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News articles on latin america
Mongabay.com news articles on latin america in blog format. Updated regularly.
(06/07/2010) Having overstated the political potency of Colombia’s Green Party, I've felt a bit shame faced in recent days. In the Andean nation's first presidential runoff election, Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus garnered more than 20% of the vote, which allowed him to proceed to the second round on June 20th. But while the news was certainly encouraging for environmentalists across South America, Mockus' electoral performance failed to live up to expectations.
As Amazon deforestation rates fall, fires increase
(06/03/2010) While rates of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon have been on the decline since 2004, the incidence of fire is increasing in the region, undermining some of the carbon emissions savings of reduced deforestation rates, report researchers writing in the journal Science. The paper argues that REDD, a global plan to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, must include measures to eliminate the use of fire from land management in the Amazon.
Mexico has big role in the illegal parrot trade
(05/30/2010) Juan Carlos Cantu, Director of Defenders of Wildlife’s Mexico office, spoke with Laurel Neme on her The WildLife radio show and podcast about the illegal parrot trade in Mexico and how his innovative research into the trade was used by the Mexican Congress to reform that country’s Wildlife Law to ban all trade in parrots. The illegal pet trade is probably the second-biggest threat facing parrots in the wild, with only habitat loss rating higher, and the impact is disturbing. Defenders of Wildlife documented this threat in a 2007 landmark study which found between 65,000 and 78,500 parrots are illegally trapped in the wild in Mexico every year.
New bird discovered in Colombia—and released alive
(05/26/2010) Researchers have discovered a new species of antpitta in the montane cloud forests of the Colibri del Sol Bird Reserve in western Colombia. A thrush-like bird, the new cinnamon and gray species was, according to a press release by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), "captured, banded, measured, photographed, sampled for DNA, and then released alive back into the wild". This is one of only a few incidences in which a new species has been described without 'collecting' an individual (i.e. killing) to provide a model of the species in a museum. The new bird has been named Fenwick's antpitta (Grallaria fenwickorum) after the President of ABC, George Fenwick, and his family.
'Prepare for war': tensions rising over Brazil's controversial Belo Monte dam
(05/25/2010) Tensions are flaring after Brazil's approval of the Belo Monte dam project last month to divert the flow of the Xingu River. The dam, which will be the world's third larges, will flood 500 square miles of rainforest, lead to the removal of at least 12,000 people in the region, and upturn the lives of 45,000 indigenous people who depend on the Xingu. After fighting the construction of the dam for nearly thirty years, indigenous groups are beginning to talk of a last stand.
More of the Amazon opened to oil development
(05/24/2010) Perupetro, the Peruvian government's oil and gas corporate leasing body, announced last week that it will open an additional 25 lots for oil and gas exploration in the Amazon covering an area of 10 million hectares (nearly 25 million acres). Peru's national Amazon indigenous group, AIDESEP, criticized the move calling it a 'new threat' to Peru's indigenous group. According to Amazon Watch these new lots mean that 75 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is now open to oil and gas exploration and drilling.
Long-distance seed dispersal and hunting, an interview with Kimberly Holbrook
(05/24/2010) Scientists are just beginning to uncover the complex relationship between healthy biodiverse tropical forests and seed dispersers—species that spread seeds from a parent tree to other parts of the forest including birds, rodents, primates, and even elephants. By its very nature this relationship consists of an incredibly high number of variables: how abundant are seed dispersers, which animals spread seeds the furthest, what species spread which seeds, how are human impacts like hunting and deforestation impacting successful dispersal, as well as many others. Dr. Kimberly Holbrook has begun to answer some of these questions.
Colombia’s Next President: A Renovation for the South American Left?
(05/17/2010) Mired in populist demagoguery and environmentally-unfriendly resource extraction, the South American left is in dire need of ideological renovation. But, where is the likely inspiration to come from? You could not pick a more unlikely candidate than Colombia, a key U.S. ally in the region. And yet, if recent polls are correct, the Green Party could be cruising toward electoral victory in the troubled Andean nation and is currently poised to capture the presidency.
Taking back the rainforest: Indians in Colombia govern 100,000 square miles of territory
(05/10/2010) Indigenous groups in the Colombian Amazon have long suffered deprivations at the hands of outsiders. First came the diseases brought by the European Conquest, then came abuses under colonial rule. In modern times, some Amazonian communities were virtually enslaved by the debt-bondage system run by rubber traders: Indians could work their entire lives without ever escaping the cycle of debt. Later, periodic invasions by gold miners, oil companies, colonists, and illegal coca-growers took a heavy toll on remaining indigenous populations. Without title to their land, organization, or representation, indigenous Colombians in the Amazon seemed destined to be exploited and abused. But new hope would emerge in the 1980s, thanks partly to the efforts of Martin von Hildebrand, an ethnologist who would help indigenous Colombians eventually win control over 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest—an area larger than the United Kingdom.
Brazil launches major push for sustainable palm oil in the Amazon
(05/07/2010) Brazilian President Lula da Silva on Thursday laid out plans to expand palm oil production in the Amazon while minimizing risk to Earth's largest rainforest. The plan, called the Program for Sustainable Production of Palm Oil (O Programa de Produção Sustentável de Óleo de Palma), will provide $60 million to promote cultivation of oil palm in abandoned and degraded agricultural areas, including long-ago deforested lands used for sugar cane and pasture. Brazilian officials claim up to 50 million hectares of such land exist in the country.
Can markets protect nature?
(05/03/2010) Over the past 30 years billions of dollars has been committed to global conservation efforts, yet forests continue to fall, largely a consequence of economic drivers, including surging global demand for food and fuel. With consumption expected to far outstrip population growth due to rising affluence in developing countries, there would seem to be little hope of slowing tropical forest loss. But some observers see new reason for optimism—chiefly a new push to make forests more valuable as living entities than chopped down for the production of timber, animal feed, biofuels, and meat. While are innumerable reasons for protecting forests—including aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, and moral—most land use decisions boil down to economics. Therefore creating economic incentives to maintaining forests is key to saving them. Leading the effort to develop markets ecosystem services is Forest Trends, a Washington D.C.-based NGO that also organizes the Katoomba group, a forum that brings together a wide variety of forest stakeholders, including the private sector, local communities, indigenous people, policymakers, international development institutions, funders, conservationists, and activists.
Deforestation-free leather comes closer to reality in the Brazilian Amazon
(05/02/2010) Prominent leather buyers have developed a new traceability system to ensure that leather products from Brazil don't result in deforestation, reports the National Wildlife Federation, an NGO working to improve the environmental performance of the cattle industry in the Amazon.
Second rancher sentenced for contract killing of American nun in the Brazilian Amazon
(05/02/2010) A second rancher has been sentenced for his role in the murder of Dorothy Stang, an American nun who was gunned down in 2005 for her efforts on behalf of poor farmers in the Amazon rainforest, reports Reuters.
Large-scale soy farming in Brazil pushes ranchers into the Amazon rainforest
(04/28/2010) Industrial soy expansion in the Brazilian Amazon has contributed to deforestation by pushing cattle ranchers further north into rainforest zones, reports a new study published the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Alternative Climate Summit, Machu Picchu, and El Niño: Destroyer of Civilizations
(04/23/2010) As an alternative climate summit gets underway in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, many in the Andean region are wondering how they will cope with El Niño, a cyclical meteorological phenomenon in which Pacific surface temperatures rise and have repercussions on weather around the world. El Niño takes place irregularly about every two to seven years and lasts from twelve to eighteen months.
Off and on again: Belo Monte dam goes forward, protests planned
(04/20/2010) An auction to build the Belo Monte dam, a massive hydroelectric project in Brazil, is going ahead despite two court-ordered suspensions, both of which have been overturned. The dam, which would be the world's third-largest, has been criticized by indigenous groups, environmental organizations, and most recently filmmaker James Cameron who created the wildly popular Avatar.
Is deforestation rising or falling in the Amazon?
(04/18/2010) Last week Brazil's National Space Agency INPE reported a 51 percent drop in Amazon deforestation in the six months ended February 2010 compared with the year earlier period. But the seemingly happy news for environmentalists may be premature.
Brazil suspends Amazon dam project targeted by Avatar director
(04/15/2010) A Brazilian judge on Wednesday suspended the preliminary license for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, a controversial project in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, citing "danger of irreparable harm," reports the Amazon Watch, an NGO that has been campaigning on the issue. The move comes just days after a high-profile visit by James Cameron, director of the box office hit Avatar, and Sigourney Weaver, one of the stars of Avatar, to indigenous communities potentially affected by the dam.
Amazon nun-killer found guilty in Brazil
(04/13/2010) The Brazilian rancher accused of ordering the murder of an American missionary has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Cochabamba Climate Conference: the Coca Contradiction
(04/11/2010) In the high stakes game of geopolitics, the small and economically disadvantaged Andean nation of Bolivia has little clout. Now, however, the country’s indigenous president Evo Morales wants to establish more of a significant voice on the world stage. Recently, he has turned himself into something of a spokesperson on the issue of climate change. Decrying the failure of world leaders to come to a satisfactory agreement on global warming, he is intent on shaming the Global North into addressing climate change. Whatever Bolivia lacks in terms of political and economic muscle, Morales would like to offset through skilled use of moral persuasion.
Brazilian cattle giants move toward zero deforestation in the Amazon
(04/07/2010) Brazilian cattle companies are making progress in their effort to map their supply-chains in the Amazon but are still falling short of their commitment to zero deforestation in the region, reports Greenpeace after a meeting at the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporters (ABIEC) in Sao Paulo.
Film Director James Cameron's Next Film on the Amazon
(04/05/2010) Fresh off his huge blockbuster success with Avatar, James Cameron is taking a commendable stand on indigenous issues in the rainforest. Flying down to Brazil’s Amazonian city of Manaus recently, the film director criticized the Belo Monte hydro electric dam project. "For people living along the river, as they have for millennia," he said, "the dam will end their way of life. I implore the Brazilian government, and President Lula, to reconsider this project."
James Cameron, in real life, fights to save indigenous groups from massive dam construction in Brazil
(04/01/2010) After creating a hugely successful science-fiction film about a mega-corporation destroying the indigenous culture of another planet, James Cameron has become a surprisingly noteworthy voice on environmental issues, especially those dealing with the very non-fantastical situation of indigenous cultures fighting exploitation. This week Cameron traveled to Brazil for a three-day visit to the Big Bend (Volta Grande) region of the Xingu River to see the people and rainforests that would be affected by the construction of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Dam. Long-condemned by environmentalists and indigenous-rights groups, the dam would destroy 500 square kilometers of pristine rainforest and force the relocation of some 12,000 people.
Depopulation may be harming the Amazon rainforest
(03/31/2010) Urbanization may be having unexpected impacts in the Amazon rainforest by leaving forest areas vulnerable to exploitation by outsiders, report researchers writing in Conservation Letters. Conducting field surveys during the course of 10,000-kilometers of travel along remote Amazon rivers, Luke Parry of Lancaster University found that a sharp decrease in rural habitation has not been accompanied by a decline in harvesting of wildlife and forest resources, indicating that urban populations exact a heavy toll on distant forests through hunting, fishing, logging, and harvesting of non-timber forest products.
First-ever photo of rare and spectacular hummingbird from Colombia
(03/31/2010) A conservationist has taken the first-ever photos of a living Santa Marta Sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus) in the El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, reports ProAves, a bird conservation group.
Rockhopper penguins benefit from new park in Argentina
(03/31/2010) Southern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) are easily distinguished by the spiked plumes on their head, their neon-yellow eyebrows, and red eyes. But these wild-looking penguins are also endangered: the IUCN Red List classifies them as Vulnerable to extinction due to pollution and drowning by fishing nets.
When it comes to Yellow Fever, conserving howler monkeys saves lives
(03/29/2010) Abundant and diverse wildlife help people in many ways: for example bees pollinate plants, birds and mammals disperse seeds, bats control pest populations, and both plants and animals have produced life-saving medicines and technological advances. But how could howler monkeys save people from a Yellow Fever outbreak? A new study in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science explores the link between howler monkeys, mosquitoes, and humans during a recent yellow fever outbreak in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
More research and conservation efforts needed to save Colombia's monkeys
(03/29/2010) Approximately thirty monkey species inhabit the tropical forests of Colombia with at least five found no-where else in the world. A new review appearing the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science of Colombia's primates finds that a number of these species, including some greatly endangered species, have been neglected by scientists. The researchers looked at over 3,500 studies covering over a century of research by primatologists.
Finding forest for the endangered golden-headed lion tamarin
(03/29/2010) Brazil's golden-headed lion tamarin is a small primate with a black body and a bright mane of gold and orange. Listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, the golden-headed lion tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) survives in only a single protected reserve in the largely degraded Atlantic Forest in Brazil. Otherwise its habitat lies in unprotected patches and fragments threatened by urbanization and agricultural expansion. Currently, a natural gas pipeline is being built through prime tamarin habitat.
Spanish oil company develops own rules for contacting uncontacted Amazon tribes
(03/26/2010) Imagine you're in one of the remotest parts of the Amazon rainforest and suddenly you come across members of an uncontacted tribe. What should you do? The experts say, "Turn around. At all costs, make no attempt at contact." Repsol YPF, exploring for oil in northern Peru, has taken a different approach. Despite the extreme vulnerability of the tribes to any form of contact, the company suggests that its workers talk to them in certain instances, and even provides specific phrases to use and conversation topics to address.
El Niño in Venezuela: Hugo Chávez’s "Katrina" Moment?
(03/22/2010) Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been in power for more than ten years, during which time he has deflected numerous electoral challenges, a recall effort, a coup d’etat and even an oil lock out. A politically adroit statesman, he has demonstrated enormous staying power throughout all these political crises. Yet, Chávez’s luck may have finally run out: a devastating El Niño-linked drought has recently ravaged Venezuela and the government has been forced to undertake conservation measures for water and electricity. Hardly amused, some are holding Chávez responsible for the energy crunch and the drought could exact a heavy toll on the Venezuelan president in September’s legislative elections.
Falklands Dispute: Argentine Sovereignty Won’t Solve the Problem
(03/15/2010) With Britain now moving to explore for oil and gas in the Falkland Islands, Argentina has cried foul. Buenos Aires claims that the Falklands, or the Malvinas as Argentines refer to the islands, represent a "colonial enclave" in the south Atlantic. The islands have been a British possession since 1833, and the local inhabitants consider themselves thoroughly British. Yet, Argentina claims the Malvinas as the country inherited them from the Spanish crown in the early 1800s. In 1982 Argentina seized the islands but was later expelled by a British naval force. The war was short but bloody, costing 650 Argentine and 250 British lives.
Secrets of the Amazon: giant anacondas and floating forests, an interview with Paul Rosolie
(03/10/2010) At twenty-two Paul Rosolie has seen more adventure than many of us will in our lifetime. First visiting the Amazon at eighteen, Rosolie has explored strange jungle ecosystems, caught anaconda and black caiman bare-handed, joined indigenous hunting expeditions, led volunteer expeditions, and hand-raised a baby giant anteater. "Rainforests were my childhood obsession," Rosolie told Mongabay.com. "For as long as I can remember, going to the Amazon had been my dream […] In those first ten minutes [of visiting], cowering under the bellowing calls of howler monkeys, I saw trails of leaf cutter ants under impossibly large, vine-tangled trees; a flock of scarlet macaws crossed the sky like a brilliant flying rainbow. I saw a place where nature was in its full; it is the most amazing place on earth."
Why seed dispersers matter, an interview with Pierre-Michel Forget, chair of the FSD International Symposium
(03/07/2010) There are few areas of research in tropical biology more exciting and more important than seed dispersal. Seed dispersal—the process by which seeds are spread from parent trees to new sprouting ground—underpins the ecology of forests worldwide. In temperate forests, seeds are often spread by wind and water, though sometimes by animals such as squirrels and birds. But in the tropics the emphasis is far heavier on the latter, as Dr. Pierre-Michel Forget explains to mongabay.com. "[In rainforests] a majority of plants, trees, lianas, epiphytes, and herbs, are dispersed by fruit-eating animals. […] As seed size varies from tiny seeds less than one millimetres to several centimetres in length or diameter, then, a variety of animals is required to disperse such a continuum and variety of seed size, the smaller being transported by ants and dung beetles, the larger swallowed by cassowary, tapir and elephant, for instance."
Savior of endangered crocodiles dies of malaria
(02/25/2010) Crocodile-expert and conservationist, Dr. John Thorbjarnarson, died of falciparum malaria in India on February 14th at the age of fifty-two. While many conservationists work with publicly popular animals like tigers and whales, Thorbjarnarson’s passion was for crocodiles. A Senior Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Thorbjarnarson proved instrumental in saving both the Orinoco crocodile and the Chinese crocodile from extinction.
Galapagos fur seals exploit warmer waters to establish colony off Peru
(02/25/2010) As suggested by their name, the Galapagos fur seals were once endemic to the Galapagos island chain off the coast of Ecuador. But in a warming world species are on the move, and the Galapagos fur seal is no exception. According to a recent story in Reuters the Galapagos fur seals have established what appears to be a permanent colony off the coast of Peru, 900 miles from their home.
Under siege: oil and gas concessions cover 41 percent of the Peruvian Amazon
(02/16/2010) A new study in the Environmental Research Letter finds that the Peruvian Amazon is being overrun by the oil and gas industries. According to the study 41 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is currently covered by 52 separate oil and gas concessions, nearly six times as much land as was covered in 2003. "We found that more of the Peruvian Amazon has recently been leased to oil and gas companies than at any other time on record," explained co-author Dr. Matt Finer of the Washington DC-based Save America’s Forests in a press release. The concessions even surpass the oil boom in the region during the 1970s and 80s, which resulted in extensive environmental damage.
Illegal logging rampant in Peru
(02/15/2010) A survey of 78 forestry concessions in Peru found that 46 (59 percent) were in breach of their concession contracts, reports the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).
Amazon rainforest will bear cost of biofuel policies in Brazil
(02/08/2010) Business-as-usual agricultural expansion to meet biofuel production targets for 2020 will take a heavy toll on Brazil's Amazon rainforest in coming years, undermining the potential emissions savings of transitioning from fossil fuels to biofuels, warns a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research suggests that intensification of cattle ranching, combined with efforts to promote high-yielding oil crops like oil palm could lessen forecast greenhouse gas emissions from indirect land use in the region.
New spiny pocket mouse discovered in the mountainous rainforests of Venezuela
(02/08/2010) Researchers have discovered a new species of spiny mouse that lives on four mountainous forests in the Cordillera de la Costa mountain range of Venezuela.
Birder captures first footage ever of long whiskered owlet, one of the world's rarest birds
(02/04/2010) It was any birders dream come true: not only to see one of the world's rarest birds, but to discover a new unknown population. Israeli birder, Shachar Alterman, was surveying birds with the UK organization Neotropical Primate Conservation in Peruvian cloud forest when he heard and then saw the long whiskered owlet.
The Amazongate fiasco
(02/03/2010) A claim published in the Sunday Times over the veracity of a statement published in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report may land the British newspaper in hot water. On Sunday, Jonathan Leake, Science & Environment Editor of the Sunday Times, accused the IPCC of making a "bogus rainforest claim" when it cited a report warning that up to 40 percent of the Amazon could be "drastically" affected by climate change. Climate change skeptics immediately seized on "Amazongate" as further evidence to discredit the IPCC just two weeks after it was found to be using shoddy glacier data in its 2007 climate assessment.
Environmentalists and indigenous groups decry approval of massive dam in Amazon
(02/02/2010) The approval of the hydro-electric Belo Monte Dam from the Brazilian environmental agency, IBAMA, has raised condemnations from environmentalists and indigenous groups. The dam will divert the flow of the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon River, which runs through the Amazon in northeast Brazil. According to critics the dam will destroy vast areas of pristine rainforest, disrupt sensitive ecosystems, and relocate 12,000 people.
Farmers drive deforestation in Rondonia, in the Brazilian Amazon
(01/31/2010) Small-scale farmers who lease land from the Brazilian government are very much responsible for deforestation in the Brazilian state of Rondonia in the Amazon area. In most areas with agrarian projects, more than fifty percent of the land has been cleared of forests, while the Brazilian Forestry Code permits farming concerns in the Amazon to clear only twenty percent of the land.
Giant guano outcroppings win protection as bird habitat in Peru
(01/25/2010) The Peruvian government has moved to protect 33 guano sites—both islands and peninsulas—as well as surrounding waters in a bid to save declining bird populations.
Forest-bulldozing ranchers win 'Greenwashing Award' for claiming they are creating a 'nature reserve'
(01/20/2010) Indigenous rights organization, Survival International, has awarded Brazilian cattle company, Yaguarete Porá S.A., its 'Greenwashing Award 2010' for destroying indigenous peoples' forest—including uncontacted natives—and calling it conservation.
Photos: park in Ecuador likely contains world’s highest biodiversity, but threatened by oil
(01/19/2010) In the midst of a seesaw political battle to save Yasuni National Park from oil developers, scientists have announced that this park in Ecuador houses more species than anywhere else in South America—and maybe the world. "Yasuní is at the center of a small zone where South America's amphibians, birds, mammals, and vascular plants all reach maximum diversity," Dr. Clinton Jenkins of the University of Maryland said in a press release. "We dubbed this area the 'quadruple richness center.'"
Uncontacted natives confirmed in Brazil
(01/10/2010) An uncontacted tribe of about 60 people has been confirmed by FUNAI (Brazil's Indigenous Affairs Department) in the Indigenous Territory of Arariboia, located in the eastern Amazonian state, Maranhao.
Brazil to keep emissions reductions pledge despite failed climate summit
(12/30/2009) Brazil will honor its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 14-19 percent from 2005 levels despite the failure of this month's climate meeting in Copenhagen to establish binding limits on emissions, reports Reuters.
Rainforest conservation: a year in review
(12/27/2009) 2009 may prove to be an important turning point for tropical forests. Lead by Brazil, which had the lowest extent of deforestation since at least the 1980s, global forest loss likely declined to its lowest level in more than a decade. Critical to the fall in deforestation was the global financial crisis, which dried up credit for forest-destroying activities and contributed to a crash in commodity prices, an underlying driver of deforestation.
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