Conservation News

From the ashes: antique botanic photos destroyed in Cape Town fire resurrected

Table Mountain blaze destroyed university’s plant conservation archives, but digitised ‘then-and-now’ images continue to shed light on changes in South Africa’s landscape

The fire that started on the slopes of Table Mountain on April 18 this year quickly swept through the University of Cape Town campus. The world watched in horror as the African Studies Library was burned to the ground. In the weeks that followed, volunteers waded through the waterlogged basement of the razed building to see which rare books had survived.

What few people beyond the university realised at the time is that barely 100 metres away the Department of Biological Sciences had also suffered catastrophic losses. “We’ve lost everything,” says Prof Timm Hoffman, the director of the Plant Conservation Unit (PCU), which was housed in a “highly flammable wooden turret” on the roof of the HW Pearson building.

Photos are like little time machines. Each image is rich, rich, rich with information about the environment

Related: Botswana says it has solved mystery of mass elephant die-off

As a botanist, I should have known the palm tree next to our building was a fire hazard. I should have cut it down myself

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‘Too many loopholes’: NSW inquiry to scrutinise use of environmental offsets

Parliamentary probe follows Guardian Australia investigation that revealed serious concerns about the system

New South Wales’ use of environmental offsets to compensate for habitat destruction caused by major developments will be examined by a parliamentary inquiry.

The state upper house probe follows a Guardian Australia investigation that revealed serious concerns about the system, including instances where promised offsets never eventuated.

Related: ‘Enormous sum of money’: $40m windfall from NSW environmental offsets sparks calls for inquiry

Related: 'It's an ecological wasteland': offsets for Sydney toll road were promised but never delivered

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Spain imposes one-year ban on shooting of at-risk turtle dove

Population of threatened bird in western Europe could increase by 5% if hunting stopped

Nearly 1 million migrating turtle doves will be spared after Spanish authorities agreed a one-year ban on the shooting of the bird.

The turtle dove is a globally threatened species and is Britain’s most endangered breeding bird, with populations having halved in just five years and possibly fewer than 2,000 pairs left.

Related: Country diary: Single or taken? All is revealed in the reed bunting’s song

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Australia and 11 other countries lobby Unesco over Great Barrier Reef decision-making

Letter sent to director general over what Scott Morrison calls ‘absolutely appalling’ process of recommending reef for in-danger list

Twelve international ambassadors to Unesco, including Australia’s, have written to the UN body to “share collective concerns” about its decision making, ahead of a crucial meeting that could see the Great Barrier Reef placed on a “world heritage in danger” list.

A former Australian government world heritage official said the letter, sent to Unesco’s director general, Audrey Azoulay, on Wednesday, should be seen as part of the country’s promised lobbying effort as it desperately tries to avoid the reef being included on the list.

Related: Unesco recommends Great Barrier Reef world heritage site should be listed as ‘in danger’

Related: The Australian government wants to avoid the Great Barrier Reef being listed as ‘in danger’ at all costs| Imogen Zethoven

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Unesco and Australia dispute Great Barrier Reef's 'in danger' status – video

A senior Unesco official has rejected Australia’s claims it bowed to political pressure when recommending that the Great Barrier Reef be placed on the world heritage 'in danger' list. The decision met the ire of Australia's environment minister, Sussan Ley, who said: 'This decision was flawed. Clearly there were politics behind it … for the world heritage committee not to even foreshadow this listing is, I think, appalling.' China, the current chair of the world heritage committee, has rejected suggestions it was behind the decision. Unesco's recommendation comes after rising ocean temperatures and mass bleaching events have impacted the reef since the last time it was assessed by the committee in 2015

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