Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for January 2022

  • In December, the Mongabay video team covered news about illegal timber activities in Mekong, pollution and sacred groves in India, the importance of the Congo Basin peatlands, and the sea turtles’ battle against climate change.
  • The premiere of our series Chasing Deforestation looked closely into the deforestation in Nigeria’s Cross River, home to critically endangered apes.
  • Get a peak into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

Through a series of five short animated videos, Mongabay explored the various issues and layers involved in the illegal timber trade in the Mekong region. Watch the short series to get a grasp on the international trade, deforestation, laws, and the processes behind the illegal activities.

In India’s Punjab and Haryana states, where farmers have long been burning paddy stubble to clear farmlands, experts are looking into biomass powerplants as the solution for the air pollution. But they, and the farmers, need attention and assistance from the government. In the same Punjab state, we see how sacred groves, which have been a crucial part of forest conservation, are now in troubles times due to both human practices and invasive species.

Mongabay editor John Cannon did a deep dive into the importance of the carbon-rich Congo Basin peatlands and the possible consequences of its destruction. Our Mongabay Explains video gives a comprehensive introduction to the four-part article. In another explainer video, we answered questions about what exactly it means to be “carbon neutral” and what companies mean when they say they are offsetting their carbon emissions.

In December, Mongabay’s series, Chasing Deforestation, explored the forests of Cross River State in Nigeria to examine its tangled history and deforestation.

Human activities, combined with climate change, have steadily been affecting all wildlife — some more than others, some more inconspicuous than others. In our video about the “mass cold stunning,” we see a silent threat to sea turtles. Meanwhile, our Candid Animal Cam series got a sneak peak into the lives of bobcats (Lynx rufus) in North America.

On the trail of Mekong illegal timber trade

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.

Watch our five-episode series of short videos briefly exploring the illegal timber trade in Mekong.

From pollution to power, what stops paddy stubble in India from becoming the fuel of choice

Every year, farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn paddy stubble left after harvesting rice to save time and prepare the field for sowing wheat. While experts propose a relook at rice farming and its harvesting equipment, one of the solutions to prevent this outcome has yet to take off. Currently, Punjab has 11 biomass power plants that use paddy straw to produce electricity. In 2021, the ‘fire count’ in Punjab and Haryana between Sept-Nov 2021 was the highest in 5 years. The smoke causes severe pollution in the states and even travels to Delhi and other regions.

Read more: From pollution to power, what stops paddy straw from becoming the fuel of choice

Punjab’s sacred groves: Faith collides with human interference

Punjab’s sacred groves, hosting native flora and fauna, and associated with people’s beliefs and traditions, need urgent attention. Widespread human interference in the form of agricultural expansion, overgrazing, a boom in monoculture plantations, and the proliferation of invasive species have become pressing challenges.

Read more: Forests of faith face encroachments and invasive species in Punjab


Why is this spot in the Congo attracting so much attention?

Sometimes called the Cuvette Centrale, the Congo Basin peatland covers 145,529 square kilometers (56,189 square miles) in the northern Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It holds about 20 times as much carbon as the U.S. releases from burning fossil fuels in a year. Today, the Congo Basin peatlands are relatively intact while supporting nearby human communities and many wildlife species, but agriculture, oil and gas exploration, and logging are serious threats.

Read more: The ‘idea’: Uncovering the peatlands of the Congo Basin

Do carbon offset markets really work?

Adidas and Volkswagen have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050. This means they will develop ways to remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as their production releases. But there’s only so much large industry can do to reduce the amount of carbon their production line pumps into the atmosphere. So where do companies like these turn when they need to find a way to offset their carbon emissions? Often, one part of the solution is carbon markets.


Protecting the last Cross-River gorillas ft. Orji Sunday

Chasing Deforestation is a series that explores Earth’s most threatened forests through satellite data and reporters on the ground. In the first episode, your host, Romi Castagnino, takes you to the forests of Cross River State in Nigeria. We do a deep dive into the history and social dynamics that shaped the state over the last century. Our guest, reporter Orji Sunday, talks about the drivers of deforestation inside protected areas and the challenges rural communities face to introduce conservation into their daily lives.

Read more: Deforestation soars in Nigeria’s gorilla habitat: ‘We are running out of time’


Scientists warn of a cold, silent threat to sea turtles

Cold snaps, when sea temperatures suddenly drop below 50°F (10°C) can leave sea turtles literally dead in the water. That’s because most of them are ectotherms, needing warm surroundings to maintain internal body temperature. Below 50°, sea turtles get “cold-stunned,” becoming sluggish and have a hard time swimming. Eventually they’re immobilized and drift ashore. Without help, they can die.

Read more: Sea turtles: Can these great marine migrators navigate rising human threats?


Bobcat caught on camera trap!

Come join your host, Romi Castagnino, and learn all about the species with the most extensive range of all North American felines. You’ll also get to see some awesome footage of this wild animal caught on camera trap.

Banner image: A bobcat (Lynx rufus) in Yosemite National Park, California. Image by Wade Tregaskis via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).