Conservation news

Latam Eco Review: Respected ancestral healer murdered in Peru

Below are summaries of the most popular stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 16 – 22. Among the top articles: the environmental world’s reaction to the terrible assassination of Olivia Arévalo, an activist of the Shipibo people in Peru; the search for a better system of land distribution in Colombia; and the struggle of indigenous communities in Bolivia against the construction of the Rositas hydroelectric plant.

The image above from the vast Mongabay Latam archive, of a Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae) — a colorful bird endemic to northern Australia, was the most popular on Latam’s social networks.

Peru: Assassination of Shipibo leader and healer

Olivia Arévalo, a traditional healer of the Shipibo people, was 81 years old. For the past few years, she lived near Pucallpa in the Yarinacocha district where she produced artisanal crafts and occasionally led ayahuasca sessions. Image courtesy of the Temple of the Way of Light.

To understand the magnitude of Olivia Arévalo’s murder, it is important to know who she was within the Shipibo indigenous community of the Amazon. The 81-year old, fatally shot April 9, served as a meraya, or master healer with ancestral knowledge of traditional medicine practices. “She will continue being a living symbol of wisdom and feminine strength that contributed to the reaffirmation of our cultural identity, helping us establish a line of communication between the Shipibo Konibos, medical science and western society,” said Ronald Suárez, president of the Shipibo Konibo Xetebo Council. A team of homicide specialists has traveled from Lima to Ucayali province to find the culprit.

A million rural households in Colombia have less land than a cow

Cattle in Colombia. Image courtesy of the Agricultural Ministry of Colombia.

Colombia has the most unequal land distribution in Latin America with 1% of the largest estates occupying 81% of the land. Much of what was proposed in the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC rebel group for a comprehensive reform of land distribution could be undermined by legislative initiatives that try to regulate it. Observers worry that the new land law is intended to favor and facilitate land for mining development.

Bolivian Indigenous communities go to court against hydroelectric plant

Community members of Tatarendo Nuevo keep watch. The members of this community are unwilling to leave their lands for the hydroelectric plant. Image by Eduardo Franco Berton for Mongabay.

Indigenous leaders in Bolivia are standing firm in their fight to stop the construction of the Rositas hydroelectric plant that will flood 45 000 hectares of their land, destroying their culture and high biodiversity. Community representatives filed a class action law suit April 2 in constitutional court claiming the project violates their right to free, prior and informed consent. The court has ordered the National Electric Company to suspend any construction activity until it hears the case.

Peru: More than 400 mining concessions given in protected forest

This was a tributary of the Camanti. Gold is destroying the place. “Everything can be bought with gold. And now look how we are. Camanti is upside down,” said local priest René Salizar.

The creation of Cusco’s Camanti Protected Forests has not been enough to stop destruction from mining and agriculture. Experts are denouncing the 439 mining concessions covering close to 1.5 million hectares on land designated for conservation and ecotourism. For this ‘protected area,’ the sky’s the limit for mining.

Norway gives $250 million to stop deforestation of the Amazon in Colombia

The prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, greets indigenous leaders in Leticia. Image courtesy of Amazonas, Colombia.

Norway became Colombia’s leading environmental ally this month when it increased aid for the fight against deforestation by $250 million under the results-based payment mechanism from 2020 to 2025. The support could be extended through 2030. The announcement is a vote of confidence, despite a 44% increase in deforestation in Colombia between 2015 and 2016

Video: New population of extremely rare ‘red handfish’ discovered off Tasmania

Red Handfish. Image courtesy of Antonio Cooper/University of Tasmania/Reef Life Survey.

Divers have discovered a new population of what is considered to be one of the world’s rarest fish. Until recently, scientists knew of only one tiny population of about 20 to 40 red handfish (Thymichthys politus), an unusual species that prefers to “walk” on the seafloor using its hand-shaped fins over swimming, from a strip of rocky reef in Frederick Henry Bay in southeast Tasmania.

Read about these stories in Spanish here.