In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Tarantula, pictured above, in the Rainforest Rewa River. (© Pete Oxford/iLCP)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. Tarantulas: Cambodia’s disappearing delicacy

Tarantulas, a delicious fried snack enjoyed by tourists and locals in Cambodia, face a devastating population loss.

The story: These spiders face two distinct threats: loss of habitat and over-harvesting, Kris Janssens with DW News reported August 15. While tarantulas are now enjoyed as a delicacy in Cambodia, in the past, they were used as a food staple during famine. Their decreasing numbers mean they may not be used as either in the future.

The big picture: Combine loss of habitat with over-harvesting and you have a recipe for extinction. New cashew and rubber plantations and illegal timber harvesting are destroying tarantula habitat. Thomas Gray, a biologist and director of Science and Global Development at Wildlife Alliance, told Janssens that if future generations want to enjoy the arachnoid delicacy, actions should be taken now to save the species.

Read more here.

  1. Fight fires with indigenous knowledge, researchers say

This year, wildfires have scorched millions of acres across the world, destroying lives, land and wildlife. One possible solution? Partnering with indigenous peoples.

The story: A recent report by the Prisma Foundation recommended that fire services collaborate with indigenous peoples to prevent destructive wildfires, Isabelle Gerretsen with the Thomas Reuters Foundation wrote on August 13. Indigenous peoples around the world use controlled burns to maintain the health of the land and to keep fuel — primarily plant matter with a low moisture content — at a minimum to lower the chance of wildfires. When Brazil’s fire services collaborated with indigenous groups, they were able to decrease dry season fires by 57 percent in the Brazilian savannah.

The big picture: More than half of the budget of the U.S. Forest Service goes to firefighting, and this could increase even more in the near future. High-risk fire days are said to increase anywhere from 20 to 50 percent globally by 2050, according to a report in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal. By partnering with indigenous groups, fire services can be more effective in preventing fires and saving countless lives and habitat.

Read more here.

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  1. Brazil: murder of indigenous leader highlights threat to way of life

Jorginho Guajajara, a leader of the Guajajara people and supporter of the Guardians of Amazon activist group in Brazil, was murdered last weekend.

The story: The Guardians of Amazon try to stop illegal logging in the Araeibóia reserve in Maranhão state, Brazil, primarily by damaging logging equipment and removing loggers from the reserve, Flávia Milhorance with The Guardian wrote Thursday. The loggers (and people connected to them) have responded by murdering and dumping bodies of the Guajajara people near a stream, according to Sarah Shenker, a senior researcher at Survival International. As many as 80 Guajajaras have been killed in Maranhão state since 2000.

The big picture: The murders of environmental activists have gained increasing media attention in recent years, as more critical forests are decimated by illegal logging. To date, seventy percent of the ecosystem in Maranhão has already been cleared by intense deforestation. “Maranhão is a state with a high rate of indigenous conflicts,” indigenous activist Sônia Guajajara said. “The loggers enter our territories to exploit our natural resources, and the violence escalates … [W]e urgently need to end this situation; we do not want to lose any more relatives who fight and protect our Mother Earth.”

Read more here.

Olivia Desmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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