Conservation news

Latam Eco Review: Hunger for wildlife, mercury rising, and a black jaguar sighting

A demaciated lion in the Zulia state zoo in Venezuela. Image by Christian Veron on Twitter

The most popular stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay-Latam, in the last week investigated how human hunger is driving hunting in Venezuela (and danger for zoo animals, pictured above), how gold miners are contaminating Bolivia’s rivers with mercury, and news of Ecuador’s first wildlife corridor.

Economic crisis in Venezuela: Hungry citizens hunt wildlife and zoo animals

Wildlife in Venezuela, one of 17 countries with 70 percent of the world’s biodiversity, are facing a new challenge on top of deforestation, toxic oil spills and illegal trafficking: human hunger. Citizens struck by a crippling economic crisis are looking for food anywhere they can, and that includes hunting wildlife such as the Guiana dolphin (Sotalia guianensis), the American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), various endangered sea turtle species, and wild donkeys in the valley of Maracaibo Lake, once a center of the country’s petroleum production. The country’s zoos are also suffering from scarce essential resources, and some workers have reported the theft of animals for food.

Dead flamingos in Peonías Lake. Image by Alexis Quintanillo/Foto Nubardo Coy.

Bolivia’s Amazon rivers polluted with mercury from gold mining

Gold fever is killing Bolivia’s northern rivers and harming indigenous populations who consume contaminated fish downstream. From 2005 to 2016, mercury imports into Bolivia grew 646 percent, according to the Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade. Gold prospecting uses 100 tons of mercury each year, with 55 percent going into rivers and soil, and 45 percent emitted into the air.

Gold dredges have proliferated on the Kaká River. Image by Iván Paredes/El Deber.

Ecuador’s first wildlife corridor will connect two national parks

Ecuador is about to announce the creation of its first wildlife corridor, connecting two national parks in the southeast. The corridor covers more than 567,000 hectares (1.4 million acres) between the Sangay and Podocarpus national parks. Over 77 percent of the Sangay-Podocarpus Corridor is composed of fragile ecosystems such as native forests and plains, the habitat of hundreds of identified species. Ten other priority zones are in initial phases for similar designation as protected wildlife corridors.

The black-chested buzzard-eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus) is one of the species expected to benefit from the connecting corridor. Image by Fabián Rodas/Nature and Culture International.

Rare black jaguar caught by camera trap in a new Bolivian protected area

The footage of a rare black jaguar, a genetic variation of Panthera onca, has aroused the curiosity of locals and researchers monitoring a protected area in Bolivia’s Amazon. The Santa Rosa del Abuná Forest Integrated Management Model Area was created last year to reconcile sustainable development with biodiversity conservation. Experts have viewed other species caught on camera here, such as tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), white-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari), and short-eared dogs (Atelocynus microtis), as good signs for the conservation of the Amazon forest in this protected area.

Rare black jaguar caught by camera trap. Image by ACEAA-Conservación Amazónica.

Indigenous community takes illegal loggers to court in Peru

An indigenous community working with the Peruvian government to establish an ecotourism concession on their ancestral lands is taking illegal loggers to court. The Ese’eja people in the Amazonian Madre de Dios region have already lost 15 hectares (37 acres) of their ancestral forest to illegal loggers. The deforestation is part of a wider trend in Madre de Dios, which lost nearly 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) of forest to illegal logging in 2017 — the highest rate since 2000.

Logs cut into boards and ready for transport and sale. Image by SPDA.

Colombia’s new president faces environmental challenges

Mongabay-Latam polled experts about the environmental challenges facing Colombia’s new president, Iván Duque Márquez. Top issues included the high rates of deforestation, especially in the Amazon, and the small budget for the environmental sector to complete development and conservation of protected areas that were doubled in the last 10 years. The president will also need to balance policies on conservation and extraction activities; try to reform local environmental authorities; stop deforestation in record time; and establish an efficient policy for the sustainable use of forests.

Outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, left, and his successor, Iván Duque Márquez, who faces daunting environmental challenges. Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Read all these stories in full at Mongabay-Latam in Spanish, here.

Banner image: An emaciated lion in the Zulia region zoo in Venezuela. Image by Christian Veron on Twitter.