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Latam Eco review: Colombian reserves fail large vertebrates

Below are summaries of the most read stories by our Spanish language service, Mongabay Latam, from the week of April 9 – 15. The top two articles reported on high expectations for Peru’s new environmental minister, and the two sides of Colombian conservation, from a history of great success to threats to its most iconic species, the jaguar and the Andean bear.

The image above, of an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) — the only species that lives in Africa, from the vast Mongabay Latam archive, was the most popular on its social networks.

Zero Hour: What direction will Peru’s new environmental minister take?

El presidente del Perú, Martín Vizcarra, y la flamante ministra del Medio Ambiente, Fabiola Muñoz. Foto: Andina.
Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra and new Environment Minister Fabiola Muñoz. Image courtesy of Andina Peruvian News Agency.

Last month’s sudden resignation of Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ahead of impeachment hearings forced the immediate departure of his ministers and the selection of a new cabinet under incoming President Martín Vizcarra. All eyes are on the environmental sector and its new minister, Fabiola Muñoz, former director of the Agricultural Ministry’s National Forest and Wildlife Service. Experts agree that the environmental sector was seriously weakened in the last 20 months, losing ground to extractive activities. Even though Peru is considered one of the most megadiverse countries in the world, illegal mining and its relation to indigenous peoples and their territories remain thorny issues.

Nicaragua: Fire razes forests in the Indio Maíz Reserve

Humareda de los incendios en la reserva. Foto: Cortesía Salvemos la Reserva Indio Maíz.
Smoke from fires in the reserve. Image courtesy of Salvemos la Reserva Indio Maíz.

Since April 3, fire has destroyed more than 5000 hectares in the Indio Maíz Reserve, the second most important protected area in Nicaragua. The Rama and Kriol Territorial Government, which represents the nine indigenous communities considered ancestral owners of the reserve, said it was “undeniable that this fire was set by those doing illegal farming activities.” Environmental groups also point to an “absence of prevention and precautionary planning.” Mongabay Latam and local partner Onda Local reported on this issue in July last year.

New hammerhead shark nursery is conserved in Galapagos mangroves

Tiburones martillo (Sphyrna lewini). Foto. Fundación Malpelo.
Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini). Image courtesy of Malpelo Foundation.

Galapagos is a unique space that still harbors surprises, for example, a recent discovery of a hammerhead shark nursery. A population of 30 to 40 hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna lewini), an endangered species that has declined by 90 percent in the last 25 years, was discovered in a mangrove of Santa Cruz island. Nine had already been tagged for further tracking and study. Researchers were looking for nursery zones for black tip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus), the most common in the archipelago, as part of an eight-year survey of juveniles. They came across the hammerheads by accident – up to this moment they had recorded only 21 isolated cases, which underscores the importance of the discovery.

Indigenous peoples: Calls for territory, justice and against racism at the Americas Summit

La inauguración de la Cumbre de los Pueblos contó con la presencia del primer ministro peruano, César Villanueva. Foto: Yvette Sierra Praeli.
The inauguration of the Peoples Summit included the Peruvian Prime Minister, César Villanueva. Image by Yvette Sierra Praeli for Mongabay.

Indigenous leaders from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Panama, among other countries, met in Lima to debate issues of territory, security, free and prior informed consent before infrastructure projects, indigenous economies and the situation of those who live under threat for defending the environment. After a full day of debates at the Indigenous Peoples Forum, they were ready to present the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to heads of state at the Summit of the Americas days later. Of particular concern: land titles to their territories, the fight against corruption and the racism fomented by the policies of President Trump.

Protected areas are insufficient to protect Colombia’s large vertebrates

El jaguar está en peligro en algunas regiones de Colombia. Foto: Wikimedia Commons
Jaguars are endangered in some regions of Colombia. Image by Charles James Sharp/Sharp Photography via Wikimedia Commons (CC 4.0).

Colombia’s iconic animals are threatened by deforestation, overfishing and hunting, despite the growth of protected areas. Deforestation is splintering or destroying the habitat of these animals, resulting in reduced populations. Data on the populations of large vertebrates in protected areas is scarce. The solution to this problem will require time and considerable government expense. The concern is due in large part to the fact that many of these animals are highly mobile species that require extensive territories to roam, hunt, mate or reproduce.

Encenillo Biological Reserve: one of Colombia’s best preserved high Andean forests

Vista panorámica de la Reserva Biológica Encenillo. Foto: Cortesía Fundación Natura.
Panoramic view of the Encenillo Biological Reserve. Image courtesy of the Natura Foundation.

An hour outside of Bogotá in the Eastern Andean Cordillera of Colombia next to the National Chingaza Natural Park, lies a paradise that conserves one of the last old-growth, primary high Andean forests in the country. The Encenillo Biological Reserve is a private, nonprofit protected area that has become an example of ecological restoration of an endangered, strategic ecosystem. Listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable, high Andean forests are at high risk of collapse, especially due to the expansion of agriculture and ranching.

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