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Mongabay.com news articles on latin america in blog format. Updated regularly.









20% of the Brazilian Amazon's tree species to go extinct

(08/11/2008) A new study estimates the number of trees that will go extinct in the Brazilian Amazon due to habitat loss.


Climate change to hurt Brazil's farm exports by 2020

(08/11/2008) Climate change could have a significant impact on thye value of Brazil's agricultural exports according to a study presented Monday at an agribusiness conference in Sao Paulo, reports the Financial Times.


Aquarium fish trade linked to cocaine, timber smuggling in Brazil

(08/10/2008) Smugglers are using the ornamental fish trade to traffic cocaine and illegally logged timber according to a report from Sérgio Abranches of O Eco, a leading Brazilian environmental web site.


Brazil may ban new sugar cane cultivation in the Pantanal

(08/06/2008) Brazil would restrict sugar cane cultivation in the world's largest tropical wetland under a proposed plan to protect the Pantanal, reports Reuters.


Shift from poverty-driven to industry-driven deforestation may help conservation

(08/06/2008) A shift from poverty-driven deforestation to industry-driven deforestation in the tropics may offer new opportunities for forest conservation, argues a new paper published in the journal Trends in Evolution & Ecology.


Corporations become prime driver of deforestation, providing clear target for environmentalists

(08/05/2008) The major drivers of tropical deforestation have changed in recent decades. According to a forthcoming article, deforestation has shifted from poverty-driven subsistence farming to major corporations razing forests for large-scale projects in mining, logging, oil and gas development, and agriculture. While this change makes many scientists and conservationists uneasy, it may allow for more effective action against deforestation. Rhett A. Butler of Mongabay.com, a leading environmental science website focusing on tropical forests, and William F. Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama believe that the shift to deforestation by large corporations gives environmentalists and concerned governments a clear, identifiable target that may prove more responsive to environmental concerns.


Often overlooked, small wild cats are important and in trouble

(08/05/2008) While often over-shadowed by their larger and better-known relatives like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars, small cats are important indicators of the health of an ecosystem, says a leading small cat expert who uses camera traps extensively to document and monitor mammals in the wild. Dr Jim Sanderson, a scientist with the Small Cat Conservation Alliance and Conservation International, is working to save some of the world's rarest cats, including the Andean cat and Guigna of South America and the bay, flat-headed, and marbled cats of Southeast Asia. In the process Sanderson has captured on film some of the planet's least seen animals, including some species that have never before been photographed. He has also found that despite widespread criticism, some corporate entities are effectively protecting remote wilderness areas.


New Costa Rica guide offers insight on responsible tourism

(08/04/2008) Costa Rica is the world's most popular destination for rainforest tourism thanks to its spectacular biodiversity, relative ease-of-access and safety, and many natural attractions. In 2007 nearly 2 million tourists visited the country, generating almost 2 billion in revenue -- more than the combined income from bananas and coffee.


Brazil asks rich countries to fund Amazon conservation

(08/02/2008) Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva officially unveiled plans to raise a $21 billion fund for protecting the Amazon rainforest. The plan, which was originally announced several months ago, aims to be funded by foreign donations. Contributors will not be eligible for carbon credits that may be generated by reductions in deforestation.


Bush Administration moves to weaken endangered speices protection

(07/31/2008) The Bush administration's handling of the Endangered Species Act has put the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl in danger of extinction, according to the Centre for Biological Diversity. Even though less than 30 individuals exist in the United States—all in Arizona—the species was removed from the Endangered Species Act in 2006, after nine years of protection.


Researchers discover "artistic" moth in Panama

(07/29/2008) Researchers have discovered a new species of Bagworm Moth that wraps its eggs individually in "beautiful cases" fashioned from its golden abdominal hairs, according to a new paper published in the Annals of the Entomology Society of America. The behavior is unique among insects.


An interview a shaman in the Amazon rainforest

(07/28/2008) Deep in the Suriname rainforest, an innovative conservation group is working with indigenous tribes to protect their forest home and culture using traditional knowledge combined with cutting-edge technology. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is partnering with the Trio, an Amerindian group that lives in the remote Suriname-Brazil border area of South America, to develop programs to protect their forest home from illegal gold miners and encroachment, improve village health, and strengthen cultural ties between indigenous youths and elders at a time when such cultures are disappearing even faster than rainforests. In June 2008 mongabay.com visited the community of Kwamalasamutu in Suriname to see ACT's programs in action. During the visit, Amasina, a Trio shaman who works with ACT, answered some questions about his role as a traditional healer in the village.


14 countries win REDD funding to protect tropical forests

(07/24/2008) Fourteen countries have been selected by the World Bank to receive funds for conserving their tropical forests under an innovative carbon finance scheme.


Brazil to send more police into the Amazon to fight illegal logging

(07/23/2008) Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed two decrees Tuesday to rein in illegal forest clearing in the Amazon, reports the Associated Press (AP).


Secret power plan would devastate Sarawak's rainforest with 12 new hydropower plants

(07/23/2008) Environmentalists have called on the Malaysian government to develop a comprehensive energy policy, following the discovery of secret plans to build a network of power plants across interior Sarawak on the island of Borneo.


Mangroves are key to healthy fisheries, finds study

(07/21/2008) Mangroves serve as a critical nursery for young marine life and therefore play an important role in the health of fisheries and the economic well-being of fishermen, report researchers writing in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


600 species of mushrooms discovered in Guyana

(07/21/2008) In six plots of Guyanese rainforest, measuring only a hundred square meters each, scientists have discovered an astounding 1200 species of macrofungi, commonly known as mushrooms. Even more surprising: they believe over 600 of these are new to science — that's equivalent to a new species every square meter.


Destruction of wetlands worsens global warming

(07/20/2008) Destruction of wetland ecosystems will generate massive greenhouse gas emissions in coming years, warn experts convening at an international wetlands conference in Brazil.


Implementing a butterfly farm: Iwokrama reserve's latest sustainable initiative

(07/20/2008) Iwokrama, which lies in the heart of Guyana's rainforest, is known worldwide for its innovative approach to preserving tropical rainforests and creating livelihoods for local communities. Their focus has been to create programs that utilize the forest sustainably, allowing for a mutual benefit between the people and the forest itself. Currently, Iwokrama has a number of initiatives under its umbrella, including eco-tourism, sustainable forestry, on-going research projects, and training programs. Amid these bustling projects, a new one has emerged: butterfly farming.


Amazon timber industry declares ban on illegal logging

(07/18/2008) The Brazilian state of Pará today announced a ban on the sales of illegally logged timber from the Amazon rainforests.


Amazon deforestation forecast for 2008 revised downward

(07/17/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell sharply in the month of May (1,096 square kilometers) compared to May a year-ago (1,222 square kilometers), according to preliminary satellite data announced by the country's environment minister on Tuesday. Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said a preliminary analysis by the government's National Space Research Institute (INPE) showed 1,096 square kilometers (423 square miles) of rain forest were cut down in May, down from 1,123 square kilometers (434 square miles) in April.


Birds face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought

(07/14/2008) Birds may face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought, says a bird ecology and conservation expert from Stanford University. Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and head of the world's largest tropical bird radio tracking project, estimates that 15 percent of world's 10,000 bird species will go extinct or be committed to extinction by 2100 if necessary conservation measures are not taken. While birds are one of the least threatened of any major group of organisms, Sekercioglu believes that worst-case climate change, habitat loss, and other factors could conspire to double this proportion by the end of the century. As dire as this sounds, Sekercioglu says that many threatened birds are rarer than we think and nearly 80 percent of land birds predicted to go extinct from climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction, suggesting that species loss may be far worse than previously imagined. At particular risk are marine species and specialists in mountain habitats.


Fruit bats frequent clay-licks in the Amazon rainforest

(07/14/2008) In the Peru new research finds that female fruit bats are frequent visitors to clay-licks.


Palm oil industry moves into the Amazon rainforest

(07/09/2008) Malaysia's Land Development Authority FELDA has announced plans to immediately establish 100,000 hectares (250,000) of oil palm plantations in the Brazilian Amazon. The agency will partner with Braspalma, a local company, to form Felda Global Ventures Brazil Sdn Bhd. FELDA will have a 70 percent stake in the venture. The announcement had been expected. Last month Najib said Malaysia would seek to expand its booming palm oil industry overseas. The country is facing land constraints at home.


Volunteering with Leatherback Sea Turtles in Galibi, Suriname

(07/08/2008) The northern coast of Suriname is one of the best places in the world to view the largest turtle, the marine Leatherback. Watching the turtle rise out of the tides onto the beach gives one the sense of meeting something ancient, rare, and more sea-monster than marine turtle. Yet, if I call it a sea-monster, I do not mean that it is frightening or ugly: far from it. But it is mysterious, terrible, and wondrous.


Good news for reefs: giant coral structure found off Brazil

(07/07/2008) Amid a series of dire reports on the status of coral reefs, scientists announced the discovery of a reef off the southern coast of Brazil's Bahia state that doubles the size of the Southern Atlantic Ocean's largest and richest reef system, the Abrolhos Bank.


20% of Amazon timber illegally harvested from protected areas

(07/07/2008) 20 percent of Amazon timber is illegally harvested from protected areas according to a report published in O'Globo.


Parks help people to the detriment of biodiversity, suggests study

(07/03/2008) The establishment of nature reserves in Africa and Latin America has been a boon to human settlement but comes at a cost to biodiversity, suggests a new study published in the journal Science. Analyzing 306 rural protected areas in 45 countries in Africa and Latin America, George Wittemyer and colleagues found that the rate of human population growth along the borders of reserves was nearly twice that of neighboring rural areas.


Brazil fines 24 ethanol producers for illegal forest clearing

(07/01/2008) Brazil fined two dozen ethanol producers accused of illegal clearing the country's endangered Mata Atlântica or Atlantic rainforest, reports The Associated Press.


Brazil signs sustainable ethanol deal with Sweden

(06/27/2008) A group of Brazilian ethanol producers has signed the first deal to export certified sustainable ethanol, reports Reuters.


Brazil seizes cattle illegally grazing on Amazon forest lands

(06/25/2008) In an unprecedented move Brazilian authorities seized 3,100 head of cattle found grazing on illegally deforested lands in the Amazon, reports the New York Times. The cattle's owner had been fined 3 million reais ($1.86 million) in 2005 for illegal forest clearing and had ignored a court order to remove the livestock from the lands.


Amazon soy moratorium extended; may be expanded to other products

(06/23/2008) Soy crushers operating in the Brazilian Amazon have extended a two-year-old moratorium on the purchase of soybeans produced on rainforest lands deforested after 2006, reports Reuters.


Rainforests face array of emerging threats

(06/15/2008) Tropical forests face a number of emerging threats said a leading biologist speaking at a scientific conference in Paramaribo, Suriname.


Geology, climate links make Guiana Shield region particularly sensitive to change

(06/14/2008) Soil and climate patterns in the Guiana Shield make the region particularly sensitive to environmental change, said a scientist speaking at a biology conference in Paramaribo, Suriname.


More than 8% of the Brazilian Amazon is illegally owned

(06/14/2008) More 42 than million hectares — eight percent — of the Brazilian Amazon is not legally owned, reports a study released last week by a national environmental NGO.


Colombia creates rainforest reserve to protect medicinal plants

(06/11/2008) Colombia today announced the creation of a rainforest reserve dedicated to the protection of medicinal plants. The Orito Ingi-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary encompasses 10,626 hectares of biologically-rich tropical rainforest ranging in altitude from 700 to 3300 meters above sea level. The sanctuary is based on an initiative launched by local indigenous communities with the support of the Amazon conservation Team (ACT), an innovative NGO working with native peoples to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests. Members of the communities — which include the Kofán, Inga, Siona, Kamtsá, and Coreguaje tribes — combined their rich knowledge of medicinal plants with cutting-edge technology to determine the placement and extent of the reserve. Their contributions to the effort are reflected in the name of the reserve, according to ACT.


Kayapo tribe gets trust fund for Amazon protection

(06/11/2008) The government of the Brazilian state of Pará and conservation International-Brasil (CI) have established a trust fund to support conservation and sustainable development initiatives by indigenous Kayapó groups in the Amazon rainforest. The fund will have an initial endowment of 10 million reals (US$6.2 million).


Brazil levies $279 million fine for illegal Amazon logging

(06/11/2008) Brazilian authorities slapped the largest-ever fine on a timber company now owned by a Swedish sporting goods magnate for alleged illegal logging, according to the Associated Press.


Mexican canyon serves as key refuge for endangered spider monkeys

(06/09/2008) A picturesque canyon in Chiapas, Mexico is serving as an important refuge for the northernmost population of Spider monkeys, reports a study published in the June issue of Tropical conservation Science.


Argentina's primates under threat from agriculture

(06/09/2008) Five species of non-human primates inhabit in northern Argentina: black and gold howlers, brown howlers, black capuchins, brown-capped capuchins, and owl monkeys. Although two of these species are clearly endangered (brown howlers and owl monkeys), populations of all other species are disappearing due to anthropogenic changes of their habitats. Most of the forests where these species inhabit are under continuous alteration and degradation due to soy, rice, and forest plantations, and exotic pastures for livestock. Moreover, protected forests in Argentina are insufficient to protect these primates.


Heavily-populated Amazon was decimated by old world disease

(06/09/2008) Ecologists and archaeologists agree that when Columbus struck the Americas in 1492 everything changed, but questions persist over the kind of world Columbus and his followers would soon transform. Recently the state of the pre-Columbian Amazon has been under increasing debate among scientists across numerous fields. In a lecture given at the ATBC conference (Association of Tropical Biology and conservation) in Paramaribo, Suriname, Dr. Francis Mayle weighed in on the debate.


Guide to Monkeys of the Guianas released

(06/09/2008) A pocket identification guide to the monkeys of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana was unveiled Sunday at a gathering of tropical biologists in Paramaribo, Suriname.


Rare golden primates help speed recovery of endangered Brazilian forest

(06/09/2008) The endangered golden lion tamarin — a flagship species for conservation efforts in Brazil's highly threatened Atlantic Forest or Mata Atlantica — plays an important role in seed dispersal, thereby helping forest regeneration, according to research published in the June issue of the open access e-journal Tropical conservation Science.


Dung beetles persist in long-term forest fragments but may suffer from hunting of large animals

(06/09/2008) Dung beetles bury animal dung to use as their own food and to provide food for their young. This group of beetles is especially prevalent in tropical rainforests. Their burying behvaior incidentally contributes to ecosystem functioning and health by the removal of waste, control of dung-breeding pests, soil fertilization and aeration, and the secondary burial of intact seeds found in mammal feces. Because of their important roles in ecosystems, it is important to know how they are affected by habitat change, in this case, habitat fragmentation.


Guiana Shield forests help preserve biodiversity and climate

(06/09/2008) The Guiana Shield region of South America could play a significant role in efforts to fight global warming as part of a broader strategy to protect the world's biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversty wilderness areas, said a leading conservationist speaking in Paramaribo, Suriname at a gathering of tropical biologists.


Brazil creates 3 Amazon parks

(06/08/2008) In a World Environment Day announcement, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva unveileved three new protected areas covering 6.4 million acres (2.6 million hectares) of Amazon rainforest but warned foreigners to stay out of environmental affairs in the region, according to the Associated Press (AP) and Reuters.


Amazon beef producer creates eco-certified meat product with help of scientists

(06/08/2008) Independencia Alimentos SA, Brazil's fifth-largest beef producer, will create an "eco-certified", branded beef product from the Amazon's Xingu region. Certification will be based on criteria established by Alian?a da Terra, an Brazilian NGO that seeks to improve the environmental performance of ranchers and beef producers in the world's largest rainforest. The new beef product will include a per-kilo "ecosystem service fee" — calculated with the help of scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center — to facilitate a financial reward for the producer's environmental stewardship.


Brazil's new environmental minister blames ranchers for surge in Amazon deforestation

(06/03/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose significantly in April 2008 according to Carlos Minc, Brazil's newly appointed environment minister.


Pictures of uncontacted Indian tribe in the Amazon (update)

(05/30/2008) A helicopter fly-over of a remote part of the Brazilian Amazon captured photos of what is believed to be one of the world's last uncontacted tribes, reports a group that works to protect indigenous peoples. Images released by London-based Survival International show an angry response from members of the tribe — warriors in red war paint took aim at the chopper with bows and arrows. The photos, taken by José Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior of FUNAI, the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department, were released to bring attention to encroachment on indigenous lands near the border with Peru. Brazil says illegal loggers from Peru are threatening tribes deep in the Amazon rainforest.


Photos of arrow-wielding uncontacted tribe in the Amazon rainforest

(05/30/2008) A fly-over of a remote part of the Amazon rainforest spotted members of what is believed to be one of the world's last uncontacted tribes. The Amazonians reacted aggressively to the fly-over, with bow and arrows aimed at the plane, according to Survival International, a group that works to protect indigenous peoples.



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