Conservation news

Latam Eco Review: Wandering hippos, condor central, and the macaw trade

Top stories from our Spanish-language service, Mongabay Latam, last week followed high-flying condors to their lowland home; hippos wandering through Colombia’s jungles; and scarlet macaws in their last holdout in Central America.

Ecuador’s León River is ‘condor central’

No matter how high or how far Ecuador’s condors soar, they always return home to a semi-desert, lowland ecosystem around the León River. A Wildlife Conservation Study warns that if changes to the condors’ habitat happen twice as fast as now, they will go extinct in 60 years. A 2015 census put the condor population at between 94 and 102 individuals.

There are fewer than 25 Andean condor mating pairs left in Ecuador. Image courtesy of WCS.

Pablo Escobar’s growing hippo legacy

Rapidly reproducing hippos may be the most enduring legacy the most famous narcotrafficker of all, Pablo Escobar, left to Colombia. While a juvenile hippo was recently transported to a zoo near Bogotá, some 50 to 70 hippos from Escobar’s former personal zoo continue to wander freely without predators or state control in the streams and lakes near the Madgalena River to the west.

The hippopotamus is the world’s third-largest land animal. This invasive species has no predators in Colombia. Image courtesy of the Santa Cruz Zoological Foundation.

Threats and promises in Central America’s last Scarlet Macaw corridor

Habitat loss; theft of eggs and chicks; local suppliers, high-level clients, and village guardians — all are key factors in the survival of the last scarlet macaw corridor in Central America. Once spanning Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, the birds (Ara macao) now find refuge in only three protected areas. Locals robbing nests of eggs and chicks for traffickers are the biggest threat to their survival. Conservation projects that give the people incentives to protect the nests have the potential to restore sustainable scarlet macaw populations within 10 years, though.

Scarlet macaws recovered by Guatemalan authorities from wildlife trafficking in November 2016. Image courtesy of CONAP.

Bolivia ranks fourth in October Big Day

Bolivia ranked fourth in bird species spotted in the first annual October Global Big Day. The competition to count species of birds in a single day is normally held in May, the best time for bird watching in the northern hemisphere, but tropical countries requested an additional day in their best season. This month Bolivia listed a total of 854 species observed in a single day, ranking it fourth after Colombia, Brazil and Peru.

Dozens of people went out to observe birds on October Big Day. Image by Kris Bartell.

Black market fishing for hake out of control in Chile

In Chile’s debate about who is responsible for endangering hake populations, everyone points to poor governance for encouraging the black market. It is estimated that illegal hake fishing reaps up to $300 million a year. While a box of about 100 fish costs $60, the same box of illegally caught hake goes for $23 on the black market. More than 139 tons of hake, a staple of the country’s favorite traditional fish dish, were harvested in 2003; today the quota is set at 25,000 tons.

Hake fishing. Image by Michelle Carrere.

Read these stories in their entirety in Spanish at Mongabay Latam.