservation and management measures that the maintenance of the living resources in the exclusive economic zone is not endangered by over-exploitation. As appropriate, the coastal state and competent international organisations, whether subregional, regional or global, shall cooperate to this end.”

Britain and all EU member states are parties to Unclos, which also says that countries must jointly manage fish stocks that migrate between two or more countries’ waters. Those pesky fish species. More than 100 of the species present in UK waters have an annoying habit of not recognising the UK’s 200-mile coastal zone. So they have to be managed at levels that do not exceed maximum sustainable yield.

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What future for British fishing? | Letters

We can take back control of our waters, writes Bertie Armstrong, while Steve Peak laments the Tories’ broken promises

We agree with Polly Toynbee that fishing is “deep-dyed in the national identity” (Opinion, 23 April). The UK is in the middle of some of the best fishing grounds in the world. Where she is wrong is in making two assertions: firstly, that taking back control of our waters “is not going to happen, because it can’t”; and secondly, that the problem is that UK skippers sold their quotas to foreigners.

On the first, actually it can. The United Nations convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS) awards sovereign rights over and responsibilities for the natural resources to coastal states in their own exclusive economic zones. That will be us on Brexit, and there are a couple of pre-packed examples of the benefits in the EEZs of our near north-east Atlantic neighbours. Iceland catches 90% of the seafood resource in its EEZ and Norway some 85%. For us, under the rules in the common fisheries policy, we catch 40%, which is absurd. It certainly can change, and according to the prime minister and DexEU and Defra, it will change. It will be a negotiation, but if, as Polly says, the referendum was actually won on fishing sentiment, then public support will see the negotiations move in the right direction.

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Dame Daphne Sheldrick obituary

Renowned conservationist dedicated to saving orphaned elephants and releasing them back into the wild

Elephant babies like coconut oil. This discovery has saved the life of hundreds of orphaned, unweaned elephants, left behind when their mothers were killed, victims of the ivory wars that have catastrophically reduced elephant populations across Africa.

The discovery came after two decades of efforts by the renowned conservationist Daphne Sheldrick, who has died aged 83. She devoted most of her life to rescuing young elephants and releasing them back into the wild.

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World’s newest great ape threatened by Chinese dam

The discovery of the Tapanuli orangutan has not stopped a Chinese state-run company from clearing forest for a planned dam. Conservationists fear this will be the beginning of the end for a species only known for six months

Last November scientists made a jaw-dropping announcement: they’d discovered a new great ape hiding in plain sight, only the eighth inhabiting our planet.

The Tapanuli orangutan survives in northern Sumatra and it is already the most endangered great ape in the world; researchers estimate less than 800 individuals survive. But the discovery hasn’t stopped a Chinese state-run company, Sinohydro, from moving ahead with clearing forest for a large dam project smack in the middle of the orangutan population. According to several orangutan experts, Sinohyrdo’s dam represents an immediate and existential threat to the Tapanuli orangutan.

The Indonesian government needs to respect its own laws.

It would be the first extinction of a great ape in millennia. One has to ask: is that worth 510 megawatts?

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