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









Permaculture: a path toward a more sustainable Amazon?

(05/03/2012) Communities living in and around tropical forests remain highly dependent on forest products, including nuts, resins, fruit and vegetables, oils, and medicinal plants. But relatively few of these products have been successfully commercialized in ways that generates sustained local benefits. When commercialization does happen, outsiders or a few well-placed insiders usually see the biggest windfall. Large-scale exploitation can also lead to resource depletion or conversion of forests for monoculture-based production. The ecosystem and local people lose.


Animal picture of the day: the prehistoric peccary

(05/02/2012) The Chacoan peccary (Catagonus wagneri) was only known from fossils and thought extinct, perhaps a victim of the megafaunal extinction that ended the Pleistocene, until researchers in the 1970s stumbled on a living population in Argentina. While peccaries look like and are distantly related to the pig species that originated in the Old World, they belong to their own family, the Tayassuidae.


Pictures of Yasuni, Ecuador's rainforest gem

(04/27/2012) In late 2010, mongabay.com reporter Jeremy Hance traveled to Yasuni National Park, arguably the most biodiverse place on the planet and home to a unique initiative to save a rainforest by asking the international community to pay to keep oil in the ground. Researchers have found more tree species in a single hectare in Yasuni National Park than in all of the U.S. and Canada combined. Yasuni also contains the highest biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians in the world with 271 species. But insects trump them all: entomologist Terry Erwin has estimated that a single hectare of rainforest in Yasuni may contain as many as 100,000 unique insect species.


Oil company Perenco endangering 'uncontacted' indigenous people, says Peru

(04/25/2012) The company hoping to exploit the oil deposits slated to transform Peru’s economy has been declared to be endangering the lives of indigenous people living in "voluntary isolation" by the country’s indigenous affairs department (INDEPA). Perenco, an Anglo-French company with headquarters in London and Paris, is currently seeking approval from Peru’s Energy Ministry (MEM) to develop its operations in the Loreto region in the north of the country.


Featured video: How to save the Amazon

(04/22/2012) The past ten years have seen unprecedented progress in fighting deforestation in the Amazon. Indigenous rights, payments for ecosystem services, government enforcement, satellite imagery, and a spirit of cooperation amongst old foes has resulted in a decline of 80 percent in Brazil's deforestation rates.


Photos: Uncontacted Amazon tribes documented for first time in Colombia

(04/19/2012) Aerial surveys of a remote area of rainforest along the Colombia-Brazil border have produced the first photographic evidence of uncontacted tribes, according to a conservation group that works to safeguard indigenous territories and culture. The photos, released by the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), show five long houses or malokas thought to belong to two indigenous groups, the Yuri or Carabayo and Passé, some of the last isolated tribes in the Colombian Amazon. The images provide confirmation that uncontacted communities still exist within the Rio Puré National Park, which protects a million hectares (2.47 million acres) of mostly pristine rainforest between the Caquetá and Putumayo River basins along the Brazilian border.


Indigenous groups oppose priest pushing for road through uncontacted tribes' land

(04/19/2012) A grassroots indigenous organization in Peru is calling for the removal of an Italian Catholic priest from the remote Amazon in response to his lobbying to build a highway through the country’s biggest national park.


Will mega-dams destroy the Amazon?

(04/18/2012) More than 150 new dams planned across the Amazon basin could significantly disrupt the ecological connectivity of the Amazon River to the Andes with substantial impacts for fish populations, nutrient cycling, and the health of Earth's largest rainforest, warns a comprehensive study published in the journal PLoS ONE. Scouring public data and submitting information requests to governments, researchers Matt Finer of Save America’s Forests and Clinton Jenkins of North Carolina State University documented plans for new dams in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.


Pictures: Destruction of the Amazon's Xingu River begins for Belo Monte Dam

(04/18/2012) The Xingu River will never be the same. Construction of Belo Monte Dam has begun in the Brazilian Amazon, as shown by these photos taken by Greenpeace, some of the first images of the hugely controversial project. Indigenous groups have opposed the dam vigorously for decades, fearing that it will upend their way of life. Environmentalists warn that the impacts of the dam—deforestation, methane emissions, and an irreparable changes to the Xingu River's ecosystem—far outweigh any benefits. The dam, which would be the world's third largest, is expected to displace 16,000 people according to the government, though some NGOs put the number at 40,000. The dam will flood over 40,000 hectares of pristine rainforest, an area nearly seven times the size of Manhattan.


Animal picture of the day: the gray zorro

(04/18/2012) This canine has many names: the gray zorro, the chilla, and the South American gray fox. Despite its moniker as a fox, however, the species is more closely related to wolves and coyotes than actual foxes.


David vs. Goliath: Goldman Environmental Prize winners highlight development projects gone awry

(04/16/2012) A controversial dam, a massive mine, poisonous pesticides, a devastating road, and criminal polluters: many of this year's Goldman Environmental Prize winners point to the dangers of poorly-planned, and ultimately destructive, development initiatives. The annual prize, which has been dubbed the Green Nobel Prize is awarded to six grassroots environmental heroes from around the world and includes a financial award of $150,000 for each winner.


U.S. gobbling illegal wood from Peru's Amazon rainforest

(04/10/2012) The next time you buy wood, you may want to make sure it's not from Peru. According to an in-depth new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the illegal logging trade is booming in the Peruvian Amazon and much of the wood is being exported to the U.S. Following the labyrinthian trail of illegal logging from the devastated forests of the Peruvian Amazon to the warehouses of the U.S., the EIA identified over 112 shipments of illegally logged cedar and big-leaf mahogany between January 2008 and May 2010. In fact, the group found that over a third (35 percent) of all the shipments of cedar and mahogany from Peru to the U.S. were from illegal sources, a percentage that is likely conservative.


Brazil can eliminate deforestation by 2020, says governor of giant Amazon state

(04/05/2012) Brazil can reduce Amazon deforestation to zero by 2020 while boosting rural livelihoods and maintaining healthy economic growth, the governor of Pará told mongabay.com on the sidelines of the Skoll World Forum, a major conference on social entrepreneurship, last week. Governor Simao Jatene is hopeful that a revolution in land management and governance can turn the tide in Pará, a state that is three times the size of California and has lost more Amazon forest -- 90,000 sq km of Amazon forest since 1996 -- over the past decade-and-a-half than any other in Brazil.


Judge suspends Brazilian dam that would flood sacred waterfalls

(04/02/2012) A federal judge has suspended the construction of a 1,820 megawatt dam on the Teles Pires River in the Amazon. The judge found that indigenous communities were not properly consulted about the dam, which would flood a sacred site, known as the Seven Waterfalls, as well as imperil the livelihoods of indigenous fishermen.


Government policy contributes to huge drop in Amazon deforestation in Brazil

(03/28/2012) Roughly half of the 70 percent decline in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2009 can be attributed to policies enacted by the Brazilian government, finds an analysis published by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), a group funded by George Soros. The measures helped avoid 62,000 square kilometers of deforestation and 620 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions that would have otherwise occurred.


Indigenous groups fight for recognition and illumination in Peru

(03/26/2012) "Shh, wait here," Wilson told me. I ducked down behind the buttress of a large tree to wait. We had been walking through the jungle for a few hours. At first we followed a path through the undergrowth, a wet world of ferns, trunks and lianas speckled with the sunlight that made it down through the canopy and understory, but soon we simply walked along a route Wilson picked out. I had been trying to concentrate on the myriad sounds: cicadas were the background and various small birds tweeted from different points. We were listening and looking for signs that would lead us to prey—perhaps the calm whistle of a perdiz or the scent—marking of a boar—but just before Wilson became excited I had heard nothing. He stopped and said, "Red monkeys," pointing ahead.


Greenpeace calls for zero deforestation globally by 2020

(03/22/2012) Greenpeace reiterated its call for an end to deforestation in Brazil by 2015 and globally by 2020 during its launch of an awareness-raising expedition down the Amazon River aboard the Rainbow Warrior.


3 new private conservation reserves established by communities in Peru

(03/21/2012) Three new private conservation areas in the Amazon-Andes region of Peru will help buffer the country's national park system while offering new opportunities for local people to benefit from protecting ecosystems.


Invasive primates threaten Atlantic Forest natives

(03/19/2012) Scientists have called for the removal of eight invasive primates from Brazil's imperiled Atlantic Forest in a new study published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society. The researchers fear that the eight alien monkeys could hurt other species due to increased competition, predation, and possible disease.


Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon: a view from the ground

(03/15/2012) On the back of a partially functioning motorcycle I fly down miles of winding footpath at high-speed through the dense Amazon rainforest, the driver never able to see more than several feet ahead. Myriads of bizarre creatures lie camouflaged amongst the dense vines and lush foliage; flocks of parrots fly overhead in rainbows of color; a moss-covered three-toed sloth dangles from an overhanging branch; a troop of red howler monkeys rumble continuously in the background; leafcutter ants form miles of crawling highways across the forest floor. Even the hot, wet air feels alive.


Amazon plant yields miracle cure for dental pain

(03/14/2012) The world may soon benefit from a plant long-used by indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon for toothaches, eliminating the need for local injections in some cases. Researchers have created a medicinal gel from a plant known commonly as spilanthes extract (Acmella Oleracea), which could become a fully natural alternative to current anesthetics and may even have a wide-range of applications beyond dental care.


Animal photos of the day: the most elusive bird in the world?

(03/12/2012) Few people have ever laid eyes on the Junin rail (Laterallus tuerosi). Located in a single lake in Peru, the well-camouflaged bird hides spends its time deep in marshes to avoid predators. This behavior has also allowed to largely avoid human onlookers, making it one of the world's most difficult birds to observe.


International Labor Organization raps Brazil over monster dam

(03/07/2012) The UN's International Labor Organization (ILO) has released a report stating that the Brazilian government violated the rights of indigenous people by moving forward on the massive Belo Monte dam without consulting indigenous communities. The report follows a request last year by the The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for the Brazilian government to suspend the dam, which is currently being constructed on the Xingu River in the Amazon.


Rally calls on Brazil President to veto new forest code

(03/07/2012) A coalition of 200 organizations, known as the Comitê Brasil in Defense of Forests and Sustainable Development, rallied today in Brasilia against proposed changes to Brazil's Forestry Code. The code, which was supposed to be voted on this week but has been delayed to shore up more support, would make changes in over 40-year-old code that some conservationists fear could lead to further deforestation in the Amazon. Protestors called on the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, to veto the bill as it stands now, holding signs exclaiming, "Veta Dilma!" ("Veto it Dilma!").


Innovative program seeks to safeguard Peruvian Amazon from impacts of Inter-Oceanic Highway

(03/06/2012) Arbio was begun by Michel Saini and Tatiana Espinosa Q. in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios. The project focuses on a protective response to the increased encroachment and destructive land use driven by development. The recent construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway in the Madre de Dios area presents an enormous threat to forest biodiversity. Arbio provides opportunities to help establish a buffer zone near the road to limit intrusive agricultural and deforestation activities.


World's most toxic frog gets new reserve

(03/05/2012) Touching a wild golden poison frog could kill you within minutes: in fact, a single golden poison frog, whose Latin name Phyllobates terribilis is even more evocative than its common one, is capable of killing 10 humans with its one milligram dose of poison. Yet the deadly nature of this tiny frog has not stopped it from nearing extinction. Now, in a bid to save the species, the World Land Trust (WLT) and Colombian NGO ProAves have teamed up to establish a 50 hectare (124 acres) reserve in the Chocó rainforest.


Tourism for biodiversity in Tambopata

(02/27/2012) Research and exploration in the Neotropics are extraordinary, life-changing experiences. In the past two decades, a new generation of collaborative projects has emerged throughout Central and South America to provide access to tropical biodiversity. Scientists, local naturalists, guides, students and travelers now have the chance to mingle and share knowledge. Fusion programs offering immersion in tropical biology, travel, ecological field work, and adventure often support local wilderness preservation, inspire and educate visitors.


Brazil's plan to cut protected areas for dams faces constitutional challenge

(02/17/2012) Federal public prosecutors in Brazil have challenged a plan to strip protected status from 86,288 hectares of land to make way for five new dams, reports International Rivers. The challenge is set to be heard by Brazil's Supreme Court.


'Gold' standard for REDD forest conservation project in Colombia's Choco

(02/15/2012) A pioneering project to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in a former conflict zone in Colombia has won gold certification under the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) standard. The accreditation will help local communities access carbon finance in their efforts to safeguard biologically-rich forests.


The camera trap revolution: how a simple device is shaping research and conservation worldwide

(02/14/2012) I must confess to a recent addiction: camera trap photos. When the Smithsonian released 202,000 camera trap photos to the public online, I couldn’t help but spend hours transfixed by the private world of animals. There was the golden snub-monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), with its unmistakably blue face staring straight at you, captured on a trail in the mountains of China. Or a southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), a tree anteater that resembles a living Muppet, poking its nose in the leaf litter as sunlight plays on its head in the Peruvian Amazon. Or the dim body of a spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) led by jewel-like eyes in the Tanzanian night. Or the less exotic red fox (Vulpes vulpes) which admittedly appears much more exotic when shot in China in the midst of a snowstorm. Even the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), an animal I too often connect with cartoons and stuffed animals, looks wholly real and wild when captured by camera trap: no longer a symbol or even a pudgy bear at the zoo, but a true animal with its own inner, mysterious life.


Photo: new blue, red, yellow lizard discovered in the Andes

(02/13/2012) Researchers have discovered a new species of lizard in the Peruvian Andes, whose males sport beautiful colors, according to a paper in ZooKeys. The highest-dwelling known species of the genus Potamites, the new lizard, dubbed Potamites montanicola, was found in forest streams at 1,500 to 2,000 meters (4,900 to 6,500 feet). The species was discovered as apart of a biodiversity monitoring program by COGA, a Peruvian fossil fuel company.


New rainforest and indigenous reserve established in Peru

(02/07/2012) On February 4th, the Peruvian government and a small indigenous group created a new Amazon reserve, dubbed the Maijuna Reserve. Located in northeastern Peru, the 390,000 hectare (970,000 acres) reserve is larger than California's Yosemite National Park and over three times the size of Hong Kong.


Guyanese tribe maps Connecticut-sized rainforest for land rights

(02/07/2012) In a bid to gain legal recognition of their land, the indigenous Wapichan people have digitally mapped their customary rainforest land in Guyana over the past ten years. Covering 1.4 million hectares, about the size of Connecticut, the rainforest would be split between sustainable-use regions, sacred areas, and wildlife conservation according to a plan by the Wapichan tribe that will be released today. The plan says the tribe would preserve the forest from extractive industries.


Photos of the day: a celebration of wetlands (for World Wetlands Day)

(02/02/2012) Forget the groundhogs, February 2nd is also World Wetland Day, commemorating the historic convention of wetlands in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. The Ramsar Treaty was an international agreement meant to address the loss and degradation of wetlands worldwide.


Fungus from the Amazon devours plastic

(02/02/2012) Students from Yale University have made the amazing discovery of a species of fungus that devours one of the world's most durable, and therefore environmentally troublesome, plastics: polyurethane. The new species of fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, is even able to consume polyurethane in zero-oxygen (anaerobic) conditions, which would be important in eating plastics in the deep dark layers of landfills where little sunlight, water, or oxygen is found.


Photo of the day: super-abundance of life found in Amazon park

(02/02/2012) Surveying a little-explored park in the Peruvian Amazon has paid off in dividends: researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have cataloged 365 species that had not yet been recorded in Bahuaja Sonene National Park. The never-before recorded species included two bats, thirty birds, and over two hundred butterflies and moths.


Majority of Andes' biodiversity hotspots remain unprotected

(02/01/2012) Around 80 percent of the Andes' most biodiverse and important ecosystems are unprotected according to a new paper published in the open-access journal BMC Ecology. Looking at a broad range of ecosystems across the Andes in Peru and Bolivia, the study found that 226 endemic species, those found no-where else, were afforded no protection whatsoever. Yet time is running out, as Andean ecosystems are undergoing incredible strain: a combination of climate change and habitat destruction may be pushing many species into ever-shrinking pockets of habitat until they literally have no-where to go.


Group releases close-up photos of 'uncontacted' tribe in Peru

(02/01/2012) New photos provide visual evidence of just how close the long-isolated tribe of Mashco-Piro people in the Amazon rainforest are to being contacted by the outside world—a perilous moment for tribes highly susceptible to disease and likely to defend their people and territory with weapons. According to indigenous rights NGO Survival International, the Maschco-Piro tribe has been seen more frequently outside of their forest home in Manu National Park in recent years. Some experts blame illegal logging in the park and helicopters used in oil and gas projects for the sightings.


New meteorological theory argues that the world's forests are rainmakers

(02/01/2012) New, radical theories in science often take time to be accepted, especially those that directly challenge longstanding ideas, contemporary policy or cultural norms. The fact that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not vice-versa, took centuries to gain widespread scientific and public acceptance. While Darwin's theory of evolution was quickly grasped by biologists, portions of the public today, especially in places like the U.S., still disbelieve. Currently, the near total consensus by climatologists that human activities are warming the Earth continues to be challenged by outsiders. Whether or not the biotic pump theory will one day fall into this grouping remains to be seen. First published in 2007 by two Russian physicists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, the still little-known biotic pump theory postulates that forests are the driving force behind precipitation over land masses.


Brazilian mining company connected to Belo Monte dam voted worst corporation

(01/31/2012) The world's second largest mining company, Vale, has been given the dubious honor of being voted the world's most awful corporation in terms of human rights abuses and environmental destruction by the Public Eye Awards. Vale received over 25,000 votes online, likely prompted in part by its stake in the hugely controversial Brazilian mega-dam, Belo Monte, which is being constructed on the Xingu River. An expert panel gave a second award to British bank Barclay's for speculation on food prices, which the experts stated was worsening hunger worldwide.


Saving the world's biggest river otter

(01/30/2012) Charismatic, vocal, unpredictable, domestic, and playful are all adjectives that aptly describe the giant river otter (Pteronura brasiliensis), one of the Amazon's most spectacular big mammals. As its name suggest, this otter is the longest member of the weasel family: from tip of the nose to tail's end the otter can measure 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. Living in closely-knit family groups, sporting a complex range of behavior, and displaying almost human-like capricious moods, the giant river otter has captured a number of researchers and conservationists' hearts, including Dutch conservationist Jessica Groenendijk.


Picture of the day: the world's largest bromeliad

(01/30/2012) Found in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, the world's biggest bromeliad Puya raimondii is imperiled by climate change and human disturbances.


Photos: 46 new species found in little-explored Amazonian nation

(01/25/2012) South America's tiniest independent nation still hides a number of big surprises: a three week survey to the sourthern rainforests of Suriname found 46 potentially new species and recorded nearly 1,300 species in all. Undertaken by Conservation International's (CI) Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) the survey found new species of freshwater fish, insects, and a new frog dubbed the "cowboy frog" for the spur on its heel. While Suriname may be small, much of its forest, in the Guyana Shield region of the Amazon, remains intact and pristine. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 91 percent of Suriname is covered in primary forests, however this data has not been updated in over two decades.


Brazil begins preliminary damming of Xingu River as protests continue

(01/19/2012) Damming of the Xingu River has begun in Brazil to make way for the eventual construction of the hugely controversial, Belo Monte dam. The Norte Energia (NESA) consortium has begun building coffer dams across the Xingu, which will dry out parts of the river before permanent damming, reports the NGO International Rivers. Indigenous tribes, who have long opposed the dam plans on their ancestral river, conducted a peaceful protest that interrupted construction for a couple hours.


Geology has split the Amazon into two distinct forests

(01/19/2012) The common view of the Amazon is that it is one massive, unbroken forest. This impression is given by maps which tend to mark the Amazon by a large glob of green or even by its single name which doesn't account for regional changes. Of course, scientists have long recognized different ecosystems in the Amazon, most especially related to climate. But a new study in the Journal of Biogeography has uncovered two distinct forest ecosystems, sharply divided, caused by million of years of geologic forces.


Deforestation, climate change threaten the ecological resilience of the Amazon rainforest

(01/19/2012) The combination of deforestation, forest degradation, and the effects of climate change are weakening the resilience of the Amazon rainforest ecosystem, potentially leading to loss of carbon storage and changes in rainfall patterns and river discharge, finds a comprehensive review published in the journal Nature.


Prehistoric Peruvians enjoyed popcorn

(01/18/2012) Researchers have uncovered corncobs dating back at least 3,000 years ago in two ancient mound sites in Peru according to a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The ancient corn remnants, which proved residents were eating both popped corn and corn flour, are the earliest ever discovered in South America and may go back as far as 4,700 BCE (6,700 years ago), over fifteen hundred years before the early Egyptians developed hieroglyphics and while woolly mammoths still roamed parts of the Earth.


Conserving Ecuador's Paramos, the alpine tundra ecosystem of the Andes

(01/17/2012) Grupo de Trabajo en Páramos del Ecuador (GTP) is a remarkable self-organized group of páramo experts that have met over the past 13 years in Quito, Ecuador. Páramo is an alpine tundra ecosystem which is located in the northern Andes of South America and adjacent southern Central America. Recently, the Grupo de Trabajo en Páramos del Ecuador published an excellent summary of their analysis from the past 13 years. Robert Hofstede, one of the editors of Páramo: Paisaje estudiado, habitado, manejado e institucionalizado, recently sat down with Mongabay.com and discussed the situation of páramo conservation in Ecuador.


Peruvian smugglers traffic illegal rainforest timber from Brazil to America

(01/11/2012) An investigation by Brazil's Federal Police has detailed a significant trade of illegally logged rainforest wood by Peruvian nationals making its way from northern Brazil to the U.S. and Mexico, reports O Globo.


Industrial palm oil production expands at expense of rainforests in Peru

(01/10/2012) Intensive palm oil production is expanding at the expense of biolologically-rich lowland rainforests in the Peruvian Amazon, reports a study published in Environmental Research Letters. The research indicates that enthusiasm for oil palm — one of the world's most lucrative crops — is taking a toll on forests outside of Southeast Asia, where the vast majority of palm oil is produced.



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