Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for December 2021

  • Mongabay has just launched a new video series on YouTube, “Problem Solved,” where we examine big, systemic, environmental issues and build potential pathways to addressing them.
  • We continued reporting on extractive projects affecting local residents of the area as well as reforestation and rewilding efforts from different countries, this time about mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines and nature-based solutions in the U.K. and in India.
  • Add these videos to your watchlist for the month — you don’t need a Netflix, Prime or Disney+ subscription; watch these for free on YouTube.

In November, Mongabay launched “Problem Solved,” a new video series hosted by Mike DiGirolamo where Mongabay examines big, systemic, environmental issues and builds potential pathways to addressing them. The first video in the series explains the role of soil in carbon conservation — it currently holds 2,500 billion tons of carbon — and what options we have to keep this carbon locked up.

As conservationists have started to explore reforestation, restoration and rewilding of landscapes that have almost lost touch with their original ecosystems, organizations and individuals across the world have taken it upon themselves to start these projects. In the eastern England, three large-estate owners spoke to us about how they’ve started a rewilding project that aims to give 20% of land ‘back to nature.’ Meanwhile, in the central Indian metropolis of Bhopal, long-term nature-based restoration efforts to conserve a lake in the midst of a city shows positive results.

Mongabay contributor Orji Sunday went to field in the remote village of Bamba in Nigeria, where local groups, in collaboration with WCS, screen wildlife films for the local community. These film-screening evenings and other educational programs raise awareness of the surrounding wildlife, especially great apes, that the community rarely encounters although they live neighboring to the forests.

In India, the white marbles of the prominent Taj Mahal are becoming discolored and stained for decades, and the cause was attributed to acid rains due to surrounding industries. Recently, however, researchers found that the highly-polluted Yamuna river releasing harmful chemicals is the cause, as Mongabay-India covered in a short video.

Our coverage of extractive projects involved speaking with the people of the Nueva Vizcaya province in the Philippines and of the Nord-Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are both affected by the gold and coltan mining in these places. Eduardo Ananayo, an Indigenous community leader in Didipio, Nord-Kivu, talks about how they have lost the rights to pan for gold in their homeland as OceanaGold has taken over the mines in the mountains. In Nord-Kivu, the residents shifted to arduous mining jobs from a more lucrative farming occupation as larger companies took over mining deals in the area. The largescale mines have also polluted the lands and water sources.

Watch our animated short that uncovers the effects of illegal timber trade and deforestation in the Greater Mekong region, a highly biodiverse area covering several countries in Southeast Asia.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you never miss a video, and in the meantime here are all the videos to add to your watchlist:

Great apes’ films raise awareness in rural Nigeria

Since 2006, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked with local groups to screen documentaries about apes in dozens of communities adjoining protected areas where Cross River gorillas are still found. The films aim to build knowledge about apes and support for conservation; conservationists say film screenings, which are still a novelty in rural areas, attract a broader audience than radio shows, town hall meetings or other outreach methods.

Read more: In rural Nigeria, the magic of cinema builds support for ape conservation

What’s going on in the Greater Mekong Region?

The global illegal timber trade generates up to $152 billion a year. This accounts for up to 90% of deforestation in tropical countries, and attracts the world’s biggest organized crime groups. Illegal logging is today responsible for 15% to 30% of global timber production. Estimates vary because complex international supply chains make it difficult to ensure the timber has been lawfully handled at every stage. Illegal logging is devastating forests in the Greater Mekong region, which consists of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and parts of China.

Read more: The Greater Mekong region: A hotspot of wildlife and crime

Pollution is decaying the Taj Mahal. But where is it coming from?

Yamuna pollution was identified as a threat to the Taj five years ago, blaming the formation of phosphorous in the river water for the breeding of insects whose excreta was leaving patches on the marbles. For over three decades, sulphur dioxide from industries was also considered to be the main reason for the marble’s decay. Now, a new study offers a different perspective, identifying hydrogen sulphide emitted from the polluted Yamuna as more corrosive than sulphur dioxide.

Read more: Polluted Yamuna, not industrial emission, main reason behind Taj Mahal decay: study


Can soil fight climate change?

Can soil fight climate change? In the first video of Mongabay’s brand new series, “Problem Solved,” Mike DiGirolamo breaks down how soil works, how it can be used as a climate solution, and the challenges that need to be overcome to harness its power.

Read more: Soil and its promise as a climate solution: A primer


A new rewilding project targets UK’s ‘breadbasket’

A new rewilding project, WildEast, is encouraging everyone in East Anglia – the most intensely farmed region in the UK – to give 20% of their land ’back to nature.’ A type of ecological restoration, rewilding aims to remove human intervention to create more biodiverse ecosystems that require passive or no management at all.

Read more: Ambitious English rewilding project aims to give 20% of land ‘back to nature’

A dying city lake was restored, helps biodiversity and water supply in Bhopal, India

Two decades of conservation efforts are bearing fruit in Bhoj wetland in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The lake, important for the city’s water supply, is reeling under intense pressure with the growth of the city and the needs of its residents. Nature-based solutions such as growing a city forest called Borvan near Upper lake, arresting soil erosion by targetted plantations have helped address water quality issues and biodiversity loss to an extent in the Bhoj watershed that is primarily rural but is rapidly urbanising. In 2002, the city lake was home to less than 30 species of bird, but now the number has risen to more than 250. The Bhoj wetland was also recognized as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention of 1971.

Read more: Two decades of a city lake conservation shows results but work remains


Reopened Philippine mine threatens Indigenous people

Australian-Canadian mining firm, OceanaGold, was recently granted a renewal of its permit to mine gold and copper in Nueva Vizcaya, in the northern Philippines. The mine has faced years of opposition from area residents, mostly Indigenous people from Didipio, who say it has scarred their land and threatens the water systems they depend on. In 2019, when the company’s previous mining permit expired, protesters mounted barricades to block activity at the mine. This year, restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 have hampered their ability to organize.

Read more: Struggle endures for Philippine community pitted against gold miner

Challenging working conditions in Rubaya’s mines in DRC

Mineral extraction is one of the main economic activities in the province of Nord-Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rubaya is the largest coltan mine in the country. Working in these mines can be dangerous for the artisanal miners, but also financially challenging, as many say they are underpaid and have endured delays in paychecks, some lasting several months.


Rare footage of elusive maned wolf pups feeding

New camera-trap clips show three maned wolf pups nursing and eating regurgitated food from their mother. This is the first time this behavior has been observed and documented in wild maned wolves, experts say. Wild maned wolves have recently recolonized Iberá National Park in Argentina, thanks to conservation efforts.

Read more: Hungry like the maned wolf pup: Clips give rare glimpse of elusive canine

Banner image: Mekong River, Vietnam. Image by David McKelvey via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).